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GUIs: Control, Conveyance, Continuity, and Context

Windows 8 Animated EvaluationI'm a sucker for basic principles distilled into pithy prescriptions.

A freelance writer, Brian Boyko, has distilled the basic features of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) into four principles: Control, Conveyance, Continuity, and Context. He uses them to structure a well-reasoned though shrill critique of Windows 8

I've just checked a few of my favorite usability resources (Don Norman, Alan Cooper's About Face, Ben Shneiderman), plus a bit of Googling, and I can't find a "recognized GUI authority" who reduces the problem to these four aspects.

Even so, I think Boyko has hit on something good. When I tried to distill a modern set of security-relevant design principles for my textbook, I had no concise statement about usable security that was backed up by extensive industry practice. In other words, there are accepted design principles for security, but not for usable security. There are a lot of principles that outline what's nice to have, but none that trump security traditions (like impossible-to-memorize passwords).

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OS X Lion: No encrypted RAID after all

Full disk encryptionI installed Lion last night and spent today figuring out what does - and does not - work. As a huge fan of full-disk encryption (FDE), I'm disappointed in their drive encryption.

RAID may have been improved, but Lion's encryption features, including Time Machine encryption, are not compatible with Apple's RAID.

The diagram at right (from Elementary Information Security) shows how full-disk encryption (FDE) typically integrates into the system software. The diagram doesn't show where the RAID software might reside. I'd expect it to be very closely tied to the device driver. However, it appears instead that Apple placed the FDE below the RAID software. Perhaps this improves performance, or perhaps the choice was driven by design decisions invisible outside Cupertino.

The Time Machine improvement: they have explicitly documented how to switch in a new mirrored drive for an old one. I haven't tried their suggested process since the upgrade. I'd tried the suggested process a couple of years ago, only to have it fail. So we'll see how it goes.

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RAID on Snow Leopard

Apple Snow LeopardI had avoided upgrading to Snow Leopard for several months, and finally completed the upgrade a few weeks ago. It went mostly without trouble, though there were a few minor things that needed to be fixed.

However, I was greeted with "new and improved!" RAID support which, as usual, provides only the most terse of directions. I rely on mirrored RAID to construct off-site backups. When I went to apply my procedure to Snow Leopard, I had to figure out the difference between "Delete" and "Demote" in order to get my backups rebuilt.

[Here's a more recent post to address the disappearance of "Demote"]

 

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When is public data non-public?

If it's public information on paper, is the electronic version also a public record?

As a techie, I tend to think so. The electronic version carries more information, is easier to work with, and is sometimes easier to authenticate.

The city of Phoenix, AZ, recently argued the opposite in court, and ultimately lost. Someone was suing the city and demanded some public records. The city provided paper copies, some of which appeared to be backdated. The plaintiff demanded the electronic copies so he could examine the metadata. The city refused, saying that the metadata was not public record. Two courts agreed, but the Arizona Supreme Court disagreed. So a court is on record saying that, if the document is a public record, the electronic form is also a public record.

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A Microsoft-Centric World

Back in the 1970s when many of us were struggling to free ourselves from mainframes, the mantra in the computing world was "Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM." No doubt Bill Gates was inspired by this to build his own empire. Today, people unblushingly swap "IBM" for "Microsoft" in that mantra.

Since converting back to the Macintosh I've been learning a lot about Microsoft-centric software. Several programs that ran on both systems have essentially withered, especially since the conversion to OS X. I'm most directly affected by Microsoft-centric teams at Intuit and at Adobe.

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Quicken on the Mac - Yes, It's Terrible

I spent several hours trying to convert to Quicken on the Mac. Then I tried using some standard functions. Let me assure you, it's not worth anyone else's time and bother. I'm pretty committed to using my Mac when I can, as opposed to regularly switching to the PC to get the 'real' work done. I read other horror stories about Quicken on the Mac on the Internet, but really thought it couldn't be so bad. I was wrong.

For the record, the latest version of Quicken for the Mac is the '2007' edition, with some downloaded - and manually applied - updates. There are reports of a new program from Intuit to be called "Quicken Financial Life for Mac." But according to fine print on the web site, this is actually "Quicken Lite." So it would seem that Mac users are screwed as far as Quicken goes for the foreseeable future.

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RAID and Backups

A recent Handler's Log on the SANS Internet Storm Center spoke of the recent demise of an early blog site called "Journalspace.com." Evidently their disaster recovery strategy consisted of maintaining a mirrored RAID system.

I've written quite a bit about how mirrored RAID is a fundamental part of my disaster recovery strategy. However, the Journalspace people apparently skipped an essential step: they relied solely on their on-line data and didn't keep an off-line (preferably off-site) backup.

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Macintosh Mail - Please Get Serious

OK, I switched to Mac e-mail last summer on Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger, or some other pussy cat). I tolerated the bumbling of the e-mail software since I knew version 10.5 would be out soon, and no doubt they'd fix the lame bits of the software by then.

But I was disappointed. Mail is just as lame in 10.5 as it was in 10.4.

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Thumbs Down: Another Top Ten Computer List

A site called "Live Science" has posted a "Top 10 Revolutionary Computers." This was obviously written by someone who doesn't know a lot about what makes a computer significant, beyond advertising.

The TRS-80 (aka the Trash 80)? The latest IBM parallel monster? Give me a break. These were all reruns of well-understood concepts. Nothing new. They listed the Alto, so why list the Macintosh?

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Apple Hates RAID?

I (think I) have just finished upgrading my system to OS X 10.5. I'm hesitant to declare it a success because I haven't tried everything yet, though I've been reading e-mail and doing most 'normal' things. Apple made it difficult, but not impossible, thank goodness.

According to the documentation, all you do to move from 10.4 to 10.5 is an 'upgrade.' Perhaps this is true for someone, but evidently not for foolish people like myself who value reliability enough to RAID the system volume.

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