Monday, December 03, 2007

Safe Computing - Prologue

I often find myself "cleaning up" the computers of my friends and family because "my system is too slow - it used to be fast, but now it's just too slow to use". It's a job that is actually getting easier partially because the tools to do so are better and partially because I have done it so often. Invariably I get asked the same question by all -

"Which virus checker do you use?"

My answer shocks them...

"I don't..."

They often look at me like I'm from Mars or something and then I have to start explaining. My answer is simple - just like life if you practice "Safe Computing" you'll stay out of trouble except those times when someone is bound and determined to get you into trouble. In those cases even if you had virus detection software you'd still get in "trouble".

Virus protection software, in a word, stinks (I'd like to say something a bit more direct...but...). It is the most invasive piece of software you will ever install on your machine (Lime Wire and other file sharing software gives it a run for it's money, but more about that later). It takes your nice, fast computer and brings it to it's knees because EVERYTHING you do on your computer - even the things you are CERTAIN are safe - are first considered by it to be unsafe and scrutinized before you can use them. It considers everything (including yourself) is bad and tries to protect you by being an overzealous watchdog.

For the typical computer user - even if they realize that everything worked great until they installed "X" virus protector - they can't DE-install it. Why can't they DE-install it? Because the virus protector considers this an unsafe act and says "you don't know what you are doing, so I'm not going to let you do it". You now have a program in your system dictating to you what you can and cannot do on your computer - most people just give up.

So, my recommendation (and it's worked for many years) is to practice "Safe Computing". My kids have grown up understanding this and they do it without thinking about it now. It's not hard, it's not magic, it's liberating and it's very safe.

The other day I decided that I would write all of the things that I do to keep my computers safe without using the watchdog so that maybe people (at least those that will listen) can start using their computers again.

Part One coming up...

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"...Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:7-18