Sunday, November 27, 2005

Software like ET: Phone Home

I'm getting to really hate all of the software out there that wants to "phone home" (contact a server somewhere) all the time. There are levels to this of course. I think everyone can agree that they hate the crapware / foistware typically known as spyware. But how about other classes? Here's a quick, non-scientific catergorization:

Programs that check for updates for their software
These would be like Quicktime, Flash Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader, etc. I think those yokels need to understand that their junky software is just a small piece of what computer users have installed and we don't want to have their little stub programs checking for updates all the damn time. In fact, if it weren't required by so many web sites and other programs we'd probably prefer not to have the software itself installed. These things annoy the heck out of me, always wanting to update themselves. Wasting my bandwidth for a purpose that just seems to be a bunch of hooey.

Programs like Microsoft's CEIP
What about the ones that do things like the Microsoft "Customer Experience Improvement Program" (or, "we watch what you click")? In the past, these tended to be opt-in, but lately some of them have been on by default. They also have a habit of not clearly disclosing what in the heck they are going to send. Are they sending my menu clicks? Are they sending my files? Who knows with most of them. Maybe the Shadow knows. One of the things I've been evangelizing with Microsoft in particular is that they should never ship one of these things unless there is a group policy setting to turn it the heck off.

Programs that are absolutely Helpless

I think the worst ones are where they try to go online to show help. For example, Microsoft Office Communicator. Seems OK, until you realize that they forgot to ship a help file and it just goes onto the internet to get help. Not cool; not by a long shot. Why should they assume I have an internet connection? I mean the software is designed to be used on an Intranet, not the internet. I've been noticing more and more programs like this - in fact in testing Windows Vista I see that the main source of help (at least the first one searched) is online. It eventually times out and shows you local help, but with a notice at the top that you are not connected and to retry. Guess what? Just try to find the policy to turn that off! So far, I can't find it. There doesn't appear to be one, although there is a per-user setting that changes it to local help only. Get with it MS: create that policy to make help local only!

Programs that "enhance" themselves online
Microsoft Office anyone? Gotta love those task panes always wanting to get content from the internet. Or what about the templates online? You like clipart? Remember when it used to come on a CD? Not anymore: it's online! Ugh!

So, is anyone else worried about all this? Do you have satellite links in your organization? Any microwave? How about lusers using dialup? Do any work in countries where the goverment owns the bandwidth and it doesn't matter how much you pay - you only get so much of it? As Andy Rooney would say, "Well I do." And as your friendly neighborhood GILDude says, "Give me back my bandwidth!"


John Steel said...

I completely agree. In fact, I disable automatic updates on every program that gives me the ability to do so--and no, this is not always easy to accomplish. I just keep a small text file that lists all of my "monthly updates" and other tasks so that I don't forget to do it myself. But it gets worse. Far worse. Programs such as McAfee, Norton, Realplayer--the list goes on and on--that don't allow me to control that--or worse still, IGNORE MY COMMANDS COMPLETELY--are banished from MY computer forever. I fail to see how Norton, for example, secures my computer by having an open connection basically at all times, regardless of what I set it to do, or what it says it is set to do. Scary. "Yokels" is exactly the right word, I think. Thanks for the chuckles.

John Steel said...

This is off-topic, but I have to vent somewhere and you brought it to mind. It's all your fault. Speaking of "Sup?" and other such 'Net colloquialisms: i T1nK 1f i C d15 m1Nd1355 jVnK 0n3 m0 t1m3, i w1LL k1LL 50m30N3. Can't anyone besides myself see that in their effort to be different, unique, whatever, that these people have only jumped on yet another lame, OLD and far from original bandwagon? I would suggest that they learn more proper language skills before they go and mangle it all beyond comprehension. Now I'm off to get a tribal tattoo to set myself apart from the pack. Baaaa.