Thursday, August 2, 2012

Killing a project

One of the nerdy things I'm fairly interested in is computer security, and I've been banging on about the need to get people to understand, and in the case of Ubuntu, implement domain management as part of an overall security system for IPv6 networks. The reason is fairly easy to explain: it's an established model that is going to become extremely necessary when every computer can "see" every other computer. You're going to need to implement IPSec - encrypted connections between identifiable computers - in that environment, and without a domain system, IPSec is hard.

One of the projects I was working on was a "Download, install, and forget about it" system I called "On my 6". The idea was that you'd be able to install a simple tool on each PC that would do the hard work of configuring and setting up the security aspect, and use a common login system across all the computers you use.

There were, however, one or two problems with the approach:
  • My personal favorite was that it was a "security in the cloud" system, which seemed inherently... well, just wrong! I mean, I trust me, but why would a stranger do so? And while I could see people using it anyway there was always reasons to be concerned anyway. If a law enforcement group, or goodness help me, one of the more extreme copyright holder rights enforcement organizations, came at me with a warrant to force me to help them hack into someone's system, could I say no?
  • A more traditional problem: feature creep. Do we limit this "common logon" to just letting users use network shares on each other's PCs? Or do we, say, add email, and instant messaging, and voice over IP, and...? It's a more legitimate question than you might at first think - all those features do require authentication, they're all cases where computers need to identify one another and the users of those computers.
  • Explaining it - the marketing of the site needed to explain how this would actually be helpful. I can see how it's helpful, but unless you're using it it probably looks like nerdy mumbo-jumbo, and probably makes it look more complicated than not using it, even though, actually, the idea is to make things less complicated.
Microsoft's Windows 8 appears to have features that pretty much seal On My 6's fate - the operating system already comes with the ability to log in to a PC via a cloud based identity. Either they've implemented, for the most popular OS on the planet, the system I was working on, or they've made it very difficult for me to do so in a way that doesn't make things even more confusing, but either way I think they've killed it!

So... time to think of something else.

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