Shelley, Sam and I just got back from an extended vacation. I didn’t take a laptop, I didn’t take my cell phone. We slept in tents, cooked outside, endured rain, wind, cold and general unpleasantness. Of the four days at the campsite, one was comfortable, sunny and warm.

We survived.

After a total of about seven days, I got home to an inbox brimming with about 320 new emails. Not bad actually, that was just my personal account. A quick check of my cell phone (for work) and I find about 100 more. Seems about right. It’s time to get back into the swing of using technology to improve my life. But is it really?

For seven days, we went without most modern conveniences. I didn’t really miss email, or my cell phone. Having email has opened communications to a new level, but do I really need it that much? It helps support my hobbies and my work. Do I really need it for my hobbies? Well, a question beyond that really is, do I really need my hobbies?

Amongst my emails are the standard daily notices from the Barracuda Spam and Virus firewall. Prior to my vacation I was probably getting maybe 5 to 10 spam messages in there a day. After my vacation, it’s brimming with over 100. Since coming home the daily total is hovering around 30. What just happened?

What probably just happened is a bunch more computers out there got taken over by a spam zombie program and are sending out emails out the wazoo. The authorities find and shut down one spam house… and there are several more waiting in the wings to be top dog. It’s an ebb and flow of sorts, it gets heavy for a while, the somebody gets caught, computers seized, accounts frozen, servers taken down and the spam load goes down. A little while later, it starts coming up again, and usually heavier than before. Rinse and repeat, only it never goes away and it only gets worse.

With the modern convenience of of the computer, email, web sites, etc. I also now have the added -inconvenience- of having to sift through crap just to find the valuable content. It’s rapidly coming to a peak where the inconvenience of it all outweighs the convenience. Let’s take a look:

– I have anti-Virus software installed to try and catch nasty things hoodlums try to send me in emails or downloads. Sometimes it’s silly. I’ve recently been getting emails from a noreply address at my -own- domain. I -own- the domain; I -am- the administrator; there is no “noreply” address in my domain. The emails are trying to get me to open a file with a virus in it in order to compromise either my computer or my domain. My virus software scans the emails on incoming and removes the virus. It’s safe, but it’s a damn bit inconvenient that I have to put up with it.
– Anti-spyware software. Same reasons… jerks who have nothing better to do than try to take over the world by using my computer. Increases the time it takes to boot my computer; increases the time it takes to load web sites, increases the time it takes for me to browse, learn, buy, whatever. A brand spankin’ new fast computer and it’s been slowed to a crawl by all the anti-this and that having to scan every bit that flows through in order to keep cretins out of my system. That’s all a damn bit inconvenient if you ask me.
– Parked domains for sale. Here’s a good one. I did a search for something today at work; I used my favorite search engine. One of the hits appeared to be just what I was looking for. Nope, turned out to be a scam site that appeared to be everything I wanted, but in reality only linked to a bunch of ebay auctions with similar key words, and pasted in various places on the page were offers to have me buy the domain. That wasted a few minutes of my work time; don’t believe that was convenient for a second.
– Spam, not the kind that comes in a can, but the kind that clogs my Barracuda spam firewall. Sure, it’s nice that I don’t get all the extra crap in my inbox, but I still have to go out once a day, scan the subjects and “from” lines in the quarantine and either verify they are spam or friendly. That wastes several more minutes of my day. It wouldn’t be so bad, but it keeps classifying as spam, several email addresses I’ve whitelisted. So it’s not perfect. And those I’ve blacklistd keep showing up in the quarantine too. If I’ve blacklisted them… I don’t even want them in the quarantine, throw the damn things away.

Should we talk about the cell phone? No, let’s not go there. Just focusing on email can get me pretty riled. Sure it used to be a great convenience, but now with all the extra hassle, I’m not so sure. And it’s all because some dirt bags are either trying to scam things out of me like bank account numbers, logins and passwords, or they are trying to plant things on my computer to use it as a zombie to do their dirty work, like spam other users, or run denial of service attacks on others, or attempt break-ins at banks, or military installations. It makes me want to scream.

My wife, who runs a work at home business, nets over 100 spam messages a day. That can really eat into her day especially if she’s trying to make sure a legitimate customer didn’t end up in the spam quarantine. Our time is worth something too. It’s like I have to -work- in order to use these neat little conveniences. All I really want to do is use the computer as the tool it’s designed to be; not have to keep one step ahead of the criminals by constantly upgrading, scanning, checking, verifying, wondering, worrying, etc. I’m rapidly becoming sick of it, entirely.

For all the conveniences of the modern computer to bring me useful information, news and entertainment, I’m just not sure it’s worth it anymore.

Asa Jay

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Copyright 2014, Asa Jay Laughton