First 37Signals announced it would drop support for OpenID. Then Microsoft’s Dare Obasanjo called OpenID a failure (along with XML and AtomPub). Former Facebooker Yishan Wong’s scathing (and sometimes wrong) rant calling OpenID a failure is one of the more popular answers on Quora.
But if OpenID is a failure, it’s one of the web’s most successful failures.
I was always of the mind that said Single Sign-on is a good thing, not bad. And any service whether it be for work or outside of work that can re-use an identifier and authentication, or whatnot should make things easier to manage and possibly be more secure in the long run. There are proponents for and against anything that looks or acts like a single sign-on. Detractors always argue that if one of the services gets hacked they somehow can gain access to your password and identity and hack in to your accounts on all the other systems out there. In reality with a typical single sign-on service you don’t ever send a password to the place your logging into (unless it’s the source of record like the website that hosts your OpenID). Instead you send something more like a scrambled message that only you could have originated and which the website you’re logging into will be able to descramble. And the message it is sending is based on your OpenID provider, the source of record for your identity online. So nobody is storing your password, nobody is able to hack into all your other accounts when they hijack your favorite web service.
Where I work I was a strong advocate for centralized identity management like OpenID. Some people thought the only use for this was as a single sign-on service. But real centralize identity management also encompasses the authorizations you have once you have declared and authenticated your identity. And it’s the authorization that is key to what is really useful for a Single Sign-on service.
I may be given a ‘role’ within someone’s website or page on a social networking website that either adds or takes away levels off privacy to the person who has declared me as a ‘friend’. And if they wanted to ‘redefine’ my level of privilege, all they would have to do is change privileges for that ‘role’ not for me personally and all my levels of access would change accordingly. Why? Because a role is kind off like a rank or group membership. Just like everyone in the army who is an officer can enjoy benefits like attending an officers club because they have the role, officer. I can see more of a person’s profile or personal details because I have been declared a friend. Nowhere in this is it absolutely necessary to define specific restrictions, levels of privilege to me Individually! It’s all based on my membership in a group. And if someone wants to eliminate that group or change the permissions to all members of the group, they do it once, and only once to the definition of that role, and it rolls out, cascades out to all the members after that point. So OpenID can be authentication (which is what most people stop at) and it can additionally be authorization (what am I allowed and not allowed to do once I prove who I am). It’s a very powerful and poorly understood capability.
The widest application I’ve seen so far using something like OpenID is the Facebook ‘sign-on’ service that allows you to make comments to articles on news websites and weblogs. Disqus is a third party provider that acts as a hub to anyone that wants to re-use someone’s Facebook or OpenID credentials to prove that they are real and not a rogue spambot. That chain of identity is maintained by Disqus providing the plumbing back to whichever of the many services someone might be subscribed to or participate in. I already have an OpenID but I also have a Facebook account. Disqus will allow me to use either one. Given how much information might be passed along by Facebook through a third party (something they are notorious for allowing Applications to do) I chose to use my OpenID which more or less says I am X user at X website and I am the owner of that website as well. A chain of authentications just good enough to allow me to make comments on an article is what OpenID provides. Not too much information, just enough information travels back and forth. And because of this absolute precision, abolishing all the unneeded private detail or having to create an account on the website hosting the article, I can just freely come and go as I please.
Now I understand that Wikileaks was also a user of the Amazon EC2 service, so I’m a little hesitant to promote them after Amazon dropped Wikileaks from their service. However, I am just so overwhelmingly curious about the application for cloud computing when it comes to personal websites and blogging. That is why I am passing along this article and will be trying out the EC2 for Poets web app. I’m also curious to find out the charges I will rack up from Amazon by ‘trying it out’. If it gets prohibitively expensive, I will quickly pull the plug.
Winer wants to demystify the server. “Engineers sometimes mystify what they do, as a form of job security,” writes Winer, “I prefer to make light of it… it was easy for me, why shouldn’t it be easy for everyone?”
Dave Winer believes Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is the path towards a more self reliant, self actualizing future for anyone who keeps any of their data on the Internet. So he proposes a project entitled EC2 for Poets. Having been a user of Dave’s blogging software in the past, Radio Userland, I’m very curious as to what the new project looks like.
Back in the old days I paid $40 to Frontier for the privilege of reading and publishing my opinions on articles I subscribed to through the Radio Userland client. It was a great RSS reader at the time and I loved being able to clip and snip out bits of articles and embed my comments around them. I then subsequently moved on to Bloglines and now Google Reader exactly in that order. Now I use WordPress to keep my comments and article snippets organized and published on the Web.
A few news outlets have also speculated on the meaning of Samsung’s announcement of their newest, largest capacity 1.8 inch HDD. Now some enterprising tech news hounds have discovered that the supply off the iPod Classic is ‘constrained’ through bigger outlets like Amazon.com though the Apple Store online seems to still be showing supplies of the gray colored option. Which all leads to the question what gives?
Apple could potentially upgrade the Classic to use a recent 220GB Toshiba drive, sized at the 1.8 inches the player would need.
Interesting indeed, it appears Apple is letting supplies run low for the iPod Classic. No word immediately as to why but there could be a number of reasons as speculated in this article. Most technology news websites understand the divide between the iPhone/Touch operating system and all the old legacy iPod devices (an embedded OS that only runs the device itself). Apple would like to consolidate its consumer products development efforts by slowly winnowing out non-iOS based ipods. However, due to the hardware requirements demanded by iOS, Apple will be hard pressed to jam such a full featured bit of software into iPod nano and iPod shuffles. So whither the old click wheel interface iPod empire?
I still think the iPod Classic is a very useful product. A lot of fanbois of the iPhone/Touch persuasion will demand Apple drop the Classic like a hot potato and go without spinning hard drives one and for all time. I say bring on the HDDs. It’s useful technology and still holds more files for less money even as Flash memory prices come down and volume production ramps up.
Toshiba Storage Device Division has introduced its MKxx39GS series 1.8-inch spinning platter drives with SATA connectors.
Seeing this announcement reminded me a little of the old IBM Microdrive. A 1.8″ wide spinning disk that fit into a Compact Flash sized form factor (roughly 1.8″ square). Those drives were at the time 340MB and astoundingly dense storage format that digital photographs gravitated to very quickly. Eventually this Microdrive was improved up to around 1GByte per drive in the same small form factor. Eventually the market for this storage dried up as smaller and smaller cameras became available with larger and larger amounts of internal storage and slots for removable storage like Sony’s Memory stick format or the SD Card format. The Microdrive was also impeded by a very high cost per MByte versus other available storage by the end of its useful lifespan.
But no one knows what new innovative products might hit the market. Laptop manufacturers continued to improve on their expansion bus known as PCMCIA, PC Card and eventually Card Bus. The idea was you could plug any kind of device you wanted into that expansion bus connect to a a dial-up network, a wired Ethernet network or a Wireless network. Card Bus was 32-bit clean and designed to be as close to the desktop PCI expansion bus as possible. Folks like Toshiba were making small hard drives that would fit the tiny dimensions of that slot, containing all the drive electronics within the Card Bus card itself. Storage size improved as the hard drive market itself improved the density of it’s larger 2.5″ and 3.5″ desktop hard drive product.
I remember the first 5GByte Card Bus hard drive and marveling at how far folks at Toshiba and Samsung had outdistanced IBM. Followed soon after by the 10GByte drive. However just as we wondered how cool this was, Apple created a copy of a product being popularized by a company named Rio. It was a new kind of hand held music player that primarily could play back audio .mp3 files. It could hold 5GBytes of music (compared to 128MBytes and 512MBytes for most top of the line Rio products at the time). It had a slick, and very easy to navigate interface with a spinning wheel you could click down on with the thumb of your hand. Yes it was the first generation iPod and it demanded a large quantity of those little bitty hard drives Samsung and Toshiba were bringing to market.
Each year storage density would increase and a new generation of drives would arrive. Each year a new iPod would hit the market taking advantage of the new hard drives. The numbers seemed to double very quickly. 20Gig, 30Gig-the first ‘video’ capable iPod, 40Gig,60gig,120gig and finally today the iPod Classic at a whopping 160GBytes of storage! And then the great freeze, the slowdown and transition to Flash memory based iPods which were mechanically solid state. No moving parts, no chance for mechanical failure, no loss of data and speeds unmatched by any hard drive of any size currently on the market. The Flash storage transition also meant lower power requirements, longer battery time and now for the first time the real option of marrying a cell phone with your iPod (I do know there was an abortive attempt to do this on a smaller scale with Motorola phones @ Cingular). The first two options were 4GB and 8GB iPhones using the solid state flash memory. So wither the iPod classic?
iPod Classic is still on the market for those wishing to pay slightly less than the price for an iPod touch. You get much larger amount of total storage (video and audio both) but things have stayed put at 160GBytes for a very long time now. Manufacturers like Toshiba haven’t come out with any new product seeing the end in sight for the small 1.8″ hard drive. Samsung dropped it’s 1.8″ hard drives altogether seeing where Apple was going with its product plan. So I’m both surprised and slightly happy to see Toshiba soldier onward bringing out a new product. I’m thinking Apple should really do a product refresh on the iPod classic. They could also add iOS as a means of up-scaling and up-marketing the device to people who cannot afford the iPod Touch, leaving the price right where it is today.