Sunday, December 18, 2022

A Long Goodbye To The Bloatware Frienemy


Student: John C Gibson

Engineering And Ethics

Fall 2022 Section 205

Professor: Christopher Phillips, Ph.D.

Word count: 1035

How Is Bloatware Different From Viruses?

A Long Goodbye To The Bloatware Frienemy 

I argue against giving bloatware, pre-installed software, a lifeline to survive in misery in a world that increasingly utilizes online applications that don’t need installation in the first place. I prescribe mercy killing the bloatware. A few trade names are omitted in this essay to avoid defamation.

Recently, particular desktop operating systems have included a self-upgrading campaign in the operating system's desktop screen that asks the user to consent to the upgrade to a newer version of the operating system. The campaign features tactics of a gray, obscured button for the “No” option and changing intervals of presenting the consent screen interlaced with antivirus software advertisements. An operating system upgrade historically can introduce incompatibility of applications, giving the operating system company’s applications a competitive edge. In the old days, OS companies paid hefty fines to settle suits with bloatware blatantly defying court orders with Internet browsers that were nearly impossible to uninstall. But recent advancements in intricate programming techniques can give any application more subtle tactics in coercing and deceiving the user into giving consent to different matters. Sophisticated programs implemented in contempt of court orders may be difficult to prove because the boundaries between coercion, deception, and marketing advertisements can be hard to locate inside an intricate web of parameters. 

The progressive trend of moral standards gives an ever-expanding inclusion of a circle of personhood and more rights to more subjects and objects, as reported in Vox's article (Samuel, 2019). A progressive view can personify or anthropomorphize desktop computers in different ways. It can be a good marketing strategy to promote a product by asking people to respect the product like a natural person with the right to survive, access to nutrients, and all needed resources as much as possible. After all, desktop computers are natural secretaries to their owners with calendars and daily planner apps. The sophisticated CPU scheduling system slows down CPU clocking during slower hours to save electricity, emulating the fluctuation of human cardiopulmonary performance throughout the day. And computer engineering can utilize anthropomorphization, too.

A modern desktop computer goes into hibernation and reboots at night after office hours to refresh its security upgrades, similar to human sleep, consolidating memory. It is not hard to reason why a manager in the desktop computer building business likes to promote the industry with the agenda of a well-upgraded, well-updated computer with a fresh and healthy mind to assist the owners, for example, at the kitchen counter with an interactive cookbook. The competitor of the kitchen counter Amazon Alexa has a humanoid voice; a desktop computer has a touchscreen allowing flipping book pages in stunning, life-like 3D renders, just like genuine human assistance. As a thought experiment, to achieve the stardom of Alexa, a desperate operating system company may coerce the user to consent to allow the operating system to instill a more famous humanoid voice than Alexa and exclude third-party text-speech software to prevent fragmentation. Bloatware can include a golf tournament show channel with the cookbook while the oven timer is ticking instead of Alexa’s voice-only functionalities. And the desktop computer may just become a great contender to the Alexa voice assistance appliance without the market knowing the stealth change. However, the online application trend diminishes the operating system’s role in a computer's functionality, and a voice-enabled, 3D multimedia assistant is just one click away within any browser. 

But the online-only application trend is not the only challenge bloatware and deceptive coercion face. The virtualization of desktop computer operating systems enables sharing of computers managed by expert desktop computer engineers. Increasingly, viruses need to get through the expert’s configuration of a desktop computer in fortified secure environments. The penetration rate of viruses might have declined with the virtualization trend. And experts can disable operating system self-upgrading campaigns that are nearly impossible to accomplish for average users. Expert configuration can happen in the virtual desktop setting or a physical, professionally managed setup.

Still, there can be traditional, retail desktop computers in certain circumstances. The work ethic of the managers is to be loyal to their employees and shareholders. Indoctrinating and educating consumers to build loyal customers for the parent company is a moral obligation. Education in schools often involves math techniques in ideal conditions, for example, calculating parabolic curves of throwing a ball without considering air resistance or a ball’s deflection with force. Education sometimes involves deception, putting pupils in an ivory tower or a religious atmosphere, and indoctrinating elite leaders’ national interests. And, in such a mindset, consumers need to be coerced and deceived. When an operating system company is fined an astronomical sum for contempt of court, the manager might receive a bonus for their loyal service. But are managers responsible for deception tactics enjoying their success and fame? Mac OS and Apple computers are relatively virus-free because Mac OS has a relatively small market share, and the virus economy depends on the sheer quantity of attacks to achieve penetration. When the penetration payoff of a virus is too low, the virus ceases to exist. When the market share of traditional, retail desktop computers shrinks, bloatware’s profit can become too low for the bloatware to be a viable business. And when businesses go out of business, layoffs follow.

But the average onlookers of the saga may not be so determined about letting bloatware die off. Sympathizers of the bloatware industry may argue that bloatware is very different from viruses. The bloatware industry can be a legitimate entry point job for novice engineers. The elite people of western societies have dominated all other people and natural resources for centuries, and progress toward equality and equity is slow. Why be so uptight about consent and giving autonomy? Keeping an open mind and allowing software bots and new engineers to enter our world can bring changes. But, the future of the virus or bloatware economy is uncertain if virtualization, browser-only appliance, and online applications continue expansion. If the managers of the bloatware business were new engineers we tried to save when they were younger, when the market trend goes down, it appears they will be victims who need sympathy to save again.

Works Cited

Samuel, Sigal. “Moral Circle Expansion: Should Animals, Plants, and Robots Have the Same Rights as Humans?” Vox, 4 Apr. 2019,

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