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Danger! Untrustworthy computing

Microsoft CEOIt may have the monopoly on computer operating systems, but some people try their best to avoid Microsoft like the plague. And reasons to steer clear of the Redmond software giant are manifold.

For some, it's with an ethical conscience, not wishing to support an abusive company that's been criticised - and punished - for anti-competitive business practices.

For others, it's a simple matter of avoiding poor quality and insecure software that puts the user in unnecessary danger.

Or it can be due to the sheer expense of paying over the odds for its products, and being subsequently 'locked in' and pressured to continue to buy software from Microsoft.

So pity the poor mobile phone users who had their personal online databases destroyed by Microsoft this week - even though they may have signed up as T-Mobile customers.

A Sidekick in the teeth

Danger Incorporated, a Palo Alto tech company, designed the mobile phone software behind the T-Mobile Sidekick. The Sidekick places all its users' data, such as address books and calendar information, into an online data cloud, readily available at all times. There's no provision to keep a local backup on your own PC, as the 'cloud' is always on.

Microsoft bought Danger Incorporated in February last year, seeing it as a stepping stone to kick its flakey Windows Mobile operating system into usable shape. Microsoft also took over the datacentre infrastructure from Danger Inc that's essential to keep these phones operational.

And then in a 'server error' last weekend, managed to lose every last bit of users' data.

The reason for the catastrophe is not clear, with theories revolving around Microsoft's habit of 'dogfooding' companies it's consumed, or perhaps deliberate sabotage from within. Either way, Microsoft is culpable of not ensuring there were adequate backup safeguards in place.

So beware that a trusted service you signed up for isn't later taken over by a company that isn't so renowned for its integrity.

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