Our Technological Adolescence

butterfly emerges from its cocoon

Note: I am writing as a citizen and resident of the United States of America but I believe that the ideas in this post apply equally to all of us as human beings as fellow citizens of the world.

We hear it every day. Us vs. them. Right vs. left. Republican vs. Democrat. Red vs. blue. Globalization vs. protectionism. Urban vs. rural. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter. How did we get here? Why do we seem to be more divided than ever?

A lot has changed in the world over the last twenty to thirty years. Technology has become a bigger and more dominant part of our everyday lives, changing the way we relate to each other and to the world around us. How are we handling that change? I would answer, “Not well.”

As human beings, we have a tendency to hold on to what we know best and resist change when that change is scary or particularly unknown. As we do this as individuals we start to seek out others who think like us, for comfort. Our journalists have been taught to distill stories down to “just the facts”, largely erasing the broad spectrum of struggles that are going on by individuals that don’t fit their story. (See this wonderful article for the beginning of a solution to this problem in journalism.) While this is understandable, it only serves to divide us further.

Collectively, no matter what “side” we are on, we all seem to be deeply dissatisfied with where we are politically and culturally. We are asking ourselves and each other (or we should be), “How did we get here and what do we do?” Perhaps an analogy will give some perspective and provide some direction. By way of illustration, I will share something a little personal.

Growing up, I was the “good kid” in my family. I got good grades and did what I was told (mostly). I graduated second in my high school class and attended Georgetown University receiving a bachelor’s degree in Russian. By all outward definitions, I was a success. But inwardly, I was still an adolescent. I had made no decisions about who I was at a fundamental level. Worse, I didn’t even realize it. I had goals and ideals, but these were ones that I had received from my community. I wanted to help the world not blow itself up. That’s why I studied Russian at (what we didn’t know then was) the end of the Cold War. I wanted to have a wife and family, so I got married and had children. But I wasn’t connected to what it really meant to be a husband and father. I simply expected things to happen and just fall into place like they had throughout my life in school prior to my growing into adulthood. So while I had become an adult, I had never really grown up. Ultimately, this led to a decades long breakdown in my relationship with my wife, finally ending in divorce.

This completely exploded my view of myself and my place in the world and forced me back to deal with my incomplete adolescence in a way that I never had in my teen years and early twenties. I am convinced that if I had used my teen years to wrestle with the questions of adolescence, then much of the pain I experienced and caused others over the past three decades could have largely been avoided. And I fear that my country is in the midst of avoiding its own adolescence brought on by the drastic changes in technology that are affecting every aspect of our daily lives and that this is expressing itself in the division and separateness we feel from others. We are so afraid that our way of seeing and interacting in the world is going away that we are clinging to it and trying to beat the other side into accepting it. This will never work, because our way (whichever way that is) will no longer work due to these profound technological changes affecting our politics and economics. We are in the “teen” years of our global technological adolescence. We need to figure out what this great change means for our coming adult lives in this new world of technology, globalization, and relative abundance. Our current solutions aren’t designed with the new realities we are dealing with, so none of them is likely to work. We need new models and views of our world based on these new realities. But where will these new models come from. I suggest that the answers lies in returning first to the universal lessons of our childhood.

From 1968 to 2001, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood taught children about their world and how it works. The host, Fred Rogers, also spoke directly to his young viewers about difficult subjects like death and anger. And he ended each show by telling each viewer that he or she was special “just by being you…. And people can like you just for being you.”

In 1986, Robert Fulghum published All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Here is an excerpt that succinctly describes the lesson expanded on throughout the book:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

These are not partisan ideals; they are human ideals and principles. All our politics and economies have grown out of these. And since the changes we are in the midst of experiencing seem to have blown up the models we have built since the industrial revolution, now is the time to think up new models and identities that will work in this new environment, together. Is it scary? It sure is. But we cannot avoid this “growing up”; we can only put it off. And putting it off will only make the transition more scary and difficult. We have to “embrace the suck” in the short term to get to the freedom and joy of adulthood on the other side. If we don’t, we will only extend the discomfort and pain of this transition period. What exactly lies on that other side? None of us really knows, but let’s explore it together with the same sense of wonder and joy that accompany the fear of growing up into the unknown.

What’s with All the Privacy Policy Updates?

If you have a lot of online accounts, you have likely received many notices over the last few weeks regarding privacy policy updates. There is a simple reason for this. It’s called the GDPR or the General Data Protection Regulation. If you don’t live in the European Union, you might not be familiar with it. It is an EU law that goes into effect tomorrow (May 25, 2018) “to give control to citizens and residents over their personal data.” Because so many Internet-based companies do business worldwide, it is easier for many of them to simply adopt the practices necessary to meet the GDPR for all of their users. That’s why you are getting all those emails asking you to review new privacy policies.

So how does the GDPR affect citizens of the EU and the users of companies that adopt the GDPR in general? Here are some highlights.

  • Companies who collect any personal information from you must
    • clearly disclose what data is being collected and how
    • why it is being processed
    • how long it is being retained
    • if it is being shared with any third-parties
  • You have the right to request a portable version of the data collected and stored about you in a common format that would be easy for you to read; in other words, they can’t send it to you in a file format that you would need to purchase expensive software to read
  • You have the right to have your data erased in certain circumstances
  • Any breach of data must be reported within 72 hours
  • And any business who primarily processes personal data must appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) who is responsible for managing all this

Keep in mind that these regulations only legally apply to those individuals within the EU and companies who do business within the EU. However, since so many companies do business around the world and collect personal information to do so, there is a high likelihood that you will have many more ways to control how your data is stored and shared.

Be sure to not simply ignore all those updates to those privacy policies. It is worth taking a little time to review them. They should be much easier and clearer now in many cases due to the new GDPR regulations that take affect tomorrow in the EU.

On the Far Side of Distraction

Most of my adult life I have been known as a “techie”. Family and those I work with turn to me with their questions about technology. At one place I used to work, I was so “digital” that I was teased every time i printed something out. I have social media accounts. I read a lot, usually averaging a little over a book a week. And, as you can tell by the list in the column to the right of this post, I listen to a lot of podcasts.

But something odd has happened over the last few years. As the rising public concerns over online security and privacy have increased, I started to question my digital engagement. I stopped posting to social media as much as I used to. I started reading more physical book instead of exclusively ebooks. And after some personal challenges in the last two or three years, I started to question why I had filled my life with so much “noise”. There is so much media coming at me or piling up to be looked at and read that I’d sometimes find it overwhelming. And I started to ask myself, Why am I doing this?

As I started to quietly ask myself that question, I found something very odd happening. My desire to engage with others and my technology increased. Why would that happen? As I considered this in the relatively few quiet spaces in my life, I realized something. I was avoiding the question. Filling my days with engagement was a way to avoid self-examination. As a result, I made some changes.

Perhaps the biggest was that I banned my smartphone from the bathroom, specifically when I am getting ready for work. I used to listen to podcasts in the shower and while I shaved. No more. I also started meditating and taking purposeful breaks where I did nothing or went for a walk outside. In the beginning these were all very hard to do. The desire to fill the quiet space with some sound or engagement was strong. But I discovered on the other side of that burst of distractions a wide open peace where I could see myself honestly and compassionately, loving myself while also seeing those places where I can improve.

I am still challenged by the urge to distract myself. And sometimes I even indulge it. But I strive to break through these temptations to that space of peace and love for myself and others. It is difficult work making time for thoughtful reflection and simply being present in my world. But the rewards have been increased self-knowledge and peace with myself and others. I encourage you to explore for yourself what is on the far side of distraction. I think you will be glad you did.

Productivity and Journaling

Journal with a pen between the pages

When I was in high school, I kept a journal. I wrote in it nearly every day. It helped me notice what happened in my day-to-day life and make adjustments where I felt they were needed. Sometime during college I stopped journaling. I’m not really sure why. After a difficult time recently, I found myself again looking for the benefits I experienced from journaling as a teenager. What I discovered has worked well for me, and not just for self-awareness. Using a Bullet Journal has also made me more productive.

I was looking for a flexible way to organize the stuff I needed to get done while also trying to learn more about journaling in general. For tasks, I was always looking for just the “right way” to store and act on all the things I need to do. But as I started journaling again, I realized that perhaps there was no such thing. Not only am I a unique person (just like you!), I am also a dynamic person; I am constantly changing and growing. So, the tool or system I start using today may not work for me in a year or two. I need a flexible system, kind of like my traditional journal. My journal was just a notebook ― some pages to write my thoughts down on. It was for me and me alone. I thought of myself as writing to my future self to remind him of what I was doing or feeling at the time I wrote. I had no formal structure. I could write what I wanted in any way I wanted. And I could change however I was doing it at any time. I needed a productivity system as customized and flexible as my journal.

That’s when I came across the Bullet Journal created by Ryder Carroll. I no longer remember how I initially learned about it, but I was intrigued from the beginning. The basic guidelines are simple and make it easy to start. An entire community of bullet journalers has developed around this way of keeping a journal. Many are very artistic which can be very intimidating if you don’t feel very creative (like me). There are also some “minimalist” bullet journalers who help take the pressure off those of us who feel less creative (thank you!).

Artsy Bullet Journal Page
Artsy Bullet Journal Page
Minimalist Bullet Journal Page
Minimalist Bullet Journal Page

In my research, I also found a great book called Dot Journaling―A Practical Guide (Bullet Journal is trademarked). It has loads of simple ideas for how to get started easily and organize your journal, while encouraging you to do what works for you. You can find even more samples and ideas on YouTube and Instagram (search for #BuJo).

When I started journaling again, I tried to write in the traditional way every day. But I tended to wait until the end of each day. Often I was too tired or couldn’t think of anything I wanted to write. Now that I have a Bullet Journal, I keep track of all my tasks, appointments, thoughts, and even traditional journal entries in the same place. I am still deciding exactly what works best for me, but I love it! I encourage you to give it a go and see if it works for you. I find it enlightening, fun, and productive. You might, too!

Informed Convenience

The GAFA companies (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) were on Capitol Hill earlier this month facing Congress. The questions asked of them boiled down to, “Do you realize how your services can be used to subvert our democracy? Are you taking this as seriously as your bottom line?” The not so subtle threat behind this is the possibility of government regulation. And Congress wasn’t impressed by who they sent, either. Instead of their CEOs, they all sent lawyers. It seems that maybe they aren’t taking this as seriously as they should. This got me to wondering, “How did we get here?”

When these now giant companies started in the 90s, they were just startups. Amazon’s business plan didn’t show it making a profit for ten years. Facebook was the way college students (only) connected with each other. Google was a new search engine that was only starting to replace Yahoo! as people’s first choice to find things on the internet. And Apple was a niche computer maker with a very small part of the market. Each of these companies worked like crazy to attract users. They focused on serving those users and a big part of that was making a space to meet a particular need and then getting out of the user’s way. In many ways, they were legitimately creating a (largely) free and unfettered online community. You could say and do whatever you wanted. What you saw on Facebook was all the updates of all your friends, no matter how overwhelming. But as the internet grew and mobile computing came along in 2007, this changed.

Those funding these startups began to pressure them to be profitable and go public. Advertising began to be more and more a part of the experience. And, with the overwhelming amount of information that became available, they all began to curate their user experience in some way. And we all welcomed this help sorting through the sea of information that the internet became. But we never evolved our understanding of these companies along with that change. They stopped being simple meeting places and tools. They started to become filters of our online experiences. Again, not bad — just a fact. Instead of using their products, we became the product.

How can we keep the services we like and use everyday without being taken advantage of? I think the key is transparency. I don’t mean that Facebook and Google should publish their algorithms. I do mean that they should explain broadly what their algorithms do. For example, it was sometime after they changed their feed policy before I learned that I was no longer simply seeing an unfiltered list of my Facebook friends’ feeds. Facebook now only shows you some of the feeds of your friends. If you look at your friend’s page itself you will see it all, but they show you only the best and what they think will keep you on Facebook. And they insert promoted content, too. They weren’t transparent about this. They should be.

These companies continue to claim that they should not be responsible for the content published on their platforms as they have no control over what users post. At the same time, they manipulate what their users see without clearly telling them that’s what they are doing. They can’t have it both ways. They need to go back to being completely unfiltered, or be transparent about the way they are curating the user experience. And if they choose neither, Congress is likely to begin regulating them.

In the meantime, what is the average user to do? All this change behind the scenes is frustrating and makes us feel used. Indeed, many say we are being used, that we are the product being sold rather than being the customer. For me the answer is what I call informed convenience. The internet and mobile are such a part of our everyday lives that there is no going back. Short of not having a mobile phone at all or never using the internet, we will encounter these companies and their products. So, we need to become better digital citizens. How do we do that without becoming paralegals in order to understand those Terms of Service we all have to agree to but never read?

Today there are many tools and websites to help you figure out in plain English what the terms of service are for a site or service. Here are three I found on a quick search:

  1. Terms of Service; Didn’t Read
  2. Clickwrapped
  3. Terms & Conditions Checker

Also, many of these companies have started to provide or use alternative services. Encrypt your computer hard drive and smartphone (both Android and iPhone have this capability). Make sure you know what rights you are giving up by using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use DuckDuckGo for search instead of Google because DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you. Pay for private email instead of using free email that it selling information about you. Buy books at your local bookstore instead from Amazon.

And if you are okay with what all of these companies are doing, don’t do anything differently. I am not trying to tell you what services you should or shouldn’t use. I am suggesting that you decide knowing what you are agreeing to. After doing a little research you may find that you have to give up a little convenience to live closer to the digital life you want to live. That’s okay. And rather than unknowingly being used, you will be practicing informed convenience.


Share your thoughts on this post in the comments below or contact me directly. Be sure to sign up in the sidebar to the right to receive a notification when new content is posted.

Listening to Each Other

With all that has been going on in politics in the United States over the last year, it can be easy to think that it is a new thing that we as Americans and even human beings aren’t doing a good job of listening to each other. Let me explain what I mean.

Last week I read an article by US Army veteran green beret Nate Boyer. It was an open letter addressing the controversy over what, if anything, should be done about players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games. Interestingly, the author of that open letter met with Colin Kaepernick after his first protest — sitting on the bench during the national anthem. In the meeting, Boyer made it a point to listen to Kapernick. Afterward, he felt that Kapernick had listened to his perspective as a veteran. It was after that meeting that Kapernick started kneeling next to his teammates instead of sitting on the bench. Boyer expressed that he has no issue with that and doesn’t feel it is disrespectful. There are plenty of others who do feel it is inappropriate. But he points out that the real issue here is not the dispute. It is that we are so stuck in our own perspectives that we are unwilling to accept that someone else could think very differently about an issue than we do. His prescription for the current dispute over this issue? The President of the United States (who has repeatedly expressed that he feels such protests are wrong) and Kolin Kapernick should meet and listen to each other.

I opened this post by saying that this lack of listening feels new. But it’s not. This afternoon I watched the movie Hacksaw Ridge. It was released last year and tells the story of a soldier in World War II who refused to carry a gun. He saved 75 of his fellow soldiers during a gruesome battle and was the only conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. And no one listened to him, either. His fellow soldiers assumed that he was a coward for his refusal to carry a gun. The fact is that he felt very strongly about the war and his need to serve. He just wanted to do it saving lives as an Army medic. Due to this lack of understanding, his fellow soldiers and commanding officers tried to get him discharged or make him quit. He refused to quit or carry a gun. After the battle of Okinawa ended on the first day, he stayed on the ridge continuing to risk his life to pull injured men to safety — 75 of them, including some injured Japanese. They had refused to listen to Private Desmond Doss.

One way we can learn from Private Doss is to follow his actions. He did not spend a lot of time trying to convince other of his convictions or even try to make them understood. Instead he acted on his convictions and tried to understand those around him. Now that is something that seems to be missing from our current civil and social discourse. I only hope that we will learn from a hero of the Greatest Generation and follow the advice of recent veteran Nate Boyer and simply listen to each other with a heart to understand. Only then will true progress be possible.

Intuitive and Logical Thinking

This week, as I always do, I listened to the latest podcast episode of On Being. I like to describe it as an interview program that explores where spirituality and religion touch everyday life. I find it both practical and inspiring. Each week, the host (Krista Tippett) interviews a different guest. This week’s interviewee was Daniel Kahneman, the bestselling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow. While I haven’t yet read the book (it is on my electronic “pile” of books to read on my ereader), I am fascinated by his concept of System 1 thinking and System 2 thinking which he discusses in this interview.

He describes System 1 thinking as the kind of thinking that happens when someone asks you what the answer is to two plus two. You don’t think about it or do any calculating. The answer comes effortlessly because it is already there in your consciousness. System 2 thinking is more linear and deliberate. It’s what happens when someone asks you to solve seventeen times twenty-four. You have to go step by step through the process of multiplying to arrive at the answer. He goes into how these two systems work together and how what starts out as System 2 thinking can often become automatic System 1 thinking (like driving a car or riding a bike).

In addition to each interview produced for the hour-long program and podcast, On Being also publishes each complete and unedited interview on Soundcloud. I don’t listen to these each week, but I was so fascinated by the produced interview and how it relates to much of what I have been reading and thinking about technology, boredom, and deep work that I decided to listen to it. I am so glad I did! At about 1:25:30 into the interview, he is in the midst of talking about artificial intelligence when he mentions my favorite game — the ancient board game of go. He talks about how he is fascinated by the fact that a computer program has finally beaten professional humans at a game that is based largely on System 1 thinking, or intuition.

I like to think about System 1 and System 2 thinking as intuition and logic, respectively. One of the many reasons why go is my favorite game is that it combines both of these kinds of thinking. In order to play well consistently, you need to be able to think both logically and intuitively.

Playing the game also helps players learn to balance big picture thinking (strategy) with what to do in specific situations (tactics). The game is most popular in east Asia (China, Japan, and Korea in particular). Playing go into their advanced years has been credited with keeping people mentally sharp while business men and women use it as a model for competing in business.

The social aspects of the game are fascinating as well. Each game is started by wishing your opponent a good game and at the end players thank each other for the game and often review together in a friendly way where things went well or took a bad turn. The combination of cognitive and social aspects of the game, I find deeply intriguing; I simply love this game! And the fact that a reference to it showed up in one of the podcasts I regularly listen to was a wonderful moment of serendipity.

If you are interested in learning more about the game of go, here is an excellent article recently published in Chicagoly magazine. You can also learn how and where to play in your local area (US only) at usgo.org.

Technology and Compassion

Like many in our country, I have become more and more concerned about the division in the US. I realize that these divisions are nothing new. There have always been divisions. Black vs. white. Poor vs. rich. American vs. immigrant. Liberal vs. conservative. Old vs. young. But something is different today. We seem to have lost our compassion for those not like us. How did we get here? Could it in some way be related to technology? Let me explain —

Modern computers are binary. That means they work by turning on or off a lot of electronic switches. They only have one state or the other. This is most frequently expressed as zeroes and ones. Could this way of thinking affect the way we think about the rest of life? Take cell phones, for instance. Most likely the first thing you thought about was a smartphone, perhaps even thinking of an iPhone or an Android phone. This is another duality, but it is a false one. True, the two major smartphone systems are iPhone built by Apple and Android, a Google product. However, there are other smartphone systems. There were briefly systems based on the Ubuntu version of Linux and the Firefox browser. And Microsoft made a Windows phone. Yet the majority of conversation is between only Apple and Google versions. Are you team Android? Or team iPhone?

We see this played out in our politics. Are you team liberal or team conservative? Again, this is a false choice and divisive! There is an infinite variety of thoughts and opinions between and around these two choices. It’s kind of like the rainbow. Where does red stop and orange begin? There is not a stark dividing line between red and orange. Rather there is a subtle blending from red to orange. This is true in politics as well. Even the leaders of team red (Republican) and team blue (Democrat) cannot agree exactly what it means to be on their team. There is a spectrum of opinions on each team. And there are many other teams (and colors, and their shades) than just red and blue.

One final analogy. I once had a car with a radio that had a “notched” volume dial. It was a traditional knob but it did not rotate smoothly. Instead it had little individual stopping points; it bumped from one to the next. I found that one notch was a little too quiet for when I was driving. The next bump up was a little too loud for what I wanted. And because it was notched, there was no way to fine tune between those two spots on the dial. I found this very frustrating. But it seems we are “notching” much of our lives today in very similar ways.

Much of our day-to-day lives is governed by technology, especially our cars and phones. Many decisions are made for us in these spaces by manufacturers. They decide what gets made based on what they perceive will appeal to the most people. Perhaps this homogenization, or at least reduction, of our choices is leading to a lack of openness and compassion for those on the “other” team.

But life is not digital! In the physical, analog world there are a wide variety of nearly unlimited possibilities and ways of expressing ourselves. Life is infinitely individual rather than “this” or “that”. And in that world, the most important question may be “how” rather that “what”. “How” do we treat ourselves and others regardless of the team we are on rather than “what” we think about a particular issue. After all, no one ever argued someone into agreeing with them. That comes through seeing “how” the world looks through their eyes. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone, just understand that they have different thoughts and experiences that are as equally valid as our own. And perhaps this will bring more compassion and understanding, creating a better world for all. It’s a start, at least.

How I Took Back Control from my Smartphone

There was a time when I felt phantom phone vibrations. That’s when you feel a notification vibration on your smartphone, pull it out to check what notified you, and realize that it never vibrated – there is no notification. If this has ever happened to you, it might be time to scale back your use of your smartphone. Here is how I did it.

First, I turned off all the notifications on my phone. All of them – email, social media, games. Anything that pings you to look at your phone. All of these apps install with notifications turned on. The currency of these apps is our attention and they are all vying for it. So I took it away. When I want to look at these apps, I will decide when I look at my phone, not the programmer of these apps.

Next, I removed all of the unused apps on my phone. There were a lot of apps that I downloaded to try out but didn’t use anymore. So I simply removed them from my phone. If they aren’t there, they cannot distract me or take up space on my phone.

I don’t use social media very much. When I do, it seems to suck me in like one of those bad movies that you just can’t stop watching. Wanting to gain some more control over my time and attention, I decided to remove all social media apps from my phone. If I want to look at Facebook or Twitter on my phone, I still can. I just need to do it in a browser. That little bit of extra work means that I really need to want to do it.

I also removed all the games from my phone. I realized that, like social media, they were just another time suck. When I was bored or didn’t know what to do, they would call to me mentally, drawing my hand to my phone and turning on the screen. Again, if the app isn’t there, it can’t distract me.

It’s amazing the freedom this has brought me. I am reading many more books now. I committed on Goodreads to reading forty books this year. I am ahead of schedule and expect to finish more than that by the end of the year. I no longer feel like a slave to my phone nor do I feel those phantom vibrations. My smartphone feels more like the tool it is – a tool that serves me rather than the other way around.

I got some of the ideas for this digital detox from a fantastic podcast called Note to Self, particularly the series called Bored and Brilliant which is also a book that is coming out soon. I recommend you check out the podcast and consider pre-ordering the book. Another great series from that podcast is the Privacy Paradox. And in the sidebar to the right is a list of other podcasts I listen to that you might find interesting, entertaining, or helpful.

Let me know in the comments if you find any of this helpful. I really appreciate feedback. It helps me get better.

P.S. Last week I ended my post by telling you that I would explain why you might want to use open source software. In preparing to write this week’s post I realized something important – nobody would care because it isn’t very easy to take action on for the average user. Since my goal on this blog is to empower the average user, I decided to skip it. If you are interested in learning more about open source software, take a look at Ubuntu or Libre Office. You can also contact me to ask me a specific question, if you’d like.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Windows XP

You shouldn’t use Windows XP. If you do, your computer could be being used by criminals to send spam and hack other sites. Let me explain.

All software is imperfect and has flaws. These flaws are called bugs (Read this to see why). Updates are released periodically by the makers of software to fix these bugs, making the software work better.

Some of the bugs in software are simply annoying, kind of like a typo in a novel you might read. It makes you pause while your are reading, but it doesn’t prevent you from understanding the story.

Other bugs are security threats. This is more like when you lose your keys or your wallet. It’s a real pain if you don’t find them because then you need to change your locks or get new credit cards.

Software companies only support their software for a limited period of time. As they release new versions of their software, it becomes harder to support multiple versions. So they eventually stop supporting the older versions.

An operating system is the software that runs your computer. If you use a Mac, your operating system (OS) is likely Apple OS X. If you are using a PC, you are most likely using some version of Windows. Windows has gone through many versions over the years. The latest version is Windows 10.

Windows XP was released in 2001. It was supported for over 12 years (that is a very long time!). Support and security patches ended on April 8, 2014. That means that any bugs, including security bugs, that were found after that date will no longer be fixed. So if you are currently running Windows XP on your computer, your computer is at a high risk of being compromised in some way (e.g. getting a virus or becoming part of a botnet).

If your are currently using Windows XP, there are two things you can do to use your computer more safely:

  1. Upgrade your computer to a version of Windows that is supported, like Windows 7 or Windows 8 or Windows 10 (there is no Windows 9)
  2. Install a free open source operating system like Ubuntu, a flavor of the Linux operating system

If you are looking to choose number 1, you will most likely need to buy a newer computer. It is very likely that your computer hardware is too old and slow to run a newer version of Windows. To determine if this is your situation, you can go to Best Buy and ask the Geek Squad or call your local computer tech guy for help. You can also contact me. I’d be happy to help you.

If you choose to go with choice 2, you can almost certainly use the computer hardware you currently have. You will still likely need help installing the new operating system without losing any of your data. You can go to the same sources as choice 1 for help, including me.

Next week I will go over why you might want to consider using open source software even if you don’t need to upgrade from Windows XP.