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What's in a name?

Setting an admin account, and being as sneaky as you can

The past weeks have been a period of personal mourning for me. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero of mine. So much so that when, back in July, my computer started acting funky and had to get nuked, I never thought twice about renaming it for RBG.

Let me explain: A best practice for setting up any computer is to create both an admin account and a user account for yourself; if you share your computer with family or colleagues, each of you should have your own user accounts. (For parents, those accounts can have controls and restrictions, because, yes, the internet is a cesspool.)

The rationale for the two-account system is that you have an added layer of protection between your daily internetting and emailing and the core of the machine. So, should you download some nasty program, either in a phishing or ransomware attempt, it very likely won’t result in the loss of control of your computer. Easy win.

As many of my colleagues already know, I have long named my computer after favorite celebrities - “hey, I got an email from Phil Collins? Is this you?”. This is a privacy added bonus. Remember back in the before times, sitting in a public place like an airport, and seeing people’s names populate your list of potential WiFi connections? Or, if you’re a true crime nerd, you know a prominent serial killer was ultimately tracked down because of the metadata embedded in his Word documents. Remember Reality Winner getting burned by (the Intercept really, but) the printer? I don’t plan to fly or serial kill any time soon, but I can’t promise I won’t whistleblow. And I don't want to telegraph my words and deeds in ways I can't ultimately control.

So, when I was resetting my computer on that terrible July day, and got to the admin account, I was momentarily stumped. I look up at the bulletin board above my desk and see a birthday card from my husband - a perfect mashup of Schitt’s Creek and RBG. Of course. So, this computer’s administrator account is called Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Especially painful these weeks as my Signal app seems to need an update installed three times a day. It’s like it knows I have tears to shed.

All of this is to say:

  1. Set up your computer with an administrator account. If your existing account is the admin account, create a user account for daily use.

  2. Use a name other than your own, when you do. But DO NOT CHANGE AN EXISTING ACCOUNT NAME. If you have already given it your name, leave it for now and set up a user account with a different name.

PS: Shout out to SpiderOak One for relieving some of the reset hesitation anxiety!


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