Thursday, September 17, 2009

A trouble shooting and store launching day

At last night's preview of Brian Gardiner's painting exhibition in church, Pauline told me of troubles she's begun to have with her computer. It sounded to me as if she had acquired one of these unpleasant pieces of malware which can be picked up from an innocent website hacked into then used to conceal and download on to a visitor's computer malicious program code, that can open a gateway to download viruses and trojans, before promoting another program a user can buy to remove the infections thus introduced. Welcome to the world of internet scams - a thoroughy evil business.

I did some homework on the net, and downloaded a reputable free malware removal tool, and cycled over to Pauline's this morning. The job took two hours, which was for the most part machine minding while the removal program did its job, plus fixing the browser and emailer to minimise their security vulnerabilities. It's running OK again now, although there's still some tidying up to be done to make it more efficient, but that can wait a bit longer.

Computers are a bit of a hobby for me as well as working tools, but security issues are more of an obsession. Making my own and anyone else's computers as safe, efficient and easy to use as possible, and keeping the crooks out is something that matters, largely because, as a pastor I see the distress caused when people's kit doesn't work after they have invested so much time and energy in learning to use it. How dependent we've all become on these systems. Because of certain aspects of their design, Microsoft operating systems have inherent flaws easy to exploit. It's not accidental at 99.9% of the world's viruses, trojans and malware is written to attack Microsoft products.

Security software to protect those systems is big business. It's honourable work, but work that would be largely un-necessary if the basic commodity wasn't so flawed. Mackintosh and Linux systems are almost free from the afflictions of malware, but persuading people to pay extra for a Mac, or delve into the universe of free secure open source Linux systems, and make the effort of learning something slightly new, if basically the same, is really difficult. So far I've 'converted' three people to Linux use. Linux has less than one percent of the global market, and doesn't promote itself as Microsoft does. It's an uphill struggle.

This evening I accepted an invitation to the launch of the James Howell department store, re-branded and re-liveried as a House of Frazer store. A huge amount of internal building work has been done while the store has remained in use, and the staff all looked very pleased to be at work and welcoming customers on their first evening opening following the conlusion of the transformation. There was a drinks reception in the coffee shop, with a speech from Mandy, the store's general manager, then some over loud entertainment which rather inhibited conversation around the table sequestered informally by members of the Retail Partnership Board and their spouses.

It was great fun, and I even managed to get interviewed about the church's renovation program in the course of the evening. This was because I'd taken the opportunity, earlier in the afternoon to show Paul Williams, city centre manager around the church, his first visit since re-decoration. I think the transformation was something of a surprise to him, because he went around the reception enthusing to people about it, which gave me great pleasure, plus an introduction to Abby Alford the Media Wales chief reporter who was present for the launch. An enjoyable night's work (?)

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