8 December 2011

Warning about CNet / Download.com bundled installers

Until very recently, if you downloaded Directory Opus from CNet / Download.com you may have received a bundled installer, filename starting with "cnet_", with unwanted extras such as advertising, browser toolbars, browser home-page modifications or other junk. (The exact modifications varied.)

In some cases these modified installers triggered anti-virus warnings, and quite rightly so.

Due to the way the CNet / Download.com installers were packaged and presented, they may have given the impression that the unwanted extras were endorsed by, or even part of, Directory Opus. This was not the case. The modified installers hosted on Download.com were created entirely without GPSoftware's knowledge or permission.

After battling with their support team, CNet have finally agreed to remove their modifications and return to hosting proper, untainted versions of Directory Opus on their site. We still make this announcement so that anyone affected by CNet's actions knows the story and to help spread the word to other developers whose software may still be on Download.com in a modified state.

The official installers for Directory Opus have always been available from GPSoftware directly and have never contained anything but the product itself. If you ever need to verify that a Directory Opus installer is unmodified, check its digital signature. If the digital signature is missing, invalid, or created by someone other than GPSoftware, you should delete the file and download a replacement from GPSoftware or an official distributor:

CNet's modifications have been done to many other software products listed on Download.com. For background reading, and to give credit to those who brought this issue to wider attention, please see here:

With news of this spreading, CNet sent an email to developers explaining that the scheme is in its early stages and that next year we'll all be able to share in the profits. We have told them that they can either host our installers unmodified or not host them at all. We have no interest in profiting by pushing unwanted junk on unsuspecting users.

We know that bundling browser toolbars and other garbage would be a way to make a quick buck but we also know it would devalue our product and disrespect our users. We hate seeing that rubbish when we install other products, especially ones we paid good money for, and we're not about to push it on anyone else. We make Directory Opus good enough that people choose to install it; we don't build Directory Opus as a lure to trick people into installing other junk on behalf of third parties whose products are not good enough to sell themselves. It may be unfashionable but we believe in selling our product, not selling our users.

Like many others, we are extremely disappointed that CNet have been adding this nonsense to our work and in such a dubious way, making an extra profit at the expense of our users and our reputation. It is ridiculous that these modifications were done without notification, let alone authorisation. CNet had no right to use our intellectual property or trademarks in this way. The scheme should never have been "opt-out" in the first place and it is absurd that it took us several emails, bordering on legal threats, to actually opt out. It is still a problem that so much other software hosted on CNet / Download.com will continue to be modified in this way until its authors find out and assert their rights.

While I'm here...

If you search Download.com for Directory Opus, the third hit you get (after the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Opus) is a program called iSysCleaner Pro. It is included in the results because it claims to clean up "Third party applications junk files (Acrobat Reader, AVG Anti-virus, Directory Opus, Microsoft Terminal Server Client, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera)."

Intrigued by this, and not finding any further details on its website, I downloaded the tool to find out what it does. Its configuration file reveals that it simply looks for and deletes the Directory Opus thumbnail cache:

[Directory Opus]
display=Directory Opus Thumbnail Cache
0.folder_include={localappdata}\GPSoftware\Directory Opus\Thumbnail Cache

The thumbnail cache is not what I would call "junk" data, but if you do wish to clear it or disable it entirely, you don't need a third party tool. Just go to Settings -> Preferences / File Display Modes / Thumbnails, click Adjust cache settings and then Empty. After doing that you can also clear the Cache thumbnails checkbox to disable caching.