The Great Internet Scam
Ian R Thorpe
18 April 2009
You have all read about internet scams but would you believe me if I told you the internet itself is a scam. The original idea, to share information between computers on a universal platform was fine. The World Wide Web, the notion of opening up computers so it was not necessary to be an authorised user was fine in that it was intended for trusted members of the academic and business communities. It was still fine when the World Wide Web came along because that started off with the intention of letting trusted members of the academic and business communities search for information across all connected computers instead of having to be provided with a specific location for their target information.
When the Internet first appeared way back in the 1970s (we're talking about The Internet not the World Wide Web) personal computers were a rarity. The Apple II, Commodore Pet and in the UK the BBC B were the leading edge of home computer technology, in the world of business there were all sorts of weird and wonderful machines. All the PCs had proprietary operating systems and needed software written for that operating system. Most network activity was accomplished by users equipped with an asynchronous "dumb" terminal and a 2400 bps modem dialing up a link to a central computer to access data or use professional software applications. This is no good, said the powers that be. If everybody has their own personal computer and all those computers will generate sales for software and peripherals.
Personal computers were slow to take off. Technology fans loved them, IT professionals like myself found them indispensable but ordinary punters quickly learned unless they wanted to give up their social life play games or write programmes, personal computers did not do much.
"We need for all these computers to be able to communicate," said the powers that be who were not making as much money as they would like on their investment. So the idea of a simple network that people could access was floated. Sadly simple proved too complicated for a group of scientists who had enormous IQs but were short on practical skills. "All this security is getting in the ay of us doing serious science" they complained. When told the security systems existed for a reason and were quite simple really. Clerks and administrators could cope with the arrangements. At the scientists became very stroppy. "You can't expect us to do simple, we're scientists," they protested, "What we want is a system that lets anyone do anything on any computer in the world," they said.
The problem is if people can do something they will. The problem was not too serious though, not many people had personal computers and unless somebody really wanted to stay wake all night every night learning how to hack into government and military systems computers still did not offer much in the way of fun.
It all started to change when Microsoft and their buddies, while telling us they were opening up a whole new world to everybody, in reality opened up our internet connected PCs to all the hacking, phishing, spam, viruses, trojans, worms and plain bad mouthing that all the sad, inadequate wankers, arseholes, dickheads scumbags, slimeballs, penis enlargement peddlers, breast enlargement hucksters and snake oil salesmen in the world could throw at us. If there is one thing more appealing to a typical nerd than hacking into military computers it is annoying the crap out of ordinary people.
It would have been very easy to stop the stream of dross but nobody was willing to. All members of civilised society accept there is a need for rules. We are not allowed to kill or hurt others just because we are stronger. We are not allowed to take other peoples’ stuff. We are not allowed to drive on whatever side of the road we choose, not go through red lights without stopping. Its all basic common sense really and the same common sense should apply to the net.
Unfortunately the people who saw the internet not as a tool to help us exchange information but a massive opportunity to make money had advertised “cyberspace” as a place where people could be free. And a lot of otherwise sane, rational people grabbed the opportunity to show they did not really understand the meanings and nuances of the word “free.” They invited the phishers, hackers, etc.. etc. right into their computers via the insecure internet connections.
This launched a multi billion pound industry for internet security software. And for every package sold Microsoft picked up a licence fee. Only a few pennies every time but would you rather have a penny a few billion times or $10,000 once. (”ummm divide by ten and by ten again arrrum hmmmm knock off two zeros and…duh! they’re getting rich on all those pennies.”) Too bloody right they are!
But worse was to come.
By the time we had loaded virus scanners, trojan catchers, worm wranglers, watchdogs, and firewalls, all containing several bits of code licensed by Microsoft, to the Pentium PCs they were not powerful enough to run the internet – friendly operating systems and all supporting software we had run out and bought because “the world wide web would be our gateway to a Brave New World. Even when we were using a simple text editor with all our security software running, data flowed through the CPU like molasses through a fine sieve.
So we bought Pentium 2s. Then we obediently upgraded to Windows 98 or 98SE, some gullible souls actually did the three upgrades, 98, 98SE and Millennium Edition which really should have been called Still_Win95_but_works_properly(ish)_at_last.
For a while all was well. But Microsoft and their cohorts in the megascam business had ideas about how to screw us for even more money. We were complaining that most of the content on the web, when we could find any content that is, was dross.
“That’s because you technological dinosaurs haven’t got broadband screamed the megascammers,” telling us the web is a visual medium and if we wanted to see interesting, meticulously produced content we ought to be streaming video to our desktops. They lied of course. Television is a visual medium and at a different level so are books. The internet is a data medium. There are no pictures on the internet, no sound or video material. The only things stored on all the servers in the world are lots of tiny charges of stored static electricity. The pictures you see exist as pictures on your screen, the sounds you hear are created within your speakers. The World Wide Web only shifts streams of electricity around. Ones and zeros; and nulls of course, nothing at all. Because if there was no nothing how would a computer recognise when a thing was something. Computers might be cleverer than those nerdy types at Microsoft and Adobe and Google but that does not mean they are endowed with many practical abilities.
We all got broadband, many of us because we thought the bright boys at Microsoft and Google must know what they are talking about, were conned into it, some - old computer pros like me who remember programming computers the size of a house and offering 256k RAM – because we were bullied into it when dial up facilities were downgraded so much it was impossible to get a connection. And whoa! a brave new world opened up to us and we could spend jolly hours watching advertising zwinkies, fartlighting videos or if we were really cool dudes, maybe watching a lonely teenage girl commit suicide online or a bunch of terrorists behead a hostage.
There had not been such great live entertainment since the days of King Henry VIII and the great thing was everybody could see it. In King Henry’s day only a few hundred could gather on Tower Green in front of the Tower of London to see Anne Boleyn or Catherine Howard get the chop. With the Internet millions can watch or even save the video to hard drive and mail it to their friends. So finally we were starting to understand what the www was about. Its purpose was to turn us into an ignorant, bloodthirsty mindless medieval mob. Oh and to part us from our hard – earned of course. Never forget the money.
With Broadband came a whole swathe of new security problems from which Magnanimous Microsoft were only too willing to protect us – at a price.
The price was Windows XP (standing for Xtra Pennies I assume) Another new operating system.Despite promises that the code for Windows XP was more elegant and less resource hungry than previous editions of Windows it soon became clear that a Pentium 2 CPU running it could process data like, well like road tar fresh out of the freezer flowing through a fine sieve. So we all would have to buy Pentium 3s.
And we did, in spite of the fact that what the majority of us were doing on our computers could have been done on that 486 we threw out ten years before, had a decent operating system been available.
The next step towards winning the battle for hearts, minds and bank balances was to introduce 64bit computing. The technology had been around for a while, Digital Equipment launched the Alpha AXP, a 64 bit server designed to run Unix, in the mid 1990s. It was a super machine. But it was sold as a server because the main, in fact the only, advantage of 64bit computing is that it enables an unimaginable amount of memory to be addressed, which in turn means lots of processes can run simultaneously. A personal computer is, as the name suggests, designed for use by one person (personal – of a person, geddit Mr. Gates?) If anyone has ever tried using more than one application at a time, I mean using, not letting sit idle in background mode) they will find it is like trying to ride two horses with one arse, difficult. So the technology scam cartel needed to give us a compelling reason to buy 64 bit computers to sit on our desktops.
A few people were always going to be drawn by the idea of having at their fingertips more processing power than the Cray supercomputers used by Nuclear and astrophysical research installations like M.I.T. and CERN But the geek market would never be big enough to recoup the millions invested in reinventing the 64bit wheel.
The answer was Windows Vista, an operating system so overblown, so inefficient, so badly programmed by inadequately trained script kiddies supervised by people who think Second Life is a real place that it needs a 64bit processor with a gigabyte Random Access Memory just to run itself.
There has been resistance so far to 64 bit computers and to Windows Vista. But slowly we will be forced to upgrade. New document formats will be introduced, incompatible with our old software, new communications protocols will demand newer technology. The whole market is structured around making us throw away perfectly good stuff with years of life left in it.
Another, even more sinister direction the great scam is taking is the the gradual encroachment of SAAS, software as a service. The World Wide Web is insecure, the software complicated and expensive. Instead of buying this expensive software why not log onto an online service provider and pay a small fee everytime we use a word processor, photo editing tool, spreadsheet, video or audio application or whatever. Just pay little and get all your software without the worry of backing up, configuration or being hacked. The suppliers have worked out they will part you from much more of your hard earned a few cents at a time than if they sell a software upgrade package at a price that make people stop and think, "Do I really need it?" In effect they are saying we should go back to the days when networking was done by using dumb terminals to log in to central computers.
It would be impossible to cite all the examples of the great internet scam and give details of how they work but every time you find yourself being told you will have to buy or upgrade new hardware for the sake of compatibility or adequate performance, or sign up to an online service bear in mind that it is another few pennies to all those software companies that hold patents on a few lines of code hidden somewhere deep in the software. And then ask yourself “do I really need this or will it just lead to more purchases to make my other stuff compatible with it. because if you believe what the technology scammers tell you there will never be any end to their milking of your bank accounts.
That is how the great internet scam works.
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