Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Windows Ecosystem is now Ad-supported.

The Windows Ecosystem is now Ad-supported. least for anyone outside of a business. And it has gotten much worse than the average boatload of crapware these manufacturers are known for. It is extraordinarily sad how heavily laden with advertising the entire Windows experience has become. Let's say you buy a Windows 8.1 PC today. As it turns out, your Metro start screen is littered with dozen of tiles for third-party services and apps that have paid $$ to the OEM for placement. Removal requires the user to delete all the tiles, and any new user on the machine will have to delete the tiles for themselves as well. It takes going into Powershell to remove these "provisioned apps" on a machine-wide basis.
Now let's move past Metro. You get to the desktop, only to find more shortcuts for third-party stuff. There are multiple programs installed (whose developers have paid $$ for placement) which are "lite" versions or trialware intending to get you to spend $$ to buy the full version.
Perhaps the worst is whatever anti-virus is included. The computer will usually come with a 1, 3, 6, or maybe even 12 month Norton subscription. Which is fine until the subscription runs out, at which point the AV becomes nag-ware trying to get the user to pay $$ to re-up the subscription. The average user doesn't necessarily grasp the importance of this and figures if the program is still there it must be doing SOME good. But it is actually exposing the user to risk. The user is unlikely to know that they can UNINSTALL the AV and use Windows Defender.
It doesn't stop there. The user goes online. Invariably they end up at a site serving ads that trick the user into installing crapware such as false anti-virus programs, media players, you name it. Stuff they don't need. But even worse, these installs also go ahead and install additional crapware in addition to the crapware that the user was tricked into installing.
So the user might choose to go download something reputable like VLC or PDFCreator or even Adobe Flash. Well now they have more crapware because the download site they use for these programs install other stuff by default. Choosing not to install this extra stuff means knowing that the grayed out "Decline" button, or the grayed out "Custom install" option, really is clickable. Or some other weird user interface trick that makes the user think they CAN'T opt-out.
And this, my friends, is why in addition to the normal crapware cleanout I perform on my family and friends PCs, I also uninstall the antivirus, and I install Firefox and Chrome and configure ad-blocking for IE, Firefox, and Chrome. I don't have a problem with ads, but no possible moral obligation to view ads is worth 2-hour crapware/spyware/malware cleanout sessions every other month.
Macs may not come with crapware but they are increasingly getting targeted by online advertisements that lead to Mac malware.
For a long time, Linux enthusiasts have said the best way to clean and repair Windows is to format and install Linux. Given that malware has become a virtually unavoidable structural component of the consumer Windows ecosystem, I finally have to say they are right. It is high time for the techies in people's lives to burn a Linux Mint install disc and use it regularly.

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