Get Outside the Box
A lot of times the solution to a problem is more complicated than it needs to be. An intelligent man breaks down the problem into small known segments and applies logic to derive an optimal solution. A wise man breaks down the problem into small known segments and applies logic to derive an optimal question.
So much of what we know about the world and how it works is based on theory. That means that even our most fundamental facts are within the realm of things that can and should be questioned.
Microsoft is not so bad
So, I just finished watching Steve Jobs and Bill Gates sitting down together at D5 - at least a little bit of it since only 2 of 7 segments have been uploaded. Steve Jobs made an impression on me that has changed my whole mindset on Microsoft as a company.
Microsoft has an ultra-competitive force inside it. Microsoft has made a lot of money by doing things that I don't approve of. Microsoft has been one of the primary reasons that the IT industry that I have come to make my living off of exists.
Steve Jobs made the point that at Apple, there was an enormous sense that in order for Apple to succeed, Microsoft had to lose. That was very much not the reality, and in fact the reality was and still is that Microsoft will not lose. Apple, in fact, had/has great interest in the long term success of Microsoft - they are the largest software company for Apple software, they spend a great deal of money on Apple products, and the competitive nature of two companies not faced with direct competition inspires creativity and hard work that would not otherwise be achieved.
Looking at the linux world, much of the same paradigm holds true. Linux will never take over the desktop market - at least not any time in the next decade. Linux based software has in large part been inspired by things that take place at Microsoft or on Microsoft platforms. I think that Beryl is a much better interface than that which Vista provides, but the drive for a better GUI wouldn't have happened without Microsoft and Apple first popularizing GUI platforms in the first place.
Looking at the search engine world - there are three major players - Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Microsoft's presence is good for the internet as a whole. While Google enjoys a near-monopoly at the moment, they certainly won't hold that title forever. While they are at the top, Yahoo and Microsoft make them better. They keep working hard to maintain their revenue stream and when they do start to make mistakes the factual competition will be there ready to take over.
Competition inspires innovation and hard work. Microsoft is competitive in just about everything these days. They may not be market leaders, but they certainly are competitors. Microsoft hasn't done a lot of creating new markets anytime recently, but they do great work at expanding existing markets well beyond what smaller companies would be able to do, or what other large companies would consider to be too risky. Take the xbox for instance - Microsoft's entrance into the industry expanded the user base as a whole and inspired better products from Sony and Nintendo. Microsoft certainly took their share, but Sony, Nintendo, and an untold amount of other companies made a lot of money based in large part on Microsoft's presence in the market place.
Yes, Microsoft has unethically attacked Linux and open source software in general. Yes, Microsoft is guilty of anti-competitive practices that are unimaginable. Yes, Microsoft has some terrible products that have way too much market share.
But without them - we'd all be poor, working retail, and playing around on hobby computers with less than a megabyte of memory.
I've spent enough time hating them. It feels good to let it go.
Is Microsoft actively astroturfing slashdot?
Could Microsoft be actively astroturfing slashdot? When a discussion starts with an offhand comment laughing at an MS Products' supposed security and ends with attacks on Apache and Linux you really start to wonder.
I've always enjoyed excellent Karma because I typically only participate in discussions when I actually have something useful or interesting to say. Not to say that all of my comments are modded +5 insightful or anything like that, but I can't remember the last time I was modded down.
I made a few comments about IIS 6 and was attacked and modded once as a Troll and again as flamebait. My flamebait comment started the whole thing. The article I commented on included the laughable statement
"IIS 6 hasn't had a public remotely exploitable bug in it. Ever."
To which I replied here asking if Microsoft had hired Baghdad Bob as a PR guy. (You remember Baghdad Bob - the Iraqi Information Minister who publicly claimed that the US was not actually closing in on Baghdad the day they took it over) Frankly, I thought it was kind of a funny comment - and given the slashdot community's attitude towards everything microsoft I thought that the comment would be interpereted as such.
The first reply came from a guy asking me to name a vulnerability, as if the thought of IIS actually having a security hole was incredulous... um. OK... so I responded with a google query with 695,000 results for "IIS 6 remote exploit".
Then comes attack #2... I love this guy. He says...
The fact remains, IIS 6 has never had a remotely exploitable hole. Period.
Microsoft learned from their mistakes and are making their software secure, not just by Microsoft standards, but clearly by any standard.
Really? On slashdot, someone making those statements? About Microsoft? Oh come on! So I took a gander at this particular user's comment history and it showed an unhealthy loyalty to Microsoft in defiance of logic. I called him on it. That's when I got modded as a Troll.
He never responded, but I did get a response from an "anonymous coward" asking me
"Wow, why not actually link to an IIS6 exploit meeting the stated criteria, if you're asserting that any exist?"
followed up by another commenter:
Don't redbait. Answer his question. Or continue to look increasingly foolish, I guess.
What is redbait anyways? Probably a typo. At this point I'm committed to the discussion so I decided to simply follow my own google search link to find an example. It took two clicks, so I responded with the actual text of the first exploit I found, along with links to Gartner's denunciation of IIS, a google search showing that Hacking Insurance carries a 15% additional premium for users of IIS, and a cert.org link reminding these people of the damage caused by IIS past vulnerabilities. You'd think the discussion would be over at this point. If nothing else, it's a day AFTER the story hit the front page... wrong!
Dude, are you completely ignorant of basic security terminology? ... Either stop blindly bashing microsoft, or put up and actual code execution hole.
So, I made what I thought was a funny comment, was forced to defend that comment. Then I was "called out" because 695,000 google results weren't enough evidence of an exploit. and now this
So now, because I simply just can't walk away from this, I respond again. This time I basically say piss off - if you consider IIS 6 secure when x,y, and z is public knowledge and the platform itself has a sordid history of being unbelievably insecure then fine, use it at your own risk.
And the responses keep coming...
Is IIS 6 better than a patchy web server?
695,000 results is terrible, but that's nothing when you consider that there's over 1.1 million results for Linux 16 remote exploits
So now this discussion has degraded to blind attacks on Apache and Linux?!? Seriously - I make one funny comment (that apparently wasn't that funny) that laughs at a statement about Microsoft IIS, I get attacked and modded as a flamebating troll, and then Apache and Linux are attacked. The entire thing just doesn't fit the community. I can't actually think of any tech communities that I've been a part of where such a thing would transpire.
I started the discussion, so I can't exactly claim that I was baited into it. I just don't see how this discussion goes the way it does without some astroturfing being involved. Blind loyalty to Microsoft's web server "platform", attacks on linux, apache, and the guy who laughs at the statement that IIS is secure. That's not slashdot. It's the twilight zone.
It's too bad you can't go back and edit your comments. I've been modded down before, but I just made a really stupid comment I'd like to take back before the rest of the world reads it.... Oh well... I'll have to suffer humiliation now.
Why the heck not
I've been a slashdotter for years and for some reason I haven't ever gotten around to writing in my Journal. Here is my first... absolutely worthless... Journal Entry.