Guest Column: OS Horror story:

In October 1999, three student filmmakers disappeared in a building in Redmond, Washington, while shooting a documentary. A week later, their footage was found. What follows is an edited transcript of that footage.

Fortunately, I was able to cut the transcript, which was 385 pages, down to a half page by removing the profanity.

The would-be filmmakers are Heather, Josh and Mike. They are attempting to document the Rare Glitch Project, a legendary version of Microsoft Windows designed to be compact and stable. As the film begins, Heather describes the first landmark, Coffee Rock, to the camera.

Heather says, “The way the legend goes, seven men were found sleeping in this break room, all the caffeine having been sucked out of their brains. They had markings on them that were made by a tiny piercing instrument that penetrated their skin while they were still alive. One symbol looked like a heart. Another was a hula girl that danced when he flexed his muscles. The next day, employees could see managers hovering nearby where the bodies once lay, but the men were nowhere to be found. But don’t be frightened, Mike – this story has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the film.”

The team makes a futile search for a graveyard called the quality assurance labs. Instead, they find themselves surrounded by several piles of shredded paper. Mike looks suspiciously at the mounds, careful not to touch anything. “It looks like an e-mail evidence burial ground,” he says.

The trio is convinced they are lost. They stumble across an abandoned programming laboratory filled with voodoo artifacts, one of which looks like a bespectacled Basic programmer, another like a bald guy holding a soup can. Josh logs in to one of the Windows NT workstations. He installs an application designed to hack into the network and find a map of the building. But the application won’t run.

Heather checks her FAQ. “It says to try installing Service Pack 5,” she says. Josh inserts a CD, installs the service pack and reboots.

No luck. Heather adds, “It also says that if Service Pack 5 doesn’t fix the problem, then remove it, install these seven hot fixes, and then reinstall the app.” Josh clicks on the option to remove the service pack when he suddenly turns pale, overcome with fear. He looks around and sees the same thing everywhere. “What is this all over the monitors? It looks like blue …”

“Blue slime?” Heather asks.

“Blue screens,” Josh answers.

Heather grabs the keyboard and reboots. But Windows NT simply boots to another blue screen of death. Heather reaches to her back pocket and grasps thin air. “Where’s the FAQ? Who took the FAQ?”

Mike squeals with evil laughter, “I shredded it! It was useless! NT is useless! The only thing more useless is this plot! This whole wing isn’t more than 10,000 square feet, and the audience is supposed to believe we can’t find our way out?”

Heather insists, “If we keep going south, we’ll get out. That has to be it. After all, the quality of Windows NT keeps going south, and that never stops it from getting out of the building.”

But after what seems like several years of slogging through the curved halls, Josh shouts, “I don’t believe it. Even though we’ve gone in a complete circle, we’re mysteriously back where we started.”

Mike adds, “Admit it. It’s Windows NT all over again.”

Heather insists, “No. No, it can’t be. This is Windows 2000. Honest. It’s…it’s…I don’t believe it. It is. It’s the same damned product.” Mike films a few hours of Heather sobbing uncontrollably.

The next day, Josh vanishes into a black hole – presumably the same one that consumed MS-DOS 7, Cairo, Zero Administration Windows, Windows security, your IT budget, Jimmy Hoffa, and the real killers of Nicole Brown-Simpson. Mike chases a specter of Josh into a broken-down corridor. Heather chases Mike until she finds him facing a corner of the room. She whimpers, “What are you looking for, Mike?”

“A way to end this film,” he replies.

Heather places a dunce hat on Mike, then stares into the lens and sobs, “I am so, so sorry,” and then drops the camera.

You don’t know the half of it, Heather.

Petreley, editorial director of San Francisco-based LinuxWorld, can be reached at