Windows Vista: potential negative impact on nanotechnology

John Walker brings to our attention an apparently distressing set of concerns regarding the new version of Windows, known as Vista, written up by Peter Gutman as A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection. Excerpts:

The only way to protect the HFS [Hardware Functionality Scan] process therefore is to not release any technical details on the device beyond a minimum required for web site reviews and comparison with other products.

This potential “closing” of the PC’s historically open platform is an extremely worrying trend. A quarter of a century ago, IBM made the momentous decision to make their PC an open platform by publishing complete hardware details and allowing anyone to compete on the open market. Many small companies, the traditional garage startup, got their start through this. This openness is what created the PC industry, and the reason why most homes (rather than just a few offices, as had been the case until then) have one or more PCs sitting in a corner somewhere. This seems to be a return to the bad old days of 25 years ago when only privileged insiders were able to participate…

Overall, Vista’s content-protection functionality seems like an astonishingly short-sighted piece of engineering, concentrating entirely on content protection with no consideration given to the enormous repercussions of the measures employed…

As a user, there is simply no escape. Whether you use Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 95, Linux, FreeBSD, OS X, Solaris (on x86), or almost any other OS, Windows content protection will make your hardware more expensive, less reliable, more difficult to program for, more difficult to support, more vulnerable to hostile code, and with more compatibility problems.

So this is very bad, but what does it have to do with nanotech?

As nano continues to progress from materials to devices to complex nanosystems, it will increasingly require both design and, eventually, operation via computers. If this article is correct, we’ve just made a big step backwards in the reliability of both today’s and tomorrow’s computers, thanks to Microsoft and its content protection scheme. This will decrease nanosafety in the long run. If anyone has any suggestions on what to do about this, Foresight would like to hear them. —Christine

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