New Category: Rant

I was thinking of posting this under “Commentary”, but it goes a bit beyond that and into the realm of “Rant”.

I have spent several hours today trying to get the virus protection on my Windows server to work. Now, I don’t do silly things like download software from unknown people, run “.exe” attachments that I receive in the mail, or use Outlook, so I am not to worried about a virus trashing the data on my system.

I am worried about a virus getting on my system and then propagating via my address book, etc., and pestering other people. I think if you use the Internet, then you should at least take the basic precautions to insure that you don’t contribute to the spread of viruses, etc.

The easiest way to do that is to run a fairly secure operating system, but since I use DirecPC to access the Internet, I am required to have at least one Windows box around.

This system is simply a DirecPC router. It contains the DirecPC software, Deerfield’s WinGate proxy server (so that my Mac OS X, Solaris and Linux systems can actually use the network connection) and not much else.

I did (until this afternoon) have a copy of Symantec’s Norton Anti-Virus on the system. It seemed to be working, but when it tried to scan the server once a week, the program would die with a vague error message. I spent most of this afternoon trying to fix the problem. No luck.

So I went looking for alternatives. My experiences with McAfee’s solution were worse than that with Symantec, so I decided to trial Trend Micro’s PC-cillin. So far so good.

But what the rant is about is how trapped I felt using the Symantec product. It is a pig of a program, and when it failed – nothing. My guess is that Microsoft may have changed a DLL or something in one of the various Windows Updates, or Symantec blew it with a poor registry entry, but there were no logs or anything to even begin to track down the problem. It seemed to fail on a particular sub-directory, so I spent hours scanning and re-scanning to try at see exactly where it would fail (The logs said: Beginning scan … scan failed. How useful).

Sure, I run into issues with open source software all the time. But I never seem to have to “hunt and pray” nearly as much to find the issues. Maybe it’s because the software is simply better, or maybe it’s due to the fact that open-source code is built to be debugged.

By being easier to debug, it would follow that open source software would have less bugs than a closed program of equal complexity. And since the debugging process is open to any and all, you get the bugs squashed more quickly as well.

But with commercial software, you just chuck it, and Symantec has lost me as a customer. Ah, I long for the day when I can do most everything that is important using open-source software.