That’s all it took to lose control over my own computer, and my own operating system.
It’s actually been sitting unused on my computer for some time, but I scrubbed my old copy, then installed the latest and greatest version of Windows on my machine.
Lest you think I’ve gone squirrel-turd-nutty, I should qualify this by stating that I installed it in a virtual box, the only way I would deign install Windows on anything short of my worst enemy’s life support machine. In addition to Windows, I also have OS X 10.8.1, Ubuntu 12.04, and Cent OS 5.8 installed on my laptop for good measure.
Today, I needed to test something in IE 9, so after installing Windows 7 Pro and configuring my environment, I proceeded to launched IE.
When the browser opened, I was presented with the MSN news page, and while there, a headline caught my eye.
At this point, I don’t even remember what the headline was, but I clicked over to it, read a paragraph, and quickly noticed a YouTube video embedded in the story.
I clicked the video, which took me to the YouTube page, where I was summarily told “Sorry, you must have Adobe Flash installed to see this content … click here to install it.”
Fair enough, right? You want to watch a Flash video, you have to install Flash. Hardly something to stress over.
I clicked ‘install’, the browser took me to a landing page where I clicked “install” once more, and within a few seconds, three downloads started on my machine:
Adobe Flash … check
Google Chrome … uh …
and Google Toolbar … wait, what?
I didn’t order a Google Toolbar … or anything Google for that matter.
Oh no. It had started already. The “Windows experience” I was told had greatly improved with Windows 7.
I tried to stop the downloads, but to no avail. The download box closed, but the downloads and installation continued in the background.
Keep in mind, that only 45 seconds had passed.
45 seconds since booting into my virginally clean Windows 7 install.
In the span of about 45 seconds, on a freshly-installed, pristine Windows 7 … Google Chrome had been installed on my computer, Google Chrome had been set as my default browser, and the Google Toolbar had been added to my Internet Explorer.
45 maternal parent fornicating seconds!!!
Now look, I’m not a neophyte. I was on the Internet before anyone had even heard of the Internet. Not only that, but I’m a fairly paranoid guy.
So paranoid that my home directory is mounted on a triple-encrypted drive. Yes, triple-encrypted. You know, in case someone dedicates 4,000 years of super-computer CPU time to break the first two layers.
So, how did this happen? How did I get spyware on my computer in 45 seconds?
Well, apparently, I missed a checkbox somewhere. Going back, I bet this is where it all went wrong:
I’ll bet you whatever amount you can afford, that some marketing firm conducted a study which found that embedding a grey checkbox on a grey background caused most humans not to notice the box. Sort of like the old “and and” trick.
Why would Adobe do such a thing?
They would do it so that when the customer’s machine is hijacked by the malicious installer, Adobe could say “But the user asked for those products! See, they checked the box! We’re ethical, it’s the awful customers who always fail to take responsibility for their own actions. Their problems are their own fault! They could have unchecked the box, but instead, they blamed poor, innocent us!”
And so it is. My 45-second-old Windows 7 installation forever ruined unless I spend another hour re-installing the system.
Oh sure, I can just uninstall the Google stuff, but we all know that they wouldn’t be truly uninstalled. I now have spyware buried somewhere deep in my machine, waiting to be exploited by someone, sometime … and it only took 45 seconds.
“Run a third-party anti-virus program!”, some of you will say, ignoring the fact that all the big software companies make deals with major anti-virus vendors specifically not to flag their shit as shit.
Which brings me to my first point:
Folks, if you’re running Windows, you’re nuts.
I used to question how so many computers became infected so frequently with all of the malware, spyware, and shitware out there … but today really drove home why this is.
Windows makes it incredibly easy. Out of the box, without a single password being entered, any website can not only download, but install as root any application, toolbar, or whatever code the website sees fit. Not only that, but the website can change the default behavior of the operating system.
And this, remember, is the “best Windows yet.” An operating system used by a 90% super-majority of Americans.
Which brings me to my final point:
Remember when Americans made stuff? Stuff we were proud of? Stuff people wanted? I mean, really and truly wanted? Wanted so bad, that we didn’t have to trick them into obtaining it?
I know that some of you can’t remember, I only remember the tail end of it, but oh, what a great time it was to be an American.
We made things that were the envy of the world … the automobile, the Internet, and the operating system.
Back then, you could put your hand over your heart, recite The Pledge of Allegiance, and really mean it. You could sing the Star Spangled Banner and not cringe.
How things have changed.
At this point in US history, 2012, the American economy is completely, absolutely, and inextricably dependent on fraud, deceit, and trickery.
Phantom charges on our credit cards that require five phone calls to get removed, worthless extended warranties, inferior services riddled with asterisks and exclusions, lost-in-the-mail rebates, pre-checked boxes we hope you won’t notice, etc, etc. “If you want us to keep billing you, do absolutely nothing”. “By taking another breath, you agree to be bound by our terms and conditions which completely waive your rights as a consumer”.
This is it, now. This is what America produces. We spend billions upon billions of dollars each and every year, not for research and development, not for quality and assurance, but for tricking you into using our products and services.
In 2012, scam artistry is the USA’s chief export and domestic product, and having off-shored so many of our manufacturing jobs, we are absolutely dependent upon it. It is what props up the American economy. Trickery and fraud is now the economic engine of our once-great nation.
It’s a hard thing to accept, it truly is, but deep down, we all know that I’m right.
Ask yourselves the following questions:
What would happen if American companies had to be honest?
What if the terms and conditions of the products and services that the USA produced had to be less than 200 words, and had to be completely and unequivocally honest?
What if the small print could not taketh away what the big print gaveth?
What if small print were outlawed?
What if we could only bill people for things that they fully, completely, willfully, and unequivocally affirmed that they wanted?
While answering these questions, see if you can be honest with yourself. It will not be easy, but if you are honest with yourself, you’ll know exactly what would happen if the aforementioned conditions existed.
The U.S. economy would collapse.
We would be plunged into a depression the likes of which this country has never before seen. Companies would go out of business left and right, and unemployment would shoot so far into the double digits that we would have riots in the streets.
Right here, right now, our economy absolutely depends on tricking people into getting goods and services that they neither need nor want. It absolutely depends on tricking people into paying for goods and services that have little or no value, while charging interests, fees, and other costs on top of it.
It is for this very reason that Credit Bureaus exist in the manner that they do today. They do not exist to rate the honesty and ethics of the customer. They exist solely to prop up an economic system that, without their legal extortion, would fail under the weight of disgruntled customers.
“Pay the phantom charges on you credit card, or the interest rate on your home goes up”, they tell us, “oh, and forget about Little Johnny’s student loan too … he’s going to turn tricks in a bus station bathroom for as long as his sphincter can handle.”
And so, we pay. Not because we want to, not because we should, not because it’s the right thing to do … but because we’re Americans. We’re scared shitless by what would happen if the house of cards on which our economy is so precariously perched should ever be blown upon by the naked emperors of ethical consumerism.
We have reached a time in the USA where the largest, wealthiest, most successful companies … companies like Google … get people to install their software … not because the people want it … but because the people got tricked into it.
Google knows, and Adobe knows, and Apple knows, and every other business out there knows that if you don’t cheat, if you don’t lie, if you don’t trick people every chance you get … your business doesn’t stand a chance of succeeding in the United States of America.
This is who we are now, this is what we do, and at this point, as an American, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all accepted our fate.