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Expert's IE uninstall program ‘breaks’ after MS sees source

A couple of code changes and the program stops working, then MS says the program doesn't work. Heard it before...

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DoJ expert Edward Felten yesterday describe a mysterious breakage in his demonstration IE uninstall program (Earlier Story). He sent the source code to Microsoft, and then it stopped working. "You provided the source code... whereupon there appear to have been product changes by Microsoft?" Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson sounded somewhat incredulous, as well he might be. Felten's deposition describes in detail how Internet Explorer can be uninstalled from various versions of Windows, and also describes the construction of a prototype uninstall system that will remove Windows 98 from IE 4.0 (yes, we know, but after we typed it wrong it sounded such a great idea). Felten says he sent the source code for this to Microsoft in September, and that on 4 December (that is, just a few days before Felten was originally scheduled to take the stand), two small changes were made that interfered with Felten's approach to giving Windows 98 without IE access to the Windows Update facility. It's not immediately clear what those claimed changes were, but Felten says he was able to make changes to deal with them. Shall we think of this as a strange coincidence? Another strange coincidence was that Microsoft attorney David Heiner claimed that Felter's program disabled access to Windows Update. If Felter had gone onto the stand a little earlier, before he'd fixed the problem, his program certainly wouldn't have allowed access to Windows Update. But these must all be coincidences - any other interpretation would mean that Microsoft has been juggling with razor blades. The Windows Update feature is one of the more problematical aspects of Felten's uninstall efforts, because it goes some way to integrating the client machine with Web-based and Microsoft-run help, update, and (saints preserve us) network management facilities. The changes Felten claims Microsoft made must therefore have been made at the Web site end. Felten has already said that Update insists on the use of IE 4.0, and that this is unnecessary for the provision of the facility. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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