Spyware vs. anti-spyware and more

Readers sound off on spyware, Blizzard Entertainment and Martha Stewart's ass.


Salon Staff
May 3, 2002 10:28PM (UTC)

Read "Spyware vs. Anti-spyware by Damien Cave.

I believe your article about "spyware", "anti-spyware" and "anti-anti-spyware" does not go nearly far enough in exposing an underground community like the developers of Ad-Aware.

While I agree -- mostly -- that introducing applications that clearly expose personal information to others is a bad idea, I do not believe there is a solution for a bunch of people to decide "this is a bad business model, let's destroy it."

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We have on one hand a for-profit organization that is looking for ways to stay afloat. Maybe they have chosen a bad way initially and need some education. However, they are generally an organization with public ties and employees, and are generally a functioning part of the economy.

On the other hand we have a bunch of "volunteers" and students that feel it is their right to quash any business they disagree with. These people are specifically not "part of the economy" -- they are only interested in destruction.

I would equate this roughly to the antiabortion folks that burn down clinics because they disagree with what goes on inside. Or, burning down an adult bookstore because you do not like their product.

In the physical world we have laws to protect businesses from this sort of action -- and at the same time enforce some level of oversight on businesses to educate them on reasonable business models.

What we have with Lavasoft is simply an attack model and anyone that does not think like they do is out of luck. They are not an organization that bears any responsibility for their actions and their actions do indeed harm others.

I am the owner of a software business and have had run-ins with false complaints of "spyware" that were generated by them. We found them to be extremely unresponsive to e-mail and no way to contact them other than e-mail. Their position is extremely militant and it is extremely difficult to justify the statement that they are performing any sort of "community service."

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Other than the type of community service burning down an adult bookstore provides.

-- Paul Crowley

Before I found Ad-Aware, I had a problem.

My computer kept producing these strange error messages claiming that "Explorer.exe" had crashed. Except that MS Explorer was still plugging along the way it always had. Still, these messages worried me.

I went looking for a cause, and discovered that this "Explorer.exe" wasn't actually Windows ... it was a spyware program trying to prevent people from ctrl-alt-deleting it off by calling it something the user wouldn't recognize.

You know what? If you want to serve ads to me, that's fine. If you want to track me while using your program, I'm even OK with that, though I object to tracking my use of other programs. But I will not tolerate this being done without an obvious disclaimer -- and not in the fine print of the EULA [license agreement]. I will not tolerate this being done if it destabilizes my computer. And I will not tolerate it being done if I have no simple way to remove the program.

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Ad-Aware solved my problem. If software companies go under because they can't make money this way, then they need to find new ways to make money. Ad-Aware is not at fault for their problems.

-- Susan Tussing

I work as a PC technician and recently I have been seeing computers that are unusable because of the spyware that was running on them. All of the owners of these machines were unaware that these programs were there. Technically, when several of these applications are running together they can tie up resources to the point where the computer becomes unresponsive and a cold boot is the only remedy. I expect it's because of poor programming practices, resulting in runaway processes or memory leaks. Ad-Aware is a godsend in identifying and removing all the garbage and getting a machine running again. The last time I ran Ad-Aware on a slow computer it found 171 components. If the companies that rely on spyware/adware for revenue don't want people to uninstall the adware, they should make their products unusable without it and inform users up front what they are doing, i.e. a prominent warning at the beginning of the installation process, not some tag line at the end of a lengthy license agreement.

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-- Jim Humphrey

Without pimping an ad for some of the more popular personal firewall products out there, it is my belief that protecting personal privacy on the Internet should be important enough to Web surfers that they should make the minimal investment and get on with life.

I've found a great product from an established company that lets me control exactly what content can be placed on my system, and subsequently distributed to other computers. Oh, and it kills annoying banner ads too.

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This certainly doesn't prevent spies from catching information when I order from a "bugged" online retailer, but I also don't order "sensitive" items online. Web surfers take heed, use your head!

-- M.A. Hanna

What some bright young programmer should do is write a Spyware scrambling program. One that send backs gibberish, or better yet, random made-up information.

I for one, would be happy to buy such a program.

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-- Bill Hagood

One way to get rid of Internet parasites is for all users to uninstall KaZaA immediately. This wouldn't happen for long if there were no market.

-- Petra Hofmann

As a frequent downloader I have often been burdened by having my computer gummed up by various spyware and adware programs. At this point I wouldn't fathom to guess how unmanageable and off-putting the Internet would be if it weren't for the existence of Ad-Aware, its creators in Lavasoft, and the numerous other groups who are watching out for the rights, security and privacy of your average computer user. I would guess that most us know only enough to get our computers aimed toward the right page. So Kudos to Lavasoft for volunteering their time, energy and skills to making the Internet a better place to live.

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-- Glenn Given

Read "Battle.net Goes to War" by Howard Wen.

As one of the millions of people around the world playing Blizzard's games, and as a high school junior in California, I must say that you at Salon.com have really overstepped your bounds. You are emphasizing the fact that bnetd is providing a free open-source program that is superior to Blizzard's own proprietary Internet gaming service. However, you fail to address in detail the point that Blizzard is the creator of the games, and so has the right to decide who can create add-ons to it and who can not. Since the games that Blizzard sells are commercial products that determine whether the company stays afloat, it is logical for them to react in such a way to this infringement by bnetd. When a third-party company creates software that can endanger the well-being of your company by failing to check for authenticity, thus promoting piracy, you react to defend yourself. What bnetd is doing is illegal and Blizzard, as the designer of the software that bnetd has decided to support in a flawed way, is perfectly within its bounds to sue bnetd. You are providing a flawed analysis for your readers in writing this article.

-- William Wu

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Hello, I'm a longtime Blizzard customer (since '97) and I've been avidly following this case. A couple of things have occurred to me, and while I know that common sense has no place in a courtroom, I can't help but feel that this is a lot of drama over relatively little.

First, I'd like to point out that pirated copies of Diablo II can be played single-player as well as over TCP/IP. As such, why does Blizzard care if bnetd allows it? I could understand if you could only use pirated D2 with bnetd, but that's simply not the case. Literally two weeks after D2's release, there were CDkey generators floating around that would let you play the game illegally. My friend was forced to use one when he lost his old one and Blizzard refused to help him. If you're not using Battle.net, and are playing pirated software anyway, why should Blizzard care HOW you're playing with your pirated copy?

My second point is another common sense item. I would think that Blizzard would be happy to have people continue playing their games in a manner that does not stress Battle.net's bandwidth and server performance. Maybe if enough people did leave Battle.net, it would become playable again. I just don't understand what their beef is. Nobody's taking any money away from them. You'd think they'd be suing the hackers who regularly bring Battle.net to its knees. Instead, they attack people who are sick of those hackers and Blizzard's inability to deal with them. Seems childish, really.

I grew very frustrated with the original Diablo, in which hacking and game crashing were ridiculously prolific. I bought Diablo II for only one reason: Blizzard promised, explicitly, that the Realms would be governed and protected from these very things. They have utterly failed to do so. Long before this bnetd thing, I had already reached the conclusion that I would never buy another Blizzard product again.

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-- Noah Barger

Concerning the statement made by "misinformed" or "ignorant" Blizzard company employees that bnetd allows people to play their pirated games while Battle.net does not: Bollocks. Bollocks. Absolute horse-vomit. I have seen several different people use pirated copies of Diablo II on Battle.net including myself (we'll say just to see if it would work). Even when Blizzard puts out a new patch to correct the copyright infringement, you can then download a counter patch within a week at most. The argument they made to justify (snicker) suing the creators of bnetd was completely ignorant. This all just shows how greedy they really are, because seeing those probably middle class programmers was totally unnecessary given the circumstances. I also conclude that this is also a way to bark like a dog to try and scare away anybody else who might try for the same productions in the future (a free Battle.net emulator). Therefore the common consensus I'm sure is that Blizzard Inc. always had a bad reputation, but now has a worse one.

-- Jeremy Jones

This is just to clear up a misunderstanding (actually, a factual mistake) in the article about the bnetd lawsuit.

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Warcraft III has always been planned as, and will always remain, free to play on Battle.net.

World of Warcraft is an entirely separate game, currently in alpha stages of development. It is an MMORPG, along the lines of Everquest or Dark Age of Camelot, but set in the time line of the Warcraft series of games and novels.

It would be ridiculous to not charge a subscription fee for World of Warcraft. Such a game requires a dedicated staff of programmers and overseers, and has a much higher demand on server and network resources. There are no non-subscription MMORPG-style games that I am aware of.

Other Battle.net games are currently, and will always remain, free of any monthly or otherwise recurring charge.

I hold no opinion in the actual legal case, since I have neither studied the source code for bnetd nor examined the copyright claims that Blizzard has made. But the thought that this lawsuit is being provoked by a switch to a pay model for Warcraft III, well, it is a thought founded in a misunderstanding.

-- Henry Goffin

I just have one quick question about Blizzard's EULA [license agreement]. How does the following section affect the case against bnetd?

"3. Responsibilities of End User."

"A. Subject to the Grant of License hereinabove, you may not, in whole or in part, copy, photocopy, reproduce, translate, reverse engineer, derive source code, modify, disassemble, decompile, create derivative works based on the Program, or remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Program without the prior consent, in writing, of Blizzard." <p to my knowledge this is in the eula of every blizzard game. isn't considered a legally binding contract? by reverse engineering battle.net wouldn't programmers bnetd be breaching their i've taken no sides. needs protect intellectual rights. we as gamers should also allowed choose how and where play games long follow eula. feel free publish letter, i'm more curious legal answer personally.

-- Nick Ternes

Although I agree that it should not be illegal that the bnetd program exists and that the programmers are doing the right thing by defending themselves, your article leaves out one point that is very important. Besides the fact that Blizzard (actually a little piece of Vivendi-Universal BTW) is probably going to start charging a subscription fee for their Battle.net service in order to increase their revenue streams, you left out the fact that Battle.net actually makes a profit for Blizzard right now. Through advertising Battle.net was the first game server network that actually made money off of itself, rather than relying on just software sales to generate revenue. So in fact bnetd is actually attacking two revenue streams of the company, one in the future (subscriptions) and one right now (advertising). If there is a free alternative then Blizzard loses out two ways.

-- Kurt DeArellano

I must say that your article about Battle.net and bnetd is the best piece of journalism I've seen in a long time.

I've never felt such an urge to click on the "e-mail" button.

Clear and balanced, explaining exactly what and why, looking back and ahead in time, with both sides of the story: perfect.

Well done. Salon.com and Howard Wen just earned my consideration.

-- Bernard Hugueney

Read "The Bull in Martha Stewart's China Shop" by Katharine Mieszkowski.

Dear Mr. Byron, Do you have a nice ass? Could you send me a picture of it so that I can judge? Don't be a prude, now. Even if your ass is just so-so I'm not going to judge your abilities on that criterion alone. I believe that we need to respect men for their minds and their abilities as well as for their bodies. I agree with you that it's time we liberated ourselves from all these niceties that are just hangovers from more inhibited times.

-- Marianna Scheffer

Yes, Martha Stewart does have a nice ass. (I've seen it -- clothed. She also has remarkable bone structure and a commanding stature. And at the time I saw her, a rather tired-looking pedicure.)

And, yes, it is acceptable for a writer to let the world know that Martha Stewart has some fine physical attributes. It is generally assumed that powerful women trade in their "femininity" and sexuality for success, so it's a good reminder that female powerhouses can have curves and sex appeal.

Martha Stewart and Hillary Clinton possess in person a similar physical and sexual charisma that is not readily apparent on TV -- the kind of sexiness that women who are utterly self-assured, intelligent and focused (and I might add, have their grooming/wardrobe needs taken care of by someone else on an ongoing basis) can have.

So go ahead, tell the world that Martha Stewart, bitch in the boardroom, has a great ass.

-- Clare McLean

I've got two things to say to Byron: 1. Why is he so obsessed with the fact that Martha Stewart's marriage failed? Plenty of marriages fail -- most male moguls go through several wives in a lifetime. Just because Stewart doesn't want to screw around like them doesn't mean she's a cold-hearted ice queen. Frankly that characterization is a little tired. His scorn shows nothing more than a misguided belief in the old adage that if a woman can't keep the relationship together she's the failure. It's so lame. I'm sure Stewart could have some young hot lover if she wanted -- maybe she does. Certainly plenty of far less attractive ice queens do. 2. Has Byron been in a Kmart lately? I have and it sucks except for the Martha Stewart stuff. That chain is on its way down and it wouldn't have survived this long if not for Stewart's products. I don't know if Stewart's a nice person or not and I don't care, but I do hate to see the same old sexist story going round again. Byron, get over it -- you're a prick.

-- Liz Johnson

I admire Martha Stewart ... at least I admire the public image that confronts me everywhere. I admire her intelligence, initiative, persistence, and moneymaking savvy, qualities which Americans have always admired in theory but tend to despise when confronted with the real thing. In the face of an unending barrage of anti-Stewart yawping disguised as social commentary, I keep reminding myself that no one has ever been forced to watch Stewart, heed her advice, or buy her products. Her enormous fortune has been built on the voluntary spending of millions of people whose reasons for doing so are nobody's damn business but their own.

-- Larry Victor

Martha Stewart has done an exceptional job of bringing creative "design" ideas to people who enjoy crafts, decorating and hosting dinners.

For pennies through her publications or on TV, I can acquire the ideas generated by her very talented staff under her excellent direction.

Her peers are in the world of "Better Homes and Gardens" and "Sunset Magazine," to name a few.

She is a teacher for those who like to create things by providing patterns and "how to" tips. Further, she looks like a person who enjoys her work, which contributes to her success, short fingernails and all.

That she built a business empire without a penny of debt should be the inspiration of the business world. Without such values, we have the Enrons of the world.

If I buy her publications or products, I do so because of the worth of those things, not because of who she is, or her personal life. Of course, her professional background gives her the talent to produce her own high quality products, which makes her association with them a plus. We learn from those who've learned before us.

Her personal life might be dish for gossip. Her business life, with all the push, is inspirational -- especially in light of all those business leaders who've given the public so much less for all of their efforts.

-- Karen Little

Although I'm a diehard Martha Stewart fan, I loved Katharine Mieszkowski's article on her -- warts and all. Excellent writing!

In her article, Ms. Mieszkowski touched ever-so-lightly on the Divine Ms. M's relationship with her dad. When can we expect more scoop on Martha's family relationships?

-- S. Byers

I can't help but notice how many times Martha Stewart uses the word "perfect." It really implies a serious fetish if not obsession. On a recent show, Martha introduced a recipe for macaroni and cheese as one that had been passed down from her mother and her grandmother. In actuality, Martha added her own changes to the point that they took away from the essence of this dish. She made it spicy, which is not part of it at all. Her mother was on the show with her at the time, took a bite and said, "OH, now I can taste the spices! I would leave it out." Martha replies, "To each his own." I thought this was cocky of Martha and disrespectful to her mother in front of millions. How terrible! If she's that way to her own mother on national TV, what must she be in private???!!

-- Cheryl Maternowski

Byron is an ace. I loved the interview and will buy his book.

America's diversity is constantly preyed upon by corporations and in return it offers us a comfortable middle ground. Homogeneous cultures (most nations protect their cultures instead of promoting diversity) have their own traditions, for better or worse, and don't need to conform to the White Zombie Lady.

Whether she provided culture in America (and beyond) where culture was lacking, or she may have tainted the honorable job of culture leadership for profit, we asked for it.

-- Toby Knudsen


Salon Staff

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