22, 1997, Issue: 769
A CRN Test Center Close-Up
-- Is Windows Shattered?
Microsoft Corp., apparently on a mission to make Judge Thomas
Penfield Jackson's temporary restraining order separating Internet
Explorer from Windows 95 look foolish, wants OEM licensees to obey
the order and delete 228 files, rendering not only IE, but Windows
95 itself, inoperable.
A CRN Test Center analysis concludes Microsoft's position is pure
politics. The fact is, Internet Explorer can be disabled by removing
one .exe file and one desktop shortcut. But the preliminary order,
issued on Dec. 11 by the U.S. District Court in Washington, wants IE
removed, not disabled.
The court defines IE 3.0 as the product Microsoft
"distributes at retail as 'Internet Explorer 3.0.' " It
ignores the all-important OEM version (OSR 2.0, issued in August
1996) that includes the complete operating system and IE 3.0.
The difference is enormous. Of the retail product's 228 files,
some have nothing to do with IE. They update pre-existing Windows 95
files, without which the operating system will not run.
How many? Microsoft will not say. The company refused to identify
files related solely to IE and not to Windows 95 itself. No wonder:A
Microsoft memo (www.microsoft.com/corpinfo/doj/oemdoj.htm)
states:"You may not elect to install only selected portions of
Internet Explorer 3.0."
Microsoft, adhering to the letter of the court ruling, advises in
the memo that all 228 files be removed. Windows subsequently
shatters, and Microsoft blames it on the ignorance of the court.
An alternative is to install the original August 1995 version of
Windows 95, which omits IE. Doing so forgoes two years of progress,
such as addition of support for large drive volumes, MMX and the
Universal Serial Bus.
On Dec. 8, Microsoft shipped two OEM updates:a December 1997
"supplement" including only IE 4.01 and some Windows 95
patches, and OSR 2.5, which contains the entire Windows 95 operating
system, IE 4.01 and the patches. Although the ruling does not refer
to these updates, the same issues apply.
A Matter Of Interpretation
How can the removal of a Web browser bring down a seasoned
operating system? It is all a matter of semantics.
Microsoft first bundled IE (version 2.0) with Windows 95 in OEM
Service Release 1 (OSR 1.0). More importantly, the company bundled
many Windows 95 core components with the retail version of Internet
Microsoft's letter identifies the 228 files contained within 19
compressed cabinet (.cab) files in that retail version that must be
deleted to "de-bundle" this retail version of IE from
Windows 95. Many of these modules are core components of Windows 95.
RUN32DLL.EXE is a good example of a core component. Windows 95
uses it to handle the briefcase, shortcuts, remote networking and
other fundamental aspects of the operating system.
Removing the Microsoft Foundation Class library (MFC40.DLL) makes
it impossible for applications relying on it to run properly, if at
all. And the lack of REGSVR32.EXE, used primarily to register
programs, makes adding new applications to the system a trying task.
Cut To The Chase
What does it take to disable IE? Deleting IEXPLORER.EXE and its
shortcut is all that is required.
To see if that would work, the CRN Test Center examined
IEXPLORER.EXE with QuickView, a file-viewing utility with OSR 2.0.
If that executable was a critical component other programs and
operating-system components relied on, QuickView would list the
names of routines (called "entry points") inside
IEXPLORER.EXE that other programs could call upon to make the
program do work. No such routines were listed. In fact, QuickView
described the program "File is executable (i.e., no unresolved
external references)," meaning it has no entry points for
programs to call on.
To prove that no programs used IEXPLORER.EXE by simply running
the whole program in the background (as opposed to just a piece of
it), the Test Center removed IEXPLORER.EXE from a PC, rebooted it
and ran several programs, including Netscape Communications Corp.'s
own browser, without negative effect. It certainly kept Internet
Explorer from working, though.
According to the CRN Test Center, a few programs, including the
AT&T WorldNet Service, the Microsoft Network and the Personal
Web Server, would not operate properly. An attempt to use them
produces an error message requesting that Internet Explorer be
installed; it does not bring down the operating system.