Category Archives: Opinions

I’m back on ZDNet

I find myself pretty busy now with writing, both for private clients and for publications. I’m back on ZDNet and trying to write as much as I can there. I believe this is actually my 4th time writing for them, going back to when they were started and I was a Ziff-Davis employee.

Here are my first few columns:

At the enterprise level IAM and SAML mitigate the password problem. Out on the civilian Internet our best attempts, mainly OAuth and OpenID, have fallen short. Passwords are a problem that will be with us for a long time.

Why Windows Phone isn’t dead to me

Finally Microsoft has provided a way to unify endpoint management of mobile devices and Windows desktops, but it’s doomed to many years of impracticality.


Time to Drop Dropbox?

Nothing has changed the way I use computers in the last few years more than Dropbox. The ability to get at my files from anywhere has made a huge difference. But it’s the cloud – not Dropbox specifically – that has made the difference. Any cloud storage service that also supported all the platforms I need would do as well… wouldn’t it?

There are a few biggies in the market, but Dropbox is the biggest, best-known name. My opinion is that they got this good reputation for a simple reason: They have the best software. I’ve tried a bunch of these services in the past: Box, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive. There are others, like SugarSync, but I’ve never paid much attention to them.

About a year ago I gave Box and Google Drive serious attempts. I thought Box’s software was awful. Google Drive was OK as was SkyDrive, but at the time Dropbox seemed the best deal because the software was drop-dead simple and many of the people I was working with already used it. I have a 200GB Dropbox account, the subscription for which expires in October, so I thought I would re-evaluate things.

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Mobility management and security getting a little less messy

Security and management in the mobility space, at least since the dawn of  the iPhone, has always had a “figuring it out as we go along” quality to it. So far we’ve gotten away with it; even though the potential for significant security breaches via mobile devices has always been there, and even though compliance with best practices in mobility is a rare thing, I’ve seen no evidence that they are a significant source of actual breaches. The real problems are what they always have been: SQL injection, weak passwords, social engineering, etc.

In the meantime, the market for products to manage and secure mobile devices has been maturing. Of course management and security should be closely-intertwined, if not run by the same products. That can be difficult when the major products don’t include more than trivial management capabilities and very little is compatible cross-platform.

This has created an opening for third parties, and those third parties have flooded into that opening. Several large and important companies have emerged, such as AirWatch, Good and MobileIron. They have all been on acquisition sprees and are attempting to fill out the gaps in their management capabilities.

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The Curator: Why Microsoft is forcing us on to modern apps

I’ve been struggling for a good year now with Microsoft’s decision to push users as hard as they are pushing them to use the new, modern user interface, what was once code-named Metro. Even in Windows 8.1, a.k.a. Windows Blue, it is the primary user interface. Why is Microsoft forcing us to use the new modern UI?

“Forcing” is perhaps too strong a word I suppose (although it’s a good one for a headline). You can continue to use conventional Windows programs – hell, even text-mode console programs – and keep using a conventional keyboard/mouse computer, but they’re all legacy now, at least for programs with significant user interface.

Moreover, and Microsoft’s protestations notwithstanding, Windows 8 is far less usable on a conventional computer without a touch display. You need to get used to a few gestures and then things are not as bad, but they are still markedly inferior to Windows 7, particularly in desktop mode.

Why would Microsoft make the old interface so undesirable? In order to make the new one desirable. Why? There are a lot of reasons for that, but one very big one is security.

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Security and the “If it Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix it” Mentality

(Originally posted Thursday, June 27, 2013)
“Why should have to replace a computer that’s working even if it’s 10 years old?” 
That’s not me speaking, it’s a relative whose identity I’ll protect (not that he would really care). There’s a foundation of solid logic behind this argument, at least at first glance. The things I bought this computer for 10 years ago are things I do with it still, and it works. So why should I change it? It’s possible – not likely, but possible – that this argument makes sense. But only if you’re cut off from the world.

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Do Not Track Standards Do Not Coalesce

(Originally posted Monday, June 24, 2013)

The advertising industry is in a huff over Mozilla’s plans to support “The Cookie Clearinghouse” at the Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford Law School. The Cookie Clearinghouse starts with some browser behavior changes and adds what Mozilla’s Brendan Eich describes as both block- and allow-lists of sites and a mechanism for managing exceptions to them. What would be blocked? 3rd-party tracking cookies.

The advertising industry is indignant, as they have been in the past when their abilities to track users are impeded.

As Eich says, it will be months before this hits the release versions of Firefox but there certainly seems to be a lot of indignation out there at how much business would be lost by the Doubleclicks of the world and other sites that people don’t visit, but which visit them. That’s how 3rd party cookies work.

And yet, something seems so familiar to me about the whole “Cookie Clearinghouse” thing… It sounds so much like…. Like Internet Explorer 9.

[cue harp strum…]

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