So I was round at a friend’s last night “fixing” her laptop. She had just signed up for broadband using BT Broadband with Yahoo! and got sent a wireless router, some instructions and a CD. She dutifully followed all the instructions and everything seemed fine. For about 5 minutes. Her net connection kept hanging, software kept crashing and it was completely unusable. In steps me to figure out what’s going on.
I first changed the default channel on the router to stop it interfering with her neighbour’s wireless network (which I’ll be was on the same default channel). I then confirmed that my laptop could quite happily surf the net using her wireless setup so with a deduction as insightful as any Sherlock Holmes could have made, I reckoned it was her laptop that was to blame. Within two minutes of digging into what was installed I was shocked – there was so much junk on there! And it’s a new laptop.
If you have a wireless router and Windows XP SP2 installed, you don’t need any other software to surf the net – it’ll just work out of the box. So I was dismayed to find that the BT Yahoo! CD had installed all manner of connection software, its own browser (which looked in every way worse than any browser I’ve seen before) and a long list of other pieces of software that seemed to me designed to slow down your computer. She’d also installed McAfee virus scanner which in its default state installs another whole bunch of useless stuff including a personal security app that means as well as logging into Windows you have to log into that to connect to the internet. Why? All it did was get in the way.
So an hour after I started I had uninstalled virtually everything that was on there – from AOL to about 12 BT Yahoo! applications to most of McAfee. I had to get into the registry and take out a bunch of start-up tasks that weren’t removed by their uninstallers (more second-rate developers at work I guess). Once this was all done the computer ran a hell of a lot faster and happily connected to the internet and stayed connected. Oh, and removing the MSN toolbar stopped Internet Explorer from crashing too. I instructed her to never install any software again and she’d be fine. Job done!
It’s disappointing to see that the end result of BT and Yahoo! getting together to offer a broadband package (with wireless networking) – and presumably the real reason they’re doing it – is to install a bunch of useless adware on the customers machine. Sure, it constantly reminds them of the BT and Yahoo! – there are shortcuts on the desktop, popups, items in the system tray and God knows where else to get the branding across – but it adversely affects the user experience and just causes frustration. I wonder how many people have just accepted the lousy performance and flaky connection and assumed there’s nothing they can do about it?
And it’s also interesting to see McAfee trying to offer a competitive advantage in the form of a bunch of applications to keep you “safe” while on the net. I question the effectiveness and need to have any of them to be honest. You can have all the supposedly safe software in the world installed but there’s nothing to stop you from downloading a piece of software that trashes your computer and running it. You’re in control after all. So all it does really is slow down your computer and further damage the user experience.
Safety is all about perception. Just because you feel safe doesn’t mean you actually are. And in sales and marketing perception is everything.