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Protect Thyself, Mi Amore!

Violets are blue, roses are red
You opened this e-mail - now your CPU is dead

Valentines Day is quickly approaching, that time of year when we all look forward to making a special connection with a special person. But never forget that it's a scary world out there and you can pick up a nasty bug all too easily - even from someone you love and trust. This month's column is a true-life cautionary tale on the importance of using --- protection.

So there I was, feeding zip disks into my G3 Powerbook. It was a fairly routine operation - transfer some files from the zip cartridges onto my hard drive where they could then be burned onto a CD. Dad Feets is moving out of his vintage Power PC and into a new iMac -- which is a very zippy little machine, but as of now has no zip drive. My CD burner is simply the easiest way to get files from his old computer into the new one.

Feeding zips into the G3 is a very zen-like activity. File transfer for the most part does not require much in the way of concentration or effort, so the loud and rude noise Norton Anti Virus (NAV) makes when it is telling you that you that  You Are Infected is --- well, more than a little unnerving. (If you have never had to hear this noise, it sounds something like a high school marching band trying to impersonate a police siren and it will definitely get your attention.)

Getting a computer virus is not always a big deal. Can happen to anyone. Doesn't mean that you keep a dirty house or hang out with a rough crowd. Doesn't mean that you kick your dog, cheat on your wife or fail to floss. Fact is, most viruses out there are pretty innocuous; they will rarely wipe your hard drive, but they can make your computer behave strangely.

The viral strain on Dad Feet's zip disc is a relatively mild one I have encountered before -- NAV can handle it, no problem. But suddenly I am feeling more than a little queasy at the notion that I will have to have "The Talk" with my father. You know, the one about using protection, practicing "safe surfing" on the web and how a careless click in the wrong place can change your hard drive - not to mention your life - forever.

"Hey Dad? I think I know at least one reason why that old computer of yours was acting so weird..."

He is of course immediately concerned about the G3. Is the infection a bad one? Is there a cure? Not to worry, I soothe. Dr. Norton is on the job, rooting out all the nasties and repairing any damage that may have occurred. My insurance is paid up, and weekly updates on the latest virus threats automatically flow from the net into my computer. My hard drive is quickly restored to it's pre-infected state. Tragedy is averted. Familial harmony left undisturbed.

Maybe you think that it can't happen to you. (And if you do not own or operate a computer, you may in fact be right.) But I am here to tell you: You can get a virus from anyone, even your own ever-loving father -- the guy who has and would literally do anything for you --- and who will be utterly mortified when he finds out I've gone and written an article about his...er, little problem. Well guess what Dad Feets is getting for Valentines Day this year?

Forget the candy and flowers. Nothing says "I love you" like the gift of --- protection.

There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: (sandyfeet@unlitter.com). Visit my web-site (http://spionline.com/) for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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