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At times, my father (but I guess most parents do the same) comes in my room while I'm doing something on the computer. Most times he says what he has to say, maybe has a look at the screen, then goes away. Sometimes he'll lay down on my bed, which really irks me (I hate having other people who aren't my friends in my room at the same time I am), but doesn't make me want to scream in anguish. Some times, however, he'll get a surge of curiosity, and ask me what this and that does on the computer. I should mention that he's almost completely computer illiterate. And when he uses (or at least tries to use) a computer, he does it with windows, while I use Linux. So he has absolutely no idea what happens when you click on "xkill" and then, not noticing the fundamental change in the shape of the cursor, on a running window. He's screwed up some important work of mine by doing this.

Anyway, the reason why I'm writing this node is to prevent what happened to me today from happening to other people.

He came in, started tinkering and asking me the same questions he asks me every time. He opened the home directory on the X desktop, and I had a surge of horror when I recalled that I didn't hide my "images" directory. As you can guess, I don't only have clean images in there... And it wouldn't do for my father to see them, then quite possibly engaging in a long speech about issues I don't want to think of. So I started talking in computer jargon about how konqueror doesn't work right on my machine, how I needed to do something before being able to use it, all in an attempt to distract him from clicking on "images", which he was about to do.

It ended with me chmodding -rwx the entire /home directory in a (successful) attempt to make it give errors when accessed. He desisted in his attempts and went away.

Let this be a lesson to you: if you have nosy parents, and even if you don't (too much security is never quite enough), hide your pr0n directories (chmod them, . them, something), or if you have windows, use Magic Folders or some such program to make them invisible, lest your parents find those "Sylvia Saint" pictures...

Reply to Rancid_Pickle

Reek of big-brotherism, no. Feel like you're intruding in their lives more than is necessary, yes. I am 19, and I have no experience in fathering, but should my father (we're talking hypothetically; he'd never know how to do it) give me the choice "broadband monitored by me, or 56k", I wouldn't think twice and choose 56k. Or I'd settle for surfing somewhere else until I found some way to elude the surveillance. This comes from my absolute hatred of any form of censorship or control. I realize some is necessary for children, but I would never willingly allow anybody to read my emails, and/or know which websites I've been to. What say you talk to your children preemptively, explaining them what they can walk into if they, metaphorically, "accept candies from strangers"? It's what my dad has done with me. Not about the net, of course; but I've been smart enough to figure out personal details are best left unsaid both on the net and in real life. How long are you planning to keep spying on them? What will you do when they tell you, "I'm mature enough to not have you babysit my internet sessions"?

I also know my father probably understood that I was trying to hide something from him, but the important thing is that he can't say it for sure. He can't say "You hid porn from me", which is the point, because I don't want to argue with him. I could have let him see the pics, then had a big fight over them (he isn't anti-masturbation, thank heavens; he does have very peculiar views on porn and such "vulgar" stuff, however), which would have ended with nothing accomplished on both parts and more bitterness. And there's enough of that already.

Now for an opinion from a father that drops in and noses around on his kids computer...

My kids have computers, and they're all networked to my servers. They have to log in, which makes my Admin account able to view everything on their systems. I also run a logging program to keep an eye on where thry're going. This may reek of big-brotherism to you (especially if you're the age of my kids), but it's a rule I have if they want to share my broadband connection.

Part of my job is to raise my kids, and to do it in the best manner possible. While never perfect (just ask them :}), I have to be aware of what they're up to. They all know that Dad is the network admin, and I have told them flat out that I will be monitoring their activities. When my 15yo was flirting with a self-confessed 45 year old guy via AIM, I took her aside and explained why I was concerned, backed up by several articles I downloaded about kids who run off and get in trouble with perverts. She doesn't do it anymore. I filter her email, allowing all of her friends email accounts to go right to her, with the caveat that I can get to them and read them if I need to. The rest I verify as not being crap, then forward.

While this may seem overly intrusive, I feel I need to set boundaries and enforce them. They are my kids, after all, and sometimes Dad needs to intervene. I'm always up-front about what is going on, and now they know to keep me informed should something odd occur, like a screen full of pop-up porn or virus-tainted emails. We keep the lines of communication open, and they're always glad when they do something silly and SuperDad the Admin can come to the rescue and fix their computer.

Sometimes we act like we don't know any better just to keep you off your guard. Don't assume we are as dumb as we appear, and always remember we're there for you always, whether you think you need our help or not.

Reply to the reply to Rancid_Pickle:

You're 19. You're an adult. My kids range from 8 to 15, and that is the big difference. When they're old enough (which may be before their 18th birthday), I won't bother poking around because I've done my best to raise them to be self-reliant, thoughtful and responsible. If I have to babysit when they're 17.5, then there are other issues that need to be addressed. Luckily, they're doing very well and I rarely have to poke around my computer system that is located in their room. If they find something that is questionable, they bring it to my attention now, and we talk it out. Since you're an adult, why are you hiding your porn stash from your father? Embarrassment, maybe you're not too proud of the stash, or just because you don't want to argue? Making the choice as an adult to keep a folder full of Ms. Saint is fine, my point is if one is old enough to have porn, they should be adult enough to own up to it and argue their decision. That's the crux where adulthood is attained, not because of chronological time spend on the planet. Again, that's my humble opinion, take it with a grain of salt.

One more quick point - almost every corporation monitors emails and surfing. While you may not like it, you may have to accept it if you're going to work in big business.

Being at the ambiguous age of 22, where wait staff at Perkins still give my friends and myself a hard time about just hanging out and drinking coffee at 1am on a Wednesday night when nobody else is there ("ya'll gotta buy food, ya can't just have coffee now"), I can sympathize with Violet Sky (whom I will refer to from here on as "VS"), but can equally sympathize with the father as well.

Soon on in the writeup we see the sentence "I hate having other people who aren't my friends in my room at the same time I am" and immediate must ask ourselves, whose room is "my" room, anyway? (And, would you mind if they were present when you weren't?) I'm guessing VS does not pay rent, and I'm guessing (though it's mostly irrelevant) that the PC itself was purchased by VS' parents. Even if the parents did not purchase the PC, it consumes their power, uses lines installed in their house, and so on. And if VS were ever to get into any sort of trouble with the computer (which is highly unlikely, and I don't mean stuff like downloading porn) you can bet that VS' parents would somehow be affected. So, your parents have every right to be concerned with what goes on with you and your computer. It's the old adage "as long as you live under our house, you live under our rules." As an added bonus, once you do move out, there stands a chance that you might actually consider your father a "friend," and then might not be so offended by his mere presence in "your" living quarters. I know how it feels to be in that situation, but at the same time I gained a huge appreciation for my parents once I stopped seeing them every freakin' day.

"When I was your age" I had a similar problem and dealt with it in a variety of ways. In the MS-DOS world, ATTRIB was your best friend. Sure, anybody who knew a little bit about DOS could pull out a DIR C:\*.JPG /S/A to see all of your JPEGs hidden or not, but it worked well enough to stop garden variety snoopers. For an added level of security (and inconvenience, which usually comes with security) one could easily use PKZIP (today, WinZIP) and combine password encryption to make things even more difficult. For even more security, use PGP. Then rename the file so something innocuous without the ZIP extension, toss it in C:\DOS or these days C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM, and no one will be the wiser.

It's just like stashing your cigarettes / drugs / whatever. As long as you live with your parents, they have every right to snoop on you in order to shelter you from the world. That's their role. They won't stop living in that role until you move out, which proves you don't need such protection, unless they simply don't care to begin with. So, if you're going to keep a pipe and some pot in your room, by all means stash it somewhere where it will never be found. It's that simple. Might I recommend using the battery compartment of your boom box? (Those of you who consider this advice irresponsible must also consider that I may have revealed a whole new paradigm of drug-stashing techniques to the next generation of otherwise hapless parents who think asking their kids where they're going every night will somehow curb their chances at being a lifetime pot-head.) And if you get busted, that's fine, because you don't really have any rights as long as you live under somebody else's roof, especially when they pay the bills.

It's really hard to get used to that notion of having no rights when you're at the adult age of 19...but at the same time, you really have no right to be concerned about your rights when your financial concerns are for the most part completely taken care of by those you consider "intruders upon your privacy."

A Technologickal Tragedie
based upon a True Story
and starring
Grayscale and eir Father

The scene: An ailing Dell PII-266. Windows 98 is at death's door; the registry is shot all to hell. The floppy interface is nonfunctional, and the BIOS doesn't support booting from CD-ROM. The computer is clearly doomed.

Me: I don't think installing RealPlayer is a good idea.
Dad: Uh huh. (doubleclickey)
Me: I really think installing RealPlayer is a bad idea.
Dad: Hmm. (clickey).
Me:You know, there are other programs you can use, if you need to play RealMedia files.
Dad: Oh. Aha. (clickey install)
Me: Woe.
Dad: Why is it locking up?

~ fin ~

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