For Better or Worse – Google Is The Center of the Universe

January 31, 2009

Politics, Technology

I got up very early this morning (~5AM) to the whining dogs.  Our son had left a light on in the living room.  So the dogs woke up early to the light.  I dragged myself out of bed to give them a walk and then feed them.  After about thirty minutes of light chores, I settled down to the computer to start to put together a post about the RNC Chairman’s race (which I will do later).

Over night, I was converting one of my DVD’s to a video file I can use on a portabe player.  And everything was running very slowly.  And I mean verrrrry slooooowwwwwly. Normally, I can get a DVD converted in five or six hours. But this one was only six or seven percent complete after eight hours. And nothing was moving on my system.

bad_googleI had recently upgraded to Windows 7. So I figured that maybe there was some problem with Handbrake and Windows 7. So I got onto Google and did a quick search. I was then confronted with the fact that all of my search results were flagged as containing malware. That couldn’t be the case. After all, some of these sites were very trusted sites that I use all the time.

Google couldn’t be wrong. So maybe I had something on my local machine. So I started to run malware scans on my system. I ran both Malwarebytes as well as Spybot Search & Destroy. And everything was crawling along. So I started to get concerned that I had a more serious problem on my system. [Note: Paranoia is not always a good thing.  I was starting to see risks lurking on every sector of my hard drive.]

I started looking at the process list and noted that I had my anti-virus scan in progress. This was quite odd as the weekly scan normally completes it’s work very early every Saturday morning.  So I’m starting to get quite nervous. I must have some kind of “bad” bug that needed special eradication. I stpped the AV scan and saw that the video encoding started to move along. In fifty minutes, it had encoded a quarter of the file. So I’m figuring that Windows 7 Beta + Handbrake + a simultaneous AV scan may be a bad combination.

But what about the malware that Google tipped me off to? Since two different anti-malware tools proclaimed the cleanliness of my system, I started to relax. And since my video conversion was progressing, I stepped away from the computer for a couple of hours.  When I returned, things were still slow. But that happens when a video conversion tool takes over 90% of the CPU.  

So I decided to check some of my social networing sites.  And I started with Google Reader.  It was there that I found my answer: Google had implemented a bad piece of code.  According to every source on the web, I was a victim of Google’s attempt to incorporate http://www.stopbadware.org into their search results.  And a human error had literally flagged all search results as containing malware.  

So with this tidbit of information, my problem is solved, right?  Not really as I had just demonstrated the problem of trust and social engineering.  You see, I “trusted” Google as a company that made few (or no) errors.  Indeed, even their “beta” code is better than other companies and their “production” code.  And to make matters worse, Google is the center of my universe.  I search using Google.  I use GMail for most of my personal email.  I use GReader as the means of aggregating all the RSS feeds I consume.  In point of fact, Google is the center of my Internet experience.  And I had trusted them so much, that I did not even consider that they might have an error.  I assumed that my system was at fault.  After all, the people at Google are experts.

So what is a ‘roo to do.  First, I must remember the words of our 40th President: trust, but verify.  Then I need to remember not to be doing too many things at once.  I was running a program for the first time on a new OS at the same time that I run anti-viral scans.  Um, I’ll try and avoid that perfect storm in the future.  

But I am also reminded of some corrolary applications for this situation.  I should never make a man, a woman, a company, a government or even a political party take up residence in the center of my universe.  After all, the center of my universe should be occupied by the only indivudal who is completely worthy of that role: the Lord God Almighty.  Only He is completely trustworthy.  No man (and certainly no organization) should be trusted so intimately or so completely.  The results of such a misapplication of trust could be disastrous.  

So as of today, I don’t trust Google as much.  And I am reminded why I should’t trust elected officials (of any party) so much.  Reagan was right; trust, but verify.

 

-Roo

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