February 23rd, 2006


Hardware is not the answer

I generally leave bloviating about computer security to people like Bruce Schneier, since they are, after all, professionals, but this particular post on his blog came within millimeters of calling for something that I thought was dead and buried in the computer world: the network computer.

The NC was all the rage in certain sectors of the IT field about ten years back: a simple workstation whose main virtue was that it had no input/output ports aside from the bare essentials: the video port for the monitor, the serial port for the mouse, the PS/2 port for the keyboard, and an Ethernet port. No USB ports, no floppy, hard or CD drives; the thing was basically a smart terminal that ran most of its software off the network. In a sense it was a direct descendant of the dumb terminals that were the client end of the old mainframe client/server networks. The big selling points were supposed to be the low cost of the NC (as opposed to a traditional workstation with all the bells and whistles) and the near-complete security an NC offered.

The authors of the Wikipedia article thought the NC might be ahead of its time, since most internet access was by dialup in those days, making web-based applications a tad problematic. The corporate market was also lacking, since fully loaded workstations were already available at competitive prices. Perhaps the day of the NC has returned, if Bruce is right, but the question is whether the suits in the corporate headquarters are interested in reworking their entire installed base of PC workstations and servers for what may be seen as marginal gains in security. In the end, businesses might be better served by improved computer security training and an attitude of "We're all in this together," rather than treating firewalls, antivirus and other protective software as pearls cast before swine. It's true that there are a lot of people out there who have barely mastered the power switch, but the more we get users to act like a pack instead of a herd, the better off we're all going to be in the ongoing guerrilla war against the hackers, crackers, script kiddies and other trolls lurking under the bridges of the Information Superhighway.

Via Instapundit.

There's something wrong with this argument...

Says Jonah Goldberg, "This reader is on to something:"

The downfall of civilization can be traced directly to the practice of putting televisions in taverns. Men stopped talking to one another. Then they went home and started talking to their wives to whom they hadn’t talked in centuries. This led immediately to wholesale divorce, which in turn led to women in the workplace and juvenile delinquency. Other ills too numerous and horrible to mention followed until men stopped wearing ties so they wouldn’t hang themselves.

The main problem with this, in my case, is that I never hung out in bars after I left the Army. So what's my excuse? Ah, well. S vol'kami zhit, po volchi vit'.*

Via the Corner.

*If you live with wolves, howl like them.