The Dark Side

Let's Talk about TechAnyone familiar with the Star Wars series will tell you that The Force has a dark side. The Force, for me, is the connectivity of the Internet, the way it brings people together, provides an outlet for news that might otherwise be censored or overlooked, and allows sharing amongst family and friends separated by miles, timezones and oceans.

I have a vision of bridging the Internet communication gap between generations, so that our communities might be more diverse, larger, and perhaps wiser than they will be, if we leave the retirees to ride off in the sunset, unconnected to the rest of us on the Internet.

But like Princess Leia, I have enemies. Lots of them. I am battling the Dark Side of The Force, and they are well-equipped.

It all began with e-mail. Old-fashioned junk mail, unsolicited and unwanted, used to fill my inbox. I tried to use the spam filters, but they required too much training. I was pitching Padawan Norton against an army of droids, and too many were finding holes in his defense. So I moved to Master Yahoo, and the droids were silenced. A victory.

Disguised villains from the Dark Side — chain letters, urban legends, and outright lies and disinformation — still stow away in the ships of friends, but a little help from snopes.com, the most harmful can be slain.

Then there is Skype, a powerful, a hyperspace jumpgate for voice and video, spanning oceans and continents. But alas, the droids have found it, too, slipping in whenever the gate is activated, one or two a day, looking benign, but intending mischief or obscenity if I don’t block their way. I’ve learned to turn off the jump gate when I don’t need its power. Not quite a victory, but perhaps the next version of Skype will be stronger.

There are huge battles ahead. The daunting Death Star of basic computer training and equipment, and the evil Emperor of software and hardware obsolescence, are waiting out there, mocking my small triumphs, certain of my defeat.

The Force may be with me. But the Dark Side is a formidable foe. It will take a rebel force and some courageous Jedi to win.

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