Shit You Don’t Need, Now 40% Off!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:31 am

My Dell laptop came with a copy of McAfee’s Internet security suite, and when my initial 1-year license was nearing expiration, I re-upped. I’m not normally a McAfee guy: their software works, and is far less of a resource hog than the hideously bloated products from, say, Symantec. But I really, really hate that McAfee’s stuff is built around ActiveX. As an ActiveX application, McAfee’s stuff coils itself around the brainstem of the Windows operating system. If it ever gets garched—a system crash, a botched update, one of the many viruses that now target and attack antivirus software—there is a decent chance you will never get McAfee re- or uninstalled, at least not without reinstalling your operating system from scratch. It’s all over your registry like ticks on a fawn, and you may never find all of those entries and pry them out.

Anyways, rather than start fresh with some other package, I was a lazy bum and signed up for another year of service and updates from McAfee. (Note to those of you in my viewing audience who may still be fooling yourself about this [yes, you, Shawn! And Meg: make Rad read this too]: antivirus software that has not been updated with the most recent virus definitions is essentially worthless. You are doing yourself and everyone with whom you have ever had any contact [that’s ANY, as in, you got a forward of a forward of a forward of a forward of a bad Internet joke from this guy once and he’s still in your cache] a grave disservice by failing to update your antivirus software, and if someone else loses data because of your negligence you should be given a severe beating with your own office chair.)

The moment I signed up, the offers began rolling in. McAfee must be run by the same people who manage the subscription departments at the major monthly magazines; it has that same “Hey, this guy was stupid enough to sign up for a year of this item, let’s see what else we can get him to buy!” feel to it. Including that most time-honored of tactics, trying to get you to re-re-re-up your subscription three months into your current one. This is precisely why I stopped subscribing to MacAddict.

I tend to ignore these pleas for more of my money, but I got one in my inbox today that really caught my eye. It was entitled, “Stop Wireless Piggybacking”:

DOES YOUR HIGH-SPEED WIRELESS NETWORK NOT SEEM SO HIGH SPEED ANYMORE? Chances are you have piggybackers: unauthorized freeloaders using your connection to web surf, send and receive e-mail, web chat and more. Without the proper protection, anyone who can see your signal can jump on the service you pay for each month, slowing your Internet connection to a crawl. Worse, your unprotected wireless signal is vulnerable to hackers who can plant viruses, steal your personal information and more.

Stop giving piggybackers a free ride. Introducing new Wireless Home Network Security from McAfee, the easy “one-click” way to lock your network with an encrypted, rotating key. Then you decide who can use your connection–all others will be blocked. Regain control of your network with Wireless Home Network Security for just $29.99, 40% off the regular McAfee price.

Now this, this is brilliant. Take a group of consumers too clueless to figure out how (or, for that matter, why) to do something to protect themselves that can be done for free, using their existing equipment, and charge them $29.95 (!!!40% off!!!) to do it for them. Absolutely fucking inspired.

I’m seriously, here; this is capitalism at it’s finest. I participate in just this sort of thing every day. I could be hand-coding my Web pages from scratch using a text editor, but I don’t want to have to visualize every piece of my document in my brain while staring at a sheet of code, much less learn the intricacies of Javascript. So I paid out the ass for a copy of GoLive. I did a pretty decent job of locking down my new XP Web server, but I’m not smart enough to do a “perfect” job of it, and I’m sure as hell not sufficiently smart or organized to continuously audit every process, thread and log to make sure it stays locked down. So I coughed up the dough for both hardware and software firewalls (no, I won’t list the brands here. Think I’m an idiot [on second though, don’t answer that]?)

So I’m used to—and all in favor of—finding ways to get people to pay for services they’d rather not do themselves. And to be sure, the phenomenon of wireless piggybacking is a real issue of concern. I should know; I’ve helped at least a half-dozen people get free high-speed Internet off their feckless neighbors over the years. 😉

But this one tops either of my examples by a country mile. It’s one thing to pay four hundred bucks for a piece of software when the alternative is to master a coding language to the point where you can see the results of your work in your head before they ever appear in a browser. It’s quite another to pay $29.95 in order to keep from having to launch a Web browser, type in the Address window, enter “Admin” and “password” at the prompts, click on the “Wireless” Tab and then the “Security” sub-tab, pick a password and write it down, and hit “Save”. I don’t think the latter is the equivalent of seven one-hundredths of the former, as the price difference would suggest; comparing the time, effort and difficulty of attaining the skills needed, at best I would say it’s perhaps a hundredth or even a thousandth of that. So the markup on the anti-piggybacking product is huge compared to that of the anti-having-to-learn-to-code-flawless-html-xml-and-javascript product.

To which I say, good for you, McAfee! Stick it to us, your slightly dopey, more-than-a-little-gullible customers. You’re filling a need we didn’t know we had, using tools we already have at our disposal, and giving us 40% off to boot. We deserve no less.

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