* Posts by Alex Davidson

6 publicly visible posts • joined 28 Oct 2008

Kind soul donates Claymore mine to charity

Alex Davidson


Warning on an explosive device in /The Atrocity Archive/ by Charles Stross:


In the same book, a wall of filing cabinets in a government building bore a post-it note:


Apple more closed than Microsoft

Alex Davidson

Topic? What topic?

> A$

FPA 'A-string'. Six years of BASIC coming back to bite me...

Apple tells Mac users: Get anti-virus

Alex Davidson


> No need for AV on Mac/Linux because there's no virii


> I think that's called Security through Obscurity. And we all know what the pros think

> about that.

Security through Obscurity is where there is so little publicly-available information about a system (documentation, code, etc) that vulnerabilities (eg. design flaws) cannot be found by examining said info. Vulnerabilities can be and are still found simply by bashing away at the system until it breaks.

Linux and BSD, being Open Source platforms, make a great deal of info about their inner workings available to the public, including the source. Security through Obscurity applies far more to Microsoft (although they're getting better). Admittedly also to Apple's software, except for the BSD Unix their GUI runs atop.

It doesn't matter how secure a system is if the user can circumvent that security. Social engineering is a far more reliable way around system security than poking holes in software, especially given the number of unpatchable read-only brains out there. To close off this sort of attack, the system must restrict what the user, owner and administrator (which for home PCs are all the same person) can do. Of course, once that happens, your own computer no longer belongs to you.

The user cannot always blame the vendor. Sooner or later the user must grow up and take some responsibility for the security of their system, or it's no longer their system.

One way or the other.

That said, there's a lot of crap software out there too. It's just not a black-and-white issue, and both sides prefer placing blame to taking responsibility.

Is the internet going down down under?

Alex Davidson


A wise man (or woman; the quote is apparently anonymous) once said:

"Whenever a politician starts talking about 'the children', keep one eye on your wallet and the other on your liberty."

This project sounds like another multi-million-dollar boondoggle to me. No doubt the UK will try it too, and likewise it'll make no difference; The Almighty System will be worked around eventually, first by those who can DIThemselves and later by everyone who can download a browser plugin. Or use an anonymous proxy. Even college students can do that.

Having worked with large government IT projects (of the UK variety, but I suspect that's a representative sample), I can confirm that they have very little, if anything, to do with the real world. Which is what you get when any bureaucracy sets out to use a technology it has no chance of understanding and ignores any advice which contradicts its wonderful utopian ideals involving people flying to work on personal pigs.

The government should stick to governing, instead of messing around with people's lives. If our government spent less time trying to take responsibility away from people maybe there'd be fewer stupid people out there. But then, only a minority are going to vote for a government that requires the populace to think.

OpenOffice 3.0 - the only option for masochistic Linux users

Alex Davidson
Thumb Up

And lo, the flames did roll in.

Another fantastic controversial Reg article. Amazing how many people are willing to argue religion on the internets, isn't it? I think I'll join in.

As others have pointed out, Ubuntu's strength lies in the package management system, and only a real enthusiast (with time to burn) is going to bother installing something that's not yet available via said system. Or trust an unpatched release, for that matter.

As still others have pointed out, Windows still rules the desktop. This isn't likely to change until the much-marketed 'Cloud' actually starts to mean something. Windows may be big, slow, and unimaginably bloated, but everyone and their grandma can use it. Unfortunately, the assumption in the world of Management seems to be that Windows servers can therefore be adminned (properly) minus Clue and must be better. So Linux/Unix will never be ousted from /that/ sphere.

Me, I'm just damn glad my job doesn't require me to use any office apps except for viewing files.

Except for LookOut, which will be disappearing just as soon as I get the chance to bring our email back in-house.

Nice one, Ted. Keep 'em coming!

PS: Incidentally, this myth of the OS dying is a pet peeve of mine. It isn't dying. It's just becoming less visible to the user. In the Cloud context, you'll still need an OS of some sort to run Cloud terminals on. In the virtualisation context:

Time was, the OS was a thin layer of APIs and libraries that everything else could talk to the hardware through without worrying about the details, and all the user saw was the UI (graphical, text-based, whatever). Then it got a GUI and a 'consistent user experience' (mainly a Windows and Mac trait, but desktop Linux will doubtless get there eventually too). Now virtualisation and paravirtualisation have come along, with the idea of virtual appliances, and we're back to the nice thin layer of hardware abstraction again, which is invisible to the user.

So if you mean 'the big shiny consistent GUIs that the user sees are being replaced with infinitely-variable, often-crap web sites and apps', then yeah, the 'OS' is dying. In any other sense, it's just the usual cycle of reincarnation combined with vendor waffling.

Give it ten or twenty years and we'll be moving back towards monolithic platforms and consistent GUIs again.

The iPhone App Store - a classic protection racket

Alex Davidson

Open Systems and Apple.

See, I always thought the point of an open system was being able to do what one wants with it, where 'one' is the user, not the vendor.

By that token, very few of Apple's products can be considered 'open'. If the user wants to install something their mate wrote while high on caffeine, is that possible without Apple's approval? What if the user's friends want the same?

And where is the line drawn between 'friends' and 'potential customers of a vendor lock-in scheme'?