More Arrogant Software

I don't mean for this to be a "gripe" blog. Not that gripe blogs aren't entertaining--I mean, I kind of like Mr. Angry, the Daily WTF, and others. That said, sometimes you just have to share in the hopes that you aren't alone in this whole frustration thing.

I named names in a previous post about Arrogant Software, so I guess this is mostly adding to the list. Today's highlight is SpySweeper from WebRoot. Now, like all the software on my Arrogant list, I found SpySweeper useful. I even bought two subscriptions so that both our computers would be covered. Unfortunately, the whole subscription thing means that eventually you have to re-up.

On the plus side, SpySweeper notified me immediately when my subscription ran out. Being the wrong time of the month (no, not that wrong time of the month), I deferred for a bit figuring I'd just have to make do with old definitions for a little while. That's when the software went all arrogant on me. SpySweeper began asking me every single day if I wanted to renew my subscription. Now, software subscriptions are a little squirrelly to begin with, but this was beyond my level of tolerance. I couldn't select "Don't ask again for xx" and I couldn't select "Leave me alone forever already", no. That'd make too much sense.

The end result is that SpySweeper got the axe. The boot. The ole heave ho. I don't have to put up with that crap, so I went and found an alternative. Since Microsoft is entering that space, I thought I'd give them a look-see. Not to be too much of a shill or anything, but the combination of a 90-day free trial and the eventual subscription covering 3 PCs has me more than a little intrigued. We'll see if it's as cool as MS thinks it is--or at least, cool enough that it's an adequate replacement for SpySweeper.


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13. November 2006 20:57 by Jacob | Comments (0) | Permalink

Arrogant Software

Ever notice that software seems to have a personality? Some programs are desperate for approval, some eager to please, some like to show-off all their cool features, some calmly wait for their opportunity to be useful.

And some programs are simply arrogant jerks. There are a couple of utilities that are useful enough that, like in real-life, you simply put up with their crappy attitude and count the days until a competitor comes along that will offer a viable alternative. I end up tallying my annoyances every time they crop up, keeping score for the day I can wipe them from my machine. They have a trait in common that I'll get to in the end (so skip down if you want), but first lets name some names--here are my top offenders in no particular order.

Apple iTunes

This jerk seems unable to put together something as simple as a patch. Every time an upgrade is available, you have to download the whole setup file. It saves your playlists and music and such but that doesn't mean it keeps all your selections and preferences. I like a cluttered "Desktop", but iTunes seems unable to distinguish between "Desktop" and "Quick Launch". To get one, you have to have another. Which means that after every upgrade, I have to delete the shortcut form my Quick Launch. Jerk.

Also, you can't install iTunes without Quick Time. I hate that sorry program. It doesn't play nice with others, and it wants to hog all your media associations. Also, every time it installs, it figures you want it to load and sit in your system tray. Seriously, why on Earth would I want a media player resident in memory all the time?!? It's like that Melvin kid in elementary school who latches onto you and pesters you constantly. Go away please. Stay away. If I set a preference that I don't want to see you, that preference should persist through an upgrade. Jerk.

Adobe Reader

The Adobe Reader is a must-have utility if you deal with electronic documents at all. Everything from product manuals to pre-print artwork can be exchanged online and maintain all the formatting and presentation options marketers insist are important. So I can't really give them the kiss-off I long to give. Tell me, please, why a document viewer requires three restarts in order to install a point upgrade? Why should I restart even once? I can't imagine why a document reader needs to be so tied into the system kernel that it can't unload and reload without turning the OS off. I don't care how clumsy the OS is, get over yourself already and learn to adopt a lighter touch. Jerk.


Real is another media company with their own proprietary format for video and sound. Real also installs itself into your Quick Launch without asking. Did I mention how much I hate that? Real also has possibly the most annoying registration process. You literally cannot start up their software until you complete the registration. It is obvious that Real sees their customers as uniquely their very own and anyone not willing to give them all their personal information must be pirates anyway so screw the freeloading scum. The real (heh) pain comes when you try to uninstall, though. I'm not sure if this is deliberate or incompetence, but even if you successfully complete an uninstall (hardly a given), Real can leave little bits of itself embedded in your system. Pieces that load on startup, even--taking up valuable system resources. Jerk.

Sometimes, someone will release content that uses Real's formats. When that happens, I generally blow it off. If the author is going to use jerky software to get their content out, I'm generally not interested. Every now and then, someone will bury content I actually really want with a proprietary Real format. Fortunately, it turns out that Real isn't too hard to duplicate (lending towards the incompetent judgement mentioned earlier), so alternatives exist. At this point, I don't care if the program is illegally using patented processes or formats, I'm just glad it's available. It wouldn't surprise me to hear of some lawsuit brought by Real someday because some hacker is releasing software that is more stable, more user friendly, and has a smaller footprint than they can manage. Jerks.

The Common Factor

I'm not sure why media software companies tend to be jerks, but it seems to me that these at least have one trait in common: they make important decisions without your input or permission. Anyone who puts their trashy icon in my Quick Launch or System Tray without my permission is automatically a jerk in my book. If you want to set up residence there, you had better ask me first. I don't want my barber camping on my front porch, and I don't want Real in my Quick Launch. How hard is that to understand?

Also, I don't care if it is sloppy programming or deliberate obtuseness but when I tell you to go, you go.  Completely. I can understand that it can be tempting for companies with a strong market to lock customers into certain options and choices. The effect on me, and I'll bet that I'm not alone here, is that it makes me yearn for alternatives. A company with a must-have product is in an enviable position. Stay unobtrusive and I'll stick with you for a while, even when competitors show up. Drag yourself to my attention with petty "look at me" stupidity, though, and I'll be begging for a replacement. Seriously, you have my business, don't make me regret it. You may be irreplaceable now, but you're one motivated guy in a garage away from extinction.


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5. October 2006 19:45 by Jacob | Comments (0) | Permalink


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