Ten more stupid uses for Windows

Blogger Richard Stiennon's worst uses for Windows continues.

My "Top Ten Worst uses for Windows" post last week caused somewhat of a firestorm of reaction. It is worth pointing out that for the most part I am not really criticizing Windows just the use of a bloated OS for simple or mission critical tasks.

From the many comments here and on Digg I have aggregated other stupid uses for Windows:

11. Air traffic control radar

Chris S. relates: I think I can top everyone's story here...The US Air Traffic Control system handles thousands of flights a day. Much of the technology is still 1970's radar scopes though the FAA has been upgrading them facility by facility within the past 10 years or so. Even the radio communications (while still RF) are controlled through computer switches so that they can be routed to other facilities etc.

So what's powering the radios of one of the busiest airspaces in the country? Windows...The server crashed in 2004 preventing air traffic controllers from communicating with the 800 aircraft in the area for 3 hours. Servers are typically rebooted every 50 days to prevent "data overload" but they had missed a cycle causing the downtime.

As a pilot and software engineer, this scares the crap out of me! Full story here....

12. Fork lift trucks

From Jorgen: I work in a storage facility, and we have 98 on our forklifts for order sheets. It crashes all the time, and there is nothing funnier than seeing a truck stand still with a BSOD.

13. In flight entertainment systems on Lufthansa and Air Canada

Anon comments: Oh, you haven't seen anything yet...imagine an ENTIRE plane filled with windose? Air Canada flights I have been on recently, the entertainment systems didn't work at all. On one flight, they shut down the movie halfway through the film, and it wouldn't restart! On a flight from Japan to Vancouver, the systems didn't work at all, and from Vancouver to Toronto, a different AC flight, they weren't working either! All Windoze based. In fact, it happens so often, that they give out cards for discounts on your next flight to attempt to appease customers. Why do I say that it happens often? Because the cards are PREPRINTED, stating that "We're sorry our entertainment systems weren't working today...etc."

14. British nuclear submarines

Marvel comments: British subs started running the windows based SMCS-NG in 2004 after all the people that opposed the use of such an unstable operating on NUCLEAR subs where kicked off the deciding committee.

15. PBX systems

Comment from Jeff: What is really scary is that now Microsoft is moving past just controlling legacy PBX's and positioning themselves as a complete Unified Communications solution with their OCS product. Try taking down corporate dial tone every Patch Tuesday!

Page Break

16. Connecting flight monitors at Frankfurt and Heathrow's airports

Nageeb says: I snapped a picture at Terminal 1 Heathrow of a bank of flight info monitors (bank of 3 in the old "temporary smoking section" before they banned it completely) who had BSOD'ed. (Blue Screen of Death) It was classic.

17. Nurse stations in a hospital

One reader comments: I also got the chance to ip scan pretty much the entire hospital which means that I could fiddle around enough to find that these carts were IP based (I suppose that was a 'dur' moment) but what was even better was that the hospital registered pretty much everything in DNS. So if I wanted a floor 7 (my floor) nurse cart, I had it. And with a little testing before too long I found that they were running an SMS service.

18. Sprint PCS 2G data center

Anon writes: I used to be second level technical support for Sprint PCS, and they used Windows to run the 2G data application (3Com modem bank, to be simple). I also managed 3G later, which ran on a Sun Netra server. So I had a couple hundred Windows and a couple hundred Solaris 8 boxes. Guess which ones I got constant calls about? It was so silly that if a switch tech decided to turn on the screen saver, it would almost instantly lock the server. So when I got the call at 2am that 2G data was down, my first question was, "Did someone turn on the screen saver?"

19. Narcotics safe

One reader says: I work in a medical environment. We recently updated our Pyxis (an electronic safe for holding narcotics and other medicines). Prior to the update, I needed to reboot it about weekly. On boot, it was loading INI files.

Shudder ...

20. Subway ticket dispensers

Chris Snyder states: This is right up there with ticket scanners and ATMS... the Metrocard machines that dispense subway fares in NYC run Windows.

Interestingly, they are very well engineered, as you don't see blue screens very often. The only reason I know is that I saw one reboot once!

Ten more, that's all I can handle today. Keep 'em coming though. I will continue to compile a list.