Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Cuckoo's Egg

When I started reading, the fast paced nature of the book and the catch-me-if-you-can-ish spy story of an astronomer turned computer security specialist lead me to believe that it was a work of fiction. The elaborate processes that Stoll took to catch the hacker and the general lack in security in government and company systems seemed to confirm it for me. I especially couldn't believe that Stoll hooked up printers in order to track what the hacker was doing. Little did I realize that it all it actually happened! It is amazing to see how far computers have come in terms of levels of network security and what it takes to catch a hacker. While reading I found myself thinking of the steps that would have prevented the hacker from accessing the systems he did. First is that total overhaul of security. Having weak credentials allowed the hacker into many of the systems that he shouldn't have been able to enter.Second is that having a secure centralized logging location would of prevented the hacker from deleting local logs. He would have had to hack to central location, which would have been more difficult to cover his tracks. Third is the covering and fixing of security loopholes in software. This is a bit harder to track, mostly because system admins generally use outsourced software instead of creating it in house. Looking back just 20 years ago it is amazing how primitive computers seemed. It is amazing to see how far we have come today.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Family Wiki

About a year ago FamilySearch.org combined data and features from other sites that offered similar ancestory services. Users can now receive email notifications when changes are made to a specific ancestor, as well as the ability to make and undo changes. Ancestry Search is headed in a new direction, ready to break new ground as it fully begins to take advantage of the internet. As it becomes more wiki-like, more and more people will contribute to it and add infromation about common ancestors. The future will eventually lead to social media being fully integrated with ancestry sites. It might be frightening to think that even now our entire lives are slowly being uploaded to the internet, but this is not a bad thing, our descendants will be able to look on ours lives and learn from our mistakes. This will be one step closer to our lives and memories living forever.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Standardization of the Webkit

With the rise of webkit in mobile browsers it becomes more and more tempting to drop support for the other browsers altogether. This leads to a problem that other browsers will eventually add de facto support for webkit. You add something with a -webkit prefix to your CSS and the browsers will automatically support it, even if they are not a webkit browser. This is bad. It leads to confusion and chaos. Browsers shouldn't be implementing other browser prefixes. As a developer it is frustrating to have to test in every browser, and then come up with a work around that is not as effective as one would want. But with the standardization of webkit it will be more frustrating to be limited to only webkit browsers when others are better in certain areas. I believe that standardization is not something to be feared, but poor implementation should be. Prefix support is not is not the right way.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Google Dart plans to usurp JS.

I read an article on arstenica about a new language that Google is developing called Dart. JavaScript has some fundamental issues that Dart addresses, the most important being that JavaScript is not as fast as a desktop language such as Java or C++ and probably will never be. It's no fun developing a slow web app when you know it could be a lot faster natively.

However there is a lot of talk about how this will affect the web community. JavaScript has been around for years, why should we switch to another language now? My personal feelings on the subject is that if there isn't much performance gain from Dart then it will be really slow for browser venders to switch to it (obviously). With the rise of the mobile market and how slow mobile browsers are, if Google creates a smash with Dart, if it is 10 times faster than JavaScript it is a sure guarantee that Web Developers will switch to it.