On the Road, Again

Chuck Horowitz

Have you heard about “The Yellow School Bus Project?” The Project uses wireless technology that has GPS tracking capability and video to track 418,000 school buses. It provides real-time information in the bus and on each bus route. Emergency Operations Centers in the communities will be linked through the Internet. I guess someone will know where your kids are.

SanDisk Corporation (www.sandisk.com) has the Cruzer Profile USB 2.0 flash drive with fingerprint identification technology. Your secured files will only be opened after the drive matches your fingerprint. The Cruzer Profile is available in 512MB and 1 Gigabyte and comes with software for data file encryption, synchronization with Microsoft Outlook, password manager applications and file back-ups. The 512MB drive is priced at $100 and the 1 Gigabyte drive is priced at $200.

For a while now, I’ve been telling you about my new Toshiba notebook. And I’ve been raving about its performance. Now let me tell you about some of the problems that I’ve encountered.

I decided to install a router for better protection and to link other computers in a home network. Bad move! Now my homepage is Toshiba.com and I can’t go anywhere on the ’Net. I can log off and still use the computer, but no Internet. I called HAL-PC and I was told to take out the router and go back to my original DSL hookup. Still no Internet. Toshiba is still the homepage and it’s still locked. So I bring the computer to HAL-PC for some expert help (not being a DSL or network Guru). With the help of Ron, from HAL-PC’s help staff, the problem was resolved. Not without a lot of anger and frustration on our part, I might add.

The problem was Norton Antivirus software that came loaded on the computer. This software would not let me make any changes to my homepage or other Internet settings. When we discovered that the program was the problem we attempted to uninstall it. The software would not let us uninstall it and gave us a message telling us that we could not remove it because we were not “Norton Supervisors.” Can you imagine the gall of any software manufacturer to tell you that you can’t remove their program from your computer without their permission? I’m sure that my blood pressure was through the roof by this time. The Help Desk people tell me that this software is the root cause of quite a few of their desperate calls for help. I wouldn’t tell you that it wasn’t there, but I didn’t see anything on my computer that would tell me that this software couldn’t be uninstalled without Norton’s permission. Of course, I didn’t pick this software either. It came loaded on my computer. If this is not illegal, it certainly should be.

There seem to be quite a few programs that prevent you from doing things that involve their competition. Toshiba made a deal with Symantec (Norton), I did not. If there was an agreement there someplace, it was well hidden from the average user. I never saw it. I never made Toshiba my homepage (at least not knowingly). Changing browsers did not help any either.

There’s a good article by Anna Kandra in the July issue of PC World (ConsumerWatch) entitled “Software Licenses: Fight For Your Rights.” The article describes some of the things that software companies are getting away with and what they’re trying to add to the list. There are no federal regulations governing transactions on digital products, she says. My experience tells me that there should be. What do you think? Let me know about some of your experiences.

From now on, if they want my money, hardware and software manufacturers will have to accommodate me and not the other way around. I will not give in to their wishes. Microsoft, Toshiba, Norton, etc. take heed, I’m really angry. When you buy a computer (desktop or notebook), make the seller show you what they have loaded on it. If you don’t like something, make them take it off and show you that everything else still works. Find out what you’re agreeing to and make sure that you have disks for all of the software that you’ve paid for. I refuse to pay full price for software that the manufacturer says is a trial or loaner copy (you know, the kind that you can’t put on another computer or restore if you uninstall it). IF YOU PAY FOR IT, IT’S YOURS.

Chuck Horowitz, a HAL-PC member, can be reached at chuckh@hal-pc.org for questions or comments.