Yes, it feels a bit weird writing in the third person for this post's title, but writing "I" in the title feels even weirder.
I have received an email advising that I have been awarded Microsoft MVP status for the 10th year in a row ... wow, its amazing how much time has passed. I hope you don't mind if I take the time to reminisce for a little while and do some shameless name dropping.
I've been here as IE5 was replaced by IE6, then IE7 and now we are working on IE8. I've been here during the betas for Windows 2000, WindowsME, XP and Vista and now Windows 7 is in the works. I spent a few years as a member of the Microsoft Games Core Group, beta testing various Microsoft Games (my son *loved* the fact that I was in that group because I often received a "gold" copy of the finalized game). I was a member of the Windows XP Expert Zone, my web sites are/have been "Featured Community" web sites. And my "little black book of addresses" contains some pretty amazing names (before you ask, that "little black book of addresses" is an old fashioned hardcover, paper, addressbook - there are some things that I do not trust to bits and bytes...)
I received my first award email on 1 October 1999, back when Internet Explorer 5 was the new kid on the block, and the vast majority of my time was spent helping diagnose and resolve errors involving kernel32.dll (which were invariably caused by video drivers, or a corrupt temporary internet file cache) and myriad other issues. It is a credit to the IE team that Internet Explorer is so much more stable than it was back then.
It wasn't long after my first award that malware (then called adware or spyware) starting to appear on our ("our" being technical support) radar. Back then, the junk was so much easier to get rid of - the most common unwanted software was search toolbars, your home page would be changed and locked (invariably the new home page was a search portal) and IE's search engine settings would be changed. Often the fix was easy - delete a couple of files, perhaps a few registry keys and you were good. Back in those days the names of the files that needed to be deleted rarely changed, the files were easy to remove and did not reappear, and rootkits were around, but rare in the malware world. Now you need a high level of skill, and specialized tools, to get rid of the worst of the malware, and my honest opinion is that you may be better off reformatting - we cannot be sure we have got everything off a machine, and in the current threat environment which is created and orchestrated by professionally run, highly skilled criminal groups I would hate it if a state of the art keylogger remained on a victim's computer, and that victim suffered a financial penalty. Sometimes I pine for the days when the purveyors and pushers of adware/spyware/malware were nothing more than pimply script kiddies wanting to earn a few more bucks via their search engine affiliate program memberships.
I can remember attending a training/information session while in Singapore quite a few years ago. The presenter was Mike Danseglio, and the presentation was about rootkits, and I remember watching the shock on the faces of people around me as rootkits were demonstrated (I had already seen them in action) - and I can remember one MVP walking out of that session muttering "we're screwed".
I also remember bumping into Bill Gates. I was at my first MVP Summit, back in the day when Bill's car was parked in front of the building, he walked in, and there was little security (how things have changed now). I remember I was unwell on the day, but resolved to attend Bill Gates's speech and then return to my hotel room to recover. I came out of one entry, Bill came around the corner and we almost collided. I had a camera with me and everything, but all I wanted to do was get to a taxi, and get to the hotel. I don't think Bill had ever encountered an Aussie lass for whom he was an impediment to her progress towards the exit :o) Yes, I later regretted not asking to have a photo taken of us together, but I made up for it when I had my photo taken with Jim Allchin in Las Vegas a few years ago during a private lunch that I was invited to attend. The lunch was only weeks before Jim retired.
And I remember when Vista was in early beta, and called Longhorn. And I remember Robert Scoble wearing Longhorn horns and 'moo'ing'. This was back in the days when he worked for NEC - heck, maybe it was even earlier. And I remember Robert offering me a lift back to my hotel, and my naive (Aussie) surprise when I discovered that the seats in his (new?) car were heated. That was SO cool - we don't have that sort of thing in Australia.
And I remember visiting Seattle's Curiosity Shop for the first time... it was years before I visited again, and in the interim the place had hardly changed.
And I remember trying real clam chowder for the first time in Seattle.
And I remember the beloved Alex Nichols, MVP now deceased. I miss him still.
And I remember the MVP Program being canceled within days of my receiving my first MVP Award, and I remember Dave Liske, the HTML Help MVP, getting in touch by email and taking me under his wing when he saw my disappointment at receiving the MVP Award, only to receive an email telling me the program had been canceled only 3 weeks later - he remains a good friend to this day, although I suspect he feels a tad neglected now that I am so very busy all the time.
And, of course, I remember Black Friday, when the MVP Program was canceled without warning, only to be reinstated days later - you can read about that incident at the MVPS.ORG URL below (you may want to turn the sound off on your computer - there's a X-Files theme midi that plays in the background). I have never seen such a grass-root level groundswell of support for a group of online personalities, and I doubt I will see one again:
"So, how did you get involved with the MVP Program in the first place?" I hear you ask ... well, that's a bit of a story in itself.
Well, as my regular readers know, I'm a stubborn lass and I wasn't in the mood to reformat my system - so, I got in touch with Microsoft support. We got most things sorted, but I remember that animated gifs still refused to animate. The PSS technician ended up suggesting that I visit a Microsoft newsgroup dedicated to Internet Explorer. He specifically told me I should get the attention of an MVP by the name of Jon Kennedy who, apparently, knew all there was to know about IE. So, I think it may have been on New Years Day in 1999 I found Jon Kennedy and sure enough, he knew the fix immediately. As they say, the rest is history. I hung around, realized I actually knew the answers to a lot of questions, answered a lot of questions over the course of the year and was offered MVP status that October.
It saddens me to see that Jon's name has disappeared from the list of MVPs specializing in Internet Explorer - in fact, his name does not appear at all. I am saddened that the guy who got me started in this gig is no longer there. He did send me an email warning me that this may happen, but still, it's sad. He made it obvious in his emails to me that he was proud as he watched me develop and grow.
"So, what does the future hold?"... I hear you ask. Well, I'm working with TRUSTe nowadays as an Online Compliance Researcher, as my regular readers know, and I'm loving it - and I get the sense that the criminals behind malvertizements are finding it harder to get their wares online which is good. And the events surrounding Intercage/Atrivo show that, if pushed hard enough, the Internet community will push back. Knocking Atrivo/Intercage offline was a great achievement, but it comes at a cost. If anything, it will force the criminals to go underground - to stop "putting all their eggs in one basket". You see, the crooks behind malvertizements have, traditionally, been lazy - now, they will be forced to diversify, to spread their infrastructure far and wide so that they are not vulnerable to the massive shutdown effect that the isolation of Intercage/Atrivo caused. They will get smarter, and harder to track, but we will also get smarter.
Who knows what we will be dealing with in a year's time :o)