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 19/2/2018: Linux 4.16 RC2, Nintendo Switch Now Full-fledged GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  2. PTAB Continues to Invalidate a Lot of Software Patents and to Stop Patent Examiners From Issuing Them

    Erasure of software patents by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) carries on unabated in spite of attempts to cause controversy and disdain towards PTAB



  3. The Patent 'Industry' Likes to Mention Berkheimer and Aatrix to Give the Mere Impression of Section 101/Alice Weakness

    Contrary to what patent maximalists keep saying about Berkheimer and Aatrix (two decisions of the Federal Circuit from earlier this month, both dealing with Alice-type challenges), neither actually changed anything in any substantial way



  4. Makan Delrahim is Wrong; Patents Are a Major Antitrust Problem, Sometimes Disguised Using Trolls Somewhere Like the Eastern District of Texas

    Debates and open disagreements over the stance of the lobbyist who is the current United States Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division



  5. Patent Trolls Watch: Microsoft-Connected Intellectual Ventures, Finjan, and Rumour of Technicolor-InterDigital Buyout

    Connections between various patent trolls and some patent troll statistics which have been circulated lately



  6. Software Patents Trickle in After § 101/Alice, But Courts Would Not Honour Them Anyway

    The dawn of § 101/Alice, which in principle eliminates almost every software patent, means that applicants find themselves having to utilise loopholes to fool examiners, but that's unlikely to impress judges (if they ever come to assessing these patents)



  7. In Aatrix v Green Shades the Court is Not Tolerating Software Patents But Merely Inquires/Wonders Whether the Patents at Hand Are Abstract

    Aatrix alleges patent infringement by Green Shades, but whether the patents at hand are abstract or not remains to be seen; this is not what patent maximalists claim it to be ("A Valentine for Software Patent Owners" or "valentine for patentee")



  8. An Indoctrinated Minority is Maintaining the Illusion That Patent Policy is to Blame for All or Most Problems of the United States

    The zealots who want to patent everything under the Sun and sue everyone under the Sun blame nations in the east (where the Sun rises) for all their misfortunes; this has reached somewhat ludicrous levels



  9. Berkheimer Decision is Still Being Spun by the Anti-Section 101/Alice Lobby

    12 days after Berkheimer v HP Inc. the patent maximalists continue to paint this decision as a game changer with regards to patent scope; the reality, however, is that this decision will soon be forgotten about and will have no substantial effect on either PTAB or Alice (because it's about neither of these)



  10. Academic Patent Immunity is Laughable and Academics Are Influenced by Corporate Money (for Steering Patent Agenda)

    Universities appear to have become battlegrounds in the war between practicing entities and a bunch of parasites who make a living out of litigation and patent bubbles



  11. UPC Optimism Languishes Even Among Paid UPC Propagandists Such as IAM

    Even voices which are attempting to give UPC momentum that it clearly lacks admit that things aren't looking well; the UK is not ratifying and Germany make take years to look into constitutional barriers



  12. Bejin Bieneman Props Up the Disgraced Randall Rader for Litigation Agenda

    Randall Rader keeps hanging out with the litigation 'industry' -- the very same 'industry' which he served in a closeted fashion when he was Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit (and vocal proponent of software patents, patent trolls and so on)



  13. With Stambler v Mastercard, Patent Maximalists Are Hoping to Prop Up Software Patents and Damage PTAB

    The patent 'industry' is hoping to persuade the highest US court to weaken the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), for PTAB is making patent lawsuits a lot harder and raises the threshold for patent eligibility



  14. Apple Discovers That Its Patent Disputes Are a Losing Battle Which Only Lawyers Win (Profit From)

    By pouring a lot of money and energy into the 'litigation card' Apple lost focus and it's also losing some key cases, as its patents are simply not strong enough



  15. The Patent Microcosm Takes Berkheimer v HP Out of Context to Pretend PTAB Disregards Fact-Finding Process

    In view or in light of a recent decision (excerpt above), patent maximalists who are afraid of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) try to paint it as inherently unjust and uncaring for facts



  16. Microsoft Has Left RPX, But RPX Now Pays a Microsoft Patent Troll, Intellectual Ventures

    The patent/litigation arms race keeps getting a little more complicated, as the 'arms' are being passed around to new and old entities that do nothing but shake-downs



  17. UPC Has Done Nothing for Europe Except Destruction of the EPO and Imminent Layoffs Due to Lack of Applications and Lowered Value of European Patents

    The Unified Patent Court (UPC) is merely a distant dream or a fantasy for litigators; to everyone else the UPC lobby has done nothing but damage, including potentially irreparable damage to the European Patent Office, which is declining very sharply



  18. Links 17/2/2018: Mesa 17.3.4, Wine 3.2, Go 1.10

    Links for the day



  19. Patent Trolls Are Thwarted by Judges, But Patent Lawyers View Them as a 'Business' Opportunity

    Patent lawyers are salivating over the idea that trolls may be coming to their state/s; owing to courts and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) other trolls' software patents get invalidated



  20. Microsoft's Patent Moves: Dominion Harbor, Intellectual Ventures, Intellectual Discovery, NEC and Uber

    A look at some of the latest moves and twists, as patents change hands and there are still signs of Microsoft's 'hidden hand'



  21. Links 15/2/2018: GNOME 3.28 Beta, Rust 1.24

    Links for the day



  22. Bavarian State Parliament Has Upcoming Debate About Issues Which Can Thwart UPC for Good

    An upcoming debate about Battistelli's attacks on the EPO Boards of Appeal will open an old can of worms, which serves to show why UPC is a non-starter



  23. The EPO is Being Destroyed and There's Nothing Left to Replace It Except National Patent Offices

    It looks like Battistelli is setting up the European Patent Office (EPO) for mass layoffs; in fact, it looks as though he is so certain that the UPC will materialise that he obsesses over "validation" for mass litigation worldwide, departing from a "model office" that used to lead the world in terms of patent quality and workers' welfare/conditions



  24. IBM is Getting Desperate and Now Suing Microsoft Over Lost Staff, Not Just Suing Everyone Using Patents

    IBM's policy when it comes to patents, not to mention its alignment with patent extremists, gives room for thought if not deep concern; the company rapidly becomes more and more like a troll



  25. In Microsoft's Lawsuit Against Corel the Only Winner is the Lawyers

    The outcome of the old Microsoft v Corel lawsuit reaffirms a trend; companies with deep pockets harass their competitors, knowing that the legal bills are more cumbersome to the defendants; there's a similar example today in Cisco v Arista Networks



  26. The Latest Lies About Unitary Patent (UPC) and the EPO

    Lobbying defies facts; we are once again seeing some easily-debunked talking points from those who stand to benefit from the UPC and mass litigation



  27. Speech Deficit and No Freedom of Association at the EPO

    True information cannot be disseminated at the EPO and justice too is beyond elusive; this poses a threat to the EPO's future, not only to its already-damaged reputation



  28. No, Britain is Not Ratifying 'Unitary' Anything, But Team UPC Insinuates It Will (Desperate Effort to Affect Tomorrow's Outcome)

    Contrary to several misleading headlines from Bristows (in its blog and others'), the UPC isn't happening and isn't coming to the UK; it all amounts to lobbying (by setting false expectations)



  29. The EPO's Paid Promotion of Software Patents Gets Patent Maximalists All Excited and Emboldened

    The software patents advocacy from Battistelli (and his cohorts) isn't just a spit in the face of European Parliament but also the EPC; but patent scope seems to no longer exist or matter under his watch, as all he cares about is granting as many patents as possible, irrespective of real quality/legitimacy/merit



  30. Andrei Iancu Begins His USPTO Career While Former USPTO Director (and Now Paid Lobbyist) Keeps Meddling in Office Affairs

    The USPTO, which is supposed to be a government branch (loosely speaking) is being lobbied by former officials, who are now being paid by private corporations to help influence and shape policies; this damages the image of the Office and harms its independence from corporate influence


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