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United States

Microsoft Wins Homeland Security Contract 606

syzme writes "According to The Register (as well as Reuters and News.com), 'The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has signed a deal for Microsoft software worth something in the region of $100 million, covering servers and over 140,000 desktops. This does not however mean that Microsoft and its hench-OEM Dell are poised to hoover up all of the Department's lovely IT budget, nor indeed that this is all new money for them; largely, it seems to be more a case of Microsoft holding onto business it's already got.'" This shouldn't be much of a surprise -- remember the Federal government is already Microsoft's biggest customer.
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Microsoft Wins Homeland Security Contract

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  • by Surak ( 18578 ) *
    May the obligatory lame Microsoft/Security jokes begin! Fire away!
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by curtlewis ( 662976 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:31PM (#6454012)
    So much for security in our homeland...

    Given Microsoft's record of continual failure with regards to security, I've always thought putting MS in charge of security (as with Palladium) was like asking the wolf to guard the sheep.
    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:39PM (#6454128)
      Given Microsoft's record of continual failure with regards to security, I've always thought putting MS in charge of security (as with Palladium) was like asking the wolf to guard the sheep.

      Given that 'homeland security' is really a euphemism for something between 'Big Brother' ("total informational awareness" etc.) and 'Political Police', I for one am relieved they are sufficiently incompetent to select Microsoft as their platform. This may, and I stress may, slow down our slide into a complete surveillance society submerged beneath ubiquitous governance.

      Or not, as it may be just the prelude needed for even more draconian legislation and public hysteria when Microsoft's chronic security issues begin to affect our perceived safety, leading to the unpleasant irony of having the technical ability to monitor and ubiquitously govern every man, woman, child, dog, cat, and garden slug in the country diminished while providing the political excuse for accelerating legislation through congress that makes the former pre-Gorbochov soviet parliament look positively liberal by comparison.

      What we do know for certain is that it puts a lot of money in the pockets of a convicted monopolist, which isn't helpful to anyone (other than said monopolist).
    • by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <giles.jonesNO@SPAMzen.co.uk> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:16PM (#6454526)
      I'm sure they'll secure those machines well, padlocks, keycard entry systems.

      Oh you meant the OS.... :)
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Funny)

      by pmz ( 462998 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:50PM (#6454876) Homepage
      ...I've always thought putting MS in charge of security (as with Palladium) was like asking the wolf to guard the sheep.

      Perhaps one of these analogies would work, too:

      It's like putting a steel door on a cardboard box.
      It's walking into a battlefield backwards.
      It's like carrying a tiger-repellant rock.
      It's like driving eyes-closed because "God is my pilot (or whatever)"

      Basically, Microsoft + Homeland Security = a smoking hole that will become the ocean separating Mexico and Canada.
  • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:32PM (#6454013) Homepage
    Somewhere, in a deep dark cave, some terrorists are having a jolly good laugh.
  • by Unknown Poltroon ( 31628 ) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:32PM (#6454014)
    Good news: Orwellian homeland securty is now going to lose all your data as fast as it collects it.
    Bad News: "In other news, After extensive backround checks by homeland security, Mr. Nedal Nib Amaso is now head of NTSB....."
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Nedal Nib Amaso

      That is Osama Bin Laden spelled in reverse order.
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:47PM (#6454221) Homepage Journal
      From 1984 [online-literature.com]

      'There are three stages in your reintegration,' said O'Brien. 'There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance. It is time for you to enter upon the second stage.' ...

      Do you remember writing in your diary, "I understand how: I do not understand why"? It was when you thought about "why" that you doubted your own sanity. ...

      'You are ruling over us for our own good,' he said feebly. 'You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore --'

      He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O'Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.

      'That was stupid, Winston, stupid!' he said. 'You should know better than to say a thing like that.'

      'Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?'

    • > Good news: Orwellian homeland securty is now going to lose all your data as fast as it collects it.
      > Bad News: "In other news, After extensive backround checks by homeland security, Mr. Nedal Nib Amaso is now head of NTSB....."

      Surveying the smoldering crater, President Ballmer was heard to remark "Y'know, they should have known that J0N45H-C40FT15-054M4-B1NL4-D3NIN-4-P16-5U1T wasn't a valid activation key."

  • Wasn't most of the DHS already around, and thus, already had desktops and software and all that garbage? Did they throw it all out instead of just installing a comparatively small set of computers and buying licenses for those?

    Man, I wouldn't have voted for that!
  • by Diclophis ( 203740 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:33PM (#6454036) Homepage
    The Homeland Security Advisory System's current threat level has been elevated to 'blue' (Immanent threat of terrorism due to blue screen)
  • Security Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jared_hanson ( 514797 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:34PM (#6454060) Homepage Journal
    Security can only be as good as the most insecure point, which doesn't make me feel to good about Microsoft winning this contract.

    Imagine this senario: DoHS employee writes up a memo about who they are currently profiling and what information they have on file and saves it to his hard drive. Some terrorist writes an e-mail virus designed to send word file back to an account he can access. He then sends this virus to a department account where it spreads and sensitive information is transmitted back to the terrorist.

    Virusus like these have already been proven viable in MS Outlook. One can only hope that they are taking the appropriate measures to ensure that all employees have their computers locked down tight.
    • Re:Security Issues (Score:2, Informative)

      by I8TheWorm ( 645702 )
      Except that, specifically in the CIA, outside internet connections are handled on seperate pc's [yahoo.com]that the agent has to switch over to using a KVM, making it all but impossible to send a virus to their network. I'd have to imagine that the DHS would be set up similarly.
      • From linked article:

        Among other problems, Berkowitz found that CIA analysts must bounce between multiple, isolated systems to gather information, including separate systems on each desk for accessing the CIA's classified network and using the public Internet.

        It only takes a small human error to save a document on a Internet connected computer. I'm sure this has happened before, or, if not, it should be expected to. In any case, as far as a terrorist concerned, any information gleaned from computers wi
      • How do they transfer information then? In some way shape or form... the PC containing the info much be hooked up to a larger network.

        I doubt they they fed-ex a floppy every time they have a document to transfer... and let us not forget that documents and many other files are also known to be somewhat easily infested.
      • Re:Security Issues (Score:4, Informative)

        by NialScorva ( 213763 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:14PM (#6454501)
        They shouldn't even have a KVM. If you work on a government site, you get more slack than a contractor, but you still usually have to have an air-barrier between machines of different classifications. Same thing applies for projects of different classifications, usually.

        Contractors negotiate the level of seperation, but it's not uncommon that machines of different classification aren't allowed in the same room as each other.
    • Re:Security Issues (Score:3, Informative)

      by pizen ( 178182 )
      Your scenerio assumes information that sensitive is just freely available on a computer open to the internet. But classified information isn't transmitted lightly. Classified hard drives aren't on open networks and classified documents don't get emailed.
  • Site (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kruczkowski ( 160872 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:34PM (#6454062) Homepage
    One of the reasons the Feds are MS's biggist customer is becouse almost every computer has two, even three licences. Most organizations buy a site licences and then get one with the Dell PC. If only Dell sold PC's without licences...
    • Re:Site (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:24PM (#6455203)
      Dell does sell computers without an OS if you are a business or government. They will even substract the OS cost from the price of the machine. They cannot not do the same for home computers because of a contract they had with MS that basically stated since Dell was getting such a good deal on Windows licenses, they could not sell computers that didn't come with an OS.

      Since businesses usually purchase a volume license, businesses needed an option not to buy Windows again. To get around this, Dell will ship computers with a lite version of DOS. You can't really do much with this version of DOS, but if your company is installing your volume license anyways, you don't need it.

  • by eaddict ( 148006 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:35PM (#6454066)
    Since MS did a bid, can we get a list of competing bids as well as criteria? It would be interesting to review...
    • by caseydk ( 203763 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:40PM (#6454138) Homepage Journal
      The RFP (Request for Proposal) should be public information. They're not always easy to find, but they're out there.

      Bids, on the other hand, are usually confidential. Pricing models, extra services offered, exact numbers of everything is not available to make sure that bidders don't game (ie, low-ball) their bid to kill the other guy.
      • If you file a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request you can get the winning bid (even if you can't find it on a website). Just call the DHS Contracting office and ask them for it. If they refuse ask them to give you the number of the person who handles FOIA requests in their department. I looked at the DHS website [dhs.gov] and there are several contact #'s so I don't know which one should be contacted...

        also anyone see this?

        Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has landed a $470-plus million contract to issue soft
  • RE: surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theNote ( 319197 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:35PM (#6454073)

    This shouldn't be much of a surprise -- remember the Federal government is already Microsoft's biggest customer.

    No, it shouldn't.

    The US federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world.

    The above statement seems to imply something ugly, when in fact MANY companies' largest customer is the federal government.
  • by kipple ( 244681 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:35PM (#6454078) Journal
    ...will be illegal and a sign of terrorism?
  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:36PM (#6454079)
    That it's a lot of money. Otherwise it seems to be pretty par for the course and nothing really noteworthy.

    Now a move AWAY from Microsoft would be news.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:36PM (#6454085)
    that DHS already has many Open Source (and non-MS) apps widely deployed... They are extensively using Apache, Squid, Open Office (in some places) and things like Java for other day to day operations...

    Some of their integration efforts are mentioned here:

    http://www.govexec.com/features/1202/1202managet ec h.htm

    (Disclaimer: I work for DHS.)
  • Of course the spooks require closed-source software -- closed-source makes back doors possible.

    If the software were open-source, someone would find and publish any nasty little secrets hidden in the code.
  • You'd think.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gerf ( 532474 ) <edtgerf@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:37PM (#6454096) Journal

    That they'd make use of SE Linux, since they helped develop it.

    Also, you'd think they'd want a variety of O/S's, ect, for security purposes.

    It shall be very funny/ironic when "Homeland Security" gets hacked due to some newfound MS flaw. Actually, i'm frightened, as they will probably have ever detail they can glean from every person they can, opened up to some arsehole

    • Using a viarety of operating systems does not lend greater security. You're suggesting a sort of bastardized security through obscurity, wherein an attacker is not sure which OS is on Machine X even though he's already compromised Machine Y and knows everything about it - not a good method. Furthermore, even if this did help security and having multiple operating systems running would introduce complexity in that patches would have to be monitored for multiple systems. All operating systems are going to nee
  • Welcome! (Score:5, Funny)

    by broller ( 74249 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:37PM (#6454103)
    I for one welcome our new technology overlords!
  • by harvey_peterson ( 658039 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:38PM (#6454106)
    I see you are trying to bomb a country.

    Would you like help?
    -Get help with bombing the country
    -Just bomb the country without help
  • Crap! Sure won't be the Department of Homeland Stability.
  • All IP traffic within the US must be monitored and logged.

    All computers using IP resources in the US must be trust(ed,worthy).

    All software running on trust(ed,worthy) systems must be verified and signed by DHS-approved auditing body.

    Due to the enormous expense of this undertaking, a surcharge will be applied to every CPU, HDD, and piece of software used on trusted machines. DHS-approved auditing bodies will use the proceeds to monitor and manage all computer systems within the US.

    Circumvention or non-c

  • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

    by C_Kode ( 102755 )
    Someone actually got the words Microsoft and Security in the same subject line! :)
  • is it april fools day?

    oh wait, its july....i guess its just fools day...

    microsoft and security - -- the oxymoron of the millenia...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...using the sophisticated simulation of minesweeper.
  • No laughing matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pettifogger ( 651170 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:46PM (#6454211)
    Does anyone realize how often foreign governments and entities are spying on US corporations? There's a lot of industrial espionage out there.

    Of course, the government is not only collecting information on individuals, they collect it on anything we're involved in, including our jobs and businesses.

    It's pretty well-documented that Microsoft's software is full of holes and that they're not particularly good at fixing them. Witness Microsoft's own computers being taken down by a worm. My concern is that we've just given not-so-well-intentioned foreign parties a free pass to take a look at everything that's going on in the United States. Holes and hacks will be found. If they really cared about "security," they'd use a blend of different programs and software. Sure, a little more work, but a lto more work to penetrate.

  • by securitas ( 411694 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:48PM (#6454233) Homepage Journal


    ... courtesy of the rejected post machine. The government sector news sites are always good - and usually better - for details about contracts of this sort:

    Microsoft/Dell Gets $90-$120 Million Homeland Security Contract

    Microsoft has been awarded the five-year, $90 million Department of Homeland Security contract for desktop and server software [govexec.com]. The contract will be managed by Dell and will provide the DHS with 140,000 desktops running Windows XP and Microsoft Office Professional. When consolidated with current agreements, the contract amounts to a six-year agreement covering 144,000 desktops, worth between $110 million and $120 million [gcn.com]. This follows the $478 million, six-year deal with the Army [slashdot.org] announced last month. More at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer [nwsource.com], Washington Post [washingtonpost.com], InformationWeek [informationweek.com], the Register [theregister.co.uk], eWEEK [eweek.com], and Reuters [reuters.com].

  • blah $100,000,000 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mwolff ( 594593 )
    I always thought that the Department of Home Security was a temporary thing. I guess this is a wake up call for me. I always thought that Department of Home Security would just, go away.
    Something you invest $100,000,000 is designed to stay.
  • What a shame (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tech2k ( 689995 )
    This is worse than those 600 dollar hammers a few years back.90 million dollars wasted on winXp and officeXp.What can they do with that software that I cant do with free debian and openoffice?
  • by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:50PM (#6454266)
    The US government is pretty much *everyones'* biggest customer.
  • "The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has signed a deal for MandrakeSoft Linux software worth something in the region of $0 (free), covering servers and over 140,000 desktops."

    Instead they paid $100 million of our tax dollars to a company who is breaking antitrust laws. Maybe Microsoft isn't the bad guy here.
  • Honestly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Blitzshlag ( 685207 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:57PM (#6454343)
    Is there any other real option for the government? I'm assuming everyone here wants a distro of Linux to be the government's OS of choice. Which one? Red Hat? Are they a large enough company to ensure 24/7 tech support on the governments' 140,000 computers? I don't know, and I don't think the government does either. I think Microsoft was the safe choice. Granted it's not the more secure operating system, but their needs go beyond that.
  • by Lord_Slepnir ( 585350 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @01:59PM (#6454366) Journal
    Alright, so they have some small security holes. The fact remains, however, that if you keep your security patches up to date, you'll be about as secure as one can be on the internet.

    The reason that everyone (including the federal guvnment) still uses Microsoft is because, It Just Works(TM). I can pull windows out of its box, put it in my computer, and have it running in about 30 minutes. I don't have to manually pick out kernel drivers like with debian, I don't have to worry about RedHat not recognizing half my hardware (like my ATI or my AC97 sound chip). I can take any lance corporal off the field, and with windows, he's most likely to know how to at least do basic stuff like surf the web, read e-mail, etc. If the guvment were to use Linux, they would have to spend additional manpower on installation, more man power keeping those boxes up to date (or pay money for RedHats up2date service), not to mention retraining a lot of staff on how to use these computers.

    Another reason for the Government choosing Windows is that they probally already have a majority of their services on windows, and to ask a Four Star General to approve a massive budget to switch away from what works to what might not work will take quite a bit of effort.

    Wow....that karma just burned brightly....

    • The reason that everyone (including the federal guvnment) still uses Microsoft is because, It Just Works(TM).

      The Windows "just works" thing is a myth. I would say that 2/3rds of the time, an HW installation in Windows works OK. But the remaining 1/3rd is practically impossible to solve for an end-user.

      Let me tell you the wonderful story of the Microsoft Bluetooth Mouse. I got hold of one of these right after Christmas and went home to try it out. As I was putting the CD in the computer, I noticed that

  • Numerous Pluses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by felonious ( 636719 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:03PM (#6454402) Journal
    If you think about the reliability, uptime, and random reboot problems with many MS products then this could be great for us citizens.

    We know all of the attempts to restrict our personal freedoms with wire taps, internet/email monitoring, and the ideology to put all of the collected info into a massive database for those who have the clearance to peruse. The best thing is, although, they might have your most personal info it will probably be collected and stored by a MS product.

    What does that mean? It means it will either disapear or just spontaneously fragment and corrupt itself! Why our goverment chooses bloatware over dependablity and functionality is beyond me but they were never known for being frugal or making the best decisions in terms of bang for the buck. I'm sure MS is practically giving it away just to keep the business anyway.

    It makes you wonder how many fuckups happen just out of using MS software. I'm not saying it's the worst or best because it does have it's use but since this story is about our goverment using it I'd prefer a more stable and dependable os/desktop. When I think of mixing MS software with our goverment all I see is the movie "Wargames" and that's not a nice thought.
  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by superdan2k ( 135614 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:03PM (#6454405) Homepage Journal
    ...will we be handing out EULAs to anyone that wants to have diplomatic ties with us?

    "...By installing this embassy, you absolve the United States Government of any responsibility for lost revenue, citizens, or infrastructure. Furthermore, you agree that you will not attempt to negatively influence the revenue, citizens, or infrastructure of the United States..."
  • by TerryAtWork ( 598364 ) <research@aceretail.com> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:05PM (#6454422)
    Think how Larry Ellison feels!

  • by TheLastUser ( 550621 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:25PM (#6454607)
    2003 fiscal deficit is now 500,100,000,000.

    A synopsis of the /. opinions on this development are as follows:

    Microsoft wins contract for homeland security?

    -I feel safer already.
    -What's that, an oxymoron?
    -We would have caught Osamma but the server was down.
    -We could have caught Saddam but the server had a virus.
    -We could have stopped xyz but they were using unix and we couldn't read the file format.
    -In the interests of national security all computers must now run Windows.
    -Please change all NSC keys in the hive to DHS.
    -All you base are belong to us.
  • Gov't Lip Service (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RembrandtX ( 240864 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:29PM (#6454638) Homepage Journal
    at least we can now acertain that the government isn't REALLY serious about this issue.

    I mean .. the words security and Microsoft are pretty much polar opposites - unless your talking about cash reserves.
  • by bbc22405 ( 576022 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @02:51PM (#6454886)
    (When, oh when, will people start reading the article?)

    As others have observed, Microsoft is not the big winner here, although it is a winner. It gets to consolidate and aggregate its existing business, and sure it's probably squeezing Apple, IBM, etc some more here and there with this contract. And sure, it has locked down this portion of market share for FIVE MORE YEARS, which is bad. But...

    The big winner is Dell. It's administering all this software business. It skims whatever it can before passing the lion's share on to Microsoft. It acquires a huge list of potential "customers" and tries to sell them Dell hardware. And it squeezes out a bunch of small fry who were ensconced in cozy government contracts. Excerpted from Government Computer News:
    http://www.gcn.com/vol1_no1/daily-updates/22743-1. html:

    The department reached the agreement earlier this month, after inviting nine bidders, including GTSI Corp. of Chantilly, Va., and MarkSoft Management Resources Inc. of Canterbury, N.H., to present proposals.

    Seriously, who are those two companies that got mentioned? Either wannabees, or hasbeens. Dell ate their lunch, and Dell has some other merchandise it would enjoy selling to the 280,000 eyeballs it just acquired for the next five years.

  • by TygerFish ( 176957 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:25PM (#6455208)
    The single largest company ever to warn people not to use their software for life-and-death situations, is now going to have an exclusive with the government to help prevent the next 9/11 attack.

    Considering that the only (repeat: only ) effective Microsoft security measures to date are the ones that prevent people who've already stolen Windows-XP from upgrading it, it's pretty safe to say that we can all prepare to live with having any enemy who wants to know something knowing it while substantial numbers of us sit around glowing in the dark.

    Today's bonus question: 'will the government's relationship with Microsoft include a EULA that precludes the government's suing them when they screw up?'

    It's amazing what you can do to a society with enough money.

  • by Foz ( 17040 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:42PM (#6455355)
    I did some short term consulting work with a company recently to help them prepare some bids on the last BAA (Broad Agency Announcement) sent out by the DHS. The scope and scale of the projects that were in the request were quite interesting, with some that were tailor made for linux (wearable computing initiatives, anyone?).

    We haven't heard any updates on the bid selection, but after looking at a good portion of those potential projects I can truthfully say that Microsoft is going to have a really tough time filling the required roles for many of them, let alone doing it securely.
  • by X86Daddy ( 446356 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @05:14PM (#6456166) Journal
    ... the next will be when Bugatti releases an SUV.
  • Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pmz ( 462998 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @05:15PM (#6456177) Homepage
    Given that there is practically no defense being offered for Microsoft nor the Dept. of Homeland Security in the above discussion, one has to wonder why these large contracts keep occurring and occurring and occurring. If they aren't based on merit, then what? What hard arguments do companies provide to keep going along with Microsoft's products? It isn't as if there were no alternatives, historically, and TCO arguments are fallacious at best.

    The state of the current software industry makes me feel as if nothing is real and there is no reward for quality. It is really discouraging and makes me wonder if churning out more and more software is becoming counter-productive to the health of our civilization. Add in the recent economy, and I am beginning to see non-software-development and non-systems-administration jobs in my peripheral vision. These jobs are becoming more attractive, and it is almost to a point, where finding a job with no computer in sight is a compelling thought.

Feel disillusioned? I've got some great new illusions, right here!

Working...