February 8th, 2008

Captain Obvious

Schneier: In the iPhone, 'security' is code for 'control'

Computer companies want more control over the products they sell you, and they're resorting to increasingly draconian security measures to get that control. The reasons are economic. Control allows a company to limit competition for ancillary products. With Mac computers, anyone can sell software that does anything. But Apple gets to decide who can sell what on the iPhone. It can foster competition when it wants, and reserve itself a monopoly position when it wants. And it can dictate terms to any company that wants to sell iPhone software and accessories.

This increases Apple's bottom line. But the primary benefit of all this control for Apple is that it increases lock-in. "Lock-in" is an economic term for the difficulty of switching to a competing product. For some products - cola, for example - there's no lock-in. I can drink a Coke today and a Pepsi tomorrow, no big deal. But for other products it's harder. Mostly, companies increase their lock-in through security mechanisms. Sometimes patents preserve lock-in, but more often it's copy protection, digital rights management (DRM), code signing or other security mechanisms. These security features aren't what we normally think of as security: They don't protect us from some outside threat, they protect the companies from us.

In my last column, I talked about the security-versus-privacy debate, and how it's actually a debate about liberty versus control. Here we see the same dynamic, but in a commercial setting. By confusing control and security, companies are able to force control measures that work against our interests by convincing us they are doing it for our own safety.

  • Current Music
    Bad Religion - No Control
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In which the lulz at MicroSoft's expense are many.

That means, when (colleague) was trying to run Zoomin to debug a rendering issue, he typed "Zo" and the background thread started searching... the entire disc. But now, that's just the first two letters, so now (colleague) types the second "o" and it starts another background search... of the entire disk. BUT IT LETS THE ORIGINAL THREAD continue to run! So, how you have two threads both searching your entire drive (contents, mind you, not just file names). But let's continue with "min.exe". Yup, you now have 8 different threads all scanning your entire fucking drive, and the machine is fucking melting. Thank goodness (colleague) has an 8-way box and Zoomin.exe is only 8 searches, or this might have been a bad decision on Microsoft's part.

I suggested that they probably capped the max threads to the number of CPUs in the machine... Ooooooh no!! If you just keeping hitting letters, it just merrily keeps adding threads. I creamed his machine by typing "zoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo".


So where does Microsoft even go to find programmers this stupid? Elbonia? How do you screw up an operating system this badly and still make money with it?


Silly /.ers, thinking that MicroSoft makes their money because of the quality of their software...
  • Current Music
    Skatenigs - Stupid People Shouldn't Breed
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