How do you say “Unsafe at Any Speed” in machine language?

Ralph Nader didn’t just spring from the forehead of George Bush as a Democratic Spoiler in the 2000 Florida election results. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, he was the author of a book called “Unsafe at Any Speed.” It was an indictment of the insanely top-heavy Chevy Corvair (it rolled over if you looked at it funny) and other unsafe manufacturing and design practices at GM in the 1960s. Of course, the fact that he was insisting on better crash performance and shoulder belts for all cars got him labeled a Bolshevik and “anti-business” at the time. (whatever…)

The gist of the consumer advocacy movement that sprang up around the book was essentially “If you’re going to take billions of dollars a year from us for things that we need, then how about making sure they work (and won’t kill or maim us)?”

Someone needs to write a book about the Windows operating system. For all of XP’s “user friendliness” (like bundled drivers and that sort of thing), it still leaves all the doors unlocked and it’s functionality is still MARGINAL.

But don’t take my word for it. Rob Pegoraro has a nice rundown of the differences between the various OSes. Window’s security issues figure prominently in his description of the OS. My favorite section of the article:

“Even if that changed, Windows would still be an easier target. In its default setup, Windows XP on the Internet amounts to a car parked in a bad part of town, with the doors unlocked, the key in the ignition and a Post-It note on the dashboard saying, ‘Please don’t steal this.’ ”

You’d think that the richest man in the world could find engineers that could write an OS that wasn’t such a risk to the user. There really is no excuse for such slipshod design.

  1. balloonman

    Ralph Nader desrves credit for bringing vital safety concerns to bear in the marketplace, and for inspiring consumer scrutiny in general. Hats off for that. I wouldn’t call him a communist for asking the government to step in, but maybe unsafe with my civil liberties. Hooray, all cars must have seat belts, everybody is safer! But 30 years later not only must cars be sold with seat belts (for which I must also pay), but I must wear them too.(I do, but for my own reasons). And I am forbidden to disable an airbag on my own car, even though it might kill me.

    I think it would be a mistake if the government were to step in and legislate that MS had to sell it’s OS with X, Y or Z gizmo to make user’s identities more secure, or to keep others from using their machines to wreac havok. Next thing you know they’ll be making me use such things whether I like it or not. Well, maybe not me, since I don’t use MS OS’s, (a dear friend saved me from PCs , I’m forever grateful), but suppose they told me I must use a certain process, or OS, for my own good; for the public good? No thanks.

    Until Widows users are willing to advocate for themselves and demand a safe and truly usable OS by switching to something better, they get exactly what they paid for. I have no sympathy for buyers who won’t beware. I know every time I’ve been burned, I made a point of learning something from it. I figure they must like viruses, blue screens, and mysterious transactions on their credit cards. They obviously don’t like endlessly downloading and installing patches, though they don’t seem to mind endlessly reinstalling XP. Please don’t make me buy one.

  2. My point was not that I felt that someone should write a book to make the government do something- my point was that someone should write a book so that everyone would READ it and know. Then they could make an informed decision.

    It wouldn’t hurt if the government read it, too. I hate the thought that the government is wasting so much money on Windows. Check out these two articles about Linux in government:

  3. balloonman

    Yeah, I knew you weren’t advocating government intervention. I’m just grandstanding a little. I’m just amazed, perplexed even, that Windows users need such a book when they access, or attempt to access, all the proof they should need every day.

    Yes, it disturbs me that even Homeland Security is locked in with Windows. Once again, government proves itself to be a danger to those it is intended to serve.

  4. Glad to see you link to that article. I just read it yesterday. It’s excellent and right on the money. I get so irritated with these Windoze drones. And it’s all part of a larger irritation: if people are such mindless lemmings when it comes to something as minor (in the grand scheme of things) as choosing an operating system, then that just works its way up into more and more important things…

    There are far too many lemmings in this country world. (Let’s see if it takes my HTML.)

    I’m trying to convince the principal of the school where I work to buy a cart of iBooks. I presented him with side-by-side quotes for comparable machines from Dell and Apple. The Dell price was a little more than $5,000 higher, and didn’t include a printer or office suite, which the Apple did. Plus the whole security and stability thing. He was impressed with the security (these kids will destroy anything if they can) and lack of vulnerability to viruses (this district is a mess with that shit; no firewall on their server… don’t get me started…) I also presented him with results of comparative studies showing total cost of ownership over a given period, user satisfaction, and so on. So we’ll see if he makes the intelligent decision or if he caves to the masses.

  5. Steve

    Although an obvious financial success, Windows (all versions) is a failed product because it purports to be a user-friendly OS to be used by average folks who are not computer geeks (“Where do you want to go today?”) and yet has never come close to living up to this. I shudder when I think about normal people using a Windows PC. It’s the equivalent of automobiles in 1920.

    — Steve

  6. Of course it would help if you analogy was correct. First off all, the Corvair’s center or gravity had absolutely NOTHING to do with Nader’s arguement that the Corvair would rollover. (that award goes today’s SUVs) As a matter of fact, with the flat six engine the Corvair has one of the lowest CGs of any car ever made. What he did allege was that the 60 to 63 Corvair’s swingaxle rear suspension would tuck under and then jack up the car causing a rollover. However, Nader’s allegations about the rollover question in the Corvair were PROVEN to be false.

  7. well. Joel, I GUESS YOU TOLD ME.

    Shut my mouth and saddle up the mule… time to go apologize to Mr. Gates and General Motors.

    Please forgive my egregious misrepresentation of the much maligned Corvair. I grovel. I crawl. I roll over, especially when my swingaxle gets tucked.

    of course, the thing still blew oil like a geyser, and WINDOWS STILL SUCKS, which was the actual point of this article, even though it’s now five months old.

  8. YokoOno

    I think Joel’s point was, if you are willing to spout off so with such inaccuracy about the Corvair, how can you expect anyone to pay attention to the other points you make?

    You’re right when you say “there really is no excuse for such slipshod design.” However, there’s also no excuse for slipshod opinion-slinging.

    Methinks you’re justa windbag.

  9. Let me help you with something, chucklehead…

    read this para again:

    “the thing still blew oil like a geyser, and WINDOWS STILL SUCKS, which was the actual point of this article, even though it’s now five months old.”

    The Corvair was a piece of shit. So is Windows. Get a hobby.

  10. YokoOno

    Let me help YOU out with something, Windbag…

    Read this “para” again:

    > It was an indictment of the insanely top-heavy
    > Chevy Corvair (it rolled over if you looked at
    > it funny)

    FACE IT, W.B., YOU GOT IT WRONG. All other things being equal, we hobby-challenged readers can only assume you’ve gotten it wrong about Windows, too.

    Your diatribe above is just one fact-free opinion after another (e.g., “WINDOWS STILL SUCKS”, “it’s functionality is still MARGINAL”, it’s “a risk to the user”, etc., etc., etc.).

    In your next gust, please feel free to answer:

    Why does it SUCK?
    Why is it MARGINAL?
    What makes it a risk?

    Maybe I should get a hobby. Maybe I could even write a book. If I do write a book, I’ll be certain to use ACTUAL FACTS so people don’t think I’M JUST A WINDBAG BLOWING OUT A BUNCH OF DEMONSTRABLY INACCURATE OPINIONS.


  11. Matt

    Finally, I might have found a place to show my disdain for the Chevrolet Corvair. For my 16th birthday, my parents bought me a 1963 Spyder Convertible. I honestly did not want or like the car, but it quickly grew on me.

    I loved all the attention I got wherever I would go, and I loved the power. It may have been small, but it was spry through all 4 gears. Everyone in my class wanted to race me, which I refused to do. By now, I had grew to LOVE this little car.

    I loved the car until the night of June 12, 2003. Myself and a couple friends were out going for a drive in my car. It had rained an hour before, but not very long, so by this time, it had stopped raining, but the roads were still wet. I made the decision to lower the top. We were just driving along and all of a sudden, The rear end of the car broke loose. Being in a state of Panic, I jerked the wheel, I really don’t remember which way.

    I woke up, and I was totally confused. Where were my friends? Where was my car? I turned my head and what I saw will haunt me for the rest of my life. My car was a ball of flames, I guess it rolled over. After that, I guess I went unconcious, because when I awoke again, I was in a hospital.

    I asked my parents what had happened to me that night, and they told me. The rear axle of the car had snapped somehow, and having all the weight in the rear caused the car to go out of control. The investigators said that it seemed like the car had rolled over 6 times, and then burst into flames. Every single person in the car had been thrown out; including myself, for 78 feet. I was the only person to survive the crash out of the five of us.

    It was hard to go to school the following fall. Not only the fact that I am prarlized from the waist down; but knowing that all my best friends were killed. This is my reason for hating the Corvair. I hated in the beginning, I loved it, then I hated it again for ruining the rest of my life.

  12. Bob


    You’re a retard. The mere fact that you “don’t even know what way I jerked the wheel” says a lot about you. If you knew how to drive a rear engined car, this wouldn’t have been a problem.

    Corvairs use the same rear suspension setup as a similar era Volkswagen (ALL Volkswagens of the era use the exact same suspension). Volkswagens were known to rollover from axle tuck-under FAR more than Corvairs were. But, Nader went after GM because

    1. GM was the biggest car manufacturer in the world.

    2. The average Volkswagen buyer at that time was a hippie or a die-hard liberal- Nader’s supporters. How do you think they’d respond to him suing the company that produced their beloved Beetles, Karmann Ghias, and buses?

    What made you loose control in your Corvair (if your story is even true), would have happened in any similar Volkswagen of that time period or Porsche.

    I highly doubt the axle just “snapped”- and if it did indeed snap, that’s not poor design, that’s poor maintenance. It lasted 40 years until you got ahold of it. Furthermore, there isn’t THAT much weight on the back. The engine is all aluminum, and doesn’t weigh much.

    I doubt your story is even true- for it to have rolled over 6 times, you’d have had to be going ridiculously fast anyways, in which case, you’re still a dumbass. People who have FORCED rollovers for shows in top heavy ’80s Japanese minivans at speed rarely get them to flip more than 3 or 4 times. 6 times, I call BS.

    So much of your story makes little sense. Your parents just randomly have you a ’63 Corvair in 2003 when you turned 16? Yeah. Sure. 99% of parents, if buying their child a car, will get them something relatively new. And that’s if they actually buy them a car.

  13. Edo River

    Bob-buzz brain,
    Matt does not say he crashed when he was 16, Hell he could have been 35. They bought him a 10 yr old car, a reasonable age for new driver, something cheap, used and old, and he kept it….20 years???? Ok, maybe this is a marvel of someone’s fantasy 😉

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