Nero: Snatching Fail from the Jaws of Awesome

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  And all that.

A long time ago when I first started to explore recording data, songs and music onto CD-Rs, I began with what was then ironically called Easy CD Creator, mostly because some crippled version came pre-installed on my computers.  I thought of it more as Easy Coaster Creator, but with enough effort I could burn a CD or two when adequately motivated.  For a few years I soldiered on, making a good supply of both coasters and CDs.

But as Easy CD Creator (d)evolved, it started to feel bloated.  And it seemed to want to take over my computer.  Before long I was just a spectator, watching as Easy CD Creator and RealAudio Player fought a turf war over my desktop.  I soon decided that I’d rather never hear another sound than to use RealAudio Player, and uninstalled it and all of its tentacles from my computer.

Not long after, I went looking for a “less is more” alternative for burning CDs.

I settled on Nero Burning ROM.  It seemed to be the favorite of the hardcore tech crowd.  It was relatively lean, and it had a semi-witty name.  And, best of all, it wasn’t Easy CD Creator.  Things went swimmingly for years.  Until Nero started to get fat.

Sure, the emergence of recordable DVDs required a some additional applications.  But when Nero starting growing it couldn’t stop.  Before long it seemed as massive as Easy CD Creator had been.  All I wanted was to burn some disks.  I didn’t want or need all that extra junk.

So I I went looking for a new “less is more” alternative for burning disks.  I found and installed CDBurnerXP, which badly needs a name change, but works well.  Still, I kept Nero installed and often found myself using it, mostly because of familiarity.

But Nero kept growing.  And that wasn’t all.  Somewhere along the way Nero decided to commit a couple of unpardonable software sins.

First, Nero began attempting to install other software during the installation process, and to change your default search engine.

If I wanted some stupid toolbar, I’d go get it.  Taking money (I assume) from some other desperate company in exchange for trying to slide their desktop clutter by customers is wrong on many levels.  Sure, you can say no during the install process, but it’s still wrong.

Second, Nero ignored my repeated requests for technical support after Kaspersky Antivirus kept telling me there was a P2P worm in the install package for Nero 9, the newest version of Nero, which I paid for (on 1/18/09).


So Nero 9 never made it onto my computer, and I guess Nero can keep my fifty bills.  But Nero won’t sell me any more product and people will get the pleasure of reading about my disappointment here.  Voting with your fingers and whatnot.

I suppose Nero heard at least some of the hue and cry, as it recently released a basic, stripped down, free version of its disk burning application.  That’s a good start, but it it looks like the installer still tries to slip a toolbar by you, and to change your search provider.  Not OK.  Nobody wants.

Nobody wants.

All in all, it took a while to do it, but Nero found a way to snatch fail from the jaws of awesome.

Knocking Out Norton AV Early

Dwight Silverman on his forthcoming look at antivirus applications: “I am not going to focus on their malware-stopping effectiveness, but rather how well they get along with other programs, user-friendliness and their effects on system performance.”

I predict a last place finish for Norton AntiVirus.

On a related note, I am a long-time Consumer Reports subscriber.  I don’t have any strong feelings one way or another about creating viruses to test anti-virus applications, but most of them claim to be able to identify new viruses by their behavior.  And how else could one test that claim?

UPDATE: Randy Abrams answers my question in a Comment and in this post.

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Google and Firefox Go to the Dark Side

Google, looking for the its first hit in a decade and hoping to avoid the oldies tour, and Firefox, perhaps wanting to ratchet down all the love it has been receiving, have joined the Bloatware 2006 Tour, headlined by none other than Real Player.

The only reason I can think of why Google and Firefox would agree to partner up with Real Networks is because Real Networks isn’t Microsoft.

Note to Google and Firefox: Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is NOT your friend.

As of now, all of the comments to the Download Squad post linked above agree that this is a bad move for Google and Firefox. And all agree that Real Alternative should be used in lieu of Real Player.

I’ve long been on record as far as my opinion of Real Player goes.

Itchy Fingers in the Blogosphere

Amy Gahran has an interesting post today about the itchy finger syndrome- when you click the “Publish” button too quickly and post something to your blog that a moment later you wish you hadn’t.

She tells of this post by Dave Winer, which went through several post-publication edits, all of which were, for some reason, grabbed and posted by Ian Bettridge.

There’s a lesson here, as Amy suggests. But first a little related business.

I saw those earlier posts by Dave too, in my feed reader. But I didn’t save them, and I certainly wouldn’t post them. Anyone should have the right to reconsider what they write the same way they can reconsider what they say in a conversation. If I am arguing with Dave about something, I’d rather respond to what he says and agrees with than what he said and later retracted.

Back to the itchy finger.

As Amy points out, once you post something, it will get picked up by your blog’s feed. It will also often get picked up by Google and Technorati and sometimes by Techmeme and the other memetrackers. Once that happens, it is a part of the permanent record.

A related problem is that any modification to a post will generally go back into your feed as a new item. So if you do 3 edits to an original post, that post will show up in your feed 4 times.

While we all try to avoid it, everyone has to edit posts for typos, broken links, etc. from time to time, and this is viewed by most as an unavoidable part of the process.

But when you change substantive parts of your post, the original content is still out there in your feed. Amy is correct- there’s no way to get it back.

Having said that, I’m not sure that’s such a big deal in many cases. Had Dave been talking to us as opposed to posting, he very likely would have said the same sort of stuff, refining his stated position (stated being the important word there) as he thought about it and heard our reactions. He would have ended up at the same place, and we would have heard the evolution of his position.

As Amy points out, however, when you remove something because you have reconsidered your position, it’s a good idea to explain what you did and why. Having said that, I suspect Dave removed the post more out of a desire to avoid a hassle than a change of heart (I don’t want to get involved in this debate, but I will say that I did not find Dave’s original post objectionable and I think there is a marginal utility to extreme political correctness that is wholly lost to some.)

Avoiding an itchy finger is certainly a good idea when possible. But at the end of the day, blogs are about conversation. And most conversations start at once place and end at another. Even if you’re talking to yourself.

That’s not such a bad thing.

UPDATE: Amy has more thoughts about editing posts.

Davis Freeberg TKO's Real Networks

Davis Freeberg, who shares my dislike of anything connected to Real Networks, lands some well deserved blows in this very interesting post.

He correctly points out the absurdity of Real’s obsession with Microsoft’s not even released yet Zune player and then sums up his version of what I have called the Real Player Syndrome in this flurry to the jaw:

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to uninstall their software from my computer. Everytime I swear off their Real player, some clip comes along which I need their proprietary software to use. It’s neat that Real wants to put an end to DRM that locks consumers into proprietary systems, but I’d like to see them address their own service before they complain about big bad Microsoft.”

Amen brother.

That’s why I will forego watching something rather than install what is, in my opinion, computer-hijacking bloatware.

Dell Holds the Junkware

Before I starting building my own, I was a big fan of Dell computers. I bought 4-5 computers and a laptop from Dell over the years. When I am asked (as I am often) by friends for computer recommendations, I still suggest Dell desktops (and Thinkpad laptops).

bloatwareOne annoyance with any new computer is all of the junkware they pre-install on it, likely in exchange for payment from the vendor who hopes against hope you will buy the full version of the crippled junkware version that comes pre-installed.

Dwight Silverman reports today that Dell has added an option to dispense with the junkware. This is great news, and if you buy a computer you should always select the “no preinstalled software” option, if available.

Windows, an anti-virus program and any Office products you buy will still be installed. But you won’t get a bunch of crippled bloatware and offers for ISP services you don’t want.

Kudos to Dell for doing this.

Plaxo to Throttle Back the Emails

According to Techdirt, the email loving folks at Plaxo may finally be bending to the collective will and reassessing their email policies.

I regularly get emails via Plaxo telling me that people I know and sometimes people I don’t are updating their address book and encouraging me to update my information via Plaxo. It’s an example of an idea that sounds good in theory (let’s enable users to easily obtain current contact information and add it to their Outlook contacts list) that goes horribly wrong when put into action.

It goes wrong simply because the updating process is based on unsolicited emails to contacts asking them to update their information via Plaxo. I think it’s great if someone wants to add my information to their address book, but not if I have to get emails I don’t want and/or sign up or give information to some service.

After apparently waiting to enact any changes until enough people signed up for their service, Plaxo has indicated that it will throttle back the emails. Here’s a quote from one of Plaxo’s founders that tells you a lot about Plaxo’s commitment to being a good net citizen:

[W]e’ve always known that the update requests were a means to an end — our goal has always been to get as many members as possible so that these e-mails were unnecessary. And it looks like we’re finally getting to that end.

Anyone who takes even a second to think about that statement will realize that it’s like a litterbug who just dumped all his trash on the side of the road saying that littering is bad. Or the guy who just made a ton of money selling email addresses deciding to become an anti-spam advocate.

It’s easy to diet when you’re full and it’s easy to act right after you’ve gotten the spoils of acting wrong.

According to some of the Comments to the Techdirt post, Plaxo is now bundled with AOL Instant Messenger. There’s nothing that will get a program deleted from my computer any faster than trying to stuff a bunch of unwanted programs onto my hard drive.

I find product bundling to be just as distasteful as spam. That’s just my opinion and perhaps others disagree.

But while less Plaxo email is a welcome thing, let’s not start handing out citizenship awards to Plaxo just yet.

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Bug or Feature: Microsoft Spyware Disables NAV

It seems that Microsoft’s AntiSpyware program is identifying Norton Antivirus as spyware and disabling it. Everybody is all up in arms saying that this is a terrible bug that must be immediately fixed.

Are we certain it’s not a feature? For all the reasons I mentioned the other day, Norton Antivirus has crossed the line from important safeguard to some combination of bloatware and adware. Much of my hatorade for Norton Antivirus is a result of the inclusion of the Norton Protection Center in the new version, but Norton Antivirus has long been known for creating conflicts with other programs and causing shutdown problems in Windows.

Plus, a lot of the current Norton stuff seems more interested in selling you new products than protecting you from harm.

Obviously, I am (mostly) kidding when I describe this as a feature. But of all the programs on all the computers in all the world, none has less standing to complain about conflicts caused by another program than Norton Antivirus.

Norton Antivirus complaining of a conflict creating program? As my daughters would say “I know you are, but what am I?”

Dell and Google in Bloatware Venture


I know it’s hard to believe after my spit take on the new Google internets and my resounding yawn in the face of Gmail chatting, but in general I really like Google. Or at least I did until it started spending billions on stupid ideas.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me tell you the other reason why I think this new Dell/Google deal to get Google software pre-installed on new Dell computers is bad news. Henry Blodget has already covered the financial side of things.

It’s bad news because the very last thing in the world- and I mean the very last thing- Dell needs to do is pre-install more bloatware on its computers. There are far too many trial versions and thinly disguised ads on new Dells now. Dell has been criticized for this before. In fact, excessive bloatware is one of the reasons I stopped buying Dells (and other brands) and started building my own computers.

Here are a couple of rules that should be mandatory for every computer manufacturer:

1) Except for a very few major things like anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, don’t pre-install any trial versions or other disguised ads on new computers. Either give us a the full, non-crippled, non-expiring version of something or don’t give us anything. No one believes this is anything other than a disguised ad.

2) Other than an internet browser, don’t pre-install anything that we can download for free off the internet. I probably don’t want that stuff and it’s easier to add what I want than to remove a ton of bloatware. This applies to the Google software that will be stuffed down our throats under this new arrangement.

I use and love the Google Toolbar. But I prefer X-1 (even though I have to pay for it) over Google’s desktop search. And just because Google will pay Dell to pre-install a bunch of junk that third party vendors pay Google to include in the bloatware package doesn’t mean it should be stuffed onto my new computer.

Everybody gets paid in this caper except for the person who pays for the computer. He or she has to either spend hours removing or pay some computer geek to remove all the stuff he or she doesn’t want. It’s an entire industry designed to screw over computer buyers in the name of a few dollars. Anyone who thinks this is about helping the consumer is living in Google fantasy land.

And don’t even get me started about the Google Pack. If I want that stuff (most of which I most definitely don’t), I’ll go get it. Do not pre-install any of that stuff on my computer. None of it.

The Dell/Google deal is a bad idea for Google (too expensive) and for consumers (even more bloatware). Dell, of course, makes out like a bandit, but at the expense of its customers.

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