Menagerie of Macs #4

I have a problem with the Pentium III. I have big problem, and I’m not alone. Several large privacy organizations are throwing a fit over it. It seems like a good enough processor, starting at 500 MHz and peaking at 800 MHz, but there’s something else. All this over a little three-letter acronym. The PSN.

Menagerie of Macs

The processor serial number (PSN) is a unique number that comes with every Pentium III. That, in a nutshell, means that you can be tracked on the Internet and abroad. Bye-bye precious anonymity. We already know that you can be tracked on the Internet using cookies, but this is tracking to the Nth degree.

Web pages can query the computer and be presented with this number. Once databases are created and information is compiled, the average user will get more spam than an AOL master account! But that’s the least of your worries. How would you like some resourceful weirdos checking every page you visit and all your regular chats, among other things.

On a comparatively minor note, remember that shareware program lurking in the back of your utilities folder? The one that keeps cursing you while you adamantly refuse to register? With a PSN, software companies will find all of those little pirates, and I don’t think the pirates will be happy about it. I not saying that I condone piracy, I just wouldn’t like to have all kinds of people going through my hard drive and cross-referencing that with other sensitive information.

Intel does have some consolation for the average PC user though. They say that the PSN generator will be inactive by default for all shipping PIIIs. But of course anybody who gets their hands on it will have the opportunity to turn it on again. Isn’t that comforting?

Now don’t get the wrong idea. This isn’t what kept me from rushing out and buying one. There are plenty of other reasons not to do something ridiculous like that. I just thought that you might enjoy watching you PC friends squirm while you present this to them. On the quite bright side of Apple, no Macintosh has a PSN and will not have one in the future(at least none is planned).

Many of us value out anonymity on the Net and in the world. You innocent readers don’t even know for sure where I sending this from. I could be in Newport Beach for all you know. In fact, next month, I will be.

Brad Harrison


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