Wednesday, December 21, 2005

These Things Won't Go Away

I admit I'm surprised at the lack of feedback after my last blog. I was certain that the Linux fans would crawl out of the woodwork to defend their favorite distro against the thought that they would be forced to play second fiddle to Microsoft on the desktop forever.

I also expected some comments by the staunch Windows advocates, either in agreement, or to show how I was right for the wrong reasons.

Lacking that feedback, I'll apply some of those aforementioned observations to another issue, and offer a principle to explain it:

There have been some very good writings on the subject of PC security (or the lack thereof), and why we'll never get a handle on the problem of viruses, worms, spyware, spam, and the like. If I could remember where I saw them, I'd provide the links, and I encourage readers to share the links if they have them.

My take on it is simply that the average PC owner simply can't be bothered with the effort to secure, and keep secured, his or her PC. It isn't that they don't want to know, but that they simply don't care. Even those who suffer from the slowdowns and other minor effects of infection aren't concerned for it beyond a grumble. I've personally seen cases where computers contain 100s of spyware intrusions and pop-up problems, left uncorrected. The owners often say they don't know why it happens, but they are unwilling to spend the money to have a professional clean it up and they have no interest to learn how to do so themselves, even when told they can do it for free.

I've cleaned those machines, installed preventive measures, and watched the machines get re-infected because the owners fail to perform routine maintenance to keep up with the problem.

I call this "the Laziness Factor" and the application of this is widespread (personally observed in the United States, and may exist elsewhere). That principal reason why Linux can't catch up with Windows on the desktop is the same reason why we'll never keep malware off the home PC. The owner is simply too lazy to do or learn what is needed to maintain the system. In an age where we want our cars to be low maintenance (maintenance-free batteries, high-mileage tune-ups, delayed oil changes), we can't expect the PC owner to want a high-maintenance PC. So, if it doesn't take care of itself automatically, a problem won't get fixed unless the PC stops working entirely. No matter if the cost of later repairs is greater than the cost of regular maintenance; if the repair costs more than a few hundred dollars, the common reaction is to either put it off, or replace the computer. The funny thing is that, with Linux being a lower-maintenance operating system, it still misses out - because the learning curve is just too steep to climb!

How many machines sit at home running the factory defaults? Anti-virus subscriptions expire, and are allowed to run without updates. Machines go for months or years without being scanned. Heck, I've seen Windows machines that have never been defragmented!

Watch for a discussion of solutions in an upcoming blog... if anyone cares to discuss it!

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