Thursday, August 31, 2006

You preach it, brother Keith

Keith Olbermann speaks truth to power.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bruce Schneier Facts is an homage to both the original Chuck Norris Facts and my favorite thinker on security.

Sample Chuck Norris facts:
  • When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
  • Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.
  • Outer space exists because it's afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.
  • When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
  • Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.
Sample Bruce Schneier facts:
  • When God needs a new secure certificate, he uses Bruce Schneier as the signing authority.
  • Bruce Schneier once killed a man using only linear cryptanalysis.
  • There is no such thing as security by obscurity, but only because there is no such thing as obscurity. Bruce Schneier can always see you.
  • Bruce Schneier can decrypt your PKI message with the public key.
  • Bruce Schneier's tears can burn holes through an OpenBSD firewall. Lucky for us, Bruce Schneier never cries.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The only thing we have to fear...

The Cato Institute says something I actually completely agree with.

Anyway, I've got no argument with this: "Terrorists can be defeated simply by not becoming terrified."

Here's a link to the paper (pdf).


Frantz Fanon, the 20th century revolutionary, contended that “the aim of terrorism is to terrify.” If that is so, terrorists can be defeated simply by not becoming terrified — that is, anything that enhances fear effectively gives in to them.
The shock and tragedy of September 11 does demand a focused and dedicated program to confront international terrorism and to attempt to prevent a repeat.

But it seems sensible to suggest that part of this reaction should include an effort by politicians, officials, and the media to inform the public reasonably and realistically about the terrorist context instead of playing into the hands of terrorists by frightening the public.

What is needed, as one statistician suggests, is some sort of convincing, coherent, informed, and nuanced answer to a central question: “How worried should I be?” Instead, the message the nation has received so far is, as a Homeland Security official put (or caricatured) it, “Be scared; be very, very scared — but go on with your lives.” Such messages have led many people to develop what Leif Wenar of the University of Sheffield has aptly labeled “a false sense of insecurity.”
Tip o' the hat to Bruce Schneier for pointing me to the paper.

PS on the Cato Institute - Normally I sympathize with the libertarian perspective, but Cato puts a bit more faith in the ability of the free market to optimize social outcomes than I can muster. And I don't think libertarian philosophy has a good answer to the tragedy of the commons problem, either.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why aren't businesses switching from Windows to Macs?

I posted this as a comment elsewhere, but then it seemed to disappear into the ether. Since I took 10 minutes writing it I figured I wasn't going to just let it disappear wihtout a fight - so here it is.

I’m another one of those IT guys. Want to know why my company is not switching from Windows to Mac (or Linux for that matter)?

It’s the applications.

Or as Steve Balmer says, “Developers, developers, developers, developers!”

We have over a thousand applications being used at my company.

If we wanted to switch to Mac OS X, we’d have to find Mac versions of those apps, or software with equivalent functionality, and buy the new versions, and get all our users to switch - when they were working well enough in the first place before IT came along to switch them.

We also have tons of web applications - some our own, some bought from vendors and hosted internally, and some bought/rented from vendors and hosted on their websites. Far too many of those require Active X or are otherwise coded specifically for Internet Explorer on Windows.

Saying “use Virtual PC/VMware/Parallels” doesn’t really work for us, because guess what? Then we still have a copy of Windows to pay for, patch, protect against viruses, and so on.

This isn’t because we don’t like Macs. In fact, I’m writing this on a Mac right now, and Macs have been my platform of choice since I bought a Mac SE and learned how to program on it in 1990.

This isn’t because we don’t understand Macs. In fact, for the first several years of my IT career, I had tons of extra opportunities because I am ‘cross-platform’ - I was an Apple-certified technician (and IBM, and HP, and Toshiba, and MCSE) who did hardware repair as well as Mac support & sysadmin work for various Mac-using businesses.

This isn’t because we don’t get that Macs are easier to manage than PC’s. I personally supported far more Macs & Mac users ’soup to nuts’ - from hardware, to software, to building and updating our “Mac image” - than was possible for one Windows tech to support - even with a bunch of specialized people taking care of the necessary infrastructure on the Windows side that I ran myself on the Mac side.

I’ve heard from colleagues at other companies who also found it much cheaper to support Macs and who know they can provide better support to more people with less $$ for tools and fewer technicians. That’s not really up for debate, in my opinion.

But with all our business apps on Windows, how can we switch? How does that help our company make more money?

It doesn’t. And that’s why businesses aren’t switching to Macs.

Could this change?


Green-field companies can now choose to use only software that doesn’t lock them to one particular OS/browser platform; there are now choices out there that weren’t there when most of today’s businesses started making their software decisions.

Some forward-looking businesses are keeping this in mind when selecting new software, and thinking that maybe a decade from now all those “only runs on Windows/IE” apps will finally be retired. (This is why Microsoft is pushing developers so hard to write “Smart Clients” that require the Windows-only .NET Framework. “Developers, developers, developers!”)

And it’s not just me in my IS department who feels this way. TONS of IT people - some long time Mac users, but a surprising number of newcomers - are running Macs at home. And liking it! And I think most of them would agree with everything I’ve written here.

But we’ve got all these Win/IE applications that people at our business need to run….so on Windows we will stay.