Sniffen Packets

With a name like Sniffen, it's got to smell good.

On Granularity

The use of the term “granular” in information assurance and in computer science in general is driving me mad. It’s common in this field to produce a detailed access control system, superseding all-or-nothing systems. For example, I am listening now to a talk on a new mandatory access control (MAC) system for Macintosh (Mac) computers. It has several hundred privileges, rights, and capabilities which can be granted. It distinguishes between a process, the executable from which it was run, any filename for that inode, and so on. This is described by those writing papers on the subject as a “fine-grained” system. This is reasonable phrase.

But the fellow on the stage has described this as a granular system. Sometimes he refers to it as a “more granular” system. I’m in pain. The dictionary on this computer does provide a meaning for “granular” characterized as technical:

the scale or level of detail present in a set of data or other phenomenon

But this is a descriptive definition: people are using the word in this way, and now it’s documented. As a prescriptive matter, this is a foolish use of the word. To increase the granularity of an image, a substance, or any other otherwise continuous medium is to reduce the number of grains, increasing their size. If we say that to increase the granularity of a discontinuous (that is, digital) medium is to increase the number of grains, reducing their size, we sap clarity from the word.

If this continues, I may loose my mind.

( with this one exception, Chris Vance of SPARTA’s presentation on SEDarwin was clear and interesting. It looks like Leopard will have some MAC capability, perhaps enough to do something useful. )