NORMAN — I have a strange job. As a computer repair guy and computer/Internet security consultant, I am often the bearer of bad news. I do not like bearing bad news, but, sometimes, I have no choice.
“Your irreplaceable family pictures are gone forever.” “Your company’s financial database must be rebuilt from scratch.” “Your accounts have been hacked, drained, and your identity stolen.” Who enjoys delivering tidings like these? Not me.
Having a computer on the Internet is not unlike fighting a battle; a veiled battle, often an unseen battle, but a battle, nonetheless. Maybe I’m a bit like a grouchy old drill sergeant who, in preparing his troops for war, does not try to sugarcoat the grim realities that lay ahead.
Every year, about this time, I try to reassess my situation and decide how the past will affect the future. Are things better? Are they worse? Are the Internet bad guys winning, or is real progress being made in the war on Internet crime?
For the most part, there are many things about computers and the Internet for which I am very thankful, and about which I am quite positive, upbeat and cheerful. I love my job fixing computers, I enjoy helping people and I think that using the Internet can be lots of fun.
More specifically, I am:
Thankful for free Internet security programs. Computer security programs essentially do one thing: plug holes and protect flaws in operating systems and programs that have been discovered and exploited by the bad guys. If it weren’t for free antivirus programs like Avira and Avast, updating programs like Secunia and maintenance programs like Ccleaner, things would be much worse than they already are. In addition, people would be wasting money on paid programs when there are free programs that get the job done.
Thankful for free productivity programs. Most folks buy the Microsoft Office suite of productivity programs because it’s all they know, and you can’t go beyond what you know. They think you simply must have Microsoft Word if you want to type a letter, you must have Excel if you want to create spreadsheets, etc. Truth be told, most folks will never use even 10% of the features that are available in the very expensive Microsoft Office package. As such, unless a person has very special and specific needs, it’s almost impossible for me to recommend that anyone continue buying Microsoft Office when incredibly good (and free) packages like LibreOffice and OpenOffice exist.
Thankful for Google. As much as I gripe about Google and their Big Brother tactics, if it weren’t for Google, the Internet would not be nearly as useful, and I wouldn’t know half of what I know about computers.
Thankful for being able to write this column. Back in 2005, The Norman Transcript, and particularly, editor Andy Rieger, sort of went out on a limb by allowing me to write my weekly column. It seems to have become a success, and it’s loads of fun for me. Tis the season to be thankful.
Based in Norman, OK, Dave Moore has been an independent computer service technician since 1984. He also teaches computer security workshops to public and private organizations. He can be reached at (405)919-9901 or www.davemoorecomputers.com.