Basic Cable for the Internet
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
  Tools for the Relative Support Techs
As an IT person (guru, my ultra-sensitive ego whispers while it jabs me in the kidneys with a soldering iron), I have to deal with computer support for my family. Parents. Thanks to the many supposed "vacation" days I've spent poring over logs and removing virii and spyware, I now have a little recurring fantasy of an evil adware developer waking one morning to find the severed purple head of a gorilla in his bed: "Bonzi Buddy! NOOOOOOOOOO!"

I love this kind of tool: not just because it's free (which helps), but because it does one core thing, and does it well. Sometimes you need to clean out the major muck just to get a parental units' system in a usable state in order for the real troubleshooting to begin.

And by the way, ISPs that merrily hand out broadband access to obviously clueless users without even an attempt to educate them on security should be shot in the head, along with all the extremists.

ZoneAlarm is free. Anyone can pick up a Linksys box that will at least give you a NAT and a firewall to hide behind (yes, yes, I know, it's not perfect. You prefer nothing?) for under $30 these days. You're charging me $45 a month for this service, I can't imagine amortizing the cost of a NetGear router/firewall/NAT device over the course of the years I'll be on this system will add more than a couple of pennies to the total. You do it already with the cable modem.

Heck, doesn't it cost you more in support calls when the PC is infested with spyware and the user calls your tech support to complain that the Internet is slow? Doesn't it cost you more to upgrade the SMTP servers to handle all the spam (and rejection emails) those users are spewing?

Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt your studious avoidance of reality, there, Mr. ISP. Please carry on. Everyone else, go get a hardware or software firewall. Better yet, get both. Also, a spyware/adware removal tool; if you can get one that prevents scumware installation to begin with, even better. The Microsoft one will do, even if it's beta.

You already have anti-virus, of course. But here's a little secret: if you're smart about when you open attachments and where you travel to on the net in your daily troll for porn, it'll never trigger. I've had anti-virus for years, and the only thing in its logs are the times I run the EICAR test file against it, to make sure it's still working like I think it should. If I had HTML views turned on in email, I might have a different story, but I don't, so I don't.

And if you are reading this post using Internet Explorer, you're probably already infected. Get your filthy browser off my blog, you damn dirty purple ape! Go get Firefox before you hurt yourself or someone you love.
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