Category: Usability

So when Google Mail started up, I managed to register “” I didn’t have any particular plan for this, I just figured that it was entertaining, and a good, harmless prank could be made of it. (I specifically emailed a friend who works for Google security about it, and mentioned it in person next time we saw each other.) Google has just closed the account.

The termination clause of their terms of use clearly allow this: “Google may at any time and for any reason terminate the Services, terminate this Agreement, or suspend or terminate your account.”

So, I’m not really complaining. I do wish I’d gotten a good prank from it.

I do hope they don’t terminate the accounts that were associated with it, because a bunch of family members are using their accounts more in line with the way Google wants you to. But this raises a real worry. The lack of consideration for your account, along with that clause, may allow them to shut you out of your email. I’m glad I’m not seriously using the service.

There’s a great business in selling gmail appliances for corporate email, I think. Google’s reconsideration of the use of email was well overdue, and I’d like to be able to use their work without such worries.

Shih shih…

The great linguist Chao Yuen-Ren once wrote an essay in Chinese using only words which (in Mandarin) would be transliterated as shih (using Wade-Giles; shi in pinyin). You can see the text in characters and two transliterations, read the translation (“A poet by the name of Shih Shih living in a stone den was fond of lions…”), and hear both Mandarin and Cantonese readings here

Via LanguageHat, where you can see the reference chain.


Over at Freedom To Tinker, Ed Felten writes about the Wikipedia quality debate.
He takes a sampling of six entries where he’s competent to judge their quality, and assesses them. Two were excellent, one was slightly inaccurate, two were more in depth, but perhaps less accessible than a standard encyclopedia, and one (on the US Microsoft anti-trust case) was error-prone.
Ed writes: “Until I read the Microsoft-case page, I was ready to declare Wikipedia a clear success.” However, I think his experiment is only one-third to one-half done. I think that Ed ought to look up the same 6 entries in another encyclopedia or two, and report back. I’d suggest the Britannica, which is usually considered the gold standard, and perhaps Microsoft’s Encarta, which may be the most widely used.
I can’t do this experiment the way Ed can, because firstly, I don’t have an EB account, and second, because I don’t know all the topics to the depth he does. I could pretend, and perhaps miss errors that he’d catch, or sample six other articles, and perhaps I will over the weekend.

Unrecoverable Damage?

I’m reading through NIST SP-800-70 (pdf), the NIST guide to producing security configuration guides. Let me get more coffee before I continue. Thanks for waiting.

“If home users and other users without deep security expertise attempt to apply High Security checklists to their systems, they would typically experience unwanted limitations on system functionality and possibly unrecoverable system damage.”

Can someone explain to me how you can break a system that badly? I mean, sure, it can be hard to get a new boot block, or a new kernel in place, but once you do, you can recover things.
I’m very down on a system message that implies that modifying your computer can cause unrecoverable damage. It inherently inhibits tinkering, perhaps even more than laws do. After all, we see how effective laws against sharing music or drugs are. But scaring someone into not touching that config file with the threatened loss of all their data? There’s a security measure for you!