Microsoft denies breaking prof's software

Changes in Web site were totally unrelated to failure, and it was broken all the time anyway...

Microsoft has hotly denied suggestions that it deliberately sabotaged the IE uninstall program produced by DoJ expert Edward Felten. No such accusation has actually been formally made, but if it was a coincidence, it was a bizarre one. Felten produced an uninstall program to demonstrate that it was feasible for Microsoft to ship Windows 98 without IE 4.0 functionality. He had been using a version of 98 with IE uninstalled and Netscape Navigator substituted without problems, he says, until minor changes were made on the Microsoft Windows 98 Update site on 4th December. The Windows Update feature gives users automatic access to fixes and patches from Microsoft, and it was important to Felten to show that this feature could also be accessed from Navigator. Under cross-examination Felten described the mysterious breakage, stressing that he'd been able to access Update prior to the 4th December changes, describing what the changes consisted of, and explaining how the breakage could be fixed. (Transcript) Microsoft's statement, filed with the court with the permission of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, said that the modifications to the site had been made by a single developer, working under the supervision of a second developer, and that neither had been involved in the testing of Felten's program. " The December 4 change had nothing whatsoever to do with Dr. Felten or his program. Microsoft knows of no reason why that change should have affected Dr. Felten's program and believes it had no such effect." Microsoft continues to insist that use of Felten's program disables access to the Update feature. Effectively, the company is therefore arguing that the program demonstrates that IE and 98 are integrated - if taking out IE means you lose features, then that must be the case, check? But the claim: "Microsoft knows of no reason why that change should have affected Dr. Felten's program and believes it had no such effect" is rather strange, as it suggests that the authors of the statement didn't read the section of trial transcript where the matter came up. Felten explains precisely how the changes broke the program. First, the software attempts to download a file into the IE directory. As IE has been removed, that directory doesn't exist. But there's quite clearly not reason why it should insist on using such a directory. Second, a bug introduced in the Microsoft code caused a further breakage. As Felten says: "We have verified that Microsoft could easily fix both of those changes, and we verified that by making modifications to the software so that it works again. but it's true that as Microsoft -- if you look at the software that Microsoft is offering today, it doesn't work because of these incompatibilities that Microsoft introduced." ® Complete Register trial coverage

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