This is going to sting a little bit, but it's for your own good.
(This is what my dentist told me before he jammed a giant needle into my jaw. So you're getting off easy.)
I've even come up with catchphrases: "Don't screw up your Ch'i, update your PC" or "You don't know Jack if you don't protect your Mac."
It's an issue of laziness, folks.
Yes, it can be considered a hassle to update and patch your operating system. But hassle is a relative term, mind you. It can be a hassle to stop playing solitaire and minesweeper long enough to click a few times and restart your computer-but it's an even bigger hassle to, you know, have your computer so infested with viruses and spyware that your only option is to format the hard drive and start over.
It's a Big Bad Internet out there, and you need software to watch your back-but that's only effective if you're watching your software's back. The sooner you update your operating system and antivirus programs, the less likely viruses and exploits are to bring your computer to its knees.
(Windows users, think Blue Screen of Death. Mac users, think the spinning colored wheel, or the sad Mac face if you're old-school. Linux users, stop being so smug. You'll get yours.)
We've become so tender-footed and soft-skulled with the convenience of computers and technology (both of which I am a BIG fan) that we can't even be bothered to protect them.
As an example, and I'm guilty of this myself, think of impatience when it comes to microwaves. I had a chicken teriyaki bowl the other day that required about 5 minutes in the microwave and periodic stirring. And I was a little annoyed.
(How sad is that?)
Its not like I had to seed, grow and harvest the rice. Or hatch and raise the chicken myself. All I had to do was stand there for 5 minutes, and move the rice around.
And add salt. It needed salt.
And come on, I cook big meals for my friends and family. And I was atwitter over 5 minutes in front of the microwave.
But back to computers. There's a reason updates are frequently called "patches." Its because somewhere, there is a hole. You don't patch something that works (unless you're into that look), you patch things that are ripped.
Operating systems, maybe Windows moreso than Apple's OSX, are full of security flaws. And all it takes is one bored hacker to figure out how to run a program on your computer without your knowledge before your private information…isn't.
Think of it this way. Someone has drilled a tiny hole in the wall of your bathroom and slipped a fiber optic cable into it, and they are watching you. They are watching you lipsynch to Duran Duran in your bathroom mirror. They know you drink too much, you do a Sudoku puzzle while taking care of business and still use Mr. Bubble .
If someone told you that hole was there, would you ignore it? Or would you feel invaded, punch through the wall, grab the sick freak watching you, call the police and patch up the drywall?
If you don't mind being watched don't patch your software. Click on all those pop-ups, install all the spyware you can fit on your hard drive, and never update your operating system or antivirus software.
And don't give me lip about cost. Updates for software like the Microsoft Office suite are free, as are operating system patches (upgrades are not). And there's plenty of free, updatable antivirus software (www.grisoft.com) as well as spyware-removal software (www.adaware.com www.safer-networking.com). So I don't want to hear your excuses. I want to help you keep your information safe.
And you can make it painless. In Windows' Control Panel, you can have your computer download updates automatically. You can make it install them overnight. You can have your antivirus software run overnight.
The equivalent of a microwave.
You're not being asked to track your dinner across the Serengeti, wait for a week and then kill it with a rock. You're being asked to click and save your ass.
Jennifer Poole is our resident techie. If you have any comments about this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org