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Why they don't trust Devil Mountain Software
February 21, 2010 9:12 PM   Subscribe

ZDNet(!) reports on a strange case of technology journalism malfeasance. It turns out that journalist Randall C. Kennedy has been posing as the CTO of Devil Mountain Software, purveyor of Windows performance data.
posted by whir (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just another in a long line of reminders of how psychotic the PC side of the world is, where "your source for the most accurate, authoritative data on Microsoft Windows performance metrics" would actually be a useful service to throw money at.
posted by mark242 at 9:37 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Page 3) Here’s the eyebrow raising comment:
Mr. Bright didn’t stop at simply attacking our intelligence. He took the additional step of actually contributing data from his own test PC. … [B]y connecting his PC to our network, he made his raw system metrics data available to us. And after reviewing this data, it became clear why our System Monitor widget flagged his system as being low on memory. [emphasis added]
While I agree entirely with the folks at ZDNet, I gotta admit I'm surprised that the use of "data" as a non-plural noun raises their eyebrows, too. They're more attentive to details than I ever gave 'em credit for. Live and learn!
posted by barnacles at 9:43 PM on February 21, 2010


I was so hoping it was going to be Paul Thurott.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:48 PM on February 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just another in a long line of reminders of how psychotic the PCbenchmark side of the world is.

Bullshit is endemic to the measurement of computer performance. Always has been.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:53 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a reason they call it benchmarketing.
posted by rodgerd at 9:55 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the direct link to Randall Kennedy's comment to the story mentioned at the end of the piece. It's... well... sad, really.
posted by Kattullus at 10:05 PM on February 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Craig Barth may be fictitious (though, legally, both names are in fact mine to use), but the data never was. I may like to stoke the presentation a bit, but I never embellished the facts.

Except for the fact of Craig Barth's existence.
posted by grouse at 10:26 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


That reply is just... Eww.
posted by Artw at 10:31 PM on February 21, 2010


Barth.. that name rings a bell.. There was a character played by Martin Mull, "Barth Gimble" on the old 70s primetime soap opera "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." A soap opera seemed relevant here.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:38 PM on February 21, 2010


So, Devil Mountain Software was a sham company with some pretty weak "monitoring" software. IDG set this up to lie about Windows memory use, but why? Were they selling memory, or just Windows Sucks?
posted by b1tr0t at 10:41 PM on February 21, 2010


Also the chef on You Can't Do That on Television.

How clueless do you have to be to not know that Windows 7 does more aggressive read caching, which ups the perceived memory usage even though that memory is still immediately available? It seems like one of the first things you would learn if you did just a little bit of research on memory management.
posted by zixyer at 10:42 PM on February 21, 2010


How clueless do you have to be to not know that Windows 7 does more aggressive read caching, which ups the perceived memory usage even though that memory is still immediately available?

Linux does the same thing, but that doesn't prevent a lot of senior Linux developers from running in circles chasing down phantom memory leaks in their services. Everything is obvious, but there is a lot of everything to keep in your head at once.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:51 PM on February 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm most concerned about the part where a guy that slimy has detailed databases about 24,000 computers that downloaded and used his software.
posted by mathowie at 10:53 PM on February 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Linux does the same thing, but that doesn't prevent a lot of senior Linux developers from running in circles chasing down phantom memory leaks in their services. Everything is obvious, but there is a lot of everything to keep in your head at once.

I think the term "Senior Linux Developers" doesn't mean what you think it means.
posted by rodgerd at 11:00 PM on February 21, 2010


I'm not really sure if InfoWorld ever had credibility, but I think they lost it here.
posted by graventy at 11:00 PM on February 21, 2010


I'm waiting to see what the head of Jukt Micronics thinks of all this.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:03 AM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


How clueless do you have to be to not know that Windows 7 does more aggressive read caching

Vista does something very similar. So you've got answers to that question on umpteen Web forums going back three years now, if you just bother to look.

In other news, every Windows PC is infested with the CPU-hogging "System Idle Process" spyware! WHAT IS MICRO$OFT DOING WITH MY CPU TIME1!!?1??1
posted by dansdata at 12:03 AM on February 22, 2010


I think I'd like a direct, on-the-record reply from IDG to Kennedy on this point:

1. IDG knew. Galen Gruman, Executive Editor of InfoWorld knew. As
did Eric Knorr. And several others.

posted by mediareport at 12:04 AM on February 22, 2010


nerd scandals are so boring!!
posted by troybob at 12:11 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


macs rule.
posted by krautland at 4:07 AM on February 22, 2010


Just another in a long line of reminders of how psychotic the PC side of the world is, where "your source for the most accurate, authoritative data on Microsoft Windows performance metrics" would actually be a useful service to throw money at.

Right, because if there's only one company to buy products from, you don't really need to know how well it will perform. Because, you know, there's not actually anything you can do about it.
posted by delmoi at 4:21 AM on February 22, 2010


Here's another response on one of the blogs mentioned:
Raw nerves. You know you’ve hit one when the entity in question practically jumps through the roof to staunch the pain. In my case, the nerve belonged to Microsoft Corporation. And true to form, the company spent incalculable political capital – and cashed in more than a few favors – in order to orchestrate the most one-sided smear campaign in the history of IT journalism.

What has been said about me personally, or Devil Mountain Software as a company, is irrelevant – all de rigeur for the rabid tabloid crowd. Rather, what is disturbing is the timing of it all. The parties in question only loosed their dogs after this project, the exo.performance.network, hit a bit too close to home. It was our research into Windows 7 performance that prompted Microsoft to call in its chips.
etc.
posted by delmoi at 4:42 AM on February 22, 2010


cold busted
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:49 AM on February 22, 2010


There is a very interesting story somewhere in all of this, but it's buried so deep in writing that is almost unreadable from multiple parties that I'm having a hard time sussing it out. I love scandal-ish stuff like this, but this story just isn't coming together for me.
posted by orville sash at 4:59 AM on February 22, 2010


Just another in a long line of reminders of how psychotic the PC side of the world is, where "your source for the most accurate, authoritative data on Microsoft Windows performance metrics" would actually be a useful service to throw money at.

Let's start with PC != Windows and work from there.
posted by DU at 5:18 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just another in a long line of reminders of how psychotic the PC side of the world is, where "your source for the most accurate, authoritative data on Microsoft Windows performance metrics" would actually be a useful service to throw money at.

Someone is presumably paying phronix. Regression tests in daily builds and automating tests of real life tasks as a performance metric is neat.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:05 AM on February 22, 2010


I think the term "Senior Linux Developers" doesn't mean what you think it means.

Fair enough. Senior Java developers - so I suppose they can be excused for neither knowing nor caring how their host environment works. Even when the host environment is always Linux.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2010


How clueless do you have to be to not know that Windows 7 does more aggressive read caching

There are a lot of people who own (or simply operate) a computer who will not know what the above means. But they'll hear Devil Mountain Software bullshit regurgitated from their local nerd or tech news article and think it must be true and download their software.

The victims of of this stuff are the same people who install 'Weather Buddy Toolbar' in IE; yes they're ignorant and could and should be better educated, but they're still victims.

I hope this guy faces jail time for fraud.
posted by device55 at 7:43 AM on February 22, 2010


And to clarify why I mean 'victim' People who downloaded that software were duped into letting themselves be spied on for who knows what purpose.
posted by device55 at 7:51 AM on February 22, 2010


Here's the direct link to Randall Kennedy's comment to the story mentioned at the end of the piece. It's... well... sad, really.

Hey, Randall, stop digging! No need to further soil you reputation. Game over.
posted by ericb at 7:54 AM on February 22, 2010


"Life is tough when you're semi-retired and living on one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world (Mauritius)."
Man, you showed us.

Damn, what a childish thing to say in rebuttal. Sad, sad man. Good luck with your future.
posted by ericb at 7:59 AM on February 22, 2010


They didn't want to lose 2+ million page views per year, which is what the shock jock persona they developed for me delivered.

This reminded me of a guy at work who declared that he is the Lady Gaga of multi-physician medical practice appointment scheduling.
posted by troybob at 9:31 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I love scandal-ish stuff like this, but this story just isn't coming together for me.

Kennedy runs a business (DMS) that sells performance monitoring software. Until a day ago, that software was also offered on the Infoworld site under a slightly different name. From time to time DMS sends out these press releases to the IT industry detailing the results of their research. Recently, one of these press releases contained the astounding claim that 86% (or something) of PCs running Windows 7 were dangerously low on RAM. Ars Technica and other sources called BS on this claim, pointing out that since Vista, the operating system does speculative caching and tries hard to use up all memory, such that you have to look at the "available" counter not the "free" counter, and that DMS's methodology was bunk. DMS responds with flames to Ars, claiming that Ars doesn't know what they're talking about, that DMS knows more than anyone but MS about Windows performance, and quotes a 12 year old book on Windows NT as reference.

Meanwhile, the editor in chief at ZDNet does some research and notices that every time DMS releases one of their studies, it is always reported on exclusively by one guy at IDG, containing quotes from this Barth guy that no one else has ever heard of. He does a massive amount of research and comes to the conclusion that a) DMS is just one guy in his basement who often uses the third person in order to make it seem like there are more people, b) his client list may not be as extensive as claimed, c) that Kennedy has been using this Barth sock puppet to trumpet these dubious research results, and d) that there may be a privacy issue due to the fact that the performance monitoring data is not aggregated and individual computers' data can be pulled up and examined. Infoworld pulls the download of their rebranded version of the software and IDG severs ties with Kennedy. Or he quits, or whatever.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:48 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Holden Karnofsky is rolling in his grave!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:57 AM on February 22, 2010


I'm surprised that the use of "data" as a non-plural noun raises their eyebrows, too.

I know you're kidding, but data, being a mass noun, is generally treated as "stuff" rather than "things." Cf. rice, sand, etc. In order to be made properly plural, data would need to be quantified via units of measure, e.g. bits of data.

Just sayin'.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:48 AM on February 22, 2010


It's clearly datums.
posted by Skorgu at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2010


There was a character played by Martin Mull, "Barth Gimble"

Wait-wasn't Mull's roll on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman GARTH Gimble? Barth Gimble was his twin, on Fernwood 2 Night/America 2-Night.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2010


Data is a mass noun. Also a mass noun: Lore. /double-derail
posted by Sys Rq at 12:31 PM on February 22, 2010


I didn't find out about this until just now, but if I'd had I would have probably added a link to this story in the post: TechCrunch intern Daniel Brusilovsky was canned earlier this month for offering to cover an unnamed startup in the tech blog in exchange for a MacBook Air; here is the site's mea culpa about the affair.
posted by whir at 3:57 PM on February 22, 2010


Just as well you left it out, whir. (Previously.)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:58 PM on February 22, 2010


Oops - thanks...
posted by whir at 4:56 PM on February 22, 2010


Frauds: An ugly, old journalism tradition -- "ZDNet uncovered the duplicity of a blogger at another tech Web site. But while the medium (and the pay) has changed, bunco artists are nothing new in media."
posted by ericb at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2010


His reply to the article is fascinating. It's tempting just to write it/him off as assholish, but I can't help but put myself in his shoes - he's trying to sound completely unaffected and vaguely amused by the whole thing, but there's no way that can be true. If it was me in that situation, where the whole dumb house of cards I'd spent years building was coming tumbling down and threatening to ruin my reputation forever, I'd either be frantically switching between tabs as I try to keep track of everything people are saying about me, or curled up in a ball in the corner. I can't believe that a person could be as blase as he is acting. There's a lot of twisted psychology going on in that response. Or in this one, from the comments on Blogspot:
I've never been more proud of myself.
posted by bakerybob at 5:39 PM on February 22, 2010


Or in this one, from the comments on Blogspot: I've never been more proud of myself.

Yeah...and he's trying to spin it: "You can't fire me, I quit!"
posted by ericb at 5:43 PM on February 22, 2010


Fair enough. Senior Java developers - so I suppose they can be excused for neither knowing nor caring how their host environment works. Even when the host environment is always Linux.

Oh, those. I had a run-in with that mindset last year. I've calmed down about it enough now that my speil on it doesn't look like an entertaining performance at a Nuremberg rally so much any more. It basically boils down to:

* There are a lot of good Java programmers in places like India that will grind out code to spec faster, better, and cheaper than anyone enjoying a decent standard of living in a Western country can for 99% of development projects.
* They will not, however, deliver solutions that reflect any particular knowledge of your business, either on the business rules, or in terms of the deployment environments.
* Businesses are not particularly fussy about where work gets done.


Therefore, your entire competitive advantage as a programmer is now being closer to the goals of your organisation (which includes being able to work sensibly with the deployment environment). Being "a white guy in the same city as the CEO" is a great way to get a job making coffee.

Right, because if there's only one company to buy products from, you don't really need to know how well it will perform. Because, you know, there's not actually anything you can do about it.

There's always shitting up discussions with RDF-inspired gems on turdulence, which apparently makes them feel better about it.
posted by rodgerd at 11:57 PM on February 22, 2010


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