Home > Rules of software design > AVG, I barely knew yee…

AVG, I barely knew yee…

I’m well aware there are two schools of thought when it comes to anti-viral software. One says “better safe than sorry”, the other says “don’t touch another man’s toothbrush and you’ll be fine.” I belong to the former: accidents happen, we’ve all had them, there’s no sense in not getting at least minimal protection. I, like many others of my clan, use the anti-virus software du jour known as AVG. It works well enough, finds out a bunch of tracking cookies, the occasional worm, updates frequently, etc.

My relationship with Anti-virus software started with Norton Anti-Virus. What many people don’t know was that it used to be this quiet little thing. Did its job, nothing more. Norton System Works had a nice defrag tool that did a complete defrag too (not the standard “good enough” Windows defrag). Then it grew up into so much bloatware with many updates and useless features (how many “un’s” can you add as a prefix to erasing?). It became a huge system hog. I had to let it go.

Then came McAfee Anti-Virus. Years ago, it was a fine program. How fine? Imagine the late Isaac Hayes saying that. Yup, that good. Word on the street was everybody was raving about McAfee. But the same thing happened, bloatware, useless security features meant adios.

The rule of thumb became “if it calls itself a security centre, it’s as good as dead.”

A replacement had to be found, and arose AVG, which boasted features such as quietness and minimalist system resource usage. Sounded promising. Some updates ago, AVG introduced link scanning. I would do a search in Google and links would be deemed safe or unsafe, and it would display there, in the browser. By some HTML trickery or other foul meddling. Got rid of that quick. But I wanted to believe in AVG still, so I kept to the core.

The other day, I get this message (from memory): AVG update requests you close Firefox. And offered two choices, OK and Cancel, but OK had a timer!! Fine, I’ll shut it down myself. Next question: AVG update requests a reboot. An OK button with a 2 minute countdown, and no cancel. Oh snap! Quickly I save everything, shut down every program. Then hit OK, to have AVG follow up with… nothing.

Buh? Did I miss anything? Did it crash instead of reboot? Apparently not. What the message meant was “You have 2 minutes before automatic reboot, unless you click this button to cancel that. (You should reboot later though.)”

This leads to one of several software design rules which I will write about. This one goes:

Make the interface simple and obvious. Explain actions, say what things do, and communicate clearly all intentions to the user.

I’ll keep AVG, for now. But I am just disappointed in software I thought was rock solid. Again.

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