Friday, 31 October 2003

Slashdot | Microsoft's new CLI

Microsoft going back to the command line. It's the 3 ages of technology again, isn't it?
Stage 1: a prototype, effectively - barely fulfilling design criteria, and certainly not robustly.
Stage 2: over-design. They've got the hang of it, they've got a market, so they pack it full of features until it becomes cumbersome.
Stage 3: just right - removal of extraneous features.

To a unix-head stage 3 is the command line. I'm no unix head, but I do appreciate the elegant simplicity of Unix: everything is in a file. So, all the settings are in a file, which you can tweak either through some pretty GUI screens with checkboxes and tabs, or through the CLI by editing the file directly. Non-Unix people say, "but unix is so user-unfriendly. Who wants a command line? It's so indecipherable." My response, as one who is not a techie but has a sincere respect for techies and technology, is simply if you're playing with settings you should explicitly know what they do.

The other advantage of a file-based system (as in, you tweak files directly, rather than use wizards that give no indication of which file you're tweaking), is that you can make changes easily reversible by the use of comments - something woefully lacking in GUIs. Finally, it also means you just need Telnet to tweak any online server in the world. None of this Remote Windows Desktop foolishness. Mind you, whether this degree of tweakability is healthy in an OS with Windows' security record is questionable.

Monday, 13 October 2003 - ITU 03 - Microsoft wants to make Wi-Fi hotspots more secure

I would say 'about bloody time', but instead I have to say that network security should stay on the network, not as part of some OS somewhere.

Part of the problem with the microsoft OS paradigm is that the OS is treated with such a degree of profundity, rather than the basic enabler between software and hardware that it should be. Most non-technical people actually believe the OS is the graphical bit, the user interface. And this suits Microsoft perfectly. Even those banes of M$ strategy, Linux users, tend to play into their hands by playing up the OS wars, rather than changing the argument and putting OSes in their place as merely the bit of software that gets hardware to talk to software.

If there's a problem with the network (eg. it's not secure), it should stay a network problem and the network kit vendors should solve their problem. But software is cheaper than hardware, and evolves faster - that's why we have it - so invariably the hardware people leave it to the software people to set their standards and pick the most viable one to implement in hardware. Unfortunately, this leads to a self-perpetuating lead for the prominent OS vendor, since, more often than not, the most viable standard is the most popular, as implemented in the most popular OS, rather than the best technology.