Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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 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.


It looks like my PC is on its way of being dead.  It didn’t help to see that my own program was being attacked as part of this widespread third party software scam.

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.

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Blogger rexgray said...

Thanks, Bill. I've always been suspicious of fat bloatware such as Adobe. Their updates should be much less than we're seeing, and their unethical history only added to my looking for alternatives. It's OK to be angry, people!

4:27 PM  
Blogger Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

Let's not forget that some of these add-on programs (ASK is the one that pops into mind first, but there are others) do not completely uninstall if/when you notice they have been installed and decide to take action. The Ask Toolbar may be gone, but do a search from Firefox's address bar and see if Ask isn't still providing their (terrible) search results.

Thank you, Bill, for helping to keep these bastards from ruining our computers.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Retired265 said...

When repairing a PC, the first thing I do is uninstall Adobe reader and use a more flexable and less bloated PDF reader. Never allow the ASK bar, and don;t care for the Bing either! Just avoids a lot of problems....

Thank you for all of your dedication and hard work, Bill! You are so on cue.....

10:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Bill, great article. At least one program now asks if you want express set up [recommended] or custom. I click custom and find that express would have included a tool bar. I work on computers for individuals and I warn them and I install WinPatrol on everyone's computer. Brad

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Bill, for this insightful post. I came across this type of behaviour in the past, but it seems to be getting worse. Especially the 10 minutes wait time for Ask toolbar... that is the ultimate. I wonder if it's in their EULA that they will wait ten minutes before they install themselves so that you can't uninstall them right away in case you catch your error right after install of the other product. In fact, I will never use ask (not that I recall using them in the past) as a result for their behaviour. And, like yourself, I think Adobe and others are on that same list. I already use Foxit as my PDF reader, and other than occasional Flash, I can't give myself another reason to use Adobe for such behaviour.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Tom Akers said...

I absolutely HATE Adobe Flash updating. In addition to the bloatware they attempt to sneak on your PC with every update, finding the correct update file is hassle. I have 4 separate installs to update... x86, x64, IE, non-IE. If I want to download an IE update using Chrome, there are more hoops to jump through. I also have no control over where Flash installs. Did I say I HATE this menace.

Java isn't far behind... Changing the install folder is another hassle. Why can't I just edit the default path (changing c:\ to d:|). I need separate x86 and x64 downloads, and bookmarking the download page is a must. So are offline download files. And then there's the crapware. Does Oracle really need the nickels and dimes they get from unsuspecting users who install this junk.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Toni M. said...

As always, you & Scotty are #1 in my computing world! Thank you for being YOU!

6:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great article. I had already replaced my Adobe reader but found that if I wanted to check copies of my paycheck stub my employer required Adobe. I now keep my old computer to check my pay stubs and use the newer and faster one for regular use. I think I will always do this. Keep an old one around with programs that are about to go but not everyone knows yet. ;)

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those hidden installations are a nuisance, but I highly doubt that, that is the cause for PC sales going down. Heck, last time I saw a report of PC sales, it showed that sales were virtually the same between 2011 and 2012, with perhaps one half of one percent drop. That's not very significant, and the sales are still way over what tablets bring in.

The biggest factor affecting PC sales, which also affect tablets and smartphone sales, is the economy, which, as we all know, when the economy stinks, people will be cutting down on the less necessary items, including PCs and tablets and smartphones.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These stealth installs are only part of the problem. The real issues are bloated, buggy operating systems and software that forces users to learn a new interface with each new release. I am sick of Windows and Office.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a tech wizard but can comfortably work on most hardware and software I use. I took note of the concerns about Java and did my best to remove it from my devices, but I still occasionally see "javascript" loading. The last time I had such a problem was removing AOL. Is there a Java equivalent of the "Norton Removal Tool"? Sure would make life easier!

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Paul J.S. said...

Bill, you're just the kind of individual this world needs more of! The GREED MONGERS are killing this great country. THANK YOU for NOT being one of them! For that reason alone, I will continue to support your work in whatever way I can...FOREVER! It's no wonder your programs are of such high quality and integrity...just look to the author! Again, Thank YOU! I'd say something like "Bill for President", but I could never do anything as cruel as that to someone so GENUINE, SINCERE, HARD-WORKING and HONEST! Keep up the great work! PaulJS

11:29 PM  
Anonymous John Kelton said...

I appreciate your pointing out all the bloatware software companies are trying to shove down our hard drives, but you didn't really say what killed the PC. Are you saying the bloatware is what killed the PC? I would hardly think so, but then again -- I don't have the ESP you have (Extra Special Program).

8:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

First let me stress again, JavaScript has nothing to do with JAVA other the part of a name. I have never recommended disabling JavaScript. I love JavaScript, and while there have been times when hackers found ways to use it for nasty stuff it depends more on how your browser implemented it. While Oracle registered the trademark, "JavaScript", most consider it under the control of the Mozilla Foundation.
I use JavaScript in most of my webpages.

My point of how the bloatware is killing the personal computer is by de-valuating the PC device. Just like the glut of bad games killed the game industry, the bloatware and other current trends are making computers harder to use, less effective and more frustrating. This lack of value is making all of us look for alternate solutions to meet our needs. If the personal computer had evolved in a positive direction the touch/tablet market would not have surged as quickly as it has.


10:07 AM  
Anonymous Nancy K said...

I found that instead of using windows uninstaller for any of this "foistware" it's much more thorough to use Revo Uninstaller (free). It really digs downn into the registry & gets all thoses pesky remnants out!!
In fact, that is the program I now use to uninstall ANY program I don't want.
It will first use the program's native uninstaller (if any), then drills down the tree & finds an amazing amount of garbage left behind.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure how to get this to you so this will have to suffice. I have no idea when I started using WinPatrol, but many moons ago.
The thing I have just found makes me sad and also a dork! is that I just found your Bits from Bill....If I had been reading them since I joined I would have saved myself a whole lot of trouble -geez.
I would like to make a suggestion if I could. There must be more of me who have not noticed the box on the options page. Perhaps you could let others know. I have feeling it of course cost but I would be glad to donate.
Sorry this is so long.
Thanks for all you do.
Joanne824(I didn't type this in but I have no idea how to use the 4ways to let you know who I am - so I have to go the anonymous route

4:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Joanne
You can write to anytime and get me.


4:58 PM  
Blogger sgt said...

Bill...You speak of dirty programming in your article "Greed Killed the Personal Computer". (Bill Gates hired the original 'dirty programmers' because he put his programs on the market before they were 'cleaned'!!!)

Having been one of the original 'beta-testers' for that horror called AOL in the early 90's, I'd have to say that you, certainly, would know what 'dirty programming' was and is!!!

I can't think of a program I've despised more than AOL for all the problems it presented to my computer. I continued to 'beta-test' though because I had committed to do so :)...

What was really disgusting was what was offered as a 'reward' for that beta-testing. Can't dwell on it because it still makes me want to vomit! :(


6:28 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

a member here for many moons, but have never read this section until today...

Bill, can you perhaps make a list of the "dirty" programs and software and , more important, what the replacements are which are recommended.
thank you

11:10 AM  

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