Monday, March 07, 2005

Best Virus Protection Yet

Yesterday, at my neighborhood coffee shop web access had slowed to a crawl. Jon, who administers the system, was sitting at a table doing some work, so I walked over and asked him what was going on.
He said he'd just found three patrons who were spewing out worms and kicked them off the net.

Problem solved. Well, mine anyway.

The guy at the next table looked up and said, "Is that why my network connection died?"

Yep.

"But I just installed new antivirus software recently!"

Jon tried to help him clean his machine, but without much immediate luck. Me, I gave him a Knoppix disk.

I use public access points. Knoppix is a godsend. Slip in the CD, boot from it, and I have a complete Linux distro running. No install. Never needs anti-virus software. (No, really. Read on.)

Knoppix runs directly from the CD. The hard disk is unused, and untouched.

No possibility of ever being hit by spyware, viruses, or any of the other Microsoftware problems people seem to get stuck spending time on. What could a worm do -- install itself on my CD? (In case you're not technical, the question's rhetorical. The one-word answer is, "No.")

Up-to-date versions of all the utilities I need for cruising the web: browsers, PDF readers, music players, and so on.

True, I don't have a hard disk while I'm using it, but since I use a webmail -- gmail -- a web-based news reader -- bloglines -- and a web-based blog host -- blogspot -- I can do all the simple appliance computing I need without a hard disk.

Understand, he can always reboot and come up in Windows from his hard disk. This only means
he doesn't have to do it nearly as often.

At first, using Knoppix does require unlearning some good habits.

Take cookies. "Do you want to accept all cookies, some cookies, or no cookies from this site?" What do I care? What's it going to do? Write them to my CD? Now I just press Enter, take the defaults, and go on.

Or shutdowns. To power the machine off, I ... turn off the power. Shut it down cleanly? What's going to happen if I don't? My CD will be corrupted?

I told the guy I'd charge him "my standard fee" for the CD: nothing. If it solved his problem, he should make a few copies and give them to friends. If it didn't, he should just give the CD away to someone else to try. I always carry a CD or two around to give away.

It's Linux. Your only cost is whatever work you put into it.

More info about Knoppix in German here, or in English here. You can download Knoppix, for free, from the same places. A free book on Knoppix is here, and a somewhat more advanced book+CD, here.

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