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Distance Multimedia: 4 score & more

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pixel January 19, 2007 -- The biggest security problem in Windows (ignoring bugs in the code) is the way permissions are used, such that ordinary tasks, even viewing a web page with Flash or a YouTube, seems to require full Administrator privileges in Windows XP. I suspect that Dave Cutler had a reasonable Access Control List architecture in Windows NT -- the ACLs seem to work reasonably in server environments -- but Microsoft has yet to make permissions work reasonably in personal desktop environments.
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pixel Both Windows and Mac OS started without any noticeable permissions model. Windows adopted the NT ACL model in transitioning from Windows 9x to Windows 2000, XP and now Vista. Microsoft asserts that they have solved the problem of requiring full administrator privilege in Vista, but many early evaluators report otherwise. I'm most curious to get my own Vista system to see for myself, but am not ready to buy one just for that and to experience 3D windowing. Apple transitioned to a traditional Unix permissions model in going from OS 9 to OS X -- that model suits me just fine in Linux. However, there is a gotcha in OS X: in addition to Unix-based system infrastructure, OS X has a parallel proprietary infrastructure. Not just for permissions, but for much of the "System Preferences" data.
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pixel An experience Monday caused an exasperated friend, a 20 year Mac user with a computer science Ph.D., to call me for help with a repurposed eMac. He has little Unix experience. He had tried to establish a new user account while retaining files from a prior user account, using classic Mac GUI tools. The result was a non-functional mess, and he hoped I could help him get the desired result by using traditional Unix methods. We were both staying out of the icy weather outside and tried to sort things out over the phone, he on eMac and me on iBook.
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pixel He opened a Terminal window and I told him what to type. But things like chown did not work on the eMac as they should on any other Unix system. Maybe it was because of what he had done with the GUI. But I did analogous things on my iBook and got different results. After I had done a successful chown from a Terminal and then the GUI wouldn't let me take the next steps (accidental pun), giving messages like "Sorry - unexpected failure", I gave up.
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pixel My friend persevered and eventually got things sort of working. He said something like, "Macs are easy to use until you want them to do something they don't want to do". Apple advocate poke fun at the Windows people who end up reinstalling Windows every now and then because their systems are so messed up. My friend is in the same boat with the eMac -- today he started preparing to reinstall OS X 10.4.
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pixel This made me appreciate those who think Solaris and OS X should be merged to overcome the kernel level problems in OS X and the GUI level problems in Solaris. Anyway, neither Mac OS nor Windows seem to have really figured out how to have desktops with effective permission control AND ease of use.
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