Apr 282009
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

Most people nowadays have a computer. To most of you, this is a No-Duh kind of acceptance, like everyone having a cell phone, or everyone having access to all of humanity’s collective knowledge but instead choosing to access all of humanity’s collective smut and lolcats.

I hesitate to reveal how old I am (I can drink and vote — often at the same time), but assumed computer ownership was not necessarily the case when I was teeny. Kids these days have no respect for the magic box, what with the flat screen and multiple colors other than green and gray. Naturally, I assumed in the business world this would be different.

Not so much. It turns out that the most basic principles of computer security and use are largely ignored in favor of a, “Hey! I made words appear on the screen!” approach.

This results in large piles of wasted productivity and hair pulling, so that the small amount of the work day that is not taken up by slacking on Facebook and Twitter is filled with fighting Words’ hilariously “helpful” auto-format feature.

To use an analogy, picture that computers are connected by some kind of “highway” that transmits “information.”

People who don’t know the basics about computer use and security are like unlicensed, drunk, texting drivers, busily eating a sandwich in one hand and swigging a fifth of gin with the other. They’re most likely to cause accidents but also most likely to not lose anything vital. And when they get “pulled over” by someone who recognizes that perhaps at least one hand should be on the steering device, they become insolent. Then they show up on “COPS.”

I did tech support for a few years. Not that I’m bitter.

How is this relevant to you, you’re no doubt asking, as I have exceeded the non-me related attention span of most people by a good three paragraphs? Simple. At some point, you will get a job. And no matter what industry that’s in, you’ll likely have to come face-to-face with a computer.

Don’t be alarmed — it won’t hurt you unless you open it up and touch things with your tongue. In fact, this is my first tip — do not open your computer case in order to make out with the components. If you must, please unplug the computer first.

Second, pick a good password.

Not to scare you, but most businesses don’t have good passwords, and you routinely shop online and give them your credit cards. If you are a supervillain, this is doubly important — you don’t want the password to also be the name of your most prominent psychological disorder, because that’s what the heroes will guess first. Do not pick “MEGALOMANIA” or “IROCKIRAQ.” Pick something they’ll feel stupid even typing in like “KITTENSARENICE.”

Third — actually look at the windows that appear on the screen. Otherwise you will end up with six viruses, nine browser toolbars, and 35 programs running the background. That’s just from trying to install a screensaver. Giving a five-second glance to each window will save you an hour later of wondering why your computer startup noise is now two mating goats.

“But John,” you may protest, “I am going to be a menial office laborer and no one will turn to me for answers. Can’t I remain safe and ignorant and warm?” No. You’re also young.

Nowadays, that automatically means you’re first in line for explaining to your boss why their keyboard is stuck in all caps.


Johnathan Kastner is a senior undeclared major with a physical and mathematical sciences interest. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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