Computer Weekly readers have their say.
When will people see the Mac OS X light?
I read with interest two items from Computer Weekly, 6 December: one was all about use of Linux and the issues surrounding the lack of desktop applications, and the other concerned search engines.
It struck me that neither author had even bothered to consider Mac OS X. Here we have probably the best operating system for miles around. It contains a superb search engine, Spotlight, built right into its Unix core and it really works. Because of the way it is built into the architecture it even works with searches made directly from applications.
Which brings us nicely to all those desktop applications that run under Mac OS X. Microsoft Office, the main components of which were all written for the Mac anyway, is the obvious starter for ten.
Apple's Safari browser is one of the best out there and of course there are many others, Firefox, Netscape, Internet Explorer, Opera, to name but a few. There are thousands of apps available, not to mention all those that come free and generally cost a fortune on other platforms. If you want to move away from Windows, Unix on Mac is the only cost effective way to travel.
A great, secure operating system running on excellent kit, that does not cost as much as people think, with low cost of ownership and answers to both your correspondents' queries. When will the IT world see the light? Maybe when the new Intel-powered Macs are launched next year?
Why a PC without a switch is plain crackers
Cliff Saran writes that "in spite of advances in... Windows XP and Linux, PCs are inherently unstable" (Computer Weekly, 13 December). While that may still be true of Windows, it has not been true of PCs since the 80286, and (bugs excepted) has never been true of Linux.
The 80386 introduced memory management to that chip family, and ever since it has been possible to keep the operating system and programs separate and secure from each other. The problem is that the graphical user interface (including the apps running on it) is often seen by the operating system as a single monolithic program. This is made worse, as far as Windows is concerned, in that the GUI is also part of the operating system, running with operating system privileges. On Linux, very often the apps are command-line apps accessed via a front end so they are segregated by the operating system, and if the entire GUI crashes, provided you can access the computer by some other means (such as telnet) it is still running fine and can be shut down cleanly. It's not Linux's fault that if the video card firmware has crashed the only possible fix is a power-down.
Buffer overflows are not where one application interferes with another - they are where an application is tricked into overwriting its own code in memory, such that when it finishes what it was doing and goes to do something else, that something else is the malicious code it has just downloaded. And even that can be blocked by old technology, the "execute protect" switch on AMD chips, for example, that was copied from systems tens of years old. The problem is, switching it on breaks an awful lot of modern programs that were not written properly.
As for remote management - I am already horrified by the fact that modern PCs do not have power switches, and can be switched on remotely. Just wait until the bad guys discover how to switch on all those home machines on broadband, and take them over while their owners are asleep. All this new technology is just making the crackers' lives easier, and if home users are clueless about security now, I'll bet they will be even more clueless about this new stuff.
Trust is critical for successful outsourcing
Christian Annesley's article on outsourcing (Computer Weekly, 29 November), struck an interesting note. The idea of trust in outsourcing relationships is not new, but it also applies to the individual peer to peer relationships in the deal.
Research from Morgan Chambers about five years ago established a similar viewpoint, where trust was only one of several intangibles critical to success in the relationship.
However, trust is a relative concept based on setting, meeting and exceeding expectations. The key to it is setting out a clear understanding adopted by both parties. In this context SLAs are invaluable as a framework of acceptable performance.
Trust is not only critical to maintaining the relationship, it is the foundation for the relationship long before the deal is agreed and signed. It provides the motivation to take and manage risks. Trust reflects on both parties equally. Both win or both lose.
Where most contracts break down is not in failing SLAs, but in failing to honour the trust in the relationship. SLAs are only the embodiment of what has been agreed in principle. SLAs usually fail to deliver when there are too many abstract measures. SLAs that are based on business outcomes show a stronger commitment on the part of the services provider.
And to make the relationship sustainable, the network of trust has to be extended beyond the parties who signed the deal. A sound outsourcing relationship will have multiple peer to peer relationships designed to engender trust at all levels between the client and the service provider.
Should one of the principals be removed from the relationship, this ensures continuity of trust in the contract.
Stewart Buller, Phoenix IT Services
Recognising the real values of the OFR
Following Gordon Brown's decision to abandon the Operating and Financial Review as a legal requirement for companies, it is important to recognise the real value that OFR principles bring to improving business success, as well as stakeholder confidence.
Nigel Sleigh-Johnson, head of financial reporting with The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, has already highlighted that he has not detected a huge amount of opposition from businesses, and our research supports this. Only 30% of UK CFOs surveyed saw OFR as truly onerous. In fact, 62% said that the OFR would provide value, and hence greater insight into a company's performance for stakeholders.
This cry for an improvement in performance management is being driven by business leaders, rather than regulators.
Forward thinking businesses will ignore the fact that the OFR is no longer a legal requirement, and instead focus on best practice and follow its guidelines regardless.
James Fisher, Cartesis