QuoTW This was the week when the infamous and terrifying Blue Screen of Death made its return to Windows systems. Folks who said yes to Microsoft’s 40 updates for Internet Explorer, Windows 7 and Windows 8 Pro were left tearing their hair out when the patches started bricking their machines. People had believed, or at least hoped, that the BSOD was a thing of the past, but now here they were, back on the forums, once more seeking a fix for an unknown bug… One cried:
I have spent about 8 hours looking into this and I found out that the error occurs when I install any of the following updates: KB2976897, KB2982791 and KB2970228. I checked my laptop's ram and hard disk and they do not show any defects.
While another lamented:
I wasted loads of time trying to get my PC to boot as mine boots in to a blue screen and it comes with error "win32k.sys”.
And another gloated:
I thought that only Windows 98 systems got blue-screen errors? (I am laughing at you all, because I haven't seen a blue-screen error on my win-98se system for years. I'm typing this reply on one such win-98 system right now - it has 2 gb of installed ram and win-98 can see and use all of it thanks to a few patches. And no, I'm not running 98 in a VM).
Over at fellow old guard tech firm HP, champagne corks were doubtless popping after the company managed to pull out of an eleven-quarter sales nosedive. Thanks to that curious upswing in PC sales, HP managed an increase in net revenue of one per cent year on year to $27.6bn. Sadly, net earnings were down 29 per cent to $985m.
Chief Meg Whitman was both upbeat:
HP is in a stronger position than it has been in some time… We have reignited innovation at HP.
And rather more pragmatic about the company’s fortunes:
Turnarounds are not linear and we have a lot of work ahead of us. This is a big ship to turn and we need to move faster.
Meanwhile, security researchers have revealed that top Android apps are rife with vulnerabilities, particularly to man-in-the-middle attacks. FireEye’s security staff found that the large majority of the 1,000 most popular apps were open to these hacks, thanks to faulty SSL error and certificate handling. They said:
The Android ecosystem is all about communicating, and right now it's screaming for help. That's because SSL vulnerabilities and the Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attacks they enable are wreaking havoc on data security.
This was also the week when fearless Reg hack Jasper Hamill turned himself in to the police, after learning that merely viewing the video of the purported murder of journalist James Foley in Syria could be seen as an act of terror. Britain's secret-police unit (SO15, aka the Counter Terrorism Command of the Metropolitan police, tasked with working alongside the intelligence agencies against spies, terrorists and other supervillains) had announced that just seeing the sickening video could result in charges under sweeping counter-terrorism laws. Jasper gamely told the cops:
I watched the James Foley video. Am I a terrorist?
He was told that viewing alone wouldn't get you banged up, but the fuzz could use the fact of having watched it to fatten up their case against a suspect on other charges. A spokesman said:
Distribution is the issue. Viewing the video could be taken into consideration if any other information comes to light.
(Jasper's new office nickname is now, of course, "Jihadi Hamill". -Ed)
In a shock revelation from The Times, we learned that not everything you see on the internet is actually true. The paper headlined its article pondering the authenticity of the Foley video as follows:
Video on internet may not tell the whole truth.
(What's next? "Bulletin issued by crazed zealots may not be completely factual"? "Photo of Loch Ness monster may not be totally bona-fide"? Hurrah for the Thunderer. -Ed)
In Blighty, the government is facing a £224m bill for cancellation fees after it scrapped the £750m e-Borders IT contract. The border security project was supposed to help id folks entering the country, but was scrapped when the new government came in in 2010, leaving US supplier Raytheon out of pocket. The company promptly sued and has won the favour of an adjudicating tribunal.
The tribunal's ruling confirms that [Raytheon] delivered substantial capabilities to the UK Home Office under the e-Borders programme.
Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement that despite having a huge bill and an unfinished electronic system, the government was still right to cancel the whole thing:
The Government stands by the decision to end the e-Borders contract with Raytheon. This decision was, and remains, the most appropriate action to address the well-documented issues with the delivery and management of the programme.
The situation the Government inherited was… a mess with no attractive options.
All other alternatives available to the Government would have led to greater costs than the result of this Tribunal ruling.
The statement was in response to Keith Vaz, chairman of the Parliament’s Home Affairs select Committee, which scrutinises the Home Office. He described the tribunal’s ruling as a “catastrophic result”.
The British government’s Department of Work and Pensions also had trouble this week over its Universal Credit programme.
The Public Accounts Committee said in a report that the Major Projects Authority was failing to adequately berate ministers and top civil servants over spending decisions on wildly expensive IT schemes – and singled out Universal Credit in particular.
Committee chair Margaret Hodge said:
We are particularly concerned that the decision to award a 'reset' rating to the Universal Credit project may have been an attempt to keep information secret and prevent scrutiny. ®