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Ed Grochowski

Are Your Computers Working for You?

Ed Grochowski

Posted 9-20-2013

Introduction

Computer security has been in the news a lot recently. Here is a look at the various types of undesirable computer software.


Malware and spyware

Most computer users are aware of, or may have experienced malware - malicious software surreptitiously installed on one's computer for the purpose of stealing. Malware may steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers and passwords, or may steal computer resources such as network bandwidth and CPU cycles. Malware facilitates theft, and that's decidedly bad.

Straddling the line between illegal and legal is spyware - software that gathers some type of information from the user for purposes ranging from privacy invasion to market research. If the information gathered is not particularly sensitive, the severity may be reduced to phonehomeware.


Adware, nagware, and junkware

More innocuous is adware - software installed on one's computer for the purpose of serving advertisements to the user. Adware presents more of an annoyance than anything else. One popular computer operating system is put out by a large Internet company for the purpose of displaying advertisements to the user.

Closely related to adware is nagware - software that repeatedly asks the user to upgrade for a fee, or to subscribe to an on-line service. A subset of nagware is junkware - unwanted software that comes pre-installed on a new computer and is immediately removed by the purchaser.


Crippleware, trialware, and DRMware

Somewhat related to junkware is crippleware or trialware - software that echoes HAL 9000's famous line "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that" when the user asks to open the pod bay doors. HAL might as well have said "I'm sorry, Dave. You need to purchase the full version."

Another variant is DRMware - software that refuses to open the pod bay doors if doing so would infringe on someone else's copyrights.


What do all of these have in common?

They are acting in someone else's interests, and not in the interests of the owner of the computer.

As a long-time computer user, I run only software that will act in my interests. I do this by selecting a computer operating system and applications that are:

  • Put out by a third-party that has no financial incentive to sell new hardware or services.
  • Comprised entirely of open-source software that can be examined and modified freely.
  • Allow the user to program the computer to do anything he wants.

As a result, my computers truly are working for me.