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Ditch The Bloatware!

Posted by Paige on July 31, 2009 in Technology |

Yesterday I was chatting with a former student who posted something on Facebook (more about my Facebook experience in upcoming posts!) about Norton Anti-Virus hating her computer. My response was “Norton is a hog, ditch it”. She said she couldn’t because her father paid for the software and therefore she had to use it. The exchange got me thinking about how many people blindly use anti-virus software that bloats their system and costs them, not only in up front costs, but computer downtime (which is money too). The only reason I can come up with is that they just don’t know any better. You most definitely need to protect your system, especially with that nasty Conficker Worm still slithering around, but there’s simply no need to slow your system down with unnecessary gunk, and pay out-of-pocket for the pleasure of doing so.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my topic I want to preface everything with a couple of very important facts: I have been using the Internet since the beginning of AOL (16 years ago?). I have owned multiple computers, ALL running Windows OS. This is the really important part…I HAVE NEVER, EVER HAD ANY KIND OF VIRUS ON MY COMPUTER…EVER! (take that MAC lovers :p ). In addition, nearly all of my shopping is done online, and frankly much of my off teaching hours are spent online. I’ve gone (and go to) chat rooms and dating sites; I download tons and tons of applications, files, etc., and not once have I had a problem. Have I just been lucky? No, I know the right software to use, and the proper safety steps to take to ensure a pleasant cyber experience. These are what I hope to share with all of you. Now that you understand (hopefully) where I am coming from, I’ll continue. 🙂

Over the years, I, like most people, have used Norton anti-virus systems. And over the years, I, as I’m sure many of you, have experienced my computer slowing down to a crawl. I could never figure out the problem, that is until I started dating computer geeks. Finally one of them said “what on earth are you doing with that anti-virus?” Huh? Wait, I have to have protection, so what do I do? Here’s what you do: you uninstall every single bit of that bloatware and go to AVG Free, download and install one of the best programs you will ever own.

Symantec (Norton’s parent) wants you to believe that any free program is by definition going to cause you problems. You get what you pay for right? Usually yes, but in AVG’s case, no. If you don’t know what you are doing, sure Symantec’s points might seem valid, but think about them a bit deeper and you can see that the logic is flawed.

Let’s look for a moment at all the “extra features” you DO NOT necessarily need:

  • Firewall: If you are running Windows OS you have firewall protection already built-in. Go to your control panel and activate it. It’s especially powerful in Vista and Win 7.
  • Downloads: You don’t need extra software to screen your downloads. What you do is save the file, then once it is on your computer right click and scan it with the protection program. Actually, with AVG free, my experience has been that it catches a problem as soon as I click on the file. BTW…my husband and I are heavy users and download hundreds of files each week.
  • E-mail protection: If you are using one of the major web mail programs like AOL, Yahoo, GMail, Hotmail, etc. they are already handling the spam and attachment issue for you. But again, if you get an attachment you download it, then scan it.
  • Web Browsing: Well, isn’t this why the browser companies keep updating their products touting safety and protection? They are pretty much on top of it. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told a certificate doesn’t match the site (actually I get that for one of my own sites, so it can be a bit annoying when it goes too far). However, AVG does address this. When you do a search (because the assumption is you are going to a new site) it shows you little symbols letting you know the site is safe to go to.
  • Applications like Flash, Quicktime & Realplayer: Admittedly I personally do not use these programs too often. However, I am constantly being notified that there is a security patch, etc. (just got a new one yesterday) that needs to be downloaded so as to update the software. These are big companies, they are on top of this stuff. It’s their reputation on the line and they have a lot to lose if they let users get infected.

BTW, I teach my AP Lang students about fallacies. I think I’ll start this school year off going over the interview with the Norton exec. (linked above). In addition to the points I’ve already mentioned he states that you cannot trust a product that a company gives away for free. I don’t think I have enough space or time right now to go into why that is just so wrong. Maybe one of my students will blog about it in September, I’ll keep you posted if they do.

When I used Norton running scans on my computer was a joke, to say the least. I simply just didn’t do it because my computer would become unusable. Well, as I type this I have 3 browsers open, Paint Shop Pro, a text editor and MS Money AND my AVG is scanning my computer. Bottom line: I feel no performance loss while the scan is running.

Seriously, I’m a bit afraid of installing any piece of software that puts so much junk on my system that people have had to make tools just to uninstall it! Read this post for further explanation.

Ok, Norton 2009 edition is supposed to be “leaner”, however you are still paying $40 for something you get free with AVG. If you really feel you must have all that extra protection, AVG’s full featured software is still only$55/year, compared to Norton’s at $99/year, and it won’t hog your computer.

So here’s the bottom line: Paying for anti-virus software is just silly. AVG offers a product that does what you need it to do. You, the end user, need to be aware of what you do. Meaning, scan what you download and watch what sites you go to. Be pro-active and you will be fine!

Please understand that the above is from my personal experiences. I cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen to you while using any piece of software I recommend.


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