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It's all Geek to me

If you want to read Microsoft's security bulletins, you'd better be conversant in Modern Geek. Fortunately, the company has announced that it will issue new security bulletins that speak to the non-Geek speaker. But there's always the danger that these new bulletins will reek of the "Mister Rogers effect."

Out of the Loop

I don't speak fluent Geek. A lot of Geek is Greek to me.

That's why I felt like a giddy schoolgirl upon learning that the good folks at Microsoft have decided to send out a kinder, gentler security bulletin -- one that isn't your Cal Tech honors graduate's security bulletin. One that's easy for the average Joe Admin (or even Joe Millionaire) to read, not just the average BugTraq subscriber.

And it's about freakin' time! I picked out a random security bulletin off the Microsoft TechNet site and slogged through such unchecked esoterica as "unchecked buffer" and "natively support the automatic parsing of custom attributes." Now you and I have heard these terms before. You probably use them on a regular basis. But why do we have to have a special language to describe technical problems? Eww!

After a visit to TechNet, I know how King Arthur must have felt after those knights yelled "Ni!" at him (see Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

After ingesting two Advil, because geek speak makes my cranium throb, I promptly turned on E! to watch Anna Nicole. I needed an Anna antidote (that show works wonders, by the way).

Of course, with this simpler bulletin, Microsoft could go to the other extreme -- to the point of being, and I know you can't imagine it but try, condescending. Just think how some of these new, user-friendly bulletins rolling out of Redmond might read:

Hello, there. What's YOUR name? That's a pretty name. If you can't read this, ask someone, perhaps a grownup, to read it to you.
"Do YOU have a computer? Ohhh, computers are fun, aren't they? Well, you know that computers get sick. Kind of like the way YOU get sick. Did your mommy ever tell you that you had a bug? It didn't feel very good, did it? You probably had the sniffles, didn't you, and had to take icky medicine. You poor dear!
"Well, computers get bugs, too. And, like you, they need medicine to get better -- or to keep from getting sick in the first place. Remember when mommy took you to the doctor to get a shot -- and you got a balloon? Well, this is like a shot of medicine to keep YOUR computer from feeling icky so it can run and play with all the other little computers.
"Click your little mousie here to give your computer its medicine. Bye-bye now!

Yes, you can totally see the neighborly Bill Gates or Craig Mundie putting on a cardigan sweater, slipping into some slippers, and reading that bulletin to the clueless masses, a la Mr. Rogers, while that little train roars off toward the land of Make Believe (where Windows is totally secure, Steve Ballmer has a full head of hair, and Michael Jackson is slightly normal).

It probably won't be that elementary. I'm thinking something along the lines of, "Hey, there's a nasty bug out there that looks a lot like Anna Kournikova. Protect your computer with this patch -- it's important. See ya."

Hey, whaddaya know? English!

Like I said, I'm really glad that Microsoft will clean up its language and omit the hackneyed verbiage we so often see in security updates. Modern Geek has helped cement the word "exploit" into a noun and "malicious" into a code word. "Vulnerability" has never been so overworked. "Buffer overflow"? Sounds like something a plunger could handle. I am still waiting to see "criticality" rear its heinous head. These are words that are, well, unspeakable.

Of course, it's just as likely that what's geek speak today will be part of the normal vernacular tomorrow. Remember Ancient Geek? Words like "network," "server" and "e-mail"? Ah, yes -- the classics. Those were the days! Man, are those days over. But, hopefully, with this so-called "Bulletin for Idiots," Microsoft is showing it understands that Geek is not a universal language. Esperanto it ain't.

But why stop at security bulletins? How about a Pig Latin version of Visual Studio .NET. "IsualVay UdioStay otNETday 2003."

Ed Parry is the News Editor for

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