The big boom in PC sales, you'll remember, came when people who had absolutely no clue about computers decided "Hey, we oughta get one of these." To this day, newbies and novices and the occasional nitwit dominate the PC market, and while smartass elitists like me grumble about the situation, the fact is, were it not for dimbulbs with Dells and goofballs with Gateways and the like, I'd be paying probably twice as much, maybe three times as much, for my own hardware; you have to move a lot of units to realize those economies of scale.

The downside, of course, is that keeping those Wintel boxes running at their best requires two particular skills:

  1. Knowing what's supposed to be running at any given moment;
  2. Knowing what's not supposed to be running.

Microsoft's mantra — ease of use, no matter how difficult it is — has led to a number of, um, features which can be useful, but which can also be exploited by evil-doers. One of the exploits I've seen lately attempts to mimic a Windows XP function, and looks like this:
Bogus update
To the newbie, this looks exactly like the notice XP displays when the automatic-update function has gone out and retrieved new Windows bits, and he will duly click on the link, whereupon he will be sent God knows where by the advertising banner. Or he will attempt to use what appears to be the Close button, whereupon he will be sent God knows where by the advertising banner. The fact that this graphic is displayed on a Web page, rather than on the desktop adjacent to the taskbar where Windows puts its update notices, ought to be a dead giveaway. Not a chance.

There are literally dozens of these ads floating around the Web masquerading as error messages, as instant messages, as "performance measurement" tools, and while I have to admire the ingenuity that goes into their construction, I continue to believe that a product or service that requires deception to sell is not worth your money or mine. Especially mine.

The Vent

#328
8 February 2003

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 Copyright © 2003 by Charles G. Hill