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A couple months back, I did an interview with Sun’s VP of Engineering, Hal Stern. Hal’s an amazing guy, a really smart advocate for open standards and open systems. We had a great conversation:

HS As we start to look at the issues of identity and security and privacy, we also come up with trust. What is the purpose of actually keeping a secret? It’s so you can either control the flow of information where there is no trust or validate information where there’s imperfect trust or less-than-ideal secrecy or less-than-ideal security. You start to build up a model of what particular threats you’re worried about and how those threats represent themselves, and then you can ask, “Well, where is it that I need to go and enforce protection?” Is it keeping things on my laptop that are unencrypted, or is it that if I just keep everything in a network file storage mechanism somewhere, that’s as safe as keeping my money at the bank and just using the ATM for cash and cache, in both homophonic interpretations of the word.

I worry about accidentally divorcing people from their content. In the short-term there are things like theft, or losing your laptop with your book on it. But over longer periods of time, we have to worry about the encoding of the data. Do we actually know how to interpret that five, 10, 50 years from now? I don’t think we have that much experience with it. I think my mom probably asks me at least every six months when she can throw away the paper tape that’s in my old bedroom. It’s a very retro technology placeholder of 25 years ago, but that was the preferred storage and transfer mechanism, lacking anything else, and my Radio Shack TRS-80 with the cassette tape backup was a big improvement over that. It’s hard data, but where are you going to find a KSR 33 Teletype with a paper-tape reader on it? In some museum somewhere…


Update: Here’s the MP3 as well!