Last weekend, my computer caught a virus. Thanks to some Gateway computer features and the Cloud, it survived quite handily, back up and running with just about everything in place in less than 24 hours. This is how it all went down so you can learn from my experiences and perhaps protect your computer and avoid a disaster. Let’s start at the beginning…
My computer caught a virus
It was a mean one. It pretended to be a Windows anti-virus that dubbed all programs on my computer as “infected” and “unsafe,” preventing me from running any of them. This includes Firefox and my own anti-virus. Once my computer was held hostage, it asked me to scan my computer using this program, whereby from past experience I knew it would say that my computer was hideously compromised and the only way to fix it would be to hand over my credit card information to this fake Windows anti-virus.
I had encountered this virus before, or at least ones like it. Once on a friends computer and a second time on another computer of mine (used only for video watching). In both cases the OS had to be wiped. Unfortunately, this time, the computer was my work computer and main personal computer.
Knowing what I was up against, I immediately transferred my files over to my little netbook. Luckily I don’t have much saved on my computer. Just work documents. No photos, no videos, no music.
If I don’t save my photos, videos, and music on my computer, how do I survive? Obviously I have tons of photos – I am on Facebook. I listen to music – I am a young adult and I do fit some stereotypes. I love watching videos – again, I’m a young adult.
So why aren’t they on my computer?
Look to the clouds.
I host my photos on Facebook. It is the largest photo-sharing website, after all. Actually, most of my photos are shared in my Friends’ profiles. I don’t take many myself.
My music? Saved on Spotify. I love Spotify. I am not a paying member, mostly because I haven’t gotten around to it. But I will. Just wait.
Videos? Do I own DVDs? Not really. I watch movies and TV series on Netflix and Hulu. What DVDs I own are a historic artifact from when you couldn’t get anime without ordering online. Now I just go to Netflix and their ample Japanese animation library.
So when my computer got ill, I at least wasn’t loosing anything. It took me about an hour to transfer all files I couldn’t afford to lose to my netbook using a simple 250MB thumb drive that my father got for free years ago at a conference.
Okay, Gateway gets some credit
I don’t have a Windows 7 OS CD. Luckily, however, Gateway has a simple Factory Defaults setting that resets the entire computer to out-of-the-box newness. I just needed to start that and bam! I had a brand new old computer. It’s only a year old, but I didn’t want to buy a new one yet. This was perfect, and, really, it’s what saved my computer.
Once the computer had its amnesia, it forgot all about that virus. No more virus, no more danger. Unfortunately, it also forgot all the programs I had loaded on it over time. But no worries. I hadn’t paid for any of them.
I use Tweetdeck for Twitter, and that’s free. Skype for phone calls with family, and that’s free. I’ve already mentioned Spotify for music, and yes, that’s free, too. I use Chrome and Firefox to surf the net, free and free. I just spent a morning working off my netbook while I downloaded my main computer redownloaded all my favorite programs. Rather simple, actually.
But I don’t ever want this to happen again, to you either
In all, I discovered that my computer had a virus at about 10:30 pm last Sunday and had my computer back up and running with all integral programs by 11:am the next day. I haven’t moved all my files back, but that’s just me being lazy. I have rediscovered my netbook and just like using it more so the urgency to move the files has worn off.
That said, I don’t want this to happen again, so I’m going to do as my father has suggested: start using Virtual Box to surf the net. It’s from Oracle and it is free (like everything else I use, apparently). Basically, it runs a partitioned second OS on your computer that you can use to surf the net. If you download cookies and viruses during your surfing, you can just delete that partition without affecting the rest of your machine. It’s like having a disposable computer within your computer. Neat, huh?
Privacy is a big concern, particularly on Facebook. And for absolutely good reason, too. After all, I’m sure we all have those ex-friends we not only never want to see again, but would like to never see us again, too. Keeping who you want close, close and who you want far away as far away as possible is only natural.
That includes companies. These days there is a barter system going on with our private information. We like a brand’s page and allow them to see our demographics in exchange for potentially fun posts and, even better, free stuff. Sounds like a deal, as long as I’m the one who gets to okay it. This same barter is seen on Amazon, where the site learns what you like and makes, sometimes very astute, recommendations. But only when you’re signed in.
But, what about those cases when you’re not signed in. When you didn’t sign up for something and they’ve scraped your data from your Facebook profile? You didn’t sign up for it. I didn’t sign up for it. How can we avoid this danger?
But, is there really a privacy threat?
I mean, no doubt Facebook has privacy issues. Otherwise people wouldn’t be complaining left and right. I do not doubt this, and will not argue against it.
But I will point out that it’s incredibly difficult to get at your public data on Facebook by using the legal Open Graph API. I know because I tried to access my own public data and that of my friends through that API while not signed in. Here’s what I found:
Then just type in https://graph.facebook.com/ followed by that number into your browsers URL bar and – tadaa! You can see what is available publicly about you.
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t care if people know I’m female, speak American English, and thus assume I’m an American female. As far as my name goes, I use a pseudonym online, so have fun!
Notice that even if my privacy settings were to make everything public, they still wouldn’t show up with this public Open Graph API search. That’s because Facebook doesn’t use the word public here the same way that we do. The information displayed above is “public information.” But in order to get at the information I’ve shared with the world on my Facebook Profile, any application developer needs an “access token.”
To get an access token, Facebook’s developer website explains that an app must go through three stages: user authentication, app authorization, app authentication. User authentication is just verifying that the user is who he says he is, same for app authentication. App authorization, however, is that bit where we’re asked to allow the app access to various bits of our data.
“Public” does not mean “public”
Let’s back up a second. “Public” in the eyes of Facebook app developers is basic demographic information. “Public” in the eyes of you, me, and most consumers is the stuff we set as available for strangers to see on our profiles. Companies and other systematic organizations cannot even see what we allow complete and total strangers to see. At least through this API.
I’m actually a bit reassured by that.
Of course, I’m sure there are work-arounds, particularly for the less than legal. However, at least when it comes to companies trying to spy into my life using the Open Graph API, I can rest assured that it’s a bit more complicated than just searching my name with this tool and that if they want to legally pry into my life, I have to give them permission.
*Note: I am not a Privacy Expert. I just tweedled around with the Open Graph API and this is what I found. As I said, I’m sure that there are other ways to spy on us. I just don’t think this is one of them. So you should always set your privacy settings as high as possible!
I haven’t blogged for a while. Just today I decided to check by my blog, out of curiosity, to see how my blog has been faring in my absence. I was honestly quite afraid to see what was waiting for me. Would my followers have dropped to zero? Was my blog a ghost town that no one visited?
Instead of fear, I should have had faith. Faith in my content! I haven’t posted anything new since August 31st, and yet my blog traffic is not really down that much. I had expected much lower, honestly, more like less than a hundred. I also am getting referred to by links on sites such as Ask.com and by other bloggers. These were not really big sources of traffic for me before my hiatus. Not only that, but I have 3 new blog followers – Welcome!
There is only one explanation for this – my content must be good enough to anchor my blog while I was off handling life’s little insanities.
See, in the past three months or so I have graduated from my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, gotten my first full time job, moved back to the good ol’ US of A, found an apartment in New York City, and begun to start my new life in this town. Honestly, that didn’t leave a lot of room for blogging. A shame, though, because I do like sharing my thoughts and opinions on digital marketing, the technology world, and advertising.
And apparently people like to read them. In my absence, the top blog posts have been on advertising (The Economist in the Tube, MacDonald’s + Pickpockets = My Favorite Tube Ad), Digital Marketing (The Cartoon Icon & Logo Twitter Debate), and social media (How to Disconnect with Someone on LinkedIn, LinkedIn Amazon Reading List Tips), to name a few. There was also one of my oldest posts, and a consistent crowd pleaser, Where do you wear your name tag?
All of this makes me wonder: What would my traffic, links, and follower statistics look like by now if I hadn’t gone on hiatus? More-over, you, who have started to follow me, who have linked to my content, and who are visiting my bog now, don’t you want to see something new once in a while?
I don’t get paid to blog, but I do enjoy it. Knowing that others are watching is perhaps the greatest incentive of all to start blogging again. So here’s my promise to you: I will try to post at least once a week. I might fail sometimes, you might get more posts some weeks, but that’s my goal. I’ll also endeavor to write something interesting and not just space filler, but that should be a given.
A little over a week ago, I reached an event horizon. I graduated from graduate school. I am now the proud holder of a Masters in Digital Marketing. While this is a happy event – I certainly worked my tush off to achieve it – it does mean that a large phase of my life has ended. I am now off to the Big Apple to start a career in Digital Marketing Research.
Before this next phase starts, I want to take a look at the top 3 lessons I’ve learned in getting here.
The best things have happened when I jumped right into them, eyes wide open and praying that I landed on my feet. Though, I might not have always landed where I thought I would, I always landed running.
That’s how I wound up with a degree in Digital Marketing and not, say, an International Business or MBA degree. And I’m happier for it. I’m digital, and I like it that way.
I first signed up for the Masters in International Business program, actually. Hult hadn’t announced the Digital Marketing program when I first signed up. When I saw it on their home page, I’m not even sure I read the course description all the way through before I called up my recruiter and asked to be bumped over into the other program. I jumped right into it, and if I hadn’t I’d never have gotten my new job in New York.
I’m actually a natural home body. I den like a bear. But if I did that all the time, I’d never have gotten to where I am today. In high school I joined some clubs, but mostly because it was a requirement for the scholastic program I was in. When I reached college I continued with the habit. It became something more than just a check-box; it became an integral part to my life.
Through my very first anime club in college, the Otaku Club, I learned to access the social networks around me. Introductions let to introductions until, eventually, I became the PR Director for a 14,000 attendee, fan-run pop-culture convention, the Phoenix Comicon. (The Con is still going strong today, though I’ve moved away. If you’re in Phoenix in May, check it out!)
Joining groups and clubs and then finding new groups and social networks through them has colored how I do my work and opened doors all over the world for me. This is why I’m starting up a #themeet140 in New York, once I get my feet under me again. I attended these lovely meetups in London and met some great friends. Meetups and clubs are definitely an important lesson.
It is hard to care consistently. People will ask for things at the oddest hours of the day. They will ask stupid questions. And they won’t always be people you actually like. And yet, you have to care.
I’m a busy person. That’s why this blog doesn’t always get updated consistently. But the person asking me a favor, needing an ear to tell her woes to, or simply having a tough time getting a task done and needs a bit more time… That person isn’t interested in how busy I am. This is when it’s hardest to care.
And yet, I think the key to success, the key to me getting to where I am, is caring when it’s hard. Caring about doing a good job when all I really want is to get out of the office and have dinner, or caring about my roommates when all I really want to do is sleep. That’s when caring is the most important. And that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.
Jump, Socialize, Care
These three lessons are simple yet hard learned. I’m sure I’m not the only one to come up with them. Whole books are written on life-lessons, after all. Just check out your the self-help section of your local book-monger’s. But this is my take on them. What’s yours?
I just finished reading Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. I’ve enjoyed every page of it, and I’ll put up a full review in a bit. McGonigal talks about how crappy reality really is. And, truth be told, it does suck. Here’s what she thinks is wrong with reality:
- Reality is too easy. It’s just not engaging us in good enough challenges. There’s a reason why work is boring.
- Reality is depressing. Where is the hope of success? What is success anyway?
- It’s unproductive. You work and work, but do you ever feel like you’re getting anywhere?
- It’s disconnected and trivial. Do you actually know your neighbors? If you do, tell me where you live so I can move there.
- Reality is just not engaging. It’s really hard to give a damn. Even if you accomplish something, how worthy was that goal?
- It’s pointless and without rewards. So what if you managed to get the grocery shopping and the laundry all done in one day? That’s the bare minimum, right?
- Reality serves up bitter disappointments. How do you get over being laid off?
- Reality isn’t sustainable. Ask anyone what makes them happy. For one of my roommates, it’s shopping, but she’ll run out of cash eventually.
- Reality lacks a purpose, a point. What’s the goal? As I said before, what is success? It’s not an easy answer.
- Reality is a mess. It’s disorganized. It’s hard to know where to go or what to do.
Now isn’t that a depressing list? McGonigal uses her book to discuss how we can use games to fix reality. I think it’s a great idea. But as I was reading I realized that we don’t need to use outside games or organize everyone we know to play with us, though that does help, if you can do it.
Rather, as I was reading, I realized that I was already playing life as a game. This blog, for example, was a game. Before you give me funny looks, here’s McGonigal’s definition of a game. For McGonigal, a game has four key traits:
- It has a goal. You know what it is and you try to achieve it. She translates this as “a sense of purpose.”
- It has rules. These are the limitations that confine the players. If you have ever played party games you know how ridiculous and fun these can be.
- It has a built-in feedback system that gives players information on their progress towards the goal. The popular badge system, for example. Or a leader board.
- And finally, it is voluntary. No one makes you play.
Now, do you see how my blogging is a game?
- I have a goal: Continuous growth of my readership. I’d love to hit 1,000 views a day.
- I have rules: Post at least once a week. Make it good, and make it fun.
- I have a lovely feedback system: Thank you WordPress dashboard. Honestly, though, I need to get Google Analytics on this puppy.
- I do this voluntarily: There is no one but myself cracking the whip.
When I first started writing this blog, I thought that I was doing it for career advancement. Then I thought it was to help me make sense of what was going on and make contacts. Finally, now, I know the truth. I’m playing a game. I do it for the sake of doing it.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to think of work in the same way? School? How about marriage and relationships? I’m not trying to trivialize these things. I’m trying to raise their importance. Blogging has gained an intrinsic value for me. It’s no longer a means to an end. It is worth doing in order to do it. If work could be that way, education, and even relationships, that would be good for the entire world. And don’t kid yourself that all relationships are had for their own sake.
Do you play any games like my blogging one? Does it help you really sink your teeth into life?