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Why are you paying the mafia money?

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Over the years, and increasingly in the last four years, I have helped a lot of people speed up their computer systems and remove unwanted programs such as viruses and adware from their systems.

One of the first things I ask of anyone working with me is to remove virus protection programs such as McAfee’s, Norton’s, AVG and more.

It’s an easy sell, where I simply say “Do you run with an antibiotic in your body at all times? Of course not, right? Only run a virus protection when you need it, otherwise it loses it’s effectiveness”

Sometimes I appeal to them another way.

“Do you pay the mafia protection money? If not, then why are you paying the computer mafia protection money?”

It’s silly, really, that these companies invest billions of dollars creating the very things they are protecting us from.

More often than not, this speeds up performance dramatically.

Some people respond with “Well I do not have someone like you around to help me if I have problems again.”

That’s true. But this is where I advocate being intelligent with what you do and simple research.

If you want to download porn, visit other ‘seedier’ web sites, or are simply wanting to install programs you are not sure of – all of which I do on all too many occasions myself, I have a few basic rules I follow to avoid unwanted or unnecessary programs on my system:

  1. Don’t download anything. Period end of story. If something says you need to download and install a special codec or executable in order to see the content, just say no. There are enough codecs and programs in use which allow these content providers plenty of opportunity to provide their content in a variety of standard ways, so exercise restraint and just say no.
  2. Find a secondary source. If you are feeling compelled to download something despite rule #1, then take the caption of the content you want and do a google search for it. Chances are you will find a content provider who provides the content you seek without having to download anything.
  3. If you really MUST download something. Write down what you installed. Pay attention to how your computer works before and after that download. And if you really do not need the software or are done with the content you wanted to see. Remove it by going to your start menu->Programs->Control Panel-> Programs and Features and sort by date clicking on the top column of that list – where you should see what’s installed on your system by date – and remove what was installed. I download things all the time, and more often than not just systematically remove it afterwards. This isn’t fail safe, as there may be some residual stuff left behind, but most adware programmers are polite and being good about notifying Windows what they are doing.
  4. Periodically clean up your start menu of things you don’t want and bring up regedit to edit the registry and to remove items in the ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run’ key you don’t want. Reference the internet for a how to do all this, and exercise caution as you’re doing this. But with you understanding just this little bit of simple maintenance, is much like being able to do an oil change on your own car. Since most people are spending more time on their computers than they are their cars, it behooves you to know this much about your computer.

Now personally, I take things a little further and encourage you to consider this as well –

And that is to be ok with a little hacking.

I know, this is counter-intuitive, right, but as a former programmer, having learned a great deal by white hat hacking myself, I actually encourage hacking and invite people to hack me because of how important it is that others learn how others work and organize their data and their lives.

My only rule should you hack me is simple – if you cause me or my computer harm or degradation of service, then you and anything you are connected to is open game to me and I have quite the arsenal behind me. I invite you to connect with and to me, and I understand the difference between simple mistake versus intentional malicious behavior, you can be as secretive as you want to, but there will be hell to pay if you do so maliciously and I will trace you down.

Having this philosophy embracing learning has been quite the experience, and has helped me in understanding my own systems and world better.

My advice should you want to adopt the same policy is this:

  1. Remove your firewall, and leverage netstat and Microsoft’s Sysinternals tool ‘TCPView’ to see who’s doing what to your machine.
  2. Using torrents.I know, I know, you’re afraid. STOP THAT. Torrents are merely a competitive mechanism to content distribution to the internet,  leveraging a different style of network distribution, and have been attacked by a smear campaign by those who control the internet. Sure, they introduce other vulnerabilities, but they offer a great deal more content at much more amenable costs.

And as a company, my advice is to extend this by:

  1. Using torrents. AND CHOOSE to leverage this network and distribution chain for your software. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how your network engineering will become more capable and aware of the interactions occurring with your systems, and you might actually reduce your legal expenses as they fight and bill you for time spent battling this distribution chain. Do a simple cost benefit analysis to assess legal expenses and revenue earned – which I have no doubt you will find that legal is a cost center, and then compare it to freely distributing your torrents and then shift your legal expenses to proactive support and discovery of these streams to legitimize them as revenue streams. My bet is, you will turn your legal department from a cost center to a revenue center – at least in regards to torrent activity.
  2. HIRE HACKERS. Yep. You heard me right. Hire the people who may be actively be antidisestablishmentarianistic in their attitudes and moires. I’m not talking about hiring asses who hate society and the world. I’m talking about people who may actively be outliers and simply do not fit in. Give them a home and provide them a place they can hang their shirt.

My final rule is: Simply be aware of your surroundings.

This is true inside computer systems as well as the outside world. Sometimes, the web browsers we choose may bully us into not visiting certain sites and visiting more preferable ones. Learn to ignore the ‘advice’ of experts, myself included, who are no different than you in many cases and are beings with an agenda promoting their own values and social norms, and to formulate your own rules.

I have a tendency to pick and choose what works for me. I might try something out that someone suggests. But two minutes later I am removing it and will weigh further suggestions I receive by that individual accordingly in future interactions.

But most of all.

Remove virus protection.

You don’t run around with a condom on all the time, do you?

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