Posts Tagged with linux

posted by brwyatt on February 19, 2012

I'm just going to take a second to go on a bit of a rant about the major desktop OS releases comming soon to a computer near you. I am, of course, talking about OSX Mountain Lion and Windows 8.

Mountain Lion comes pre-packaged with this "really cool" "feature" to "protect" you from malicious programs. This feature is called "Gatekeeper" and it will be enabled by default. How does Gatekeeper work? It stops you from running any applications that aren't either on the AppStore or digitally signed by a "trusted" developer. A trusted developer is simply a developer who pays Apple $99/year to get a digital signature for their code (I won't get into how that works, but there is a lot of information on how digital code signing and public key encryption works if you are interested).

That all sounds pretty good, right? It will stop you from running malicious programs and only good programs can run, right? Wrong. Here is the issue, no code is actually being verified as being harmless or safe, the only requirement is that developers pay Apple. Sure, Apple can revoke a Developer ID if a program is found LATER to be malicious, but how many people will be harmed by malicious code by the time it is discovered? And what about common Free and Open Source projects? They aren't selling software, and most of the coding is done by volunteers. Adium, FireFox, VLC, Tor. And that's just naming the ones I can think of off the top of my head. So because they can't (or won't?) pay Apple $99/year... you can't run those programs. But even worse, lets look at how Apple handles "controvercial" apps on iPhone. What if I pay Apple $99 to get a Developer ID, and then make some application that Apple doesn't like (and this isn't just speculation) they could revoke my Developer ID, and anyone who had been using my app is now locked out and can't run it. As of right now, enabling Gatekeeper on Lion will prevent Adium from running at all.

Gatekeeper is NOT a tool to help "protect" you. It is a tool to control what you can and cannot do on your computer. Plain and simple. Protecting you from malicious code is a side-effect of this control. Just look up Apple's censorship on the iPhone you will find a lot on the current thing they have censored, but look deeper than that, and there is a LOT more that has been censored. In addition, some speculate that this is a move towards only allowing apps to be installed from the AppStore. If this is true, any program licensed under the GPL can NEVER be on the Apple AppStore due to an incompatability with the AppStore agreement and the GPL. (The AppStore requires users to agree to not share apps more than 5 times, while the GPL allows and even encourages free and open sharing of their programs and source code). What this means is that, if Apple switched to AppStore only, you can say good-bye to FireFox, VLC, and Adium on Macs. But I guess you really should be using Safari, QuickTime, and iChat (or the new "Messages") anyway, right? I mean why would you ever want to use something else?

Ah, and now for Windows 8's Metro UI. Unlike Gatekeeper, I've had first-hand experience with this one. Microsoft likes to do these "Developer Previews" where you can go and grab a copy of the next version of Windows for free to test your programs and, in this case, get a head-start developing Metro apps. So I ran Windows 8 in a VM (Virtual Box), and I tried REALLY HARD to like it. I gave it as much chance as I could. Quite honestly, it is horrible. REALLY horrible. If you plan on getting Windows 8, make sure you have a touch screen, prefereably one about the size of... well, I wouldn't go above 20", honestly. The whole UI is pretty much just Windows Phone 7. That's it. Sure, you can get a "traditional" desktop for using "legacy" non-Metro apps, but the desktop is simply another Metro application. You can't close programs, you just "switch" between them like on a phone or tablet OS, and I can only imagine if there was that one program you had open and wanted to keep running and it gets closed because you started too many programs and it had to reclaim resources to run this other program you started up. And what about running two programs side-by-side? Oh, I'm sure there is a fancy way to do it... maybe. And I don't even want to remember how difficult task switching was, especially if you have a bunch of programs opened, since they NEVER CLOSE. (Here is a hint, don't use alt-tab, which just starts rotating through each application one at a time ("wait, I thought I closed that program! Why is that still running? And I haven't used that one since two days ago!"), just go to your "start screen" and find the program again, and open it directly.)

Now, the most irritating thing is if you lock the screen or want to switch users. Regardless of if you are using a touch screen or a mouse, it brings you to a more... smart-phone like lock screen where you have to swype the screen up to unlock the screen, and then you can log in, switch users, or unlock your computer. To turn off your computer, you have to logout, unlock the screen, and then click the shutdown/reboot button. And it seems that there is no more Windows update prompts. Which is good and bad. No more nagging you to restart your computer, but then again, you will never know that updates were even available, and have been installed. After messing around with the VM and FINALLY finding out how to shut Windows 8 down, it started installing updates. Updates I didn't even know were installed and needed a reboot for. I appreciate it no longer constantly nagging me, but SOME form of one-time notification would have been nice.

And all this, folks, is why I use Linux. Linux won't stop you from running what you want to run on your computer. It doesn't care if you add additional package sources or if you install from source. Of course this assumes that you aren't a moron and that you aren't downloading something from "Trustworthy Bob's Free Virus Scanner!" where every visitor is the one millionth visitor! And if someone (cough Ubuntu cough) decides that they want to try a stupid UI like Metro (cough Unity cough), you have the choice to use the old desktop (Gnome 3) INSTEAD. And lots of people don't like Gnome 3 and are either using Gnome 2 or KDE instead, and the guys over at Linux Mint (a distro based off of Ubuntu) are working on "Cinnamon", a project intended to bring all the features and style of Gnome 2 (which were removed in Gnome 3) to the Gnome 3 platform and features, giving back the customizability and functionality of Gnome 2, without losing the features in Gnome 3.

In short, Gatekeeper is nothing more than a WORSE version of UAC that is not warning you of escalated privleges, but blocking developers who don't pay Apple so their users can install their app. And Metro UI is like Ubuntu's Unity desktop or even Gnome 3, except you can't change it back to the classic desktop, you just have a watered-down classic desktop as a "feature".

On the plus side, Gatekeeper just makes me think of this add Apple ran a few years ago about Vista's UAC. The difference here is that Gatekeeper is just simply "deny" without asking the user.

posted by brwyatt on January 23, 2012

Not that I really have much to say on a regular basis, but I can try!

Regarding my previous post, things have calmed down quite a bit; and besides that one incident at home, the rest of the week really was quite amazing. Work really was a lot of fun, I was really in my element this week, doing server maintainance/setup/configuration type stuff, the things I tend to do on my own for fun at home.

Then, Thursday night, I finally got Linux working on my laptop! Had to manually fix the graphics and install the Catalyst 11.11 drivers manually, but other than that everything else "just worked". That is, until one of the updates managed to break Bluetooth, so I've got to use a wired mouse until another update fixes it. (which there will be at some point).

As far as the site goes, I haven't really worked much on any of the technical stuff lately, with exception to getting my Jabber server to work with the MySQL database to have the site and Jabber share logins. I still have to get user "levels" setup so that I can open registrations to others. Been having some issues using external auth with ejabberd, but I hope I'll figgure it out. If anyone has anything they would like to see on this site, leave a comment, I'd love to hear any suggestions anyone might have!