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DoJ expert shows how to split IE and Windows 98

And actually, it doesn't seem all that difficult, despite previous MS claims

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Internet Explorer can be separated from Windows 98, says DoJ expert witness Edward Felten of Princeton University. In testimony released on Friday Felten explains how IE can be disengaged from the various revs of Windows, and even goes so far as to describe a "prototype" uninstaller program he and his assistants have knocked up. This could conceivably have some commercial value, as one of the points he makes in his testimony is that getting IE out of Windows has become progressively harder with each version. Somewhat embarrassingly for Microsoft, however, getting the two apart has only required the invention of software 'crowbars' since Windows 98. Was it not a year ago that Microsoft was arguing that the version of Windows 95 it was shipping to OEMs had IE so inextricably integrated that it wouldn't be possible to strip it out again without breaking Windows itself? Felten refers to Microsoft KnowledgeBase articles which explain how IE 4.0 can be removed from Windows 95 OSR 2.5, which was the OEM version the company started shipping in December 1997. He also points to the way OSR 2.5 installs on a machine, Windows 95 first and then IE 4.0, and suggests that Microsoft could simply allow the second step to be skipped in order to provide Windows 95 functionality without the 'inextricably integrated' browser. The nature of the integration, it would appear, tends to be more a case of Microsoft mixing browser related and non-browser related functionality within the same DLLs. If this is the case, then Microsoft is gluing disparate pieces of code together rather than integrating. Similarly, Windows' desktop update functionality may be lost if you have taken IE out, but one of the reasons for this is that Microsoft's update Web site refuses entry to other browsers. This would seem to be a mechanical limitation rather than a matter of functionality. Felten's prototype uninstaller was constructed in order to show that it was (and is) feasible for Microsoft to produce a similar program, and thus to sell Windows 98 without IE. The uninstaller removes iexplore.exe then makes changes in the Windows registry to stop 98 trying to view files with IE 4.0. Then it modifies two DLLs and adds a small new DLL which forces 98 to use the default browser, if there is one, rather than being hard-coded to use IE 4.0. "The prototype removal program does not prevent Windows 98 from booting properly," he says. "Nor does it affect the stability of Windows 98 under ordinary use. Microsoft could have produced a version of Windows 98 without Web browsing in a way that did not adversely affect the non Web browsing features of Windows 98." It is going to be extremely tricky for Microsoft to refute this in cross-examination this week. Company spinmeisters on Friday were already pointing out that Felten "did not actually remove Internet Explorer from Windows 98, he only hid some of the functionality it provides." This would seem to be true to some extent, but why is it true? Is it true because 98 genuinely needs IE 4.0 "functionality," or because Microsoft has hard-coded browsing code into non-brower DLLs? In that case the 'hidden functionality' is not, in the absence of IE, doing anything but taking up real estate. Felten would appear to know his DLLs, so Microsoft attorneys will trifle with him at their peril. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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