The World’s Most Useful Program

If I were in a position to give away an award for the most useful program, it would have to go to the creators of SpyBot Search and Destroy. The program I’m talking about is not even a program that you can download separately as far as I know, but it has long since become one of my favorites and a system essential. It is now one of the first programs I want to install when I sit down on a system.

I’ve always found it to be very annoying when a programmer decides that he or she knows better than you about how a program should run. One of the most annoying things about the Windows platform (I have no idea if Mac and Linux have this problem) is how many programs automatically install in your system tray, often without your consent. iTunes installs a service called iPod Service. I don’t even have an iPod! What good does this do me? Real Player likes to install in your system tray, as does Quicktime and Weather Bug. What is even worse about this is that no matter how many times you run msconfig to take these programs out of your startup, the next time the program runs, it’s back in there. Part of the program’s initialization routine is to reinstall itself in startup, which means that you have to go back in and take it out.

Weatherbug is the worst. It’s a very useful program, but it really bogs down my system when it starts up. But every time I run it to check the doppler radar, it’s back in my startup. Sometimes you can work around this by using alternatives. Real Player, for instance, can be replaced with Real Alternative, which is all the fun without the bloat. When I took programming classes, I was taught to document heavily and to keep my code lean and mean. Apparently, this mentality hasn’t permeated companies such as Microsoft and Real Networks, who insist on making their programs more bloated with each update.

Back to the topic: annoying and arrogant programs that won’t stay out of your startup menu. The best way I have found to stop this is to download Spybot Search and Destroy. During the setup, you’ll be given a screen asking you what services you’d like, ie. desktop icon, quickstart icon, etc. At the very bottom is the option to run a program called Tea Timer. This is pricelessware! This program’s worth cannot be measured by our understanding of money. What Tea Timer does is sit in your system tray (this is the ONLY program that should belong there) and watches for any attempts to modify your registry or startup. Anytime a program attempts to do this, you’ll get a pop-up window telling you what process is trying to do what. You can permit or deny. This way, when you watch a Quicktime file, you get a pop-up asking if it’s OK for Quicktime to change your startup. You can tell it "NO!" The same goes for Weather Bug.

This program is most likely meant to watch for spyware, but I have found this to be a highly useful function of the program.

Of course, it can get annoying. Every time you install a program, even legitimate ones, you’ll get all kinds of notifications about changes to your registry. You just have to read carefully, but to me this is worth it.

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