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'Geek Speak' Confuses Net Users 808

jonney02 writes "BBC News is running the following story 'The average home computer user is bamboozled by technology jargon which is used to warn people about the most serious security threats online.' "
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'Geek Speak' Confuses Net Users

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  • Uh-huh (Score:3, Funny)

    by iehnll ( 842250 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:51AM (#12153300)
    " a survey for AOL UK has found Bright bunch they are...
  • by MrRTFM ( 740877 ) * on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:52AM (#12153301) Journal
    The sad thing is that most computer users dont give a shit. They have been trained out of it.

    They are hit with so many fucking dialog boxes and 'warnings' that they aren't sure of , that in the end they just ignore ALL of them.
    The average user just wants to get the job over and done with, and they couldn't care less if it the tool they use needs patches or virus checks or god knows what else.
    "Why is it so hard" they always cry.

    All we can do is keep educating, and hope that they listen.
    • by ZephyrXero ( 750822 ) <zephyrxero@nospAm.yahoo.com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:58AM (#12153378) Homepage Journal
      As a rule of thumb, if your dialogue box asks a question that's over 7 words, people probably won't bother reading it...but some still won't even bother with reading something that short even...
      • by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 ( 812236 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:03AM (#12153439) Journal
        And yet many users respond to long 419 scams and 30-word emails about enlarging penises. As the saying goes, "size doesn't matter; it's what you do with it that does."
        • by amanox ( 862297 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:13AM (#12153560)
          Ok, if users are like that, from now on I'll start my warnings, messages, etc with one of the following :

          "Get V1AGRA Anonymously!"
          "80% off software!"
          "8x Longer than V1AGRA, and cheaper!"
          "PLEASE HEAR ME OUT ( GOD BLESS YOU ) ..."
          "CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS TRANSACTION"
          "Pen1s enlarg3ment p1lls"
          "CONGRATULATIONS!!! YOU HAVE WON"

      • by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @11:27AM (#12155304)
        If your buttons don't say anything except "Select" and "Okay" your users are going to click them without knowing what they do. Make button labels descriptive, because that's the one thing the user has to look at.
      • by matts-reign ( 824586 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:05PM (#12158210) Homepage
        Just an example: I was at a friends house, watching TV. On his computer, 4 feet away, a dialog box pops up, from his firewall, warning of an attempt to connect on a port of a known trojan horse (subseven). Its bright red, with warning in big letters. Looks it belongs on star trek computers during red alert. So he clicks allow?!? i ask him why, and he says its been doing that all day and if he clicks deny it just comes up again in 10 minutes. Just to show how little people care about what things say on their computer. (he did actually have the trojan, he got it from a crack he downloaded. He had also set his antivirus to ignore it....)
    • by mboverload ( 657893 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:00AM (#12153406) Journal
      If someone was driving a car and didn't know what "check oil" meant they would be idiots, correct?

      Then why is it so different with technology? Why do we not expect them to know these things?

      • by frankthechicken ( 607647 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:07AM (#12153488) Journal
        I think the difference is that after 'misunderstanding' what "check oil" means, there is generally a fairly hefty bill to pay to fix the problem.

        After 'misunderstanding' the consequences of "Do you wish to open this attatchment? It may contain viruses", or whatever, the only consequence is a slightly slower computer, with possibly 'interesting' new features.

        This is not the greatest conditioning tool.

        If the virus/worm/whatever, actually killed the computer stone dead, and the user was then charged a fee to get it working again, I would imagine they would quickly learn.
        • If the virus/worm/whatever, actually killed the computer stone dead, and the user was then charged a fee to get it working again, I would imagine they would quickly learn.

          Considering this is what I do to make money on the side. Yes, they do learn. I recently cleaned off a WinXP computer full of spyware. It was easier to reinstall from scratch then to clean out. When I resetup the computer, The standard acounts did not all have admin privlidges this time (I didn't set it up in the first place), as the
      • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:09AM (#12153513)
        If someone was driving a car and didn't know what "check oil" meant they would be idiots, correct?

        Then why is it so different with technology? Why do we not expect them to know these things?


        Because your car doesn't say something like:

        "Engine Lubricant pressure levels are below reccomended levels. Do you wish to continue with operation?
        | Yes | No | Cancel |"

        In an effort to hand-hold the newbies, OS developers (particularilly a very popular group of them from the state of Washington) have, time and time again, actually made things more difficult than they need to be.
        • by WombatControl ( 74685 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:28AM (#12153722)

          As programmers, we have to consider communicating with our users better. For instance, Apple has the right idea when it comes to dialog boxes: always make the options for each button a verb. Yes/No/Cancel buttons require users to read a usually convoluted sentence and then interpret what they're agreeing to. This causes all sorts of usability problems.

          To run with the parent poster's dialog, a more usable dialog would read:

          Oil Levels are low. Would you like to:

          Change Oil | Do Not Change Oil

          Just by reading the button text a user will know precisely what each option will do.

          This is something that programmers both open-source and closed can do right now to enhance usability. Apple has the right idea, and there's no reason why we should have software that confuses our users with unclear dialogs.

        • by DavesWorld334 ( 714899 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @10:17AM (#12154355)
          No, users are just really goddamn stupid. I (very unfortunately) currently work in tech support. The same people call like clockwork with the same problems all the time.

          They never listen to anything offered that would educate them and prevent a repeat of their reoccurring issues. Simple rules designed to educate are always ignored. Basic warnings and instructions, reminder emails, popup boxes, it doesn't matter if the user won't do his part.

          Really though, the reason techs and support folks feel users deserve every ill they bring upon themselves is simple. Users love to explain how some problem they're having is the fault of the tech or of tech support. One user in fifty, maybe, will actually admit the problem is related to their inexperience, ignorance, ineptiude, or inattention.

          News Flash: if something's wrong with your computer and you're an end-user, it's usually your fault. You have ignored a rule, a warning, a message box, an email, or a memo. You have forgotten that passwords expire every month (yes, this month too; same as last month, and the month before that also), or that passwords do not magically update across all your applications just because you changed one of them.

          We can fix it so that it'll stay fixed, but not if you continue to insist anything that happens with it isn't your fault. You have to take charge. If you don't change your car's oil, the engine is toast. If you don't learn the simplest of basics of computer operation, so is your productivity. It is no one's fault but yours.

          Techs know users don't know about computers. This doesn't bother 95%+ of techs. What does bother us is users who don't listen, who don't learn, who don't read, and who don't take responsibility. If you ask a question, LISTEN to the answer. Take and write notes that you refer to. Why do you think Techs write stuff down; we're not smarter or better, we just use the advantages of evolution and technology to help us make things happen correctly. Please join us.

          And above all, thank your technicians and tech-support folks. Everyone has time to scream about how pissed they are because they've again created their own problem (but, of course, is always the fault of the tech), but one in one million has the goddamned time to send an email or make a phone call that says "hey, the help I received was great and now I'm all good, thanks."

          You can sum this entire post up thusly: Users Suck.
          • by amokk ( 465630 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @12:24PM (#12156145)
            You don't get it.

            Users are starting to do the bare minimum that tech support tells them to do in order to fix their problem and ignoring everything else. The reason for this is that in a large portion of cases, the tech support doesn't give some of them the benefit of the doubt.

            Let me explain:

            I've been installing networks and maintaining small networks for years. Not enterprise level networks mind you, but simply the ones found in home offices, small businesses, etc. I know a thing or 10,000 about network configuration. One day, I can't get an IP address from my ISP. I first check my hardware to see if there are any problems. Satisfied that there aren't, I call up the ISP and report the problem. Now, my modem is hooked up to a linksys router and the router is reporting that it cannot get an address. I explain this to the tech and they say "routers aren't supported." So I play along and say I'll call back after I unplug my router. I call back a little while later and say that I can't get an IP address. "What OS are you using" they ask. "OSX" I respond. "We only support windows." "Yes, but this isn't the fault of the OS I'm using." "We only support windows sir."

            At this point I get pissed.
            I tell them that I'll boot up my windows machine and try again. Note that I don't actually boot up my windows machine; I only pretend to on the phone cause I'm getting frustrated as hell. After a requisite amount of time passes, I say that the machine is ready and doesn't have an address. They walk me through a series of steps that I pretend to do, still, no address. Clearly this is their fault.

            At this point they say that I have a virus. I say, no, I don't. We argue back and forth for a moment and say that I must have some spyware installed. Again, more arguing.

            The story is getting off topic, but the main point is this: Most tech support nowadays has a rudimentary grasp of computers but relies on the screen they are reading off of to actually do anything.

            When the tech suggested that I reinstall my network card drivers, do a virus scan, and enable windows firewall I didn't listen. It's not the fault of my computers.

            Of course, later in the day I get an e-mail from the ISP apologizing for the unexpected downtime.

            Now, a large percentage of users are starting to realize this. Consequently, you're suggestions are getting ignored. Sometimes with good reason, sometimes without.
      • by Twylite ( 234238 ) <twylite@@@crypt...co...za> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:26AM (#12153698) Homepage

        1. Many drivers are expected to demonstrate basic comprehension of the car interface as part of acquiring their driving license. There is no equivalent license requirement for Internet access because the Internet is not an inherently deadly technology.

        2. Car interfaces have remained consistent over time. The top-of-the-line 2005 Mercedes and a cheap Japanese import from 1980 use the same basic approach to control the car and notify drivers about its status.

        3. Despite that, many people have no idea what any car status information means. If they see a light on the dash that isn't usually there, they take the car to an auto garage.

        4. Computers don't have such a simplistic model of status reporting as cars do, nor can they determine if there is a problem (as you can with many engine faults), not can a user be expected to contact an expert every time on account of the frequency of incidents.

        Yes, users need to learn to use the technology and respond correctly. This is done by making the interface simple and consistent, and educating users.

        Expecting users to understand the differences between a virus, a trojan, a keylogger, spyware, phishing, 419 scams, spam, junk mail, and a crash bug in Internet Explorer is not only ridiculous, but pointless. If you can detect the problem (the computer is behaving differently to normal) you can either fix it by hitting the "Download Updates and Check My System" button, or you call in an expert.

        • You know, that's a good idea. We could make a little idiot light that blinks in the upper right hand corner of the screen whenever something needs to be done to the computer.

          Of course, if we did it it would imeediately be hijacked by spammers, and would blink forever until you bought their enlargements or whatever.

        • That's it! I'm going to the local junkyard. I'll put bright red "idiot lights" from the dash of an old minivan on the side of my mom's monitor. When the little red "VIRUS" light pops on (and stays on, until [dealer] reset), she'll know to take it to a [mechanic].

          We just have to take the warnings off the screen... then they'll pay attention.
      • by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:27AM (#12153705) Journal
        Car - Computer Analogies tend to be problematic in most cases, but here's the differences I see in this case.

        First and foremost, cars are generally just big complicated pieces of hardware, while computers have this whole extra level of complexity. It's called software. Cars nowadays have some software, but it's got to be so rigorously tested that the average car owner will never have problems with it.Computers, on the other hand, break in software a lot more than hardware.

        My mom doesn't know too much about cars, but she has a good general understanding of how the everyday world works. Mechanical things wear out, they break, they need to be lubricated, etc. Software is a completely different beast. To someone who's never programmed, it's just this ephemeral, basically invisible thing that is always breaking. All you know is that it's very complicated, it doesn't work a lot, and nothing else that you've ever seen break in your life has given you much understanding as to what is wrong.

        Add to the fact things like "Check oil" is just two really simple words. It's not telling you what's wrong, it's not asking you what you want to do next, it's giving you a command; Get your damn oil checked!" Software breaks a little too often for commands like that to be feasible in most cases, I guess better programming is the solution.

        When computer hardware breaks, it's a little easier, because things stop working in much more understandable ways. I get phone calls from my mom asking for help when a program is repeatedly quitting with some weird error message. When a piece of hardware breaks, I get a call from her at a store/repair shop, asking me if a certain price for a new part is fair. She knows what to do when something physical breaks. The whole concept of software and how it actually works is just so foreign to her mindset that I don't think she'll ever understand it, even though her job requires her to spend 8 hours per day in front of a computer.
      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:48AM (#12154008) Journal
        If Joe Average wants to get a car, he's already been told a thousand times basically "cars are a difficult and dangerous thing. Keep your fingers off until you've been through driving school." There's honesty in that.

        What the computer industry lacks is precisely this kind of honesty.

        Joe Average is _bombarded_ with ads telling him "hey, our computer/program/card/whatever is easy! Grandma could use it! You just plug it in and it runs!" (Runs a DDOS zombie, a spam proxy and a couple of RPC viruses, that is.)

        In the computer industry noone gives a fsck about the user. We only care about sales. Products are shipped intentionally with security disabled ever day, because asking Joe to first set his password or generate a WEP key is perceived as too hard.

        Nah, let's make it look easy at least until we've got Joe's money. Then, ha ha, sucks to be him. We'll just call him an idiot when he gets bitten by _our_ lack of security.

        Joe is also told "nah, you don't need to learn anything! This is so easy even grandma could use it right out of the box!" That's the message that marketting is pumping into Joe. (Because otherwise they might lose sales.) So let's stop with the acting surprised when the product is actually bought by a Joe who isn't interested in becoming a computer expert to use it.

        Want less "idiots" using your program? Fine. Tell your boss that your company should stop the lie campaigns. Advertise the product as "not for people without extensive network admin experience" for example. Then I do believe that you'll have a lot less idiots to complain about.

        Of course, you'd also have a helluva lot less sales.

        And I'll tell you another difference between computers and the car industry. In the car industry they don't act like arrogant "I'm a god because I know how to change oil" idiots. They actually try to make a better product, instead of calling the user names.

        Let's say an automobile company finds out that, say, the bucket seats on sports models get worn out because the users put a leg over the raised edge. And I'm picking the bucket seat because that can't be dismissed as "oh, they only do that because cars can kill." No, it just has to do with user comfort. You know what the manufacturer will do? Try to design a better chair, and spend weeks testing it.

        Whereas in the computer industry we'd just call the user an "idiot". I mean, geeze, it may not be anywhere in the manual, but the user should have just _known_ to not put a leg over the seat's edge. The user should, in fact, do all sorts of uncomfortable tricks to make up for _our_ failure to design a good product. Otherwise he's an idiot.

        You know... maybe in this industry it's not the users who are idiots. Just a thought.
        • Yeah, it's entirely the fault of software developers that computer users don't bother to read a single manual, ever. Driving a car *well* requires training, even though most any idiot, given enough time, could probably figure out that one pedal goes fast, one goes slow, and the wheel thing makes the car turn. Similarly, most any idiot, given enough time, can figure out how to operate a computer mouse - but just because they're sitting in front of the box making clickie things go click, doesn't mean that i
          • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @12:26PM (#12156178) Journal
            I stand by what I've said: If your company's ads told them "you need to read a bookshelf worth of manuals to use our product", then you'd have less of those people calling you. Of course, the company would also have less customers, which is why they prefer to lie instead.

            I know it's a surprising concept, but most people have better stuff to do with their time. A doctor or a lawyer's time is better spent, *gasp*, learning more about medicine and law, than becoming an expert in computing. Their time is more valuable than that.

            It may come as a blow to your ego, but chances are your program isn't worth the time to go through the learning curve.

            Here's some basic economics: The computer is just a tool for them. A tool which requires more time to babysit, than it would take to do the same thing by hand, is a bad tool. And most software falls squarely into that category.

            E.g., the time and effort to babysit a computer (virus scanner, firewall, spam, etc) to just send an email is actually a worse use of even _my_ time than just using the post office. Just thinking that Joe Average has to spend some extra months to achieve the level of expertise you demand from him, just leaves me scratching my head: why would he ever want to waste his time like that?

            Which, again, is why your marketting dept lies about it. If you told people "you need to read a bookshelf worth of manuals to use our product", you'd discover that, plain and simple, your product isn't worth that.
    • by Nos. ( 179609 ) <andrew@theMONETkerrs.ca minus painter> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:06AM (#12153476) Homepage

      I wouldn't necessarily agree. Trying to train someone who doesn't want to learn.... well lets just say they're not going to learn anything.

      Instead, alerts and so forth that the general public would see should stop using those terms. Instead of saying there's a new phishing scam going around about $somebank, the article should be about counterfit emails trying to get people to give out their account information. Then give very simple and straightforward adivce on avoiding the issue, for example explaining that they should not click the link in the email if they wish to visit their bank, instead they should type in www.$somebank.com

      Same thing for viruses/trojans. Instead of arguing about if the latest outlook exploit should be called a worm/trojan/virus/etc. make alerts simple and clear. For general alerts, stick to one term, probably virus (most computer users are probably at least somewhat familiar with this one). The alerts should be simple, and probably skip, or at least not highlight the name. The general public isn't going to care that variant G of MyDumbExploit is now in the wild. Instead, the alert should be simple, and inform users to make sure they are running anti-virus software and to make sure it is up to date.

      Now of course some of us are going to want more details and such, and the alerts should contain links to more detailed information. However, the general public will get confused if too much detail is given.

      To put this in perspecitve, I don't know much about cars. I got a recall notice not that long ago on my car that told me something could happen with the transmission under certain conditions. I don't care if its actually a bolt that was tightened a little too much, or a bad gasket, just tell me the conditions to avoid and where I can book an appointment to get it fixed.

      • I wouldn't necessarily agree. Trying to train someone who doesn't want to learn.... well lets just say they're not going to learn anything.

        I'm just about to the point of saying, "heck with them, then."

        Same thing for viruses/trojans. Instead of arguing about if the latest outlook exploit should be called a worm/trojan/virus/etc. make alerts simple and clear.

        The general population is expected to tell the differences between the common cold, influenza, and pneumonia. The news outlets certainly don't ru

    • The sad thing is that most computer users dont give a shit. They have been trained out of it.

      People seem to decide in advance what they will and will not be capable of understanding. It's kind of a learned helplessness. It amazes me that most people are able to operate an automobile - which is really quite a complex activity, if you stop to think about it - but will immediately throw up a stone wall against learning even simple concepts in an area that they've already decided is beyond them.

  • I have to.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:52AM (#12153306) Journal
    I have to say so? Most people don't even know what a mother board is let alone what it does. If we dumb it down to "There's an ickky virus going around which sill hurt your PC!" then it's no use to us geeks with a clue. Just leave the real explination and put "Install this to fix the problem" at the bottom of the page for the idiots.
    • by Xiarcel ( 451958 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:56AM (#12153362)
      Perhaps leave the "geek-speak" and have a section for non-geeks?

      Something like:
      "Dude, this is really bad, your mp3s could be TOAST"

    • Re:I have to.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      Just leave the real explination and put "Install this to fix the problem" at the bottom of the page for the idiots.

      Which, of course, is as likely as not to be a spoof. The worst of the disadvantages of cluelessness is the inability to distinguish friend from foe.

      • Re:I have to.. (Score:3, Interesting)

        I know exactly what your saying but yesterday I had a friend who had never even downloaded a program before and didn't know how.. are we ment to go and teach all these people how to do even the simplest things?

        PCs are complex much like cars, you should do basic maintence and if you don't know any better then get in tech support if stuff goes wrong. This is basic maintence...
    • Re:I have to.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:10AM (#12153523) Homepage Journal
      Suppose you take your car to the mechanic, and he says, "It's broken, and you'll have to pay me a bunch of money to fix it."

      You say, "Well, before I pay you all that money, how about you tell me exactly what's wrong?"

      And he says, "You wouldn't understand all the technical jargon. Just trust me."

      Would you give that mechanic your money?

      No, I'm not blaming the "mechanics" (i.e., the people who write warnings and anti-malware) here. I'm blaming the people who, even if they can't actually fix anything more complicated than a flat tire, at least have a pretty decent idea of what the various parts of their car do, and can tell when someone is spouting expensive bullshit at them, but refuse to learn the most basic bits of computer knowledge in order to keep these machines -- which are just as important these days as cars -- up and running. If it weren't for the fact that their stupidity affects everyone else, I'd say fuck 'em, let their POS Windows (pretty much always) boxes be infected by every damn virus and worm in existence, let their bandwidth be sucked up by zombie penis enlargement e-mails, let their credit card and Social Security numbers be taken by every identity thief on the planet. But of course that's not a solution, any more than letting someone drive around with no brakes is okay.

      So I don't know what to do about it, but I'm really goddamn tired of whiners who depend on computers to run large chunks of their lives but still think of it, more or less, as that magical glowy box.
      • Re:I have to.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Neurotoxic666 ( 679255 ) <neurotoxic666 AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:42AM (#12153933) Homepage
        So I don't know what to do about it, but I'm really goddamn tired of whiners who depend on computers to run large chunks of their lives but still think of it, more or less, as that magical glowy box.

        Then let's just stop presenting computers as magical glowy boxes. Everywhere you can see an ad about how easy it is to surf this or that website. Then there are stores selling "internet ready" computers. Then there are telcos and other ISPs trying to pretend that you just put the CD in and the whole internet is there for you to marvel at.

        People don't know shit about shit and we can't blame them. They just expect everything to be easy with computers, because everyone tells them so. Have you seen any ad saying "so, it was hard to connect? Now your computer's hijacked? You've received threats from the RIAA? Well. Tough luck! ... ". You probably haven't.

        Telling people it's easy sells. It sells computers, internet access and a whole lot of useless gadgets. People just don't know. Don't be pissed at them.
        • Re:I have to.. (Score:3, Insightful)

          Like the car commericals that have you ripping across the tundra at 80 miles an hour in your SUV?

          Or the other car commericals that show some guy in a sedan doing 90 on Route 1 (The road on the side of the cliff over the ocean)?

          Or anything from Ikea? Or ANYTHING from the drug companies.

          It's not just computers. All ads make it look easy. People should know better.

      • Re:I have to.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Twylite ( 234238 ) <twylite@@@crypt...co...za> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:49AM (#12154022) Homepage

        Damnit Jim. I'm a driver, not a mechanic.

        I know SFA about cars. But if a mechanic tells me my car needs to be fixed, I'll ask for clarification. Typically the mechanic pops the hook, points at things and says stuff like "well as you can see this elbow has worn through and is leaking oil; some of that go onto engine which is what caused the smoke, but it also burned through some electrics over there". He could be bullshitting me blind, but the approach and the fact that he can show me something that doesn't look right (I know what a pipe with a hole in it looks like) gives me confidence.

        Switch to Joe Average Computer Support. He comes in, screws with the system for four hours, then says its fixed, and bills me. So what was wrong? "Well I downloaded an anti-virus update, new patches for your operating system, upgraded your anti-spyware, cleaned the computer, changed some configurations in Internet Explorer, emptied the recycle bin, shut down and restarted, installed a new graphics driver, changed the network adapter, and then it worked." Okay ... so I'm paying you how much for the diagnostics because you're incompetent, and how much to actually fix my problem?

        Forget computer irregulars -- I know plenty of "geeks" that get nailed by every type of malware out there.

        Here's the "test yourself" bit: You get an e-mail purportedly from a reputable magazine publisher; they're doing a pre-launch offer on their new IT magazine and invite you to get a free 12 month subscription if you complete an IT profile questionnaire (you know, general stuff about you and your industry). There are links to the publisher's site and to the subscription / questionnaire. The questionnaire needs some personal information like name, postal address and telephone number, plus you need to create a password for an account and give some password recovery info (mother's maiden name, etc).

        So is it a scam? Note that this is pre-launch, so there's nothing on the publisher's site about this new magazine. The publisher does make this sort of offer (subscription in exchange for IT profile information) quite often though. The subscription link is on a different domain to the publisher's site, although the domain home points to the publisher's site.

        How far will you go in investigating the validity of this offer? Will you ignore the offer of a years' free subscription? Did you notice that you're giving away enough information to be subject to identify theft?

    • Re:I have to.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Intron ( 870560 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:13AM (#12153562)
      So rewrite in English. It doesn't have to be "dumbed down", just not use jargon.

      Geek warning: Recent reports to US-CERT indicate that the W32/MyDoom variants propagate and communicate on TCP ports 1639, 1640, and 6667. The variants discovered on November 8th and 9th of 2004 may attempt to exploit an IFRAME vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer, described in VU#842160.

      Non-geek warning: Watch out for computer viruses coming in email. They may look innocent with subjects like: Hi!, Confirmation, funny photos, etc. but they will contain a link that you must not click when using the Windows browser. If your computer is infected with this virus, you will need to visit this web site [link to Symantec or somewhere].

    • Re:I have to.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MadMorf ( 118601 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:17AM (#12153607) Homepage Journal
      If we dumb it down to "There's an ickky virus going around which sill hurt your PC!" then it's no use to us geeks with a clue. Just leave the real explination and put "Install this to fix the problem" at the bottom of the page for the idiots.

      Actually the "Install this to fix the problem" should be at the top of the page or you'll lose them as they scan through the Geek explaination.
  • Use a dictionary. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:54AM (#12153322)
    "If internet users can't understand the language used to describe these risks, they are going to find it hard to protect themselves from being ripped off."

    So I am reading a book and I come across a word I don't know. What do I do? I take note of it (if I can determine what the sentence is trying to convey without knowing the word) and I go and look it up later.

    So, you're on the net and you're reading an article about computer security. You come across a word you don't know. What do you do? Google for it (define: foo) or dictionary.com or whatever.

    Come on. If people aren't willing to expend even the most minimal amount of effort to learn their world around them I have no sympathy for them when they get 0wn3d by the v1r11!!!!!!!!!@!
  • by rueger ( 210566 ) * on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:54AM (#12153325) Homepage
    Thank God Microsoft is here to help newbies understand all that computer talk with their parent's primer to computer slang [microsoft.com]

    While it has many nicknames, information-age slang is commonly referred to as leetspeek, or leet for short.

    Non-alphanumeric characters may be combined to form letters. For example, using slashes to create
    "/\/\" can substitute for the letter M, and two pipes combined with a hyphen to form "|-|" is often used in place of the letter H. Thus, the word "ham" could be written as "|-|4/\/\"
  • Surprise Surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bloodredsun ( 826017 ) <[martin] [at] [bloodredsun.com]> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:54AM (#12153334) Journal
    This study comes from AOL UK which just happens to be pushing a big advertising campaign in the UK about how "safe" AOL is, what a surprise.
  • I Know Why... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rightcoast ( 807751 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:54AM (#12153335) Homepage
    That is because thier PC has been assimilated as part of a bot-net because the default administrator privileges when never disabled and malware was drive-by installed by exploiting Active X. A though Scan in safe mode with the running processes killed would help, but they can't fix it because "the internet is broken".
  • 1337 (Score:5, Funny)

    by UnCivil Liberty ( 786163 ) * on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:54AM (#12153339)
    g33k 5p3aK 15 1337 d00d, 1+ wi11 r0x0r y0uR 80>0rZ!

    god I feel like such a tool...
  • by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <k4_pacific@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:56AM (#12153354) Homepage Journal
    Guru: So click on the icon.
    Luser: Woah dude, what's with all this technical mumbo jumbo? Click? Icon? We don't all have CS degrees like you pal.
    Guru: See this, this is called a mouse. You put your hand on it and use it to move the cursor to that little picture.
    Luser: Oh, man, I have no idea what you just said. What's a 'mouse'? You mean the foot pedal? Also, are you saying we should swear at it? I do that all the time.
    • by b0bby ( 201198 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:11AM (#12153529)
      Hibbert: Homer, I'm afraid you'll have to undergo a coronary bypass operation.
      Homer: Say it in English, Doc.
      Hibbert: You're going to need open heart surgery.
      Homer: Spare me your medical mumbo jumbo.
      Hibbert: We're going to cut you open and tinker with your ticker.
      Homer: Could you dumb it down a shade?
  • dumbing down (Score:3, Interesting)

    by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:56AM (#12153355)
    Ok, sow most pc users are dumb in the topic so let's downgrade ourselves to express the threats in a more easily understandable form, right ? So now instead of terms like phishing we will write 10 lines of text at the end of which these people will still not understand the subject since 1). they are still not swallow tech stuff easily 2). they still do not care about trojans, viruses, phishing and the like 3). they just simply forget what the first 1-2 lines were about till they get to the end.

    So, insted of switching to longish and dumb and dull explanatory descriptions, just fill the text with links to wikipedia terms and it's done. If joe6p want the explanation, can go there and educate himself. For the others, quickly to the subject. In time, the others might just catch up.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:56AM (#12153356) Homepage Journal
    Viruses bad. Okay.
    Gator bad.
    Firefox good.
    Outlook bad.
    Thunderbird good.
    Email saying they will give you money, bad.

  • Dear lord... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pants75 ( 708191 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:56AM (#12153363)
    Why should everything in the whole world be dumbed down for the lowest common denominator?

    These people have to take responsibility for their online actions just like in real life

    If they go giving away their CC details because they didn't understand the security warning about phishing (rubbish name by the way), then they really shouldn't expect to not get taken to the cleaners.

    Would you give me your CC details in the street if I asked nicely? No? You Sure?

    How about your National Security Number (Social Security Number for you yanks)? Why? Because its sensitive data and you don't want to get ripped off?

    Then don't do it online without being aware of your actions.

    Rant Of The Angry Brit Over

    • Re:Dear lord... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ironsides ( 739422 )
      Why should everything in the whole world be dumbed down for the lowest common denominator? These people have to take responsibility for their online actions just like in real life

      Read this, then get back to me about the lowest common denominator. (BTW, I agree with you, but that isn't what some schools are teaching). http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/publications/books / fulltext/schoolreform/132.pdf [stanford.edu]
      • Re:Dear lord... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jesus_666 ( 702802 )
        Quote fom the PDF: "When parents are happy there are fewer lawsuits [...]"

        The thought of a country where that sentence applies scares me. Seriously. If there's anything that made me appreciate Germany and the European Union then it's the constant stream of stories about things like that.

        Sorry for the troll, but seriously - a country where the first reaction to anything unpleasant is a lawsuit is quite scary. Especially when the country in question is a superpower.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:57AM (#12153369) Homepage
    A while ago I kept seeing the word "forceware" on various tech sites. I assumed it was related to spyware/maleware in some way. I assumed it related specifically to spyware you were forced to install to get some other program, e.g., all the spyware you're forced to get with Kazaa.

    Eventually I learned with ForceWare really is. But for the life of me I cannot understand why nVidia chose such an asinine name for their drivers!

    Other than some S&Mers I know, who really likes being forced to do anything?!
  • Just incase (Score:3, Informative)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:58AM (#12153387) Journal
    Just incase some "normal" people are here.

    "phishing" - Setting up a fake website to steal credit card numbers. Usualy done via e-mail as a "we lost your details, please.." type thing

    "rogue dialler" - A virus which uses your PC torepeatedly dial a peak rate number so it costs you alot of money.

    "Trojan" - A program which lets others connect to your PC with little to no effort giving them full control over it.

    "spyware" - Spyware is software which monitors what you do and sends it back to a company usually. It's not dangerous but on mass it slows your PC to a crawl.

    I'd put fixs but most are "get a firewall, virus scanner, spybot+adaware and firefox.". Infact that's exactly what I told a "normal PC users" yesterday :)
    • Has the definition of a Trojan changed? Isn't it just a (generally) malicious program/script that piggybacks itself on a program that the user runs. A Trojan can be used to install some remote desktop tool that gives others access to it, but it could really run anything.
  • In that case (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stargoat ( 658863 ) <stargoat@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:00AM (#12153401) Journal
    In that case, most computer users are idiots as well. When you go to a bank to get a mortgage, you need to know about APR, Interest Rates, Identity Theft, PMI, Adjustable Rate Mortgages, basic percentage mathematics, credit scores, and buying down points. When you use a computer, you should know how to update Windows, how not to click on the link to install spyware, and how not to open suspicious e-mails. It's not more difficult, it just takes a little bit of awareness of the environment around you. There is no excuse for the average user not knowing these things.
  • Newspeak rules! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ceeam ( 39911 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:00AM (#12153402)
    Should we rush to the "common denominator" then? I don't think so ("Press that thingy and watch the blinky..."). Anyway - having skimmed the article - I don't see what's so "geeky" in "trojan" at least as opposed to "virus". What other non-newspeak-like word should we use for "spam" or "spyware"? If anything they'd better campaign against corporate-speak and legalese.

    PS: WTF is "bamboozled"? :) I looked in my dictionary and I don't think it means what they think it means.
  • In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by peterprior ( 319967 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:00AM (#12153403)
    "medical speak confuses patients" and "mechanic speak confuses car owners"..

    Some professions require profession specific language. Deal.
  • Geek Speak (Score:5, Funny)

    by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:00AM (#12153410)
    Nigerian Gold

    Geek for a really good investment idea.

  • ESR on AOL users (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gtoomey ( 528943 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:02AM (#12153431)
    From The Jargon File [catb.org]

    September that never ended
    All time since September 1993. One of the seasonal rhythms of the Usenet used to be the annual September influx of clueless newbies who, lacking any sense of netiquette, made a general nuisance of themselves. This coincided with people starting college, getting their first internet accounts, and plunging in without bothering to learn what was acceptable. These relatively small drafts of newbies could be assimilated within a few months. But in September 1993, AOL users became able to post to Usenet, nearly overwhelming the old-timers' capacity to acculturate them; to those who nostalgically recall the period before, this triggered an inexorable decline in the quality of discussions on newsgroups. Syn. eternal September.

  • Zounds! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Srass ( 42349 ) * on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:03AM (#12153445)
    What's this? Laymen don't understand jargon? What a new concept this is. Thank goodness the Beeb finally clued us in! We certainly haven't been aware of this problem for longer than I've been alive...

    But seriously, this is pretty much what jargon [wiktionary.org] means. It allows us to express some fairly complicated concepts concisely enough to get things done in a reasonable amount of time. Remember, too, that these are words for things that the general populace doesn't really have a precise concept for already.

  • by ThePolkapunk ( 826529 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:11AM (#12153527) Homepage
    It seems like the writer of the article is confused about these "geek" terms as well, as he got the definition of a Trojan wrong.

    From the article: A Trojan is a malicious piece of software which installs itself on a person's computer without their knowledge.

    A Trojan, or Trojan Horse, is actually a malicious program that purports to be a legitimate application. To be classified as a Trojan, it must require execution by the user. The Trojan Horse of myth was left at the gates of Troy seemingly as a gift, but actually housed men who unlocked the gates to allow the invading armies into Troy. Hence the name Trojan Horse for the program.

    Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] says: A trojan horse computer program has a useful and desired function, or at least it has the appearance of having such. Secretly the program performs other, undesired functions.
  • by aardwolf204 ( 630780 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:13AM (#12153555)
    <RANT>
    And I bet these people are fully capable of learning this jargon. They are capable of using a search engine and can hopefully read at an 8th grade level. But for some reason, dispite the fact that 20% of them do not know how to protect themselves online, they will become zombies before googling "define spyware" or asking jeeves "what can i do to protect my computer", or heaven forbid clicking on the windows update icon *right at the top of their start menu* and maybe even following Microsoft's 3 basic steps to securing your computer (firewall, anti-virus, windows update).

    I'm sure when it comes to other things, cooking for example, they are more than likely to ask a friend for advice, get a book, or watch an educational television program. But when it comes to computers, especially AOL users (sorry for the generalization, no offense AOL/.ers) as in this article, leaving the realm of keywords, buddy lists, 10,000 smileys, punching munkies, and "you've got mail" is very unlikely to happen.

    If it werent for the fact that they are going to end up becoming zombies that will aimlessly try passwords on my FTP and SMTP servers I could care less about these lusers, not for their ignorance, but their unwillingness to secure their stuff or learn.
    </RANT>
    --Angry Sysop
  • What amazes me... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lucason ( 795664 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:15AM (#12153575) Homepage
    Is that users generally have no trouble admitting there just plain to stupid to understand what a puter acually is or should be used for, but yet they fail to show proper respect to those who do.

    Once I told a user to read the error message:
    Answer: I'm an accountant not a computer expert.
    My answer: Hey, I just asked you to READ. Didn't you learn that in accounting school... (I didn't last long in user support LOL)
  • Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by samael ( 12612 ) <Andrew@Ducker.org.uk> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:17AM (#12153597) Homepage
    Will someone please tell these people to buy a Mac?

    I _like_ Windows - but I recognise that looking after my PC requires effort, due to the security problems - I haven't been hit by a virus in 8 years, because _I know how to use my computer_, but I recognise that most users just want to check email/surf the web - which a Mac does just as well as a Windows box (and arguably better).
  • Unfortunately (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gone.fishing ( 213219 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:22AM (#12153656) Journal
    Most home users have jobs. Many of these jobs require computers. These same users bring their ignorance into the workplace where people like me have to support them.

    I try my best to educate them on the theory that an informed person is less likely to repeat the mistake. This is supposed to make my job easier. But they don't care, they find some slightly different way of making the same mistake over and over again.

    It doesn't stop with spyware, trojans, and viruses either. I've had laptops come in so filthy that they hade to be taken apart and cleaned out before they would boot. Coffee on the keyboard is common. So are cracked LCD displays (although they aren't often repeated).

    The most dangerous user isn't the uninformed one though. The most dangerous user is the one who knows just enough to be dangerous. They will give themselves Admin rights using a disk freely available on the internet and then try to change things that they shouldn't. By the time I get the computer it is a real mess and they know enough to plead ignorance. Those ones really torque me.

    When I think about that sub-set, I think I'll take the ignorant user thank you very much.
  • bloody brilliant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shalla ( 642644 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:22AM (#12153660)
    I hate to burst AOL UK's bubble, but your average person is bamboozled by specialized terms outside their own experience no matter what the field. Exactly what do they think we should do? (Other than switch to AOL, of course, because it will protect us... if we can get it to stop screwing up our computers.)

    We use terms like "phishing" because typing out "faked e-mail pretending to be from a legitimate source in order to solicit personal information for use in identity theft or illicit entry into controlled systems" gets a little old.

    It's not like the terms are not explained when used in the general press. They are. And if a person wants to know what something means, they can easily look it up. There are also a lot of basic computer articles from publications like PC Magazine that explain terms. Hell, I offer a free class for the public at my library to explain what different terms mean and how to deal with computer security.

    I think there's a distinct difference between saying "People don't know the meanings behind these terms!" and saying "People will never be able to protect themselves because you're using terms that are too technical!" The second is assigning blame for users not protecting themselves. The problem isn't the words--it's that people in general haven't read up on the issue.

    I guess I'll go complain to my bank that I don't understand the differences between all the different stocks and bonds available, so they need to change their names to long, explanatory phrases...
  • s/computer/car/ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cytlid ( 95255 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:30AM (#12153765)
    I'm not a "car" person. I can't stand them and don't understand them. Unfortunately everyone uses them and I'm forced to use one everyday, even at work! They're stupid devices which just annoy me. All this techno mumbo jumbo. "Steering Wheel" and "accelerator pedal" and "right-of-way". It's all just a mess. And it's only for Nascar fans anyhow.
    Why must I do the "speed limit"? What's a "turn signal"? And worse of all, my "gas meter" is on E! What's that mean? Noone told me I'd have to take it to someplace and get it "filled up" ... and the prices of gasoline! WOW! Also, I don't understand "oil changes"? I thought it came ready for me to go, I don't want to take it every 3 months or 3,000 miles. That's ridiculous!
    • Re:s/computer/car/ (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @10:27AM (#12154478)

      Your point is well taken, but your analogy is flawed in a number of ways.

      The average person can understand why going too fast might cause them to die, and thus it is something to be avoided. A reasonably intelligent person can understand why (from a technical perspective) all the gas and oil your car will ever need is not included with the vehicle. They can also understand that everything breaks occasionally and when it happens they need to get it fixed.

      Now look at computers. You buy a computer and before you even use it you have to download updates or it will be remotely hacked. Why is that (from a technical perspective)? Is it so hard to design a system that has everything except the update feature firewalled initially and that automatically updates during the setup? Not to mention all the exposed services running on a default Windows install. It's stupid to sell systems in that state and customers suffer for it. If not for a certain monopoly they wouldn't stand for it, but they don't even know they have a choice in most cases and in many they don't have a choice.

      It's easy to blame the users for being stupid. "my 'gas meter' is on E! What's that mean?" you wrote in your example. How many unidentified icons are in your car, that you actually need to use. Usually 5-10 of them. That is not ideal, but it is manageable. How many thousands of icons and widgets does an average user see trying to run a system to check e-mail and look at web pages?

      People know that things break. Cars break down, maybe once a month, maybe once every 5 years, depending on your car and other factors. Computers break (or appear to break to the user) almost every day. Every time a dialogue box appears it means the computer has stopped doing what the user wants and is now asking them to do something to "fix it" so they can go back to completing their task. Not only does it break, but as this article mentions it does so in some very ambiguous ways. A user might see a box with some technical jargon and two buttons, one labeled "OK" and one labeled "Cancel." Given the wording of the warning, it may or may not be obvious to someone fluent in English which box will take a given action, or even what action is being questioned. Is it really so hard to have buttons that actually say something like "don't do it" and "do it, I trust this website." What about warning boxes that appear with a message and just have an "OK" button. How is this useful? The box might read "I'm going to delete all your porn and send an e-mail to Don King that says you're going to kick his ass." and what is the user going to do? There is only one option. Why bother to even pop-up a dialogue box?

      Now their is plenty of blame to go around. Many users are stupid or just don't want to learn. Of course most of them only want to accomplish a few specific tasks. The main problem is that computers are not designed for their users and when users hate they way a computer works, they don't really have a choice of going with someone else. If MS did not have their monopoly people would go into the store and pick from one of three or four types of operating systems and based upon how well they liked it would either buy a new version of it at a later date and recommend it to their friends or not. Right now when they buy a car if the controls are too complex and it breaks all the time. They bitch about it and buy a different brand and encourage their friends to do the same. Different types of cars cater to different types of users. If they buy a computer that crashes, gets worms, and is hard to use and they go back to the store they buy another Windows machine because that is their only option. My point is that while users may be dumb and not want to learn, that does not mean using computers does not suck because they are poorly designed and are not improving because of the MS hegemony.

      • Re:s/computer/car/ (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cowscows ( 103644 )
        It's more complicated than that because the majority of computer problems are software based. Software exists in a state that most people are not used to seeing, in that it's not physical. How can something not physical be broken? What does it mean for it to be broken? Many people don't have any intuitive sense or past experiences to help them understand.

        One of the first things to try when you're fixing a computer problem is to turn the machine off, then back on. That magically fixes all sorts of things. H
  • suck it up! (Score:3, Informative)

    by rtphokie ( 518490 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @09:48AM (#12154013)
    If these people aren't willing to take a few moments to learn a couple of definitions, then unplug that PC and take it back to Best Buy. Sure there are a plethora of words and phrases to learn but most have their purpose and replacing them all with "bad thing" does a disservice to notice and geek alike.

    Of the examples in the article, only "phishing" is word that is really unnecessary and could be replaced by less hip, more descriptive language. The rest (ex: rogue dialer, Trojan, spyware) are descriptive enough to be useful and are could be deciphered by someone with zero computer experience but enough common sense.

    Nobody is asking these people to learn MC680X0 assembly, just to recognize a couple of phrases. They seem to think that being able to identify the CPU, keyboard and mouse thanks to their $30 investment in the Time-Life series on computers ends the learning curve and everything else should be so "user friendly" that they'll be hand held though everything.
  • by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <agnosticpope&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @10:05AM (#12154213) Journal
    "With great power, comes great responsibility" -- Stan Lee

    Power is always going to be proportional to risk. Users are fine with being able to send messages to people all over the world, make their own CDs, and read news/events from anyway in the world on their PC. It's a pretty damn powerful device.

    The telephone gave people one of those abilities, and most people know how to deal with telemarketers. There's little difference between the worst telemarketers and phishing.

    Most people know if their car is broken, to take it to a mechanic, but there's also just certain things they just shouldn't do. Like drive with the parking break on. Or drive on the left side of the road except in England/Japan/Australia/etc. Maybe, oh I dont' know, not opening e-mail attachments could be an analogue. Is taking your car to get a tune-up every once in a while really that much different than running Windows Update (or your OS's equivalent)?

    The computer simply allows people to do more things more quickly than any other invention has in the 20th century (except possibly the car). With all this power, users must take responsibility for their actions, or at least know who to take stuff to when it goes wrong. A user with a trojan is like a person driving a car with bad brakes -- a danger to themselves and everyone around them.

    As the technology becomes older, I think knowing these terms will become as common-place as their older equipmnt, but I think that'll take at least one generation for society to work out -- just as it did in the previous cases.
  • by GMFTatsujin ( 239569 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @10:54AM (#12154838) Homepage
    My wife's got a PhD in Political Science and can rattle off names and theories of power that make my head spin. I wouldn't call her average.

    I work with doctors who a routinely called upon to diagnose and treat some of the more complex biological systems on the planet (read: humans). I wouldn't call them average.

    I teach honors students who are literate, thoughtful, articulate, and and curious to learn. I wouldn't call them average.

    Yet somehow, each of these kinds of people, highly developed in their own baliwick, is supposed to be "average" when it comes to their intimate knowledge of how a computer works?

    They spent their time mastering their own domains. I may be able to repair a corrupted installation of the OS on a surgeon's workstation, but I wouldn't trust myself to perform open-heart surgery. Why expect it to work the other way around?

    Computer expertise is a specialty field, not a life skill (whatever we may think of that situation). We're talking about a deeper understanding of how a computer works: one that goes beyond "turn it on and double-click the picture on the screen." Computers are complex systems of inter-relating processes which all must be understood if any are to be used with maximum efficiency.

    Also, I don't know where the transmission on my car is, and I'm only about 10% sure I know how the distributor works. Does that make me a bad driver, or just a lousy mechanic?
    • by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @12:14PM (#12156017)
      Computer expertise is a speciality, working knowledge is not.

      You're not a political scientist, but I'm sure you know who the president is, and that the US is not a communist state. You're aware of the 3 branches of government, and probably can describe what each generally does.
      You're not a doctor, but I'm sure you know your ass from your elbow, and that licking a dirty surface will make you sick. I'm also sure you're aware smoking causes cancer, and excessive alcohol causes liver failure.

      So why shouldn't general computer users be expected to know what behaviors will cause problems with their computer and how to avoid doing them? Computer expertise is programming, advanced circuit theory, optics, engineering, etc. Rudimentary understanding to accomplish things practical to you should be expected and derided as unacceptable ignorance when lacking. Nobody is asking these 'normal' people to write their own OS.
  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @11:18AM (#12155174) Journal
    These people don't know what they don't know. Since they are unaware of the knowledge required to properly operate/repair a computer, it follows that they do not seek it and do not understand the terms when presented. As a result of this ignorance the computer user is more at risk to be taken advantage of.

    This is not a problem unique to computers, it it true of every technological device people use. Does the average person driving a car actually know how a turbocharger works or the terminology used in talking about repairing one: waste gate, compressor, turbine, fluid bearing, intercooler? When they go to a repair shop to get the engine repaired, will they have any clue about what these things are? If I said "Your waste gate trim tabs are locked open and that's causing the grinding noise", would an average person know if I could even be correct? I think not (that statement is bogus by the way. there are no trim tabs on a turbocharger waste gate and a waste gate would not cause an audible noise.)

    The problem I see is the growing tendency in the U.S. to simply choose to NOT become informed/educated about how things in our lives work. In "the old days" people generally had a fairly good idea of how everyday things worked. Granted things were simpler, but there's no reason for today's population to at least know the basics. I think the knowledge of the average automobile driver is; the fuel goes there, turn the key to start and stop the engine, vertical pedal=go faster, horizontal pedal=slow down, and what buttons to press to open the windows and change the radio.
    It's not very much different for the average computer owner: plug that in to the power outlet, that other thing in to the phone line, click the pretty picture to get on the internet. I'm not suggesting that every new user needs to be a CCIE, but we'd all be a lot better off if the ignorance pendulum started swinging back the other way for a while.

  • This is news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Brooklynoid ( 656617 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @11:29AM (#12155329)
    I'm not sure why this would be a surprise to anyone; the communications gap between IT professionals and the general population has been around as long as computers have. This gap is present in any technical industry, as well; how many of the great unwashed understand everything they hear from their doctor or their auto mechanic? The difference is that we've been conditioned to expect to pay doctors and auto mechanics for their skill and for explaining things in lay terms where necessary. Folks seem to expect computers to be "easy" and support for them to be free, for some reason.
  • by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @11:52AM (#12155715)
    Because the proper dialog box:
    "You're fucked."

    Offends users rather than merely confusing them.

  • Why Not... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @11:58AM (#12155788) Homepage Journal
    ...write the warnings in plain, honest English:

    Subject: New computer virus is attacking all home computers that run Windows and that have internet access.

    Q. Are you affected?
    A. You may be affected if your system is a Windows system purchased after 8/1/2000 and you haven't done any Microsoft recommended maintenance on it.

    Q. What can happen if I get infected?
    A. This virus will allow the programmer who wrote the virus to open all confidential information stored on your computer's hard drive. This includes personal e-mail, all history of web sites that you've visited (yes, even THOSE websites), any personal documents you may have created (word processor, spread sheet, database, photos, etc...). It also turns your computer into a "zombie" that is used to send junk e-mail (spam).

    Q. What happens if I ignore this problem?
    A. The people responsible for creating this virus may gain the ability to delete or destroy all of your confidential data. If your system is being used as a "zombie" to send junk e-mail, your internet sevice may cut you off until the problem is resolved.

    Q. How do I know if I am infected?
    A. Consider paying a professional to check your system for you. If you are infected, the cost of bringing your system back to a secure and usable condition may be very high. After that expense, consider it the cost of learning that it's cheaper to prevent the problem to begin with by maintaining your system. You get oil changes for your car, right? You cleanse your toilet bowl, correct? same thing... Maintina your computer either by learning how to do it, or paying someone to do it for you.

    Computers are not simple machines. This problem is here for a good long while until the approach shfts.

The difference between reality and unreality is that reality has so little to recommend it. -- Allan Sherman

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