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Digitally Transmitted Diseases 101

These days, more and more people seem to be asking me, “Tristan, I want to become a shark-fighting, syrup-chugging, moose-herding, tree-felling Canadian, too. But first, I’m confused – Can you explain the difference between a virus, a trojan, and spyware?

You may have read a post I wrote on the digital clap a couple of years ago, Discount Pharmaceuticals – Get ’em While They’re Hot! Consider this a sequel, if you will. Previously, I offered some helpful tips on protecting yourself online. Now, I’m going to help you understand what you’re protecting yourself against.

Turns out, the digital clap isn’t the only digitally transmitted disease out there. Here’s a brief explanation of the most common types, better known as “malware” (malicious software, get it?).

The Infamous Computer Virus

The virus is so widely known, that people often group all other forms of malware into this one category. However, it’s important to understand that a virus is just one form of malicious software that wants to settle in on your computer.

It’s easy to see why the virus is so widely known, since it’s been around the longest. Before internet use was widespread, viruses were often spread on floppy disks, and other portable media. Today, they most often spread over networks.

They make changes to systems whose results range from simple annoyance to outright destruction of data, and they’re also injected into other files, including Microsoft Word and Excel files.

Since the virus was, essentially, the first form of malware, how do the other forms differ?

The Trojan

Trojan Horse

The Trojan Horse of Greek mythology seemed, to the inhabitants of the city of Troy, to be a gift. However, concealed inside were enemy soldiers that used it as a ruse to gain entry to the city and destroy it.

Think of a trojan as the software version of that horse – A piece of software designed to seem harmless on the outside, in an attempt to get you to run or install it. Once you do, you’re opening yourself up to attack. Trojans are often used to steal information, or even enable an outside party to gain remote access to your computer. You want that about as much as you want the real clap.

The Worm

Worms are viruses that spread by any means necessary – Usually, over a network directly, or by harvesting your address book and sending itself to your friends. Trust me, they’ll love you for that.

Spyware and Adware

While not usually as destructive as other forms of malware, spyware isn’t any less dangerous. It’ll sit on your computer, collecting information about your habits on the internet, such as what sites you visit, and send that data elsewhere.

Why is this a problem? It’s a privacy violation. How many other people do you really want aware of that embarrassing Google search you did last week about that rash on your buttocks? And for advertising data, no less?

Adware is designed simply to display advertisements on your computer. And where do you think they get the data to target the ads towards you, personally? Bingo. The most annoying fact about spyware and adware is that it’s often installed with software such as browser toolbars, which many people elect to install themselves. The MyWebSearch toolbar is a perfect example of this.

The Rogue Antivirus Application

Rogue Antivirus Software

An example of a piece of rogue antivirus software, pretending to be a legitimate scanner.

Rogue antivirus software likes to get all dressed up for a night on the town. In this case, the “town” is your computer. These tricky bastards are designed to look like legitimate antivirus applications, such as Vipre or (heaven forbid) Norton Antivirus.

What’s funny about these ones is that they actually tell you that you’re infected, in an attempt to get you buy bogus software. Tricky, indeed.

Of course, if they were legitimate, they’d make it easy for you to remove them. Too bad it just isn’t that easy. They often block key programs that would otherwise make stopping or removing them a simple task.

The Keylogger

I don’t have to explain this one, do I? It should go without saying that you do not want to enter a password to your bank account on a computer that’s secretly recording every keystroke on your keyboard, and sending that data to someone on the internet.

Last but not least: The Rootkit!

Always save the best for last, right? Just kidding. Seriously.

A rootkit camouflages itself among your computer’s core systems. It integrates itself into a part of your operating system, and hides itself so well that it is often incredibly difficult to detect, much less remove. Of all the forms of malware out there, the rootkit is most often the one that will make your IT guy throw his hands up in defeat, and just wipe a computer entirely.

It’s not that you can’t remove a rootkit, it’s just that in the time it usually takes to make progress against one, you can often just wipe a computer and reinstall its operating system and applications anyway. Removing rootkits usually ends up being a frustrating exercise that can even lead to significant damage to an operating system, anyway.

The More You Know

This topic is one that confuses a lot of people outside the IT industry, but that’s ok. It isn’t your area of expertise, but you want to better understand what threatens your computer, and even your business.

I hope that I’ve been of some help in this area. And as I said in Part 1, I’m always around if you have questions. Comments, email, Twitter… Get at me.

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How Do You Know When You’re In Love?

Love can be a tricky thing. It isn’t something that can be measured with any degree of accuracy. It can’t be quantified. There isn’t a machine a doctor can stick you in to tell you if you’re in love or not.

It might surprise you to know how often that question is googled. Then again, given the age we live in, it might not. Nevertheless, people google this a lot.

Lucky for you, you have your friendly neighbourhood syrup-chugging tree-felling shark-fighting Canadian IT guy, who happens to know something Skynet Google doesn’t.

What is love?

I know what song you have stuck in your head now. You’re welcome.

How many people are making Google their relationship advisor?

Let’s start simple. The exact terms “how do you know when you’re in love” are searched on Google an average of 50,000 times per month. If you combine the numbers for several possible variants of those terms (worded differently, and accounting for silly spelling and grammar mistakes), you have over 225,000 people posing the question to Google every month.

Don’t even get me started on the 301,000 people asking Google “how make girlfriend?” But that’s neither here, nor there…

So how do you know?

Here’s how it happens.

You’re young. You meet someone. You fall head over heels for them. It all happens so fast. They’re all you think about. You could listen to them talk all day. They could do no wrong. You’re in love.

Then it ends. You’re hurt. Some time passes. You question whether you were actually in love at all. Then you meet someone else. You fall for them, but this time, it’s different. You’re more mature. This feels right. You realize that what you felt the first time wasn’t love at all. How could it be? You were young, naive, and a little stupid.

More time passes. You’ve since moved on to someone else. What you begin to feel for them grows, it deepens. The thoughts of love start coursing through your head, once again. Is this the real thing? What about last time? You were so sure. Were you just fooling yourself then, too?

Finally, it hits you: All those times you looked back and thought you were just fooling yourself – you weren’t at all. You weren’t stupid. You were in love. But each time? Yeah, each time.

Because love isn’t the same every time. Because everyone is different, and because love does change as you grow.

The Things Google Can’t Tell You

Google can’t tell you if you’re in love. Neither can a person on Yahoo! Answers, Ask Geeves (am I dating myself here?), or some relationship forum.

Only you know when you’re in love. It’s a feeling inside you that only you can identify, because it’s different from everyone else’s feeling.

Part of growing up is learning to listen to yourself, learning to trust yourself. And when you do finally look back and recognize those feelings you had in your younger self’s gut, you’ll smile and realize that maybe, just maybe…

You had it right the whole time.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Pro Tips on Being a Good Landlord

It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to be a good person. Yet, it still seems to elude some people. Dealing with a nightmare landlord can be even more stressful than a fist fight with a manatee (and they don’t even have fists). Or highly entertaining, provided you aren’t prone to letting an idiot with the IQ of a marine mammal ruin your life.

Ah, the manatee - Truly, the therapists of the sea.

Ah, the manatee – Truly, the therapists of the sea.

This metaphor makes no sense. I just really like manatees, ok? What decent person would want to punch one, anyway?

Being a Decent Human Being – You’re Doin’ it Wrong

If all your tenants get together for a BBQ and share horror stories about their dealings with you, you might have a problem. I mean, sure, there’s a small chance that every single one of them may just be problem tenants, but… really?

So here’s a guide on being a good landlord. I write this, of course, because of a recent experience I’ve had. It’s healthy to get this stuff out on paper, right?

But if you think about it, there’s a lesson here for all the cynical, the jaded, and the hateful. You don’t even have to be a landlord to get it.

The ‘Do’s

  • Do be pleasant when interacting with your tenants. They’re people, not subordinates.
  • Do actually meet your tenants at least once. It’s reassuring knowing there’s a face to the name.
  • Do make sure that you’re familiar with tenancy law before you start throwing the book at your tenants. When you make an accusation, and they know more than you do, you look like a colossal tool.

That’s all I’ve got. Surprised?

The thing is, you don’t actually have do a lot to be a good landlord. Nobody says you have to be anyone’s best friend, and you don’t have to be around very much.

As long as your tenants know they won’t have a fight on their hands every time they talk to you, you’re doing a good job. See? It doesn’t take a lot of effort.

That Four-Letter Word: Don’t

  • Don’t refuse to give your phone number to your tenants, insisting only on email communication.
  • Don’t harass your tenants’ references, calling them over and over again, even going as far as questioning their character.
  • Don’t fight your tenants on every issue they bring to your attention.
  • Don’t complain about one tenant to… Another tenant.
  • Don’t spread rumours about a tenant being “on drugs” to another tenant. This is very bad form, indeed.
  • Don’t assume your tenants know nothing about the law, and try to cheat and deceive them.
  • Don’t try to use the law to intimidate and dominate your tenants, especially when you’ve broken a few, yourself.
  • Don’t leave your address off the rental agreement or lease, unless you like trying to hold your tenants to an invalid lease.
  • Don’t throw a tantrum, and then complain about being treated like a child.
  • Don’t act like a dictator, and then delude yourself into thinking your tenants respect you, because they’re being “nice.” They aren’t. They just don’t want to be harassed anymore than they already are.

Rant Over

I like to think it takes real effort to be consistently rude and hateful to someone who has been nothing but courteous and respectful to you. After all, nobody’s born that way. But then, maybe you’ve had a life full of hardships.

FacepieMaybe you’ve endured years of the universe constantly kicking your ass and shoving pie into your face, and this has turned you cold and cynical. But there’s a lesson here, and it applies universally to dealing with your fellow human.

There is good in everyone, even you. But if you treat people like shit, you will be looked upon and treated accordingly. The only way to break such a vicious cycle of hate and distrust is to build a door in that wall you have around you, and venture out occasionally. Stop taking your problems out on everyone else!

Dare to be pleasant. Dare to offer the benefit of the doubt, from time to time. Dare to smile back when someone introduces themselves, and be friendly. Life will be easier, and more will float your way.

Remember, when you pick a fight with a manatee, everybody loses. And come on, you knew I was going to end with a manatee reference, no matter how little sense it made…

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A Tribute To You

You had such an effect on my life. You may no longer be a part of it, but your mark will forever be upon my mind, my heart, and my soul.

The footprints you left in the sands of my life

This is a tribute to you, the lessons you taught me, and the footprints you left in the sands of my life…

We were young. So young. You taught me patience. I learned to let go throughout our games with made-up rules.

We met, and I learned it was possible to make a best friend in sixty seconds. We were so innocent, and then we weren’t, and you were gone.

In an age before I could comprehend vulgarity, you introduced me to it. My innocence started to slip away before I even knew I had it.

You were the first to make my heart flutter. You made it skip a beat when it was largest, and bursting with unconditional love. You drifted away, and revealed yourself once more, ages later. You taught me that people change, and then sometimes they change back again.

You were so transitory, but you made an impression. Thanks to you, I know that sometimes you take the fall for a friend to protect them.

I didn’t want to leave you. We had so much fun together. You taught me to bend the rules, and break them. We were stupid. We were laughing. I’ll never forget you.

You were the greatest. In a time of great change and uncertainty, you extended your hand to me. When so many others were doing so too, I took yours. You gave me a glimpse of true and lasting friendship.

You were a surprise. A great and pleasant mistake. You made me fight, and then you showed me the truth, what I really wanted. You were pain and pleasure, happiness and such dire sadness. Clarity and madness. We destroyed each other, over and over again.

You were a diamond in the rough. I wasn’t ready for you. I wasn’t ready for what you made me feel. Guilt, relief, warmth. You were ripped away from me. You taught me about loss. You taught me to share while I still had the chance. You taught me how to remember.

You offered me a sense of brotherhood at a difficult time. And then you taught me that such things don’t last. I loved, and then I hated. You shocked me, and I learned to stop following.

You made me lose my thoughts, my mind. You showed me great beauty, and great frustration. You made me realize that sometimes it really is just skin deep.

You made my heart race. You compelled me to take a chance. You were my secret. We were damaged, wounded. You showed me pain and insanity. ███ ████ ██ █████ ██. I panicked, you hurt, and then you were gone. You wrote the letter that taught me anguish, and then you were everyone’s memory.

We shared a passion for something beautiful. We were kindred spirits. You were broken, hanging by a thread. I fixed you. You didn’t need me anymore, and I let you go. I moved on, and you flourished. I learned the power of music.

You amazed me. You roped me in, you told me stories, you drove me mad. You lied to me, and you made me lie to myself. You made me feel like everything and nothing, valuable and worthless. You made me think I could do things I never imagined I could. You showed me what I really needed. I learned to forgive again.

You were closer than blood. We laughed and toasted to the future. You showed me a being more flawed than I. You answered trust with deception, and reminded me that there’s a place for the cynic in me.

I lept over buildings. I crawled past hardships. I accomplished great things. I made terrible mistakes. I learned to embrace the bad as good, and the good as great. I am this man, the sum of all these things, and for that, I will always be grateful. Thank you. All of you.

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Customer Service – The Bovine Does It Best

All the business cards!I have more business cards than I know what to do with. But that’s ok – I didn’t pay for most of them. Once you’ve read this, you’ll either be terrified of ordering your next batch of cards from Moo, or be ready to place your order immediately. Or you might just be indifferent about it altogether. I’m not a mind reader.

Are you a glass half-full or half-empty person?

What the hell am I talking about?

My business cards elicit some interesting reactions. Most of them involve laughter. I assume it’s because most people don’t expect a business card to greet them with such a facial expression. But that’s exactly what I’m going for when I give you a card. I want you to remember me, after all.

When I ordered a new run of cards from, I uploaded a new custom design (created for me by Petra Cuschieri, graphic designer extraordinaire) to their design tool, and placed the order. Two weeks later, they arrived.

To my dismay, there was a white stripe across the top of each card.

Bad news first, right?

The bum cards.There was a problem with the bleed on the first run of 100 cards, resulting in a white stripe on the top of each card. After one of Moo’s support representatives attempted to fix the problem, the second batch I received had no stripe, but the design was zoomed in and misaligned.

A third replacement batch arrived, and the alignment issue had been corrected, but now there was a stripe across the bottom of the cards. It took 300 free cards before someone identified the issue and instructed me correctly on how to resolve it.

Don’t worry, there’s good news!

Moo’s support department is stellar. Their people were quick to send me reprints, and didn’t even ask for proof of the problems with the bad batches.

Despite the fact that I had to wait a few extra weeks, due to all the bad batches, I was never given a hard time, and each of my emails was responded to quickly. These people are really nice.

Bottom Line (No Pun Intended)

I have 400 cards for the price of 100. 300 of those are slightly messed up, but they’re still usable in many situations, and I’m still a satisfied customer.

Customer service like this is what truly sets a company like Moo apart from its competitors. They messed up again and again, but they didn’t stop trying to make it right until I was happy again. And they did it politely, and with style. I can think of at least one company who would do well to heed Moo’s example (See: Customer Retention – You’re Doing It Wrong).

So, ideas on what to do with 300 bum business cards? I was thinking about hauling a giant fan up to the top of the CN Tower…

What do you think? Leave a comment!