Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Computer Repair #20

[This post is part of an ongoing series of posts in December cataloging how much time I spend repairing the computers here in the Brain household.]

I have been getting this dialog once a day or so during the month of December:

PC-cillin is a virus checker made by Trend Micro, and it is time to investigate the problem.

Let's step back for a moment and look at the big picture. I have purchased an operating system from Microsoft. Microsoft should provide its customers with an operating system that is immune to viruses. Viruses have been a known threat since the 1980s, so it is not like this is a new thing. The operating system should make viral attacks impossible.

Given that Microsoft does not provide a secure operating system, Microsoft should provide a free application that protects its operating system against attack. There are virus checkers like PC-cillin on the market. Traditionally Microsoft competes with existing applications. For example, Microsoft distributes:Why Microsoft has not done the same with virus checkers and put Trend Micro, Symantec, etc. out of business is a mystery.

Microsoft provides neither a secure OS nor the software needed to protect it, so we all are vulnerable to viruses and have to pay to protect ourselves against them. We also have to update our virus checkers daily, run them constantly and deal with the problems they create when trying to install software, etc. The national cost of all of this software, the updates and the viral attacks themselves is astronomical.

So... I pull up the help file for PC-cillin to see what this error message means. The word "Server" is not found in the help file's index. Searching for "server timed out" and various other patterns yields nothing. The help file is not going to be any help in this case.

I make my way next to the Trend Micro Web site, find the Support section, search around and come to this entry:Since this is the case, why didn't the original error dialog say, "It is time to upgrade your copy of PC-cillin. Click here."?

I have already purchased the product for $50, but the "purchase" only lasted a year, so it is time to purchase again. The upgrade is $25. According to the site, here's what I have to do after finding my existing serial number and paying for the upgrade on the Trend Micro Web site:Question #1 -- Is it now clear why a majority of "normal users" don't run virus checking software? This is nuts.

Question #2 -- Wouldn't it be nice if, instead of all of this, I could simply push one button and the software would take care of everything? For example, to pay for this I am going to have to enter all of my personal information. Why can't the Web site register me at the same time? Why can't it uninstall the existing version? Why can't it apply the serial number? This too is nuts.

I fill out the order form, which includes name, address, phone number, email, credit card number and a password. I am charged $25. I am given a button to push to download the file, and I choose to save the 31.5 megabyte file on my hard disk (for a normal user, how do you decide whether to "save" or "open" the download file?). Once the file is downloaded, there are no further instructions. Without instructions, it is unclear what a "normal user" would do at this point. I choose to double-click on the EXE file that just downloaded.

After about a minute of extracting files, I get this dialog:

Wouldn't it be nice, for normal users, if it suggested what to do now? It truly is non-obvious, because there is no big button you can press that says, "Stop running PC-cillin" -- it's one of those programs that is running all the time. Looking in the help file reveals instructions on how to uninstall PC-cillin, so I follow the instructions. I have already closed email, browser windows and all the other random applications I can find in preparation for the install. I get this dialog:

I've also got GigaPocket running in the background recording an evening TV show for Leigh, and I don't want to disrupt that. So I will now stop and wait 45 minutes for the TV show to complete...

Now I'm back. [Let me say the following to get it off my chest -- This Is Nuts. All I want to do is get my virus checker to work. This simple task has now become a multi-hour process. All because Microsoft refuses to build us a virus-proof OS. At the same time, Microsoft is sitting on something like $50 billion in corporate cash reserves. With $50 billion, Microsoft could hire 100,000 American programmers (Microsoft only has 50,000 total employees currently) and pay them an average of $100,000 per year for five years to write several new operating systems completely from scratch. But Microsoft chooses not to do that.]

I close the remaining applications and let PC-cillin uninstall itself. Then I reboot. For the next 20 minutes I am naked to the viral hordes...

Once the machine reboots, I try to install the software again. There is the obligatory EULA to agree to:One of the next things to happen is this dialog:

If I am a "normal user", what am I to make of this? I say, "Yes". The dialog appears again. I say "Yes" and it appears again. After the 10th time I say, "Yes to all". About 10 minutes later the software is installed and apparently running. About one minute later this dialog pops up:

I say "Yes". Then I get this dialog:

I say "Yes" to reboot again... Upon returning I get this dialog:

So I go to the registration page:

I fill in the information. I preview my information. I've got to read the legal notice and privacy statement before pressing the submit button. The legal notice looks like this:The privacy notice looks like this:I press the submit button, and after several minutes of waiting get this:

Now what? I decide to abandon it, and I imagine that the software will bitch at me if I need to register again.

At this point the software is installed. I start poking around. The user interface is completely different in this new version. All my settings from the previous version have been lost, so I reset them as best I can remember.

Total time for this repair (ignoring the time lost waiting for Gigapocket to finish recording the TV show): about 1 hour.

Let me reiterate five comments:
  1. First and foremost, Microsoft should be delivering software that is immune to viruses. Given that that is not the case...
  2. Microsoft should be giving us a virus checker as a free component of the OS. That is not the case either, so...
  3. This is nuts. It just should not be this hard or involved to install a virus checking application (especially an upgrade). I should be able to click one button to install.
  4. For "normal users", this process borders on impossible. Look at how long this post is.
  5. Thus, it is no wonder that so many machines do not have virus protection.
If virus protection is vital to Homeland Security and Business integrity, someone needs to find a better solution to the problem.

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