Friday, April 16, 2010

Dongles are EVIL

The device you see on the right is actually the devil. Or, at least, it's close enough if you are a system administrator.

It is a single piece of hardware that controls your access to business-critical programs. Lost the dongle? Whoops, no classified ads in the newspaper this week. Dongle broke? Ditto. Dongle fried by a computer malfunction or power fault? Ditto. Computer stolen? Ditto.

What's even more fun is that as computers move on and older interfaces become obsolete, it becomes hard to even find a computer you can plug the dongle in to. Most machines don't have parallel ports anymore, so parallel dongles like this one are a big problem. At least that can be worked around using USB adapters.
Of course, then you run into exciting issues like XP being unable to allow 16-bit code access to the parallel port. The program would work fine on XP, but for the stupid bloody dongle. So you're forced to maintain legacy hardware or waste time on complex emulation/virtualisation options just to get the program working, when it'd be just fine but for this dongle.

So, if you are ever offered software for any reason that requires a dongle, just say no.

Bought to you by the exciting battle to get an old and alas mission-critical win16 app to work under WinXP or even WINE.

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