Ignorance & Cyberspace (a look back at an unpublished article I wrote in 2013)

Over the last few years it is common knowledge that computers now rule the western civilization. Most of us notice the effect this has on our culture but probably haven’t thought twice about it. A lot of people have grown lax and common place with their computers. Most of this is due to social networking and the regular routine we’ve all fallen into. Let me say this…

Artwork not my-own “no copyright infringement is intended”

               Don’t be Ignorant!

Your personal information is your life. If you complain about windows or your Mac not working the way it did when it came out of the box, you are doing something wrong and you should read further.

If you are thinking right now “My Mac is amazing because it doesn’t have viruses,” you are ABSOLUTELY WRONG and should read this.

Windows and Mac computers are wonderful machines, but they are just that. Machines. With the last few years of technological advancement you would be surprised just how much you are at risk with your computer. This also includes smart phones and tablets for those that think they magically use a different internet than their larger older siblings.

People that can’t drive cars because they never bothered to learn will get into an accident. People that think they can drive without changing the oil in their car will eventually burn it out. Here are some simple things for those that fail at computers to help you on your way. There is a great deal for Mac users in here so don’t think you are special because you threw down an extra 3 grand to get tucked in by your icloud at night. In addition I have thrown in some warnings for the frivolous computer user.

If you have made it this far you actually care about your personal information. Those that gave up on the first paragraph are better left for prey to the evil entities of cyber-space. We bid them farewell as we journey forward with a new found hope for computer prosperity.

The Internet…Oh the places we will go! Don’t go to websites that are sketchy. don’t go on any site that bounces you to random pages like stumble upon. When in doubt if the page looks like it was made by a 10 year old with color blindness close the browser. If you take one thing away from this article here it is: Always open a new browser before going to a social networking site or banking site. Always close that browser after you have gone to that site before searching the internet for ANYTHING. This ensures that you are not ghosting your personal information to other places.

Everything on your screen exists somewhere else and can carry over through unlocked doors. If you are on Facebook, your banking site, and searching for a new recipe at the same time…guess what…you just opened the floodgates for someone to steal your personal information on Facebook and then guess your bank password. Better yet if you went to the banking site after searching they may have already started recording your key strokes and stolen your passwords.

“Well this has never happened yet, why should I be afraid now?” Well if you keep up with the news and social technology discussion of the global market you will have heard about text tipping and text pay. Certain places like London, NY, and LA will allow people to pay bills and purchase goods with their mobile phones simply through text. Sounds great right? Except that you now allow anyone with access to your text the ability to dip into your bank account. The magnitude of our social technology has caught up with banking and the global economy. You should be ready, because it’s coming quick. Do I know how to allow you to use your smart phone and not be a victim of fraud when this because the norm, no way. Am I warning you still, definitely.

For those that at least want to keep things safe now you should always check something out you are unsure about. The security of a webpage is never truly known until you actually connect to it. For now do it from a smart phone I say. Why a smart phone? A smart phone uses a web browser like your other computers but it has the unique ability to test the waters of a website without crashing your desktop. What is that you say? You put all your personal information into your smart phone like banking passwords, email passwords, and contact information? You also have the app that tells everyone on Facebook where you are at all times? Well I have no other words for you other than …sucker. If you spend 120 dollars a month to send your banking information, paste your email passwords, and vacation time away from your home through cellular towers. You are a sucker. It may be convenient and easy, but opening your front door to the world and dumping your wallets contents onto the street is equally as easy, but I digress.

Browsers are key to keeping your information and you safe. Always use a good browser. If you don’t know anything about the browser you are using then it is your own fault. Personally I don’t think windows users should ever use explorer despite your ease and whatever comfort you have with it. When windows performs an update to your computer it also updates explorer’s browser. These updates do not always run simultaneous as windows changes their explorer updates for security breaches at different times than windows itself. If you must, use it, but it has had huge problems since its inception.

I recommend Mozilla Fire fox for security and simplicity. (OMG i actually wrote this in 2013 and this is highly laughable now in 2020. Choose Chrome people, yes I talk about google doing bad things, but it's still the best.) It has it’s own updates that do not coincide with windows updates. For you Mac users that are thinking “I don’t deal with viruses I have a Mac and it is sooooo awesome. Guess again. You are getting your key strokes tracked and possibly duplicated and sent to other sites with your passwords and accounts. Google has already coughed up millions when they were illegally tracking safari user data last year. (2013) Look it up if you don’t believe me. "No that isn’t me,” you say. Well yes actually have you ever heard of flashback or flashfake?  It’s a malicious Trojan that terrorized hundreds of thousands of Mac computers last year. (2013) Kaspersky labs actually believes PC users are safer than Mac users from virus threats because the windows operating system has been fighting them longer.

Oh no! Have no fear there are ways to combat viruses and software spys. Be safe and don’t do things like search sketchy websites. Put a password on windows so people don’t use your machine without your knowledge. For you Mac users put a password on your operating system of Tiger, Leopard, Wolf, Orange Monkey, Zebra Dragon, Spiral Staircase Dolphin system to keep others from searching the no, no zones when you are away from your keyboard.

When you do use your browsers make sure you never remember your browsing history and always clear history when you close the window. If you can’t find these commands they are in the toolbar at the top typically under tools and options. Never remember history and always close your browser in-between high risk site exploration. This will ultimately be the best advice I can give you as 99% of the issues you will have with stolen information comes from jumping between sites or through email phishing. If you have been or think you have been a victim of identity theft stop reading this and go call the Federal Trade Commission.

Don’t use chrome it is not supported properly at this time and most companies don’t think twice about it when building security for it and their own online tools. (Wow has this changed in the last 7 years. Now chrome is all companies properly support imo.)

When it comes to your email. Don’t open forwards. You can deal with missing a few pictures of kitties and puppies without the risk of return spamming everyone in your email directory with viruses. If your friends tell you to stop spamming them, that means you are already infected and you better toss your computer out the window and move to a desert island. All hope is lost. When you do pick an email this is one of the few times I will say corporate is better. The big names have higher security measures and more filtering features than their low end competitors. If your email was set up by your cable provider or has .rr or aol in it I recommend joining the rest of the population as your email will be immediately deleted by me and those of like minds. (this is where you use google.) If you use yahoo, you are already asking for trouble and have probably gone through multiple stolen password moments. Please do the world a favor and stop supporting yahoo. It's trash. It's the worst. I get spammed non stop from my junk yahoo email even to this day. No amount of blocking will remove that waste of a security system.

All in all don’t forward emails unless it is work related and you know the source. Besides being tacky you are risking the potential to spread a virus and leak your personal information.

The Internet, Anti-Viruses, and that pink stuff that tasted like bubble gum your mom spoon fed you when you were sick:

So you are worried about your computer getting the flu. I have heard countless people preach that Mac’s don’t get viruses. According to the Sophos Naked Security blog, this is no longer true. Mac advertise their computers under the idea that you will absolutely love your Mac because…"doesn’t get PC viruses.“ Mac claimed Apple’s OS X software "doesn’t get PC viruses.” This has all changed and now Apple instead boasts “It’s built to be safe.”

The reason they haven’t gotten PC viruses in the past is because it is not a PC. DUH. Despite the acronym PC originally meaning Personal Computer, a Windows based computer has become synonymous with the acronym. You are simply ignorant to think the evil virus makers of the world would not steal your identities, money, search histories, and personal data regardless of which machine you use. I’d insult you more for your ignorance but it is not polite and I understand people make mistakes. I forgive you, if you can forgive me.

Speaking of ignorance, I work occasionally doing IT networking with a lot of people who bring their personal machines to an office that are networked together. I have had a great deal of Mac users tell me. “I’m safe I have a Mac and you aren’t because you use a PC.” Guess what, they are partially right. I’m not safe because I have to network in with their unfiltered cesspool of viral fungus. Mac’s can carry and store viruses that are waiting to jump onto PC computers. (By occasionally doing IT work, I'm talking about back when I worked in the film industry as an assistant production office coordinator. Since you basically have to do everything related to internet in the film office, you get pretty good at computer stuff. I now buy my machines pre-built.)

For you PC users I’d think twice before networking onto an open wifi with a half dozen Macs. Make sure you have a firewall and never directly open files form another machine without first having it scanned by a 3rd party software device. Mac’s are growing in number around the globe and their users are now bred to think simple. Does this mean all Mac’s are infected? No, but if the Mac user has ever once gone to an illegal gambling site, adult website, celebrity gossip page, or file sharing site, then yes they are infected.

If you think “Well I use the icloud. I’m safe.” Refer to my above statement about ignorance. The cloud is a term much like the personal computer. It represents an idea or entity. A cloud of information means a jumbled pile of data that floats from one place to another. Every time you use it, you send a jumbled pile of data that floats from one place to another. Are you understanding how unsafe that is?

Let me explain to those that don’t get it. The technology exists today to sit at a gas station and copy someone’s bank pin number and access card information as they pump gas. The criminal can then take that information and use it anywhere as if the credit card was their own. The same idea works for data on the “cloud.” If you update your information constantly sending the same data over and over you are opening yourself up to a higher percentage of chance that your information will get stolen. People are looking for it…look it up if you don’t believe me under the phrase “How to steal data from a cloud.” There are tutorials online to teach you how to be a cyber villain in quick and easy steps. Any IT guy can do it. There are a lot them who are finally bored with their angry birds app and looking for something else to do.

One of the great things about a Mac is the normal file confusion that uneducated computer users have when it comes to working the idiot box. (Idiot box is not my term…look it up I swear.) Mac’s have this great concept that what you see is what you get…kinda. When you drop a file into a Mac desktop it is right there. It’s ready to be moved anywhere or be thrown away. This should never be confused with installing a file onto a desktop of a Mac which means it has placed smaller files somewhere else in the background. Is this great and simple. Sure. Is it an easy way to delete something by accident. Of course. Don’t worry PC users windows is working its way to Windows X. It will install and delete everything for you making your life and information no longer manageable.  

For bad PC users I find people tend to leave everything they need on the desktop. Shame on you. This means you’ve actually saved information onto the limited memory area of Windows that is actively spooling information every time you turn your computer on. I recall a time when one senior employee of a bank in charge of millions of dollars of payroll accounts kept every file she needed access to on the desktop. Her second monitor was used to hold post it notes reminding her where the files were and in what order. Lack of computer knowledge is to be ignorant of the tool. Never be ignorant of the tool you use. Do you drive without brakes? Do you swim without rubber floaters? Well maybe that last example only suits me, but you get my point.

Virus Checkers…King Me! Don’t put personal information on your web page no matter how much you think it might help you land a date on Facebook. Everything is stored in multiple places the second you enter your phone number on a friends Facebook wall or tag yourself that you are sunbathing on the beach right now, Johnny Badman as just seen it. There is very little to do to change it, but hope you aren’t as appealing as the next guy is and maybe Johnny Badman will go after him instead. There are ways to block out people from seeing your personal web page's, but be warned its just a lock pad on the front door of your page. People can circumvent this by simply walking in the open window and stealing all your stuff anyway. Best thing to do is never post your personal info to start.

To keep yourself safe you don’t need to go out and buy a 100 dollar program that is called Virus-Super-Security-Gizmo-2000-Kill-All-Things. In fact never buy any security program to protect your machine, well I use free ones. Point is you don’t have to buy one. It’s a waste of money and energy because most likely its going to run a racketeering program in the background of your computer anyway. If you don’t know what that is look it up. It will scare you. The millions people have spent due to this fraud could have bailed out the car companies.

Be smart and pick something cheap. I personally use AVG, it has a free download and it has kept my computer safe for half a decade. My AVG report card came back today and since installation 2 files found corrupted and corrected. Since installation is 4+ years. What were the 2 files? Bad file names of a video game. Insert smiley face here.

AVG offers an alternative search browser tool that allows you to NOT search through the traditional google or yahoo. You don’t have to use AVG though it is one of the best free ones out there. Remember that anything corporate is selling your information to other parties in order to make money. It’s a money enterprise and though you think bing, google, and yahoo are freely sharing this world wide web with you, they aren’t. I know I said emails are ok through corporate companies like google. That doesn’t mean they don’t still save all your emails. The US government has the authority to read everything you write if it is a security risk. Read the fine print of any company on the internet that allows you email or web search access.

Retirement home living for your computer: So you have had your computer for two years and Dell and Gateway always told you it was time to get a new one after its expiration was up. Right?

First let me say, don’t ever buy a Dell or Gateway computer in the year 2013, you are being sold a garbage plate of a machine that dozens of third party Asian companies have spliced together with leftovers. It’s the same reason you don’t buy a television made by Westinghouse, you buy a toaster oven.

So every computer needs to recycle air. The fan blowing when you turn your computer on is doing just that. Typically a computer pulls air in from the outside that blows across the entirety of the inside of the computer then blows out another side of the box and into your house. If this air smells like burnt hair then you probably want to turn off the box, open it up, and spray in some dust remover until all the bunnies are gone. If you know bunnies you know they multiply a lot.

In addition to the smell test I recommend a simple hand waving test over the fan that is blowing out. Do this when the computer is idling, think of it like your car when you start it up and its sitting on 800-1200 rpms. This is your computers resting state. If the air is cool then you are sitting pretty. If the air is hot then you have yourself an overheating issue and you probably want to get that addressed before burning up the insides.

The best case scenario for your desktop computer and laptop is to give it space. Raise it off the floor with a stand, give it 6-12 inches of space on all sides so it can breath. Clean the vents and fans every 3 months or more if you have pets. Keep the outlet it uses to plug into under a light load like 1 power strip. If you have multiple things that need plugging into use two separate outlets on different circuits.

When it comes to desktop computers bigger is better. The box itself has a living breathing engine that requires cool air to keep it from burning up. Your files run quicker when they aren’t bogged down by heat. Having a big box that cycles a lot of air properly will keep problems from happening. Do you need a 2 foot case like I have…no, but you need enough space that a steady flow of air can blow in and out of your computer. Don’t put it in a closet or stuff it in the drawer of a desk. In addition if you think adding a house fan to the outside of it is helping, most likely you are just messing up the flow of the air. Air should flow one way not twelve different directions that cycle the same air back in.

Keeping your computer happy in the golden years: In addition to keeping your machine clean you can also extend the life of your PC by replacing parts that go bad, like replacing a hip or knee when it stops working. The cost of a hard drive or cd-drive is nominal in comparison to re-buying an entire computer.  For you Mac people you are SOL since you can’t replace the hardware of your device. In addition Mac users can’t upgrade their computer the same way a PC can with software.

Mac’s can upgrade a bit, but only to the point of which Macintosh has released the next software compatible with your device. My iMac 4 can’t run any of its old programs because it can’t run the new operating system. It can’t run it because it wasn’t designed to. It is now a useless piece of junk. Is this my fault or there’s? I’m not exactly sure. To me I bought a product that no longer performs its function and therefore is useless. If you are selling a product that requires upgrades to utilize, but out dates it’s self when you upgrade…It’s a bad product. I don’t see why in the fast changing pace of technological advancement that I should spend an arm and leg for something that will be obsolete in 2-3 years. Mac has made a fortune selling something new every few years. Look at the ipod if you need an example. Now look at their laptops. Now at their ipad. See a pattern forming. Sorry but obviously I have some deep seeded issues with Mac. I’m sorry I will seek help. I promise.

I’m not telling you to NOT buy a Mac and get a PC. I’m saying be hesitant and do your shopping wisely when you purchase a Mac or PC product. Make sure it is what you want and need before you spend thousands of dollars on it. I build my own computers and literally save up to 300% of the cost it would be to buy a machine in a store. Does this mean you should build. No, but you should never buy a computer for personal use that costs more than 400 dollars if you are simple looking at Facebook, writing a paper, or watching a movie. I play top end video games, do heavy visual editing and layout design and I can tell you this computer still costs less than 1000 dollars despite me building it years ago. This includes 2 monitors, a sound system, and the operating system all of which costs more than the computer itself.

Think about what you are buying and how it will be used by you and your family. If it is something for work that will be tossed around a lot. Get a durable cheap laptop and back up the data onto an external hard drive. You can buy a great laptop with a warranty that works fantastic for $350.00 on new egg.

Do your research. And above all don’t be computer ignorant. I’ll flip you the bird as I drive by you in the cyber fast lane.

About the author: My name is T. Julian Bell. I believe that people should not let the greed and the sensationalism of computers take honest peoples money, personal information, and focus away from remembering that computers are simply stupid tools. Until they take over the planet and enslave us.

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© 2019 T. Julian Bell