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Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Website installs popular software for you

July 10, 2011

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

Here I was, sitting at my computer keyboard, clicking left and right and installing all sorts of new software. There were no hassles. All I had to do was click on the screen and the programs I wanted were delivered to my computer, installed where they were supposed to go, stripped of all their unnecessary (and unwanted) crapware.

And then I woke up from my dream. This doesn't happen in real life, right?

Ah, but it does. At least for some of the most popular programs, this isn't a dream. It's real. It's a service organized by a new website. It's run by PC users who got tired of crapware and foistware -- unwanted, unnecessary and unexpected software slipped into your PC when you install a major program.

In addition to getting rid of unwelcome junk programs, the service auto-installs the program you've chosen. You don't have to do anything once you've chosen the software.

The site is Ninite, at ninite.com. There's no charge for individuals like you and me. If a company wants to use Ninite to install programs on all their office computers -- it's surely a hassle-free method when taking care of hundreds of PCs -- Ninite charges a fee. The website has details.

Here's how it works. You go to the site and choose which programs you want. All the software on the site when I checked (about 100 programs) are free to use forever except for a couple of trial installations, such as Microsoft Office. Among the programs are these popular items: Skype, iTunes, Flash, Picasa, the Thunderbird email client, the browsers Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome, and much more.

After selecting check boxes in front of each program you want, you scroll down and click "Get Installer." That's all. Downloads are done automatically and each program is installed properly -- and all unwanted stuff, all the crapware and foistware, stays off your PC.

I should tell you a little about the junk software I call crapware and foistware. Companies that make software, both legitimate ones and shaddy operators, often get paid by other software makers to sneak their programs into an installation. A music player, for example, might also install a totally unnecessary toolbar for a website such as Yahoo.

Worse yet, that toolbar could be masquerading as a helpful way to look things up but might actually be recording your browsing habits so that spammers and other bad guys can sell that info to marketing companies. (Yes, even legitimate marketing companies buy such purloined data.)

So keeping it off your Windows PC is a great idea, and Ninite needs your patronage. There's no Ninite for Macs yet, but the company does have a Linux version. Let's all hope this idea takes off and others start doing the same thing. Maybe the software companies will get the message and start respecting your integrity, too, as crazy as that seems.