The High Cost of Free Software: Be Careful What You Download

As I was driving into school this morning, I was listening to Sunday’s episode of “This Week in Tech” with Leo LaPorte and a panel of tech writers. It’s worth watching the first part of the video linked below just to see Leo in his steam punk apparel with his “new” steam punk laptop. But, listen to the first fifteen minutes or so where the panel discusses something that they called “douche ware”.

There’s always been malware around that can do all sorts of bad things to your computer. But douche ware is different in that it observes the letter of the law, but not the spirit. It tells you that it’s going to install a toolbar or other “enhancements” to your machine but it may also keep adding programs every few days.

In some ways, the term “douche ware” makes it sound like sites like Download.com and software developers are adding these things to their software installers to just be a greedy douche bag. But there may be a reason why.

Ed Bott of zdnet.com on the show states:

Basically, there’s a dilemma that software developers are in. They can either go with these monetization companies which load up their installers with “special offers” and which in turn allow them to make a frightful sum of money or they can take a day job and get out of the software business.

What this means to you and me as consumers is that we need to be ever more vigilant when we install software, especially software we have downloaded. Don’t just click “yes” blindly and read each screen before clicking anything. That is unless you like multiple toolbars and having your home page & search engine changed and many more programs installed besides the one you thought you were getting.

As someone who has been teaching online classes for over ten years now, I learned early on to add the following statement to my syllabi:

It is not the instructor’s responsibility to resolve your technical problems whether it be computer or ISP related.

It is always amazing the things that people (my students) will download without thinking a bit about it. So think before you click and practice safe downloading.

— Carla

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