Bloat, bloat on

Computer security packages — formerly known as “antivirus software” — almost invariably evolve in the same direction: fatter, slower, more intrusive. I went through seven years of Norton on the notebook, and each new incarnation was more blubbery. Worse, Symantec seemed to be charging by the perceived pound. Out it went, replaced by Eset, which behaves itself better.

Eset will be going on my desktop when license-renewal comes around, near the end of the year. Having banished CA’s product for a variety of offenses, I temporarily swapped in a freebie: Avira’s, which cost nothing more than the indignity of a single pop-up ad at each update. It was a very efficient program — their “Luke Filewalker” routine scanned 800,000 files on this box in three hours — and otherwise kept out of the way.

Then came their newest version, which wanted to install a toolbar. I went into Cee Lo Green mode and propelled it off the premises. This leaves a few months to fill, and I have filled them with, of all things, a Microsoft product.

MS Security Essentials had, I reasoned, one advantage: it might keep up with the Redmond Patch-of-the-Week Club. (This is Eset’s one small failing: if it loads up and deems you to be missing the latest and greatest Microsoft hole-filler, it whines at you.) Haven’t been able to check that yet. Its scanner, however, is thorough, if not especially speedy, and in addition to the usually-expected dubious Java exploits, it found two gag programs from the 1980s, buried in an old self-extracting Zip file, that nobody else’s scanner had so much as acknowledged.

I have also installed this on my work box, thereby saving the department the cost of one AV license. My generosity clearly knows no bounds.

(Title from Cheech y Chong.)


  1. McGehee »

    4 July 2011 · 7:58 am

    Coincidentally, I had to fix an issue with MSSE last night that was caused by a third-party update utility I’d installed to help stay on top of these kinds of updates (it was also supposed to keep my Flash and other frequently patched PITA ones and zeroes up to date). Running it upon return home after a longish absence, it broke MSSE so that it couldn’t be repaired by regular means. I needed to download the software and do a complete reinstall.

    Microsoft doesn’t actually make it easy to find download links to its free software anymore, and other free software sources (like don’t seem to realize some 32-bit applications won’t even install on a 64-bit system, don’t list the 64-bit versions, and therefore send some of us 64-bit types running in circles trying to find what we need back at the “Download link? What download link?” Microsoft site.

  2. Marcel »

    4 July 2011 · 8:33 am

    As an addition to their Security Essentials, Microsoft’s Stand-alone System Sweeper sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately it gives an error and won’t run on my machine.

  3. fillyjonk »

    4 July 2011 · 8:36 am

    Doesn’t EVERY software package evolve in the direction of increased bloat and more bells-and-whistles at the expense of ease-of-use? At least, that’s been my experience, especially with data-analysis packages.

  4. Marcel »

    4 July 2011 · 8:40 am

    They used to say all programs evolved until they could read email. Now they all seem to move toward adding some kind of social networking.

  5. Bill Peschel »

    4 July 2011 · 12:17 pm

    I had paid money to use one of those software packages (now eradicated from memory, both my own and my computer’s) and good riddance. The settings were impossible to figure out.

    MSE seems to work just fine, and I back it up with Spybot for weekly checks.

  6. Patvann »

    4 July 2011 · 4:28 pm

    I use the free version of AVG on my home network of 6 computers, and it’s never failed me. Considering I have teenagers, I think that’s pretty impressive. It won’t slow your system down, and all updates and scans can be set to run at your convenience.

  7. Jeffro »

    4 July 2011 · 5:45 pm

    Put me in the AVG camp as well. Seven or eight years or so? I’ve lost track. Norton did me in some years ago when its removal screwed up the stack so bad I couldn’t get online until I reinstalled it and then deactivated it so it bugged me all the time. That lasted until I had time to reformat. I thought that sort of software behavior was a tad much, and have advised against their software since.

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