The WHO Radio Wise Guys
Brian Gongol

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The National Weather Service office in Johnston is holding an open house today. Bring the kids!

Speaking of weather, March is the start of tornado season in Iowa.

The new workplace debate: Should young workers be allowed to use social-networking websites on the job? The reasons to prohibit it are obvious -- given insufficient supervision, some people would spend all day on Facebook and would never do any real work. But the advantages may be less obvious: LinkedIn, for instance, is built on the premise that you may not know all of the things your friends (or your friends' friends) are capable of doing. As the work world moves away from the show-up-and-punch-the-clock model and moves towards a more project-oriented basis, you may actually be more valuable to your employers based on who you know than on what you know -- and letting you use social-networking sites may be an efficient way for your employer to find the skills they need.

Here's a really good example of why our elected officials have to be technology-savvy: Sensors and circuits can now be produced far smaller than the eye can see. That means you could be handed a flyer or something while you're walking down the street and it could be used to spy on you. Technology itself is generally value-neutral: That is, most technology is not good or bad unto itself. Values come from what we do with that technology. And usually, we can find very good things to do with the technology itself. But we also have to have some confidence that our policymakers at least have a clue about what we're living with.

If you haven't heard of the Netflix Prize, it's an inducement prize (something I've talked about many times before on this show and others) intended to reward whomever can come up with a better way of recommending videos to Netflix customers based on their past preferences and ratings. And according to an interesting new story, one of the hottest new contestants isn't a computer scientist -- he's a psychologist. Given the amount of enthusiasm being shown for the Netflix Prize, I'd really like to see what would happen if we could get lots of people cooperating on open-source research to solve the world's big problems.

Listener e-mail question of the week:
I just bought a new laptop with Vista and I was wondering what antivirus is the best for the money. I currently use AVG 7.5 which is free but it seems to let thing onto my pc and then catches them. What do you recommend?

First of all, AVG isn't "letting things onto [your] PC" -- it's what you're doing on the Internet that's putting viruses and spyware on your machine. More on that farther down. No single antivirus program is perfect for every user. However, there are few things more dangerous than running your computer without any antivirus software at all. So at the very least, we recommend that people install a free antivirus program like AVG Antivirus and run that. If you're willing to spend more, you may get better performance from other programs. Kaspersky makes a really good program that tends to do very well in comparison tests. Norton Antivirus from Symantec is very widely-used in the business world and is reasonably affordable. Be forewarned, though, that some Symantec programs are loaded up with lots of useless extras that will just slow your computer down. For instance, I've had bad personal experiences with Norton Internet Security, even though I've been generally pleased with Norton Antivirus as a stand-alone program. There are lots of other programs available, including McAfee and others. But, once again, there's no single answer that applies to all users. But if you're running your computer on a limited-access account, like I've recommended countless times before, using webmail rather than client-side e-mail, and staying away from notoriously high-risk parts of the Internet (like pornographic sites or online casinos), most of the major-name antivirus programs (as long as you keep them updated and run them often) will provide reasonably good protection.

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