When Microsoft and the government talk, the walls have Rat ears

Packet Rat
R. Fink


The Rat’s well-placed sources have reported back to him the state of ongoing
negotiations between Microsoft Corp. and the Justice Department.


Using modern surveillance technology stolen from the movie set of Will Smith’s
“Enemy of the State,” plus the usual array of allegedly intelligent agents, the
Rat has obtained a transcript of a recent negotiating session—or so they called it.


To protect the sources as well as the cyberrodent from any litigious side effects,
agents scrambled the printed record using the latest two-bit encryption technology.


Unfortunately, the Rat was obliged to eat a whole box of Cap’n Crunch to get hold
of a public key to decrypt the transcripts. He collapsed in a sugar-induced stupor before
he could complete the task. Here’s what he managed to piece together before his
carbohydrate crash:


Government attorney 1: “So, I’m to
understand that Microsoft has something else of interest to offer as an alternative to the
proposed breakup of the company?”


Microsoft attorney 1:
“That’s correct. We’re willing to offer other concessions as long as they
don’t preclude the continued operation of the company and Microsoft can continue to
make innovations to its operating systems.”


Government attorney 2: “Such
as?”


Microsoft attorney:
“Well, for example, we would be willing to guarantee that future versions of the
operating system would actually work.”


Government attorney 1: “Could you
define ‘work’ for us? We’re not exactly computer gurus here.”


Microsoft attorney:
“Um, certainly. Microsoft would certify future versions of Windows to operate as
advertised. For example, there wouldn’t be any repeats of that Navy ship thing.
Software running under Windows would function as designed, and the operating systems would
not crash or reboot without warning. Microsoft would guarantee users a seamless operating
experience without blue screens of death.”


Government attorney 3: “I’m sorry,
I still don’t get it. Crash? Death? Are you implying some sort of threat?”


Government attorney 2: “I’ve used
a computer, but I didn’t realize I could have died! I’ll never try that
again!”


Microsoft attorney 1: “No,
no, you misunderstand. When we say crash, we mean the computer stops working. Nobody gets
hurt when a computer crashes.”


Government attorney 1: “Do they come
with air bags or something?”


Microsoft attorney 3:
“Sure they do.”


Microsoft attorney 1:
“Wait just a—”


Microsoft attorney 3: “But
if you remove Internet Explorer, the air bag won’t work any more. Without the room to
innovate, Microsoft won’t be able to make computer air bags work, and all users would
be placed at unacceptable risk.”


Government attorney 1: “Why wasn’t
this brought up in the trial?”


Microsoft attorney 3:
“Just think of the panic. The Internet economy would have ground to a halt. This
administration wouldn’t want that to happen, would it?”


Government attorney 2: “Heck, no. After
all, Al Gore invented the Internet himself.”


Government attorney 1: “So you will
keep computers from crashing. That’s a start, Isn’t there something else?”


Microsoft attorney 2: “Such
as?”


Government attorney 2: “Like keep
Monica off MSNBC.”


The conversation then grew garbled. “But,” sighed the Rat, “isn’t
that more than you wanted to know anyhow?” 


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.



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