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The Very Worst Uses of Windows

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-seem-to-be-attaching-an-iron-lung dept.

Windows 816

bigplrbear writes "I found an interesting article revealing the many places that Microsoft products reside, and what they're used for, ranging from elevators to ticket scanners." From the article: "Thanks to VMWare Windows is spreading throughout the datacenter. And, of course, there is only one operating system to use if you are dependent on Microsoft apps like Outlook, Word, and Excel. While I have joined the chorus of security folks who rail against the Microsoft Monoculture I still cannot believe some of the uses for Windows. Some of them are just downright silly, some you may claim are criminally negligent." Note: I'm making no claim of criminal negligence!

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Obligatory... (4, Funny)

Dice (109560) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145777)

What, you mean other than as a desktop OS?

Re:Obligatory... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145949)

That's the truth of the matter and Windows isn't even a particularly good desktop OS. Any 'engineer' choosing Microsoft is demonstrating total lack of ingenuity.

Management OTOH are complete fucking idiots, they'll always go with the inferior solution from the hardworking salesman. One day we'll have managers who'll think, "this salesman is working harder than the others because he knows his product isn't as good". Until then suffering Windows is unavoidable.

Re:Obligatory... (4, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146103)

Management OTOH are complete fucking idiots, they'll always go with the inferior solution from the hardworking salesman. One day we'll have managers who'll think, "this salesman is working harder than the others because he knows his product isn't as good"

In my experience management tends to go for the product that has the best clicky-pends and coffee mugs and complimentary dinners. That being said, the same management is in a sealed off part of the building with high security locks and a separate parking area with a security guard and barbed wire fencing. I wonder what they know that they don't want us to know.

Re:Obligatory... (5, Insightful)

Shaltenn (1031884) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146349)

And in my experience managers tend to go with the solution that the largest percentage of the population and staff use. Granted the trend towards Microsoft software is on the downside but they are still king of the hill. For now.

You can't expect people to just up and leave software that they're familiar with. I reference college students where I work. We have two rooms, similarly laid out. One room has HP DC7600s, the other Intel iMacs. People chose the room with the HPs showing the typical Windows screensaver over the Macs (which dual boot!) - why? Because it's friggin familiar. And you can't change that by saying the software is crap, because there isn't a usable alternative that appeals to the masses.

Re:Obligatory... (5, Funny)

SpiderClan (1195655) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146387)

That's just to keep you from stealing their clicky-pens.

Medical equipment (4, Informative)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145801)

Medical equipment: I confirm. My cousin is an engineer for General Electric, Medical section. As far as I know he services cardiac echography equipment. From what he told me, they all run Windows. Of course, this isn't life threatening, but I do know he's hardware guy and it wouldn't be the first time he calls me for a software problem in his job.

While not in this case, a BSOD may mean real "D" these days in a hospital.... Sad, but true...

Re:Medical equipment (5, Insightful)

Eudial (590661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145873)

Medical equipment: I confirm. My cousin is an engineer for General Electric, Medical section. As far as I know he services cardiac echography equipment. From what he told me, they all run Windows. Of course, this isn't life threatening, but I do know he's hardware guy and it wouldn't be the first time he calls me for a software problem in his job.

While not in this case, a BSOD may mean real "D" these days in a hospital.... Sad, but true...

While I agree this is questionable, I don't think they are connected to the internets (at least I hope not). So, the whole virus/worm fear is probably irrational.

Re:Medical equipment (4, Informative)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145947)

Well, I certainly hope so. From what I hear those machines are indeed standalone. However, you just need one doctor with a laptop that is infected connecting directly to such a machine and mayhem ensues. Are they allowed to do that? Probably not.... Will they do it? Probably yes... :-(

Also note I was marked Overrated, just for confirming the article by personal experience. *sigh*

Re:Medical equipment (4, Informative)

von_rick (944421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145987)

While I agree this is questionable, I don't think they are connected to the internets (at least I hope not). So, the whole virus/worm fear is probably irrational.

There are several monitoring devices that transmit wirelessly from the procedure rooms to control rooms. We use wireless network to transmit blood pressure and heart rate information from MRI scanning room to the control computer. The control computer is connected to the centralized medical records server which is "supposed to be" super secure. But if it is broken into, you can pretty much control the communication with monitoring devices. Hope it doesn't happen.

Re:Medical equipment (-1, Flamebait)

TimothyDavis (1124707) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146049)

...yeah, but a kernel panic wouldn't end in a real "D", it would just freak the patient out.
 
Makes sense to me.
 
Keep reading for more Windows FUD circle jerking.

Re:Medical equipment (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146189)

Absolutely... A kernel panic would cause a "D"... Except that a BSOD on both WinXP and Win2000 are not that hard to cause. On OS X I could cause a kernel panic using Samba in the 10.1 days. On Linux, the last kernel panic I saw was when I tried to install RedHat 3.x on a PPro which it didn't support. That was a long time ago. On OpenBSD for example, I had kernel panics on my SMP machine when SMP was experimental for OpenBSD.

Re:Medical equipment (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146315)

Let's see. I use Windows, and when did I last have a BSOD?

Most recently (about a year ago): Installed the wrong driver for my sound card. I highly doubt this will be a problem in a medical context.

Less recently: Played Half-Life 2 on my laptop. With Intel's integrated graphics chip. It actually ran pretty well (for a laptop with an Intel integrated graphics chip), but it BSOD'd on exiting.

In conclusion, based on anecdotal evidence (the only type of evidence allowed in Slashdot comments), BSODs only occur:

1. When one tries to run an application on a computer which does not have the capacity to run said application; and

2. When one messes up driver installations.

Re:Medical equipment (5, Insightful)

TuxTWAP (527410) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146119)

During the birth of my first daughter, the fetal heart monitor was connected to a Windows box. Trust me, the last thing you want to see in the middle of a long, difficult and painful birth is a BSOD...especially when the doctor is desperately searching for a heartbeat.

Re:Medical equipment (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146215)

I hope you didn't see a BSOD and that your daughter is fine.

Re:Medical equipment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146237)

When my wife spent some time in cardiac intensive care, I found out that the carts with the medications in locked drawers were under the control of a Windows computer that would pop open the proper draw that had that drug.

I'd hate to see a BSOD on one of those just when a patient is in desperate need of drugs.

I didn't inquire, but I'm sure for record keeping purposes they were connected hospital wide wifi.

Re:Medical equipment (5, Interesting)

rmullen (1258212) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146403)

I can confirm this as well. I was in the Massachusetts General Hospital laying in an fMRI tube because I was participating in a psychology study (and getting compensated financially). After a few minutes of inactivity I wondered when things would start happening - they soon extricated me from the tube. Turns out the cause of the problem was that the Siemens machine running Embedded Windows (as proven by a prominently-affixed license sticker) had locked up while I was entubed, and they had to reboot. After that it worked fine, and the fMRI went off without a hitch.

WARNING (1, Funny)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145805)

Not for use in nuclear submarines!

Re:WARNING (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145893)

Funny you say that, since it was used on the Aegis... [seclists.org] If i remember right they now use bluecat linux.

Re:WARNING (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146007)

I KNOW it was used, and successfully crashed a submarine.

It was a joke pointing at Windows NT. As in Not Working.

Re:WARNING (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146445)

I was on a tour of an AEGIS cruiser at Norfolk Naval Base back in the mid 90s, and yes, one of the systems in their main "weapons operation center" was running windows. Don't remember if it was 3.11, NT, or 95? I only hope and pray to God that it wasn't running any active weapons systems; not that they would've told me or anything,... ;-)

Re:WARNING (5, Interesting)

von_rick (944421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145911)

We have a 350MHz spectroscope in our lab that has embedded XP. Now if we go for few seconds of RF sampling, it writes Time vs Signal values as a CSV file. Now the funny thing is you can't open files with more than 65000 rows in excel and since the spectroscope itself has nothing but windows applications, none of them is capable of displaying the saved samples. You have to transfer the sample data to another computer and open them through Labview or Matlab or some such tool. Why would a spectroscope costing nearly $30,000 be running Windows.

Re:WARNING (2, Interesting)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146051)

Have you thought about playing dumb and reporting that as a bug to their tech support?

Or... is installing MySQL out of the question? I hate to ask it, but a script to dump data into the MySQL database would be kind of handy. Still, querying and inspecting rf data should be a requirement on a spectroscope.

And btw, what I wouldnt do for even a 10MHz 16bit 'scope.

Re:WARNING (4, Informative)

magarity (164372) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146183)

Database is definitely the way to go with that many lines of CSV. But he's already got Office so why not just Access? If you're going to go Microsoft, go all the way.

Re:WARNING (1, Flamebait)

Firehed (942385) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146297)

Well that would be great if Access was a database. We all know it's really just an Excel sheet with some crappy input validation.

Re:WARNING (3, Informative)

von_rick (944421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146207)

If we install anything on that machine, it would void the warranty. If we send it to them, it will take a week to get back to us. Its one of those devices we just can't do without even for a single day :( It works fine when sampling time is a few milliseconds at 10K samples/sec or so, but 200MHz for 3 seconds wasn't something they envisioned

Re:WARNING (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146421)

Perfectly wrong use for a database. This is real time, time based data. Matlab is the perfect tool for this. I currently play with 1M+ data sets (50 kHz sampling for 20 seconds or more).

Matlab will do all the FFT, filtering and data manipulation you want before you can blink.

The LAST thing you want is to dump this into a MySQL database. "Ok, give me the data for 0.005, ok 0.010".

Excel is ALSO the wrong tool for the job. As you said 65,000 limit. If I need to do a low pass filter there is no easy way in Excel.

and since the spectroscope itself has nothing but windows applications, none of them is capable of displaying the saved samples.

You mean Matlab isn't a windows application? Just because Excel defaults to opening CSV doesn't mean that's what they intended you to open it in. Matlab will read it perfectly fine with csvread.

Again, this is NOT something you use a database for.

And if you spent that much on a Windows based scope whom ever bought it needs to be shot. Yokogawa [yokogawa.com] makes some awesome equipment. We have a DL750 [yokogawa.com] that I use for about everything. Up to 1MS/s (one channel), real time acquisition, numerous input blocks. They even have a hacked together scripting language so I can create a VBA program to give to our test cell operators so I don't have to click "start, record, save" etc. I don't remember what we paid for ours but even with a few cards I know it was less than $30k.

There has to be a company out there that makes spectroscopes for less than that.

Re:WARNING (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146221)

Not for use in nuclear submarines!

This is indeed flamebait. If you install Windows onto a nuclear submarine, you're gonna get flamed, or fried or turned into glass. Best case you'll glow in the dark forever.

Cars? (1)

bobstreo (1320787) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145815)

Ford Sync?

Re:Cars? (3, Funny)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145849)

System crash.
Launch Air Bag? Abort/Retry/Cancel

Re:Cars? (5, Funny)

von_rick (944421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146023)

Paper Clip: Do you mean Airbag?

Re:Cars? (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146123)

Paper Clip: Do you mean Airbag?

No, he meant launch air. Bag was a derogatory term referring to the mother-in-law driving the car.

frosty piss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145827)

goat? goat.

There can be only ONE (5, Funny)

diggitzz (615742) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145831)

And, of course, there is only one operating system to use if you are dependent on Microsoft apps like Outlook, Word, and Excel.

Mac OS X?

Re:There can be only ONE (1, Informative)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145843)

No Outlook for Mac.. ;) ...though they do have a mail/schedule/calendar app...

Re:There can be only ONE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145909)

Entourage

Re:There can be only ONE (3, Informative)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145935)

Yes there is, it's called Entourage. It comes with Office for the Mac. What you can't get for mac is Access...

Re:There can be only ONE (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146457)

What you can't get for mac is Access...

What can an app written in VBScript+Access do that an app written in Python+SQLite can't?

Re:There can be only ONE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145915)

WINE obv.

Houston's problem discovered (1, Funny)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145837)

Now we know why Apollo called Houston to tell them they had a problem. Windows crashed on them!

Dangerous if it crashed (1)

Haoie (1277294) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145847)

Looking at the list and the important tech applications it runs, if some of those Windows failed or glitched, people might be in serious danger.

Not so dangerous for the certificate kiosk, but vital for systems like train controls, and med equipment.

Plants (4, Informative)

barik (160226) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145853)

Most plants are running on PLCs, but their user interfaces HMI are pretty much all running some form of Windows. Common ones include Proficy iFIX (by GE), RSView (Rockwell), and WonderWare InTouch (Wonderware) on either Windows XP, Windows 2000/2003 or some form of Windows Embedded.

It is actually incredibly difficult to find mature HMI software that is available for Linux.

Re:Plants (5, Funny)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145937)

Yeah, but that's because photosynthesis software only runs on Windows

Re:Plants (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145973)

Don't forget Emerson's DeltaV [easydeltav.com] , whose user interface is built using Visual Basic. Seriously Scaaary.

I've seen two operator workstations crash during a major oil refinery process upset. Luckily they had three redundant workstations for the operator to switch between...

Re:Plants (4, Informative)

Jaktar (975138) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146433)

I'm not an expert, but I do admin a small network at a power plant and am an I&E tech. While we do have mostly Windows machines for admin tasks, all of our process instruments report to separate dedicated hardware and are interfaced with QNX. The windows machines only poll data and are the developing station for code to be pushed to the process controllers. All interfacing with process controls are through QNX. This is true for all power plants currently owned by the company I work for.

Misleading slightly (3, Insightful)

neokushan (932374) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145861)

I'm all for having a "lol" at stupidly overcomplicated systems being used for the most mundane of tasks, but this article is a little sketchy on some of the details.
For example, one line states "Why not program some stripped down embedded system for that task?" when it doesn't even indicate what version of Windows the system he's talking about uses - there IS an embedded version of Windows available for such tasks, you know.
The article is still a good read, though, but I'd take what it's saying with a pinch of salt and don't just immediately start bashing Microsoft, after all it's not their fault if a sysadmin makes a stupid design choice or 10.

Re:Misleading slightly (1, Insightful)

Secrity (742221) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145921)

A sys admin didn't make the decision to use Windows in power plants and military applications.

Re:Misleading slightly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145983)

A lot of items that list seem like they would be embedded systems, and Windows CE is pretty big in that market. Really... the article reads kinda like it's uninformed or perhaps taking advantage of people automatically assuming it's talking about Windows workstation OSs.

Ho ho ho! *snort* (3, Informative)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146151)

it doesn't even indicate what version of Windows the system he's talking about uses - there IS an embedded version of Windows available for such tasks, you know.

I presume you mean Windows CE?

I'm on a team that (among other things) makes BSPs for Windows CE. Did you know that every single driver in CE5 runs in user mode? Ayup. They're simple DLL files that device.exe launches and runs as threads. Just at a slightly higher priority than Pocket Word.

Think about that a moment.

The drivers crash just like programs too. They just...bail. Suddenly the device the DLL is providing an interface to is simply gone. They don't run in supervisor mode, so they are susceptible to every single thing that can crash a regular program.

They're starting to fix this in CE6, but naturally Microsoft's solution is...to do both! [e-consystems.com]

In typical MS fashion, they are fixing a clusterfuck by mixing it with what they should have been doing in the first place, thereby making an even larger clusterfuck.

Re:Ho ho ho! *snort* (1)

kurokaze (221063) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146323)

how about WFW 3.11? Remember the article about how Microsoft was going to stop licensing WFW 3.11 to embedded manufacturers? I bet alot of those devices are running something along those lines.

Re:Ho ho ho! *snort* (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146345)

Aside from the fact that putting drivers in user mode increases reliability, you've got a good point.

Re:Ho ho ho! *snort* (5, Informative)

CaptKilljoy (687808) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146439)

>I presume you mean Windows CE?

No, he means Embedded Windows, like Windows XP Embedded: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/embedded/products/whichproduct/default.mspx [microsoft.com] .

(What scares me is that you work on embedded systems and have never heard of it. I've never even touched embedded systems work and I know about it.)

Web Server (0, Flamebait)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145875)

Windows really doesn't belong here. Nor most places in a data center.

Server on every computer (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145879)

I encountered a doctor's office once where, not knowing what is what, they decided to install Windows 2003 Server on every computer, including the front desks.

Re:Server on every computer (1)

nawcom (941663) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146063)

Out of curiosity, did you happen to see if every one was logged in via Administrator?

Re:Server on every computer (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146385)

i'm sure that was a legit installation not done by the owners nephew or anything like that

Public BSODs (5, Informative)

amdpox (1308283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145901)

I've seen quite a few... every ticket machine at Melbourne Airport one day was going through a BSOD-reboot loop, placed quite a workload on the human employees. I really don't understand how any company who's done a tiny bit of research could think Windows is an appropriate platform for something that should really be running a custom embedded system like a cut-down *nix.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145913)

Granted, a lot of that is probably perfectly stable, patched, and just-retired Windows 3.11. Probably not quite the security problem he makes it out to be. But running a current desktop OS vulnerable to the same worms flying around in email is just negligent.

Power draw (4, Insightful)

pjt48108 (321212) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145929)

Another problem with overbloated systems running simple tasks is the huge draw of electricity. How much power could we save (and, therefore, money) by using bloated systems less for simple things?

An obvious observation, but I thought I'd make it.

Re:Power draw (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146121)

"Another problem with overbloated systems running simple tasks is the huge draw of electricity. How much power could we save (and, therefore, money) by using bloated systems less for simple things?"

That is one of the big wins for running VMware ESX. You can consolidate 20 servers onto one machine. Obviously the real # varies. But you can take racks of old machines and retire the hardware and run the systems virtually on one host. It increases the load on that one host, but is a net gain in power and cooling savings over running all the extra machines.

However I do fear that because of virtualization that Win NT 4 will still be running 100+ years from now in a VM.

Diebold Windows CE (Visual Basic for Applications) (2, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145941)

I nominate the Diebold Windows CE (Visual Basic for Applications) voting machines to the list.

After all, Diebold could have done worse and used Windows XP, or Windows Vista (not that it was out at the time), but I still nominate Diebold to the list for having chosen VBA (not that there is anything wrong with VBA, VBA has its uses -- it's just that it's really a poor choice for making supposedly secure and transparent voting machines).

SERVER WARS (2, Insightful)

alxkit (941262) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145943)

After all these years I am willing to admit that Microsoft has won the desktop and server wars.

i beg to differ...

Re:SERVER WARS (3, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146423)

After all these years I am willing to admit that Microsoft has won the desktop and server wars.

i beg to differ...

It is all just a clever ruse to lul Microsoft into confidence. All these systems are in fact UNIX sleeper agents, that will awaken all across the world at a given time. At the same time, Redmond will have put it's recently received 30 feet tall ceremonial gift windows logo in an unmonitored storage room when suddenly hundreds of ninjas emerge from it, swiftly overcoming any resistance.

Let's Be Thankful... (1)

alchemist68 (550641) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145959)

Let's be thankful that it doesn't run on the NASA Space Shuttle, International Space Station, or any other NASA or foreign space agency boost and/or orbital hardware. Windows in these mission critical situations could add new meaning to the phrase 'crash & burn'.

Re:Let's Be Thankful... (1)

HomerJ (11142) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146035)

Actually, doesn't some of the secondary software on the shuttle and space station run Windows 2k? I thought I remember a story about Microsoft giving them a special "SP5" that fixed some of the issues they had that were specific to them.

Re:Let's Be Thankful... (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146287)

Oh, they do crash and burn sometimes anyway...

Manufacturing controls (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24145981)

We've got a huge lathe that runs something like windows NT. Funny thing is that it takes twice as long to boot and WAY longer to shut down, AND has less functionality than much older systems. I don't know about the machine control drivers, but I could write an interface that would do 10x as much on linux.
And then there's the worry that $500,000 worth of hardware could be completely fucked by a worm or just stupid windows crap. WTF!

Sounds like a market opportunity. (3, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146389)

I'm sure that lathe could be controlled by Linux or QNX running on the same hardware. It amazes me to see the horrendous job that companies who make perfectly good machine tools do on their control software. They wouldn't make the lathe's chassis out of cardboard, why would they build their control systems on windows?

-jcr

Why I still use Windows(tm) (3, Informative)

nawcom (941663) | more than 6 years ago | (#24145993)

While I have joined the chorus of security folks who rail against the Microsoft Monoculture I still cannot believe some of the uses for Windows.

Why do I still use Windows? Well its so I can get my little 32-bit Ski-Free [ihoc.net] fix. What is that you say? SkiFree works fine via Wine?

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda1

Implantable Defibrilator controller... (1)

frog_strat (852055) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146003)

Not running on the defibrillator itself, but on the computer that configures it.

how about prison doors? (5, Interesting)

JonWan (456212) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146009)

Yep, The prison where I worked as a guard for a while changed their control center from mechanical switches to a PC running XP. I worked the control center a lot and the "upgrade" sucked. You had to page thru several screens to see all the doors and the touch screen was too sensitive. You could open 2 doors or the wrong door by accident. The interlock system was suppose to prevent that by requiring you to use both hands to open doors, but it proved to be impossible to use so it was disabled. the OS was always crashing (likely the shitty program) and you had to wait for the system to reboot before you could open doors without the keys.

Re:how about prison doors? (1)

kurokaze (221063) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146363)

soo.... are you railing against the program or against windows? sounds like all your problems were from the app itself, while windows was just the platform that the developer wrote it on.

How about x86? (2, Funny)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146029)

Which is worse? I'd be just as worried about hand-coded x86 assembly in an embedded environment, or even Linux. Good old WinTel.

O_o (0, Redundant)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146085)

interesting article revealing the many places that Microsoft products reside, and what they're used for, ranging from elevators to ticket scanners.

1) Are elevators really that complicated they need an entire opertaing system?
2) Elevators???? That gives 'Blue Screen of Death' a terrifyingly true meaning.

Economy of Scale (1)

uranus65 (837545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146401)

I don't know how complicated elevator control is, but, most of the bloat from Windows is about the GUI and backwards compatibility. The reason (I am guessing) that most of these places are using Windows, is because they are buying off-the-shelf technology which will often be pre-loaded with some sort of Windows. Writing fresh code for a freshly designed embedded system is simpler and probably better but is way more expensive than buying a Dell that can do the same thing with Visual C++. As long as people don't plug stuff in while its on or do other "crazy" stuff, it will be fine.

Re:O_o (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146471)

1) Are elevators really that complicated they need an entire opertaing system?

I worked in a building where the software running the lifts sucked. I dreamed of being able to write code to make it so that a trip from the lobby to level 20 could never ever take 7 minutes again. Having a reasonably powerful general purpose computing platform to co-ordinate lifts is a simple way to improve these systems. It has the potential to make the building more efficient in terms of transport times and power consumption, especially in taller buildings. Of course one would assume that mechanical safety systems have priority over anything the server says.

Not saying Windows - even CE - is the best choice by any means, just saying.

scada (1)

alisoul (923488) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146089)

i completely agree on scada systems being mentioned. i have first hand experience from the security side of things implementing a scada system and it is an absolute nightmare. industry leading companies are taking their traditionally isolated and proprietary systems and slapping them onto networks to offer their customers 24x7 access without a thought to patching, AV, IPS, network isolation, or anything of the sort. they practically laughed in my face at the notion that i would like to patch this machine regularly and have AV/IPS on it.

eventually a convoluted system came about at which it will be patched, but several months behind current standards, as that is all they can guarantee will not break their product. until i even raised the question it appeared the thought had never crossed their mind to patch/av their machines. they flat out told me that their business plan is to get these boxes up and running, then drop them on the network and never patch or implement any AV solution whatsoever.

and they arent even implementing this on a server os..

The worst i've seen (5, Interesting)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146105)

In Phoenix we have a power company called APS. In some of the gas stations there are kiosks that allow you to pay your bill using Cash. I was walking through a circle K the other day, and to my horror i saw this:

link [imageshack.us]

Sorry about the shitty image quality...I took it using my crackberry.

Yes, that is a dialog box politely informing you that you have been Trojaned.

New Tag (1)

n1_111 (597775) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146111)

ObligatoryBashFollowingYetAnotherLinuxSecurityDisaster Use it at will

CnC on Aegis Radar Cruisers (5, Informative)

Lumenary7204 (706407) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146117)

A good chunk of the Command and Control systems on most modern (or most recently refitted) naval vessels in the United States' inventory run on Windows technology.

It kinda gives me the shivers knowing that one of our ships could be sunk by an "inbound" because the point defense system is suffering a BSOD...

Re:CnC on Aegis Radar Cruisers (2, Informative)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146391)

And that has already caused problems [wikipedia.org]

Theodolites (1)

spandex_panda (1168381) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146135)

I am a surveying student and I am a bit miffed by the new theodolites I saw at a conference recently. These things are pretty complex devices, they have two way radio communication between a staff and the instrument, robotic controls that track the prism on the pole and a bluetooth controller to record data when you're standing next to the pole. But the thing that worries me is that the OS on the theodolite, a precision instrument, is windows CE! Now I have little experience with it, but reading /. comments leads me to believe it has little going for it.

Local AMC 24 movie theater Win98 ticket machines (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146157)

The local AMC 24 movie theater has Windows 98 on the ticket machines. A little BSOD told me so.

The machines take credit and debit cards so must have a network connection of some sort, most likely through the theater's common connection which hopefully is secure pipe back to the head office.

I presume the keyboards are locked up under the cabinets somewhere. Not really a bad solution, a reasonable low cost one requiring a level of physical security. I presume they are rebooted daily to avoid memory leaks.

More than anything we must trust the system. Because even if they were proprietary solutions someone coming in a midnight could easily install a data logger.

Aegis Destroyers (1)

quibbler (175041) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146169)

I've read a couple of anecdotes about Windows NT being behind the AEGIS [wikipedia.org] Missile Destoyers. This isn't an overkill situation, but a horrific use of windows nonetheless. When NT fails (as NT does), it takes down everything... weapons, guidance, radar, steering, propulsion, navigation, communications, and even power. The crews resort to using battery-powered semaphore spotlights or hand-held maritime radios to call for help. The new "teeth" of our Navy's attack power is rendered utterly impotent in a nanosecond.

Subsequent to reading the stories, I had a rather coincidental chat with a guy on a plane (single-serving friend) who worked for a contractor that ran ocean-going tugs for the US Navy out of Boston(?). According to him.... (with a chuckle) "...a couple? More than that, I know exactly what you're talking about - we get called out a couple times a month to tow in those destroyers, and yeah its always 'computer problems'..."

I wonder what Navy patsy was stupid enough to sign the dotted line for this nightmare. Take a cue from the army and go *nix guys...

My favorite was... (4, Funny)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146171)

Windows for Warships

The alternatives suck harder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146227)

"It may be hard to comprehend today but Microsoft effectively trounced Sun, DEC, HP, and IBM"

I'm going to go ahead and assume that the author wrote that without ever having used Solaris. If we're talking "before the turn of the century," that implies Solaris 7/2.6. Even on Solaris 8, I remember how hard I had to struggle (applying OS patches, etc.) just to do things like generating an SSL certificate, or *starting* the windowing system. I don't even want to *think* about operating a touchscreen on Solaris 7.

Windows is awful, and with every release it gets more terrible. But the reason Microsoft trounced the others is because they were *even worse*.

Re:The alternatives suck harder (1, Troll)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146321)

Well, there is one main difference between Windows and those other 'even worse' systems, uptime. If you have more than a month uptime on a Windows system, you are not applying the patches correctly.

Solaris and those others, OTOH will happily run for months and years without requiring a reboot. I recently ran across a system at work (RedHat 5) that nobody bothered with because it always did it's job. When I had to go look to see what the problem was, imagine my surprise to find it running RH5. Everyone that knew the root password had either quit or forgot they knew it, it had been sitting there running for several years. Windows will NOT do that.

Re:The alternatives suck harder (1, Flamebait)

toadlife (301863) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146465)

If you have more than a month uptime on a Windows system, you are not applying the patches correctly.

False. Patches that pose a realistic threat to servers are relatively rare. Most patches are local vulnerabilities like IE/ActiveX. If you are rebooting your servers every month just to install IE patches, you are a fucking moron.

I recently ran across a system at work (RedHat 5) that nobody bothered with because it always did it's job.

So what? There are plenty of documented cases of Win2k3 staying up for years at a time. You could have installed a Win2k3 server with IIS6 serving static and .asp web pages in 2003 with port 80 open on the local firewall and have it still be up today, with no externally exploitable security vulnerabilities.

Bank Machines (5, Interesting)

Lumenary7204 (706407) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146253)

Also, a few months ago I stopped at a bank machine to withdraw some cash.

So I entered my PIN and withdrawal amount. While waiting for the magic money machine to do its thing, I idly tapped my fingers in random patterns on the touch screen.

Suddenly, a standard Windows XP taskbar and Start button appeared.

Being curious, I tapped the Start button. Kinda freaked me out when a complete Start Menu appeared. Everything was there, including Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and Windows Media Player.

I can't believe that neither the ATM machine manufacturer nor the bank put any effort into building a custom, stripped-down image to run the bank's cash machines...

Roller Coaster controls (5, Interesting)

fahrvergnugen (228539) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146257)

When drinking one night with a former roller coaster technician who had decided to get into the less stressful job of datacenter ops, I found out something terrifying about a famous (and, it should be said, injury/fatality-free as far as I know) catch & release roller coaster.

The coaster is designed such that the train car is loaded at a station. Then a tractor mechanism pulls it backward, up to the top of a steep incline. Once at the top, the mechanism releases the car, and the train goes rocketing through the station, through a series of tight loops and twists, and then coasts up an identical steep incline on the other end. There another mechanism catches the car, drags it all the way to the top, and then lets go, sending the car back through the series of loops and twists in reverse. The car decelerates up the incline back on the original side, is caught once again, and returned gently to the station for boarding.

All of these catch mechanisms need to know the velocity and weight of the train car in order to properly catch and decelerate it without hurting any of the occupants. Those values will change with every load of passengers, due to people's varying weights and their distribution around the car, so they have to be calculated on the fly.

The software that does this, the engineer swore to me, runs on...

Windows 3.11.

This knowledge made future rides on that particular coaster a hell of a lot more scary.

Re:Roller Coaster controls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146451)

The Face-Off coaster at King's Island in Mason, Ohio, I presume.

Re:Roller Coaster controls (1)

jkells (1004385) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146469)

That was the Demon at Wonderland, Sydney Australia was it?

I would assert criminal negligence (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146269)

I have no reservations about it. Given the constant stream of complaints that Bill Gates himself had about the quality and stability of Windows, I'd say it is pretty safe to assume that Microsoft is WELL aware of problems with Windows. And for Microsoft to actively push their OS as a platform upon which important, significant and even critical systems and services are run without disclosing the KNOWN risks of using Windows under such circumstances is criminal negligence or even worse.

Once again, resorting to the old "car analogy", if an auto manufacturer were caught pushing their dressed-up SUVs as actual ATVs, I think it's safe to say that various consumer protection agencies and possibly the department of justice might get involved.

How does Microsoft get away with this? Simple -- they are the only game in town and as such is typically viewed as "the best we have." To complain that the best is not good enough would be considered by most to be a wasted effort.

"Critical Mass"

Microsoft achieved it and now most tech people know only Microsoft Windows and will deploy only Microsoft Windows for any given task.

It's good that some people like the NYSE has found Windows lacking and that better alternatives exist for their specialized tasks.

I don't think anyone will argue that Windows on the desktop is acceptable for a lot of people, especially those people who don't have people like me to help them use other systems. If they are on their own, trying to use Linux or even MacOS might leave them out in the cold or under rather EXPENSIVE support costs. (A lone user can barely throw a stone without hitting someone who can deftly advise them to reboot and reinstall.)

But to put Windows in SPECIALIZED applications and devices makes no sense. "Compatibility" isn't an issue there. "Usability" isn't an issue there. "Stability" and "reliability" are often the most important considerations with cost as a third or fourth. (I don't have a second most important consideration, but I'm pretty sure the fifth is "profit!!")

Not Running on Windows (1)

banished (911141) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146319)

The author makes a very inaccurate...should I say, "criminally misleading"...statement about the locomotive computer running on Windows. Windows is not rated for an enviroment where lives are at stake. A read of the document linked on the article reveals that it's the analysis software "QUADS" that runs on Windows. It has nothing to do with operating the locomotive.

"QES-III applications come complete with Q-Tron's Universal Analysis/Download Software (QUADS) program that permits the downloading and viewing of the diagnostic messages and alarms. The QUADS software also integrates all of the data requirements for the optional features such as the DATACORD Event Recorder and the QEG 1000 AutoStart. QUADS is designed to run on Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, or higher operating systems. "

Re:Not Running on Windows (1)

longacre (1090157) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146409)

I was just going to post this. I wasn't that surprised to see a dumb list like this made the front page of Digg, but I am disappointed that it made /.

walmart uses windows (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24146325)

windows CE on those price guns, but the thing is, they all act like thin clients and use software thats actually running on a unix server.

hmmm (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146397)

I used to wonder why some companies (Not NEC) still manufacture ATMs with IBM OS2 built-in. Thanks to this article, I can now see why.

The VMWare issue will take care of itself.. (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146429)

It is entirely too easy to deploy another VM client with virtualization. Soon, I see Microsoft Cracking down on the licensing.. After a few companies get audited, things will start changing...

ATMs - I can confirm this one (2, Interesting)

LawnBoy (858717) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146435)

In 2001, I was on a trip with a friend to Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. We needed to buy a bus ticket to get from Tallinn to Riga, and we needed some of the local currency (the bus company wouldn't take a credit card - another WTF).

So, I tried to take money out of the ATM in the office to buy my ticket. In the middle of my transaction, the application crashed, taking the OS with it (or vice versa). After a couple minutes watching the Windows automated boot process, the machine came back up to the "enter your card" prompt.

But it still had my card!

Fortunately, I didn't need my bank card for the rest of my trip, and my friend was able to get out enough cash separately. However, if I had been traveling alone, I wouldn't have been able to take the bus trip.

And I had to call my bank back home to cancel the card and request a replacement.

Never got that card back. Fortunately, no one ever used it to take my money, either.

Building Controls (1)

Mobkey (1086895) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146443)

Not nearly as exciting, but if it's the middle of winter and your office building goes cold, blame Microsoft. I know our "server" (of sorts) runs Windows. And as far as I know we do fire alarms too which is scarier. Of course I have more problems with XP, Java, and SQL on my laptop than anything that could be attributed to the building system.

Local TV Access Station.. (3, Funny)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 6 years ago | (#24146449)

Every 2nd Wednesday of the month, instead of playing a TV program, I can hear it, but see a windows XP desktop, with a minimized window of the video playing, and a notice that updates are ready to install. That usually sticks around until late afternoon, or early evening, when someone finally either installs the patches and reboots, or just restores the minimized screen..
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