Educated beyond our ability

It’s a beautiful, snowy day here in Kansas. In winter, the snow makes it prettier here; contrasting well with the gray theme nature leaves us when the leaves have fallen.

This week a couple of articles drew some attention in the Mac quality-control arena, one pointing out a security issue in DHCP services in Mac OS X and another pointing out a quality control problem, supposedly, in Mac OS X’s print to PDF feature.

Both of these particular columns could have benefited greatly by more research and eliciting some technical expertise concerning their respective topics. For example, Leonard Rosenthol had to take time to respond to the PDF misinformation with some intelligence so as to clarify and expand on the issues, assuring press and pre-press professionals that they weren’t somehow being blind-sided by Apple.

Several technical-oriented lists discussed the DHCP issue, but the gist of the matter boiled down to this: the DHCP security issue is with the current DHCP standard, not Apple, and all Lance would have had to do was read a couple of white papers about this and he would have had a clearer understanding of this issue. It’s not Apple’s fault that DHCP is inherently insecure any more than it is Apple’s fault that the first versions of WiFi encryption passed the password in plain English!

Indeed, Apple should be praised whenever they adhere to standards without trying to add some proprietary ‘feature’ to make the standard better as opposed to working with the standards organizations to improve the standards.

Lance should have pointed out that IT managers need to encourage their respective organizations to adopt the new, secure DHCP standards as soon as they are ratified.

But why do we have to sift through this stuff, and the constant after-effect of damage-control rebuttals, week after week? I think that there is a danger for anyone, myself included, who sees their names and their words in public week after week, or month after month, of somehow beginning to think that this somehow validates their words as truth without the need for critical editing and feedback prior to publication. A columnist is hired to write articles. Unfortunately, today, there is a ready supply of white space to receive a never-ending supply of hyperbole, surmise, and sloppy ‘reporting.’ The acronym, FUD, is used in the technical press today more than the 4 letter rhyme is used in a Hell’s Angels Convention.

What elixir is there in the reading of our own thoughts on web pages designed to attract thousands of readers which clouds our minds and gives us that euphoric feeling of infallibility? Are we truly educated beyond our ability to think wisely?

I am reminded of a poster my wife purchased for me, shortly after we met: a smug lion cub sitting in a chair and the byline: “It’s my opinion and it’s very true.” She has never let me forget that poster, as it described me perfectly in my youth, and sometimes yet today. The web was conceived as a means to create interactive discussion; but it has become, at least in some aspects related to the distribution of news and information, a platform for seeing who can yell the loudest and most compellingly, “It’s MY opinion and it’s VERY true!

[as an afterthought; I think I see part of the problem: it’s when I look in the mirror of my own opinion of myself, I see a wise, mature Lion whose thoughts must carry a ‘roar’ of approval; however I suspect that more often than not, others who know me better, or know the subject matter far more thoroughly, may see me as the ‘cub’ I am. Though I may appear cute, it comes from watching me stumble over my own big feet while trying to act somehow brave and authoritative.]

Leave a Reply