Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My Experience with Avast Anti-Virus Software

At the height of the Great Recession, I needed new anti-virus software for my computer. A survey in PC Magazine indicated that Avast was one of the better ones out there, plus free subscriptions were available.

I bit. I downloaded.

Win-win, right?

For a long time, it was. The glowing orange sphere (complete with lower-case a) that adorned the bottom right-hand corner of my monitor's screen was a friendly and reassuring reminder that my computer was being protected.

Updates were both regular and free. Scans appeared rigorous. Threats were detected and removed. Despite the heavy usage the computer received from two users in the midst of desperate job hunts, Avast kept it clean and functioning.

Eventually, I moved to a paid subscription. Like all good consumers, I believed that if free was good, paid just had to be better.

And again, Avast seemed to be doing the job. But there were clouds on the horizon (which might have had something to do with the sun-like graphic disappearing).

The first change was in the scans. After a point, the only potentially harmful condition they could identify was that I hadn't purchased enough Avast software. There was never a report, an indication of any harmful malware, etc. Just fluff about weak passwords and file conversion software that hadn't been updated.

And all I had to do about those was open my wallet.

Then one day I discovered my computer was infected. It took a $200 visit to a repair facility to clean it up. That was strike one.

Strike two occurred when, in the course of pursuing a fix for a technical issue, I discovered Avast had double-billed me the same month I cleared-out and prepared my parent's house for sale, moved, oversaw three separate sets of tax returns all while caring for a sick mate and working.


Strike three arrived just minutes later when an Avast staffer named “Helen” informed me that despite having my license number and purchase ID, I would not be getting my anti-virus package (which had been accidentally deleted) re-installed until I signed on for a $79.99 computer repair to fix fourteen issues she had discovered.

Despite a complete absence of food or drink in or around my esophagus, I began to choke.

When the choking subsided, I asked “Helen” if she knew what extortion was. I asked why I should pay $79.99 to do what my paid subscription should have been doing for a quarter of that. I asked how many people fell for this, and how badly they were injured in the process.

The play on words was lost on “Helen”, who for lack of alternatives stuck to the script and grimly recited what I needed to do. “You have fourteen issues on your computer. You need to fix them before you can have your anti-virus back.”

Yes, but for the second time shouldn't my software package have prevented those?”

There was a sigh. “We will reduce it to $49.99. But that is final negotiation. No more.”

Helen, leave my computer alone. Don't touch a thing” I rasped.

With my vocal cords straining like Donald Trump's credibility, I inquired of “Helen” one final time: “So what do I need to do to get a refund on the overcharge?”

From the Avast web site I composed a heated e-mail detailing what I wanted, and why. Shockingly, there was no response. Nor has there been in the nine days since.

Thankfully, my credit card company was able to file a dispute and credit the charge. And I was able to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office.

In PC Magazine's most-recent survey of the best Internet protection packages, Avast ranked a very middling 25th.

That sounds about right.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Free Advice (And a Business Opportunity) for Our President!

Dear President Trump,

As a caring, feeling American, it pains me to see you twist in the wind as you refuse to acknowledge the protocols of your position and instead pretend the White House is just another boardroom in the Trump business empire.

You are a CEO. And a very wealthy man. You aren't used to having people tell you what to do. Hell, the closest you ever got to a cabinet before reaching 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was when you asked the maid to fetch you a Twinkie. 

Because you are such a wealthy and powerful man, people attempt to curry favor with you. This happens so often that you have come to expect it. In fact, you're put-off when it doesn't happen. When was the last time you picked-up a check or reached for your wallet, anyway? 

(This is probably a good thing, because I imagine it's quite heavy. And as America's oldest-ever president you aren't as limber—or as strong—as you used to be, are you?)

So. Like I said, I'm an American who cares. So I'm going to celebrate the Fourth of July by offering my president (that's you) some free advice. Don't even think of reaching for your wallet--not that you would.

In the restless, dark nights of your presidency, you Tweet about witch hunts and fake news and how nobody loves you. I don't think it's stretching the truth to say that since becoming president, every day must seem like Halloween. Grotesque and horrible days full of people who don't bow and scrape like employees, unwilling to display the blind obedience you have come to feel is your birthright.

That's rough.

Okay, Mr. President, put the phone down. I know—the ADHD is kicking in. I'll get to the point.

Mr, President, the point is this. If you're tired of witch hunts have you ever considered not being a witch? Have you considered adapting to the office instead of petulantly demanding that it adapt to you?

Have you considered growing up?

Have you considered not sharing every single thought that passes between your ears? Do you realize it was the so-called fake media who informed me last November that you would be my next president?

Is that fake news? And if so, does it mean you're not?

Have you considered that for over two-hundred years this country has survived very well without you?

As hard as it is to imagine Mr. President, some things are bigger than you. Like the office you inhabit. In fact, it's even bigger than your child-like sense of self-importance.

Yes Mr. President, once upon a time your father called you son. But that doesn't mean the planet revolves around you.

Finally, I'd like to get to that business opportunity I spoke of. Don't worry—no contracts or handshakes are expressed or implied.

Have you ever considered starting-up a winery? Because I think you'd be a natural. I mean, five months into your presidency, it couldn't be more clear that you and wine go together like shit and stink.

I even have a name: The Trump Whinery.

Just sayin', Mr. President. Enjoy your Fourth.

Best Regards,

La Piazza Gancio