Living in the modern world invariably means living some form of an online life. While 15 or 20 years ago “getting online” was perhaps a novelty for most, the smorgasbord of searching, socializing, deal-making, commerce, and cat videos proves the internet is an endearing, and at times aggravating, experience most of us look forward to, or at least endure.
Take my mother, for instance. An affirmed technology Luddite, she recoils with epic melodramatic distaste at any mention of having anything (at all) to do with a computer. She’d rather eat a shoe dipped in motor oil than get on a computer.
So when my brother gifted an iPhone 4 to her a year or so ago, I awaited the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The disconcerting phone calls, the disapproving tone, the indignation of being forced, or heaven forbid required, to use the darn thing.
That really never happened. Sure, she complained, and made heavy sighs about light “failings” of the device she’s come to clutch happily 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Perhaps like many in my situation (programmer, technology prognosticator, affirmed computer user), I watched with smirking befuddlement as she learned to use the darn thing as if another appendage has suddenly sprouted from her body. Hours of personal tutelage upstaged by a phone.
The iPhone, crusher of technology barriers.
What does this teach us? Technology works. When it works well, it can be so intuitive or at least self-instructing, even the most squinty-eyed technophobe can be won over without even putting up a fight.
Another thing it shows us is that success is not overnight. The iPhone was a product years in the making, largely perfected through years of pre-release effort before any customer ever held one. I am old enough to remember watching with wonder movies showing video phone calls, thinking “when is THAT ever going to happen!” Then it did, on the iPhone. So yesterday, but years in the making.
An important aspect is that technology at it’s base connects us with information we need or desire. Whether personal, political, financial, or simply humorous (cat videos! hilarious goats! hamster’s eating tiny burritos! animals are funny!), technology has the ability to fulfill us, connect us, and help us accomplish something, big or small.
I might break the tender hearts of some web developers out there, but the way in which that information is delivered or presented is rarely the focus of the person absorbing or interacting with it; the internet as go-go gadget copter, it’s not meant to be. This is why the iPhone (really, iOS) works so great; it is techno-grease, easing our means to connect in such a way that it feels less constructed, and more organic. It is itself subliminal in that it attracts so little attention to itself, in that humble-brag way.
Let me say, that is not true.
Example of HTML:
If you were alive and online in the early days of the internet, this form of the internet was a dreary place to be; content was static (except for infuriating scrolling marquees), pages were laid out like badly formulated newspaper copy, and for the most part it was ugly and dead (except for simple web forms). As in, you could not interact with the data like you did in other applications like word processors and image editors.
Initially came a language called Visual Basic Script, or VBS, introduced by Microsoft. Not particularly well-suited to the internet (techno-speak for don’t ask), it never really caught on and eventually died a silent death. Only aging web geeks remember Slate.com’s nifty slide-out menu was written in VBS.
This was at a time when the internet was still being explored like a strange, outer-space-like place. Tools hadn’t been hammered out yet, the browser was a crude space ship, and instructions were usually held in text-heavy “manuals”, read only by real geeks between raids on chicken farms. Anyone who truly understood this stuff was thought of as no less than a circus freak. And that was not a complement, then.
Second, you should only have browsers installed that are setup to automatically update. Having software that is patched with the latest security measures significantly reduces the threat. Attackers are mostly lazy; they want unpatched browsers with big security holes that are easy to exploit. Don’t be lazy.
Fourth, consider using a browser that allows you to easily disable plugins. Chrome allows a lot of control over what is allowed to load in the browser. There is no simpler means to protect yourself than to go in and disable entirely any Java from running in your browser. Only specialists need it anyways. All other plugins should be set to ask before running, and Chrome allows you to whitelist sites so it doesn’t need to ask over and over.
Fifth, be skeptical of installing any browser add-ons (especially search bars from shady-sounding third parties). The more add-ons you have installed, the slower the browser can run oftentimes, so keep it only to what you need, and don’t install on a whim. The same advice applies to smartphone apps.
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