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Ubiquity, Volume 2000 Issue May, May 1 - May 31 2000 | BY John Gehl 


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I found Bill Joy's comments about Microsoft to be seriously misplaced. For example, he claims that LoveBug was the consequence of Microsoft not getting economic signals correct. Microsoft is delivering to customers what the customers say they want, which is wide-open, security-free environments capable of executing "cool" graphics from the Web. The economic signals from the marketplace are quite strong. In fact, Microsoft characterizes one major difference between their professional offerings and their consumer offerings being the consumer offerings have no security or file protection, because consumers don't want it.

In discussing the Web-content problem with a friend a couple of days ago, he told me that it was NetScape that introduced the concept of active scripting in Web pages; Microsoft had to play catch-up on this one. So, if there is any one party that can be accused of compromising the security of millions of computers, it is NetScape. But we're not allowed to say bad things about NetScape because it's the Poor Downtrodden Competitor. This would not be politically correct.

I have turned off all active scripting, removed the Windows Scripting Host from my machines, and refuse to open any attachments that have active content, period. This makes a number of Web sites inaccessible to me, and I can't convince various WebMasters that active content on the Web is a stupid idea. Why do they use active scripting? Because, they say, it makes their Web site more attractive, easier to use, or some such balderdash. To me, it means they are willing to conspire either to be virus vectors or demand that we compromise our immune systems. I consider active Web content to be a sign of social irresponsibility.

Until we start boycotting Web sites that require that we open our computers to penetration, they won't get the message. This is not a Microsoft problem. It is the result of irresponsible WebMasters creating an environment in which systems must be inherently vulnerable.

The hypocritical aspect of [Joy's] comments is that back in the early 1980s we refused to install email on our Sun workstations, because of several well-known security holes. This caused our sysadmin much grief, but he held the line and required everyone to get email on our mainframe. Sun was informed numerous times about these security holes, and their attitude was, as I recall, "We could fix it, but we won't, because fixing it would inconvenience our developers". . . . Several of these holes let Robert Tappan Morris get his Internet Worm into Sun systems all over the world. It is worth pointing out that Sun assumed no responsibility for this, and as far as I know never apologized for it. . . . I don't think anyone from Sun is entitled to point fingers at Microsoft. . . . How quickly we seem to forget our own history!

-- joseph m. newcomer

Teaching the Nintendo Generation

Re: " The Untried Approach," (Ubiquity, May 23-29, 2000)

As the Nintendo generation's demands for better interactivity practically erased the existence of educational software, something wonderful happened while we weren't looking. Suddenly, a new environment sprang up in software (not destined for education, but certainly captivating). It is interconnected, networked, distributed, and provides Web-based interaction in multiuser, non-linear, dynamic real time. Suddenly, we see kids who can see each other on the computer interacting with the environment with avatars representing their persona on-line. This environment is in some respects like the apprenticeship guilds where master taught apprentice while he was involved in performing the tasks he was expected to excel at in the future. In fact in this new environment, kids pair up with mentors to navigate very complex, three-dimensional spaces, learning to interact with the objects, gaining experience, trading knowledge objects, and learning (with great motivation) how to progress rapidly to the next level of achievement. Oh yes, and they rarely come up for air if given the opportunity to wander around in these interactive, immersive learning environments. Or, should I call them what they are really: games -- multiuser, multiplayer, 3-D environments that represent the new world of e-commerce, e-business, e-learning, and e-society. It is clear that software, high bandwidth interactivity, with interactions in collaborative places, will help education. What isn't for sure is how we're going to get developers, educators, and policy decision-makers to develop these kinds of software solutions. It is imperative that we start creating these new educational worlds to rapidly respond to our new knowledge economy.

-- Randy J. Hinrichs


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