The entire egalitarian point of computers was to free us. Kind of difficult to understand for those taught that technology is “evil”. Yes, too much of anything is bad for us, but with computers they took the place of something that had been eroded and is only now coming back. Connections between people. The internet is a representation of the global mind. The hippies who originally saw the creative possibilities of computers always knew that they could be used to free. Linux has been the product of that world. However now we have a peculiar sort of “simon says” thought contagion that has taken over some areas. A very good example is Linux security. There seems to be an obsession with security no doubt inflamed by news about hackers looking for internet banking passwords. It’s the same problem as urban crime. Sometimes the fear of that crime is far bigger problem than the crime itself. The same thing has happened in Linux and computing world. It’s like the War on Terrorism of the computer world. Security concerns have reached insane levels for the average user. Soon we’ll be putting our system through scanners looking for hidden weapons ! Computers will have licenses and all hardware and software will be locked down by WOT swat teams. Therapists will counsel users traumatised by their fear of evil hackers.
There is a way out of this nightmare. Get of the “simon says” mentality. As is so often the case the issue is one of appropriate technology. Your average user on his home network behind a firewalled router does not need to worry so much about security. However these users are still being subjected to the tyranny of many of the security systems in some distros. Systems that have often had me tearing my hair out when I’ve had bad permissions on some files. I’ve been copying them and then I can’t simply read them ?! Those systems were created for multi-user computer systems where it was necessary to seperate the security and permissions of various files. This is not needed for a single user on his home network. Yet some distro’s take a “simon says” approach to security. It’s a form of totalism – the thing that cannot be questioned, and ironically, like the WOT, it has actually reduced security and our freedoms due to it’s excesses (for example users become frustrated and break that security or ignore security issues entirely).
There is hope. Look at Puppy Linux. Puppy has been critiscised for being “too much like Windows 95” with it’s instant access to all files, even system files. But why was Windows 95 so popular ? Because of this ease of use. Many Windows XP users run as the administrator user because of the easy access. the difference with Puppy is that we have this with an open source software base which is much more secure than a closed source windows.
So I suppose this blog post is a call for users and developers to actually THINK about appropriate technology in their computing rather than falling for the way things “must” be done.