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|OS family||Windows (perfect for spying)|
|Latest release||Windows 10|
|Source model||The one that shows you errors then works|
|Available language||American English, British English (doesn't work), Canadian English, l33t|
|Architectures Supported||Officially confirmed to work correctly on i386, X86-64, IA64, ARM - it crashes on all of them. Undesired productivity boost when run under VirtualBox on Ubuntu|
“NASCAR excited people with constant crashes — That's where I got the idea.”
Microsoft Windows, or simply "Windows", is the collective name for a series of failures that began in 1983 as a means of reversing the stagnation of the computer hardware market. Copying features from competing platforms, Windows began as an add-on piece of bloated code latched to MS-DOS, but eventually came to dominate the desktop market and become one of the most popular broken software products of all time.
In the year 1981, Microsoft and IBM took the first steps of a relationship that would eventually dominate the personal computer industry. The marriage of Microsoft's virtually bulletproof MS-DOS with IBM's premium hardware was an instant success, and soon gave birth to a host of clone manufacturers who later became industry giants in their own right: Zenith, Heathkit, and Tandy, to name a few. Unfortunately, the explosive growth had the side effect of completely saturating the slowly emerging market. While plenty of satisfied customers were happily number crunching with VisiCalc, many manufacturers including IBM itself were left with mountains of unsold inventory. It was until Rowland Hanson, the head of marketing at Microsoft, who inadvertently hit upon the answer when he pondered aloud at an executive meeting:
|It's too bad we couldn't make people so irritated that they'd throw their computers out of their windows. It'd be their own fault, and they'd have to buy a new unit complete with software once they came back to their senses.|
This view was vocally supported by then-business manager Steve Ballmer, who observed:
|Just because we can build a computer that can run for 100 years doesn't mean we should. I mean, look! It almost fucking killed the light bulb industry!|
Without so much as another word spoken, it was understood by the whole room that Microsoft would begin the process of systematically removing all the improvements it had made to QDOS, the "Quick and Dirty Operating system" it had purchased from Seattle Computer Products in 1980, and proceeded to initiate the development of a new software product without the involvement of IBM. The then-CEO William Henry Gates III argued:
|And the name? Well, why not "Windows"? Let's capitalize on peoples' urges to throw their computers out the window, shall we?|
Early on, there were a number of critics who suggested that the name "Windows" was a reference to the product's fragility. Technology writer Dick Hertz observed:
|I mean, it's obvious, isn't it? Like a window, it seems perfectly clear and simple to use, but it crashes with the slightest pressure, or sometimes breaks inexplicably.|
This speculation was largely curbed when Mr Hertz was found stabbed, burned, electrocuted, strangled, shot, and floating in the East River. Gates refused to comment directly to the press about the incident, but though his press secretary he stated that the death appeared "accidental".
edit Culture shock
Tearing a page directly out of the Steve Jobs' Book of Corporate Culture Creation - or perhaps it was the Jim Jones' one, no matter - Bill Gates printed up a scores of T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "style, not substance" and set his minions to work. Their mission, if they chose to accept it, was to dial up the eye-candy while systematically rebugging the software infrastructure. It was a punishing endeavour: writing bad software is easy, but writing software that runs like a gazelle but occasionally trips and falls and loses its memory, or collides in spectacular fashion with some unseen predator who devours it whole, lashes to limbs proved to be extremely difficult. Early efforts on test subjects also yielded poor results, with participants eager to throw their computer out of the nearest non-ground-floor opening but reluctant to visit ComputerLand for a replacement.
The test code was subjected to ongoing in-house peer-reviews - "VFI", or "Vote For Inclusion" - with programmers choosing the bugs they liked best. Unexpectedly, it was not always the most clever or most well crafted coding that drew the most votes. Often, innocuous bits of writing that struck blindside by delivering an unforseen playload walked hand-in-hand with obviously chaotic monsters of destructive programming, and with stupidly crafted pieces of clumsy kludge following in tow. As it turned out, this carefully selected blend of predictable error and random terror developed into something akin to the corporate secret sauce. By allowing test subjects to have an occasionally pleasant experience (provided that they took certain steps to avoid known pitfalls), they developed an increasing tolerance to the built-in mix of random hardware and software fault messages, and at times even blamed their own stupidity for the crash. Before the Environmental Protection Agency was able to substantiate their half-baked conspiracy theory about some causal link between Microsoft and the sharp increase in the volume of silicon waste accumulating in municipal landfills, people began to quit throwing their computers away and instead looked to Microsoft for answers. The name Windows was retained for marketing reasons, but also to remind programmers of the development imperative: make it look clear and easy to use, but easily breakable.
IBM, on the other hand, began their downward spiral into OS/2 and was eventual taken over by the Chinese. Bill has screwed people over before, as whatshisname from Seattle Computer Products insists; although he is currently under a legally-binding non-disclosure agreement to not divulge any further related details.
Marketing Windows may seem pointless, since it is not what one pays for and has the right to receive. Even then, it is simply nuances.
- Fetish marketing. People who used to go into San Francisco bathhouses, put a ball gag in their mouths, cover their heads in a hood, bend over a table, put a can of Crisco on their butt, handcuff their hands behind their back, and wait to feel who came in, were left high and dry for a while in the 1980s, until they found something better — surfing with Microsoft Internet Explorer! After dozens of years of development, Microsoft has managed to make a browser that in full security mode with all the latest updates to everything simply cannot find a cleavage picture of Rose McGowan on a Web search without installing two keyloggers in the process, and they are only the ones the unscrupulous "anti spyware" program developers have not been paid to not report. While this method of discouraging visits to any "subversive" or "non-standard" site is less efficient for the national economy than the Great Firewall of China, it nevertheless generates dozens of times more revenue for Microsoft.
- License competitions. The International Olympic Committe is currently entertaining competitions for how many licenses for Windows a single person can accumulate for personal use. Every time the hard drive on a Windows machine gets irretrievably obliterated (per an average of approximately six months) the respective user gets tempted to spend another $500 or more on another computer with another Windows license. However, some people often outperform others as they are somewhat more careless than the latter. Plus, some actually pay to upgrade their software version, as though they would not be stuck doing it anyway the next time the computer crashed. In this competition, users are not allowed to bypass validation by clicking the cancel button.
A longevity studies demonstrated that the error-tolerance and self-blaming observed in laboratory studies was short-term, and the development team were forced to reevaluate their strategies. After closely examining the implementation illustration created by the marketing department, their error was immediately apparent: software designers had created the rider and the stick, but had failed to produce the carrot for the donkey to follow.
The developers addressed the problem by by providing new software and a new service support plan:
|"Bug Fixes"||Code previously approved by vote of the "VFI panel" is then removed by the Vote for Removal (VFR) panel.|
|"Telephone support"||Charge $3.99 per minute to read the customer the chapters on "Reboot" or "Reinstall" verbatim from the book How to use Windows: New User Experience™. If that fails, direct them to "Bug Fixes" (q.v.) and hype the upcoming "New Version" (q.v.).|
|"New Versions"||Using the management technique of creeping featurism, publish a version of Windows that seems better than its predecessor, both aesthetically and functionally, but in fact does none of the same things but instead introduces a new set of VFI'd bugs along with some cherished favourites.|
|"Killer Apps"||Notepad, Minesweeper, Calculator, 3D Text screensaver, Ms Paint, and the ubiquitous solitaire. These are called "Killer Apps" because they take lives, or at least social lives.|
Believing the Internet to be nothing more than a glorified Bulletin Board system (BBS) of use only to a handful of nerds, Gates and company were late-comers to the browser wars. Their lateness not only cost them the opportunity for software patents but also threatened them to return the product back to the dark days of stability. Worldwide communication meant virus and trojan alerts through newsgroups, file trading in illicit software (like patches and fixes), and worst of all, troubleshooting by expert users during their free time free of charge. In short, with the Internet it had never been easier to ensure that a copy of Windows was running in tip-top shape. Early versions of Internet Explorer proved unusable, but by installing it by default with every copy of Windows, it offered the hope of re-establishing imbalance towards the Windows line.
But Microsoft's masterstroke was its gradual integration of Internet Explorer as the operating system's file browser, and the wide use of "DirectX" technology. This not only provided users with direct access to the Internet from any window but also provided hackers with direct access to the user's computer from any virus. Combined with its own in-house "anti-virus" software, a truly attractive but sub-standard software package which developers used their extra time to carefully construct, Microsoft guaranteed a cycle of dependence for years to come.
With growth of the internet and p2p, software piracy became rife with versions of Windows such as Windows XD: Pirate Edition that were stripped of its "New Versions" and VFI'd bugs. This had severe consequences for the company, who no longer had control over what bugs a user was entitled to keep and/or remove. Microsoft responded by releasing its activation system, along with propriety adware in the guise of "must-have" software such as Windows Movie Maker and Windows Live Messenger, among others.
Automatic software updates were also turned on automatically, so all the latest bugs were always available to the end user. This was in addition to a new killer-app for Windows Fiesta and beyond; the restart computer reminder. A user could no longer keep a Windows computer on for more than four hours without being reminded that their machine needs to be restarted. This is a testament to the amount of bugs created every minute by Microsoft Employees which need constant editing; however, a user can enjoy exactly the same behaviour from their computer by installing Windows 666 without activating it. Microsoft are working on this problem.
edit The Past
In we're-pretending-to-develop-it versions, the different levels were called null, fail, craptastic, windows WTF edition (WTF stood for a new Windows Text Format), and "almost works." However the marketing team decided that this wasn't very user friendly so these were changed to the more comprehensible and accurate names student, home, professional, business, ultimate, and a new secret edition could be unlocked by typing "windows_is_so_awesome.exe -like bill.gates into a terminal window which could be unlocked by typing "windows_is_so_awesome.exe -like bill.gates into a terminal window which could be unlocked by typing "windows_is_so_awesome.exe -like bill.gates into a terminal window which could be unlocked by [[X] LOOP ERROR - ATTEMPT RECOVERY]
edit See also