November 10, 2009

Careful how you name things...

I ran into this quote while getting at least newbie-familiar with Kerberos, since it's used as one of the security underpinnings of many transactions within the IHE Technical Framework:

Doug Rickard wrote to explain how Bones got its name. In 1988, he was working at MIT, with the Athena group. He was trying to get permission from the State Department to export Kerberos to Bond University in Australia. The State Department wouldn't allow it -- not with DES included. To get it out of the country, they had to not only remove all calls to DES routines, but all comments and textual references to them as well, so that (superficially, at least) it was non-trivial to determine where the calls were originally placed.

To strip out all the DES calls and garbage, John Kohl wrote a program called piranha. At one of their progress meetings, Doug jokingly said, "And we are left with nothing but the Bones." For lack of a better term, he then used the word "Bones" and "boned" in the meeting minutes to distinguish between the DES and non-DES versions of Kerberos. "It somehow stuck," he says, "and I have been ashamed of it ever since."

from The Moron's Guide to Kerberos (PDF)

Many people (especially at the beginning of a project) have probably had this experience of not knowing the long-term effects of even the most trivial choices they're making. Here's a boring one of mine.

In Vocollect products you can made the wearable computer issue a beep to the user, specifying the frequency and length. One time you do this is when you're waiting for something to happen -- data to come back from the network, whatever. While working on a prototype to read RFID tags I needed to indicate when we were busy reading tags, and I used a particular frequency and length for the beep so I could distinguish it from the standard ones. And my boss said, "Be careful. If this is successful thousands of warehouse workers around the world will hear this beep for years to come, and you don't want them cursing your name."

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