AN UNHAPPY HOUR @ THE TOOLBAR
Lured by offers of free software, translators may make decisions they later regret. BY HANY FARAG
Early in the week I received an invitation from XXX, a company that produces dictionary software, to join an outreach program for translators. This program offered to grant me a free license to their software if I placed the company’s logo on my website. I flagged it for later review and took a look again on Friday–a relaxed workday which I reserve for small jobs, casual business and which I typically conclude with some pleasant event.
On that Friday, my work load was light. The day would be made special by observing the ritual of Happy Hour. I checked potential spots and my evaluation ended with two top choices. The first was Elephant Bar & Grill, a great local place with a fabulous view of the Bay. With a stool in the right spot, I view the planes descending to San Francisco airport while also watching the TV sports channel. The second was BJ Brewery—dim lighting but it dedicates one big screen in the afternoon to European soccer.
FREE IS GOOD, RIGHT?
To be frank, I didn’t automatically delete the offer from XXX because it mentioned the word ”free.” We are conditioned to respond reflexively and favorably to the word “free.” Also, the offer was sugared with phrases such as “we only work with qualified translators like you.” Don’t we all like to feel special? (Even if it’s due to an email sent randomly to anything that moves). Actually, my focus this year is on technology in the language field. This offer would permit me to evaluate the product without paying for it. Certainly, I have a concern about displaying a logo on my web page. Placing a logo, not a random banner, implies endorsement of the product. I decided to check it out before heading to my much anticipated HH.
The main feature of Happy Hour is not only cheap beer prices but also menu selection. At Elephant Bar, appetizer sizes of chicken tenders, ginger fried calamari, or Vietnamese rolls are adequate for an early dinner. BJ offers 5-6 beers but excels with Jeremiah Red and the Blond. Jeremiah is Irish Ale, 25 points in the bitterness scale, and 7.3% alcohol. The Blond is Kolsch; bitterness is 15 with 4.6% alcohol. One pint, half Blond half Red, will feature 20 points in bitterness and 6% in alcohol. Perfection!
I decided to accept the offer and display their logo on my website in return. I hit the link to XXX to examine their offering. Currently, I use Google but feel that subjecting Google to serious competition will fuel innovation and improve standards. I browsed the web searching for more information about this new program and bumped into a website offering a down- load of the XXX beta application, along with a toolbar, without restrictions. Okay, so I’m not really that special! I decided to download the program and not wait for the license. There was the usual End User License Agreement (EULA) box—who has time to read it? I scrolled down to get to the “Agree” button but it just kept scrolling. I decided to copy and paste the EULA just of curiosity and it turned out to be 9 full pages long! Finally, I had the electronic dictionary installed along with a one-inch toolbar.
Pizza was not one of my favorite dishes until BJ Brewery introduced some exciting ones. First there was a thin crust basil and sausage and, lately, the Mediterranean pizza. This is a deep dish chicken pizza, topped with feta cheese, sliced tomato, Kalamata olives, peperoncini and drops of olive oil. No need for Romano cheese but a sprinkle of red pepper on the feta is good. This pizza complements the half Jeremiah Red and half Blond. Did I mention that the mini-pizza in the bar menu is half price in the HH? The appetizer menu is valid in the bar only, so you must take a seat before 5 p.m. or your HH chance is gone. Once people are in, no one leaves until HH is over. Thinking about food made me hungry—on that day my choice would be the Mediterranean pizza.
PRIVACY—ALWAYS AN ISSUE
The newly installed toolbar was really a homepage substitute. I prefer Google as a home-page because it is blank, simple, and empty. I left the Yahoo! home-page when it started to resemble People magazine. This new toolbar displayed temperature, currency conversion, a Backgammon game, search engine, and language. Okay, this information is not harmful, but is it need- ed? In order to benefit from the temperature, I had to configure it to my location. Occasionally, a weather forecast from a professional source is indeed needed. With respect to Backgammon, I do miss it as the last time I played was at an NCTA picnic in Marin County 10 years ago. I’m searching for a challenger but I don’t want to mix the game with a language tool on my desktop.
With billions of dollars spent on Internet advertising, application programs package search tools in a subtle way. Privacy became an issue when Yahoo! developed targeted advertising tools. One time I searched for a unique product, then for a month every Yahoo! affiliate was bombarding me with ads for the same product. Now I conduct searches only after I log out of email.I tried out the XXX translation tool, which is the real objective of this program. The graphic user display was fuzzy in the foreign language. Seeking translation for one term produced several options. One of these options was correct (identical to the Google tool), but the rest were inaccurate. By definition, the user of an electronic dictionary is probably unfamiliar with the target language and multiple choices may lead to the wrong choice. When I began toggling between this application and other open tabs, it became sluggish and the program stopped responding. I had seen enough and concluded that this application was too crude for a beta version. I closed all open windows and reopened Internet Explorer. The toolbar opened and stayed there gazing at me. “What’s going on? Go away,” I said. In answer, the toolbar refreshed the temperature reading.
It was getting late and I decided to act quickly. I closed all applications and went to Control Panel > Add/Remove programs. The list of “Currently installed programs/updates” didn’t include the name of this program! I started getting anxious. Was this program run thru hidden files? Should uninstallation go through a connection with the company server?
HAD I SOLD MY SOUL?
I took a look at the EULA. There was a clause indicating user consent to receiving offers from the company or its partners. Had I sold my soul for a free program?
I searched the net for user feedback about this program. There were messages from users having trouble removing the toolbar! I looked at the toolbar in anger; it again refreshed the temperature, ignoring my concerns. This was a challenge and we were heading for a duel. I would not let this toolbar appear on my screen even if I had to sacrifice my Sony Vaio.
I disconnected my PC from the router to cut the toolbar’s lifeline, closed all applications and conducted a search on the hard drive for all (4000) files named *.exe. It turned out the file name started with ‘My’ followed by the program name. I missed it in the control panel since I didn’t expect the name to start with the letter “M.” I went back and sorted installed programs looking for “My XXX” and was ecstatic when the toolbar application appeared. I paused for a second as I wanted to enjoy hitting the add/remove button. I acted decisively and something started to happen. It took less than a minute but for me even that was too long. The toolbar program disappeared from the list. Yahoo!
To make sure this wicked toolbar was totally out, I opened Internet Explorer, selected Tools > Internet Options and deleted all temporary files, cookies, etc. I went to Applications > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. It took a while due to zipped files. Now everything was clean and I turned the computer off. Feeling humble and hopeful, I connected the cable to the Internet router and started the PC.
Needless to say there was suspense in the air. I double clicked Internet Explorer and looked with anticipation. What a relief when the Google homepage appeared blank and clean! I enjoyed the empty space and smiled. It was past 5:30 p.m.
I did miss the Happy Hour but I certainly won’t “miss” the toolbar! HF