18 November 2017

Preliminary One-Finger Salutes

In the pre-holiday-season rush for "new" — especially in the world of computing — a few comments on "new" stuff that isn't working. And not-so-new stuff that isn't working.

  • Microsoft, there's no reason whatsoever to demand copying of the desktop.ini file to data-only media, whether they are thumb drives or archival disks. And it's not even necessary for Windows machines… which are perfectly capable of reading pure data. Knock it off; it just takes up space and actually inhibits use on non-Windows devices and noncomputers. Not to mention that it's a privacy nightmare.
  • Any software vendor that demands installation of a separate, non-operating-system "update protocol" — and especially if it's impossible to update the software unless one allows that protocol to run at startup and embed itself in the operating system! — should be forced to spend a week in the middle of Alaska on a laptop with limited access to power and reasonable internet access. No, Oracle/Adobe/Google, your desire to push dubious "updates" (and ads and "freebies" like McAfee's crapware) to me on your schedule — notwithstanding anything time-, power-, and resource-critical that I might be doing — is not sufficient justification.
  • Firefox 57 is a complete disaster from an interface perspective. Whatever its functional improvements, its contempt for interface customization — precisely what attracted many of us to Firefox in the first place — and, more particularly, the moderately visually impaired, in favor of antisocial media and security-impairing bullshit, is keeping me in Version 56. In particular:

    • Inability to move the menu, the search bar, and the address bar (which should always, always be separate from the search function, unless you really do want people to end up at hijacked domains and encourage typosquatting) to a single top line, thereby taking away 10% of the vertical real estate
    • Inability, in the basic program, to choose what is "on top" in the window… and an almost purposeful breaking of every extension that allows that
    • Adoption of touchscreen menu memes as the default, and forcing them on those of us who do not have (and refuse to adopt!) touchscreens

    Thus, I haven't really tried Firefox 57, since the initial installation broke my ability to actually use it. And I won't be doing so for at least several weeks, until themes and systems get updated so I can continue to work in it. No guarantees even then. (And Chrome is not an option, since that there is literally no way to keep Google — an organization from which I am "across the v." — from tracking and storing certain information, nor to keep offensive and security-impairing ad-related material off my computer. Plus it's a bloody resource hog.)

  • If I explicitly turn off automatic loading of a process or dll or file, the next update shouldn't automatically turn that back on. Especially when that process or dll works just fine when it is loaded only upon program start instead of upon initial booting. That means you, Microsoft, with your every-time-there's-a-security-update-to-Office attempts to make OneNote and Outlook (which, I should add, are disabled on my machine) run their crap at startup. And the same to a whole bunch of other vendors, like any update to any Adobe product automatically causing its (nonworking, security-evading) updaters to run automatically at boot and reset options to "automatically check for and install all updates."
  • The less said about proprietary data formats and forced obsolescence, the better. I'm looking at Cupertino (ok, admittedly with my welder's faceplate in place) and forced updates to its software for accessing data already in the possession of its customers. I know people with four-year-old versions of That Software who can't do necessary security-based updates for this reason alone; the security update is bound into a commercial-model update. I'm also carefully avoiding any invented word beginning with the ninth letter of the English alphabet and improperly claimed as a trademark in Cupertino in startling bits of overreaching and arrogance, especially relating to entertainment material without regard to more-senior users of the very marks in question.

    And it's not just Cupertino. One reason that my gaming has fallen off over the years is the adoption of a certain "default" to vapors from boiling water as required to make games work or even install at all, presuming that I necessarily want to play in an insecure mode with others online, have high-end WiFi all the time, and will tolerate mandatory installation (and constant operation) of a nasty old coal-fired boiler on my diesel-electric submarine. (Hey, my hardware isn't a super-up-to-date nuclear attack sub, either.) And everything I said about proprietary update systems goes triple (expansion) here, too.

The underlying problem isn't with basic concepts and basic security. "Security update" does not mean "marketing opportunity," assholes… especially when that specific "marketing opportunity" has previously been explicitly declined. Not everyone is sitting in a Silicon Valley office with a dedicated T3 line; some of us are sitting in airports and cheap hotel rooms desperately trying to access a court's docket or a tax-filing website or healthcare information on a hard deadline, and we really don't need anyone telling us to do something else Right Now (and reboot/restart a program afterward, thereby losing all of our current work). Just because there's no real damage to you assholes if your Faceplant status update is delayed a couple of minutes doesn't mean you can assume there will be no real damage to us for anything else.

And stop calling it "advertising" when it does anything more than actually advertise. If you're doing bloody traffic analysis (aka "data analytics"), it's not "advertising": It's data collection, usually without regard to privacy or security (or even bloody disclosure). Calling something "collateral damage" does not remove it from the realm of "war crimes," any more than saying "I was raised in the sixties" means one's conduct is immune from being treated as "sexual harassment."