Web browser loves company

A relationship is like a garden: It can be hard work, you get your hands dirty, and the probability of a healthy bloom is proportionate to the amount of fertilizer you pour on it. (A note from the Metaphor Police: This is your first warning. Next bad analogy, it’s three demerit points on your poetic licence.)

There are many stresses on a modern relationship. Money woes can lead to tension; conflicting work schedules cause stress; over time, trivial habits like clipping your toenails in the living room can lead to screaming matches and you’ve changed, I don’t even know who you are any more, I should have listened to my friends when they said . . .

Sorry, lost the thread for a moment. Technology also adds to the pressure on a relationship, and the newest threat to bliss is apparently the open source Web browser, if reports out of the U.K. are to be believed.

Twice in the past week, online news service The Register has reported complaints that Web browsers have been the last nail in the coffins of long-term relationships. First, a woman broke off her five-year engagement after a security flaw the Firefox browser on their shared PC led her to discover her fiance had been frequenting dating Web sites. Soon thereafter, a man reported that the e-mail filter in Thunderbird had been trashing messages from his girlfriend, who was on an 18-month overseas assignment and took the fact that he wasn’t replying to mean he was, um, swapping files with someone else.

It’s hard not to sympathize with the gent in the latter case, although if your browser decides your significant other is spam, you have to wonder what it knows about her that you don’t. The former, though, falls into the category of logged visits to porn sites, amorous e-mail exchanges, texted assignations and compromising voice-mail messages. They leave us with two lessons:

1) Security is five per cent software, 95 per cent implementation. All of the above instance can be attributed to poor password hygiene, suspect storage practices and general disregard for existing security features; and

2) Men are horrible. The fault, dear reader, is not in our stars, but in our selves.

A Nobel cause

I’ve always felt a Nobel Peace Prize would look good on my shelf, next to my Player of the Game trophy from 1977 (house-league hockey) and my framed doctorate in taxidermy (mail-order, from the Sao Paolo Institute of Business and Firearm Repair). And while, alas, that’s about as likely as Paraguay winning Olympic gold in street hockey, News.com reports that game designers are up for the challenge. (The Nobel challenge, not the street hockey challenge.)

At this year’s Game Design Challenge in San Jose, Calif., contestants were asked to conceive a game concept capable of putting them on the Nobel podium. In one competitor’s concept, players exchange and develop resources with handheld networked gaming units, resulting in real-world flash mobs “(erupting) around a socially constructive movement,” says News.com.

Another competitor’s concept was a game in which the player has to keep his family alive as their homeland becomes a war zone. This, he said, would teach world leaders “better understanding of the consequence of their political actions.”

A third concept introduced by a contestant: People love video games. People are not violent while playing video games. Therefore, if people played more video games, the world would be more peaceful. Makes you think, dunnit?

Technology can touch the world. Didn’t Bill and Melinda share Time’s Person of the Year honours with Irish pop agitator Bono? With the pervasiveness of technology, it’s only a matter of time. Perhaps an open source browser that can keep the peace at home.

Nothin’ to see in Dave Webb’s browser history, e-mail archive or text message inbox. Honest.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
A journalist of 20 years experience in newspapers and magazines. He has followed technology exclusively since 1998 and was the winner of the Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in the eEconomy category in 2000. (The category was eliminated in 2001, leaving Webb as the only winner ever.) He has held senior editorial positions with publications including Computing Canada, eBusiness Journal, InfoSystems Executive, Canadian Smart Living and Network World. He is currently the editor of ComputerWorld Canada and the IT World Canada newswire.

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