This is my first column written on a Mac – ever. Maybe I should have done it a long time ago, but I never said I was smart, just obstinate. I was a PC bigot.
But now, I’ve had it. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.
In the coming weeks I’m going to keep a diary of an experiment my company began at 6 p.m. April 29, 2005 – an experiment predicated on the hypothesis that the WinTel platform represents the greatest violation of the basic tenets of information security and has become a national economic security risk. I do not say this lightly, and I have never been a Microsoft basher, either. I never criticize a company without a fair bit of explanation, justification and supportive evidence.
I have come to the belief that there is a much easier, more secure way to use computers. After having spent several years focusing my security work on Ma, Pa and the Corporate Clueless, I also have come to the conclusion that if I’m having such security problems, heaven help the 98 percent of humanity who merely want a computer for e-mail and multimedia.
Even though I’m a security guy going on 22 years now, my day-to-day work is pretty much like everyone else’s. I live on laptops and use my desktops at home and the office for geeking and experimenting. My two day-to-day laptops (two, for 24/7 backup) are my business machines. I don’t need them to do a whole lot – except work reliably, which is why I am fed up with WinTel.
I want my computer to function every time I turn it on. I want my computer to not corrupt data when it does crash. I use a handful of applications: Microsoft Office, e-mail, browser, FTP client and some multimedia toys. Regardless of format, they should work without crashing.
I live on the ‘Net. I do not want my browser to eat up all of my memory. In the WinTel world I need an assortment of third-party tools to try to keep my PC alive. That’s just crazy.
Why does WinTel have these problems? I have heard all sorts of explanations, and I don’t subscribe to any of them. I’ve come up with my own (hopefully rational) reasons WinTel will fail – and has to fail:
Windows is complex, trying to be everything to everyone. This complexity comes at a terrible price: downtime, help desks, upgrades, patches and the inevitable failures.
When a new operating system or service pack is released, there are tons of changes to the functionality.
WinTel machines use different versions of BIOS
They are not all equal, nor do they all have the same level of compatibility.
Some Windows software applications are well written; others take shortcuts. Shortcuts may work in some environments, but not all, and ultimately the consumer pays in lost time, availability and productivity.
Hardware. There are hundreds of “WinTel-compatible” motherboards, each claiming to be better than the next. Whatever.
Memory. Not all RAM is equal. Some works well. Cheap stuff doesn’t.
Hard disks. Same problem: cheap or reliable. Your call.
Here’s my answer to the WinTel problem: We need an open Simple Operating System (SOS) that meets the needs of the majority of people who buy PCs for everyday home and enterprise tasks. Get rid of the complexity and simplify the interface between SOS, BIOS and hardware. In other words, KISS. You know what it means. KISS SOS.
Because SOS doesn’t exist yet, my company has given up on WinTel. We have successfully moved to Mac in less than two days. Think about it: a security-friendly alternative that works and doesn’t require gobs of third-party utilities to safely perform the most mundane tasks. Please follow the details of our experiment at www.securityawareness.blogspot.com. It’s already way more interesting than I thought it would be.
Schwartau is a security writer, lecturer and president of Interpact, a security awareness consulting firm. He can be reached at