My oldest daughter started high school about five months ago. Anticipating a heavy workload of writing and research, my wife and I did what countless other people do every day: we got her a Windows PC. The purchase decision was made primarily on price, and in this particular laptop we found a good mix of features and value ; or so we thought. Last night, after the latest round of hours spent cleaning, pruning, and otherwise tuning up the laptop for my daughter, a regular chore necessary to simply keep the machine in working order, I was ready to throw the computer out the window. And that was before I even got mad about the situation. The problem with my machine, like all other PCs, is crapware. Crapware is the gateway drug to Malware. It is those little pieces of software you neither need nor want that are installed on your PC for you. (Six month trials, free downloads, alternative search engines, etc.) The manufacturer loads them on your PC before you even buy it, and software vendors keep the cycle going by slipping some more on there for you every time you download a legitimate piece of software that you actually do want. Why would PC makers engage in such an anti-customer practice? Because they make millions of dollars a year from it.
Case in point: just this week, Oracle’s Java software (itself a bloated piece of crap, but that’s another article) had a security issue that required Oracle to release an emergency update. Oracle dutifully rushed out the update and urged users to download it immediately. I hope they didn’t breeze through the process too fast, though, because even this update, an emergency update to patch a major security flaw, contained crapware. Right there on the download dialog, already selected for you, was an offer to install the Ask toolbar, which would then also make Ask your computers’ search engine of choice. When is the last time you did a search on Ask?
The problem is insidious, and it is not going away. PC manufacturers will tell you that our desire for “affordable”; computers requires this subsidy. Compounding the problem, the PC business is going the wrong way, making it even more unlikely they, or the software developers will give up the cash they get in return for foisting steaming piles of crapware at you. In fact, the relationship is getting even cozier. Silicon Valley is throwing venture capital behind a company that streamlines the process of “software monetization”. That’s the carefully worded name that describes the process of bundling crapware with legitimate downloads. I urge you to read Y Combinator is funding the future of spam in Windows – drive-by crapware installers by Long Zheng. It is a thorough, and disturbing look at the business of crapware.
Mac users don’t face this issue. Apple does not load any crapware on new Macs, nor do they permit software developers to bundle it with their programs when you download them. You pay more upfront for this freedom; and that is certainly not the only reason Macs cost more ; but I now firmly believe that if you take the price of a bargain PC, add in the hours you will spend keeping it in working order, you will actually come out way ahead by buying a Mac. And that says nothing of the user experience, which is superior in every way. I’m a convert to Apple that will never go back to a PC. If you are tired of all the crap, you should think about doing the same. You’ll save money ; and time ; in the long run.