back to article Lenovo CTO: Hey, look around – we're not the only ones with a crapware infection

On Friday Lenovo is going to tell the world about how it plans to regain the trust of its users in the wake of the Superfish clusterfuck – and may even launch an independent security audit of its products. "Our goal, in the end, is to make this right," Lenovo's CTO Peter Hortensius told The Register on Tuesday. "It's going to …

  1. Sebastian A

    "The company had one of the most valuable brands in the computer business and wants that back."

    Don't it always seem to go

    That you don't know what you've got till it's gone?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      So will they "pave over paradise and put up a parking lot"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "pave over paradise and put up a parking lot"

        It might be stretching it a bit to call Windows 7 paradise, but the line aptly describes the feelings of many who hated Windows 8. All those flat featureless tiles, like so much paving.

        Or is it "little boxes, little boxes, ..."

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        "pave over paradise and put up a parking lot"

        ...then install Jack in the Box at the corner, just next to the illegal dumping ground.

  2. James O'Shea

    crapware free

    Over the weekend I did some research.

    1 it is not possible to purchase a laptop from Toshiba without crapware. Certain items, including 'free trial versions' of McAfee and Office 365 are, according to the sales drones I was in contact with (one on the phone, one using their chat) included on all Toshiba laptops, 'to enhance the user experience'. It is not possible to get bootable install media for any price. There is an option for creating 'recovery media'; this will make a full factory condition restore. (Yes, that means that the crapware will be reinstalled.) It is possible, for an extra $20, on a few select models, to remove all the crapware except McAfee and Office 365. You still don't get bootable install media for any price.

    2 Apple doesn't seem to ship non-Apple crapware with their laptops. (It does ship _Apple_ crapware.) It is possible to generate bootable install media which doesn't include the crapware. (Except for iTunes. You're stuck with that, like it or not. I don't. Fortunately it's trivial to delete.)

    3 Some (not many) Dell laptops can ship with bootable install media. (They also come with a separate disc or USB drive containing the crapware, but you can avoid installing that stuff.)

    4 Some (not many) HP laptops ship with bootable install media. The crapware apparently comes on the same media (the sales drone was less than clear on this) but again apparently need not be installed if you don't want it.

    It appears that Toshiba laptops are not in my future. Apple, Dell, and HP are all possibilities.

    desktop systems, of course, with the possible exception of any Apple desktops I may get, will be hand-speced and custom-built. And crapware free.

    I will not even consider Lenovo laptops for a long time. If ever. Nor will I be considering Samsung laptops.

    1. asdf

      Re: crapware free

      As if the PC industry couldn't commit harakiri fast enough.

    2. dogged

      Re: crapware free

      > Nor will I be considering Samsung laptops.

      Didn't Samsung recently drop out of the (European) laptop market anyway?

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: crapware free

      4) Definitely get them on Business HP machines, I have never seen them on consumer versions of their machines. The restore DVD's should give you a choice of two OS's (Although been a few years since I have tried this). On these the slightly older image normally doesn't have any of the HP Utilities installed, the full fat one used to popup with a utility that would let you install what you wanted.

    4. Frederick Tennant

      Re: crapware free

      Your are right about this crap ware however I did spot something odd, I was looking for a small computer and found the HP Stream 7 under £100 or better still hp was selling it for £89 inc vat but it comes with crap ware, however if you go to Microsoft they do the same product for £74 without crap ware. We are very quick to give Microsoft the blame here but I suspect its much bigger than that.

      http://store.hp.com/UKStore/Merch/Product.aspx?id=K6E49EA&opt=ABU&mastersku=K6E49EA&masteropt=ABU&sel=TBL&

      http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msuk/en_GB/pdp/HP-Stream-7-Signature-Edition-Tablet/productID.308686300?tid=suP6NjsOl_dc&cid=5366&pcrid=54578248245&pkw=hp%20stream%207&pmt=e&WT.srch=1&WT.mc_id=pointitsem_Microsoft+UK_google_HP+Stream+Tablet&WT.term=hp%20stream%207&WT.campaign=HP+Stream+Tablet&WT.content=uP6NjsOl&WT.source=google&WT.medium=cpc

    5. BMG4ME

      Re: crapware free

      I hope the reason you wouldn't consider Lenovo isn't because of what just happened. People should be allowed to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. I've used many laptops over the years and those from Lenovo are by far the best.

  3. herman Silver badge

    Decrapifier

    I wonder if http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/ handles this yet.

    1. Bitbeisser
      Thumb Down

      Re: Decrapifier

      >I wonder if http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/ handles this yet.

      Well, that software itself seems to be crap, it doesn't find anything (doesn't even finish "analyzing...") when I gave it a quick try...

  4. stpete

    No. "everyone" is...

    ...most people who still use PC's!

    LOL

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Grow up Tech Executives....

    * Pay more attention to the consumer not your sleazy marketing departments!

    * 'Everyone is one step away from disaster'... Fine... I'm willing to pay a little more for a bloatware crapware-free "user experience".... So why not make this an option???

    * To Lenova, LG and Samsung and all the other tech shops... These little Facebook behavioural experiments you've been doing on us are over, you hear me? Support was bloody awful before, but now this... I have money to spend, but I'll be sitting on the sidelines nursing my pool of rigs waiting for you to change...

    * Meantime, I'll be warning circles of friends, family and customers from buying your gear, and posting damning reviews on big shopping sites like Amazon until you clean up your acts!

    1. dan1980

      Re: Grow up Tech Executives....

      @AC

      Right with you, mate.

      I am hoping that enough people punish this kind of bad behaviour that it makes a difference. But there is an equally-likely outcomes which is that the majority simple don't care enough or pay enough attention for it to really change the industry. In the end, people opt for convenience, price and features and seem to care very little for security, privacy or good practices.

      What that means is that we may end up having no choice. Want a laptop without TV that connects to the internet for access to Hulu and so forth but doesn't spy on you? Tough - either have it disconnected or connected and spying. Won't matter which set you buy because they'll all do it. Want a laptop without crap installed? Perhaps there are one or two brands that offer premium models without such things but they will be a few special, expensive or business-oriented models that carry a premium far in excess of the cost of just removing the crap.

      Glass is looking a bit empty I'd say.

  6. dan1980

    Here's the deal Lenovo . . .

    Step one is to fess up to customers exactly what you earn per-machine for the crap you are pre-installing. Breaking it down is likely not possible due to confidentiality agreements but the total should be easy to calculate. Someone there already knows - for each unit and each shipped combination. So tell us.

    Then, you give people an option. It's not hard and it's not a novel idea: you offer a full version and a 'crapware-supported' version, just like some software you download gives you the option of buying a license or using a free, ad-supported version.

    If it's $50, tell people it's $50 and allow them to pay the extra $50 to buy the 'full' version. If it's $100, tell them it's $100 and let them pay and extra $100.

    You even get to say a little PR line about how Lenovo are dedicated to producing the best quality machines for the lowest price and to give the best possible deals to customers, they may bundle trial programs in to reduce the cost.

    Be honest and give people the option.

    1. Steven Raith

      To be honest, I think you've hit the nail on the head; it's mostly the tech community who are pissed off with this (with obvious support from the consumer rights/EFF sorts) and I think we'd all be interested to see exactly how the effectively 'ad supported hardware market' stacks up and what benefits it gives to the consumer in terms of lower prices.

      It'd go some way towards chilling us out, and the attitude of the CTO is pretty good IMHO - it basically reads along the lines of

      "Read about this, facepalmed hard, had a strong coffee and a cigarette, now I'm up for sorting this so that we can reaassure you that we're not actually a bunch of cretinous fuckers - at least not any more creitnous than anyone else"

      As he rightly notes - we're not idiots - we know that the bloatware helps firm up the margins and give us usable hardware at reasonable costs (I mean, you can get a perfectly usable, if perhaps cheaply built, laptop for under £300 these days), and I think a bit of openness about the practises involved in getting to that stage and why the product management types who made the decision to go with SuperFish (presuambly not realising how bad it was) felt it was justified, and how they plan to avoid that, would go some way to at least clawing back some of their reputation.

      I think it'd take a bit more than that to get my trust back though. That said, even just including a raw Windows image sans tatware would be enough for most of us....

      Steven R

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Step one is to fess up to customers exactly what you earn per-machine for the crap you are pre-installing."

      And say exactly what it does. And I mean exactly. Not "it enables you to make better choices" or such weasel words but "it intercepts your communications to spy on what you're doing in order to serve up ads whether you want them or not".

  7. Richard Jones 1
    WTF?

    MS Might Share Some Blame

    I was under the impression that MS were trying to halt the sale of media to allow PCs to be re-installed with Windows and that this was why you have those awful restore partitions -with their disk dies machine dies issues. Or the 'You have 30 second to make restore media do it now - before you have the media onto which to make the restore data available!

    The first thing would be to promote the sale of crap free install media, Dell certainly used to do this and I have several re-install disks for various machines.

    As others have said strongly, the second thing would be to be honest, this machine is sponsored by Shit Shovellers Anonymous, crap free version yours for £ X, X US or whatever currency.

    1. ilmari

      Re: MS Might Share Some Blame

      I recently discovered the hard way, that restore usb media created in windows refuses to work on empty harddrives, ir if the partition table is corrupt. In other words, if HD is screwed, you're screwed.

      However, to my delight, I discovered hidden deep on Microsoft's website a tool which creates Win8 install media battery downloading from ms. You have to pick 32/64 bit, language, and edition correctly, and the resulting usb key will install W8 on a PC with the correct W8 key in bios.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: MS Might Share Some Blame

        In Windows 7 you can create restoration DVDs that will install on to an empty hard drive, or one overwitten with penguinware. I have done that: there is a bootable start DVD/CD, then one or more system image DVDs.

      2. jason 7

        Re: MS Might Share Some Blame

        It's not hidden that deep. Just search on the MS site for "Installation Media" and it takes you there.

        http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/create-reset-refresh-media

        Plus it's been covered several times by other tech sites.

        http://www.neowin.net/news/how-to-create-windows-81-install-media-if-you-lost-your-install-disk

        http://www.howtogeek.com/187525/how-to-perform-a-clean-install-of-windows-8.1-with-a-windows-8-key/

        Very handy if you have upgrade editions of 8 as it negates the need to install an OS three times to get up to date. The 8.1 install just accepts your upgrade license as a full one.

  8. frank ly

    A tragedy of errors continues

    "The firm hadn't realized that so many of its PCs were used in businesses, he said, ..."

    Don't they know who their customers are? Did they assume that 'domestic' customers could be treated as consumers/cows and be milked?

    "By the end of this week we will release a more concrete statement around exactly what that means and we're still working towards that ..."

    They're babbling stuff that sounds good, from some kind of damage limitation manual.

    1. NotArghGeeCee

      Re: A tragedy of errors continues

      I'd like to see the actual quote - I suspect it was more along the lines "...we didn't realise so many of our consumer PCs were used in businesses..."

      or maybe it was "...christ on a bike, we didn't realise quite how fecking cheap our business customers had become over the years, we thought they were all buying Thinkpads..."

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A tragedy of errors continues

      "Don't they know who their customers are? Did they assume that 'domestic' customers could be treated as consumers/cows and be milked?"

      I suspect it's at least partly, maybe significantly, the BYOD crowd connecting up at work or remotely.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: A tragedy of errors continues

        Nah, a shitload of businesses, particularly at the SMB end, use consumer laptops and hardware.

        Seriously, most business users don't want (or need) to spend £800 on a magnesium chassis'd ultrabook and don't value next business day replacement because of the extra cost - something plastic with 4gb of RAM and an i3 is all they want for Excel, why spend £500 when £300 will get it done? Next day replacement? Just buy six instead of the five you need.

        This is not at all unusual when you don't have a formal IT budget and you tend to replace hardware every five years or when the old stuff starts failing.

        I'm not saying it's necessarily sensible, but it's what happens outside of the enterprise space, all the time.

        Steven R

        1. jason 7

          Re: A tragedy of errors continues

          Yep thats how it is. But it works when you are dealing with small numbers. People tend to feel a little more under scrutiny if there are just 4 laptop users in a company. You can't hide your recklessness with kit in the huge herd like in a corporation. Especially when you may just sit 5 feet from the boss.

          I have to say though those cheap £450 laptops tend to keep on trucking. I've been a self employed IT guy for just over 6 years now and pretty much all the sub £500 kit I've bought for customers is still going strong. Some of it looks pretty tired and may have had a rebuild or two but still doing the job.

          Always go for the one that has the no frills ABS plastic look.

  9. Rberns

    The best solution would be to allow removal of demos and other useless software

    1. As part of the install process have a page which allows the user to bypass installation of unwanted software.

    The page should itemize all of the software, each item showing a short description and proposed use, together with an unticked tick box, the ticking of which says 'please install'.

    2. A user run time which allows access to the page which will allow post setup uninstalls (tick/untick would cause install/uninstall).

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: The best solution would be to allow removal of demos and other useless software

      Acer, of all people, used to offer this - on their X-series desktops, IIRC.

      Don't recall seeing it more recently than Win 7 though.

  10. romanempire
    Mushroom

    Just take off...

    and nuke it from orbit. Its the only way to be sure!

    Seriously though, I always install from a SA ISO and and add the drivers. That works with whatever product key you have, be it OEM, SA, retail, Action Pack. I've done that with Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, Acer and Tosh.

    Finding the drivers is the pain. Tosh are the worst, their site is all over the place. At least with Lenovo you just need to install their 'System Update' utility which will detect your hardware and download all the relevant drivers (especially useful when there are 2 or 3 different cardreader/audio/etc used in a given model) and deselect what you don't want. Pity the other manufacturers don't have something similar. Combined with vanilla Windows install media it would make nuking and reinstalling windows much easier especially for home users (given all the dodgy sites that come up when looking for drivers).

    (Note to self - get my own MDT instance setup soon!)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Just take off...

      "Finding the drivers is the pain....download all the relevant drivers"

      The problem there, for most average users, is when the LAN or WiFi drivers are needed before you can get on t'internet...

      Admittedly this seems to be less of a problem these days than it used to be. Not so many years ago it was vital to get the drivers downloaded before nuking or to have another way to get online.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: Just take off...

        How to get ethernet or wireless drivers when you don't have them already?

        I have a USB wireless dongle, plus a CD for windows drivers. Most modern Linux releases seem to support it anyway. So I can then get to the PC maker's website.

        1. PNGuinn

          Re: Just take off...

          If you've already got a linux distro....

          Frankly I'm watching all this with some detached amusement. I now build my own desktop hardware so I can choose exactly what I want (eg cheap psu - decent one from a reliable manufacturer that'll do the job quietly, reliably and to spec rather than cheapo one that'll likely go PHATANG without warning taking goodness knows what else with it, Decent mobo with a working bios (or whatever micromonkies all it these days), Graphics card suitable for what I want the machine for etc. And make sure its all Penguin friendly.

          Personally I hate lapdogs - I like to be comfortably seated in front of a decent screen [[ Hey - marketing wallies - put down that splif, stick your heads in a bucket of cold water, inhale deeply and listen - Laptops get used in non optimal places and NEED NON REFLECTIVE SCREENS OK???]] (/rant), with a decent keyboard and mouse.

          Having said that, for me they have occasional uses, but I'd NEVER buy one now unless I had complete confidence It'd take a Linux install without problems. That way I'M in charge of what goes on it. I'd build the hardware myself from bits if only I could spec it the way I can a desktop. It'd probably end up being a somewhat weird beast to say the least, but then I'd only have myself to blame.

          From personal experience (ymmv ianal etc) since I embraced Tux computing has gone from being a pain to a pleasure Generally the thing just works, upgrades are so much more simple and reliable, the hardware is so much faster and more stable, documentation is much better and more accurate (although some translations to English can be "interesting") and product support with so many helpful and knowledgable people on the relevant fora infinitely better.

      2. jason 7

        Re: Just take off...

        I love it when you need to install the wi-fi in a laptop and the drivers page list 12 different drivers for four different wi-fi cards.

        "Where's me screwdriver?"

    2. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Just take off...

      "At least with Lenovo you just need to install their 'System Update' utility which will detect your hardware and download all the relevant drivers (especially useful when there are 2 or 3 different cardreader/audio/etc used in a given model) and deselect what you don't want. Pity the other manufacturers don't have something similar."

      Uh, no. The other manufacturers do have something similar.

      HP Support Assistant works with all their laptops and desktops. The HP Softpaq Download Manager is a very similar tool though a bit more "pro".

      Samsung - Samsung SW Update

      Fujitsu - Deskupdate

      Dell - Client System Update App

      ASUS - Live Update

      All of these of course require some sort of network connectivity so a (W)LAN driver may be needed first. Of all the mentioned utilites the Lenovo System Update is easily the best solution, since it usually Just Works, whereas the others may sometimes miss some drivers for some reason.

    3. PNGuinn
      Devil

      Re: Just take off...

      Which leads to the all important question - Do you know for sure what ELSE you are or are not installing?

    4. Tannin

      Re: Just take off...

      "Finding the drivers is the pain. Tosh are the worst, their site is all over the place."

      You are not kidding. Toshiba's site is appalling. It's impossible to find stuff and lots and lots of vital things just plain aren't there. The best workaround is to ignore the official Toshiba site completely and go to toshiba.co.uk on the other side of the world. Toshiba UK isn't brilliant by any means, but you can usually find the driver you need. Eventually.

      It's not just inconvenience, it downright dangerous. PC manufacturers who deliberately make their drivers hard to find because their only site design priority is flogging new kit are responsible for a great many of the crapware infections we all spend our days cleaning up. That DriverSupport scumware, for example. Users can't find the driver they need, so they Google for it and wind up with something very nasty.

  11. Smudged

    Better still

    "Another option is to simply ship computers without demos, trial software, pointless utilities and other bloatware"

    Why not ship computers without an operating system at all. Let people choose what they install without having Microsoft Windows forced on them to begin with. If people want Windows, fair enough, go buy it, then it is up to Microsoft whether they sell an advertising subsidised version.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Better still

      "Why not ship computers without an operating system at all. Let people choose what they install without having Microsoft Windows forced on them to begin with."

      Because most people want to open the box, plug it in and start using it. And factory installed media-free Windows is massively cheaper than buying a full-fat retail Windows package. It's a while since I looked (winXP days) but a certain retailers "config" screen used to have the option to choose which version of XP, or "No OS" and the difference in the build total between no OS and WinXP Home was £5. IIRC, a full WinXP Home retail pack was about £80 back then.

      Note also that said retailers factory installed WinXP did not include any bloatware to subsidise the WinXP install.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Better still

        order a DELL with Linux and its more expensive than ordering with Windows. So we order Precision workstations with x64 Windows and then install them with our build of Linux

  12. Tom 13

    Re: Bruce Schneier's comment

    But a security audit was the first thing the marketing guy recommended!

  13. Rich 30

    another school of thought would suggest that Lenovo will be one of the most secure*, after being caught out like this.

    *yes,yes...

    1. zebthecat

      While they are about it...

      ...why not ditch their stupid BIOS whitelist policy as well.

      My son's Lenovo laptop WiFi card went titsup and Lenovo support were unable to tell me which WiFi cards the laptop BIOS would accept.

      Useless

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Security audit

    How does a security audit now tell anyone what they'll be pre-loading this time next year?

  15. BMG4ME

    I hope Lenovo doesn't get rid of all utilities, some of the Lenovo ones are excellent, such as the System Update tool and the Solution Center (which saved me from a data loss once).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whenever I buy a new computer the first thing I do is reformat and install the OS from scratch, and then add whatever applications I want. Doesn't everyone? It's the only way to stop the utter garbage that comes pre-installed from ruining your computing experience.

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