Thursday, May 28, 2009

Security, UI and things between

I'm not sure when exactly that happened, but it seems I got myself a name of someone who truly hates Microsoft. For instance, yesterday a friend of mine was really shocked to hear some good criticism from me regarding Windows 7. Some of you may be surprised to read this, but I do not hate Microsoft. I have friends working for Microsoft, and I myself once considered a position there.

Yesterday, a friend of mine, who's using IE7 on Windows XP was infected with some virus. It's low detection rates by AV products, suggests it's a rather new one. Luckily enough, I recommend people (including this friend) which are using Windows for some reason, to install Avira AntiVirus, as my profession taught me it is better (most of the time) from the others.
Having used some useful tricks I learned at work, and the handy ThreatExpert, we were able to clean the infection and restore the computer to a healthy state.

After the virus issue was solved, we began quite a long conversation, which lasted today's entire morning and noon, about how the infection was done in the first place, how it could have been avoided, and what measures can be taken to prevent future cases. We both agreed that popular products, such as Windows, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and the likes, are much more prone to be trageted by attackers, and this is why much more exploits exists out there to these products. Firefox is no different, in the past few years it gained huge popularity, and to some estimates it controls over 30% of the browsers market - not a number that could be easily ignored. Firefox, as well, is targeted by cyber criminals, and we see many attempts to push malware through its holes. Nonetheless, Firefox's vulnerabilities, once discovered, are handled much quicker than IE's, a fact making it much less exposed to cyber attacks.

So after many persuasions, the friend agreed to install Firefox and use it exclusively for an entire week. Had Firefox failed to supply the goods, he'll try Google's Chrome or Opera.
Soon after he started browsing the web using Firefox, I started getting complaints:
  • Firefox is slower than IE. I said he should remove any old Firefox remains he might have, and install it freshly.
  • A web site isn't working properly. Not giving a clue why. After I checked the issue, it seemed he missed the Flash add-on. Awkward, as the browser was supposed to say something is wrong. New version of the Flash player was installed - and everything works.
  • No apply button in the settings dialog.
What? Wait a second... what was that last point? No apply button?
It never occurred to me that the Windows version of Firefox differs from the one installed on my Ubuntu. Go and have a look at your settings dialog. If you're using Ubuntu (I guess this applies to other Linux-es as well), your settings dialog would include a Close button, and a Help button. Every modification you make, is immediately applied. If you're using Windows, You'd have a OK button, and a Cancel button, but indeed no Apply button. This means that if you make several modifications, you can't easily undo only the last of them. A bug regarding this issue exists ever since 2003, but it doesn't seem to go nowhere.

Maybe Windows users are used to lame UI.

I won't even start about arguing that using a different OS, and a different software stack would solve the entire issue on the first place. But what I heard is a professional user willing to live with virus threats, lame UI, the need to upgrade software manually, accept downtime, and tons of other issues, for reasons I don't fully understand.


  1. The [OK], [Apply] and [Cancel] buttons on options dialogs in windows apps always annoyed me - I always stalled for a moment having to choose between [OK] and [Apply] which basically do the same thing. And [Cancel] means - "I think I f**ked up the settings somehow, get me out of here!".

    Chrome's options dialog has one button - [Close], which simply means - "We're done here". I use Chrome more and more instead of Firefox, despite the lack of extensions, because of it's speed and simplicity.

  2. That's funny, since this is exactly what I said: Chrome has only a [Close] button, just like the Linux version of Firefox, and just like any other Mac OS application. This is a better/simple design.

    I also recommend Chrome for its speed and lack of live exploitations out there.

    But as I said, some people used to some old UI some software vendor feeds them, will have trouble to let go.