Archive for August, 2008

Answer to Vista WGA “comply or die” nag

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Relative: Why does my computer lose my wallpaper and give me a black screen every hour?

Me: Ah, that’s just Vista for you. You have to pay Microsoft to get rid of that.

Relative: Why? Why should I have to pay Microsoft? Why doesn’t it just work?

Me: A.) It’s not Linux, so it won’t “just work” no matter what you do, and B.) You didn’t really expect Microsoft to let you use their computer for free, did you?

Relative: Um, I already paid for it…

Me: Yes, you paid for the computer. But you didn’t pay Microsoft. You have to pay Microsoft before you can use it. You own the computer, they own the software.

Relative: So wait – you have to pay for both the computer and Microsoft?

Me: No, I use Linux. I only have to pay for the computer.

Relative: But if I paid Microsoft, I’d own both the computer, and the software, right?

Me: No, you would own just the computer. Microsoft would still own the software.

Relative: But I could move the software to a new computer if I bought the software, right?

Me: No, that’s not how Microsoft works. You pay them, and you get to use the software on that computer. They still own it – you don’t – and you can’t move it from computer to computer.

Relative: So let me get this straight… I pay Microsoft for software, and they still own it?! What kind of shit is that?

Me: Yep, that’s how proprietary software works. You get to use it, but you can’t own it.

Relative: So how is it that you don’t have to pay Microsoft?

Me: I run Linux.

At this point, it starts to sink in that pirating Windows isn’t doing them any favors. As far as I’m concerned, if you want to use proprietary software, you can pay for it.

Why use anti-virus software?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Here is a secret for you: You do not need AV software.

Actually, let me clarify that statement. You might need AV software if you are a very uninformed user who likes to open email attachments from unknown people or download lots of useless software from questionable sources. However, if that person I described is not you, then you do not need AV software, and it is just taking system (and apparently network) resources.

The reason you don’t need AV software is because there are only two ways to get virus on your computer: 1) Network-related software you use is exploited. 2) You willingly (although accidentally) run the bad software yourself. Yes, I’m simplifying things, but it is hardly any more complicated than this. Since you are an informed user, you have learned not to run bad software, so #2 doesn’t apply to you; and since you patch your system regularly (right?), #1 is very unlikely.

However, there may be a tiny window between the time that an exploit is found and the patch being made available where you could potentially be vulnerable. Theoretically, AV software can ‘protect’ you in this scenario since virus definitions are made available sooner than patches. The solution here is, again, to be an informed user. If a piece of software you use becomes vulnerable to a new exploit, you should know about it and take the necessary precautions yourself during the time before a patch is released, in order to protect your system. This will protect you much better than any AV software will, and it’s not difficult since there are not many pieces of software which could even be exploited (the main ones are your browser and other internet-related apps).

Now, I’m a user of Linux, BSD, and (rarely) Windows. I have been running Windows for years without a hitch by being an informed user. Actually, I also usually install patches long after they are available because I turned off the automatic download/install feature (I like to know what’s using my internet connection), and for some reason it doesn’t even notify me of the availability of patches so I often forget. Nevertheless, I’ve never been compromised mainly because I don’t run questionable software or read unknown emails, and the security of the software (and patches) has been good enough.

In my opinion, AV software is a scam. It might be useful for grandmas and other clueless users who open email attachments indiscriminately, but I cannot see how anyone informed enough cannot also manage their own security. Not that all users are informed, but I should think that you should be informed enough to be able to live without AV software quite easily. Bottom line: run a firewall (preferably a hardware firewall), patch often, be informed, and ditch the AV software.

Is there a drawback to self-employment?

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

One of the main reasons for being an employee is because it’s (supposed to be) both easier and safer than striking out on your own. Instead of long hours and having to wear many hats, you can just concentrate on your own skill, and leave the business stuff to the people who specialize in that. Anyone familiar with the idea of specialized labor should understand this. The downside is (supposed to be) your pay is lower than it could potentially be by owning and operating your own business.

If today’s corporations want their regular rank-and-file employees to wear many hats, be multi-talented, and have a lot of business skills, then they’re simply not doing their own jobs correctly.

Exempt vs Non-exempt

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

If you ever decide to switch to exempt versus hourly, it’s your chance to negotiate your rate. Go back several years and calculate how much you made in overtime vs regular time. Do market research on your job function and find out the salary range in your area as well as nationally. Do an honest evaluation of how you stack up to your co-workers.

Or, if they will not negotiate, leave for a new job – that’s what I did and I’m much happier for it. Unless you like your present job SO much that you will take a pay cut, find another job. However, I make sure that if I do have to work, I require that I am paid hourly…and I get paid for all OT. I learned years ago, I do NOT work for free.

My time is much to valuable. I generally prefer time off to OT, but sometimes you gotta do it. Don’t get me wrong, when they really need me for emergency down time, a deadline is looming, I’m there as long as it takes to get things done. I just refuse to do it for free. If they have to pay you for every hour you are there, they will think twice before making requests that you do so, and only do it when it is required.

Something to think about. How valuable is your time?