What Would Jesus Build?

Jesus was a carpenter. He built things out of wood before he got into the whole Son of God / Prophet / Messiah thing. He was known for being relaxed and groovy and exceptionally forgiving and fault tolerant. If the Church is to believed he befriended Mary Magdalene despite her being a whore, if the Da Vinci Code is to be believed he married her. I imagine that when he built a staircase he built it to work even when someone jumped up and down on it, slid down it on a rug, stacked scrolls on it, or used it in some way other than walking up and down the middle of it. He built it to be resilient. I bet that staircase wouldn’t completely collapse even if one of the steps cracked a little. Of course, that’s how it should be.

Tim Berners-Lee and his contemporaries took some lessons from Jesus when they designed the system for the Internet. Like Jesus’ staircase the Internet is forgiving and fault tolerant. It doesn’t shut down when used in new or unexpected ways. Bits of data are regularly lost when sent somewhere yet your email to Grandma arrives complete because the system is designed to be fault tolerant and survive errors. The Internet and World Wide Web are one of the coolest, most world changing technologies ever. Web technologies work and have spread and grown in popularity because they are forgiving and fault tolerant.

Peter Gutmann has recently written an analysis of Vista and its content protection measures for HD video and audio. The quick and dirty is that Microsoft is doing very bad things relating to content protection in Windows Vista. Rather than restate his long and well written arguments, I’ll refer you to the linked document. Read it. It’s long and somewhat technical, and really disturbing because he appears to be right.

One of the key differences is that Vista’s content protection is not relaxed and groovy like Jesus and Tim Berners-Lee. Instead it is rather like an 8 year old who doesn’t get his way so he refuses to play at all, or to continue the religious analogies it is like the 17th century Church conducting which trials. Even if you do everything right if they want to burn you they can and will. Read about the recent examples of people buying brand new, very expensive, computers and monitors with HD DVD drives only to find out that their “HDCP enabled” system is not really HDCP enabled and their video and audio is being down-sampled for display on their new HD monitor. When things on Vista are not 100%, absolutely just right it intentionally ruins the audio and video.

I posit that Jesus would not be cool with this. He would want the video and audio to be output at the highest level possible and for the system to forgive any driver errors or older video cards and just do it’s best to make people happy by showing that video as well as it can. Jesus would not like the inherent distrust in the content protection system, but given that Microsoft “has” to include it He would want it to be as relaxed, groovy, and forgiving a system as possible. A modern Jesus who wrote software instead of building staircases would not design a system like this (does anyone else smile at the mental image of Jesus returning just to write software, basking in the soft glow of his monitor wearing Birkenstock’s, sipping fair trade coffee, and brushing Doritos crumbs from his beard, it’s wonderfully absurd). Anyhow, odd analogies aside, I think the point is that hardware and software should aspire to be more like Jesus and Tim-Berners Lee and less like a petulant child or the Spanish Inquisition.

Kevin Hall

I am one of the owners of Infinite Web Design. I'll be glad to talk with you about who we are, what we do, or any of the topics we write about here.
Kevin Hall

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