Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Adobe Lays a Brick


Despite the title, this is not a rant against Adobe. (Well, a little.) Rather, it’s a warning. Software makers (like Adobe) are now employing a highly unsafe upgrade technique that’s downright dangerous for us, the end users. And stupid.

I used to like Adobe. I was there at Comdex (92?) when co-founder John Warnock introduced the revolutionary idea of a Portable Document Format. I spent over $200 for Acrobat to create protected pdf files; there are nearly 600 of them on my personal website. But a couple of days ago, they stepped over the line. My current Adobe Reader, 8.3, would not read a downloaded pdf file. Tried to upgrade. Failed. And worse. Here’s the story.

I downloaded what Adobe called an install file. It wasn’t. It was far too small to be the full Adobe install. It was a bootstrap loader, a small program that downloads a bigger program. It downloaded the full install software, and then ran it.

If you haven’t seen this method yet in any of your upgrades (or downloads) be thankful. It’s flat-out dangerous, not to mention stupid. It’s dangerous because you can’t examine their upgrade before it runs, i.e., you can’t use your virus scanner! It’s stupid for lots of reasons.

When their “install” was finished, I had nothing. No icon on my desktop, no program in my program list. Nada. The install had failed! And worse: Wiped out my existing Adobe Reader! Not acceptable. And, even further, it also deleted the original bootstrap loader. Incomprehensible.

As to why their install failed, I’d bet Comcast didn’t get all the bits right. Not every downloaded file needs to be perfect. However, some do and program files most certainly do. Which brings us back to stupidity. If they’d let me download the complete install program, then it couldn’t run with missing bits! Annoying, but safe.

To sum up: this method of using a tiny program to download a big program, the actual install, gives us no control and no means to test for viruses. Dangerous. Apparently, they’re assuming a perfect download? Stupid. And any upgrade that destroys a working version before it verifies a completed update is, all together now: stupid.

Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of a very dangerous iceberg. But I’ve run out of room (and time). Tune in next week.

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One thought on “Adobe Lays a Brick

  1. JVILLEJ on said:

    Adobe seems to be rethinking how their programs are used. Their new MUSE software, for web design, is by subscription only. You have to pay a monthly fee to use it. Or lose it. It may be cheaper, initially, than buying a program like Photoshop but you can’t opt out of upgrades and must constantly pay to keep it current if you want to update your pages. And, in my testing the software, not a thorough test, it seems like the pages I made aren’t editable in other web software programs. Is this the future?

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