[ISN] Windows 98 disables Microsoft competitors' software

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Mon Jul 20 1998 - 10:13:15 PDT

  • Next message: mea culpa: "[ISN] EFF DES Cracker Brings Honesty to Crypto Debate"

    Windows 98 disables Microsoft competitors' software
    July 14, 1998                       
    Web posted at: 10:45 AM EDT         
    by Brian Livingston
    (IDG) -- The setup routine for Microsoft's new Windows 98 operating system
    deliberately disables files used by competitors' software and installs
    different versions of those files for the use of Windows 98. 
    Windows 98 includes a new utility, the Version Conflict Manager, or VCM,
    to keep track of the disabled files and provide a way for users to switch
    the files back. But the Win98 setup routine does not provide any notice to
    users that the files are being changed or that the Version Conflict
    Manager is available if a competitors' software no longer operates
    The changed files are DLLs -- small support programs that are shared by
    several applications -- as well as other shared files. If the Windows 98
    setup routine detects that a competitors' program has installed a newer
    shared file than the version that comes with Windows 98, the setup routine
    moves the file to a new location, thereby disabling it. Win98 then
    installs an older version of the same file into the proper location. The
    application that depended on the newer version of that file may no longer
    work properly, or it may no longer work at all. 
    Microsoft product manager Shawn Sanford stated in an e-mail exchange, "We
    wanted to be assured of a known, working baseline operating system when we
    were done with installation."  This practice, however, places competitors
    who rely on the newer files at a severe disadvantage. 
    Competitors' applications may no longer work, but users would have
    received no notice of the change. 
    In one test machine, the Windows 98 setup routine disabled three shared
       * Twain.dll (supports    
         numerous scanners and other   
       * Msconv97.dll 1997.4.2         
       * W95inf32.dll 4.71.17
    The files were replaced with these older versions: 
       * Twain.dll               
       * Msconv97.dll 1997.3.12
       * W95inf32.dll 4.71.16          
    The Twain file, of course, is a popular driver that supports numerous
    scanners and other devices. Files of this type usually originate with
    Microsoft and are distributed by the Redmond, Wash. software giant to
    competitors for use with its products. But Windows 98 appears to rely upon
    earlier versions and swaps the files, whether or not this has a negative
    effect on other installed applications. 
    The Version Conflict Manager lets the user select a file and trade the
    older version for the newer version. But a Win98 user typically has no
    knowledge of what applications use which shared files or which version of
    each file would be "better." Moreover, the utility is unlikely to be found
    routinely by users, because it is buried deep within Win98's menu
    structure: Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System
    Information, Tools, Version Conflict Manager -- and then you will find it. 
    Ironically, the origin of the Version Conflict Manager appears to have
    been a series of four columns written I wrote from Sept. 2 to Sept. 23,
    1996. The columns complained that Windows 95 allowed applications to
    install older versions of shared files over newer ones, causing programs
    to crash. I urged Microsoft to have Windows catch such conflicts and
    prevent them, while allowing the user to switch between shared files, if
    necessary, later. 
    Rather than make the Version Conflict Manager available to all
    applications, however, "the VCM mechanism is only turned on during Windows
    98 install," according to Sanford. After Win98's setup is over, the
    Version Conflict Manager ceases monitoring the system. If the installation
    of a third-party application subsequently causes a problem, the Version
    Conflict Manager will have no information about the situation. 
    Any user who installs Windows 98 should check the Version Conflict Manager
    immediately after the setup routine is complete to see if any shared files
    were changed. The Version Conflict Manager should show the names and
    version numbers of any files the Win98 setup routine modified. If this is
    the case, I'll describe in my column next week how you can tell what
    applications rely on those files and whether you should switch to the
    newer versions. 
    Subscribe: mail majordomot_private with "subscribe isn".
    Today's ISN Sponsor: Repent Security Incorporated [www.repsec.com]

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Apr 13 2001 - 12:58:49 PDT