Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Virus Among Us

Computer viruses are the worst. 

I used to fancy myself kind of a tech nerd. Back in the old days, when most of you were just zygotes, I used to do some programming in BASIC on the old Commodore 64 and was pretty comfortable taking a computer apart and putting it back together again. I knew all the latest hardware and took great joy in embarrassing the Best Buy/Circuit City employees with “WELL, ACTUALLY” when they tried to help my parents find a new computer.

Some time in my early twenties though, life came at me fast, the internet took off and I had no idea how to fix anything anymore. The advent of viruses that could be spread via email attachments and clicking on links turned most computer problems from one of hardware to one of software. Suddenly, you had to be a software engineer, scrolling through index files and plundering the depths of your BIOS to track down and remove the issue. The malware lived inside of your computer, happily co-existing with all the software you wanted around, but would stick its finger in your eye with every opportunity via blue screens of death or pictures of your rival team carrying the trophy they just won in the season preview for the home-state team, in the home-town paper, and then take umbrage when called out on it, like it was everyone else with the problem.

The most aggravating by far, though, are pop-up ads. You know, those ones that just put you on blast with 30 windows opening up when you’re trying to read the Wikipedia page on men’s rights at work? You’re just sitting there, minding your own business when, BAM, the electromagnetic force turns against you and you’re presented with a panoply of options with respect to mail-order brides. Russian? Sure! Filipino? Why not! Randomly tweeting out that yesterday was the anniversary of Tim Brewster getting fired, while claiming the Gophers are second only to the Badgers in your CFB fandom? Delicious! Chadian? Of course! 

The viruses live among us and there’s not much we can do about it. Sure, there’s anti-malware and ad blockers you can download; but it seems like whenever you use them, the viruses get incredibly defensive and offended, asking what your problem is and that they’re happy to return to their beautiful family, beautiful home and beautiful life. 

Such is the life of an infection, though. They throw out red meat under the guise of innocent banter, knowing full well the sort of response it will provoke, then act shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU, when they get the predictable invective-filled reaction. It seems weird these viruses think users of the computer might be in the mood for good-natured ribbing after the Gophers lose for the Nth consecutive time against the team to the East; but it’s not weird because there’s nothing good natured about it at all. It’s snide, juvenile provocation. But, given the sources, that’s not particularly surprising either.

It’s a consequence of living in a large market with a booming economy that we have Badger fans in our local media.  There are obviously limited opportunities where they attended school, Kenosha ain’t Edina, friends, so they find their way here. It’s unfortunate they persist in passive-aggressive, WHO ME?, behavior, but that comes part and parcel with formative years in Wisconsin, apparently. 

We’re left to hope that one day, hopefully before I die, the shoe will be on the other foot. That we won’t have to deal with the infection of pop-up ads and Stuxnet plaguing our computers. The virus will persist, that’s unavoidable; but perhaps it will be quiet, respectful and normal. Too much to ask, maybe, given who we’re talking about, yet hope springs eternal.

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