EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

07.23.10

Microsoft Windows BSOD Caused Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Posted in Microsoft, Windows at 1:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Summary: Blue Screen of Death caused a crucial computer system not to prevent the biggest disaster of the 21st century

Who ever said that use of Microsoft products does not cause death? We last heard it hours ago in response to our latest post about Russia. According to this new report from the New York Times:

The emergency alarm on the Deepwater Horizon was not fully activated on the day the oil rig caught fire and exploded, triggering the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a rig worker on Friday told a government panel investigating the accident.

[...]

Problems existed from the beginning of drilling the well, Mr. Williams said. For months, the computer system had been locking up, producing what the crew deemed the “blue screen of death.”

“For those not familiar with the term, BSOD stands for the Blue Screen of Death, made famous by Bill Gates,” wrote our reader. Bill Gates is also a BP investor [1, 2, 3].

Sarcastically our reader adds: “I wonder will a future inquiry find UNIX was at fault.”

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

9 Comments

  1. satipera said,

    July 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Gravatar

    Using Microsoft software for safety critical applications is criminal negligence.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I know someone who suggests criminal prosecution either for those who choose Windows or those who make/sell Windows, but I don’t agree. Either way, I wrote about Microsoft’s deliberate/willful negligence in [1, 2, 3].

  2. twitter said,

    July 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Gravatar

    This should be a special occasion to Call Out Windows. I’ve read several headlines about “bypassed safety systems” but did not realize that the system in question was bypassed because it was Windows and suffered from the usual Microsoft problems. As a Gulf Coast resident, I’m personally offended by this but not particularly surprised. Many in the press might not think it significant because there were so many bad decisions that BP made, but things might have been different if the alarm system had been working. Thanks for documenting it.

  3. twitter said,

    July 25, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Gravatar

    It turns out that the unreliable system is directly responsible for the most of the Deepwater Horizon deaths and could have prevented the accident if it had worked properly. The New York Times article requires a login, and transcripts won’t be available for three weeks. The New Orleans Times Picayune has this article describing the deaths caused by the alarm bypass. The relevant opinion and expert quotes are worth documenting here. The problem is not particular to the Deepwater Horizon, all of Transocean’s rigs have the same system and, of course, anywhere people use Windows for mission critical work they wastefully risk worker’s lives, public health and their own business.

    With the general alarm set to bypass, the rig’s one danger alarm never sounded, Transocean chief electronics technician Mike Williams testified. If it had, he said workers in the drilling area — the shaker room, the mud room, the pit and pump room — would have immediately evacuated. Several of the 11 workers killed in the explosion worked in those areas. [no one from these areas survived]

    … drilling area is extremely susceptible to fire if gas kicks up from the well, so the rooms are air tight, and control panels can be set to shut down if gas seeps in, but Williams testified that one such panel in the drilling shack was set to bypass.

    About five weeks before the accident, Williams was called to check on a computer system in the drill shack that was constantly on the fritz. Williams said the software was chronically bad, leaving a “blue screen of death” on the driller’s interface and often causing the driller to lose crucial data about what was going on in the well. Once, when the Deepwater Horizon was drilling a different well, the computer froze up and the rig took a kick of natural gas while the driller was looking at “erroneous data,” Williams said.

    the rig’s general alarm and indicator lights were set to “inhibited,” meaning they would record high gas levels or fire in a computer, but wouldn’t trigger any warning signals. “When I discovered they were inhibited a year ago I inquired why, and the explanation I got was that from the OIM (the top Transocean official on the rig) on down, they did not want people woken up at 3 a.m. due to false alarms,” said Williams … Williams said an emergency shutdown system, which was supposed to shut off the engines, didn’t trip, either. The engines ended up overspeeding by drawing power off the gas and Engine No. 3 exploded … Mark Hay, the Transocean senior subsea supervisor, set the control panel system to bypass its gas shutdown function, and when Williams questioned him, Hay said there was no point in Williams fixing it because none of the Transocean rigs use the safety system. … “Damn thing’s been in bypass for five years. Matter of fact, the entire (Transocean) fleet runs them in bypass”

    It is clear from Williams testimony that Windows was not up to the task and that this directly lead to the accident. The first warning workers got of gas in the drilling room was a generator overspeed and explosion, when a properly functioning system would have activated a warning alarm and shut equipment down. The system was bypassed because it was not reliable. Transocean issued a lame excuse for this negligence, calling the bypass standard industry practice. It may be true that other drillers take similar risks but that does not make it a good practice. There were many other mistakes made as documented by this overlapping article that documents damage to underwater equipment and four failed safety tests, but the explosion and fire itself may have been prevented if the alarm and shutdown system had worked reliably.

    Industry should purge itself of this unreliable and costly software.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    A long thread that I saw earlier (initiated in a newsgroup in response to one article I wrote) noted that the software runs on Windows only. They run it on a flaky foundation.

    BP still has many platforms that run the same software, i.e. they can suffer BSODs that would multiply the scale of the existing disaster.

    BP must look at the platform it uses (you can read that in more than one way).

  4. FactBknown said,

    July 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Gravatar

    First, I am not a big Microsoft lover. I have worked in the IT field for over 12 years and over that time, with 4 companies. Each company was predominantly Windows based. Grant you, none of them were in such an industry that could cause death if a system failed. However the fact is that Microsoft did not turn the Alarms off. They did not bypass the safety systems. Their software is dominated by errors, BSOD, hardware incompatibilities and etc… The fact is that though Microsoft is not the best and we would likely still have the issues if it had been a different OS. The fact is that someone at BP wanted the alarms off due to false alarms. That is when they need to have a strict on-call rotation that only one person is woke up and they can physically check the alarm. If it is needed then the others can be awaken. If it is in fact a false alarm, then reset it and go back to bed. Also, if they are getting BSODs, why is there not a backup alarm system or operating system? And why was the systems bypassed instead of being looked at by a tech or by Microsoft? It would be real sad if the BSOD was caused by a simple driver issue that could have been resolved easily. BSOD happens to everyone, but if it is a vital system then have a backup system. Sounds like someone took Out of Sight, Out of mind literally.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Based on some research I saw, the software in question only runs under Windows. It’s irresponsible to run such crucial systems on an operating system that’s largely rejected by stock exchanges/markets.

    I hope that lessons will be learned and weak links will be removed.

    twitter Reply:

    I like what Richard Stallman had to say about it,

    Managers careful about safety would have had the cause of the false alarms fixed. But that would have cost money, and they probably gave cost savings higher priority than safety.

    It is too bad that managers don’t understand that free software is cheaper from start to finish and start the migration efforts sooner than later. People making these systems must understand things by now but that won’t replace old systems that are still in the field. The cost of not replacing the system in this case was obviously higher.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I guess the question is, what did he call “BP” this time? “Big Polluter” is his most common joke, but there are variations.

What Else is New


  1. US Courts Make the United States' Patent System Sane Again

    35 U.S.C. § 101 (Section 101), the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and other factors are making the patent system in the US a lot more sane



  2. Today's USPTO Grants a Lot of Fake Patents, Software Patents That Courts Would Invalidate

    The 35 U.S.C. § 101 effect is very much real; patents on abstract/nonphysical ideas get invalidated en masse (in courts/PTAB) and Director Andrei Iancu refuses to pay attention as if he's above the law and court rulings don't apply to him



  3. A Month After Microsoft Claimed Patent 'Truce' Its Patent Trolls Keep Attacking Microsoft's Rivals

    Microsoft's legal department relies on its vultures (to whom it passes money and patents) to sue its rivals; but other than that, Microsoft is a wonderful company!



  4. Good News: US Supreme Court Rejects Efforts to Revisit Alice, Most Software Patents to Remain Worthless

    35 U.S.C. § 101 will likely remain in tact for a long time to come; courts have come to grips with the status quo, as even the Federal Circuit approves the large majority of invalidations by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) panels, initiated by inter partes reviews (IPRs)



  5. Florian Müller's Article About SEPs and the EPO

    Report from the court in Munich, where the EPO is based



  6. EPO Vice-President Željko Topić in New Article About Corruption in Croatia

    The Croatian newspaper 7Dnevno has an outline of what Željko Topić has done in Croatia and in the EPO in Munich; it argues that this seriously erodes Croatia's national brand/identity



  7. The Quality of European Patents Continues to Deteriorate Under António Campinos and Software Patents Are Advocated Every Day

    The EPC in the European Patent Office and 35 U.S.C. § 101 in the USPTO annul most if not all software patents; under António Campinos, however, software patents are being granted in Europe and the USPTO exploits similar tricks



  8. Team UPC is Still Spreading False Rumours in an Effort to Trick Politicians and Pressure Judges

    Abuses at the European Patent Office, political turmoil and an obvious legislative coup by a self-serving occupation that produces nothing have already doomed the Unitary Patent or Unified Patent Court (UPC); so now we deal with complete fabrications from Team UPC as they're struggling to make something out of nothing, anonymously smearing opposition to the UPC and anonymously making stuff up



  9. Patents on Life and Patents That Kill the Poor Would Only Delegitimise the European Patent Office

    After Mayo, Myriad and other SCOTUS cases (the basis of 35 U.S.C. § 101) the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is reluctant to grant patents on life; the European Patent Office (EPO), however, goes in the opposite direction, even in defiance of the European Patent Convention



  10. EPO 'Untapped Potential'

    "Campinos is diligently looking for ways to further increase the Office’s output without increasing the number of examiners," says the EPO-FLIER team



  11. Links 9/12/2018: New Linux Stable Releases (Notably Linux 4.19.8), RC Coming, and Unifont 11.0.03

    Links for the day



  12. Links 8/12/2018: Mesa 18.3.0, Mageia 7 Beta, WordPress 5.0

    Links for the day



  13. The European Patent Organisation is Like a Private Club and Roland Grossenbacher is Back in It

    In the absence of Benoît Battistelli quality control at the EPO is still not effective; patents are being granted like the sole goal is to increase so-called 'production' (or profit), appeals are being subjected to threats from Office management, and external courts (courts that assess patents outside the jurisdiction of the Office/Organisation) are being targeted with a long-sought replacement like the Unified Patent Court, or UPC (Unitary Patent)



  14. Links 7/12/2018: GNU Guix, GuixSD 0.16.0, GCC 7.4, PHP 7.3.0 Released

    Links for the day



  15. The Federal Circuit's Decision on Ancora Technologies v HTC America is the Rare Exception, Not the Norm

    Even though the PTAB does not automatically reject every patent when 35 U.S.C. § 101 gets invoked we're supposed to think that somehow things are changing in favour of patent maximalists; but all they do is obsess over something old (as old as a month ago) and hardly controversial



  16. The European Patent Office Remains a Lawless Place Where Judges Are Afraid of the Banker in Chief

    With the former banker Campinos replacing the politician Battistelli and seeking to have far more powers it would be insane for the German Constitutional Court to ever allow anything remotely like the UPC; sites that are sponsored by Team UPC, however, try to influence outcomes, pushing patent maximalism and diminishing the role of patent judges



  17. Many of the Same People Are Still in Charge of the European Patent Office Even Though They Broke the Law

    "EPO’s art collection honoured with award," the EPO writes, choosing to distract from what actually goes on at the Office and has never been properly dealt with



  18. Links 6/12/2018: FreeNAS 11.2, Mesa 18.3 Later Today, Fedora Elections

    Links for the day



  19. EPO, in Its Patent Trolls-Infested Forum, Admits It is Granting Bogus Software Patents Under the Guise of 'Blockchain'

    Yesterday's embarrassing event of the EPO was a festival of the litigation giants and trolls, who shrewdly disguise patents on algorithms using all sorts of fashionable words that often don't mean anything (or deviate greatly from their original meanings)



  20. The Patent Litigation Bubble is Imploding in the US While the UPC Dies in Europe

    The meta-industry which profits from feuds, disputes, threats and blackmail isn't doing too well; even in Europe, where it worked hard for a number of years to institute a horrible litigation system which favours global plaintiffs (patent trolls, opportunists and monopolists), these things are going up in flames



  21. Links 5/12/2018: Epic Games Store, CrossOver 18.1.0, Important Kubernetes Patch

    Links for the day



  22. Links 4/12/2018: LibrePCB 0.1.0, SQLite 3.26.0, PhysX Code

    Links for the day



  23. EPO Management Keeps Embarrassing Itself, UPC More Dead Than Before, and Nokia Turns Aggressive

    The EPO’s race to the bottom of patent quality continues, it’s now complemented by direct association with patent trolls and law stands in their way (for they repeatedly violate the law)



  24. The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) and IBM Are Part of the Software Patents Problem in the United States

    IBM's special role in lobbying for software patents (and against PTAB) needs to be highlighted; even Ethereum’s co-founder isn't happy about IBM's meddling in the blockchain space (with help from Hyperledger/Linux Foundation)



  25. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Not Falling for Attempts to Prevent It From Instituting Challenges

    In the face of patent maximalists' endless efforts to derail patent quality the tribunal keeps calm and carries on smashing bad patents



  26. Links 2/12/2018: Linux 4.20 RC5, Snapcraft 3.0, VirtualBox 6.0 Beta 3

    Links for the day



  27. The Patent Microcosm Hopes That the Federal Circuit Will Get 'Tired' of Rejecting Software Patents

    Trolls-friendly sites aren't tolerating this court's habit of saying "no" to software patents; the Chief Judge meanwhile acknowledges that they're being overrun by a growing number of cases/appeals



  28. 35 U.S.C. § 101 Continues to Crush Software Patents and Even Microsoft Joins 'the Fun'

    The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and even courts below it continue to throw out software patents or send them back to PTAB and lower courts; there is virtually nothing for patent maximalists to celebrate any longer



  29. The Anti-Section 101 (Pro-Software Patents) Lobby Looks at New Angles for Watering Down Guidelines and Caselaw

    By focusing on jury trials and patent trolls the proponents of bunk, likely-invalid abstract patents hope to overrule or override technical courts such as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)



  30. Patent Trolls, USPTO Director Andrei Iancu and Section 101

    The world’s most important patent office is now run by a courts-hostile person (an 'American Battistelli') who is happy to ignore the courts’ caselaw and listen to patent trolls instead; this means that science and technology, not to mention the law itself, will suffer


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts