Friday, July 16, 2004


Nourishing Frogs

The solution to the HP bloatware problem was making Mom an Administrator on her computer. The software now actually loads after only a minute of disk churning (more'n'likely the result of only 128 MB RAM in the computer; the box is four years old, and pagefile churning) and no more installation after reinstallation after reinstallation of MS DAO. So what's the problem here? Any sysadmin worth his salt, much less an auditor will tell you that it's a Very Bad Thing to let users run with administrative privileges doing their normal routine tasks. There are of course functions that simply must be executed with administrative privileges, but that's what things like suid are there for (at least in *nix). And of course there's Tripwire in *nix, just to make sure that no new suid programs are unnoticed by the SAs. While I'm not enough of a Wintel systems programmer to speak authoritatively, I'm sure that there is analogous functionality in the Windows API.

Interestingly enough, this is not the only software I've seen for peripherals that protests mightily that the user doesn't have administrative privileges. I bought a couple of Kodak digital cameras for the kids and Mom, and the software complains not once, but twice on startup about administrative privileges.

Obviously, these wares (I refuse to dignify them with the moniker of packages, and the diminutive 'z' on the end should be reserved for the chazzerai one obtains on P2P and dubious sites) are doing something that requires privileged system-level access, and rather than doing things the right way, the easy way is just to assume that every user of the thing has privileged access. Sanjay and Apu must be quite proud of their creations.

My current engagement at Colditz, er, Respected Large Financial Institution is ending soon, due to a C-level pissing contest, and the bottom line cost of the project escalating rapidly, despite a board-level mandate and Sarbanes-Oxley scrutiny that really, and I mean really, wants this thing done. Without going into details here, the project's financial model has changed rapidly over the last month, where the requirement for funding a lot of what we need to do has been shifted from an overall pool for bucks to make this happen client-wide over to the individual lines of business. The LOB that I work with, apart from having some very smart people around, has historically been the stepchild behind all the sexy capital markets and investment banking stuff, and has traditionally done things their own way (read as "on the cheap"). Things like desktop PCs running server operating systems for mission-critical apps, their own network infrastructure, DOS applications still running critical business functions, cowboy application developers who don't document anything, that sort of thing. The unofficial scuttlebutt is that 75% of the overall program will be cancelled. The rest of it is so far along that cancelling it would cost more than completing it.

And it seems that the UN says that Norway is the best place to live on the planet. Let's see, socialistic economy and social services - check; UN endorsement - check; incredibly high taxes - check; most memorable Norwegian was Vidkun Quisling - check; boycotting Israeli products - check; and major contribution to cuisine is herring. Uh, yeah. The US landed in eighth place.  Sure glad all those UN types tear up the shopping districts in Oslo and Bergen.


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