Stop installing unnecessary software on my PCs

What is it about software companies that they think they can install a load of rubbish on my PCs? This morning, Java was bugging me that it wanted to install an update. That’s fair enough but, as it installed, it asked me if I wanted to install OpenOffice too (I don’t) – I wouldn’t mind this so much if it wasn’t that the default state for the check box was selected.

Apple Software Update pestering for installation of Safari on WindowsNo sooner had Java finished updating itself then the Apple Updater popped up and said “hey, we’d like you to update QuickTime. We can’t be bothered to give you just a patch, so please download 29MB of our bloatware” (I said no because I was using a mobile connection), “and while you’re at it why not install our web browser that seems to have more than its fair share of security issues… that will be another 23MB” (of course, I am paraphrasing here – but you can see the dialog box… complete with checkbox selected by default. Can you imagine the uproar there would be if the Microsoft Office for Mac Updater tried to install another Microsoft product on people’s computers?

It’s not just the update programs either. I seem to recall that one time when I installed Adobe Reader it wanted to put some toolbar in my browser (no thanks). And, whilst they criticise (Windows) PC makers for shipping demo software on new PCs (in the “Stuffed” Get a Mac ad), Apple ships demo software on new Macs (albeit its a demonstration version of Microsoft Office).

Please! Stop installing this crapware. I want a tidy, secure system and the way to do that is to minimise unnecessary installs. Of course, as the software companies all know, 90% of PC users will click any old dialog box and that’s why their PCs run so slowly and fall over so often.

Installing OpenOffice.org on Fedora Core 5

Fedora logo OpenOffice logo

Installing OpenOffice.org is a fairly straightforward operation but it may involve some research for Linux newbies (I still count myself to be one) – this is what worked for me on Fedora Core 5 (after downloading the latest version of OpenOffice.org and unpacking the contents of the GZipped archive):

su –
cd RPMs
rpm -ivh *.rpm

cd desktop-integration/
rpm -ivh openoffice.org-redhat-menus-2.0.3-2.noarch.rpm

After logging out and in again (or by starting a new GUI instance from another console session using startx — :1), the icons should appear on the GNOME Applications menu (in the Office group). Note the use of the Red Hat desktop integration, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, seems to be fine on Fedora too.

The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about Microsoft Office 2007, including the new OpenXML file format. In a recent Windows IT Pro magazine network WinInfo Daily Update, Paul Thurrott reported that the competing OpenDocument Foundation has announced a plug-in for Microsoft Office that will let users open and save documents natively in the open-source OpenDocument format (ODF), which has recently been standardised and is supported by IBM and Sun Microsystems. The plug-in, which has been in development for about a year, makes OpenDocument documents seem as if they’re native to Office. Add Adobe’s portable document format (PDF) and Microsoft’s XML paper specification (XPS – formerly codenamed Metro) into the mix and we have plenty of scope for document confusion.

Both OpenXML and ODF are open standards that are freely licensed but it remains to see whether either will become dominant. I have a feeling that we’ll have competing XML-based document standards to grapple with for many years to come.

The return of WordPerfect?

Back in my student days I used MS-DOS 5.0 and WordPerfect 5.1. It worked really well. Then I moved to Windows 3.1 and Word for Windows 2.0 (Windows versions of WordPerfect just never made the grade). Obviously I was not alone because over the intervening 12 or so years WordPerfect’s fortunes have not been good until recently when the product’s current owners, Corel, persuaded OEMs to ship WordPerfect products as low-cost alternative to Microsoft Works and Office on new PCs.

Now the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is reported to have adopted WordPerfect Office 12 for its 50,000 users. The WinInfo Update reports that Corel has 20 million user worldwide, marketing WordPerfect for “its unique functionality, broad capabilities, and low price”.

According to Corel, “WordPerfect Office 12 is a full-featured office productivity suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and address book applications”. Because it is compatible with popular file formats, including Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF, WordPerfect Office 12 users can interoperate with users of other applications and, unlike open-source office productivity alternatives such as OpenOffice.org, Corel provides support for WordPerfect.

But the killer (from a licensing perspective) is that Corel gives WordPerfect corporate licensees home and laptop privileges so they can install the same copy of the product at home and on a laptop in addition to a desktop computer.

Microsoft Office is still a highly profitable product for Microsoft and looks unlikely to be usurped from its top spot but with new releases of Windows running late giving Linux the opportunity to build its market share, Firefox rising in popularity (IE’s share now reported to be down to 87%), and new threats in the office productivity space, Microsoft needs to work hard to remain competitive and protect its margins. Competition is back, which is no bad thing, but there could be interesting times ahead.