Who re­ally owns your de­vice?

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION/NEWS - By Randy Moll

You go to the store and buy an elec­tronic de­vice, pay­ing hard-earned money for it. You take it home and be­gin to use it, and then the ques­tion arises: “Who re­ally owns this de­vice?” I ask this ques­tion be­cause of my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with cell­phones, tablets and com­put­ers.

With my last cell­phone car­rier (yes, I got rid of one of the big­gest car­ri­ers in the U.S. due to hor­rific cus­tomer ser­vice — a story which could fill an­other col­umn), all the branded apps on my cell­phone (aptly called bloat­ware) which I could not re­move with­out un­lock­ing the de­vice and void­ing any war­ranty were un­be­liev­able. And even when I turned them off in the app man­ager, they kept com­ing back and up­dat­ing on what seemed to be an al­most daily ba­sis. And my bat­tery power seemed to just drain away even if I didn’t use my phone much. When I switched car­ri­ers, I was sur­prised to see that my much newer iPhone has no car­rier-spe­cific apps loaded on my phone. I can down­load some if I choose, but it’s my choice and not my car­rier’s, and I like that. And bat­tery life, too, is good. I can go a few days with­out charg­ing in­stead of won­der­ing if I’ll make it through the day.

And, by the way, it seems to me the iPhones do a lot bet­ter on bat­tery life than An­droids. At least, that has been my ex­pe­ri­ence. And, some­times I think Mrs. Griz wishes she had opted for the iPhone in­stead of the lat­est Sam­sung. At least she growls a lot more about her phone than I do. To be hon­est with you, this is the first smart­phone I’ve ac­tu­ally liked. When I had An­droid mod­els, I of­ten switched back to my good old flip phone be­cause I like a phone that works as a phone and is user-friendly, too.

Then there are those tablets. My wife bought me a Kin­dle Fire sev­eral years ago, and it was a handy de­vice to have. It worked nicely to take along on pastoral calls to the hos­pi­tal be­cause it made read­ing Scrip­ture lessons in a dark­ened room easy (I use of­ten my cell­phone for this now, too). But there is that ques­tion of own­er­ship since it dis­plays ads on my lo­gin and home pages. I could turn them off but would be charged $15 by Ama­zon to do so. Can you be­lieve that one? The grand­kids use the de­vice now, along with a sec­ond one, and haven’t man­aged to break one yet. The tablets are tough. I have an an­droid tablet for my church work — meet­ings, calls and such — and it works pretty well. I feel I have a bit more con­trol and no ads pop up on my de­vice when I log in or work un­less I down­load an app with ads in it. I think I’ll give the iPad a try if I up­grade again.

Then, there are com­put­ers! If you go and buy a PC, whether laptop or desk­top, it usu­ally comes with Win­dows 8 or 10 loaded. What hap­pened to Win­dows 9 I don’t know. Since Win­dows 10 is re­ally Ver­sion 6.4, I’m won­der­ing if the folks at Mi­crosoft have adopted some new form of mod­ern math. What­ever they choose to call it, the new Win­dows is a night­mare! It works so well that the first thing I do is re­move it from any PC I buy and in­stall an­other op­er­at­ing sys­tem — usu­ally some ver­sion of Linux that will do all that Win­dows can do, only bet­ter and in an eas­ier-to-use for­mat.

But back to my ques­tion of who re­ally owns that new PC. Have you no­ticed that Mi­crosoft scans and an­a­lyzes all your doc­u­ments and tracks your us­age — supposedly to make fu­ture Win­dows ver­sions and apps bet­ter? And, when Mi­crosoft says it’s time for an up­date, you bet­ter close out quickly or save of­ten if you don’t wish to lose your work. And there are com­pat­i­bil­ity is­sues. Say, you want to share your work with oth­ers not run­ning the lat­est ver­sion of Win­dows. What hap­pens? In many cases, your files are saved in for­mats un­us­able to oth­ers not run­ning Win­dows 8 or 10. That’s kind of snob­bish of Mi­crosoft, don’t you think? There are workarounds, but they can be a pain too.

Of course, you could just go with Google Chrome. Doc­u­ment stor­age and shar­ing are easy. Stor­age is in the Cloud. But what does Google do with your doc­u­ments and files? It an­a­lyzes them and uses your pri­vate in­for­ma­tion to sell ad­ver­tis­ing tar­geted specif­i­cally to­ward you. I use Google be­cause it’s hard to beat Google’s ef­fi­ciency; but I do so, know­ing Google is also us­ing me and my in­for­ma­tion to sell ad­ver­tis­ing aimed specif­i­cally at me. Of course, the same is true of most so­cial me­dia plat­forms — I won’t even go there to­day!

Yes, usu­ally for a lit­tle more up front, there are Macs. Ap­ple of­fers Cloud stor­age too but not to an­a­lyze your data. The Ap­ple for­mat is more ba­sic than the lat­est ver­sions of Win­dows and the pro­grams and Ap­ple op­er­at­ing sys­tems are usu­ally more sta­ble. Since pro­grams and ap­pli­ca­tions for Macs (un­less one goes out­side the safety and se­cu­rity Ap­ple pro­vides) are usu­ally checked and ap­proved by Ap­ple, there is more pro­tec­tion against ma­li­cious soft­ware be­ing down­loaded and in­stalled on a Mac. Ap­ple, it seems, is much more fo­cused on pro­vid­ing its cus­tomers with good hard­ware and reli­able soft­ware, as well as greater se­cu­rity and pro­tec­tion of the user’s data.

And, for those who wish to be in to­tal con­trol of their com­put­ers and their data, there is Linux and its many dis­tri­bu­tions. Some dis­tros are as easy to use (or eas­ier) than Macs and Win­dows. Oth­ers re­quire

some level of skill in in­stalling and set­ting up one’s own sys­tem. I run a sim­ple ver­sion of Linux for my per­sonal com­put­ing needs and en­joy try­ing out new ver­sions from time to time. Since most of the Linux op­er­at­ing sys­tems and soft­ware are open source, a fel­low can try them out and use them for free.

So, who owns your com­puter, tablet or phone? You may have paid for it, but who ac­cesses your data, de­ter­mines what apps you have or de­cides when it’s time to up­grade your OS and soft­ware?

Randy Moll is the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the West­side Ea­gle Ob­server. He may be con­tacted by email at rmoll@nwadg.com. Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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