[rescue] NeWS

Charles Shannon Hendrix shannon at widomaker.com
Thu Feb 2 13:25:59 CST 2006

Tue, 31 Jan 2006 @ 16:22 -0600, Jonathan C. Patschke said:

> It's a community flaw in developers and Microsoft assuming Microsoft's
> that users need administrator access to their systems to play video
> cames, and it's a flawed expectation on the part of users that
> "computers are just like that"[0].

You are correct that there is a community flaw. A lot of software that
could install without admin rights still requires it. Other issues are
programs which are still basically single user, a lack of standards for
multi-user data storage in Windows (too many possible locations, some
hidden from the user), and things like that.  Some of it is Microsoft's
fault, some of it is developers not taking the time to do it right.

However, I worked for a shop years ago that wrote Windows installers,
and their problems were definitely technical.

For example, the scripting system that is supposed to trigger
user-install portions of new software, whenever a user logs in after
some software has been installed, was a constant headache.

It simply does not work correctly, and can fail to work at all. The
failures can leave bits behind that continue to try and run on every
startup and user login, requiring cleanup most users can't handle.

It also doesn't always work with multi-user issues, which is a whole
other set of problems.

Can you really blame a developer for using admin privs to work around
that kind of tech support nightmare? Those are all technical problems,
not social issues.

As far as admin privs goes, part of the noise generated by Starforce is
that installing filter drivers using a Windows priv elevation exploit is
old news. That's a security flaw, and I don't think it has been fixed

I worked with a Windows system hacker who showed me how he could do this
with a standard user account and a C compiler, so I know it is possible.
I know he was able to do it up to Windows 2000, which shares an awful
lot with Windows XP.

> Suppose I wrote a character device driver (which allowed writes from
> UIDs > 0) for Unix that took pairs of ordered integers like this:

Of course you can do bad things with UNIX.

But I don't think we'll ever see things get as bad.

For one thing, a UNIX system is a whole lot more visible than a Windows
system, and has a lot of tools for preventing and finding problems like

I can check just about everything on my UNIX boxes very quickly,
including checking for unwanted kernel bits. I admin part of that is
simply because that's what I've used for years, but some of it is also
because it is a cleaner and more consistent system.

Doing the same thing on Windows... first of all I doubt I can. If I
could, I suspect it would take hours, if not days. There just aren't any
good tools for doing the work, and a lot of the information you need is
missing or incomplete. Even just cleaning up my system of problems takes
me quite a while, and I never feel confident that I am really finished.

It's also correct that if you saw a lot of games and other software for
UNIX systems, companies would try to implement all manner of nasty
kernel tricks.

However, UNIX is so much more visible that I believe such practices
would less successful, and I believe we have to tools to find them and
also prevent them.

If people started having to install games as root on UNIX, they'd
probably start using wrappers that protected the kernel and other bits
that didn't need touching.

Most UNIX provide tools like that, in various forms.

So I recognize the potential for problems, but also see that it would be
a much different game than on Windows.

Incidentally: I never hear anything about issues like this for MacOS X.
Is it just not popular enough yet?

shannon "AT" widomaker.com -- ["I wish life was not so short. Languages
take such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about." - J.
R. R. Tolkien]

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