I haven't written about computers or technology for a while, but CNET gave me the perfect opportunity for a quick entry. Recently, CNET TV had a 2 + minute show about the Top 5 Crapware products. Over the years, many terms have sprung up to differentiate between the categories of software. Freeware is self-explanatory, being software that is free. Wares or warez are pirated or cracked full versions of programs such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. A lot of software DRM (Digital Rights Management) has been produced to stop warez. Shareware is a type of software that typically allows a trial period before requiring purchase, but encourages you to share or pass along to your friends. Many aspiring programmers get started out with shareware, in fact, Steve Pavlina says that he got his start as a shareware games developer.
Malware is software designed for malicious purposes such as computer viruses, worms, and trojans, named after the Trojan Horse of ancient Greek history or legend. Spyware is designed to spy on you and send back information about your habits or even worse, keystrokes such as login and password information.
Crapware is a category all to itself. I'm sure that somebody has cooked up a wonderful and eloquent definition for crapware, but put simply, crapware is software that is utter crap and chances are you never asked for it in the first place. This includes unwanted browser toolbars and media players that just seem to show up. Some programs try to install trials of partner's products. Have you ever installed Intuit's Quicken and found shortcuts all over your desktop for things like Quicken Brokerage, Mastercard, and America Offline? Crapware is not limited to unwanted partner software. Some full version applications by supposedly reputable vendors can fall into this category. I actually consider Symantec's Norton Internet Security to be complete and total crapware. It bogs down my system, loses my email, blocks programs that I want to access the internet from accessing the internet, can't do the simplest process like update itself without constantly flashing a window on my taskbar to tell me what file it's updating, and it starts reminding you that you have to pay for a renewal way too early. I can't stand it. I also place McAfee's Internet Security in the crapware category after my last experience with their product. To be fair, it was the version that Comcast provides for free to subscribers, but it was an utter nightmare. It shut down my ability to share files across my home network, my Macs wouldn't even show up on it's network map because they didn't have McAfee installed (and no version was available to install), and I finally uninstalled the darn thing and decided I'd rather run unprotected than completely hindered in my normal activities. I spent 2 days searching for help. McAfee's website was actually more useless than Microsoft's (if that's possible) for finding answers, and even though I had every setting set properly I still could not connect from one computer to the other across my home network or Hamachi.
CNET's brief video deals with the crapware that computer vendors install on brand new computers. Except for laptops, I've always built my own systems, which cuts down on this dramatically. My sister in law lived with some stupid jukebox program that Dell installed on her laptop asking her to buy a music subscription every time she tried to play one of her own songs, until she finally shared that detail with me and I set iTunes to her default player and uninstalled the crappy jukebox software.
If you've ever bought a new computer that made you feel like you were living in a commercial after you booted it up, then kick back with a cold drink and watch this video. If you're thinking about building your own computer, let this inspire you while you wait for me to produce a series of blog posts on building your own computer. It'll be a while though; I'm still putting most of my time into famiy, church, and and finishing my IT degree.