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Alan Partis
320 Ridgecreek Drive
Lexington, SC    29072
(803) 692-1101
alpartis@thundernet.com

 

Password Rules are Stupid
Common rules actually weaken security.

Best Practice ... Not!
This is one reason why "old" code can be touchy.

Wow! That was fast!
Making the right choices in your code can have huge payoffs in speed.

Ctors in Chains
Shrink your C++ code even more by chaining your constructors together.

Virtual Classes
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Practice Makes Pretty Good
Become a master software engineer by practicing like a ninja warrior.

You Should Get Out More
Maintainability is the key to software success.

Why You Need Me
Seven reasons why I think you need me to work for you.

I Create Wealth
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Standards in Software
Software engineering standards are a necessary and good thing.

What is a Content Management System?
$10.5 billion will be spent on them this year (2003) alone, but what are they?

Top 10 Benefits of a Content Management System
So what good are they?

Do You Need a Blowfish?
What is a Blowfish? Does size matter? Is it right for me? Get your questions answered here.

Why Not Windows?
Don't just take my word for it ...

10 Attributes of a Professional Software Engineer
A truly professional software engineer stands out from the crowd. Here's what makes them different.

How to Score a Startup
Examine all these points of startup companies and see how they add up.

Why Not Windows?

January, 2003

Don't just listen to me, listen to Bruce Schneier. Who's Bruce Schneier, you ask? Mr. Schneier is the author of Applied Cryptography, a book that is widely considered the Bible of computer cryptography, one of the underlying foundations of computer security. He also authored Secrets & Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World. Being a highly regarded author of a book that is considered a Bible makes one God.

... and on the 8th day, in Secrets & Lies, in Chapter 8, "God" talks about operating systems and their relationship/role in helping to make computers secure. Primarily, he discusses the kernel as the trusted computing base on top of which everything else in the OS and applications are built. He points out how crucial a role the kernel plays when he writes:

The historical example that got this the most nearly correct is an operating system called Multics, developed in the late 1960s by MIT, Bell Labs, and Honeywell. ... Multics worked, although the security was way too cumbersome. By now, almost everyone has forgotten Multics and the lessons learned from that project.

One of the lessons people have forgotten is that the kernel needs to be simple. (Even the Multics kernel, with only 56,000 lines of code, was felt to be too complex.) ... The simpler the software is, the fewer bugs it will have.

Unfortunately, modern operating systems are infected with a disease known as "kernel bloat." This means that a lot of code is inside the kernel instead of outside. When UNIX was first written, it made a point of pushing nonessential code outside the kernel. Since then, everyone has forgotten this lesson. All current flavors of UNIX have some degree of kernel bloat: more commands inside the kernel, inexplicable utilities running with root permissions, and so forth.

Windows NT is much worse. [This] operating system is an example of completely ignoring security lessons from history. Things that are in the kernel are defined as secure, so smart engineering says to make the kernel as small as possible, and make sure everything in it is secure. Windows seems to take the position that since things in the kernel are defined as secure, then you should put everything in the kernel. When they can't figure out how to do something, they just put it into the kernel and define it as secure. Obviously, this doesn't work in the long run.

In Windows, the printer drivers are part of the kernel. Users download printer drivers all the time and install them, probably not realizing that a rogue (or faulty) printer driver can completely compromise the security of their systems. It would be a lot smarter to put the printer driver outside the kernel, so it wouldn't have to be trusted, but it would also be harder. And the Windows NT philosophy always chooses ease -- both ease of use and ease of development -- over security.

Windows 2000 is worse yet.

So there you have it, I couldn't have said it better myself.


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