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I worry we are heading towards a day when all electronic devices are jailed, and you have to jump through hoops to own and use "development" devices.

It's like we're taking away pens and pencils, since they can be used to mess up books, instead of teaching more people how to write.




I agree completely. I feel the trend of excessive "security" and hiding things from the user "because it will confuse them", removing options because they "might cause irritation", "could be insecure if misused", etc. has gone too far. Modern devices are so locked-down and "polished" to the point that it makes it much harder for users to discover how they work, should they choose to, and takes away a lot of the incentive of doing so.

Contrast this with the early days of UNIX where every system came with its source code, plus compiler and assembler, so it was very easy for users to become developers. Even DOS and 32-bit versions of Windows came with (not sure if they removed it now, but it's there in XP at least) a rather primitive but still "empowering" debugger, DEBUG, where you could write short programs in assembly language. I remember PC magazines came with listings of these programs --- they weren't particularly complex, (usually a few hundred bytes at most), but they did something useful and also make way for the more inquisitive users (like me) to wonder what all the instructions actually do, and what happens if you change them, and that's what can really motivate people from becoming just users to learning about programming and how computers work.

Now, you have to be really motivated to jump through all the hoops in place to make it much harder for anyone to just write some short and useful piece of code and share it in a form that everyone else can use. Even browsers are becoming like this. It's sad that the IMHO bureaucratic measures like code signing, overly protective OS policies, and near-paranoid antivirus/security software just get in the way of this process. They say it's all "for your protection", but if you think about it, one of the most secure places to live is in a prison. Is that really what society should be heading towards?

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes."


Heading towards - we are already there. The majority of devices sold on the market last year are locked and rootless. Only the PC is still holding the line but giving slowly.

Smartphones, Consoles, Smart TVs, Tablets - locked by default.


Google, Apple and MS, sure, but that's just Linux's gain.

Yes, the "Year Of The Linux Desktop" joke is as funny as ever, but I definitely foresee a split in computing into passive consumers with no idea how things work and hackers who need full access to the things they own and want to experiment, learn and create.


I'm not sure Apple and Microsoft fit that bill yet. They divide their empires into three separate concerns: walled garden consumer devices (phones, tablets), open enterprise/desktop and media. it's pretty easy to get into the internals of OSX and Windows still. In fact it's been made easier over the years.

I can still push apps to our customers on Windows and Mac desktops like I could in 1993.

Google on the other hand are pushing for everything being behind a web portal under strict control. All devices they promote ship apps which integrate with that ecosystem as lightweight app front ends and nothing else. Doing stuff whilst not connected to google is becoming increasingly difficult. The rate of change is also pretty extreme meaning that you have to work damn hard to keep up with things.

Linux (and FreeBSD possibly!) will never hit the desktop hard but we're not short of learning solutions whilst I can type csc at any windows command prompt and python at any OSX terminal and get somewhere. ChromeOS - not such a good picture.


I can still push apps to our customers on Windows and Mac desktops like I could in 1993.

Well, on OS X, you'd better have a $99/year developer program account or you cannot sign software. For most users it's a hasse to either disable Gatekeeper or to discover Ctrl/right-click to circumvent it.

Of course, signing software is good. But I'd rather like to accept/verify a key on a vendor-basis and have that used to validate updates. E.g. APT with GPG signing does this pretty well and makes installing signed software via e.g. Ubuntu's PPAs pretty nice.

Linux (and FreeBSD possibly!) will never hit the desktop hard

I agree. And this is why it is important that organisations such as Mozilla and CyanogenMod exist and are well-funded. As long as they keep up with their counterparts, people and vendors will have a choice.


The signing missing isn't a major effort. You can turn it off easily with spctl via ssh or allow an app for example. Same with windows domains if you have configured a root CA for your organisation. Even metro apps can be side loaded/self signed on Windows enterprise edition.

Agree with your second point entirely.


> I can still push apps to our customers on Windows and Mac desktops like I could in 1993.

That's true for now, but the trend is clear - OS X doesn't want to open apps downloaded from the Internet without the binary being signed by a registered developer. You can work around that, but I had to Google it (and I was trying to install YourKit Profiler - an otherwise very legit app from a well known and respected company). Microsoft only allows apps installed from their store on Windows RT. We are not talking about Windows Phone btw - Windows RT is Windows for ARM devices. Windows 8 has the same policy as OS X, both moved to the app store model, both now give warnings when installing from third-party sources.

BTW, Android is allowing app installs from third party sources. It always did. Not sure how long will that last, but iOS and Windows Phone 7 are completely locked down in that regard.

It's about time we stop thinking of these companies as being our friends. They aren't. They are partners at most and the free market doesn't work well if customers aren't prepared to vote with their wallet.


That's just logical. Windows uses loose code signing. SmartScreen is the same sort of thing but you have to buy a more expensive code signing cert from VeriSign etc. You can self sign or run a CA on windows domains, even for metro apps on enterprise edition (and RT).

OSX is easy enough to control via spctl as well. You can use this or pay $99. Several things I downloaded, including Logic Pro from Apple didn't come with a certificate. It's not a big deal.

Most of what you say is paranoia. Signing is overall a damn good thing.

Android is. If you flick a switch. Same with OSX and Windows. WP even allows you to install unsigned apps if register it as a dev handset. Same with iOS.

This is mainly about protecting both the end user from malware and protecting the app sellers' revenue stream.


ChromeOS is a browser based OS, so I would guess you could use JavaScript to do a lot of things you would do in C# or Pyhton on your old PCs.

Also, ChromeOS has a developer mode and you can always install a chroot Linux along side ChromeOS. In essence you can do pretty much everything if you are a programmer and you spend a few minutes searching online.

For the average user (read non programmer), less options is always better.


A browser is not a universal programming environment.

Neither is a chroot on a ChromeOS device. How do you install openoffice on that chroot and start hacking on it?


Well, most chromebooks are hackable to the point of installing a full Linux system on them to replace Chrome OS, at which point they just become a cheap laptop with a convoluted initial OS install process.


But that's then not a ChromeOS machine.


I'm ok with this as long as there is always an alternative to retreat to if we need to. Even if it means throwing all my consumer electronics in the street.


The real analogy is that we're taking away pencils because writing in the wrong book can cause you to lose all your money and cause months of problems. And these books are disguised as your own diary, cookbooks, maps and the TV guide.


No, it's like taking away books because you can give yourself a papercut, or pencils because you can stab yourself with one - if you use common sense, you won't.


As someone who has worked in the mobile pc support industry, what HN users would call "common sense" isn't really that common. I don't think developers and power users truly understand how common the huge gap is between them and non-technical users. I've given sessions on things as simple as mouse movement and basic GUI file management with drag and drop is a challenge.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely do not support "walled gardens" that are now becoming common and I don't think they are the solution to this problem. Power should always be left in the hands of the user, the solution is education. This is of course a social issue and one of gigantic scale. There are so many strong political hurdles to overcome that I'm not surprised that the industry has taken the approach it currently has.


> Power should always be left in the hands of the user, the solution is education. 100% agreement. Of course, in some ways the industry doesn't want users to be educated, since then they would be hard to get to be under their control.




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