17 August 2009

Digsby makes minor change, internet goes batshit insane

Digsby recently had an update that added an idle processing feature. If your machine's been idle for >5 minutes, it kicks in and performs some generic research using your CPU. Think of it as one of those @Home services embedded in your IM client. They describe the services as being used for accelerating medical research projects, analyzing the stock market, searching the web, and finding the largest known prime number. This functionality is completely optional and you may disable it at any time. They made the mistake of enabling it by default, and so have been put through the ringer by internet obsessives.

  • Lifehacker reported this under the sensationalist headline "Digsby Joins the Dark Side, Uses Your PC to Make Money" where the author complains about the software offers made during install (that are clearly opt-out-able) and the research agent that uses your PC without your knowledge. Gasp.
  • Slashdot picked up the story. One comment, marked insightful of all things, worries that It Would Be A Bad Thing if someone were to hack the malware. It would be very bad if they changed it so it downloaded copyrighted stuff, say whole CDs of recent music. Or Laptop users also get less battery life [when the idle research is performed]. Similar panicked responses dominated the thread.
  • The thread in the Digsby forum was filled with equal ire by users boasting that they control IT departments and will promptly be uninstalling said client.

I don't think that users should be barred from criticizing free software, but it's a shame that concern over such minor security and convenience issues grows out of proportion to the actual risk. I only hope that the vocal rabble don't have the power that they feel they do, and that their protest doesn't affect a generally excellent piece of free software.

[ posted by sstrader on 17 August 2009 at 3:44:22 PM in Internet ]