I use the internet an awful lot. I use it to communicate, to get information for work, to check my finances and to satisfy my insatiable curiosity about the the world we inhabit. Unfortunately, I also now live in Trinidad ruled, until recently, by one telecommunications behemoth – TSTT. This venerable company that rose from the steaming pile of its predecessor TELCO has managed to outdo even its predecessor in terms of spotty service, insanely high prices, indifferent customer service and an attitude towards the public that hasn’t been seen since the French Revolution. Though still unchallenged in the area of land lines ( aka POTS – plain old-fashioned telephone service), it has been battling the Irish based Digicel lately ( and rather successfully) for cellular service and is now facing a battle royal with the local cable company and a few others for internet service. I mention this because right now I am completely offline and will have to upload this blog tomorrow thanks to my high speed ( 256k for $50 US a month..ha ha ha ha) connection being down for the entire day at home. I tried calling 3 times to determine the cause of this bothersome phenomenon but being on hold for 15, 20 and 43 minutes respectively and having the silly need to hold a job meant that I met with no satisfaction. I can only presume they have a technical problem ( likely given their track record) or they have cut my service which would be understandable as I always pay my bills and the payment isn’t due for several days. Am I annoyed? Yes, slightly, but I live here and have been dealing with TSTT for some time. At least I can pull strings and have the situation rectified but I pity the average person. I may exercise my democratic right to switch to cable internet which offers much higher speed and, happily, I never used my TSTT email address anyway.
Which brings me to the subject of the internet in general which, despite its many benefits, also allows a great deal of evil. There are those who use the information superhighway for reasons far from the intended use of its creator – largely acknowledged to be Tim Berners Lee. There is the problem of evil hacking and I am careful to differentiate it from hacking in general which is generally a benign pursuit. Normal hackers tinker with their machines, play with programme code and a few go out on the internet and access sites simply to test their ability to bypass security. The mantra of these hackers is “do no evil, leave no trace”. It is the other hackers who use the internet , either for fun, profit or simple malevolence, to cause damage. These are the ones who create and distribute viruses, trojans and worms designed to damage your computer or compromise your information. I use only Macs in my private life ( for their style and user interface) so I have never contracted a virus – some say it is security by obscurity ( because of the fact Macs comprise less than 10% of the computer user base) but I am certain it is also based on the fact the operating system is inherently more secure. I can safely say that 100% of my friends and family who use Windows™ have had serious problems with viruses, many of which have incapacitated their machines. It shocked even me to learn that when online it takes only 30 minutes for a brand new Windows™ based computer to be attacked by hackers or my malicious code. I will settle for obscurity any day. I sometimes think Windows™ users stay with their platform only because they :
Don’t know there is an option.
Don’t know Macs can do everything ( and I mean everything) that a PC can do and then some.
Are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
The other problem people fall prey to is email scams. Frankly, I don’t care how much of a novice someone is , if you cannot recall ever having an account with a bank called “First National” why on earth are you entering your personal information on some web page you opened by clicking an email link? And I hate to break it to the public but it is highly unlikely a mysterious Nigerian prince/deposed African dictator/obscure Eastern Europe former Communist functionary would have picked you to get access to his accounts. These sad abuses of the internet prey on that most human of instincts – greed. Oh, while I am at it – you are not the 1,000,000th visitor to the site and you shouldn’t click the button.
Let’s talk about social networking for a moment. It is human nature to use the internet to meet people but honestly! I took a quick look at several of the bigger sites recently and I was shocked that a number of my friends have presences on them. It is ok to meet friends online but it is not wise to put your real name, date of birth, and other personal information for the entire world to see. Also, if you choose to have your picture online and belong to a networking site like facebook.com or hi5 be aware that your picture laden “friends” list can say a lot about you. If someone glances at it and sees a plurality of scantily clad women or men…there are certain conclusions that will be inevitably deduced. People also don’t seem aware that if a site requires you enter your MSN/YAHOO/AIM username and password to join – they have grabbed an important part of your identity. They can lock you out of your own IM presence if they want. Simple advice….don’t do it. We are all good citizens but given the US CIA/NSA thirst for information try and leave as small a cyber-footprint as you can. I am doing nothing wrong but I don’t want the US authorities to know everything I am doing online and listening in on my conversations. The Americans are a jumpy lot as they are in the throes of closing the barn door and the internet requires that packets travel through the path of least resistance so inevitably your information will pass through US servers where they will be sniffed and categorized. Be so foolish as to write “my friends and I are very worried about the possibility a terrorist bomb planted in the local mall will kill many people because of their hatred of what they see as evil America” and rest assured their software will only see “ bomb..mall..kill..evil America”. Oops…note to self…expect Storm Troopers upon upload tomorrow.
And finally, there is the use of the internet for good old character assassination. Ditch a lover, shun an advance, fire an employee, question a political opinion and rest assured your name will be besmirched on some site. What can you do about it? Virtually nothing. Learn to live with it because the ultimate protection is a life well lived.
So ultimately….love the internet and beware the internet. I hope to meet it again at work tomorrow after which you will read this blog.
Good Lord. This now officially my longest blog entry at 1,194 the previous record was 1,054.