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. Links 2/9/2015: Chromebooks and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.2 Beta

    Links for the day



  2. Software Patent From Troll Called 'Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations' a Symptom of a Rotten Patent System

    Another example of patent trolls and software patents as gatekeepers and parasites, denying access to very trivial ideas or implementations



  3. When Even Patent Lawyers' Blogs Acknowledge the Rapid Demise of Software Patents

    Voices for patents are accepting the new order wherein software patents are hardly potent at all (and increasingly difficult to acquire)



  4. Calling Proprietary Software, Software Patents, Lock-in (Like OOXML) and DRM 'Open'

    What Microsoft et al. call 'Next-Generation Open Media Formats' are basically neither open nor acceptable (it's DRM) and what Microsoft apologists dub 'Open Source Tools' are just another example of a Microsoft Office openwashing Trojan horse



  5. Recycled Old News About Vista 10, Stressing That Not Only '10' is Spyware But All of Windows is

    How Microsoft propagandists are spinning Microsoft's gross and potentially illegal privacy violations as a reason to 'upgrade' to Vista 10



  6. Links 1/9/2015: Manjaro Linux 0.8.13, Netrunner 14.2 LTS

    Links for the day



  7. Patents Roundup: IAM's Claims About India, Lawyers' Patent Bias, ITC for Microsoft, and PTAB Against Kyle Bass

    Another weekly summary, focusing on issues that pertain to or affect Free software in particular



  8. Microsoft Crowd Rocks the Media With Misleading Claims and Deliberate Lies About GNU/Linux, Vista 10, and Free/Open Source Software

    A roundup of rigged press coverage, intended purely to serve Microsoft's agenda



  9. Links 31/8/2015: Linux 4.2, LXLE 14.04.3

    Links for the day



  10. IRC Proceedings: August 9th, 2015 – August 29th, 2015

    Many IRC logs



  11. “Conservative” Site Responds (Yet Again) to Misguided “Conservative” Efforts to Derail Patent Reform in the US

    Patent trolls throw stones in glass houses, contributing to their own unpopularity, but some influential “Conservatives” continue to defend (conserve) them



  12. Increase in Lobbying for Software Patents in Europe and Its Trojan Horse, the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    The relentless campaigns to bring software patents into Europe have not stopped and so-called 'unification' -- much like so-called 'trade' deals -- serves to support them



  13. Microsoft Technology Crashes Financial Markets, Again

    SunGard, which is a Microsoft shop, is clearly failing to provide what it calls mission-ciriticaal [sic] solutions



  14. Alice v. CLS Bank (Alice/§101) Comes to Squash Software Patents Even in Eastern District of Texas

    The crackdown on software patents is coming along nicely and the Alice case is now being utilised even in the capital of patent trolls



  15. Apple's Patent Cases Against Android Are Falling Apart, as Acknowledged Even by the Anti-Android Lobby





  16. Links 29/8/2015: NetworkManager 1.0.6, Systemd Merges “su” Command Replacement

    Links for the day



  17. Microsoft Loves Linux to Death and Still Tries to Kill GNU/Linux

    Microsoft's relentless attacks on GNU/Linux and Free software in general (even if it runs on Windows) are so evident that claims of 'love' remain laughable at best (if not infuriating)



  18. Censorship, Self-Censorship and Intimidation Now the Modus Operandi at EPO

    The European Patent Office has ceased even trying to pretend that it respects human rights, including the right to free speech



  19. Patent Practitioners: "The Unitary Patent Might be Able to Open the Floodgates for Software Patents in Europe"

    The EPO-backed Unitary Patent scheme threatens to bring software patents to Europe and along with them a lot of patent trolls from all around the world (especially the United States)



  20. Microsoft Lies About Vista 10 and Increases Microsoft Surveillance (Even Beyond Vista 10 and Into Android, Vista 7/8)

    Windows surveillance expands retroactively, making its way into platforms other than Windows and also expanding to predecessors of Vista 10



  21. Another Suicide at the EPO, Fifth by Our Count

    Yet another EPO member of staff has just committed suicide, leading to the inevitable question: how many people need to die before Battistelli and his minions are out of the Office for good?



  22. Links 27/8/2015: ownCloud Desktop Client 2.0, Red Hat Downgraded

    Links for the day



  23. Microsoft-connected Mesosphere Threatens to Eliminate Free Software in the Datacentre

    Hiding behind a misleading 'open' label while actually backed by Microsoft (and based on new rumours may join Microsoft), Mesosphere wishes to eradicate Free and back doors-free software in large datacentres hosting a lot of physical and virtual servers



  24. Microsoft Aggression Against GNU/Linux Amid Vista 10's Failure

    A look at the recent assault on GNU/Linux in Munich and the likely cause for this assault (in such a timely fashion, too)



  25. Message to LinuxCon Regarding Microsoft: “It is Necessary to Get Behind Someone in Order to Stab Them in the Back.” -Sir Humphrey Appleby

    Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, helps Microsoft gain influence in the Foundation after payments are received



  26. Market Share Estimates Confirm That Vista 10 Failed in a Major Way

    Confirmatory evidence that Vista 10 is failing in the market about a month after its much-hyped (paid coverage) release



  27. When Microsoft, the Master of Patent Trolls, Complains About Trolls

    Possibly the world's biggest patent abuser and monopolist, which also creates many patent trolls (including by far the biggest one), takes on a far smaller abuser in Court



  28. Letter Signed by Two German Officials Becomes a Microsoft Weapon of Propaganda

    Microsoft and its minions refuse to leave Munich alone, even though the vast majority in Munich are perfectly happy with Free/libre software



  29. Links 25/8/2015: Linux Kernel 4.2 Final RC, KDE Ships Plasma 5.4.0

    Links for the day



  30. Sabine Pfeiler and Otto Seidl Should Take Note as Russia -- Like China -- is in the Process of Banning Microsoft Windows for Security Reasons

    A look at a strange suggestion, signed by Sabine Pfeiler and Otto Seidl, who suggest going back to Microsoft which is basically a spyware company now


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