Windows Enterprise Desktop

Dec 6 2009   4:12PM GMT

What black screen of death?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Gosh! I love Ed Bott (as a Windows maven that is: I’m a happily married man ;-). His commentary on the IDG story that broke on Monday, 11/30 is right on the money and lays the situation out in stark, harsh, no-nonsense terms. As did most other Windows followers, I saw the initial story early Monday morning, as I was getting ready to hit the road for a business drive to the Houston area to visit with a consulting client. I read and re-read the story, and found it maddeningly unclear and devoid of any factual information whatsoever. I remember thinking at the time that I had better keep track of this, and wanted to wait for somebody convincing and reputable to weigh in before getting too excited about it. I also remember thinking “Here we go…again!” anticipating lots of anxiety and controversy. I was right about that, but for all the wrong reasons.

For those who don’t know, a Black Screen of Death (often abbreviated as KSOD, so as to distinguish it from the equally infamous BSOD, which stands for Blue Screen of Death) denotes the situation where Windows crashes, the screen goes black, and the PC essentially turns into an inert lump of circuitry. What distinguishes a KSOD from a BSOD is that the black screen simply denotes a dead Windows computer, crashed so suddenly and drastically that Windows can’t even post a failure message before giving up the ghost. A blue screen, on the other hand, is the background against which the white text of a Windows STOP or crash error message appears, to tell you something about what was up as that crash occurred. Hence, a KSOD is about the worst kind of Windows crash there is, because it doesn’t even proffer post-crash diagnostics to help determine what caused (and how to fix) the problem.

As it turns out the company that made the claim and associated that claim with a couple of Windows updates was dead wrong. They couldn’t prove, nor could others confirm, any causal relationship between a KSOD and the offending updates. Subsequent investigation led to Microsoft denying responsibility (as they should have) and ultimately to the reporting company retracting its contention and apologizing for any “inconvenience” occasioned thereby.

As Ed observes in his Wednesday (12/2/2009) blog, nobody from the reporting firm contacted MS in advance to ascertain the validity of their claim, nor did they do the due diligence to demonstrate a consistent and repeatable situation in which the KSOD could be produced. To make things worse, numerous well-known Websites and publications picked up this news and ran with it without doing likewise. While empirically inclined researchers and reporters (and Microsoft) were trying to reproduce the results without success, other media outlets were going nuts, essentially spreading what proved to be a baseless rumor.

C’mon: Windows is thorny and difficult enough for real, without introducing additional rumor and innuendo to make things worse. The moral of this story: panic and mayhem never help solve real problems, but they can reproduce themselves nicely while the prospect of danger or failure appears immanent. Kind of like malware, but even more like an Internet hoax. Which, thankfully, is all this situation turned out to be.

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