Posted on June 14, 2004 Posted by John Scalzi
There aren’t too many people in the world who I would be truly happy to see sodomized by an oil drill, but among that group are the people at Alset, whose supremely annoying spyware/adware I spent a reasonable portion of my Sunday afternoon expunging from my computer. The program did something I found to be incredibly obnoxious, even by “unwanted programs that hijack your computer without your permission” standards — it attached ads to dialog boxes opened in other programs.
Thus, when I tried to save an image I had fiddled with in Photoshop, I was presented with ads, including one, irony of ironies, for anti-virus software. I run AdAware frequently so I was especially incensed by this; I did the required obeisance to the spyware gods, and yet these assholes still got past the door. My suspicion was that it was attached to Weatherbug, which itself was attached to a chat program I downloaded (whether AIM or Yahoo Chat I can’t recall at the moment); I thought I had checked off the “don’t download” box, but either I missed or it was ignored. So there it was.
Expunging the software was no easy task. One does not of course use the program’s own “uninstall” utility, since, as reported in various places (including Alset’s own Website), it doesn’t actually uninstall the program. So I ended up extracting and killing the various programs one by one, which required going in and changing the permissions on Alset’s folder on my PC, because of course they don’t want you to be able to remove it. This was irritating for me, but I pity my poor mother-in-law, should this noxious bit of software ever get on her computer; she’d never get rid of it.
It’s crap like this that makes me want to yank out my Internet connection and go back to the days when GEnie was the height of online fancypantsness. There are so many ways that spyware and adware are egregious that it’s hard to know where to begin. But (to begin), it doesn’t even make sense — honestly now, if I’m in the middle of a task, say, saving something I’m working on, what sort of friggin’ moron actually believes I’m going to stop what I’m doing to answer an ad? That UI is so bad it’s hard to believe a primate actually came up with the idea. Whatever “executive” at Alset who came up with that one should be slugged across the temple with an aluminum bat. It couldn’t make him or her any less stupid.
But of course, the thumbless wonders who make spyware and adware aren’t actually making it to be “useful” to consumer. It’s designed for one purpose only, which is to convince some similarly thumbless wonder at another software company (for example, Weatherbug), that it would be in some way good for them to foist this application on some poor unsuspecting end user, with the permissions and indemnifications buried at some overgrown point in the EULA. That short-foreheaded fellow is also not thinking about the end user; he’s thinking about how good he’ll look to yet another smooth-brained “executive” when he presents this exciting new “revenue stream” possibility that will, incidentally, muck up the computer of the person who is thinking of trying the company’s product. Good lord, if spyware and adware is not a reasonable justification for a proletariat revolution, I don’t know what is. I’m seriously considering throwing in with Engles and Marx if it means getting these BMW-leasers up against a wall and absorbing lead in bullet-shaped packets.
I’ll tell you what it is. The pathetic programmers and execs at Alsat and other companies like it are the last vestige of the 1999 Internet mentality, in which the object was not to make useful product — hell, scratch useful; product that wasn’t actively malicious — but simply to claw your way up the Ponzi scheme fast enough to get out before it all collapsed. They’re the small rodents and cockroaches left on the fringes of the crater after the Internet’s economy impacted with reality; but unlike our far-distant ancestors after Chixculub, these little people are unlikely to evolve a whole lot past their current point.
Here’s a small hint for the folks at Alset: If the only way you can get your work onto my computer is to sneak it in, your work sucks. In your heart you know it. No end user in his or her right mind would want a program that hijacks other programs to post advertisements of products they don’t want, in places where it is utterly ridiculous to post them. If this is actually the best you can do with your life’s work, you’re going to slide down the mortal coil and be swallowed up by the blank nothingness with nary an existential belch. For God’s sake, people. It’s too late to get out with your dignity. Try getting out with what’s left of your soul.
But if you can’t even do that, then just stay the hell off my computer. That’s not too much to ask.
Whatever Everyone Else is Saying