2005-07-18

Throwing away infected PCs

Matt Richtel and John Markoff from The New York Times have written an interesting article about the increasing practice of PC owners to throw away their PCs and purchase new ones. Why? Because they are infected with Spyware and Adware.

When I first read the article I was startled to discover that, rather than spend the time to clean out the PC and remove the offending software, or even save the important files, wipe the hard-drive clean and re-install, that many people were simply throwing out their old machines and buying new ones. When you can buy a decent PC in America for about US$500, this option is increasingly seen as realistic.

Of course for me there is no such option. Lack of $ means that such an action would be stupid. My current PC is a Pentium 3-450 overclocked to run at 504mhz. I should know - I was the one who put the CPU in and did the overclocking. I have two hard drives - a 40gb and a 10gb. One contains my Linux system and the other contains my Windows 98 system (which never touches the internet). I installed my own CD-RW and DVD-RW drivers. I have a 17" monitor and I still use the old ISA Sound Card from my 1998 ACER computer. In short- I built my own computer from a combination of new and second hand parts. I installed Linux (Mandrake 10.1) myself and it is the Operating system I choose to use simply because it is very, very difficult to get it infected with Malware. Since viruses are written for Microsoft Windows in mind, I have no viruses to speak of either.

I have been using Linux since April 2003. It has been frustrating and annoying - but all OSes have their particular quirks and although Linux can be quite painful sometimes it very rarely lets me down. It does demand a higher level of IT expertise for the user, but I felt that I would learn as I went along - which I have done.

The most annoying thing my Win-98 system ever did was to refuse to shut down. I would hit the "Start" button, click on shutdown... and then get the Blue Screen of Death or a lot of dots all over the screen. Of course it would refuse to turn off. With Linux I can hit "Shutdown" and it shuts down - all the time every time.

If you ever consider switching to Linux, make sure you do the research. There are many distributions such as Suse, Debian, Fedora and my own preference Mandrake (now Mandriva). A lot of software from Windows will not work on Linux, although Linux has a lot of its own software that can read Windows files. An example of this is the Word Processor OpenOffice (which many people think is superior to Microsoft Word). OpenOffice saves its files as .sxw files, which Word can't open. But OpenOffice can read (and edit) .doc files, and can even save them in the .doc format.

When surfing the Internet I use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer. Click on the link to the right of the page to find out what that's all about. I also use Thunderbird to send and recieve emails. I have had no problems with any of them - they are both very secure and work well.

Linux and its many programs are considered Open Source because they allow anyone to view and modify the source code. This means, firstly, that if there are any security problems in the software, someone will find it very quickly and patch it up quickly. Secondly, it means that the software is free and you can install it on any PC if you choose to - there is no money to pay.

Linux and Open Source Software has a lot of indirect costs - and certainly there is software out there that is superior to open source (example - I prefer listening to CDs on my Windows 98 CD player than on the Linux KsCD player). Games, for example, are far superior on Windows than on Linux. But the daily "Meat and Potatoes" software that you need to run your PC - Operating system, Office Sotware, Web Browser, Email - Linux is up there with Windows.


From the usr/bin/oso Department



© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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