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Mad As Hell: II -- How I [and 98% of Ma&Pa] work

Winn Schwartau notes his eight expectations for how a computer should behave.

Even though I am a security guy, my day-to-day work is pretty much like everyone else's. I live on laptops and use my desktops at home and the office for geeking and experimenting. My pair of day-to-day laptops [Mac and Vaio XP Pro are religiously backed up and so are my business machines. I don't need them to do a whole lot -- except reliably work, and that is why I am so damned aggravated with WinTel. [My Dell/Linux is for fun when I have the time, and to determine when it would be safe for OO.o to go Prime Time IMHO.]

Here is why I am annoyed:
1. I want my computer to function every time I turn it on.
WinTel platforms don't work anymore -- at least not reliably. More than anything else, I need my box to work. I don't need it to crash while giving a PowerPoint presentation to the Canadian Parliament or the ABA. I don't need Word to crash after writing the last 12 irretrievably brilliant paragraphs. I don't need IE to crash because the memory handling in Windows is so poor. And so it goes with a global litany of crashes that require reboot or memory cleansing every day.

Do this. Open IE. Look at Processes in Task Manager and see how much RAM is being used. Now open a whole bunch of IE windows and watch the memory get eaten up. Now, close all of the IE windows and see how much RAM you are now using.

2. I want my computer to not corrupt data when it does crash.
That has happened to every one of us. Nuf said.

3. I use a handful of applications: Microsoft Office.
Whether I like Office or not is immaterial. [I do like it, though, or I am terribly used to it.] The fact is that the world uses Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Open Office and Star Office are getting ready for Prime Time, almost. But there are incompatibilities that would drive the average computer user bonkers. Maybe in a year or so… but not yet. That's why I have a separate SUSE laptop to play around with.

4. I live on the Net. I do not want my browser to eat up all of my memory.
At the end of the day, most e-mail programs have pretty good features. I have always chosen one that is not the subject of endless assault by the 'hackers.' The world, of course, should never use IE or Outlook: they are the prime targets of entirely too many attacks and vulnerable to too many 'oopses' that are really unnecessary. I have chosen Firefox. That's my current religion, and I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I damned well please!

5. My MP3 and video clips and movies should operate every time I click on them, regardless of format.
Hello? What is the problem here?

6. I use FTP pretty regularly.

7. Third-party tools.
In the WinTel world I have a terrific assortment of third-party tools to try to keep my PC alive. That's just crazy. My wife has, out of necessity, turned into an uber-geek-spouse. All she wants to do is write, e-mail, surf & shop, and do graphics. She spends between 4-8 hours per week performing security relevant tasks to keep her machine alive, and it still crashes all of the time. [Didn't the Intel dude just say the same thing?]

8. If I never install another operating system again… jeeez!
It's happened to you. CRASH! Reboot is arguably poor. F2 says the BIOS is OK. F8 Safe Boot is indecipherable to all but the technically hearty. Dell New Delhi says "reinstall the O/S." Have you ever done that? Of course you have. But your machine is never the same. It's like laser surgery; you see better sometimes, but not always… and at night all bets are off. The WinTel O/S installation on your PC did not come from the disks they give you to reinstall Windows. It comes from the manufacturer's master build and they ain't the same! Sorry guys, but it's true. A new O/S install is just a quaint way of saying, "Shut up, Customer. It's as close as we can get without having to spend a lot of money to make it right."

That's enuf. For now. But there is more. Later.

MacIntosh vs. Windows: Choosing to take a bite of the Apple
Disgusted by security issues and poor performance, Winn Schwartau makes the switch from Windows to the Mac and details the bumps in the road along the way in this exclusive intro to his "Mad as Hell" series.

Mad as Hell archive

About the author
Winn Schwartau is one of the country's leading experts on information security, infrastructure protection and electronic privacy. Schwartau is president and founder of Interpact Inc., The Security Awareness Company, which develops information security awareness programs for private, public and government organizations.

This was last published in May 2005

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