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Most annoying software
The Internet has brought us many joys. It’s rewritten the rules of business and pleasure.
rnrnAnd pain. For it allows what may have seemed like bright ideas at the time (‘let’s use it to make sure our customers have the latest software’, for example) to turn into a stinking pit of misery — usually, but by no means always, after marketing gets its fangs in.
rnrnHere are just ten of the guilty parties who try to do the impossible: to make us hate the internet and wish it had never been invented — and who very nearly succeed.
rnThis gallery was written by Rupert Goodwins, ZDNet.co.uk.
rnWhat does Adobe Reader do? Displays PDF pages. How does it do it? With as much bloody-minded bureaucracy, delay and needless interaction as possible. Perhaps it’s because we humans have been spoiled by books, where the gap between wanting to read something and reading it is as short as the time taken to lift the cover. But Reader’s incessant updates (demanding you reset your computer — why?), thundering great list of modules to load, and hour-glass-provoking pauses for thought have given Portable Document Format a reputation for being as welcome as a flatulent camel in the kitchen.rn
rnWhich is a shame, because other lightweight PDF readers seem to manage perfectly well.
rnIf this software turned up at your door, you’d call the police. RealPlayer commits just about every sin in the book, sprinkling itself across your desktop and offering ‘Free games!’. It installs a ‘Message Center’ that tells you about microcelebrities. There is more advertising embedded in the application than used to be on the front page of The Times. And you just wanted to stream The Archers.rn
rnAt least Europe’s been spared Real’s Rhapsody music shop. When we looked at a beta before a subsequently abandoned UK launch, we were given software to install. ‘Disable your firewall’, it commanded. ‘Drop dead’, we replied.
rnIt’s a little unfair to pick on Norton Antivirus and make it carry the sins of half the desktop malware industry — but only a little unfair. If ever a class of software deserved to be cast into the lower reaches of Hell and run on Satan’s own desktop, it is this. Performance- sapping, space-hogging, noisy, irritating and prone to inducing just as many problems as they purport to solve, these horrible, ineffective, expensive lumps of digital thuggery keep entire platoons of support engineers in business and home users in tears. We know. We get the phone calls.
Preinstalled software bundles
rnAfter quarter of a century of the IBM PC, we still don’t understand why so many companies feel obliged to create swathes of below-par software to install on the computers they sell. Notebook makers are the worst, and Sony the king of them all: the first job for any new Vaio owner is to strip out the layers of desktop ‘enhancements’, media ‘managers’ and system ‘control software’ that serve only to get in the way of doing things the way you know how to do them, interfere with other software packages and suck up such enormous amounts of resources on start-up that two weeks after you’ve bought one, you’re still not sure whether it’s broken or not.
rnFree, web-based email systems have more storage than you can use. They have powerful, accurate, swift search systems. They have clean interfaces, with threaded conversations and sane attachment management.rn
rnThen there’s Microsoft’s Outlook. Things have been getting better for those whose corporate upgrade strategy allows it, but with major updates happening every four years or so that’s a long time to be looking at a non-threaded, licence-restricted storage- squeezed, treacle-slow-searching email system. Especially while the online services get better and better, and doubly so now that email is the single most important business application ever created.
rnThere’s nothing wrong with Flash, provided you don’t use it to construct web sites where people want to find information, navigate easily or do anything beyond passively consume exactly what you choose to give them in exactly the way you’ve decided.rnrnThere’s also nothing wrong with using it for a splendid splash screen replete with movies, sound and animation — if you don’t mind frustrating, annoying and possibly even driving away people who might, just might, have something better to do.rn
rnIn fact, Flash-based web sites are quite possibly one of the most useful pieces of network technology around. Like heroin or microlights, they ensure that those who think it’s a good idea aren’t around to annoy us for too long.