Updated: June 25, 2016
While going through the motions of exploring Windows 10 user management for the purpose of the namesake article, I spent a while fiddling with software that Windows had pushed onto the newly created account. Promotional, dubious-quality, semi-adware stuff that has no value other than making someone else profit from you.
And so I thought, how should users fight this epidemics? In early 2000s, any program that phoned home was spyware, any program that sent user data out was a baddie, anything that was installed without user content was a big no-no. And today?
Glimpse if you will at the Windows 10 desktop of a new user. Answer me please, how do Adobe Photo Offer, Free Calls with Voxox, Google Play Music, and McAfee Central relate to Windows 10? Are they Microsoft products? Are they in any way, shape or form necessary for the Windows functionality?
The answer is, no. If you check any spec, any reference sheet, you will learn that Windows has its essential and optional components, but they are none of the four listed, nor dozens of other pollutants that you will find on any recent laptop preinstalled with Windows or upgraded to Windows 10.
In other words, anyone trying Windows 10 will now be exposed to software they did not expect or want. The distributor, be it the OEM or whatever, will of course be fully legally covered. All these programs can be uninstalled, it's all part of the wider experience nonsense, and the fact you can buy laptops for so cheap.
But in essence, there is very little difference in how all this extra content is pushed onto the user from what a typical computer person would have felt back in the middle of the previous decade when running their system and being exposed to crapware. The only legal delta is in the fact all of this is done with user consent. And by consent I mean a vaguely phrased clause in an EULA somewhere, or an appendix, or something that gives the manufacturer of either the hardware, the software or both, the exclusive, non-litigative right to promote this extra content.
There's more to it. You may think that someone is actually doing you a favor, giving you free stuff, trying to enrich your user experience. The answer is, don't be so naive, young Quixote. The sole purpose of all and every little bit given to you when you buy a laptop and its associated goodies is to increase the revenue stream. Ergo, not help you.
Accidentally, you may enjoy some of these freebies and promo offers, and you might actually end up utilizing the software to great delight. That's just a side effect, the same way beautiful sandy resorts across the Pacific are a side effect of seismic activity a few million years ago.
The simple truth is everything that you consume on your machine is designed to help you make the right financial and commercial choices, as governed by the manufacturer, and recently, and more alarmingly, the operating system vendor. That's why sending you online is the preferred method, because you might swipe your card somewhere. And this is why you get a random scattering of random, semi-trial software, some media-related apps, and other bits and bobs that could catch your attention.
It's like carpet bombing. You drop a shitload of metal and explosive hoping that some of the ordinance might land on your target. Replace the fancy military jargon with shitty apps and yourself. That's the modern computing landscape. And the reasons you're seeing it on your desktop are:
The mobile world has proven morons can be milked easily; infinite mana.
Microsoft is trying to push hard into this space; they are becoming aggressive.
Compare Windows 7 to Lumia with Windows 8 and now to Windows 10, and you get the idea where the ship is headed; to boldly go where no one has profited before.
To be fair, pure-Microsoft products do come with much less crap than third-party products, for instance the aforementioned Lumia phones, but there's a lot of variety in this space, too. Even so, the very fact, Microsoft allows random nonsense to be featured in the menu, and to use its Store framework to mimic the despised behavior of third-party vendors is a sign of bad things to come.
Remember the promo leaflets you would get from credit card companies back in the 90s? Maddox has shown us how to fight this idiocracy by sending promo coupons from one company using the free postage envelope of another. But what about the digital world?
Before we do that, one last example. During my mild rage spree with Windows 10 earlier, my furious escapade chanced me upon one of the Lenovo products, which came happily pre-bundled with the G50 laptop. Forget Superfish and all that, we're talking a legitimate piece of software. Lenovo Companion, and this tool is meant to help you install updates and drivers, and keep your system in a minty fresh condition. Sounds neat.
It's all about choice. Or even perception of choice. Let users feel like you give half a shit about their opinion. You want to collect data? Fine. Make it a checkbox. Preselect it even. But make it visible to the user and let them decide if they want to keep it ticked. Very simple.
Instead, take it or leave it. That's the modern, brute force approach. They give you free nonsense - and mind, I don't subscribe to the doomsday you-get-what-you-pay-for school, even thought there's an element of truth in that, there's an element of truth in anything and everything, but the companies do need to cover their costs somehow, and the best way to achieve that other than hiking product prices up is a torrent of stupid ads, promos, limited offers, and similar stuff that makes the Mongol hordes invading Kirghistan look like a polite bunch of virgin nomads. Not acceptable. So we fight back. Here's how.
Hell, no. That's the wrong approach. It does not work unless coordinated among tens and hundreds of thousands of people. As an individual, your purchasing power is quite limited, but your Internet power is limitless. You have the ability to cause as much noise and damage with your online posts as any other person.
Boycotting products also means you could potentially be hurting yourself. Say you need Windows for work. No matter how much you dislike Microsoft, you need their software, so you use it. You can still be unhappy about it, and you express yourself, but you don't kill your livelihood just because someone's misbehaving. If that's the case, let's face it, you would need to live in a cave somewhere.
The same goes for Google Play Music, for instance. It might actually be a good product, but not when delivered through a promo on your desktop. Because if you know you need it, then you can download it yourself through the Store. And so, the offers only actually appeal to clueless people that the promo companies are trying to ensnare into their clutches. Nope.
Or you could be a happy Adobe customer, and you could be doing a million other things. Regardless, your desktop needs to be clean, unpolluted, unmolested, you need to be treated with dignity and given a choice to make your own decisions.
So no boycotts. Instead, you go online.
If any which software or hardware vendors pushes some shitty promo or ad on you, then you must voice your dissatisfaction. There are several highly effective tools in your arsenal. Remember, these companies fear bad publicity and reputation damage more than anything, because those have proven to be the best margin killers over the years. Quality and user satisfaction have nothing to do with it. They can schmooze those. They cannot control the anger of the Web.
Go to the app store, and rate the app the lowest score possible, often 1 star. If you have an online account, this is easy. If you only use it to sign into the store, still doable. If you are running a local account, then go to the official website and try to rate the app there.
Join the forums and start a thread, and express yourself. Tell them how bad it is.
Write your own blog post, a social media post, anything.
Use any available form that allows you to negatively rate the company and its policies, and thus allows potential future userbase to know what they should expect. Always make sure your opinion is logged. Written. Recorded. Searchable.
Do not lie or invent things; be objective and focus on your dissatisfaction around your desktop experience rather than software itself. The software might be good, but that's not the point, and that's not what you're rating. You are rating the ultra-shitty delivery mechanism, you are rating the intrusion of your desktop, and you are rating the lack of choice they have given you.
And this is how you do it. Ignoring it is not the way to go. For instance, I think Windows 10 is an okay product. Nowhere near as good as some want it to be, but that's not the point. The issues are all around privacy and user choice. The fact you may open your menu and something will have been installed while you were busy doing your things. It can't be. There's no way the operating system should ever be allowed to install new software by itself without explicit user content. This simply defies basic human freedom. And if you do not understand this, you're a happy bunny.
I can almost accept a preinstalled set of crap. Almost. Still, you fight back. But if the footprint of your operating system changes without your knowledge, then how is that different from malware? Are we just measuring the end result? The damage?
Do not let stupidity prevail. Ever. It's the single most dangerous thing in the universe. People are more worried about cancer, Ebola, nuclear holocaust, and cosmic gamma rays. Wrong. While you may have to face one of these once or twice during your lifetime, if ever, stupidity is there all the time. You must fight it.
And so, when hardware and software vendors try to make you into a moron, you fight back. Politely, courteously, within the beautiful and slippery framework of the law. Fight them at their own game. Rate their behavior. That's what they fear. They don't mind lousy products as long as they deliver cash. But if you threaten the money flow, your desktop experience will suddenly become so much better. Remember the power you hold. The Internet loves dramas. And the supreme magic of it is that the lowliest user wields as much clout as any multi-billion dollar company. So, now you know where you stand. Happy computing.