? ?
05 January 2005 @ 10:50 am
Sssssssshift - Computer Rant  
Feeling particularly sorry for myself today. No real reason, nothing happened or anything like that, before you ask. Just feeling that way. Ah well, it'll pass...it usually does. Just have to find someone else's problems to deal with. ;)


In other news, I want to pass something on that karzon just linked, and it hit me close to home.

From the Internet Storm Center, Handler's Diary, 12-28-04: Every time I see one of the current spate of AOL television ads portraying their customers as clueless morons I want to scream. It’s not that I have some sort of deep-seated respect for the intelligence of AOL users, but rather, these ads represent, far too well, the current industry mindset, which treats computers as home appliances.

"Don’t worry about viruses and spyware," AOL explains, "we’ll take care of that for you... Plug it in, turn it on, and disengage your brain..."

Pay attention, you’re about to read something vitally important: COMPUTERS ARE NOT APPLIANCES. THEY ARE TOOLS. Tools require that their user be skilled. Tools require education and training to use. Tools require a level of involvement beyond that of an appliance because "tool use" carries with it an inherent danger. To understand the difference between tools and appliances, simply consider for a moment the number of "important safety warnings" found in the user manual of, say, your average refrigerator, versus, say, the number found embossed on the side of your average ladder.

And yet, over the past decade, the computer industry has deliberately ignored the nature of its product. It has attempted to grind off the sharp edges, to put padding on the corners, and to make a "consumer safe" appliance from these inherently dangerous tools.

The current state of security on the Internet is simply reaping the seeds we have sown.

Computers are not appliances. If something goes wrong with your refrigerator, it doesn’t attack your neighbor’s microwave. If you don’t patch your toaster oven, the chance that it will join up with other toaster ovens in a denial of service attack against the White House is negligible. Yet we persist in marketing computers in a way that presents their operation as requiring the same degree of knowledge and skill as is required to operate a toaster oven.

Beyond the simple fact that computers are tools, and thus requiring more involved and knowledgeable operators, computer use in the twenty-first century is very network-centric. Thus, irresponsible and dangerous behavior on the part of an untrained user can have serious repercussions for, quite literally, millions of others. We don’t allow untrained and inexperienced drivers onto our streets, but any yokel with $9.95 a month can get on the Internet.

The time has come for change. Users cannot continue to proxy the responsibility for their security to others. If they’re going to use this tool, they need to be trained or they need to pull the plug (or have the plug pulled for them).

What can you do? Teach.

Organize a community "adult ed" class to teach people security basics. Sit Aunt Sophie down and make sure that she has (and, more importantly, understands why she needs) a firewall and virus scan. Check with your local School District and make sure that while they’re teaching the impressionable young ‘uns how to create a graph using Excel, that they’re also teaching them safe computing habits. Scout your neighborhood over the next week, looking for discarded Christmas computer boxes, and knock on the door and offer your services.

We’ll all be glad you did.

But be sure you teach. Don't just do it for them. The worst disservice you can do for another human being is to assume that they're incapable of taking responsibility for themselves. Remember: If you build a man a fire, you'll warm him for a day. If you set a man on fire, you'll warm him for the rest of his life. ;-)
Exactly. When I worked at EarthLink, we'd get some of the most moronic calls (been around me long enough, and you've heard some of the stories, no doubt) about things that a computer owner really should know. It sure was nice when some of those people would be appreciative of being taught these things, but then there were the others, the ones that literally didn't want to know, just wanted it fixed. Now, I dunno about you, but when something has to be fixed, and I can't do it, I like to know why it broke, and how to fix it, if I can, in case it happens again. The response I'd get a lot of the time is that they "don't have time" or are "too old", both of which are bullshit. As the above article states, it's a tool, and like any tool, you must learn how to use it.

Sadly, though, I'm willing to bet that this will not be the case. People will not learn how to use computers. Look into your average "computer education" class...what are they teaching? Microsoft Office. You'll learn the ins-and-outs of word processing, minor Excel usage,and Outlook for your e-mail. MAYBE, they'll show you the Internet, but not likely, since the teachers know 90% of the students will get AOHell anyway.

Humanity doesn't want to learn, it wants to be served. It wants all to be done for it. Go not that way, my friend; that way lies madness. The more you let be done for you, the more dependant on it you are, and the more you are controlled.

Learn - Do - Live.
Current Music: Pop Will Eat Itself - R.S.V.P.
Sandiesm101 on January 5th, 2005 07:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I know how tht goes. Just out of the blue for no apparent reason. It sucks, but you know it will go away, which is the good part.

wesa on January 5th, 2005 07:09 pm (UTC)
I put this up in a comment to a friend last night (Nightmarelbc) and got many happy responses. Hoping it brings out a little smile, and that the mood passes quickly.
You looking at me?
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: The Mask (Laughing)archmage on January 5th, 2005 07:20 pm (UTC)

That shouldn't be as funny as it is.
wesa on January 5th, 2005 07:23 pm (UTC)
I know. It's the oddest thing.
air_n_darknessair_n_darkness on January 5th, 2005 07:41 pm (UTC)
My cup holder is broken! Fix it!
Did you ever get that call? Or how 'bout "where's the "any" key?" have you noticed that programs hardly ever say "press any key"? It's always press enter or space bar now.....

People are devolving....and the industry perpetuates the cycle. They don't even teach typing anymore because most people "learn to type" as kids playing on a computer...meaning they learn very fast hunt n' peck.
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: Veritas / Aequitasarchmage on January 5th, 2005 07:46 pm (UTC)
Re: My cup holder is broken! Fix it!
Hey, don't knock fast four-finger typing...that's all I can do. But i keep up a pretty good speed, so I don't sweat it.

And, for the record, i never got the 'cup-holder' call, but I did have to explain to someone that the 'any key' didn't exist.
air_n_darknessair_n_darkness on January 5th, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC)
Re: My cup holder is broken! Fix it!
I'm a big hunt 'n pecker typist myself, but I can remember my mom fussing w/ Dad that I'd never be able to learn real typing skills; he started teaching me computer stuffs w/ the first Apple. And she was right...

But since we'll eventually get to the point where we can just speak into our computers and the words come up, who cares, right:)!
The Cynic: RIAA Freediscordian on January 5th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC)
...and the more you are controlled.

I recently had a very long debate about this. While, if looked at from a certain level, it's terrible, all pack animals do this to themselves. We, the humans, of course, had to push it to the next level. How many people in the "civilized" world do you think would survive if they actually had to hunt? Christ, half the people can't even tell you which way is north in their own damn back yard - let alone find the closest fresh water source. We've been building co-dependence since the day some poor ape picked up a stick. Computers are just the next "tool" that's bound to become a fact of life. Hell... anyone without an Email address is already considered twice as odd as someone without a car, for example. Speaking of cars... the BMW 7 series has an automatic kill switch when a proximity sensor is tripped. Coupled with the infligt navigation system, speed governor, auto-adjusting suspension and front/rear drive selection and onStar so you don't even have to check if you got your keys out of the car - the human behind the wheel is pretty much useless. And that's basically where we're heading - and in as much as it sucks from the point of an individual, it's exactly the way it should be. Hell, the only way it can be.
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: Veritas / Aequitasarchmage on January 5th, 2005 08:15 pm (UTC)
Yes and no. At the same time, you can make the argument, as above, of tool usage. Any tool can be a help or a rein, depending on who's doing the controlling. My point is that having a tool and using it is a step up in the evolutionary process, but that doesn't mean that the tool controls you. You have it, you understand it, and you choose to use it as you see fit to better your life. Having the tool and allowing it to control you (through lack of knowledge, especially willfully) is damning in the end.
The Cynic: Hair Metaldiscordian on January 5th, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC)
How often have you used a sun dial to figure out your schedule? Or how about pulling out a star-chart to plot your course for a vacation? How many rocket scientists are unsing pen and paper to compute square roots and all the other kinds of mathematical crap? Most tools, sooner or later, take control of your life.
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: Swordheartarchmage on January 5th, 2005 08:38 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, we have developed new tools that are better and more effecient than those to do the same jobs. you're missing the point...the point here is not the usage of tools, but the understanding of how to make them work.

No, I haven't used a sundial lately, but I have used a clock...and I know how to set that clock, and how to RESET that clock, should something mess it up. No, your average scientist uses a calculator, rather than a pencil and paper...and he knows how to make that calculator do all it's various functions, and how to replace the battery when it no longer works properly

The computer industry, though, seems to be encouraging people NOT to know how to fix basic problems. I'm not saying you should be MCSE certified or something, just to own a computer, but I'm saying you SHOULD know how to handle it, day-to-day, above being able to turn it on and double-click the AOHell icon. An overview of security...a passing knowledge of how to look up help and troubleshooting information...basic file handling; these are all easy to know, and should be understood, in order to make the tool YOURS, instead of something that sits there and does it's thing regardless of you, or worse, does it's thing by OTHERS' standards and wishes.
The Cynic: Drinkersdiscordian on January 5th, 2005 08:53 pm (UTC)
Somewhere in this thread I should have said that I agree whole-heartedly with everything you've said so far. I do think people need to have a basic understanding of what a computer is, and how to fix minor, every-day problems, as well as take the necessary steps to protect themselves. Gods how I wish that would come to pass. But, I've pretty much given up hope of that - and along with that everything else. Already we're faced with people who don't know how to do even minor maintenance on a car. Hell... *I* don't know how to do much more than change a flat tire. In fact - aside from computers and small electronic gadgets - I don't know how a damn thing in my house actually works - beyond the very basic concept. That's both the beauty and the horror of our society. I don't NEED to know how to fix a leaky toilet because your average plumber doesn't NEED to know how to defrag his hard drive. I'm sure somewhere it breaks down, but we compensate for the ever widening needs of our day to day lives by narrowing our own specialty. The balance is maintained. 2000 years ago each person needed the knowledge of 10 things to survive - so they each learned their 10 things. Today, you need 1000 so you pool your resources with 100 other people, and like Napoleon - divide and conquer.... still only learning 10 things each, but in the process scoring a nice and comfy Manhattan loft, rather than a shack with an outhouse.
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: Burn The Worldarchmage on January 5th, 2005 09:09 pm (UTC)
*nods* It's that specialization, though, that is going too far.

Obviously, I can't learn how everything I own works, but I can learn basic usage and simple maintenance of those things, and call in a specialist for more intense things. The problem comes when one basically doesn't learn anything, and expects the specialist to handle it all. At that point, you've given up all control in that sector.

For instance, I may not know how to fix a car, but I know things to do to keep it in good working order (how to check tires pressure and to have them rotated, how to check various fluid levels, etc.), and I know, in a basic sense, how an internal combustion engine works. The upside is that, even when I have to take my car to a mechanic, I can describe my problem better than "it's making a noise"...and I'm less likely to be screwed over by an unscrupulous business.

Anyone can learn things, the problem comes when people willfully choose not to learn, instead allowing themselves to be led like lambs.

As for the day coming when people DO know basic computer usage...well, I'm not holding my breath. I can teach when and where I can, and I can hope, right?
The Cynic: chaodiscordian on January 5th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC)
This hope business is getting too much. I feel like the Daves in PCU. "Let's just give up, man." To be later followed by "We put up ONE".