Google ditches Windows on security concerns

Google is phasing out the internal use of Microsoft’s Windows operating system because of security concerns, according to several Google employees. The Financial Times reports that since early January, new hires were still being allowed to install Windows on their laptops, but it was not an option for their desktop computers. Google would not comment on its current policy.

Windows is known for being more vulnerable to attacks by hackers and more susceptible to computer viruses than other operating systems. The greater number of attacks on Windows has much to do with its prevalence, which has made it a bigger target for attackers.

Employees wanting to stay on Windows required clearance from “quite senior levels”, one employee said. “Getting a new Windows machine now requires CIO approval,” said another employee.

New hires are now given the option of using Apple’s Mac computers or PCs running the Linux operating system. “Linux is open source and we feel good about it,” said one employee. “Microsoft we don’t feel so good about.”

Internet addiction

addiction

A recent study by Leeds University has found evidence of a link between excessive internet use and depression. The information was collated from a questionnaire-based study of 1,319 young people and adults, used data compiled from respondents to links placed on UK-based social networking sites.

The respondents answered questions about how much time they spent on the internet and what they used it for; they also completed the Beck Depression Inventory – a series of questions designed to measure the severity of depression. The report, by the university’s Institute of Psychological Sciences, said 18 of the people who completed the questionnaire – 1.4% of the total – were internet addicts.

“Our research indicates that excessive internet use is associated with depression, but what we don’t know is which comes first – are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?” the article’s lead author, Dr Catriona Morrison, said, “What is clear is that, for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies.”

This is the first in depth study of its kind in the west and now leaves us to consider what the wider societal implications are. Today in the Guardian there are reports of a couple in Korea who allowed their three-month-old daughter to starve to death while they devoted hours to playing a computer game that involved raising a virtual character of a young girl.

Next Generation Investment

In the UK there is a new grant scheme available for low-income families with children aged 3-9, to get access to a computer and the internet to get online at home.

If you are a low income family in receipt of certain benefits you could qualify for a grant to buy a computer and/or a minimum of one years’ internet access. The programme is aimed at those that need it most and targets families that do not have access to a computer or the internet at home.

Depending on what you need, the grant allows eligible applicants to buy one of the following packages:

1. Full package (a computer, one year’s internet access, service and support)
2. A computer with service and support only
3. One year’s internet access only

I am pleased to see that parents will be allowed to purchase their own choice of pc and software, and that there is telephone support for those who are not familiar with using the internet. I think that this type of investment in children is so important, and will help to reduce inequalities in the education system and motivate children to learn.

Understanding Free and Open Source Software

GNU-Free-as-in-Freedom

There are many misconceptions floating around about free and open source software (foss). The purpose of this article is to address them and to better inform people.

The first response I seem to get when I discuss ‘free software’ is, oh but you have to pay for quality, or maybe, well how can developers afford to give away software for nothing. Well in the first instance, free refers to liberty rather than cost. Freedom to copy, change and modify software and indeed you may actually pay for access to free software, although this is generally not the case. Software code is like any other type of knowledge; it should not be hidden from the user.

Another frustrating and misleading idea is that foss kills innovation. If anything free software is the key to innovative creation, we only need to look at Firefox web browser or WordPress blogs to see non-proprietary software flourishing.

So you may ask why do we need to concern ourselves with free software if proprietary software works and can offer stability? In modern society computers, televisions and mobile phones are commonplace; indeed we have come to rely upon them. The software controls and transmits our sensitive information; we should be in control of this software and have a better understanding of how it works in order to maintain our liberty and control.

Other frustrating misconceptions about foss include political aspects. People at times assume that foss is akin to communism; this is a falsity. You can indeed have private ownership over free software, you can modify at will and can reap the rewards of its use. A free software licence only requires that if you do redistribute the software, that you must keep it free; allowing others to modify and redistribute. Or if you wish to keep your modifications private, you must ensure that the original free software is kept separate and that your addition does not contain the original work. The free software license is simply a legal and ethical contract between the programmer and the end-user.

I feel that whilst this information is relatively basic it is all to often taken for granted or misunderstood, so if this sounds repetitive then humour me please. Oh and Happy New Year!