Cut the Crapware

I was uninstalling a program from my Windows 10 computer yesterday and paused when I saw I had Java installed.  As a rule, we don’t install Adobe’s Flash on any of our computers and only install  Oracle’s Java configured so that it can’t work in the browser.  One reason is that they tend to be commonly exploited internet apps and the other is that, in Oracle’s case, Java often prompts users to install a bunch of crapware (a.k.a. bloatware, foistware).

It’s surprisingly easy to miss the signs of crapware.  As a rule, taking the express installation of anything is a road straight to the center of unexpected consequences.  Custom installations at least show you all the screens that indicate what software you’re agreeing to.  The couple of extra clicks it takes is a lot less time spent than what your IT staff (which might also be you) is going to waste undoing whatever gets installed unexpectedly.

Adobe Digital Editions

Some applications don’t have two installation paths, as I found this morning when Adobe Digital Editions warned me of an available upgrade.  Since it was all security patches, I clicked the upgrade button.  Right before it finished, it asked me if I wanted to also install Norton’s Security Scan.

Norton Security Scan software prompt in middle of Adobe Digital Editions upgrade

No.  No, I wouldn’t. There’s nothing malicious about Norton’s app (it’s not malware) but it’s just a free anti-virus scanner, just like the free one any Windows (Defender) or Macintosh (XProtect) user already has.

And why am I getting this prompt for an e-book reader app? An app that I have to use in order to read e-books from Overdrive.  Which happens to be the dominant e-book delivery app for my public library and many others.  It would be less irritating if (a) I could opt out of the crapware and (b) if I could choose which e-book digital rights management DRM endpoint to use.

Oracle’s Java

In any event, back to Java, the long-time leader in crapware.  I couldn’t remember why it was on my computer, although I had a feeling it was to use the app that had been installed the same day.  It’s a drawback to Windows software installs because the list of programs – like all of those Microsoft C++ Redistributables – could be orphans or could be connected to an app but after a while, it’s hard to tell.

If you hit your Windows key, and type Java, you’ll see a Configure Java option if it’s installed.  The first thing you want to check is, under the Security tab, whether it has been disabled to work in the browser.  This should be unchecked.

Don’t run Java in your browser. If you must, put your security on high.

At this point in the development of the web, there are no Java-based sites that I absolutely need to visit.  Java is now a flag that the site is not being updated.  If you must use Java in the browser, put your security level as high as you can.  There used to be a Medium option but apparently it made the app to vulnerable.

Then flip over to the Advanced tab and scroll all the way to the bottom.  This is where you can tell Java, in future, to cut the crapware.

The very last item should be checked so that Java won’t “suggest” crapware on installs

I like the label: “Suppress sponsor offers”.  Free software isn’t free, it’s just free to you.  But this should eliminate the chance that, if you’re in a hurry or the upgrade is approved by someone who isn’t looking for it, crapware doesn’t get installed.  I’m going to go back and see if I really need that app – if there isn’t a Java-free alternative – and just uninstall it.  Otherwise, I’ll need to be vigilant and check, the next time I allow Java to update, that I have repeated this process.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.