Downloads can bring in uninvited company

FI-Log-On-With-Larry-SchneiderDear Larry,

I like to pride myself in being very careful about what programs I download and install on my computer as it’s really important to me to keep it running in top form. Then, all of a sudden, I noticed a new icon appear on my desktop called Safari. Does this mean anything to you? —P. L.

Dear P. L.,

It does. But don’t fret. It won’t harm your computer and can easily be removed if you wish via Add/Remove Programs or Programs and Features in Control Panel.

What’s bothersome to me and should be to you is how it got there in the first place. The software was installed in a very underhanded way and frankly was done so by a company that should know better. If this is any indication of what lies ahead for the software industry, then woe is us.

I’ve written before about the complications involved in producing good quality, bug-free software. Unfortunately, computers and the software that makes them work are getting more and more sophisticated by the day. It’s becoming harder and harder for teams of human programmers to produce a clean running piece of software, and repairing, patching, and correcting bugs in software that’s already been released has been an ongoing issue.

Fortunately, the Internet has significantly mitigated this problem by allowing programmers to build into their software the ability to download and install the patches on their own — along with improvements and enhancements that may contain additional bugs in need of a fix. There’s no question that this process of automatic software updates has resulted in more secure and smoother running software.

A good example of this is Apple’s well known music program, iTunes. All species of iPods as well as the iPhone and iPad have been extremely successful ventures for Apple. Their iTunes software is the backbone of all this hardware and Apple’s ongoing support and commitment to the quality of iTunes via automatic updates has been relatively unblemished.

However, a couple years ago, Apple did something that many of us in the industry find rather despicable. In an attempt to boost their presence in the Windows Internet browser market (which is dominated by Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome), Apple started piggybacking its iTunes updates with a new installation of their Internet browser, Safari.

Unless you’re careful, this can happen in a rather surreptitious manner. It’s one thing for Apple to try and market their Safari software during an iTunes update, but it’s something else indeed when Apple installs the software on your computer whether you ask for it or not. To make matters worse, Apple doesn’t even explain very well what Safari is, so the average user may be tricked into thinking it’s a required component of iTunes.

Apple has seen fit to corrupt the software update process and now uses it as a vehicle to force feed their user base with software they may not need nor want on their computers. Since then, unfortunately, other companies such as Adobe and Sun use this same technique for pushing software — often times, trashware — on an unsuspecting public.

The moral is this: When you’re installing any sort of update, always uncheck the boxes that allow you to opt out of these unnecessary and unwanted add-ons.

This is Larry Schneider, logging off.

 

Larry Schneider is the owner of Accent on Computers, a Greenwich-based consulting firm, now in its 15th year of business, catering to individuals, businesses and professional offices. PC and Mac services include computer setup, training, troubleshooting, virus resolution, networking, Internet, database and programming. Call 203-625-7575, visit accentoncomputers.com, or send e-mail to [email protected]

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