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posted by janrinok on Friday November 12 2021, @04:53PM   Printer-friendly
from the leopards-don't-change-their-spots dept.

Software analyst Geoff Chappell was the expert hired by Caldera to dig into the infamous AARD code. Recently he made a review of the discovery, publication, earlier work, personal work, and scale of effort involved in analyzing the AARD code, from a historical perpective. He doesn't adress the ethical or political repercussions of the code. However, being a principal in the analysis, he is able to set the record straight on some technical and legal facts.

The AARD code is from back when MS Windows was still just a graphical shell on top of a text-based disk operating system (DOS) and existed briefly as some XOR-encrypted, self-modifying, deliberately obfuscated machine code and using a variety of undocumented DOS structures and functions. The purpose of the code was to detect competing DOSes, specifically, the then popular DR-DOS, and throw up an unnecessary warning when detected.

Some programs and drivers in some pre-release builds of Windows 3.1 include code that tests for execution on MS-DOS and displays a disingenuous error message if Windows is run on some other type of DOS. The message tells of a "Non-fatal error" and advises the user to "contact Windows 3.1 beta support". Some programs in the released build include the code and the error message, and even execute the code, performing the same tests, but without acting on the result to display the error message.

The code in question has become known widely as the AARD code, named after initials that are found within. Although the AARD code dates from the start of the 1990s, it returned to controversy at the end of the 1990s due to its appearance in a suit at law between Caldera and Microsoft. Caldera was by then the owner, after Digital Research and Novell, of what had been DR DOS. It has ever since been treated as a smoking gun in analyses of anti-competitive practices by Microsoft.

It is not my intention here to comment on the rights or wrongs that I may or may not perceive in the AARD code's existence. However, I must declare a financial interest: in 1999 when this note was first published, I was engaged indirectly by Caldera to assist with their understanding of MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows for the suit just mentioned.

What I do intend here is to put on the public record a few points of history.

The AARD code, during its short tenure, was particularly effective in scaring the public away from DR-DOS.

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  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday November 12 2021, @10:20PM (4 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 12 2021, @10:20PM (#1195765) Journal

    The only Mac cone was blessed by Apple.

    After much pressure, Apple finally decided to allow third parties to build Mac clones. One company bit. I can't remember for sure, but I think the name was Power Computing. (I can't swear to that.)

    We got one for testing. It worked. But it felt like a cheap PC clone. Not like a Mac. The software was the same. But the experience was not. Like a PC clone, you could be sure that the company had paid people to sharpen the edges of the metal inside the case so that you would cut your hand open if you dared open the case to insert a peripheral card into a slot. That was typical of PC clones. Why go to the expense of sharpening all of those metal edges? Or needing tools to open the case.

    With a Mac, you could safely open the case with your bare hands. No tools. Not even a screwdriver. The case was hinged. You flipped the top over exposing the inside. Everything was neatly arranged and accessible. As though someone had put actual thought into the user experience for someone adding or removing a card, or servicing a drive.

    I had some thoughts about lasers, but they were incoherent.
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13 2021, @12:23AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13 2021, @12:23AM (#1195799)

    The sharp edges are a result of the stamping method used to make the cases. IBM, Apple, and the better clone case makers either rolled the edges afterwards or ran a dremel over them to remove the burs, but that costs money so the cheap case makers never bothered. It wasn't until the metal got thin enough that severe injuries happened and lawsuits forced them to change around the late 90's to early 2k's.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13 2021, @11:53AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13 2021, @11:53AM (#1195901)

    haha, "open a mac". new generation reading this today are like: "what is "open a mac"?"

    • (Score: 2) by DECbot on Saturday November 13 2021, @03:18PM (1 child)

      by DECbot (832) on Saturday November 13 2021, @03:18PM (#1195931) Journal

      That's what Apple geniuses do at the tech bar when you crack your screen. It requires lasers, special tools, and UV ovens.

      cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13 2021, @03:25PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13 2021, @03:25PM (#1195933)
        On the iPhone it requires a hair dryer and a few guitar picks. No genius there. And the glue is necessary for water resistance - gaskets would require thicker cases to distribute the pressure evenly along the gasket, fasteners, wtc.

        Not everyone wants a phone the size of an Otterbox in their pocket.