With the advent of the Internet, our whole way of communicating
has changed. And with it, a new vehicle to publish and
distribute hoaxes and urban legends has grown up. Even whole businesses
designed to profit from the general public's fears, ignorance
and self-doubts stalk the web. Because computers appear
so complex (they are nothing more than over-grown adding machines,
after all), and because the way computers function can seem magical
at first, folks tend to allow themselves to believe the most ridiculous
statements propagated on the 'net.
This website is to help you educate yourself into becoming
more self-reliant with your Macintosh -- and part of that self-reliance
is the development of critical thinking skills we have
woefully abandoned in the last several decades. Mac users
are generally quite independently-minded, and rail against the
herd mentality that is society today. It is true that many,
many other computer users (Unix-based and Windows) share that
independent streak. But many more folks around the world
are constantly fooled into believing the most ludicrous of claims,
simply because it came as a forwarded email from a friend or was
posted on a website in an authoritative manner. We invite
you to begin to think critically again. Save yourself
from the onslaught of dumb email chain letters, or propagating
misleading or inaccurate information.
How? Start here. Educate yourself about
hoaxes, hogwash, and SPAM (unwanted email). We've collected
some links below to help you discover for yourself whether that
email forward will magically gain you millions, or if that virus
that hit your Windows friends poses any threat to you.
- Perhaps it is the nature of our company, but on a daily basis,
we are asked if Macs are more expensive than Windows computers.
The answer is NO. In fact, the reasons why
may surprise you. On the bottom of every web page on our
site, we have a THINK box. Selecting the box with a click
takes you to our page comparing Macs to Windows, a collection
of mind exercises and summaries from a variety of sources to
back up our position that owning a Macintosh costs far, far
less than any Windows-based computer. Click HERE
for more information.
- Viruses are a reality in the computing world. However,
every week, some well-meaning soul sends out an alert that a
virus is posed to collapse the Internet, or will shut down all
of the computers running electric utilities at midnight. Well,
if you take some time to think about how viruses work, you'll
realize that Macintosh computers cannot be affected by the large
majority of Windows-based viruses. Macs running OS 9 or earlier have about 40
known viruses (there are no known viri for Mac OS X) whereas Windows systems face several tens
of thousands. Because Macs use a completely different
chip to run their calculations (There is no Intel Inside warning
label on a Mac), Windows viruses cannot affect a Mac.
There are exceptions to this -- most notably from Microsoft's
Macro feature in MS Word and Excel... these are cross-platform
and "macro-viruses only" affect those applications.
But if your gullible acquaintance sends your Mac a DOS
executable file and claims it is a virus, do not panic. Politely
remind them that it is poor computing etiquette to send a
file attachment without prior permission. Politely
remind them that you have a Macintosh and .exe files aren't of
interest to you. And politely suggest that they read this
web page for more information. If they are alerting
you (and hundreds of others via a mass emailing) to the latest
scare of the week, this is also impolite as it wastes your
time. Before bothering hundreds of folks with SPAM,
they might be wise to visit one of the anti-virus sites to confirm
that their topic is indeed legit. Many are not. Selections
from two of the anti-virus companies for the Mac offer sound
resources for researching viruses:
Symantec (SAM and NAM): http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html
Network Associates (Virex): http://www.nai.com/asp_set/anti_virus/library/hoaxes.asp
- Hoaxes: Anything Free Isn't. A broader class
of hoaxes on the Internet include free copies of commercial software
(it is illegal to download unlicensed copies of Excel, System
8, FileMaker, Quicken or Myst -- this is called WAREZ
and is a form of pirating or theft), for-pay Internet services
for free (AOL4FREE, as opposed to truly free services
such as found on some search engine sites), Geeks Bearing Gifts,
free Beer, free airline tickets and so forth. Because these
hoaxes waste so much computer time and steal the resources of
companies worldwide, the U.S. Department of Energy has posted
a site to list many of the common hoaxes: http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACHoaxes.html
Several other fine anti-hoax and myth-busting sites are available
on the web, such as: http://www.nonprofit.net/hoax/hoax.html
(this is an excellent site, 'though you may not like what you
and for special mention, the most annoying hoax is the internet
taxation bill still making circles, http://www.eff.org/pub/Net_culture/Folklore/Hoaxes/1999_bill_602p.hoax
- Chain letters are another form of hoaxes. These
are more wasteful than most other hoaxes because they choke your
email in box, and waste your personal time (or company time)
dealing with them. For some reason -- the Bill Gates class
of hoaxes fall into this category frequently, where he will send
you money or donate money to some worthwhile charity in your
name if you SPAM a dozen friends with junk email. Folks,
stew on this: why would Gates want to send you money?
And while we all have rational and irrational fears about
Big Brother Government and the capabilities of computers, there
is no technology today that will record everywhere a chain letter
goes, nor is there an organization on the planet that will give
you money for nothing. Let me put it another way: are you
willing to send me money if I simply ask you to in an email?
If so, please, email me privately (and quite quickly, too).
Otherwise, as my sixth grade teacher Mrs. Brookes would
say, "Did you forget to think again?" Check
out the DOE's chain letter site here: http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACChainLetters.html
- Urban Legends. (This has little to do with computers).
An acquaintance swears a Friend of a Friend (FOAF)
had actually seen Elvis (Presley) at a frat party at Virginia
Tech in the early 90's. All the statements that Elvis
was probably quite dead at the time would not dissuade the guy.
Now, I've seen a lot of things at VPI frat parties, so
I don't want to completely discount the extremely remote possibility
that Elvis was indeed partying in spirit in Blacksburg, perhaps
with Jim Morrison and Ms. Monroe, but really now...
Yet, thousands of folks honestly believe this stuff, along
with hundreds of other stories presented with sincerity by the
teller, with some facts thrown in to try to legitimize the tale,
but ultimately this stuff is a load of male cow manure: Does
buying a product contribute money to Satan? Is a preschooler's
TV character GAY? Is the HIV virus the product of a class
Frankly, this nonsense needs to stay inside the Washington DC
beltline where we isolate many of the nation's leading idiots
(don't you feel sorry for the people who actually live there?).
Yet this stupidity is propagated by people who claim to
be leaders of our political and religious landscape. Why
we don't banish them to enemy countries I'll never know. Perhaps
Saddam made a secret deal to behave if we didn't send certain
Senators or Ministers his way -- international politics is complicated.
Nonetheless, several fine books such as the "Choking
Doberman" have been published on the topic of urban legends,
along with some good websites: http://urbanlegends.about.com/
-- none are true, but they do make great stories to tell!
- Pointers for helping to reduce SPAM and Hoaxes:
- Don't forward Urgent notices, jokes, attachments, virus warnings,
or the latest gossip without prior permission of the recipient.
If you do have permission, be polite and trim off all of
the headers and non-essential information from the notice.
- No dying children need email as a last wish to save their
lives. This is just cruel.
- Question the source of your information. Heck, question
me ! Many, many folks who have computers think they
are now experts -- or that what applies to them applies to all.
Nonexpert opinion is often presented as fact. One
website refers to this as the False Authority Syndrome. Even
computer sales personnel and technicians are frequently misinformed
about computers, viruses, and hoaxes.
- Reading an email will not infect your Macintosh, but downloading
and opening an attachment may. [Note: there are some Windows email messages that can replicate themselves if Windows patches to the software is not regularly patched and repaired.]
- You will NOT get rich sending email, (or signing others up
for Multilevel Marketing or Pyramid Schemes)
- The sun will rise on January 1, and the prophets of doom
will revise their story yet again.
- No corporation is giving away goods that required them to
spend money to produce. Don't let someone sell you greed.
- This should be obvious, but: NEVER reveal your on-line
passwords or IDs to anyone via email. Nor should
you give out your credit card, bank account, social security
number or any personal information unless you initiated the
transaction (eCommerce) -- and this should always be done on
a secure site (SSL), not by open email. If someone comes
to you for that information, they are likely not legit and should
probably be introduced to your local law enforcement agency.
Obviously, if you called an ISP or company for technical
support or to place an order, this information may be legitimately
required for them to offer you assistance -- only if you called
- No government agency is planning on taxing modems or banning
the free speech of political or religious organizations on the
web. However, local phone companies would love to find
a way to surcharge your internet use for profit, so it behooves
you to pay attention to your phone bill and be civically active
in rate proposals by your utilities. Ignorance and apathy
causes more harm than attentiveness.
- And if you really want to fight SPAM, the U. S.
Federal Trade Commission would love your help. Visit
their website for information on notifying them of corporate
They have a complaint form set up for you.
Web links are subject to change without notification. If
one of the above links fails, please tell us so we can correct
or eliminate the broken link: firstname.lastname@example.org