Sunday, July 29, 2012

PDF-Creator Good Bye!

On most computers that I have set up in the past I did install a program called PDF-Creator. It allows very simple creation of a PDF file out of any kind of document. You simply print that document on a virtual printer and voila you have that "printed" document as a PDF file.

PDF Creator still is the same good piece of free software that IMHO it always was; but something rather nasty has happened around it. Let me explain and set the stage.

Developers of free software always had the problem of somehow making some money; they have bills to pay too! Quite often good free software was meant to be an "entry drug", to entice you to later buy the paid version of that software. Users of these programs were reminded at certain intervals or during certain functions like updates to buy the paid version. Over time these reminders became more intrusive and sometimes even sneakily disguised down to the point of being outright obnoxious. Good examples of the latter are AVG and Avast antivirus programs. To further the sale of paid versions the developers of these programs made it more and more difficult to upgrade without inadvertently switching to the paid version. 

Another method of attempting to get at least some money was and is soliciting donations from users of the program.

Both aforementioned methods and others apparently did not have the desired effect. Software developers now are prone to look for a more direct method of getting paid at least some money. They fall for the sales pitches of third parties and offer Foistware. A very good description of foistware is in this ZDNet article by Ed Bott. I recommend a look at his "Foistware Hall of Shame" as well.

You ask what all this has to do with PDF Creator? A lot since PDF Creator got loaded with OpenCandy, an IMHO classical example of foistware. So far I could easily circumvent OpenCandy during installation of PDF Creator. But now PDF Creator's developers have decided to include OpenCandy and almost clandestine offers of junk into PDF Creator's update function! Take a look at one of PDF Creator's current installer windows :

In the top oval highlight you see pre-selected choices to install Babylon, IMHO one of the most heinous pieces of software currently pushed on unsuspecting people. Don't take my word for it, just read a few comments by people (all original quotes from here):
"Babylon is total f***ing malware. I unchecked every box, refused every intrusion it offered, and BOOM I find it has installed itself anyway. Oh and not just installed itself, infected Firefox to the bone. It is utterly inextricable using conventional means. One must dig into Firefox system files via about:config and manual expunge each hidden piece of malware. "
"Why is Babylon software not classified as malware? My computer is infested with it; . . .  if it did not automatically install itself everywhere."
"I do not need it and I cannot get rid of it. It overrides my settings in an obscure way that seems impossible to be corrected."

"Does anybody know how to remove this stuff?"
 Now, in above example you have to do four things to avoid getting Babylon installed:
  1. DE-select the check mark by "Make Babylon Search my home page"
  2. DE-select the check mark by "Install Babylon toolbar"
  3. DE-select the checkmark by "Make Babylon my default search" 
  4. And you have to click on the Decline button.
 If you click on Agree you have done just that, agreed to Babylon taking over your web browser(s) and the settings in the check marks are ignored.

I have used PDF Creator and Babylon as examples only! PDF Creator can offer other foistware that requires other methods of avoiding it! user beware!

All this sneaky stuff happens thanks to OpenCandy being now in PDF Creator's installer!   

What to do about it:

If I have set up your computer before August 2012 you likely have PDF Creator running. Please remove it! I recommend these steps:
  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Open Programs and Features (on XP it is Add/Remove programs)
  3. Find and highlight "PDFCreator"
  4. Click Uninstall (on XP it is Remove) and follow the prompts
  5. Open the Printers folder.
  6. If you still see a printer "PDFCreator" Right click on it and click on Remove device
If you want to retain the option of creating PDF files by simply printing them to a virtual printer I recommend from now on doPDF. You can download it from this web page as well; please do not use the mirror links at the end of the page. Some of these go to download portals that I recommend to stay away from.

When you install doPDF you will see the window pictured below. Please set the switch "Always use this folder" to your personal preference.

If you have difficulties doing any of that or if you feel intimidated by the tasks at hand then I would love to help; you know who to ask. 
As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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