the internet sucks|
the internet really sucks. for people who actually have to use it to get work done, it has become almost unuseable. with things like spam, viruses, worms, and hackers, it has become "every man for himself". here are a few things people should do when using the internet:
* be leery about everything. every time you install something, watch what it does. don't click next just because the screen said so. you could be clicking away any and all of your rights to personal privacy. if you feel uncomfortable installing something, or are unfamiliar with the software, check to see what issues other users have had with that software (for example, if you are worried about norton antivirus, use google.com and search for "norton antivirus install problems").
* in my opinion, you should not use any internet-based software that comes from microsoft. internet explorer is one of the most bug-ridden pieces of software available. outlook and outlook express are just as bad. firefox is a much safer option. (of course, i may be somewhat biased, since i am a unix sysadmin...)
* install software to detect viruses and spyware on your computer. the most innocent looking programs could be stealing your passwords and credit card info. for detecting spyware, many people prefer to use adaware and spybot. since i don't run windows full-time (i rarely run it at all), i am not considered your average computer user. i can't provide any insight about any particular anti-virus software.
* use a firewall at all times. a standalone firewall (such as a netgear or linksys broadband router) is best, however a software firewall (not the one that comes bundles with windows xp) is acceptable. however, the right virus can disable a software firewall. (hardware firewalls don't suffer from that affliction.)
the internet didn't use to be this way. in the early days of the internet (before the mid 1990's), there were not massive daily panics over worms, viruses, spyware, hackers, and spam. (all of that existed, just not to the extent that they are present today.) however, over the years it has become more and more annoying to use a computer online. i work with computers and the internet for a living, and i have become disappointed in the amount of work that has to be done to filter out the junk. (the work that i do for my personal machines is nowhere near the amount of work isp's, web hosting companies, or system and network admins for large companies face on a daily basis.) the signal to noise ratio has gone down a lot over the past few years. you almost have to be like a hermit when going online and go against the mainstream to enjoy the internet. (and even then you can't really enjoy it because all of the nice things have to be protected as well.) here are some of the various steps I personally have had to go through to avoid the noise:
* run linux instead of windows on my home computer.
pros: no spyware, no viruses, and no worms (yet); better stability than many versions of windows; cheaper to install (free download).
cons: lower compatibility with people/software/web sites that expect you to have windows; more work and significant technical knowlege needed to increase compatibility with the rest of the world; few mainstream games are available; somewhat steep learning curve required to have same level of productivity.
* run non-standard internet software.
pros: no exposure to viruses or worms from instant messaging software, internet explorer, or outlook/outlook express.
cons: some incompatibility with some web sites; some instant messaging features (such as video chat) are often unavailable without official im software; some im services "break" access to non-official chat software.
* run my own mail server.
pros: no limits on how much mail I can keep; i can filter out %80+ of spam before it even reaches my inbox; i can have as many addresses as I want; i can keep email addresses for as long as i want.
cons: not free; requires significant technical knowlege to set up, secure, and manintain.
* run home computers behind a hardware firewall.
pros: no exposure to internet worms; no attacks on unsecured/unknown software on my computer; can't be disabled like software firewalls (such as zonealarm) can.
cons: not free; some services/sites don't work well behind firewalls; takes some technical knowlege to set up.
of course, most users will not need to go through this much hassle, but i am a bit paranoid when it comes to the internet. maybe because i see all the bad things that can happen on a daily basis...