Brien Posey's Windows Blog

Dec 31 2008   3:29PM GMT

What About Bob?

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If you have read my last few blog posts, then you know that I was on vacation for most of December. I spent most of that time on a cruise ship. If you have ever been on any of the longer cruises then you know that you tend to spend a lot of time at sea while traveling from one port to another.

Typically, I try not to even think about work when I am on vacation (I almost never bring my laptop with me). Even so, those sea days can get to be a little bit boring after a while, so I did bring along a bunch of books and magazines that I had been meaning to read, but had never gotten the chance.

While a lot of what I read was just the same old, same old, I stumbled onto a story in the July 2008 issue of TechNet Magazine that I just had to share with you (July 2008? I told you I was behind).

You have probably heard of Microsoft Bob, the ill fated product that has become the butt of many jokes among Microsofties. If you aren’t familiar with Microsoft Bob, and you want to see just how bad it really was, there are some great videos on YouTube. One in particular is at:

So what does all of this have to do with Windows? Well, according to the article, the Windows XP installation CD’s copy protection feature is based on Microsoft Bob of all things. When Windows XP was completed, there were about 30 MB of space left on the installation CD. Somebody in Redmond decided to fill that space with random data, and then have the installer check to make sure that the data can be verified.

The data wasn’t actually random though. Instead, someone at Microsoft dug out the installation floppies for Microsoft Bob, and combined the contents into one large file. They encrypted the file, and placed it on the Windows XP installation CD to act as copy protection data.

Of course this raises the question of why nobody ever seems to encounter this copy protection today. Well, the file is still there. At the time that Windows XP was produced, broadband Internet access wasn’t widely available. Microsoft’s thinking was that if they could completely fill up the CD and make that data required by the installation process, then it would help to act as a deterrent to people downloading CD images. After all, downloading an extra 30 MB of data over a dial up connection would take a while.

Happy New Year everyone! I wih everyone a happy and prosperous new year.

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