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I can't stand up from falling down..."
Elvis Costello

Thirty-seven holes! – One vulnerability in your software is bad enough but ‘thirty-seven’? It’s almost as if the company in question, was Microsoft not it’s arch-rival Oracle.

You see, once upon a time there was this fabulously opinionated? Software baron called Larry who wished to snatch control of the software industry from his complete opposite, a modest unassuming megalomaniac called Bill. Both men were in the very expensive Enterprise database business and both aimed to be the biggest and the best in a crowded applications market.

Bill was very close to achieving his own dream of world domination but struggled to release software that was anywhere close to 100% proof against the attacks of rats and weasels, This was a serious and on-going worry for many customers and enough to encourage many of them to flock to Larry’s product, which he smugly boasted was "unbreakable" and utterly and completely weasel proof. By coincidence, if you search for "bug" on the Microsoft knowledgebase, it returns twenty-five results.

Unfortunately, Larry in his enthusiasm to put one over on the ghastly swot Bill, may have been telling the kind of fibs a Transport Secretary would have been proud of, because according to the Internet security watchdog CERT, Larry’s "unbreakable" database and application server software lets in the rain and quite possibly thirty-seven weasels too!

Over the last five years or so, many of us in the industry have started taking Larry’s predictions and statements with a pinch of salt. He leads a huge and successful business, one that has the confidence and respect of thousands of customers. When dazzling Larry stands up on stage and bets a million dollars that his software is better than Bill’s or that the Network Computer will kill the PC, you just know it’s all going to go dreadfully pear-shaped on him. Security is another problem altogether because the issue is very much one of trust. Like Larry, you might claim that your box is smarter, faster, cheaper, prettier than the other chap’s but at a time when security of any kind is a principal concern of business or government, making any wildly unsupported claims for the integrity of any mission-critical product is not a good idea, in a world that feels increasingly threatened and vulnerable by the potential for attack on its commercial infrastructure.

Personally, I’m in favour of starting my own “Honest Computing” campaign. It’s an award I’ll make every year to the company whose software does exactly what it says in the box. Unfortunately, after twenty years writing about and reviewing products and technology trends, I doubt that I’ll find anyone to give the award to. It’s all rather like magician, James Randi’s offer of a million dollars to anyone, including Uri Geller, who can demonstrate unequivocal evidence of the paranormal in front of him. Perhaps he and Oracle should get together soon!


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