The other day I spent a bit of time hunting for a freeware video to gif file converter for a post here, and eventually found the rather excellent Free Video To GIF Converter program. It’s very easy to use, fast and offers a heap of nice editing functions.
I can heartily recommend it, and it’s now gone onto my permanent toolbox list. However this post is also going to mention something important about the freeware market, which is a very disturbing trend.
**** Beware download.com and other junk ware distributors disguised as genuine freeware.
In the course of doing my search, I came across a fair number of products which weren’t that good for one reason or another, but what surprised and dismayed me was the fact that when I checked out a product hosted at download.com, called the exact same name as the product I recommend above, it was actually nothing of the kind.
The file I was offered to download after clicking the Direct Download link bears no relation to the file from the legitimate site, and that’s just the beginning of this nasty piece of software. I set up a Sandbox on my machine using the excellent Sandboxie to protect it and then went through the install process of the fake file.
The program then continued on to try and get me to install five pieces of crudware onto the computer as part of the install process, which should take seconds. The install then disappears to ‘continue in the background’.
And finally it distributes a bunch of stuff onto the computer and opens up Chrome to thank me for being an idiot.
That’s 154 files, which of course include cache files and folders, but still. This is not a big piece of software, so goodness knows what else has been installed during the background installation.
So a warning. Make sure you run a five step process when installing freeware, even if it’s from supposedly reputable sites such as Download.com. We’re not the first to call out the site for it’s junk ware policies, but it seems to be getting worse not better.
1. Make sure you have a solid anti virus installed, and it’s up to date. AVG Free is available if you want to save money.
2. Do NOT use the big green button on Download.com, instead click on the Direct Download link just underneath it.
3. Once you have downloaded the install file, upload it immediately to Virus Total to check for viruses and malware.
4. Download and install Sandboxie and make sure you use it before you install ANY freeware file, even it it’s’ passed all the tests. Once you’re sure the program you’ve installed is safe and hasn’t installed anything like browser toolbars or other nasties, you can exit Sandboxie and do a proper install on your machine.
5. Stay away from any Media Freeware products completely!
Anyway once more just to remind you, here’s the GENUINE Free Video to GIF Maker.