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Yet Another Sleazy Corporation

Yesterday I wasted several hours, thanks to Oracle Corporation.

When I turned my computer on, there was a message from Java bugging me to install a security update. These updates are a pain, and usually I try to ignore them and hope they go away after repeatedly telling them ‘no.’

The reason is that a couple of years ago I was badly burned when during an update Java loaded all kinds of ‘crapware,’ which it took me a while to clean up. On the other hand, there is a genuine need for these updates, because Java, apparently, is buggy as hell, and there are lots of way to exploit it for malefactors, which could result in ‘malware’ being installed on your PC. So once in a while I break down and allow Java to update itself. Just remember to uncheck that box that offers to install Ask-something.

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The irony of the situation is that now Java has become malware in its own right; at least its updating software has, as I found out to my regret yesterday, when I decided to allow for the update to proceed. There was also all that hype about Heartbleed.

This time the choice was to use a standard update, or the one, I was warned, which only experts should use (I don’t remember precisely what it was called, and I am not going to repeat the experience to find out). Not being an expert, I naively did not uncheck the standard route. All I can say is that I am not a morning person…

After the dust settled, I had four new programs installed on my computer. Fortunately, they all uninstalled when I went through the Control Panel. But what was worse was the first page that my internet browsers loaded after the Java update (both Mozilla and Explorer, I use both). My home page is a wiki on which I have arranged all the important links I typically need in my work, all organized in a logical fashion. Instead of the well-ordered and elegantly restrained screen that I am used to, I was presented with a chaotic mess with everything on it whirling and jumping and flashing and trying to get me to buy all kinds of stuff. It literally made me ill.

And it took me a while to get rid of it. Simple ways like resetting the home page to what it was before did not work. I had to spend time investigating various solutions, and finally I downloaded a program that cleaned it up. There was more (my anti-virus program did not like the cleaner program and eventually suppressed it, fortunately after the software did the job). I also tried to disable the automatic updates in Java (did not succeed), and I looked for alternatives to Java (as far as I can say, there are none). To cut the long story short, I wasted several hours, and I was also hot mad through the process, which is not a healthy thing, I am quite sure.

I also investigated why Oracle, which is the parent company of Java (they acquired it when they bought Sun), did this to me. It turns out they are well-known in the PC community for “foistware”. Last year Ed Bott crowned Java as the King of Foistware. And the reason they do it? You guessed it, money.

Essentially, every time Oracle installs foistware they get something like 30 cents. With 850 million Java users that translates into a really nice chunk of cash,

And then, it seems, one needs to update Java every month or two. Is this because the Java software is so buggy, or because it gives Oracle another chance to score 30 cents off you?

I value the time I lost yesterday at $300 (give or take). Oracle got its 30 cents. A 1000:1 ratio.

And it all adds up – Oracle now is the second wealthiest PC corporation, right next to Microsoft.

Oracle, welcome to my shitlist, where you join such worthy companies as Kluwer, Elsevier, and the British Airways. (For Kluwer and Elsevier, see this blog. As to the BA, the experience was too painful to relate in the blog).



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  1. jukkaaakula says:

    I use Chromebook because it is so ultra simplistic. Browser only in practise. But if you need say Java it is not for you.

    I would like to use Chr. Hauerts evolution lab for nice co-operation simulations written in Java but I must use some other machine.

    This is really fun: link to

  2. Jonas says:

    It’s the downside of free. I love free as much as the next guy. But if you pay for something, you retain some control over it.

    • Peter Turchin says:

      Yeah, “if you are not paying for it, YOU are the product.” Except, when you pay for it, you also often end up the product…

  3. John Lilburne says:

    Java was originated by Sun> Sun had an attitude of giving away software to develop the market and develop the world. It made some bad financial decisions and was taken over by Oracle.Larry Ellison has no such feelings of altruism and has demanded that he “take his pound of flesh” from the freeware that was Java

    • Peter Turchin says:

      In fact, I don’t mind paying a small fee for useful software. Larry Ellison got 30 cents from me, but I’d rather pay him $1 (or even $3) and save $300 of my time.

    • Peter Turchin says:

      And yes, what Oracle now does is what economists call “rent seeking.”

  4. John Lilburne says:

    There is an interesting question in that how does a civilisation progress. Free productive goodies can help growth over and above the immediate benefit. But an organisation(Sun) that gives too much away cant survive. To high a cost to reward strangles and suffoctes a civilisation. Bread and games caused the moral decline of Rome and seperation between the elites and the people?

  5. XVO says:

    It’s more likely you just fell for a scam java update. I had a customer do it the other day, I don’t know how they originally got the adware but it had popped up an IE window with a link to “update java”. Obviously this wasn’t actually updating java but it was just a trick to get people to willingly install adware. If Oracle tried to do that it would absolutely destroy the utility of Java, I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I think it’s more likely you clicked on a scam link thinking it was java when in reality you were solely installing adware.

    • XVO says:

      I would add that it looked very convincing to someone not familiar with these scams, anyone can copy and paste the oracle and java logos, pay for some ad space and make it look legitimate.

      • SEF Editor says:

        Hmm, if you are correct, then my ire at Oracle was misdirected. Still, they are documented to push foistware on you, so even if they are innocent in my case, the general charge remains. I will run a complete scan on PC to find out if there is any virus lurking…

  6. One thing that might help would be a way to contact people involved with this site. I am quite interested cliometrics and have been more or less working in this area as a hobby for some 15 years. My principal in interest is in the shorter-period oscillations about the secular cycles. In my work the secular cycle is usually treated as a secular trend that needs to be removed by a suitable detrending method.

    I am interested in discussing some of these issues and perhaps share data and insights. But there is no actual discussion forum where people can present material and ideas, only articles with comment sections. Responding to an article from a year or two ago is not likely to engender a response.

    So here I am responding to a recent post, but it is off-topic.