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. )