What color is your death screen?

The Windows 'Black Screen of Death' is striking terror across the Web, but whether it's actually striking any PCs is debatable. Cringely suggests other colors we might consider

Just when you thought it was safe to click the Start button and get on with your life, a new Windows Boogie Man (sorry ladies -- Boogie Person) has emerged to haunt your PC dreams: "The Black Screen of Death."

Sounds very Pirates of the Caribbean, don't it?

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This mysterious malady surfaced late last week when an obscure UK-based security company called PrevX brought it to everyone's attention. According to PrevX, the black screen could strike users of XP, NT, Vista, or Windows 7 who have just installed Microsoft's latest round of security updates -- which includes, well, just about everybody except those wacko Windows 98 holdouts (you know who you are). PrevX also posted a free "fix" to the problem, though they didn't guarantee it would actually work.

That's all it took to get bloggers running off to the races. Because, really, who can resist a headline with the words "Windows Black Screen of Death" in it? I certainly couldn't.

Now that the smoke is starting to clear, though, it seems the BLSOD may be less widespread, less black, and less deathy than first reported. (It is also not Microsoft's attempt to give equal opportunities to other error screen colors besides blue, no matter what you might have read.)

For one thing, Microsoft says that it isn't getting a whole lot of tech support calls about the BLSOD, nor can it reproduce one in its labs.

Microsoft sent its security goons team after PrevX, which began backpedaling faster than Lance Armstrong down the side of an active volcano. First, PrevX noted that the BLSOD is triggered "spasmodically" and not by those security patches, as it had originally implied. It then apologized (twice) to Microsoft, and claimed its original blog posts had been "taken out of context."

Per PrevX CEO Mel Morris:

Regrettably, it is clear that our original blog post has been taken out of context and may have caused an inconvenience for Microsoft. This was never our intention and we have already apologised to Microsoft. Microsoft is a valued partner and our fix was developed to ensure its customers were able to quickly resolve the Black Screen issue without having to reinstall Windows as some users indicated.

Is the BLSOD real? Apparently so. Has it affected millions of users? Apparently not. Is it Microsoft's fault? That's a little harder to determine. But notice how quickly everyone believed it was? That's what 25 years of incompetent coding will do for your reputation.

Still, I think expanding the range of color-coded error screens is an excellent idea. It could be like the Department of Homeland Security terror alert system -- meaningless yet also strangely soothing.

Naturally, I have a few suggestions:

The Red Screen of Danger: This indicates your system has been infected by a nasty bit of Russian malware, and he's invited all his mobster pals to the party. Please put your head between your knees and kiss your data good-bye, comrade.

The Gray Screen of Indecision: For those moments of indecision brought on by Vista's annoying User Account Controls. Do you really want to Allow that program to do what you just told it to do? Are you really really sure you want to Continue? The GSOI grays out your screen until you're at peace with your decision.

The Green Screen of Cash: This money-colored screen would pop up and render your system inoperable until you fork over more simoleons to update your software subscriptions. I can see Symantec and McAfee jumping all over this one. In fact, I'm surprised they haven't done it already.

The Yellow Screen of Fear: This could indicate an urgent e-mail from the big boss, a sudden all-hands meeting appearing in your Outlook calendar -- anything that makes you want to turn off your PC and hide under the desk.

The Brown Screen of ______: You don't want to know.

And that's just the beginning. I envision an entire spectrum of error messages -- a rainbow coalition of craptitude on your computer. Thank you, Microsoft, for making this possible.

What other colors would you like to see on your PC? Post them below or e-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This story, "What color is your death screen?" was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

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