Corporate Authentication Systems (hell!)

I’ve been struggling recently with the ‘enterprise security system’ in place at the OU. This is some obscure system invented in-house (by sadists) to authenticate people against our systems.

It works OK most of the time but it’s not standards-based. It doesn’t talk LDAP. It doesn’t talk to other authentication systems in any meaningful way. You need to set it up on every service you run. You need to set up ‘tokens’ in every directory of web servers where it’s installed to tell them who to allow in. etc etc.

We have a myriad of great systems in the university but they are being hamstrung by the fact that we can do any kind of meaningful pass through authentication. Luckily a colleague of mine has invented a mechanism for getting the  system to work in harmony with OpenID and we’re close to achieving some way to allow us to work with other systems more meaningfully in the future. I’m very frustrated about it now though because although the current system works reasonably well for people in the OU there is no reasonable way of allowing ‘authenticated visitor’ or ‘logged in public’ access in any meaningful way, we can of course merge authentication systems for a particular services (as I do) but this gives problems later when the same visitors want to access other OU services.
I’m not sure how much of a problem this is elsewhere but I would guess that the lack of a decent authentication and user verification service has put the OU back several years in development time because every new project with a mixed user community(OpenLearn being the most recent example) will have to find some sort of individual workaround. Central services don’t see a problem because most of the services they provide are staff only (or student only) and therefore it’s simple for them and anyone else doing development across user spheres just has to find their own solution.

Rant over I’m off for a bath now!

Posting from MS Word 2007

I’m testing the posting ability from Microsoft Word 2007. So far in the last ten minutes I’ve crashed Word and it restarted telling me it has retained my data but of course the blog post I’d been working on had disappeared, so it seems a bit flaky.

That aside why would I choose to use word over the WordPress editor? – I’m not sure. It’s nice in a way having the ‘usual’ office toolbars although that said the blog toolbars are a bit different. It’s not nice that it transmits your login info over the net each time you post but I’m getting used to that sort of thing. I’m also not convinced that most people used to Facebook, WordPress and other tools won’t just prefer to use them in a multi tabbed browser rather than use the one tool for all editing. I can’t see how for example I would add tags to my post. I can see how I might add it to categories which I’ve just done. In my opinion it’s a poor relative of the blog editor I’m used to.

Speaking of Web 2.0 stuff  – I’ve been in LinkedIn network for some time and recently got requested to be added to Plaxo too, there seem to be a plethora of these sites around all sharing my contact information amongst them and I’m getting used to adding myself to them every couple of weeks but not yet sure what the point of them all is. I’m still the same person as I was a few weeks ago so surely I should be able to put that somewhere and Plaxo, Facebook, Bebo, LinkedIn etc. all have a talk in the background and say ‘oh yes I remember you, you’re that chap with the weird accent who hasn’t got many friends’ or the electronic equivalent of that…am I talking about OpenID you ask? – Probably OpenID with frills. Anyhow it would be nice not to have to fill in so much stuff each time you join a new site.

 p.s. I added the tags in afterwords…