Be Careful Of Alternative Flash Player Updater 1.0.0.3

Edit: It appears the programmer isn’t so bad. It is a problem between the layout of the dialog and screenreaders. See this post. Although I stand by what I said in a general sense, forcing software on folks is not what he’s all about. For once, I’m very happy to say I was wrong.

Why is it that, in the software department, I’m often late to the party? By the time I get there, the software becomes uncool or doesn’t offer what it should. This happened to me with MSN Messenger years ago. I got it because I heard you could make free phone calls on it. But as soon as I tried to make a phone call, they had changed their policy and you had to pay. It ended up being ok, but I missed the boat on that one.

It has happened to me again with a free little program called Alternative Flash Player Updater. It’s a cool idea. If you have trouble with the Adobe site and the Adobe Download Manager, this little program will do it in a much easier fashion. You still have to deal with the button i button q button installer, but once you sort of know what to do, that isn’t so bad.

But yesterday, my enjoyment of this program came to an immediate halt when it asked me to update from 1.0.0.2 to 1.0.0.3. I thought sure I could do that, so went and got the update. I started to install it, and suddenly I found myself looking at a dialog stating in no uncertain terms that I was also going to install Spyware Terminator. There was no yes/no option. I was getting the updater *and* this other program or nothing at all. I chose nothing at all, went into the version of the program that was already installed, and unchecked the box that would allow it to check for program updates.

Since I got version 1.0.0.2 from Whitestick’s downloads page, a place where you can usually trust that you’re going to get programs free of other programs unceremoniously tagging along, I emailed the webmaster and told him about this new development. He tested it, and he too got asked to install an extra program called Snagit. He was not a happy man.

I know that free programs have to pay for themselves somehow, but this ain’t it. Set up a donate page. Make some of the cooler features paid. Do not force me to download other software. You can bundle it with the program, but give me a choice as to whether it’s going in or not. Even Adobe Flash does that with the Google toolbar. When you start acting in a less scrupulous fashion than the program you’re providing an alternative installer for, it’s not good.

I also don’t think it does good things for the companies whose software you’re foisting. I looked up Snagit, and it’s made by what I think is a legitimate company. I don’t think they want their software packages to be viewed as slimy software who can only get in by coming through the back door.

I was so upset by this that I emailed the developer of Alternative Flash Player Updater. Here’s what I said.

Hello. I just found out about your alternative flash player updater, which I think is a great idea, since for some reason, my Firefox and the Flash download page have a conflict and I don’t know why.

But what I find sad is your recent decision to bundle software with the updater and give the user no means of opting out. I tried to update to version 1.0.0.3, and during the install, a dialog appeared saying that Spyware Terminator was going in as well, and there was no option to choose not to install the program. I immediately cancelled the install. I already have anti-spyware programs, I do not need another one. Someone else said they were being ordered to install Snagit as well. This person is blind and has no use for a screen capturing program.

But the issue for me is not the extra software being unnecessary, it’s the lack of choice I’m being given about whether it will be installed or not. This is a dirty way to go. If you’re going to try and bundle software with your program, at least give the user a choice not to install the additional software. If you don’t give the choice, a savvy user will not install your software either. I don’t need it that badly to install additional unwanted software.

I hope you will take this feedback into account the next time you modify your program. I would hate to have to stop using it over this, but I will if I have to. I have already disabled the program’s ability to check for its own updates.

Carin Headrick

If you feel similarly inclined, email admin{at}wecode.biz and express your concerns, but of course fix the {at} part, silly. I did that because that’s how he wrote his email address on his own site. I could have written his address correctly, opening him up to spam the same way he foists software on the users of his program, but I decided to take the high road.

So, for now, if you installed the program and don’t want extra unwanted software, go into the settings tab and uncheck the box that says check for available program updates at start. That should stop the problem. If you haven’t installed the program and now are kind of interested, be sure to download the version available at Whitestick. It doesn’t force things on you.

If I get a response, I’ll put it up here. This could be interesting.

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