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[News] [Rival] Surprise (Not!): Microsoft's Ballot is Still Broken

  • Subject: [News] [Rival] Surprise (Not!): Microsoft's Ballot is Still Broken
  • From: Roy Schestowitz <newsgroups@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2010 22:52:37 +0100
  • Followup-to: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • User-agent: KNode/4.3.1
Hash: SHA1

Yet Another Browser Choice Fail

,----[ Quote ]
| A few weeks ago I wrote about Microsoftâs 
| âbrowser choiceâ ballot page in Europe, which in 
| its debut used a flawed algorithm when 
| attempting to perform a ârandom shuffleâ of the 
| browser choices, a feature specifically called 
| for in their agreement with the EU.  This bug 
| was fixed soon after it was reported.  But I 
| recently received an email from a correspondent 
| going by the name âSkoonâ who reported a more 
| serious bug, but one that is seen only in the 
| Polish-language translation of the ballot choice 
| screen.



Opera Software Accuses Microsoft of Blocking Ballot-Screen With IE

,----[ Quote ]
| Opera browser â is once again causing some
| trouble for Microsoft. The Norwegian-based
| company told The Register that the
| browser-ballot screen introduced by
| Microsoft is covered almost completely
| with an Internet Explorer configuration
| wizard [pictured], thereby lowering the
| chances that people will pick up a browser
| other than Internet Explorer. âWhen youâve
| been through the 10 screens of IE
| settings, you are limited with what you
| can be bothered doing next,â said Opera
| Software Chief Technology Officer HÃkon
| Wium Lie. Microsoft, on the other hand,
| believes such situation could never really
| take place outside a simulation
| laboratory.


Opera alerts EU to hidden Windows browser-ballot

,----[ Quote ]
| Opera Software has told The Reg that it
| has informed the European Union of a
| possible problem with a fix that was
| designed to make Internet Explorer in
| Windows comply with EU antitrust law.
| Opera has also informed Microsoft.
| Opera said the browser-ballot screen
| Microsoft introduced to Windows so users
| could pick a browser rather than take
| Internet Explorer by default is being
| almost completely hidden by a set of 10 IE
| configuration screens. Opera illustrated
| the problem at The Reg's San-Francisco,
| California, offices with a set of screen
| shots taken from a Thinkpad X31 running
| Windows XP SP2.


The New & Improved Microsoft Shuffle

,----[ Quote ]
| First, Iâd like to thanks those who
| commented on that post, or sent me notes,
| offering additional analysis.  I think we
| nailed this one.  Within a few days of my
| report Microsoft updated their Javascript
| on the browserchoice.eu website, fixing
| the error.  But more on that in a minute.
| [...]
| In the end I donât think it is reasonable
| to expect every programmer to be memorize
| the Fisher-Yates algorithm. These things
| belong in our standard libraries.  But
| what I would expect every programmer to
| know is:
|    1. That the problem here is one that
|    requires a ârandom shuffleâ.  If you
|    donât know what it is called, then it
|    will be difficult to lookup the known
|    approaches.  So this is partially a
|    vocabulary problem. We, as programmers,
|    have a shared vocabulary which we use
|    to describe data structures and
|    algorithms; binary searches, priorities
|    heaps, tries, and dozens of other
|    concepts.  I donât blame anyone for not
|    memorizing algorithms, but I would
|    expect a
|    programmer to know what types of
|    algorithms apply to their work.
|    2. How to research which algorithm to
|    use in a specific context, including
|    where to find reliable information, and
|    how to evaluate the classic trade-offs
|    of time and space.
|    3. That where randomized outputs are
|    needed, that this should be
|    statistically tested.  I would not
|    expect the average programmer to know
|    how to do a chi-square test, or even to
|    know what one is.  But I would expect a
|    mature programmer to know either find
|    this out or seek help.


Some Browsers In Microsoft Ballot Are Mere IE Shells Says Expert

,----[ Quote ]
| After a complaint was filed with the
| European Commission by Opera Software
| company, Microsoft was forced to present
| its European users of Internet Explorer
| web browser with a ballot box that allows
| them a chance to replace IE with Firefox,
| Opera, Safari or any other browser on the
| list.


Doing the Microsoft Shuffle: Algorithm Fail in Browser Ballot

,----[ Quote ]
| The story first hit in last week on the
| Slovakian tech site DSL.sk.  Since I am not
| linguistically equipped to follow the
| Slovakian tech scene, I didnât hear about the
| story until it was brought up in English on
| TechCrunch.  The gist of these reports is
| this: DSL.sk did a test of the âballotâ
| screen at www.browserchoice.eu, used in
| Microsoft Windows 7 to prompt the user to
| install a browser.  It was a Microsoft
| concession to the EU, to provide a randomized
| ballot screen for users to select a browser.
| However, the DSL.sk test suggested that the
| ordering of the browsers was far from random.
| But this wasnât a simple case of Internet
| Explorer showing up more in the first
| position.  The non-randomness was pronounced,
| but more complicated.  For example, Chrome
| was more likely to show up in one of the
| first 3 positions.  And Internet Explorer
| showed up 50% of the time in the last
| position.  This has lead to various theories,
| made on the likely mistaken theory that this
| is an intentional non-randomness.  Does
| Microsoft have secret research showing that
| the 5th position is actually chosen more
| often?  Is the Internet Explorer random
| number generator not random?  There were also
| comments asserting that the tests proved
| nothing, and the results were just chance,
| and others saying that the results are
| expected to be non-random because computers
| can only make pseudo-random numbers, not
| genuinely random numbers.


How Random Is Microsoftâs Random Browser Choice Screen In Europe?

,----[ Quote ]
| More than once out of every four hits, the
| page would show Google Chrome on the far
| left, and Internet Explorer would only make
| it to the first spot in 13,8% of page loads
| (scoring well below all four other
| browsers). In fact, in over 50% of all page
| hits, Internet Explorer would come out to
| the far right spot of the five browser
| choices shown on the screen.

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