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 25/6/2019: Mesa Releases, Less Microsoft in Apache

    Links for the day



  2. The European Patent Office Remains a Crooked Patent Office That Harms Staff and Abolishes the Rule of Law

    The EPO remains a sordid mess, but those who follow mainstream media might not know anything about it because it's not covered anywhere in 2019



  3. USPTO and EPO Faking Growth by Granting Patents on Everything in Nature, But Campaigners Strike Back

    The patent microcosm is eating the world; everything under the Sun must be patented, they insist, even life itself (so they can 'pirate' the Commons and then charge us a tax for 'access' or 'license' to it)



  4. IBM Happy That Patent Quality at EPO Collapsed and It's Easy to Get Software Patents

    The EPO keeps granting illegal European Patents and the media almost never mentions this illegality because it's in too amicable a relationship (typically financial) with the EPO



  5. The Linux Foundation's Staff Uses Windows and Microsoft. Now the Foundation Outsources the Coding and Hosting, Too (to Microsoft of Course).

    The disturbing turns of the self-described "Linux" Foundation, which seems to be promoting proprietary software and even Microsoft rather than Linux and Free/Open Source software while the role or capacity of Torvalds is being gradually diminished



  6. Links 25/6/2019: Raspberry Pi 4, Ubuntu's Change of Mind, Wayland’s Weston 6.0.1

    Links for the day



  7. Patent Extremism: Stacking the Panels, the Surveys, the Hearings, the Debates

    Projection tactics would have the public believe that those who oppose corruption are simply radicals; patent polarity has come to the point where if one isn't a "true believer" in blackmail (patent trolls) or opposes bribery, then one is simply a "fringe" and akin to terrorists



  8. Links 24/6/2019: Linux 5.2 RC6, Skrooge 2.20.0, ZFS vs. OpenZFS

    Links for the day



  9. The EPO Needs a President Who Obeys the Law, Not One Who Obeys Battistelli

    Succession based on nepotism at Europe's second-largest institution served to shown how inherently broken things had become and why cover-up of injustices is nowadays paramount (not fixing the flaws/ills but merely perpetuating them)



  10. With Water (Treatment) Already Patented It Won't Take Long for Patents (and Patent Royalties) on Air

    A 'paper economy' is what Europe turns into if the current trajectory is followed (led by lawyers, not producers)



  11. Bill Gates Said He Was on a “Jihad” Against GNU/Linux, But GNU/Linux Users/Developers Engaged in Self-Defense Are Foul-Mouthed 'Microsoft Haters'?

    Microsoft, which routinely commits very serious crimes, tries to come across as some sort of philanthropy whereas those who share their work with the public (for greater good) are described as erratic, rude and unworthy of respect from corporations (outcasts basically, deprived of income source)



  12. What Patents the EPO Has Just Awarded (With a Special Reward), Not Just Granted

    The EPO's practice of elevating some patents over the other patents (European Patents) is perhaps more of a societal liability than the EPO cares to realise



  13. Required Reading: Mental State of Team Battistelli/Campinos

    On the heels of yesterday's article about Team Battistelli/Campinos, here are some recommended/required papers on the problem which likely plagues the Office



  14. Links 23/6/2019: Wine 4.11, FreeBSD 11.3 RC2

    Links for the day



  15. Microsoft Apparently Did a Patrick Durusau on Wim Coekaerts to Broaden Its Control Over GNU/Linux

    Microsoft tactics for defection and takeover of the competition (without coming across as hostile) aren't new tactics; internal documents from Microsoft explain how to achieve this



  16. EPO Directors Would be Wise to Rebel Against Team Campinos While They Still Have the Job

    As the EPO continues its bold journey towards dictatorship (where presidencies are passed between friends and ‘circles’ are former colleagues or close confidants) Techrights urges those who have power to speak out — e.g. EPO judges and Directors — to do something before it’s too late



  17. American Front Group Open Invention Network (Riding the Linux Brand) is a Proponent of Software Patents in Europe

    The impact of American multinationals in Europe is difficult to deny; in fact, we're observing the same old lobbying/lobbies still working hard albeit more covertly (typically using front groups)



  18. Say 'Hey Hi' to Software Patents

    Using the “AI” (“HEY HI”) hype the ‘community’ of patent maximalists hopes that every little (and possibly very old) algorithm will suddenly sound amazing and innovative — to the point where it becomes unthinkable to deny a patent monopoly on it



  19. A Personal Note From Ted MacReilly (How Microsoft Works Against GNU/Linux)

    A tongue-in-cheek write-up highlighting the ways Microsoft insiders think and how they strategise against GNU/Linux and Free/libre software



  20. The Linux Foundation's New Vice Chair, Wim Coekaerts, Worked for Microsoft

    The Linux Foundation is boosting the Microsoft boosters and calls that "community"



  21. Links 21/6/2019: GNOME 3.33.3, 32-Bit Support Further Neglected, DragonFlyBSD 5.6.1 Released

    Links for the day



  22. Leaked: Harassment of EPO Directors by Team Campinos

    “New BIT organisation and staff changes,” a novel kind of newspeak, means that Directors are being severely punished without due process at all (“hidden disciplinary measure without disciplinary proceedings”)



  23. Patent Professionals in Europe Have Devolved Into a Marketing Industry

    Lies, buzzwords and hype waves is all that the patent bubble in Europe boils down to these days; loads of bogus patents get granted only for European judges to smack these down (if one can afford the court battle)



  24. Almost Six Months After Iancu Said He Would Make Software Patents Great Again Nothing Has Actually Changed

    We're just a fortnight away from the ludicrous plan of Iancu celebrating 6 months (without accomplishing anything)



  25. Links 20/6/2019: Kubernetes 1.15, Alpine 3.10.0 and Librem 5 June Software Update

    Links for the day



  26. Ignore the EPO's Dumb Festival and Focus on the Abuses Against the Workforce and Its Quality of Work

    Don’t lose sight of the appalling behaviour of the management of the EPO; the last thing it wants is press coverage about its gross abuses and corruption — an aspect it spent literally millions of euros to bury (gaming the news cycle)



  27. Microsoft Attempting to Destroy the Careers of Its Critics, Including Free Software Proponents

    Microsoft isn't changing and has not changed; the tactics described above are still being used, even by its "Open Source" (or "Open at Microsoft") people, who did this to me



  28. Links 19/6/2019: Linux Mint Vs Vista 10, Qt 5.13 Released

    Links for the day



  29. The Linux Foundation's Business Model

    The Linux Foundation's plan, illustrated



  30. Links 18/6/2019: i386 Abandoned by Canonical and a New osquery 'Community'

    Links for the day


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

Recent Posts