AusCert 2010: Brilliant engineers in Microsoft walled-garden, says Linux expert

User Access Controls "suck less than you think"

Linux communities are hostile and Microsoft is a walled garden "stuffed-full of brilliant engineers", according to a former Linux, now Microsoft engineer, Crispin Cowan.

In an AusCERT 2010 presentation titled "a Linux guy in a Microsoft world", Cowan said the stereotypes of Microsoft engineers as "baroque money-hogs", and Linux engineers as "open, passionate experts" were not "entirely true".

"Linux communities are shockingly hostile to women and newbies, attack failures to conform to norms and God help you if you top post," Cowan said. "Everyone is a butt-head.

"Microsoft is a closed garden, but it really has the same lump of engineers [as Linux] who are doing nerd things."

Cowan said his ideas to improve Microsoft products, forged in the Linux communities before he took the job last year, were rejected because "the 80,000 engineers had already invented and tested them."

Cowan also argued that User Access Controls (UAC) had improved Microsoft Windows security. According to figures from the software giant, 65 per cent of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 users had not recieved an Access Control prompt during a single session.

The figure was as high as 80 per cent for enterprise users, but only half for those using Vista without the service updates.

"UAC sucks less than you think," he said. "It was designed to teach applications not to depend on administration rights [but] it was like forcing a barefoot kid to start wearing boots."

Cowan said 88 per cent of Windows 7 users leave UAC on, and "only whiny bloggers turn it off."

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