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Secure is User Friendly

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Chris Pirillo might switch soon. Perhaps to OS X - hopefully at least away from Windows. There are still a lot of people out there running Windows and visiting his sites so he has to proceed cautiously. But his position isn't as precarious as that of Bruce Schneier - who represents security and wisdom in security thinking and tells everyone to abandon Windows - and then adds he'll be using it himself a bit longer but don't so as I do do as I preach.

This isn't Schneier. It's Pirillo. And that can be a Good Thing™.

In a screed published at the end of August Chris takes a look at the coming Leopard which he's obviously been testing for a great while. And he doesn't pull many punches.

'OS X 10.5 is a far more user friendly, home network happy, 64-bit operating system for consumers than Windows could ever hope to be', he writes. 'This isn't a classic 'Apple vs Microsoft' argument so much as it's a 'Windows vs users' one.'

He then goes on to enumerate exactly what the difference is.

  • Baked in VNC functionality. 'I can't believe it's this simple', he writes.
  • Time Machine - 'backup the way data backup and restoration should be'.
  • Spotlight. 'Windows Desktop Search, last I tried, made local searching alone a pain in the ass.'
  • Packages and preferences. 'Far easier to manage than Windows programs and klutzy installation routines.' In other words the registry.
  • Dictionary and its gateway to Wikipedia.
  • Painless platform transitions. 'PowerPC to Intel, 32-bit to 64-bit - there have been a few hiccups along the way, but I'd say that it's been a much better experience for Mac users than it has for those of us in the Windows world.'
  • Better personal information management - 'far more seamless on OS X than it is in Windows'.
  • Help systems. 'Help isn't just documentation, it's largely directional.'
  • Exposé. 'A far better task switcher than the laughable Flip 3D.'
  • No letdowns. 'There's no UAC, no WGA to contend with. More to the point, there's only one version of OS X for consumers to purchase.'

All good points but there's one missing. One very conspicuous in its absence. As Charlie Miller summed it up, that one feature missing is a feature that can't sell computers. OS vendors don't allocate enough money for it because it doesn't sway purchasing decisions.

It's security. And it's amazing security is overlooked, as the Internet is besieged with so many needless, pointless, unnecessary and easily avoided security issues today it's not funny. There have been worms and viruses before but no industry ever lived through a holocaust like IT the past eight years and no company has ever been more universally castigated than Microsoft. If Upton Sinclair were to write his famous book today there's no doubt what topic he'd pick; but there's some doubt he'd be able to finish it - it's more likely he'd collapse from shock. For never in the annals of history has there been such a demonstration of sheer human collective stupidity - everyone needs to get off Windows and by yesterday. And yet today we're still discussing VNCs and dictionaries and backup routines.

Operating systems aren't like automobiles. They're supposed to be more like automobile engines. You don't always look at the engine but you expect it to work and get your automobile where you want it to go. The back seat bar and television are just perks. If the engine falters those other things are irrelevant.

The situation with Windows is so bad - so unfuckingbelievably bad - that Peter Gutmann noticed the Storm botnet today is actually the world's most powerful supercomputer. It literally dwarfs the others. And it's being run by home computer owners running Windows and not having a clue. And Storm is only one botnet: there are hundreds, thousands of others. With computers run by people who think VNCs are cool. Or games are. And how about a dictionary that connects to Wikipedia?

It's no fun getting ripped off. It's no fun finding out someone in a suburb of Moscow's had a keystroke logger on your box and that's where all your bank savings went off to. It's no fun when you realise there's a war going on in your own home right there inside the PC you bought on sale - with competing worms fighting for hegemony over your property. And if you didn't feel the fool - if you didn't feel ashamed - the day you discovered the truth then you don't deserve to be online period.

You're ruining what was once a really good neighbourhood.

And if you do realise how bloody awful a world run by Windows computers is then you realise too how important security is to the end user. For security is the number one feature of them all. If the machine can't be secured there's no point in using it period - and the day's long past when even the most clueless consumer can claim there's no way of knowing.

And today it's also a question of responsibility. 'To make myself secure I must first make you secure', said Bruce Schneier, erstwhile Windows hater/Windows user. Indeed.

A world plagued by spam: almost all spam today comes from compromised Windows computers. Estimates say spam may be 65% - 85% of all SMTP traffic. People are paying for that bandwidth. End users are paying for it. The spammers surely aren't - they're profiting by it.

Having a Windows computer online is not only unforgivably stupid and foolish - it's also irresponsible, unneighbourly, and perhaps someday outright criminal. It hurts other people. Windows users love to stick their heads in the sand on this one but that's no longer possible.

Running Windows online hurts other people.

After that it doesn't matter what you choose. There are perhaps over one thousand Linux packages and then there's OS X. Pick one and live with it. There's no point arguing - fighting - about which Unix is best. It doesn't matter much what Unix you use as long as it's Unix. And Unix has two great things going for it: #1) it's Unix; and #2) it's not Windows.

Some people still think this is some kind of Super Bowl. It's not. There are no points awarded for winning or losing here. The only thing that matters is that people are secure, that they can use the Internet safely and securely, and that they develop a positive attitude towards its use rather than being continually scared shitless by what they see happening to Windows machines.

That's all that matters. If you get good VNC, a good backup program, better searches, easier software configuration, seamless web functionality, transitions to new platforms made easier and as painless as possible, better personal information management, better help systems, and better task management: that's all good and fine. But the foundation has to be finished first and it has to be something to build on. An F50 isn't much good if the engine keeps breaking down all the time.

Apple regularly say they have at least 150 new features with every system upgrade. Last time they said they had over 200. They did more than work on graphics. They're maintaining a Unix operating system and sometimes they screw up and sometimes they fly and almost always they try. What they do with this underbody means all. That's all that's important. If that underbody isn't good enough it all falls apart.

Microsoft have never had, do not have, and will never have a secure operating system. Period. After that it doesn't matter what features they have.

If you have to choose an operating system for home or for work then choose from amongst the Unix systems that give you that first and most important user friendly feature - choose one that's secure. Choose a Unix.

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