Is This a Conspiracy?

by Phil Hughes

Is This a Conspiracy?

Yeah, I'm sick of conspiracy theories too. But, this is starting to bother me.

I live in Seattle making me a neighbor of a large software marketing company in Redmond. I do my best to ignore that company and just get my real, Linux-based work done. But sometimes I think someone "out there" is going out of its way to make my job just a little harder.

I have DSL at home. While I went with a Linux-friendly ISP (, the connectivity is supplied by Qwest, a new name for U.S. West, one of the Bell ROCs. All has been well and very reliable. I have my Linux network hooked to a Cisco 675 router (which really is just a bridge for what I am doing). The ISP was very willing to talk ifconfig, route and all that other Linux stuff when I got up and running.

The problem, or maybe non-problem, started about two years into using this setup. I received a message that I should upgrade the OS in my Cisco router to Cisco Broadband Operating System (CBOS) version 2.4.3. I was pointed to a web site.

On the web site I find three options: PC, Mac and order a CD. Well, I have a PC--lots of them--but I find that PC means something running software from that Redmond marketing company. Ok, I admit it, I wasn't surprised. So, I opted for the CD putting in the comment field that I run Linux.

A few days later the CD arrives along with a page of instructions. They contain the surprising statement "Now, to protect your modem from the effects of [the Code Red] virus, we are enclosing a CD-ROM containing Cisco's 'long-term solution' software".

Ok, what gives? My understanding is that Code Red infects systems whose names start with MS, not Cisco. I can't believe that CBOS is an MS operating system--if for no other reason that it has run for over a year without needed a reboot.

Well, on to installation. Or, on to installation instructions for a "PC" or for a MAC. Yup, only a PC running a particular OS. Fortunately, there is a tech support phone number. I call it. I get a message telling me that this number doesn't work and I need to call another one. On the second one I am offered eight choices--none of them come close to installation support for non-"PC", non-Mac systems.

At this point I have invested enough time in what appears to be an unnecessary upgrade. Then I remember that those who picked Qwest for their ISP got railroaded into becoming an MSN user complete with a change in their e-mail address. When I called that first tech support phone number did the system sense that I had a Linux box on my DSL line and divert the call? Naw, couldn't be. After all, that would start to sound like a conspiracy.


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