R/C, PC Security, and anything else that interests me at the time…
Microsoft Anonymous: The 12 Steps
By Debra Ricketts and Claire Wolfe
Originally published by Sierra Times
A terrible addiction grips the world. It invades the most respectable middle-class homes and offices. It causes untold havoc. Yet, in this era when enlightened people understand that even coffee drinking (“caffeine use disorder”) can be a serious disability, this addiction goes unrecognized and untreated. We speak of Microsoft addiction — a dependency that costs its victims billions, first to buy the products to feed their habits, then in damage done by opportunistic viruses that prey on MS-weakened systems. What is Microsoft addiction? It is hopeless dependence on a computer operating system that is more insecure than a junkie in a room full of narcs and more expensive than a hit of heroin. In the end, this addiction strips its users of all privacy and independence. This operating system is controlled by a ruthless multinational software cartel. Once you’re caught in their .net like a drowning dolphin, Microsoft pushers know they can hook you on even more expensive software. Soon, you’re mainlining the hard stuff … stuff like the infamous M$ Office XP — a program that not only costs more than XTC or cocaine, but reports your activities to your pusher, and demands that you get permission to “reactivate” the software simply because you dare to make changes in your system.
The M$ message: We own your computer. We own you. And your little dog, too.
Until now, the future has looked bleak for the ordinary victim hooked on Microsoft. But today, thousands are breaking free — and so can you! — thanks to the 12-step program of Microsoft Anonymous.
Follow these steps and, though you may never be fully cured of Microsoft addiction, you will walk the road of recovery.
The 12 Steps to Microsoft Recovery
1. We admitted we were powerless over Microsoft — that our privacy had become negligible.
Microsoft’s licensing agreements let the software cartel bust into your computer at any time. Microsoft lets its friends in, too. Privacy groups have found hidden keys within Windows — including one which may be for the exclusive use of the National Security Agency (NSA).
What Bill Gates doesn’t do to you, some script kiddie will. There are more holes in Microsoft software than in a heroin addict’s clammy gray flesh. Worms and viruses ooze through them like HIV through a dirty needle.
2. We came to believe that a different operating system could restore us to sanity.
Linux (especially the easy-to-install Mandrake 8.1 or Red Hat 7.2) can lift even the most hopeless Microsoft-head into a world of privacy and stability — and do it right on the same PC that now shares your Microsoft habit with you.
Free your mind and body. Free your finances, too. Linux costs way less than your next hit of Windows. Some versions don’t cost a thing.
3. We made a decision to turn our computer systems over to Tux as we understood him.
At first, we considered learning Urdu in order to read some of the manuals, but then decided to trust our instincts and that friendly Linux penguin.
Graphical “desktops” like KDE and Gnome, which come with Linux, comforted us with familiar point-and-click, drag-and-drop, pop-up menus, and other things to help us on our road to recovery. They even gave us “Redmond-style” graphical themes, helping us break our Windows habit like Antabuse helps a wavering alcoholic.
4. We made a searching and fearless inventory of our applications and data files.
We understood that recovering from our Microsoft addiction might mean reformatting some of our data, surrendering familiar programs, and finding Linux equivalents. Fortunately, many distributions (brands) of Linux come with full office suites, Web browsers, e-mail programs, and everything we needed to get us going — all at no extra cost. Even the most vital applications of all — games.
Many Linux applications, like StarOffice, can convert and share data freely with their M$ equivalents. (Bill Gates, watch us break your hold even while those with whom we share data remain hooked!)
5. We admitted to tech support, to ourselves, and to another Linux newbie the exact nature of our misgivings.
Before buying, we visited Linux Newbie.org and LinuxChix.org. We asked questions on their listservs about the Linux distributions other newcomers have tried and the pitfalls they’d encountered. Others in Microsoft recovery gave generously of their time and advice.
We asked experienced Linux gurus, too. But they mostly said things like “grep” and “tar -xvjf.” We feared that “bunzip2” might be something dangerously kinky. We turned away when they asked about our boot sector partitions. (Some people just don’t know when they’re undermining the recovery process).
6. We were entirely ready to have Linux remove all those cookies, GUIDs, and trojan horses from our systems.
We prepared carefully for our first installation, had a good backup of our existing Windows system, and made sure that all our hardware was Linux compatible. We accepted that it wasn’t always going to be easy, but that in the end it was going to free us from Microserfdom.
7. We humbly installed the operating system.
It turned out to be easier than we thought. Many Linux distributors now beckon weary Windows users with easy installation wizards and automatic hardware recognition — the very temptations that first drove many of us into the clutches of Microsoft.
But some of us still chickened out and bought a computer with Linux already installed.
8. We made a list of all the software we used and became willing to use alternatives.
Some of us decided we needed a dual-boot system, with both Linux and Windows on it, because critical software was available only under Windows. But we resisted remaining Windows dependent.
We used Linux for a task any time we possibly could. The more we used Linux, the easier it became. The more we used Windows … well, when you find yourself insisting, “I can turn off Windows any time I want. Really I can” … you should be worried. Be very, very worried.
9. We downloaded alternative software where possible, but never a Microsoft product.
Linux isn’t just for techies any more. But now that IBM, Hewlett-Packard, the NSA, and yes, even Microsoft, are getting on the Linux wagon, beware. We continue to avoid products from companies with a history of snooping into our computers and our e-mail.
When we became truly advanced in our paranoia, we even downloaded Tinfoil Hat Linux.
10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were leaving security holes, promptly repaired them.
Linux, being open source, can be examined by any software engineer to make sure it has no hidden security holes — unlike Microsoft, whose owners hide its code like Columbian drug traffickers hide their profits in Cayman Island banks.
Linux is harder for crackers to target. And if you’re worried about another sort of cracker — the government or corporate kind — think about this. Those “key loggers” or keystroke monitoring programs? Virtually every one of them works only with Windows — and against Windows users.
Still, we diligently research before installing upgrades, and we regularly read electronic privacy e-mail alerts.
11. We sought through user groups, books, whitepapers, and HOWTOS to improve our conscious knowledge of Linux, searching only for understanding and the power to improve data security, system stability, and personal freedom.
We told ourselves, “Even if the manual is written in an obscure French-Ecuadorian dialect of Swahili, it’s worth the effort.”
Increasingly, Web sites, books, and manuals for new users led us along our way. Listservs dedicated to our chosen distributions offered answers to our questions. We persevered, helped by those who’d gone before.
12. Having had a computational awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to Window users and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
And that’s what we’re doing right now.
Sometimes, you have to hit bottom before you’re ready for recovery. Remember us the next time your screen turns that funny blue color, and pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL for an hour only gives you blisters on your fingers. Remember us next time your data ends up in an FBI dossier. Remember us next time some 13-year-old called H@ckWit infects your Microsoft Outlook with a virus that converts your hard drive into strawberry Jell-o.
You will be among friends at Microsoft Anonymous.
© 2002 by Debra Ricketts and Claire Wolfe (with a little help from Authentic Linux Guru, Charles Curley). Feel free to copy and circulate, as long as full credit and copyright information are attached and no changes are made to the text.