Thanks to a comment from Terry on my post about locking your smart phone, I’ve been digging around looking for ways to make my beloved iPhone more secure.
Surprisingly or not, Apple has made it maddeningly difficult to even the simplest precautions.
Terry’s comment, which I read a bit hastily, mentions changing the root password on your iPhone. This standard operating procedure for Linux-based systems, e.g. your Mac or your iPhone.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. OS X introduced a version of the kernel underlying the GUI elements, so your Macbook and your iPhone both run on modified Linux and as such, can be manipulated using the root user.
OK so, how do you change the root password? For OS X, you can find instructions online, and probably work it out using the Apple Support notes. For your iPhone, you can’t, at least without breaking Apple’s terms by unlocking it.
Please let me know in comments if this can be done without an unlock.
So much for that easy measure of security, but why would Apple make it so hard to take this precaution?
It’s all about good UI.
I read an interesting post on “Why Apple is great at interfaces when others are not“, and the short answer given was because they make UI enjoyable.
Rather than survey a bunch of users on every decision, the Mac team decided each issue among themselves, invariably going for the option that might amuse a user the most, that would give a user the most pleasure, and therefore imbue the Mac with personality.
Usability is not a science by any means, but most people agree that Macs “just work”, which makes them easy and possbily fun to use. But at what cost?
In my Mac experience, I’ve noticed that OS X does like to keep the power user stuff as abstract and hidden as possible. Not that I need those functions very often, but when I do, they’re inevitably hard to find and use.
This is solid design. Make the UI fun and simple and hide the stuff that could seriously bork up the O/S, especially since power users aren’t a large percentage of the market anyway.
And don’t power users have their own choices anyway, like any number of Linux distros?
True, but maybe you’ve noticed that more people (like yours truly) are fleeing Windows for Linux. The diehard Linux types have; it seems like at least once a day, my Digg technology feed has some item about how switchers like me are either ruining Linux or making it better.
Here’s an interesting one from today with very interesting points about how habits from Windows (right/wrong/ indifferent) impact both Linux support and design.
I love choice, and one thing I love about Linux is the choice in distros. So, even if Ubuntu gets too easy and sells out, there will always be a distro for the power users.
Anyway, it’s interesting to see UI evolve, especially when you have a transparent view of why features change or don’t.
So, a typically meandering post, but my initial question remains. Does good UI assume you are average? Is this why I can’t change my iPhone’s root password, and why I have to Google the way to do this on OS X?
Find the comments. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.