We Don't Want To eXPerience Windows Again

Feature written by James Baughn on Sunday, October 28, 2001

from the it-will-never-happen-again-we-promise dept.

Yes, we did the unthinkable. We installed a copy of Windows XP on a machine here at Humorix World Headquarters. After watching all of the hype and hyperbole of the Windows XP launch (including Bill Gates or his clones appearing on such TV shows as "Regis And Somebody Else Live" and "The SeeBS Evening News & Advertisements With Dan Blather"), we figured that we should at least try out the latest Windows downgrade in an attempt to "know thy enemy".

It won't happen again.

At first the staff at the Humorix Vast Research Labs(tm) refused to even contemplate the idea of allowing a Microsoft product to enter the premises. However, after threatening to cut off their caffeine and beer supply, they quickly compromised. They would install Windows XP on a spare computer, but only if the room was quarantined and they were allowed to wear hazmat suits while touching the XP installation CD and the keyboard of the "infected" computer. Once they were finished reviewing XP, the computer would be burned and the ashes sent to a toxic waste dump. Obviously, you can't be too careful these days.

Of course, we still needed to obtain a copy of Windows XP. We thought about grabbing a pirated copy, but we've already eXPerienced one attack from the Intellectual Property Police and their fleet of unmarked black helicopters. We didn't want to go through that again.

After much shouting, it was agreed that the lab technicians would draw straws to decide which one would go down to CompUSSR and purchase a sealed copy of Windows XP. The unlucky lab worker -- after receiving a handsome check for hazardous duty pay -- was dispatched to complete the dangerous assignment. Since the box's shrinkwrap remained intact during the journey back to Humorix World Headquarters, we don't think any cross-contamination occured. Again, you simply can't be too careful these days.

The unlucky lab technician then entered into the quarantined room and proceeded to break the shrinkwrap on the dangerous Windows XP box. During the next six hours, while everybody else waited outside in safety and watched the unfolding drama on closed-circuit TV, the technician installed Windows, re-installed it three more times because of problems, and then finally reviewed the new operating system. Upon completion of the mission, the hapless computer was destroyed and sent to silicon heaven.

Unfortunately, the next day the technician became ill with "flu-like symptoms". Because his hazmat suit was never breached during the whole ordeal, we can be confident that his sickness is merely psychosomatic. Nevertheless, he has been given a prescription of Cipril for the next 60 days. You just can't be too careful these days.

Below is the report that the technician submitted:

by Mr. Ginne E. Pigg, Humorix Lab Technician

Before I begin, I must protest this assignment. I joined Humorix thinking that I would have access to state-of-the-art Linux boxes along with other goodies that the Humorix Research Labs(tm) has stolen from the future. If I had known that I would be installing Windows boxes all day, I would have went ahead and sold my soul to Bill Gates and made about 100 times more money working at Microsoft. Blasphemy, I know, but I'm pissed off.

Okay, so here's the deal. The installation wasn't as bad as I first expected. It only crashed twice and I only had to re-install three times. That's a pretty good track record for a Microsoft product. In addition, the registration procedure was simple: I only needed to type in a 512-character key and then submit my social security number, credit card number, shoe size, occupation, and address. It wasn't nearly as painful as it could have been.

After completing the installation process in about two hours (a new record, I'm sure), I was greeted with a "Dancing Start Menu" that said "Click Start To Begin". I spent an hour figuring out how to shut up the darn thing when I discovered the following entry buried within the 52-megabyte Registry:


However, setting this key to "true" didn't seem to do anything. After some digging, I realized that Windows XP maintains two Registries: the real one and the one the luser sees. Accountants cook their books, Windows cooks its Registry.

I did some snooping with a hex editor and uncovered some disturbing keys hidden within the real Registry. For instance, "KEY_PERSONAL_INFO" contains such entries as "LIST_OF_NON_MICROSOFT_SOFTWARE_INSTALLED", "BANK_ACCOUNT_NUMBERS", "NUMBER_OF_ANTI-MICROSOFT_SITES_VISITED", "ESTIMATED_NET_WORTH", "MICROSOFT_BRAINWASHING_FACTOR", "PGP_KEY", and most troubling, "TIME_REMAINING_UNTIL_NEXT_PHONE_HOME".

It seems clear that Windows XP maintains a large database of sensitive information on each user and then phones home periodically. Of course, we shouldn't jump to conclusions. These keys might mean something entirely different or could be a joke by some bored Microserf. The whole "NSA_KEY" brouhaha turned out to be nothing, and so could this.

Yeah, right.

The double-Registry isn't the only disturbing new feature. According to a recent CNN article, Windows XP allows users to delete files from the hard drive. This statement might seem 100% obvious, but in reality it's 100% false. Windows doesn't delete files, it only pretends to. When you empty the "Recycle Bin", everything goes to the hidden "Meta-Recycle Bin". I would consider this a bug, but Microsoft's marketing department spins this as a "feature" that "prevents users from accidentally deleting an important document or misplacing one of the 10,521 DLL files necessary for Windows XP to function properly."

Of course, the conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this new "feature". The FBI&PV will undoubtedly love the ability to recover ancient incriminating documents from an XP hard drive that the user mistakenly thought he had deleted years before. And let's not forget about hard drive manufacturers. Users will have to add new hard drives just so they can store all of the crap they've deleted (and then after adding a new piece of hardware they will have to re-register their copy of XP).

However, it seems clear that the real motivation behind the Meta-Recycle Bin is simple: to prevent Linux from being installed. XP purposefully scatters the "deleted" files all over the hard drive. This makes it impossible to re-partition the hard drive for a dual-boot setup without first completely wiping Windows XP and everything else. Meanwhile, the limited amount of free space available will preclude many users from installing Linux distros that run on top of Windows.

The conspiracy theorists will also have a field day with another "feature" that requires users to purchase expensive software to play high-bitrate MP3s. I have a feeling that BEHTGs (Big Evil Hollywood Trade Groups) have a hand in this.

Microsoft's marketing weasals spin this "feature" as a good thing because it protects the user from the negative consequences of downloading pirated content. The FAQ included with online help (definitely an oxymoron) answers the question "Why the hell can't I play MP3s?" with "The RIAA has threatened to launch denial of service attacks against computers containing pirated material. By discouraging the use of pirated MP3s, Windows XP is looking out for your best interests."

The FAQ's next question, "But what if I have MP3s that I've obtained legally?", is answered with, "There's no such thing. Legitimate music is only stored in WMP (Windows Monopoly Player) format. So there."

I suppose it doesn't matter anyway because I couldn't figure out how to un-mute the sound. I tried everything to increase the volume but without success. The only thing that came close was Start -> Control Panel -> Multimedia -> All Hail Bill Gates -> Sound/Music -> Settings -> Just Say No To MP3s -> Controls -> Volume -> [Error: Shortcut Not Found]

At this point I had spent six hours trapped inside my hazmat suit sitting in front of an infected computer. I couldn't take it much longer. I decided to try out one more thing before chucking the doomed computer to the fire.

That's right, I wanted to eXPerience the most popular portion of Windows since version 1.0: Solitaire. I quickly discovered that XP Solitaire was different from previous versions. First, it featured an online "two-player" mode allowing you to play Solitaire against other lusers connected to MSN. The most striking difference, however, was that it seemed rigged. I played 16 hands and never once saw an ace. Windows, it appears, doesn't want you to win.

So there you have it. Except for a few minor changes -- no deleting, no MP3s, no privacy, no winning -- Windows XP is a carbon copy of Windows ME, which is a carbon copy of Windows 98, which is a carbon copy of Windows 95, which is a carbon copy of Mac OS.

In case you're wondering, XP still crashes. And it still sucks.

Given the choice between exposure to Anthrax and exposure to Windows XP, I'd prefer Anthrax any day.

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