Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 3rd Nov 2011 22:54 UTC
Mac OS X And so the iOS-ification of Mac OS X continues. Apple has just announced that all applications submitted to the Mac App Store have to use sandboxing by March 2012. While this has obvious security advantages, the concerns are numerous - especially since Apple's current sandboxing implementation and associated rules makes a whole lot of applications impossible.
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RE[5]: Comment by frderi
by Neolander on Sun 6th Nov 2011 16:35 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by frderi"
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If you're already blown off your socks and find this improbable, you should really have a look at how the stuxnet worm works. THAT is scary stuff. If you haven't, it basically targetted specific Siemens controllers of nuclear purification machinery in a certain country. The worm needed to bridge a great distance over the internet, overcome the fact that these machines were not connected to a LAN (so it spread over USB as well), and needed to insert itself into the controller to cause havoc. And it all needed to do it on autopilot, remain undetected and not cause too much collateral damage in the process. Talk about digital warfare. If you read about how it achieved this, the kinds of exploits I mentioned earlier are kindergarten material.

I agree that software protections which are good enough against everyday desktop and mobile threats will be insufficient against targeted attacks with colossal financial and human means like Stuxnet. When you're facing this sort of attacks, you need NASA-like permanent code auditing and warfare-like financial and human means to achieve good security.

However, I also believe that that the average desktop/mobile user is not likely to have to worry about this anytime soon.

Downloading in Safari will automount the dmg and take out the application for you. For installing system components, you can create .pkg and .mpkg packages. And ofcourse, the App Store already puts the app in the right place for you. Come to think of it, I think not having installers on Mac is better, since contrary to windows, Mac apps don't need all the .dll stuff in the right places to run properly; It also makes clear to the user that running an app won't leave any potential nasty stuff spread around your system.

Hmmm... Which version of OS X are we talking about here ? I think that on the (admittedly a little old) 10.5 machines which I'm used to, Safari automatically mounts and opens dmgs but does not do anything else.

I really, really do not like Windows-like installers, but I see the value in standard packages whose installation goes a bit beyond copying a folder at a standard location. File associations, applications which start on system boot, security permissions... All that benefits from being managed at once during "installation" time.

I wouldn't mind seeing dedicated software put out by these services to make the process more streamlined. Some of the more important services, like banking transactions for companies, use this approach.

I see a value in having sensitive stuff such as banking managed by web services myself. When a vulnerability is discovered in a piece of code which handles financial transactions, you really want that vulnerability to be fixed immediately, and nothing beats web-based services for ease of updating ;)

But I guess that the risk is small for extremely simple applications which are just an I/O peripheral for a big cloud service.

The access to personal information is just a minor one. Then again, not an unimportant one. Bigger dangers I think are the fact that smartphones have location-based functionality. This can be exploited for all sorts of nasty things. Another thing is that smartphones are basically tiny computers which are mostly always always-on always-connected devices. There will also a great many more of them than desktop PCs. The fact that they're mobile also makes them harder to crack down. Can you imagine a botnet on millions of smartphones? Last but not least smartphones are able to generate additional cost. And whenever there's cost, there's a potential for malicious profit. Thats why I think you need tighter control on smartphone OSes than you need on Desktop PC's. So I think its really crucial that you run up-to-date software on a modern smartphone and have the mechanisms in place to facilitate that. Since the risk for disaster is many times bigger than desktop computers.

Alright, I give you this one ;) In this light, smartphones are indeed a quite "dangerous" piece of tech that must be handled with care.

Spot on. thats why other devices need other approaches when it comes to UI. But it doesn't stop at just the primary controls. Building a good tablet or smartphone UI is completely different than building a good Desktop app. You can't just "slap on" fixes for these basic controls and call it a day. You need to reimagine the app entirely.

You are right that cross-device portability, if possible, would be about much more than basic UI fixes. I've not started full work on that yet, but an interesting path to study, in my opinion, would be to start with a relatively abstract theory of human-computer interactions, then gradually specialize it towards the kind of devices and users which the OS or application wants to target.

Like, if we went extremely far on the "abstract" end of the spectrum, a basic clock application's UI would transmit a periodically updated text information to the user. And an SMS inbox would ask the user to pick an object from a list of items that are defined by a set of characteristics (Sender, short description, reception date, read/not read), where items which are not read are highlighted by the UI.

This is to be contrasted with the current approach to UI design, which at the other extreme aims at describing every single detail of the user-software interaction, and as such is extremely vulnerable to a change of hardware, be it only a move to a different screen size.

Of course, there are less extreme approaches in the middle, with both some control and some flexibility. And then there is the multiscalar approach, where developers start by designing their UI at a very general level, then define the specifics of some forms of interaction which they specifically focus on (keyboard, finger, mouse and voice input, screen and voice output...)

The primary reason for this is that Windows isn't modular enough and it being a jack of all trades. When you try too do too much, you tend to suck at everything.

And when you do too little, people just say "meh" and move along ;) I guess that defining reasonable goals for a product must be one of the hardest tasks of engineering !

A lot of the UI conventions and methodology that make sense on a desktop computer don't make sense at all on a mobile app. Mobile apps don't have windows, they work fullscreen. (...)

Well, they do have windows, in the sense of a private display which the application may put its UI into without other software interfering. It just happens that these windows are not resizable, full screen, and as a consequence are hard to close and can only be switched using the operating system's task switcher. Which makes multi-windows interfaces impractical. But those ought to disappear anyway ;)

And although they do not have a mouse, they still have pointer-based UIs. Only this time, the pointer is a huge greasy finger instead of being a pixel-precise mouse, so hovering actions must not be a vital part of the UI, and controls must be made bigger to be usable. Since controls are bigger and screens are smaller, less controls can be displayed at once, and some controls must either go of be only accessible through scrolling. But this does not have to be fully done by hand, UI toolkits could do a part of the job if the widget set was designed with cross-device portability in mind...

Edited 2011-11-06 16:38 UTC

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