Microsoft’s ME/98 patch dilemma: a golden opportunity for FOSS

A few days ago I posted about Microsoft’s efforts to curb unauthorized distribution of its products by misrepresenting a piece of malware as a “critical security update”. However, Microsoft’s also arousing ire by refusing to offer a patch to fix a critical security flaw in Windows ME and 98. In short, unless you want to risk exposing your computer to criminals, you need to either (a) pony up $100+ for XP or (b) switch to GNU. Now, of course I offer the second choice seriously, but Ed Bott has another idea: Microsoft should offer a “starter edition” of XP and price it around $30. The starter edition would be crippled to the point of near inoperability, but, tongue-in-cheek, that means the it should work as well as 98 or ME.

Here’s almost a textbook example of where FOSS triumphs over proprietary ware. If ME and 98 were FOSS, then other programmers could patch the flaw (assuming there was sufficient demand). However, it’s not in Microsoft’s interests to do so, so they leave their users with little choice: Buy or die.

I really think that this poses a golden opportunity for GNU. What we have here is so incredibly fortunate, I suspect divine intervention. Here’s my plan—let’s reach out now, in a powerful and unified way, to Windows 98 and ME users. Let’s explain to them the danger of continuing to use their OS, why the development model is the cause of their being in this situation, and help them make the switch to GNU.

I would like to see a special distro, perhaps a version of Ubuntu, specifically designed to help ME/98 users make the switch. Let’s strike while the iron is hot!


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