Be VERY careful of FREE software

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Be VERY careful of FREE software
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Mindblower
Montreal, Canada
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September 29, 2009 - 1:53 pm
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This is something WE all need to bring from the back of the mind - to right in front of our eyes. It's no coincidence that the famous words "if it's too good to be true ....." can get the hair on your back to tingle.

Yes there are plenty of good FREE programs out there - the problem is to identify those that have a hidden agenda.

I always launch any new program OFFLINE. If a program wants to call home (mother) by starting my default browser, I get immediately suspicious. Why? Checking for an update? Why not let me know first? All sorts of questions spring up.

Recently I was looking around for a shredder - a better way to remove/override sensitive deleted information. If not for trying out a recovery program, I did not know there were so many files which could be easily restored. Even after doing several defrags, some files were still there.

What made or could of made things worse, is that the programs I wanted to use to clear (shred) files, were in fact potential back stabbing programs. I'm just passing along my 2 cents worth, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Jim Hillier
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September 29, 2009 - 5:34 pm
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Hey MB - Good post and good advice!!

One should always thoroughly check out any freebie prior to download and installation. It's not too difficult to; check the software's validity and reputation via reputable freeware/download sites, reviews, user comments, etc. Plus check the developer's reputation via site advisory services. It's something I do with each and every freeware product mentioned in this section, if there is even a hint of anything amiss it does not get posted.....simple as that!!

cheers mate....JIM

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OldElmerFudd
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January 19, 2010 - 7:54 pm
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Good points, guys; scary topic header, MB!

There are a lot of reasons for phoning home; updating is among the best. If your third-party firewall doesn't notify you of outbound service requests, then you need another firewall.
There can be other reasons for this behavior. If the software is a commercial program offered as a promotion, it will often try to verify the offer is still valid. This is typical of Giveaway of the Day promotions, where the executable is only available in the 24-hour wrapper.

As users, we still have the final responsibility for the software we install. All too many folks just click next, next, OK without ever reading the EULA or unchecking those boxes that install a toolbar or change your home page.

Best

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Mindblower
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January 20, 2010 - 10:26 am
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Are you a company rep OldElmerFudd?

That's one of the big problems with something being labeled as FREE. There is always a catch, and the catch in good programs is that the author wants to establish him/her self (or truly wants to make a difference).

I find a problem with "[i:12wthm4h]If your third-party firewall doesn't notify you of outbound service requests, then you need another firewall." [/i:12wthm4h] Very often by granting permission for the program to run, you grant it permission to run, and allow for things like phone home, unless you are very strict with all your permissions (it's a 50-50 standoff). Only best way to check (IMHO) is to run the software offline and see if it wants to connect. I remove such programs - no chances are given.

Oh yes, one needs to verify all pre-checked boxes. Anything FREE comes with some strings (tool bar, search engine, home page, auto update check on startup, run automatically with Windows, add these programs, and the list is endless).

Might add that some software you buy contains hidden features, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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OldElmerFudd
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January 21, 2010 - 1:16 am
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I brought up the firewall issue only because some - and the native XP firewall comes immediately to mind - are not designed to notify a user of outbound requests. I use Online Armor Pro on my machines because it make [b:1fb0gptk]me[/b:1fb0gptk] decide. I understand your reasons for installing off-line; have you considered a virtual environment for testing? You wouldn't even have to uninstall.
My favorites (freeware) are Returnil http://www.returnilvirtualsyst.....-home-free VitualBox http://www.virtualbox.org/ and Sandboxie Pro (commercial) http://www.sandboxie.com/

Oh, and no, I'm not a rep, although I've been a Capitalist Tool and a Corporate Lackey in my time.

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Mindblower
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January 21, 2010 - 10:02 am
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Good point OldElmerFudd. I use dedicated computers, so my testing (which includes d/l of programs I just want to try out) do there. Limit the risk, spread, etc. Most upgrades leave me with enough parts to have a spare kicking around. Like my computer screening telephone caller id, which works unattended ... Having the space, or figuring out how to use limited space can truly add to ones ego.

My biggest problem sometimes is not wanting to become a pack rat with very old parts, but one never knows, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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