6 Pointless Computer Programs Nobody Needs Anymore
Somehow, a lot of the technologies that wore out their welcome a decade ago have managed to stick around long after they should have filled digital mass graves. They're less "programs" and more "computer fuckers," and they need to just goddamn die already. Especially these ones ...
Close your eyes and attempt to remember the most helpful internet toolbar you've ever installed. Having trouble thinking of any? I think that's pretty par for the course for toolbars as a whole, because they have literally never been useful to anyone.
This is what internet browsers look like in hell.
A browser toolbar is kind of like the Mark of Cain in regards to technology, a label telling the rest of the world that you don't know how to use a computer. Here's the problem with any browser toolbar that has ever existed: No one has ever started out a day of internetting by saying, "Let me make sure I have the latest EZ Search toolbar installed on my computer." Instead, users are typically tricked into installing a toolbar because they made the mistake of trusting an installer as a legitimate and necessary piece of software. Take Java, for instance -- a programming language and platform with its own history of major vulnerabilities. The program boasts its presence on over three billion devices in big, giant letters right in the installer window.
But what you may have missed during Java installation, in slightly smaller letters, is the prompt to include the Ask Toolbar with your installation.
If you're a normal person who runs an installer and just clicks "Next" through each prompt, you would totally miss the part where you agree to install this garbage. You can find this same kind of behavior in programs like Skype, which installs the Skype Click-To-Call toolbar, as well as several Microsoft products that will assume you want a Bing toolbar on your computer for some fucking reason.
You may have noticed a common theme with these examples: The user never sets out to download a toolbar ... ever. It's almost as if nobody wants them on their computers. So why in Bill Gates' asshole do they exist? Why does a program like Java, used on more devices than Android, iOS, and Windows combined, feel the need to slip in a useless toolbar under your nose? The answer is probably related to money, and I would really love to confirm that for you, but a Java update just changed my fucking search engine to Ask, and now all the results are fucking sponsored ads.
So I fucking can't.
If you grew up in a world where high-speed internet was the norm, you cannot begin to fathom the horror that was dial-up internet. You would generally log online, make yourself a cup of coffee, read through an entire newspaper, and then maybe your internet would be connected. And this is if the dial-up number wasn't busy at the time. This was in the dark ages, when instead of Google Fiber, FioS, and Xfinity internet, we had Erol's, Prodigy, and AOL. Actually, believe it or not, there was a time when the word "internet" was pretty much synonymous with the words "America Online."
And these free trial CDs were synonymous with playing Tron in the Blockbuster parking lot.
Back in the day, if you weren't on AOL, you just weren't keeping up with all the rad fuckin' kids. Don't believe me? Just watch these rad fuckin' kids.
As cool as AOL was, 1996 was a long time ago, and the internet has come a long way since then. So you can understand my surprise when I learned that 2.3 million people are still relying on AOL's dial-up for all their internet. Somehow, AOL -- the company that released a ridiculous amount of user data, the company that made it notoriously difficult to cancel services, the company that we all thought was dead and rotting in a pile of its own labored start-up beeps -- is still providing terrible internet to 3 percent of the population. That's some Mad Max-level insanity.
Complete and utter bonks.
Aside from being a terrible way to connect to the internet, dial-up companies like AOL are hampering progress for the rest of the country. Pretty much the only reason anyone is still stuck with dial-up is that the big providers can't be bothered to extend their service to rural areas. And why should they, when just about everyone has a phone line to plug into? It also doesn't help that companies are offering dial-up for next to nothing, making it seem like you're coming out on top in the deal, when that simply isn't the case. After ragging on them this whole time, I would really like to provide some words of comfort to our AOL readers, but I think the Cracked logo at the top of the page might still be loading.
They're all probably accessing Cracked the old-fashioned way, anyway.
Bundled Vendor Bloatware Bullshit
Buying a new computer can be a stressful endeavor. You want something fast and easy to use from a company that can be trusted to field all your porn, and even your non-porn-related computing needs. These days, you can purchase a Dell, Lenovo, or HP computer at pretty much any store that has an electronics section, and they're considered to be some of the highest-rated brands.
Meanwhile, Gateway is only sold in Circuit City and RadioShack.
Buying a top-rated brand of computer will guarantee a machine that does what you need and fast! That is, once you remove all the pre-installed garbage. You know the stuff I'm talking about.
What you're looking at is about 15 apps that come pre-loaded on a brand-new machine. A machine that you pay upwards of $300 for, only to have HP fuck your computer's memory up and down the street. Which is exactly what those programs are doing. At least half of those programs are triggered to run when your computer boots up, and usually chug along in the background without you realizing it. If you've ever wondered why your system is running slowly even when you don't have a lot of programs opened, you can blame nonsense like this. But it's not just HP. They all do it! New Lenovo PCs are just lousy with this junk.
Meanwhile, ASUS must stand for "Always Slowing Users' Systems," because they're clogging your shiny new system with, among other things, a screensaver -- something no one has used since monitors came in giant 20-pound cube form.
"ASUS FancyStart" had better involve a top hat and monocle.
You can look up every one of those programs and find that your computer doesn't need any of them to function. And sure, you can uninstall all of them, but you have to do it one by one, with many of them asking you to reboot afterwards. That's time that could be spent setting up programs you actually need, trolling people on Facebook, or blowing out the whole Windows installation for something that doesn't drown your system in bloatware.
Fuck you, ASUS, and the FancyStart you rode in on!
Pre-Loaded Internet Security
While we're on the subject of "bullshit programs you'll want to uninstall directly after pressing the power button on your computer for the first time," I should probably bring up internet security. In and of itself, internet security is important, because basically everything that will ever go wrong with your computer is caused by the internet.
Here there be monsters.
If your first order of business on a new computer doesn't involve going on an uninstall spree, you will surely learn to despise pre-loaded internet security programs real fast. If you've purchased a new PC between 2006 and now, and I sincerely hope you have, it probably came with some kind of pre-installed antivirus program that immediately alerts you to its existence.
That's an alert from Norton Internet Security, a program that comes pre-installed on tons of computers. This alert is simply making sure that you meant to run Skype, a program where the biggest risk involved is the potential to see a friend's dick on camera. Now imagine that same prompt appearing over and over again for any program that requires internet access. That's a short list of just about every program even worth running nowadays, and you get to approve them all.
The most common examples you'll see for this kind of program are Norton and McAfee, two of the largest antivirus corporations around today. They'll both try to lure you in with a 30- or 60-day free trial, after which you'll no longer get the security alerts every five seconds. Instead, you'll get a new pop-up telling you that your free trial is over and you need to pay the fuck up.
Let's ignore that there are free alternatives out there which do the same thing Norton and McAfee do. While we're at it, we can also ignore McAfee recently gaining itself the lowest score in regards to actual computer protection. You'd have better luck cleaning out your computer by pouring a bucket of water on it. We can even ignore how John McAfee, the guy who created the McAfee AntiVirus software, doesn't particularly care for the software himself.
The end result will always be the same: The user will uninstall the program, and something less annoying will take over as your PC's protector. It seems to this casual observer that we can save a lot of undue stress by simply leaving this shit off of our computers in the first place, sending it to whatever hell awaits unwanted software like this.
Windows Media Player / Apple QuickTime
Back in the late '90s, if you wanted the best way to manage your music, videos, and playlists, you didn't need to look much farther than Windows Media Player. Not only did it do all of the above, but it was included with your copy of Windows, and it had some mildly cool visualizations.
"I can see the music, man."
Sweet, billowing visualizations aside, WMP was the perfect media application for its time. Unfortunately, that era ended about the same time internet pirating became a thing and peer-to-peer networking could give you entire bootleg movies with just a mouse click. Back in the day, there were like four types of video files, and Media Player could play them all. But as more and more people started trading files over the net, the need for faster and better file types became necessary. Windows, as it stood, couldn't keep up with it. So instead of adapting the player itself, they instructed users to download something called codecs, a third-party add-on which is required to play most video files. While these codecs would allow you to watch what you wanted, it wasn't without its own caveat.
That big yellow warning says that you could be putting your computer at risk for the opportunity to play the latest and greatest files, which is lame as hell. And before you think I'm just picking on Microsoft, Apple's QuickTime media player deserves some flack here, too. It was recently revealed that QuickTime, which comes bundled with that copy of iTunes you installed, is chock-full of vulnerabilities for Windows. So much so that Apple actually recommends you uninstall it for Windows immediately, or risk letting hackers in through the back door.
Right in the Quick-hole.
While all this sounds grim for the classic media players we grew up with, we're luckily at a point in humanity where having a media player installed is no longer a top priority. Basically everything you could ever want to watch is streaming somewhere on the web. And if you need something to play your files on your machine, there are way better options out there that won't turn your computer into a swamp of nonsense. Look, nobody is saying that using Windows Media Player makes you a bad person, but according to the National Geographic channel, it was the video player of choice for the Nazis. You're not a Nazi, are you?
I'm sure everyone reading this has a similar morning routine. You wake up, open your internet browser, and navigate yourself to Homestar Runner or Newgrounds to check out the latest games and flash cartoons. Wait, on second thought, you probably don't do any of that, because it isn't 2003, and Flash is no longer a practical thing to have installed on your computer.
The only game I play with Flash anymore is "How Fast Can I Uninstall Flash?"
Nobody laments the downfall of the Flash Player more than I do. Before writing for the internet, I could be found making Flash animations all over the web, hoping that someone at Walt Disney was scouring the internet for a mediocre animator with folders and folders full of unfinished cartoons and games. But that was several years ago, when Flash could be found everywhere. If you didn't have it installed on your computer, you couldn't load most sites' navigation menus, any interactive content on the page, or hell, even YouTube videos up until around 2015, when they made the switch to the more reliable HTML5 viewer. You may not have noticed a difference when the change was made, but your computer sure as hell did. Tests have shown that pages actively running the Flash player have the potential to slow your computer down up to 80 fucking percent. And a slow machine is just the best-case scenario. If you browse the Adobe support forums, you'll find a cavalcade of users posting about how Flash outright crashes their computer.
Some say RichPasco is still waiting for his question to be answered.
Your favorite browsers have attempted to stick with Flash as long as they could, but eventually it became necessary to just jump ship and start phasing Flash out as a whole. This is especially prudent after several security holes were found in the software that allowed hackers to infect you with malware right through the player. Those same hackers were also able exploit how Flash integrates with your computer in order to access your webcam and spy on you, a delightfully named exploit called "camjacking."
Some jokes just write themselves.
Despite everything wrong with Flash, you can still find it being used on websites like Spotify and HBO Go, sites which see massive amounts of traffic every day. If that's a sign of the times, it doesn't actually seem like Flash is going away soon. Even though it should really just be taken out back and shot like a beloved rabid family dog that's ready to infect you with its cyber-rabies.
Erik Germ has a dumb Twitter where he writes dumb jokes.
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