Viruses and the QL
By Tim Swenson
Now that more and more QLers are getting online, be it the
Internet or BBS's, a few of them are starting to worry about what
has plagued their "real" computer friends for years, viruses.
Many have heard of the horror stories of people loosing hard
disks and floppies to viruses. Ads for anti-virus products don't
The chance of getting a virus infecting your QL is very very low.
Most of your data loss problems will come from either bad disks
or the idiot behind the keyboard (hey, I have zapped a few of my
own files). There are a few points to know about why the QL is
very safe against viruses.
The QL is a Different Beast
Viruses are written for a specific operating system and will not
work on other operating systems. An MS-DOS virus will not infect
a Macinotsh computer and vice versa. The virus code exploits
certain operating system calls to infect disks. If the calls are
not there, the virus goes nowhere. Plus, the MacOS does not know
how to run an MS-DOS program, so the virus never gets executed.
The same goes for the QL. For a virus to affect a QL is has to
be written specifically for the QL. Any file you download off a
BBS or the Internet that does have a virus will be safe to use on
a QL. The virus is in a totally alien environment and is just
data to the QL.
QDOS is ROM Based
Some of the most deadly viruses are Boot sector viruses. These
viruses infect the boot sector of hard drive or floppy disk. Any
time you try to boot off an infected disk, you are loading the
virus. Now the problem comes in finding a non-infected disk to
boot off of so that you can start with a clean computer and get
rid of the virus. If you choose the wrong disk, you will still
With the QL, its operating system in ROM, all you have to do is
turn it on and not put a boot disk in. Now you know you are
clean and can start to fix the problem.
Viruses Only Work When Executed
The key thing to remember with any computer platform, viruses
must be executed for them to work. If you download a data file
that has a virus in it, you are safe until you actually try to
execute that data file. Viruses can not autoexecute. Now once a
virus gets executed and gets in memory, it may be tough getting
it out, but had to have been executed at one point. So, if you
don't know about a file or program that you've downloaded, run a
virus scanner before you execute it.
No Known Viruses Written for the QL
Of course, one of the safest things to do to avoid viruses, is to
have a computer so obscure that no virus writer would write a
virus for it. It is this obscurity that helps keep the QL safe
Before you worry too much about viruses when you download data to
the QL, realize how safe you are and worry more about data loss
from other means. Spend your time backing up files to other
disks instead of worrying about viruses.
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