Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Secondary Actions in Web Forms

Just checked out this interesting article from LukeW on secondary actions on web forms. The sum of it is that people don't complete forms faster when you make distinctions between primary (submit) and secondary (cancel) buttons. Still, as Luke points out- hitting cancel after filling in a long form really is not good. Do you really need a button for that in all cases?

I really enjoy the data driven approach of using eye tracking data to help make decisions on form elements. Unfortunately he missed my current preferred option: Bolder font-weight on the text on the primary action button, lighter or normal font-weight on the secondary actions. Since we have CSS classes for those button types on my project, I was all ready to make some changes...looks like I won't be making any, but it's still worth the quick read.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Authentication in the database- revised

There are some people out there that believe there is one right way to build an application. The people that believe in best practices. The people that fall victim to Harwell's laws. (Particularly #1, "People always try to use their experience even if it doesn't apply to the current situation." and #3 "If a manager doesn't know how to improve an organization, then he/she will change it to look like the last organization that he/she remembers")

The particular issue I am dealing with has to do with web application security architecture, but it comes up again and again in architecture, particularly in web services. Where does authentication live and where does authorization live? And what trusts what. In particular, should a web application authenticate a user's x509 cert or Kerberos ticket, and then pass user information on to further systems, or should it pass the users security information on to further systems, such as databases. In other words, should authentication performed at each stage of a request that passes through multiple systems?

If you ask Oracle any question of the form "Should X be in the database?" the answer is yes. Apparently Microsoft is training their people to think the same way. It sure works great to induce vendor lock-in.

Somehow I am of the opinion that the first system a user comes in contact with should perform the authentication, that system should authenticate to other systems- as a system, not a user, and that their should be trust in the initial user authentication.

Having the database re-authenticate the user seems wasteful...and of no value.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Process Overload

I am completely sick of all of the processes that have to be constantly running on my Windows machines. The things that particularly annoy me are the "update check" software- I am looking at you menacingly iTunes, Java, Adobe and Windows Update. Why on earth do these programs have to run constantly? Can't they at least just have a scheduled task to run at a particular time? Or how about copying firefox and just checking for an update whenever I start your program. I think Quicktime asks for updates more often that I actually use the software. I don't need a background process running constantly to tell me a piece of software that I haven't run in two months needs to be updated.

Perhaps even more annoying are the "helpers" that run to make various software applications appear to start up faster. I suppose this is just keeping up with the various tricks that Microsoft employs to make their stuff startup faster, so it's fair to blame them for starting the arms race.

And the final annoyance is the difficulty in seeing which svchost.exe PID goes with which service. How hard could it be record the name of the service, so that I could in a glance see which one is sucking CPU or RAM? I suppose I could actually code a solution to that myself...but I shouldn't have to. In fact, someone already did:

Process Explorer- this is what task manager should have been...