Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sudo too much for "ordinary" users?

A couple of brief facts to preface this post:
  1. I am a Linux (currently Fedora Core 6) user.
  2. I have not actually used Vista yet.
I don't really like windows. I far prefer Linux. I think it's superior in many ways. I don't think it's right for everyone, but I think that it's come a long way in the last few years, and anyone willing to put in a little time up front and learn a little bit can get a much better experience from Linux then Windows.

Unfortunately, I'm starting to think that I'm either way too biased and used to Linux, or the ordinary user is just extremely, extremely, dumb. It's probably some combination of the two. The reason I've recently come to this conclusion is partially due to a number of reviews of Vista that have popped up in the last few weeks. Without much variation, every single one complains about one thing: Vista actually has security. It asks for an administrative authorization (a simple password prompt) for system settings. (for an example, check out this fairly creative one that was posted to slashdot recently).

I'm sure there are myriad things wrong with Vista (like the unproven network stack), but this really doesn't seem like one of them. It seems like this is finally something Microsoft got right. The concept is something that Linux users have been familiar with forever. It's called, sudo. It's one of the major things that keeps my computer free of spyware. Since I'm not always running with administrative privileges, neither is anything malicious that I might have accidentally downloaded.

Is this really too much of a nuisance for ordinary users? Is it that hard to type a password? And shouldn't the fact that the computer is asking for one engender a sense of safety, not one of annoyance? Maybe there's a better way of doing authentication more invisibly, and maybe Vista doesn't do it as well as Linux (or OSX), but I welcome this change, and hope that it helps end the spyware pandemic.

If users are unwilling to pay such a small price for such improved security (and performance, without all that spyware dragging the system down) then how will the ordinary user ever be able to make the switch to Linux. Maybe they won't.

It's not that Linux isn't ready for ordinary people; ordinary people just aren't ready for Linux.

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