Posted // January 29,2008 -
I am writing because I recently found out that my dad has a problem with online porn. My dad is clueless with technology, and he leaves tracks all over the computer, never deletes his history, opens every popup ad, etc., and it is really fucking up our at-home system and embarrasses us whenever someone else uses the computer.
He’s not just an occasional user, either. This is multiple times a day, every day. I tried to brush it off until my sister walked in on him looking at—not jerking off to, thankfully—an X-rated video. On Christmas Day, right before dinner. In the computer room, which is in the main hallway of the house, with the door open.
So, what do you think? Do we ignore this? Get a filtering program? Send him an anonymous message? —Concerned Older Sister
“Finally a question I’m qualified to answer,” says Eric.
“If your dad wants to cover his tracks on the computer, there are a bunch of solutions. The best is always to get a totally isolated computer, but that’s a fairly large investment. You can certainly make your father a new account on this computer, but that won’t stop viruses and you still have to worry about him leaving files around.
“I’m assuming you’re running Windows and what I recommend here is virtualization software. This is software that lets you run a ‘virtual’ computer on top of your real computer. The virtual computer has its own copy of Windows, its own browser, and its own virtual disk. Your dad can do his porn surfing on the virtual machine and can even set it to reset itself whenever the virtual computer is restarted, so there’s no need to worry about leaving tracks. It takes a little technical sophistication to get this working, since you need to install Windows on the virtual machine, but once it’s running, any idiot can use it. There are a number of vendors of virtualization software, but I recommend VMware because you can download a free version of VMware Server for home use. Also, if you’re running the business versions of XP or Vista you can download Microsoft’s Virtual PC for free.
“But based on your letter, COS, I wonder whether he’s just technically clueless. It doesn’t take a computer expert to realize that watching porn in the main hallway with the door partly open carries a real risk of discovery—which may actually be what he wants. However, given that this is embarrassing you and your family, I don’t see any alternative but to confront him and tell him he needs to do a better job of hiding his habit and that you’re willing to help him with that. I’m sure that will be excruciating, but probably a lot less bad than walking in on Dad jerking off to internet porn.”
That concludes this very special, guest-authored, all-for-charity installment of Savage Love. You can read more advice from Eric for Savage Love readers at TheStranger.com/savage/eric, and Eric blogs/rants daily at EducatedGuesswork.org.
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