a rant about “download managers”

November 29, 2010 - General Computing, Humour, Programming, Windows

So I was bored and decided to update my Flash plugin, a chore that I recollect stopping in it’s tracks previously, for reasons I couldn’t recall. Main reason was that my flash plugin has been nearly constantly crashing on certain sites. Mostly due to the ubiquitous use of flash for advertisements, which seems to be one of the dominant uses of the technology.

So, I visit and go to download the player. First, they try to shove a McAfee scan down my throat. You know the drill. They know we just want to get the hell away from them, so they decide to helpfully fill out the “default” options for us, which just so happen to correspond with the options one would need to choose to give them the most revenue.

So I finally manage to get past that brigade of crap, and then it asks to install software. fair enough- that is what I was doing.

Much to my chagrin, however, it isn’t installing flash, it wants to install Adobe DLM, DLM I assume stands for DownLoad manager, although it could very well stand for Dingo-Llama-Mammoth for all I care.

let’s analyze the sequence of events so far:

  1. I find that because of the shitty programming by Adobe their newest, most stable release of Flash, which I might point out isn’t even theirs and is just a sodomized and tortured version of what was at least a personable Macromedia Flash, it crashes nearly constantly doing routine tasks, like showing, I don’t know, pictures, as it’s designed to.
  2. So, I decide to go to the vendor page (although I would prefer not to) in order to see if an upgrade is available. I believe there is. So I click to download Adobe Flash player. Before I do this I have to uncheck the “agreement” on my part to have them perform rectal scans of my computer using an AV product that probably is rather familiar with the appearance of a rectum, since that’s it’s origin. Now, remember, when I clicked the button, it said I was downloading Flash Player. And then *poof* up comes the prompt screen asking me to download this entirely unrelated “download manager” which brings me to another point.

Every single fucking program I download wants to install a god damned download manager! how many bloody download managers do I need? Am I going to need a download manager manager to manage all the download managers that all manage only the specific downloads from that specific company? Is there something wrong with the concept of downloading a program, I don’t know, using the conventional browser method? You know, like any other sane person? No, Adobe has decided to decide for me. “We won’t install Flash like you wanted, but we will install a download manager that will consume resources indefinitely for this one-time installation of Flash. Then it will sit in the background and make sure your updated, because god forbid if your version get’s out of date!”

Which brings me to another rant, Versioning. I mean, I totally understand why you might want to have the latest version of an application- it fixes bugs, adds features, and so forth. and being notified, and even having the opportunity to update with a few clicks is very convenient. I have no beef with the concept.

What I disagree with is this whole “OMG if you aren’t updated to the latest version you will get haxored!” there are people who say this about every bloody program. It’s understandable for browsers, and for a number of browser-based/web-based technologies, as well as things like the .NET framework, and of course the core of windows itself. But, seriously, the main reason you update a program is to fix bugs and add features, and hope that the bugs and security concerns that a new version adds (And they always do, unless the change is extremely minor) don’t outweigh the benefit of having the known vulnerabilities and the existing bugs eliminated.

Additionally, this very mantra is proposed on applications that have little relevance to web technologies. I mean, Microsoft Word has been relatively unchanged since version 6, with of course downlevel changes (which I’m sure took a lot of effort, I’m not downplaying that) But the fact is the entire purpose of the program is to be a word processor. The fact that it now represents a bloody programming platform should be some indication that they might have sort of lost their focus on what the program is supposed to do. It’s supposed to make it easy to edit documents, not make it easy to program spam e-mail merge programs or even be a platform from which to launch your own applications.

I don’t mean to pick on Word or Microsoft by any means- this seems to be a problem with a global scale. It’s a complex with versioning. If somebody has a problem, and they don’t have the latest version, that is automatically the cause, and truly, this attitude, or more precisely, the logic behind me, continues to elude me. They don’t understand the various downlevel changes, and half the time the release notes and changelog for said program mention nothing even remotely relevant to the various issues the person might be having.

Going almost hand-in-hand with the “download manager” syndrome is the “background updater”. Each company seems to have it’s own. You’ve got the Adobe one, the one from, say, Google, Apple, and so forth. And every single one of them is sitting in the background making sure I’m “up to date”. The problem here is that they all have to same goal but they all have very different UIs and they all act entirely different and essentially have different paradigms. This is something where Linux has the right idea; the package manager can update any package you install through either the GUI package manager or through a apt-get command in the terminal. The thing is, the environment is different; Linux programmers have no problem submitting their updates and new packages to the essentially neutral repository folks. With Windows, the best solution, which is the integrate this all into Windows Update, is owned by MS, which many of the companies who would have their software in it are competing with, which seems a bit like a conflict of interest; who knows if MS will “accidentally” forget to update users of competing products?

Back to the various “update” managers, they don’t simply update the programs you already have from their company; they also inform you of “updates” to their other products. The Apple update software makes sure you know when a new version of Safari is available, even if you only have iTunes; Google’s updater makes sure that you’re fully aware of when a new version of Picasa is released. And so on.

In conclusion, suffice it to say that currently update and download managers are wholly unnecessary (especially with the latter) and a huge pain in the ass for everybody.

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