Protecting Mom's PC

Do you have a relative or friend who's always having security problems with their PC and calling you for help? If that's you, here's your answer.

I have a dad, who thinks he knows computers, and he does know electronics, but software, well, that's another story. I also have a mother-in-law, who's both totally non-technical and she's a native Spanish-speaker with little English and my Spanish is awful. They're both bright people, but when it comes to computer security, they're babes in the woods.

I've tried, just like I know many of you have with your computer naïve friends and relatives, to get them up to speed on PC security 101. I've installed anti-virus software, I've set their firewalls to keep out everything except e-mail and the Web; and told them that they must always update their computers. You know the drill.

And, of course, they still click on fake Web pages; and they click on the links in e-mails that purport to be from Hallmark and... Well, I don't need to tell you the rest. You've been there, you've done that.

There is however an answer to this problem. A lot of you aren't going to like it, but if you really are sick and tired of rescuing uncle Joe or Aunt Maude from their latest misadventure on the Internet, it's time to switch them from Windows to Linux or a Mac.

I'm not going to go into a hard sell here about why they're better than Windows. That's a story for another day. Today, I just want to point out some bottom line benefits.

If you help them buy a cheap Mac, yes they do exist, or buy a PC or laptop with Linux already installed, like Dell's models, they can get right back on the Web and 99.9999% of the malware out there is going to bounce right off them no matter what they click on.

Yes, they will have a learning curve, but I'm not proposing that you move a business to a new platform here, I'm just suggesting that if your buddy's primary use for a computer is to look at stuff on the Web and keep up with their friends, nieces and nephews, moving them to a much safer Linux or Mac PC is really quite easy.

Sure, you can't run Photoshop on Linux-well actually you can, thanks to Wine, but I'm sticking with the easy stuff that your relatives are likely to be doing. The popular and relatively safe Firefox Web browser, for example, works and looks pretty much the same on any operating system. The only thing your non-computer expert friends and relatives are likely to be doing that might cause them trouble on another platform is personal finance. But, Quicken Online works on any PC and there's a version of Quicken for the Mac.

Of course there are security threats to Linux boxes and Macs too. But, let's get real, your mom can spend a year on the Web looking at Lolcats and the like and she'll never stumble over a site that can touch her computer no matter what she does. Linux and Mac threats are rarer than hen's teeth.

This isn't perfect of course. If dad responds to an e-mail from his 'bank' and gives some crook his credit-card number, you're still going to be stuck helping him repair his finances. Still, if you want to keep the home-folk safe and, not spend a day every other month cleaning out the malware and rescuing them from their latest online misadventure, switching them to Linux or a Mac really is the easiest, most efficient way to keep them out of trouble and save you some time.

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