Paging Dr. Watson...

Microsoft's error-reporting tool is a nice gesture, but the key question is: Do you really want to share information with them?

May 26, 2003

1 Min Read
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At last month's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), Microsoft talked up an online version of its Dr. Watson error-reporting tool, targeting corporate developers looking to solve problems with both custom and Microsoft products. This is interesting, but it's old technology news. Netscape has been doing this type of bug reporting forever, and many closed- and open-source applications also have this capability.

The premise is sound--having an application report back to the software vendor information that may assist in tracking down a bug. With sometimes millions of lines of codes and multiple modules, it can be hard for a developer to track a bug using the limited information provided by end users. Factors such as the state of memory and the stack, and determining which files are open, can be essential to finding and fixing defects.

While offering this reporting capability through Dr. Watson is a nice gesture, the key question is: Do you really want to share information with Microsoft? "Programmer errors" in the past have resulted in nonessential personal information being transmitted and, one assumes, stored within the bowels of Microsoft's headquarters. What will Dr. Watson transmit back to Microsoft and what will Microsoft deem necessary for debugging the problem? We don't want to find out.

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