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The Washington Post has a story about people digging holes in Washington, DC, and finding things that the government wants to keep secret. The story might be nothing more than just a feature of local interest if it didn't tell us just how stupid we are to concentrate all of our nation's critical governing infrastructure in a single city. For all the talk of "homeland security," the biggest threat to America's security may simply be that we place too much of our national self-interest in a single city on the East Coast. It's just too much concentration of power and control in one place, making it too high-profile a target for attack (as it was on September 11th, 2001) and too difficult to defend effectively. We need to spread out our resources.
On a related note, it looks like there's a pretty serious backlash building against the TSA's plans to use technology that has become known as the "virtual strip search." The House of Representatives has voted to stop the practice, and it may be halted if the Senate and the President agree. Remember how many Americans would've agreed to just about any security procedure just after 9/11, if someone were able to convince us it would've made us even a tiny bit safer? It's good to see that the pendulum has swung back, at least a little bit, towards personal liberty.
When it comes to disasters of a more local sort, the anniversary of the Parkersburg tornado reminds us that, every once in a while, we face risks that could destroy everything we own. Among the things people care about most are their photos. Since digital photographs are now the norm, here's a checklist for keeping your photographs safe:
- Scan your old 35mm film negatives to a hard drive
- Copy the contents of your hard drive to a portable hard drive for backup
- Copy the contents of your hard drive (at least the picture directories) to an archival-quality DVD
- (Here's the key step most people won't think of) Mail copies of those DVDs to an out-of-town PO box (or trusted friends or family living far away). It's cheap and easy to rent a PO box, and almost everyone can think of a place they visit at least once a year that's at least 100 miles away from home
On the matter of travel safety, a Continental Airlines pilot says someone fired a rocket or missile at his jet. The situation is being investigated, and it does bring to mind the problem of high-intensity lasers being used to temporarily blind pilots. Both kinds of threats (missiles and lasers) are known to exist and are expensive and challenging to counteract. They shouldn't scare us into silliness, but we can't forget that the risks are out there.
Doesn't it seem like someone should've been asking the question "What's the worst that could happen?" at the Detroit automakers long ago?
The rise of the "netbook" -- a small, portable mini-laptop -- is good news for a few different types of consumers, including families with children, light recreational Internet users, computer newbies, and (obviously) frequent travelers. We like netbooks for their low cost (about $200 to $300 right now) and simplicity. Their portability makes them especially useful when the people who need to use them might need extra supervision or help -- after all, wouldn't you rather have your kids surfing the Internet from the family room or kitchen (where you can provide supervision) than on a desktop in some other room where you aren't watching?
A reminder: Follow our tips for basic computer security and you'll have far fewer problems with your computer than your friends and family who ignore them.
Mac users, please don't think that you're exempt from the need to use ant-virus software, just because you don't see a lot of Mac viruses out there. Apple even recommends that you use antivirus software, and you don't want to fall into the trap of letting your guard down because you expect Apple to keep your computer safe without your help.
More evidence that companies work harder when they're not #1:
- Microsoft, which is a distant #2 in the search-engine market, is overhauling its search-engine service in a bid to take some of Google's market share
- Microsoft is also pushing hard to grow in the gaming sector, where it's up against stiff competition from Sony and Nintendo, by putting a whole batch of goodies into its forthcoming Xbox.
- Google, which sees how much press Twitter is getting for its quasi-chat program, is rolling out a new service to combine all kinds of messaging tools into one thing they're calling "Wave."
Keywords in this show: airline travel • antivirus software • Apple • archives • automakers • backups • chat • children and the Internet • computers • computer security • data rot • digital photographs • disasters • file formats • gaming • Google • Google Wave • government • homeland security • instant messaging • laptops • lasers • Macintosh • Microsoft • netbooks • network diffusion • photographs • PO boxes • privacy • search engines • security • terrorism • threats • TSA • Twitter • virtual strip search • Washington, DC • Xbox