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LETTER

Windows ‘Unreliable,’ Doesn’t Support AFS

The inability or refusal of some to adapt to the unknown [“‘Sliced Bread’ Better Than Athena,” Mar. 7] should not alter Athena’s policy toward the platforms they support. Windows, while a popular platform for individual personal computing, is not an appropriate platform for a secure, distributed, multiuser computing environment such as Athena.

One of the cornerstones of Athena is the Andrew File System (AFS), a file system that protects the privacy of each of its users despite its presence in open clusters throughout campus. At this time, Windows does not support AFS; hence, to support Windows boxen that have access to users’ lockers would require those lockers to be available in an insecure manner. I would lobby strongly against such a move, as it would questionably improve usability while completely destroying the security model on which the privacy of my locker is founded.

A better solution than eliminating security is improving usability of the existing machines: such improvements could include the addition of Gnome as a desktop environment choice, the replacement of the unmaintained and extremely primitive mh with a generic UNIX mail file, the addition of SSL-secure IMAP and/or POP servers, and the installation of the latest free software end-user applications such as Mozilla, Gnumeric, and Abiword. Such changes would vastly improve utility of the Athena clusters without compromising security.

Even were Windows to suddenly support AFS, I would still be strongly against the replacement of any of the incredibly stable SGI and Sun machines -- already scarce during peak hours -- with Windows machines notorious for unreliability. Integration of Windows-based computing into Athena should occur only when that platform is as reliable and robust as the currently supported UNIX platforms, and no sooner.


Kyle Rose G