Mystery of tiny faces on Vista DVDs solved

Three faces embedded in the surface of Windows Vista's installation DVDs

The three faces embedded in the surface of Windows Vista's installation DVDs may have been too small to see with the naked eye, but they're no big mystery, Microsoft said Wednesday night.

First spotted by a Spanish-speaking blogger identified as Kwisatz, the photograph showing three men is tucked into one of the holograms on the surface of Vista DVDs. But at just one millimeter in size, it's too small to see without magnification.

Conspiratorial tongues began wagging almost immediately. "I got word from someone on the inside that they are running a query inside Microsoft, that e-mails are flying around trying to figure out who put the picture in there," wrote blogger Nathan Weinberg on InsideMicrosoft. "That pretty much means this wasn't known until now, this wasn't approved, and there's some level of concern internally."

Others, including Paul McNamara of Computerworld sister publication Network World, figured it was an Easter egg, the term for hidden -- and usually funny -- bits tucked into software. Or people just wondered exactly what was going on. "There's a picture of three guys hidden on the Vista DVD. Who the hell are these people, and why are they on Vista?" asked blogger "otozh" on Windows Vista Videos.

"The fact that it took five months for this to get caught shows the problem: There could have been anything there," said Weinberg. "Whoever stuck in that photo could have stuck in [anything], and Microsoft will probably feel the need to go with overkill to prevent that ever happening."

Nope, said Microsoft's Nick White Wednesday night in a posting to the Vista team's blog.

"Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed," said White. "The photo is only one of multiple images contained in the hologram design, all of whose inclusion serves to make it more difficult to replicate a Windows Vista DVD." The three men in the photo, said White, are members of Microsoft's antipiracy team who worked on the Vista holograms. Other images on the disc -- Kwisatz said he had found three others, but couldn't make out details -- are art masterpieces in the public domain, added White.

"These security measures were never intended to be impossible to find, but rather difficult to reproduce," said White.

Microsoft stepped up the DVD antiduplication measures used for Vista and embedded numerous holograms in the plastic. "While it's extremely difficult to replicate a holographic design in general, the inclusion of original images makes it that much more so," White said.

There's one mystery still unsolved, however: White did not name the three tiny Microsoft employees.

But maybe the readers of Make magazine's blog can help there. "My money is on 3 horseman of the apocolypse [sic]. The fourth is a mac user," opined one.

"I'm pretty sure the guy on the left is [Microsoft platforms and services group president] Kevin Johnson, they're probably all Windows execs of some ilk," chimed in a second.

A third was sure he knew. "One of those guys is [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs."

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