I went upstairs and started up my Windows PC this lunchtime. Then the afternoon evaporated, as did my spirit.
I have a job to do on someone’s PC and wanted to copy a file from WindowsXP. That, pretty much, is the reason I keep my WinXP box going – oh, and it saves me a journey to the tip as I’m told you can’t just chuck these things in the bin nowadays. As is typical when I start this machine, it launched into interminable disk thrashing and an endless run of updates. Obviously I don’t hold that against it, it is doing me a favour after all, and it can’t update when it is unplugged.
One of the updates today was Java. As it updated, I was presented with a dialog which told me “Windows: Disc not found. Insert Disc” followed by around 20 question marks. Mmm, I think the software designer behind that one has some personal issues?
A little later, my Firewall warned me with an endless stream of dialogues that “FIU” was acting suspiciously by trying to access pretty much every critical file on the machine. Irritating at best, malicious at worst. It could be I’d been duped into downloading a trojan, but if I had, it was incredibly clever as it was a pop-up from the Java icon in the Notification tray. In any event, my Anti Virus app had decided it was going to take over the machine and do a scan as it hadn’t had a run out in a while, so the disk thrashing was like a sawmill in full production. Nothing found though.
The aforementioned Firewall had also been nagging me for an update, but to be fair, it had been easily put off thus far. After the saga with the Java installation, though, I thought I’d better let it have its way this time. Its installer duly launched and presented a dialogue asking my permission to allow it to take over my browser’s home screen with its own page, as well as replacing my default browser search with its variant. The dialog explained that this was their way of paying for the software development and imploring me, the user, to support them by agreeing. Fair enough, except it turned out that by not agreeing, the software wouldn’t install. OK, so no choice at all then, so why bother “asking”?
Having given my “informed consent” to their Ts & Cs, the installation commenced.It got to 46% fairly swiftly, then stopped there for — I kid you not — a full 15 minutes (apparently installing Microsoft .NET distributable. Classy). Resisting the urge to simply turn the damn thing off or at least crash out of the installation, I stuck with it. 47% to completion, eventually, took a few seconds. Not exactly a linear progression!
My Java scare, caused me to investigate what this FIU thing was. I had to use -financial -investigation modifiers to remove the obvious (to me!) connotations of that acronym in the search results, but I did find a few links to the warning I’d received. The top one took me to a forum run by the firewall software vendor. The person who’d asked a perfectly reasonable question (I would say that, it was exactly the question I wanted answering) had been given the bum’s rush by the forum regulars as he’d had the temerity not to say precisely what version, release and build of the software he was using … which had nothing at all to do with the question, but Forum Rules Is Forum Rules. I never really did get to the bottom of it.
A few other links and a couple of wild goose chases later (mainly researching the job I’d turned the damn thing on for in the first place) I found myself investigating a piece of software called Super Anti Spyware. I wanted to know if it was legit, so scanned the dozens and dozens of links which extolled this suite’s apparent virtues (several on sites I’d actually heard of!). Then this one caught my eye:
Superantispyware is the name of a Misleading Application (rogue software) designed to display false information, such as claiming your system is infected with …
This is the entry in the ‘glossary’ of the Symantec (a.k.a Norton Antivirus) web site. Bitter, are we chaps?
I mention all this as I found the entire experience frustrating and in no small way, depressing. Is this truly what the PC users of the world have to put up with; suspicious behaviour, amateur hour dialogs, bloatware, spyware, ransomware, scareware… developers openly disparaging one another… This isn’t an anti-Windows rant, it really isn’t. I recognise WindowsXP is now an old OS and my machine is long past its cutting edge days. None of what I’ve moaned about here was the fault of the OS. It is the world which has grown around it. My shock comes from having been shielded from this world for so long.
Boy, am I grateful.