foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

1 billion PCs and counting

, posted: 24-Jun-2008 06:06

Apparently, there are now 1 billion PCs working in the world. When I read that headline the first thing that came to my mind was: "1 billion PCs working on sending out spam".

But it's not just spam. Let's see what many of these PCs are up to, usually without their owners' knowledge:
  • Sending spam
  • Hosting phishing web-sites
  • Participating in DDoS attacks
  • Hosting illegitimate (and sometimes unspeakable) content
1 billion PCs, making their owner's and everyone else's lifes difficult.

How many of these PCs will be upgraded to higher performing models, because they are running slow due to all the malware on them, and what impact will that have on the environment? See also the last two paragraphs of the article for a take on this. I know of people who complained about their system running slow and were told by unscrupulous PC retailers that they should upgrade to a dual-CPU system, even though a good malware-sweep and a bit of education would have helped them to recapture the original speed of their system again. Interesting that certain OS upgrades have the same effect: Suddenly the system runs slow, you need something faster, a new PC has to be bought, the old one is thrown out. Bad for the environment.

1 billion PCs, using up resources and impacting the environment.

How many of these PCs are unwittingly capturing their blisfully ignorant users in the trap of vendor lock-in? How many are running proprietary software - either purchased or illegally copied - that takes away freedoms from the users that they didn't even know they had, but one day - when it is too late - will sorely miss?

1 billion PCs, tying people and data to vendors and causing software dependency against the people's will.

A PC can be such a powerful tool, but clearly it is not yet as easy to use as a refrigerator or a plain old telephone. It's inherent versatility probably means that it never will be. So, if you are not careful this versatility and power of the PC can turn on you and bite you. A bit of understanding of the underlying technology is still very helpful to manage that risk. Sadly, most of these 1 billion PCs are used by people who don't have that understanding, and thus expose themselves and others to avoidable dangers on many different levels.

Does it have to be that way?

Imagine what it would be like if each PC would be used by people with at least some amount of knowledge about what this technology can do and how it works? Imagine if those 1 billion PCs therefore would not be abused by malware, if people would be able to make informed decisions about the software the are using? This huge number of PCs would be blessing for mankind, considering the power it puts at people's finger tips rather than this mixed bag of blessing and burden that they are today.

1 billion PCs, working for people and for mankind to make this a better place?


Other related posts:
More Apple madness (follow up)
The GPU, your personal desktop super computer
A truly light-weight OS: Written in ASM, with GUI, networking and apps

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foobar's profile

New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.

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