Wednesday, February 16, 2011

most tech stays the same

Sometimes I get a little scared of the future. I'm not exactly a luddite but i'm pretty close to it considering i'm supposed to be some computer-whiz hacker guy. Most of my hardware is years old by the time I buy it and I keep it around until it falls apart. My software... well, i'm a Slackware user, let's leave it at that. I still don't use any programming languages other than Perl and C. And apparently I can still make a very good living like this.

That's the funny thing i'm realizing... While we always have to adapt to some newfangled apparatus, in general everything is the same. We're still using computers based on a friggin' 26-year-old processor. We're still using the operating systems designed for them. We're still programming in and using the products of languages just as old and older. While the fashion may change, at the end of the day we're still wearing pants, and still writing code that doesn't sanitize input.

Security isn't any better than it used to be. Firewalls are still relatively dumb beasts (do you know any large company that does layer 7 filtering that isn't just proxies?). Anti-virus software is about as accurate against modern obscure trojans as they used to be. It's possible that web application writers are even less intelligent than they used to be, seeing as their output is the rife fodder for a new generation of penetration testers. Hell, we're still using passwords for root accounts. (We still HAVE root accounts!?)

Probably the one thing that is quickly changing is the barrier to entry. It used to be you'd pay a hundred bucks or more for a menial dedicated server. Now four dollars US will get you 15 gigs of space, a gig of ram and 200 gigs of bandwidth on a 100mbit shared pipe. PER MONTH! You spread that hundred bucks out and you've got an impressive server farm by 1999's standards. And computers in general keep getting cheaper, meaning more kids can get their hands on a netbook and start hacking away. Pretty soon you'll see a new start-up sector dedicated to youth and college kids, who join forces and collaborate - not to write free software like Linux, but free apps for Android and web development farms.

And still, the tech remains mostly the same. Web apps (we used to call them 'cgi scripts') and their backend counterparts interfacing with relational and non-relational databases (we used to call them 'BerkeleyDB') just become the modern fashion of development, with mobile platforms being the meatiest new market to squeeze some bucks out of. But all the old standards will still be there. Some guy will still be assembling a C library for some high-speed low-latency backend app to interface with his Clojure mobile app. The devs will write some Python or Perl script to get their app staged on their workstations and hand it off to the sysadmins to run in production (with minor edits, of course). Security goons will continue to scan their networks and sites for unexplored chasms of potential vulnerability.

We'll never really reach a utopia where modern technology becomes re-invented and everything is magically better. Everything pretty much stays the same.

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