Journal: News & Comment

Saturday, February 07, 2004
# 9:38:00 AM:

We were all newbies once

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Learn or log off is the message some tech-savvy people are starting to give to their friends, families, acquaintances, and co-workers, according to a recent New York Times article.

It's a pity. Everyone using the Internet or a computer was a newbie once. I admit to being frustrated by some behaviour of people I know—see yesterday's post about e-mail attachments—but, in that example, I've been sending and receiving e-mail for more than 20 years. I made plenty of mistakes back then, and far more recently too, yet when relatively few people were online, the hazards of making those errors were small, and mostly personal.

Now, with high-speed, always-on Internet connections at work and at home, a near-monoculture of Microsoft Windows and Outlook, and hundreds or thousands of idiots in far-flung places of the world writing viruses, worms, and Trojan horse programs, all it takes is a slip of judgment with an attached file and you could turn your computer into a zombie that tries to infect the machines of everyone you know.

As someone who's often a tech-support resource for others, I try to be patient, because the people I know are smart, and it's better to try to explain what the problem is than to get all huffy. But I have to admit, it's often hard.


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