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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Good move
by frderi on Fri 4th Nov 2011 08:03 UTC
frderi
Member since:
2011-06-17

I for one welcome the change. Apple is one of the only companies which can actually pull off having the majority of its desktop apps use sandboxing by default, making it a technology which actually benefits the user because its being used instead of being an interesting concept ignored by almost everyone.

The PC world we have now is a very different place than what it was 20, 30 years ago. We used to have these puny standalone machines in front of us which could barely run one app at the same time, with little room on them to store any of our data. Back in those days, the personal computer was basically a glorified crossbred between a typewriter and a calculator. These days we have boxes filled with more system resources than most will ever use, and they're storing a ton of personal information, and are mostly available on a global network, the internet.

Yet the basic concept that applications use to run really hasn't changed all that much from the first computers. In all that time, the bottom line remained, when an app has certain privileges to execute, there's no telling what its doing on your machine.

As stated earlier, there's already been a tech around to fix it for quite some time now. Its just that in the world of an uncurated platform, developers tend to be lazy and take the easiest route to get things done. This is no longer possible with the Mac App Store, since it combines technical requirements with the ability to bring your applications to market in a digital way.

I'm not saying the rules for sandboxing applications in the Mac App Store are perfect. There more than probably are things that need further adjustments. We saw the same thing with the App Store for iOS devices. Some people cried foul when it launched, calling the approval process and the rules it tried to impose draconian. But really it turned out to be a such a huge success, that others are copying this model. It made finding and installing software on your devices a breeze, and it strongly discourages piracy, which together with the low unit price of apps makes people much more inclined to buy software instead of copying it.

Apple was the first one to actually try and pull this off on such a big scale. On the App Store, they did well enough that both users and developers benefitted. I seriously doubt apps on the iOS platform would have been such a huge deal if it weren't for the App Store. I'd say give them some credit for actually trying to make this change for the better happen. Nothing is ever perfect from the first round to go, thats why we humans developed reason, to be able to communicate any concerns one may have with another, and when it makes sense, I'm sure the policies will change. The App Store policies changed as well to facilitate things it didn't anticipate, so I'm certain the same is the case with the Mac App Store.

Edited 2011-11-04 08:05 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Good move
by karunko on Fri 4th Nov 2011 11:27 in reply to "Good move"
karunko Member since:
2008-10-28

I for one welcome the change. Apple is one of the only companies which can actually pull off having the majority of its desktop apps use sandboxing by default, making it a technology which actually benefits the user because its being used instead of being an interesting concept ignored by almost everyone.

Deep down inside I would like to retort with something along the lines of "if you're too stupid to use a computer you probably shouldn't be allowed to use one", but that wouldn't get me very far, so I'll try with some good old fashioned reasoning instead. ;-)

Looking at the list of "entitlements" in Pauli's article it should be obvious that there are plenty of perfectly legit, non trivial applications that need way more than that, so what's a developer to do? And no, the "sell your application on your own as you did before" argument doesn't cut it: either the App Store is really important and you'd be a fool not to be there, or it isn't -- but then all the people waxing lyrical about the importance of the App Store should eat their own words and go hide under a rock.

But wait, there's more: these "entitlements" are not automatic. That is, that list is not just a list of what an application can do, a developer must still "convince" Apple that his application really needs to, say, interact with a USB device or connect to remote server. Simply put: even more power to the reviewers and plenty of uncertainty for the developer -- and let's not forget that when it comes to the App Store(s) neither transparency nor consistency have a stellar record.

In other words, it could be said that this is the same old excuse that we're being offered each time we're presented with a large, bitter pill to swallow: it's for the children! it's for your own protection! it's for the common good! and so on. This is supposed to look reasonable and even "good" on the surface, but when you start thinking about the implications, or about that bit of freedom (no matter how tiny) that you are going to give up for a bit more "safety" in return, you better ask yourself: is it really worth it?

For my part, I will continue to avoid the App Store as much as I can and if a day will come when the only applications that can be installed are those sanctioned by Apple, I'll just sell my Macs and move somewhere else.


RT.

Edited 2011-11-04 11:36 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Good move
by frderi on Fri 4th Nov 2011 18:51 in reply to "RE: Good move"
frderi Member since:
2011-06-17


either the App Store is really important and you'd be a fool not to be there, or it isn't


I think the Mac App Store is especially a big deal for the consumer market. For corporations deploying apps there are better tools available. They typically use prepared system images, app server services, ASR or some other deployment tools to roll out applications.

Having both instead of either/or does not need to be problematic : The ISO you use from a corporate vendor probably won't be the issue when you're installing your legitimate pro apps. The biggest danger in getting uninvited guests on your system is mostly in small, unknown tools which you happen to need "on the fly" and you download off the internet. To this the Mac App Store offers a safe alternative to uncurated sites. So both can complement each other.


In other words, it could be said that this is the same old excuse that we're being offered each time we're presented with a large, bitter pill to swallow: it's for the children! it's for your own protection! it's for the common good!


I generally prefer "For the advancement and greater good for humanity". Get over it and enjoy the new world.


thinking about the implications, or about that bit of freedom (no matter how tiny) that you are going to give up for a bit more "safety" in return, you better ask yourself: is it really worth it?


I think there's enough empirical evidence to say there is, seeing as to how popular non curated systems get infected by filth like keyloggers, spyware, and botnets so easily.

One has to think about which freedom one prefers. The freedom to be able to tinker with your device until infinity, or the freedom to have a device which works predictably so it does the job you're set up to do. Apple has always been about the latter.

Edited 2011-11-04 18:57 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 0

RE: Good move
by JAlexoid on Fri 4th Nov 2011 16:00 in reply to "Good move"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

Apple was the first one to actually try and pull this off on such a big scale. On the App Store, they did well enough that both users and developers benefitted. I seriously doubt apps on the iOS platform would have been such a huge deal if it weren't for the App Store. I'd say give them some credit for actually trying to make this change for the better happen.

iOS AppStore was a new thing. there was no "big scale" or "change" anything. This is a major change to an existing software delivery process.
They may be able to fine tune it to have it work as well as iOS, but this will have a lot more veteran MacOS developers up in arms.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Good move
by frderi on Fri 4th Nov 2011 18:27 in reply to "RE: Good move"
frderi Member since:
2011-06-17


iOS AppStore was a new thing. there was no "big scale" or "change" anything.


Sure there was. Other mobile platforms before it didn't have App Stores and allowed you to install your apps freely. There never were as much apps written for it, though.


This is a major change to an existing software delivery process. They may be able to fine tune it to have it work as well as iOS, but this will have a lot more veteran MacOS developers up in arms.


It wouldn't be the first time Apple uprooted it platform to make a change for the better. In the last 20 years, they changed processor architectures twice (first from m68k to PowerPC, then from PowerPC to Intel), Moved to a whole other OS (Classic to OSX), deprecated an entire developer API (With carbon not going 64 bit), and axed countless other developer technologies (GameSprockets, OpenDoc, ...)

Each and every one of these changes required developers for the platform to retool their apps in a significant way. Each announced change was met with mixed reactions. So this moaning isn't new at all and will happen every time Apple decides to change something. And each time some developers throw in the towel and call it quits.

The impact of each and one of these changes on the viability of the platform have been neglible. Stuff gets rewritten conforming the new way of doing things, and gaping holes leave a space for newer, more modern apps to spring up, apps that wouldn't have seen the light of day if the legacy app using obsolete code still was around.

Also, its not like developers weren't aware of these rules. It was announced that this would be a requirement the first day the Mac App Store was launched. The only reason why it wasn't imposed from day one is to offer developers a grace period to adjust their apps on the store.

Reply Parent Score: -1

RE: Good move
by Neolander on Fri 4th Nov 2011 17:44 in reply to "Good move"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

You raise some interesting points.

First, I agree with you that it's difficult for a legacy operating system to make application sandboxing mandatory. Some compatibility will be broken, sooner or later. However, OS vendor control on applications is not the only way to do that. You can also do it the Microsoft way, by pushing an OS release that breaks compatibility, but is advantageous in other ways, like Windows x64 breaks DOS compatibility. At some point, everyone will use the new release, although it can take some time.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Good move
by frderi on Fri 4th Nov 2011 19:26 in reply to "RE: Good move"
frderi Member since:
2011-06-17

First, I agree with you that it's difficult for a legacy operating system to make application sandboxing mandatory. Some compatibility will be broken, sooner or later. However, OS vendor control on applications is not the only way to do that. You can also do it the Microsoft way, by pushing an OS release that breaks compatibility, but is advantageous in other ways, like Windows x64 breaks DOS compatibility. At some point, everyone will use the new release, although it can take some time.


True, but name me one digital protection scheme which hasn't been compromized. Whenever there's software, there's bugs, and whenever there's bugs, there's exploits. DVD Copy protection, Blu-Ray, SSL Certificates are all living proof of this.


Second, although the implementation is more than perfectible, Android showcases that sandboxing can be introduced on a new OS without draconian OS vendor control.


To what benefit? Android leads the pack by far in terms mobile OS exploits.


Third, you state that vendor-controlled application stores make it easier to find and install software.


It makes it far more easier for the bulk of the non-tech users to find their software, since the Mac App Store is installed and available by default on the system.


word of mouth remains the main way of discovering new software with or without app stores.


For a couple of apps, yes. for many others, no. If you're a heavy user of a certain productivity suite to do the grunt of your work, the chance is big you already know the app you're going to install. But there generally won't be many of these apps sitting on your system. For most of the smaller utilities, where you are looking for a solution for a functionality you are missing, a centralized system which lists the available software is more beneficial. And often times, one gets to know newer, better alternatives when searching apps on a big app aggregator, you wouldn't have had the same convenient list of available applications with just a few keystrokes while using search engines like Google.

As for installation itself, it is made easy not by the use of app stores themselves, but by the standard application packages they use. You are right that application stores are better for paying applications, though, but I don't know up to which point (PayPal is a universal mean of buying software on the internet, and software can use the same kind of DRMs as app stores to reduce piracy).


I think uncurated payment over the internet is currently not without its quirks, they're a mixed bag in terms of user experience at best. There might be delays between the purchase and the availability of the application to the end user because of limited resources in purchase processing at the application vendor, vendor-provided payment systems might not be up to par to security precautions and are more prone to be compromised and their information harvested, or worst of all, the vendor might not deliver on the goods at all, because of scam schemes or because they just went out of business. The Mac App Store eliminates all these. It offers a streamlined and predictable purchase and install process that is not available at this level on other software aggregators on the internet.

Edited 2011-11-04 19:35 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Good move
by Neolander on Fri 4th Nov 2011 18:03 in reply to "Good move"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Second, although the implementation is more than perfectible, Android showcases that sandboxing can be introduced on a new OS without draconian OS vendor control.

Third, you state that vendor-controlled application stores make it easier to find and install software. I believe this is quite a suspicious statement. Finding good software in huge repositories is actually quite long and difficult, and word of mouth remains the main way of discovering new software with or without app stores. As for installation itself, it is made easy not by the use of app stores themselves, but by the standard application packages they use. You are right that application stores are better for paying applications, though, but I don't know up to which point (PayPal is a universal mean of buying software on the internet, and software can use the same kind of DRMs as app stores to reduce piracy).

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Good move
by Neolander on Fri 4th Nov 2011 18:10 in reply to "Good move"
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Finally, as for iOS owing its success to its App Store, I'm again quite skeptical. The first iPhone sold extremely well without having it, and Unix repositories, which are extremely close ancestors, have never allowed the Linux desktop to get a strong foothold outside of the corporate world, so I'm not sure there is a clear-cut relationship between both.

Reply Parent Score: 1