The end of the year is in sight. I have only two more columns left. Traditionally, I use the penultimate column to summarize the computing year, and the final column to prognosticate about next year.
But, as usual, when I think about the past year, I get upset. No, I am not in depression (although my wife thinks I sometimes am). Its just that I tend to see more of the negative side of computing in my travels around the local area and on the Internet - perhaps there is a more positive side, but I am less exposed to it.
The continued rise of spam email is so disturbing. It's not just that our privacy is being compromised, or that it takes so long to filter through my email to get rid of the spam, but that the products and services being advertised are so obviously scams. A spam email that advertises a valid product is one thing, but the vast majority of it is completely false or misleading - not to mention the out-and-out pornographic. I am just appalled that there are people out there who would stoop to make money by advertising this crap, and even more appalled that there are apparently people who actually read and even worse buy this stuff. Very simply, if nobody bought, there would be no spam. The mere fact of spam's existence and success indicates to me that there are a lot of sickos out there.
Add to that the "phishing" scams. For those not yet aware, phishing is sending out misleading emails that look like they are legitimate, but in fact lead you to false websites where they attempt to get you to enter personal information. I got one this week that looked like it was from my brokerage company. The giveaway (besides the simple fact no that legitimate company would contact you via email in that manner) was that the grammar was horrible. Even though it looked correct, the lack of correct grammar and incorrect colloquial American English usage was a dead giveaway.
Which brings us to an assumption: most of this stuff comes from overseas. What really bugs me is that these people think that we, the American people, are idiots! I think that is one of the major problems with our foreign policy and in general the way we comport ourselves. If we are going to make any headway in the world situation, we have to improve our image. By exposing our Internet underbelly to these people, we propagate the myth. We need to improve our image, and the start would be to block and fight the spam/phishing invasion. Don't read - don't reply.
On the other hand, use of the Internet as an information source has become almost universal. So many people use the Internet for daily research and for keeping aware of opinions besides those you hear on the evening news or read in your local newspaper. Using the Internet to keep families in-touch and to exchange photos or actual video messages is common.
I will try to be a bit more positive next week when I discuss the prospects for 2005. For this week, I wish you all a happy holiday. Wait. Perhaps I will be politically incorrect and wish you all a Merry Christmas! I don't see anything wrong with that - people wished me a Happy Chanukah, and perhaps you will wish someone a Joyous Kwanzaa. The beauty is in the diversity, not in being politically correct. Enjoy your holiday, and respect and support those of others!
Bob Seidel is a local computer consultant in the Southport - Oak Island area. You can visit his Website at www.bobseidel.com or e-mail questions or column ideas to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For specific inquiries, please call Bob Seidel Consulting, LLC at 278-1007.