Junk your junkware

TECH TALK: Added pro­grams can be a hin­drance, writes David Behrens.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

T’S one thing for Tesco to sub­sidise the cost of its ex­cel­lent Hudl 2 tablet by in­stalling its own “spe­cial of­fer” apps on the home screen; it’s a fair trade-off.

It’s quite an­other for the mak­ers of Win­dows PCs and lap­tops, which al­ready carry a price pre­mium, to load them with un­wanted, un­nec­es­sary and in some cases danger­ous pro­grams, sim­ply in the pur­suit of a few ex­tra bucks.

You wouldn’t ex­pect to buy a wash­ing ma­chine pre-loaded with some­one else’s dirty laun­dry – but that’s ex­actly what hap­pens, metaphor­i­cally speak­ing, when you buy a com­puter.

The trend for man­u­fac­tur­erpro­vided “junkware” reached epi­demic and scan­dalous pro­por­tions last month when it was re­vealed that Len­ovo, the world’s big­gest mover of PCs, was ac­tu­ally sell­ing lap­tops with “mal­ware” pre-in­stalled. More than 20 dif­fer­ent mod­els, sold be­tween Septem­ber and Jan­uary, were in­fected with a pro­gram called Su­per­fish, whose sole pur­pose is to in­sert its own ad­verts in your web search re­sults. It ex­poses your web traf­fic to po­ten­tial hack­ers.

Len­ovo, which made money from dis­tribut­ing Su­per­fish, has been in full dam­age lim­i­ta­tion mode since it was outed, say­ing its teams “did not un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cant se­cu­rity prob­lem” that Su­per­fish pre­sented, and promis­ing to mend its ways in fu­ture. Ad­mis­sions like that makes you won­der how much th­ese peo­ple re­ally know about com­put­ers at all. So much for dam­age lim­i­ta­tion. But the Su­per­fish scan­dal is re­ally just the tip of the ice­berg. Ri­val man­u­fac­tur­ers

like Dell, HP, Toshiba, Sam­sung and Acer also load their ma­chines with junkware – so much, in fact, that the dis­trib­u­tor of Win­dows, has stepped in to try to stem the dam­age to its brand. Mi­crosoft could have stamped down on the prac­tice years ago: in­stead its ini­tia­tive has been to launch a range of “sig­na­ture” PCs in the States which it guar­an­tees to be free of junk – so long as you pay a 99 dollar pre­mium. That’s lit­tle short of a pro­tec­tion racket.

It took me around an hour re­cently to re­move most of the garbage tak­ing up space on a new Acer lap­top. An in­el­e­gant­ly­named free pro­gram called PC Decrapifier keeps track of com­monly-in­stalled junk and can rec­om­mend what’s worth get­ting rid of. Pro­grams don’t advertise them­selves as junk; man­u­fac­tur­ers some­times claim them to be en­hance­ments. But it’s a gen­er­ally safe rule of thumb that apps which claim to speed up brows­ing will usu­ally do the op­po­site. The moral is clear: next time you buy a com­puter, choose it on the ba­sis of what’s not in­cluded, not what is.

LOADED: Len­ovo lap­tops were loaded with ‘junkware’.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.