Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You know how you and your friends are on the Internet all the time? That's why we can't have nice things.

So, I was reading this CT post about the legal intricacies involved with Amazon booting Wikileaks from its servers, and I saw mention of a computer security guy named Markus Kuhn, and I thought that name sounded vaguely familiar, so I looked him up. Though he sounds like an impressive guy (ADE 651, anyone?), I realized he wasn't who I was thinking of. I was thinking of computer security guy Marcus Ranum. I don't know about Markus, but Marcus can sure make highly geeky stuff fascinating to listen to.

Here is a TEDx talk he gave in November of 2009, and here is how he introduces the video on his home page:

When TED invited me to do a talk, I was in a bit of a panic. The initial request was that I do a talk about Department of Homeland Security, based on my rather unsuccessful book "The Myth of Homeland Security." I explained that if TED is supposed to be forward-thinking and optimistic, it would probably be a bad idea to stand up and say "I told you so" and point and jeer. So I asked if I could do a sort of historical talk, instead. The idea behind this talk has been in the back of my mind for the better part of a decade, ever since I started looking closely at FTP, and wondering "if the guys who coded that knew it'd be around for this long, would they have done it differently?" As Ray Wylie Hubbard says: "the most important thing about songwriting is, when you finish a song, to ask yourself if you still want to be playing it 25 years later." As I look at computing, I see these kind of simple "tiny" mistakes all over the place - and they are constantly costing us insane amounts of effort to maintain and deal with. We have become curators. Curators in The Museum Of Bad Software.

It's about 22 minutes long, and though some of the terms at the beginning are necessarily jargon, you won't get lost if you're computer-savvy enough to surf the Web.

(alt. video link)

(Clicking the full-screen button there in the lower-right corner of the video may help if you want to see the slides more clearly.)


More about TEDx on YouTube, their blog, and on the TED site itself.

More about Marcus Ranum on Wikipedia, and of course his own site. He also shoots pictures and other things. (Currently at the top of his home page looks like something stolen from me! ;) Trike forces are everywhere!)


Ocean said...

"It's about 22 minutes long, and though some of the terms at the beginning are necessarily jargon, you won't get lost if you're computer-savvy enough to surf the Web."

You must be kidding...

Brendan said...

I really wasn't.

Of course, I did not mean to suggest that you'd know all of what he was saying before you started listening. Which was sort of the point of recommending it!

But if it really strikes you as too much to suffer through, even after the first couple of minutes, I'm sorry for getting it wrong in how I thought it would come across.

Ocean said...

Well, I think I do get his general point about how a minor shortcoming in a very small system can become a monster as the system grows exponentially. And how there's an entire other system built around making accommodations for the original shortcoming, and how all of that could be obviated by changing to a system that is designed for the current functionality. Or something like that or the other, with geeks in between.


Brendan said...


(I wasn't planning to issue a quiz.) ;)