Misunderstanding Computers

Why do we insist on seeing the computer as a magic box for controlling other people?
Why do we want so much to control others when we won't control ourselves?

Computer memory is just fancy paper, CPUs are just fancy pens with fancy erasers, and the network is just a fancy backyard fence.
コンピュータの記憶というものはただ改良した紙ですし、CPU 何て特長ある筆に特殊の消しゴムがついたものにすぎないし、ネットワークそのものは裏庭の塀が少し拡大されたものぐらいです。

(original post/元の投稿 -- defining computers site/コンピュータを定義しようのサイト)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why users and passwords?

Okay, you just got that brand new computer at the store, you brought it home, turned it on, and it's asking you to set up a user account. And, if the system is worth anything at all, it's suggesting you set up an administration user, too.

You: Huh? What? Why? I just want to use the thing, I don't want to learn how to be a system administrator just to surf the web.

Well, actually, you do. Hmm, ... no, I don't want to tell you that, because I know you'll quit listening. Okay, let's try this, instead:
Strange Web Site: Hey, that's a pretty cool computer you have there.

You: Uh, thanks.

Strange Web Site: Let me show you some cool things to do with it.

You: Wait. I don't know you.

Strange Web Site: Oh, no problem. I wouldn't do anything bad to your computer.

You: STOP! QUIT! NOOOooooooo!
Okay,  that should give you an idea of why you want to set up users. By setting up users, you can make it so people have to log in to your computer with a user name and password before they can do anything evil to your computer.

Okay, so I should set up a user. But why two? I mean, my buddies tell me it's a hassle when you've just downloaded a cool app and you have to log out and log back in as a system administrator just to get it to run.

Hey, I know what you mean. You just found that cool app to find bluegrass tunes for you and, no, not bluegrass? Not grunge rap? Not death plastic metal? Oh, re-mixes of Tchaikovsky. No?

Well, I don't know what it is that turns your crank. In my case it would be a new programming language I'd never tried before, but maybe you're not into that, either. Anyway, there are these things that are often called apps, and you often want them, and friends suggest them, and, yes, if you usually surf the web as a non-administrator user, like they tell you, it's a hassle.

But if you surf the web as an administrator user, all it takes is one crack in the browser's defense, and before the conversation above can be started, somebody you've never even seen or talked to has put in a little program that steals your passwords, credit card numbers, your e-mail address book, and any information in your e-mails that looks interesting, fun, or profitable to them, and left another little program that uses your computer (yes, your computer -- or your phone!) to crank out unsolicited advertisements of dubious nature, or worse.
(v!@GrA anyone?) 
Not interesting, fun, or profitable for you.

So, it's a pain, but go ahead and set up the separate administrator user account, and don't use it to surf or browse.

And, after the initial setup, you might want to find the administration tools and set up another account, to be a bit safer, an account that you only use to log in at the bank.

I actually set up separate accounts for each of the following on the family computer:
  • administration (see above)
  • bank business
  • work (but check with your employer)
  • work related surfing
  • general family surfing
  • one private account for each family member
Why the last item? That's several accounts, of course. For me it's a matter of respecting their right to a certain amount of privacy in their e-mail. (My wife does not yet use her's very often. Oh, well.) It's a bit like each member of the family having his or her own shelves (or room, or desk).

Anyway, you definitely want at least one non-administrator user account and one administrator account on your computer, and you want to use a non-administrator account for most of what you do.

That should go for your cell/portable phone, too, but the guys who make those think you aren't capable of managing it yourself.

But, your friends say it's too hard? Well, that's part of what I made this blog for.

Let's start with how to choose your user names and passwords.

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