thoughtomation

removing the "mis" from information

Friday, July 02, 2004

US Government Warns: Internet Explorer is a security threat

This is not a drill



The particular virus initiated this week inserts JavaScript into certain Web sites. When users visit those sites, it initiates pop-up ads on home and office computers, and allows keystroke analysis of user information. The target is believed to be credit card numbers. CERT estimated that as many as tens of thousands of Web sites may be affected.




My advice, as a 7-year veteran of the computer industry: Stop using Internet Explorer immediately.

I finally switched to Mozilla about a week ago. I don't regret it one bit. I have also been using Mozilla Firefox, which has really been working well for me. If you have been using Internet Explorer, you'll find that you don't really have to re-learn a new program; all the same hotkeys work. For a few partisan Microsoft sites, you may have to switch back to IE. It's not like you can get rid of it, anyway. (Slick Willie Gates made sure of that!)

Firefox has a few nifty touches, besides being much more straightforward to operate and inherently more secure (through less of what I call "Microsoft special sauce", i.e., "integration with the OS"). One, it has a Google search bar built in - I don't need to navigate to the Google home page to do a search. Two, it's got automatic popup blocking (customizable to taste), which means I can (and did) get rid of another memory-resident, on-startup program, my ex-popup killer. Which further means that I've finally achieved my goal of having no TSRs except a the software firewall and virus killer. Okay, systray TSRs on me all the time, but that's Microfraud for you.

I might as well take this opportunity to get a few things off my chest with regards to personal computing. Most of us use Windows computers, for the sheer volume of software availability, and apparent simplicity of use. Though Apple and UNIX-based systems may be technologically superior (heck, no doubt, they are, by quite a bit), Apple doesn't have the software base, and UNIX is too complicated for the bulk of personal users.

I use Windows 98, still. To this day, I cannot name a single advantage of "upgrading" to Win2000, WinME, or WinXP, for my needs, or for the needs of your average home/home office user. Those operating systems have a new interface, but their tighter integration between components is more of a security problem, more of a resource drain, and brings no real benefit.

Let me issue an open challenge: Name one benefit of any post-Win98, Windows OS over Win98. (NT 4.x, 5.x doesn't count - I mean Me, 2000, or XP.) I have been using personal computers for 19 years and I can think of none, but I do want to know what to answer when I am faced with the question in a seniors' center Trivial Pursuit tournament after the usual raucous afternoon round of shuffleboard.

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