Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beware Trojans Bearing Gifts

What would you think if a company installed software on your computer without asking?  And then reminded you of their "free" software every time you installed updates to your current OS?  Sounds like malware to me.

This is exactly what Microsoft has done with the launch of Windows 10.  Silently, in the background, they've downloaded a new copy of Windows 10 to millions of Windows 7 and 8 computers just hoping for you to say you want it.  That sounds a lot like those annoying "bundleware" titles that install all kinds of other unwanted programs just because you didn't uncheck a box during the install of a program you wanted.

What Microsoft is doing is actually worse.  This is your operating system.  This is the core software that runs your computer.  Oh, and by the way, if you do choose to upgrade to Windows 10 from a Windows 7 system, all those programs you have installed are going to get archived.  You'll have to reinstall everything.  Sure, Microsoft will make a backup of your old Windows installation, and migrate what it can over to your new environment, but little will survive.  Maybe the process runs a little smoother on Windows 8, but let's be honest here:  there are a lot more Windows 7 users out there.

If you're going to upgrade, why not upgrade to something you can transition to at your own pace?  I'm sure unless you've been hiding from the Internet and all media you've heard something about Linux.  Linux is freely downloadable, comes with a free license forever, and can be installed *beside* your Windows, so you can "kick the tires" before you commit.  The install takes a lot less time, and the choice is entirely yours.

Once in Linux, you won't have access to your Windows programs, but all your data is there.  If you use the cloud as your word processor or spreadsheet, not much changes.  Most notable, however, is that upon install you have most of what you need already installed.  Not everything is identical to what you're used to, sure.  But Windows 10 isn't what you're used to, either.  So if you have to make a choice, why not the one you can make based on your own desires?  They're more similar than you might think!

Here's a list of some of the more popular flavours of Linux, to get started:
Linux Mint

Many distributions provide a bootable "live" version you can even try by putting on a CD/DVD or USB.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

These ARE The Droids I've Been Looking For!

For a long time now, I've been in love with open source. Every time I start looking around for a new computing tool or discover a new application, I usually find some tie-in to open source. I wonder if it's something like The Secret -- "like attracts like" -- in that I've been exposed to open source for so long all I see is open source.

But I digress, often.

These are exciting times for technology lovers like myself. For the first time in history, we can carry almost the sum of all knowledge in our very hands. Whether it's an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Windows phone, smart phones have definitely taken hold. I own two Android phones, and a tablet that has transformed the way I prefer to use computers.

Naturally, I gravitated towards open source once again. Underneath that crisp green Android shell is my beloved Linux kernel, bustling with promise. The iPhone may be the most beautiful phone out there, visually, cohesively, but for the sheer wonder I keep finding amongst my Droids, I'm hooked for life!

My eldest Android, an HTC Desire, is the least capable of the three devices, but still runs well and provides me with texting, reading, entertainment, my calendar and email - I even use it as a phone sometimes! Its internal space is a bit limiting at only 512MB, but I've packed in the most useful apps I could find to suit the way I use the phone (all personal use). The Samsung Galaxy S II is my work-issued phone, with 16GB inside, plus an SD card I have never had to touch but for nandroid backups. The Samsung holds tonnes of apps, and I keep installing new ones just to test out what Android Does. Being in tech, this is useful for when people ask the inevitable "what do you recommend" question.

And then there's the tablet - an Acer A500. I'll admit, not the slickest tablet, but pure Android, and like all my devices, rooted just to ensure I can do as I please with it. Today's wonderment: finding the Blogger app, which took seconds to install and begin writing here once again.

Go ahead tell me an iPad would be better. Tell me to replace either of my Droid phones for any other make. I'll bet you can't convince me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I've Got You Under My Skin

If there's one thing that irks me more than anything else in the Information Technology field, it's the attitude of "Hey, as long as there are all these problems, I'll have a job, right?"

To me, that is wrong on just so many levels.  First of all, do the support personnel, developers, and the entire industry around them actual believe that this is what's best for their customers, or even for their bottom line?  Forget personal satisfaction for a job well done, hell even forget professional pride for being able to solve the real problems users have.  Is this really about "as long as my needs are met, I'll keep doing the same ineffective things"?  Okay, so everyone out there, yours truly included, wants to keep their job and remain gainfully employed.  But there has to be a better way!

Since everyone seems to relate to car analogies, let me try one of my own here.  You have a car that maybe randomly accelerates, and braking doesn't effectively stop it.  Or maybe under certain circumstances turning on the left turn signal while turning the steering wheel to the right will cause the gas tank to explode (in very rare instances, of course).  Well, being a common technician, let's see if we can come up with what would be a standard answer -- a workaround, or a patch that will make the situation work in spite of these flaws.  In the first scenario, if the car starts to accelerate uncontrollably, just shift the gears into neutral; you'll probably blow out your engine, but the car will come to a safe halt and you can then take the issue up with the manufacturer to get things all fixed up again.  In the latter situation, it's even simpler:  don't turn your steering wheel right while you have your left turn signal on; it's a rare problem anyway, so it's best to just avoid doing that.

How does this relate to the IT industry?  I'm sure any techs out there have already made their own parallels.  But here's one:  "My computer keeps getting infected with malware of one sort or another, and I keep my antivirus, firewall and antispyware up-to-date.  What do I do?"  What do you do with a rash of malware seemingly targeting some users?  Tell them to stop visiting "those sites"?  Maybe it's not the sites they visit, or the company they keep.  Maybe the problem is the software they use to do what THEY choose to with THEIR computer.  But it keeps us techs employed, cleaning up their messes, so no alternatives are usually given.

Which gives me a nice segue way into security.  Large institutions tend to try make their network secure, by limiting the number of outside access points they have, or by making access without a properly-authenticated computer difficult.  It doesn't matter if this can effectively make some computing equipment useless; at least everything is secure, and hey, it's another problem so it keeps someone employed, right?  What about new equipment or software that doesn't fit the security standard?  Should that just be forbidden and never allowed?  What about non-standard software that doesn't function properly within this "secure" environment?  Don't turn right while signaling left...

I think it's high time for the IT industry as a whole to quit looking at the "bottom line" and actually start providing solutions to user problems.  There are more than enough of those to keep all of us employed for many years to come!  And just think of what progress we'll make!

What irks you about the hardware and software that intrudes into your life?