The Internet is in danger of disintegrating into a shambles. I recently returned from a two week holiday to find 352 e-mails awaiting me! Now I know that I am popular, but not that popular! In fact there were a dozen real mails, about 50 from Rob Creemers excellent press cutting service, but the rest were disgusting spam; at least I assume that they were, I daren't open any of them for fear of viruses and the comment lines were enough to frighten me off!
Rather than load this lot down to Outlook Express on my machine I went online to BT-Yahoo and started deleting this junk. They provide a spam filter service but after weeks of these randomly generated names the spam filter tables allocated to me are full. Halfway through this chore my PC crashed. Now I was in real trouble and I couldn't get back to the Internet through Internet Explorer. Using a direct connection I connected to my virus check service and found over a dozen viruses in my system.
The virus clean up (I know that I should have done an update more frequently, but this is the real world) got IE functioning again so I went to Microsoft for an update to Windows XP. This I have also put off because of the size of the files to be transferred but now it had to be faced. It took 5 hours with the modem I use. But that is not enough, that only brings XP up to a given release, which now needs further updating (only 2 hours this time) and then it should be done again!
There are a lot of morals from this sorry tale. The really worrying one is that the problems created by viruses and spam are escalating, they are not getting any easier. The second moral is that a broadband link is fast becoming essential. This is OK for business users but is a severe penalty for domestic users. I feel no inclination to pay the significant extra charges just to use the Internet more rapidly. Before I become an Internet junkie I want 95% of the sites dramatically improved; the standards of user interfacing are disgraceful. We are in that dreadful loop that left us with user hostile PC applications. Those of us that need to use a service get used to its hostility and create our own "work-arounds"; once we are in that rut, we won't change and go through all the aggravation again.
The third moral is that virus checker software updates need performing at least weekly and Windows updates at least monthly. This is a huge and expensive chore that most corporations now have in hand. But how many private users do this? Without a broadband connection very few I fear. This means that most of the private PC systems in homes that use the Internet must be close to collapse! I fixed the problems with my PC with the aid of technicians I have close association with, but no non-technical user could have recovered a system that had been attacked like mine.
We are all aware of the irritation caused by viruses but are we doing enough? As an industry we are in danger of consuming far too high a percentage of our resources on non-productive defensive and corrective activities. I fear that we have our heads in the sand! We need to tax the industry to pay for a significant collective effort to stamp out this cancer before it is too late.< BR>
Martin Healey, pioneer development Intel-based computers en c/s-architecture. Director of a number of IT specialist companies and an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales.