Death of the Personal Computer Due to Greed
I’ve read a lot of predictions about the death of the PC. Most of the articles assume the blame is due to the surge inthe use of tablets and powerful smart phones. If you’re seeing the same updates that I do you’ll agree the real death may be due to user apathy and greed.
In the early 80’s I remember a similar situation in a growing game market. Despite innovations in hardware a flood of poorly written, badly designed game cartridges killed the growth of gaming and home based consoles.
I’ve written a lot about the various ways software in the personal computer market is failing. It’s now obvious that I was forecasting the death of the personal computer as we now know it.
Last October I wrote about “The Dangers of Downloading Free Software”. The previous year I focused on “Dangerous Downloads on Legitimate Websites & Search Engines”
The New Business Plan, Installing Unwanted Software
A number of my posts have been warnings about unwanted software like toolbars. I have discussed the potential revenue I gave up in “Would you like Toolbar with your Software Order?” (Jan 2008) and “No, I Don't Want Your #^$% Toolbar” (March 2009)
Recently, I actually begged people to remove a Java security risk and pointed out how Oracle was trying to install the Ask.com Toolbar on each update of their flawed software. I had forgotten that even before Sun was purchased by Oracle they were pushing the MSN Toolbar and I included screen shots in my post “Sun Java Promoting Microsoft Toolbar” (April 2009)
Most friends followed my advice about current threats from Java but this week I am alerting friends that Adobe is updating their popular Flash program. I’m starting to sound like chicken little.
The Sky Is Falling
Adobe is also doing their part to add more frustration to personal computers. Their practices are sure to send users running to other devices. When you download the necessary security update, Adobe will push another program depending on your browser. Software companies like Adobe are counting on you not to pay attention. Adobe gets a royalty every time someone doesn’t read directions.
When using Internet Explorer, Adobe tried to trick me into changing my default browser to Google’s Chrome. If I don’t uncheck the box, Chrome will be installed and becomes my default browser. Google will pay Adobe for each successful install. Even if I switch back to IE, it will now include the Google toolbar.
When using Chrome as my browser, Adobe tries to get me to download something called the McAfee Security Scan PLUS. Their logic is “It’s free, so we’re doing users a favor and making money in the process”.
We all know you’re not going to read and agree to the software license but even worse, this update adds complex software that will most likely disable the current antivirus software that you’ve trusted and may still be paying for. ”Temporarily?” I don’t think so.
Security Updates Important, Yet Risky Every Time
Every time a user mistakenly allows the installation of a 3rd party program Adobe makes money. These opportunities don’t just happen the first time you install their product. Every time there is a required update you’ll need to remember to uncheck the extra program or new changes will be made to your computer in ways you’ll never know. In the case of Adobe Flash, just this month they’ve advised users to update six times.
If you think Flash looks bad take a peek at the security updates recommended for just one version of Adobe Reader and Acrobat used to read PDF files. Additional versions are listed on their website since they include these programs in new computers and other programs.
Meanwhile, if you didn’t notice the check boxes you’d end up with all sorts of new startup programs that will slow your computer down. Having WinPatrol™ as an extra layer of protection I could have prevented these programs from being added but I wanted to see what would happen.
WinPatrol Startup Programs List showing recent additions
This just shows new Startup Programs and doesn’t include additions to the Schedule Task list, new Services that were added and registered ActiveX controls.
All the auto run or Startup Programs added on 2/27/2013 were the result of installing Java and Flash. I’m not sure who added Microsoft’s Security Essentials but if you notice the time listed under First Detected you may notice a neat deceptive trick. The Ask Toolbar Updater from our friends at IAC waited 10 minutes before adding their entry in an obvious attempt at hiding their intrusion into your computer. Using WinPatrol also provided a layer of protection which warned me of this change even 10 minutes later.
Which is Worse? Insecure Software or Deceptive Downloads
So, again I find myself disgusted and fearful that this has become a common acceptable practice. I’m not sure what bothers me more. Is it that these major companies keep having dangerous security vulnerabilities due to sloppy programming or that they misrepresent their updates by including unnecessary software.
I continue to have companies contacting me with offers to add extra software to my own install program. I refuse the offers and perhaps WinPatrol will suffer a fate similar to the personal computer but I’ve made a promise I intend to keep.
The Risk of Adding New Programs
Any time a program is installed on your computer there is a risk. I was reminded the hard way researching this article. I don’t know which program caused the conflict but in the middle of my test I discovered I no longer have sound. One of these new programs or updates caused a problem with my sound device driver which hasn’t had a problem in over two years.
Remember the warning that installing McAfee with Adobe Flash may disable your virus program? It seems my settings weren’t agreeable and Adobe or McAfee decided they didn’t want WinPatrol providing a warning that may impact their revenue.
Once I got past the installation process, I found that the McAfee Security Scanner Plus and WinPatrol both ran together without any problems.
While I have mentioned it, the solution isn’t to download my WinPatrol program. I really hope you’ll let Oracle, Adobe and others know that this behavior is unacceptable. Let them know we know what they’re doing and it’s killing the personal computer market. I now use a 3rd party PDF reader, I will support HTML 5 instead of Flash and I’ve even purchased my last copy of Photoshop. Meanwhile, be careful out there and be sure to read the screen.