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OpenDNS Says Google-Dell Browser Tool is Spyware

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the google-google-google dept.

Google 188

PetManimal writes "David Ulevitch, the founder of OpenDNS, claims that Google and Dell have placed 'spyware' on Dell computers. Ulevitch made the claim based on his observation of the behavior of the Google Toolbar and homepage that comes preinstalled on IE in new Dell machines. He says that a browser redirector sends users who enter nonexistent URLs to a Dell-branded page loaded with Google ads. Another observer, Danny Sullivan, says that this is a different result than what happens on PCs without the redirector. However, the original article notes that Ulevitch has a vested interest in the results of mistyped URLs."

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Instructions to Remove (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250761)

Anyone who's looking for a way to remove this, Dell's support site [dell.com] gives these instructions:

To uninstall the Google URL Assistant, perform the following steps:

1. Click Start and select Control Panel.
The Control Panel window appears.
2. Select Add or Remove Programs.
The Add or Remove Programs window appears.
3. Select Remove a Program.
The Add or Remove Programs utility window appears.
4. Click to highlight the URL Assistant program and click Remove.
5. Follow the instructions on the screen to complete the removal process.
However, a user on the bottom of one of the links reports a way to disable it (but leave it on your machine) if you want to keep it:

In Internet Explorer, click on Tools,Internet Options,Programs, Manage Add-ons. Look for the CBrowserHelperObject published by Dell, then disable it.
Personally, I've bought two computers from Dell a long time ago and the first thing I did, like a good little Slashdotter, was format it and install a real operating system. When my friend bought a Dell, I brought a case of beer over and we took his Windows install disc and we re-installed Windows. Why? Well, just because of all the crap software like this that somehow magically is installed on a new box. If I recall, he had a 30 day trial version of Norton Antivirus, a trial version of Nero, quicktime crap, one of the most heinous media applications I've ever witnessed (due to his sound card) & to top it all off they had some 30 startup entries in msconfig--over half of which I couldn't tell what they were!

Now I work for a fortune 500 company and guess what we do with every box we get from Dell? Re-image it.

Now, for the 99% other Dell customers, this is just purely unfortunate because I'm not so naive to expect everyone to know how or why they should take the above actions. I hope that all the virus scanning apps (HiJackThis, Lavasoft's Adaware, etc) get this thing because Adaware is about the most useful thing I can show my family how to use frequently enough to keep the computer protected.

This sounds a lot like something the old Gateways would do. Huh, I never would have thought Dell would reach that level but, well, here we are. The important thing is to factor this in when you're thinking about a new computer. Hopefully some competition will spring up for Dell and, you know, quality of the software (not just the hardware) will start to matter for Dell.

Re:Instructions to Remove (2, Informative)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250913)

That goes double, or triple, for Dell laptops. I've never seen so much sh*t installed on them. It started appearing about 2 months ago, and despite contacting various account reps, they have no idea what I'm bitching about. Very few of the programs uninstall cleanly, either.

Of course, nothing can come even close to the pile of crap called "ConfigFree" on Toshiba laptops. Dear God that software is awful! Remember kids, when you are looking for badly written, badly tested software to hijack network connections, think ConfigFree!

Re:Instructions to Remove (2, Interesting)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252037)

That goes double, or triple, for Dell laptops. I've never seen so much sh*t installed on them. It started appearing about 2 months ago, and despite contacting various account reps, they have no idea what I'm bitching about. Very few of the programs uninstall cleanly, either.
If it started 'appearing' two months ago on a laptop you purchased before then, it very likely has nothing to do with Dell, and quite possibly more to do with the things you're picking up/installing yourself (albeit inadvertently).

Re:Instructions to Remove (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251199)

I truly, truly don't understand the fuss with the preinstalled crap. I've just bought a Dell with Vista preinstalled for my gf and I boot it, menu -> Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs. Remove crap. Install Firefox, remove the IE icon. Done.

Re:Instructions to Remove (3, Funny)

Some Kind Of Record (829533) | more than 7 years ago | (#19253835)

Says the guy who bought a laptop with Vista.

Re:Instructions to Remove (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 7 years ago | (#19254179)

No, it's a desktop. Sorry, I don't think I understand your reply. What are you trying to say?

Re:Instructions to Remove (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19254327)

You must be new here.

Re:Instructions to Remove (5, Insightful)

cmorgan47 (720310) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251319)

hen my friend bought a Dell, I brought a case of beer over and we took his Windows install disc and we re-installed Windows.

i with you on the rest of the post, but as a good little Slashdotter you should know that the friend buys the beer.

Re:Instructions to Remove (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251895)

i with you on the rest of the post, but as a good little Slashdotter you should know that the friend buys the beer.
Computers are the new automotives. I used to work with my dad on cars when I was younger and we used to drink beer while replacing someone's break pads/cylinders, changing their oil or rotating their tires. Sometimes we'd get daring and tighten someone's serpentine belt pulley.

Haggling over who buys the beer when it's a prime excuse for some guys to just sit around and shoot the shit isn't worth it. I'll buy the beer and I'll make sure it's something you've never had ... like a variant of Leinenkugal's or a nice Belgium White Wheat brew, you know something exotic. These days, a case of beer is a trivial amount of money for me but not for all my friends.

Computers are the new excuse to sit around and "bond" as corny as that sounds--like fishing or camping. Enjoy the excuse to stop and upgrade someone's ram, it'll make you feel useful. I'll bring the beer since I'm the one getting something out of the deal. If you haven't seen a friend in years, call them up and talk to them. If you want to hang out, ask them if their computer's running alright and offer to come over and help them out with the problems, everybody has them.

America has become too centered on who pays for what, I say relax and enjoy life before you die.

OT eldavojohn

Re:Instructions to Remove (1)

fenrisulfur (1093549) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252029)

It is hard to put these things any better, amen brother.

Re:Instructions to Remove (1)

DoohickeyJones (605261) | more than 7 years ago | (#19253339)

Damn, and me without mod points.

Re:Instructions to Remove (3, Informative)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251575)

I can give multiple examples of this kind of stuff. I know of 2 Dell PC's purchased a year apart, and both of them came with 3 CD burning programs, all of which ran in the background, and none of them worked because they conflicted with each other. So right out of the box you could not burn CDs. That's unacceptable.

Re:Instructions to Remove (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19252513)

Now I work for a fortune 500 company and guess what we do with every box we get from Dell? Re-image it.

You know, for larger customers, Dell can put your image on the computer for you before it ships.

Can you really blame google (5, Insightful)

Organized Konfusion (700770) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250769)

This seems like junk that Dell have installed to make some cash one the side. If firefox bundled the same dns hijacker then who would you blame? Firefox or google?

Just because google make the tool doesn't mean its their fault that it is installed by default in a spywareish fashion.

Re:Can you really blame google (2, Interesting)

ronadams (987516) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250961)

Parent wasn't trolling; he made a very valid point. Google made the tool, Dell configured the machine. Dell turned the software to spyware. Google has, AFAIK, no under-the-radar delivery system for any of their software, including the URL redirection tools they've made (there's a few). However, system configurators like Dell have been doing this crap for years. Our sniper's scope should be aimed towards Round Rock, not Mountain View.

Re:Can you really blame google (1, Insightful)

B'Trey (111263) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251561)

How did Dell turn the software to spyware? They installed in on the machine, yes, but Google created it and dictated it's behavior. It allows Google to track every website you visit, even if you never intentionally use Google at all. It can be removed, but it's certainly not user friendly for a non-techie. You have to go through Control Panel, and the name is hardly intuitive (again, for a non-techie.) At the very least, there should be a simple "Uninstall" entry in the Start menu. Spyware? Eh, that's probably pushing it a little bit. But Google and Dell are pushing the edge of responsible, ethical behavior too.

Re:Can you really blame google (1)

ronadams (987516) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252665)

The software Google wrote replaces the 404 page. There's no mention in TFA or elsewhere that it "allows Google to track every website you visit". Regarding the removal via the control panel interface, that's Dell's end, not Google's. The program has an uninstall entry in Add/Remove Programs.

Re:Can you really blame google (2)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252863)

Depends very much on where it is directing you to. The article said it directs you to a "Dell branded page full of google adds." If the page it redirects you to is in google's domain (i.e. - maybe has a URL of google.com/delladpage), then google will in fact be monitoring and tracking your traffic as you hit their servers. If the page it redirects you to is in Dell's domain, then Dell will be able to track your traffic. Either way, one of them can see you hit that page, and of course if you visit any of the google links, google will see that too. So in fact there is a way for them to see at least your immediate hit and possibly subsequent traffic/browsing decisions, because they did just toss you into their domain.

Re:Can you really blame google (2, Informative)

Mountaineer1024 (1024367) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251565)

As I understand it, Mozilla DO do something like this with firefox.

When you perform a search with the default firefox screen (with it's Firefox customised Google) Google is notified of this fact and kick back some money to Mozilla.

When you perform a search from Firefox's search box you'll also notice that it's identifying you as a Firefox user, here take a look:
http://www.google.com.au/search?q=test&le=en&sourc eid=mozilla-search&start=0 [google.com.au]

Note the sourceid in the querystring.
Nefarious? That's for you to decide.

earthlink takes it to another level... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251755)

This same thing happens at level of ISP - so bravo to Dell for taking advantage of it at computer level and using the leader in search relevance to give users something relevant. Anyone notice that the links offered on the Doogle page are EXACTLY what the user intended??

I recently moved and switched from VerizonDSL to Earthlink Cable (actually Road Runner with lower earthlink charges - which is actually Time Warner, etc.) and if I send a bum URL, I get an Earthlink-branded page that apparently is actually a 'myaccount' page. I have never installed anything from Earthlink on either of my computers and this happens automatically.

Talk about spyware, this redirector happens who knows where - Time Warner,RR,Earthlink, etc. - so clearly someone is spying on me:) although it only works on structural URL typos. if I put the examples used in articles (digg.xom and http://microsoft/ [microsoft] I get earthlink redirect and IE error page, respectively. This page source has to come from somewhere. Heck the /microsoft/ example is even better the Doogle way - at least it shows MS as top links...

And OpenDNS seems more like a cyber-squatter of typo-domains, who's tryin' to make a dime off it. ANd boohoo - have you seen opendns homepage? it is identical to Doogle page, except it is OpenDNS brand at top insted of Dell. They even use Google!!!

Re:earthlink takes it to another level... (1)

Zonk (troll) (1026140) | more than 7 years ago | (#19254369)

Talk about spyware, this redirector happens who knows where - Time Warner,RR,Earthlink, etc. - so clearly someone is spying on me:) although it only works on structural URL typos. if I put the examples used in articles (digg.xom and http://microsoft/ [microsoft] I get earthlink redirect and IE error page, respectively. This page source has to come from somewhere. Heck the /microsoft/ example is even better the Doogle way - at least it shows MS as top links..
Earthlink does it at their DNS servers. I'm currently using Earthlink and find this rather irritating. However, they do provide a way around it. It's documented here: DNS Opt Out Servers [earthlink.net] .

If you don't want to bother reading the article, here's the important part:

In rare circumstances DNS error page routing may cause problems for some EarthLink customers running various specialty programs or services. As a work around, EarthLink provides two DNS addresses that do not route to our EarthLink/Yahoo! error page. These DNS addresses can be used as a means of opting out of the error re-routing service.

207.69.188.172 (East Coast)
207.69.188.171 (West Coast)

Sounds like evil to me (1)

pacalis (970205) | more than 7 years ago | (#19254135)

What else is there to say?


Are you seriously using the 'just because they make the cigarettes, doesn't mean that they're forcing people to smoke them' arguement???


Pay attention fanboys!

When I work on a Dell ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250781)

... the first thing I do for my clients is either clean up all that crap or reinstall the OS (depending on which one will be faster and cheaper for them). I doubt Dell installs this kind of sh!t (and all that other crapware) on the computers their employees use ... Google probably doesn't either.

Obligatory Google Reality Check (2, Insightful)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250783)

Google is a publicly traded company and as such here's what's important to them.....

Making money for their stockholders.

That means doing things like creating spyware if it helps their bottom line. The mantra of "Do no evil" becomes null and void once you become a publicly traded company. They should change their motto to "We do less evil than everyone else".

Google is going to do what is best in their corporate interest. Surprised? Don't be. It's business

Re:Obligatory Google Reality Check (3, Insightful)

gnud (934243) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250933)

Some would argue that doing no evil will prevent alienating consumers and customers, and thereby keeps the bottom line from dropping.

Re:Obligatory Google Reality Check (1)

popejeremy (878903) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251913)

And your idea is borne out in reality. That's why companies like Wal-Mart and McDonalds totally fail to make a profit.

Re:Obligatory Google Reality Check (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19253923)

Someday, somewhere, an old experienced Google hand might take a newbie aside and explain:

In Googlisiness, doing no evil is everything- Once you have learned how to fake that, you have it made.

Re:Obligatory Google Reality Check (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251033)

They should change their motto to "We do less evil than everyone else".
We would need some proof of this. The cynic in me is waiting for some story to break involving the credit card companies, travel agencies, book stores and the government.

Obligatory Google FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251381)

From Google's IPO letter [google.com] :

n the transition to public ownership, we have set up a corporate structure that will make it harder for outside parties to take over or influence Google. This structure will also make it easier for our management team to follow the long term, innovative approach emphasized earlier. This structure, called a dual class voting structure, is described elsewhere in this prospectus. The Class A common stock we are offering has one vote per share, while the Class B common stock held by many current shareholders has 10 votes per share.

The main effect of this structure is likely to leave our team, especially Sergey and me, with increasingly significant control over the company's decisions and fate, as Google shares change hands. After the IPO, Sergey, Eric and I will control 37.6% of the voting power of Google, and the executive management team and directors as a group will control 61.4% of the voting power. New investors will fully share in Google's long term economic future but will have little ability to influence its strategic decisions through their voting rights.

While this structure is unusual for technology companies, similar structures are common in the media business and has had a profound importance there. The New York Times Company, The Washington Post Company and Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, all have similar dual class ownership structures. Media observers have pointed out that dual class ownership has allowed these companies to concentrate on their core, long term interest in serious news coverage, despite fluctuations in quarterly results. Berkshire Hathaway has implemented a dual class structure for similar reasons. From the point of view of long term success in advancing a company's core values, we believe this structure has clearly been an advantage.

Re:Obligatory Google Reality Check (3, Informative)

medlefsen (995255) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251885)

Google is not a "normal" publicly traded company. The power structure where insiders hold the special class B stock that has 10 times the voting power of the public class A stock means that they're aren't subject to the whims of public investors. Brin and Page have 30% of the power alone. Here's a quote from Google:

"We anticipate that our founders, executive officers, directors (and their affiliates) and employees will together own approximately 84.8 percent of our Class B common stock, representing approximately 83.6 percent of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock,"
On the flip side it's also true that a couple VC's have over 20% of the total power, but they were old investors of google and have always had a lot of power in the company.

Re:Obligatory Google Reality Check (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19252089)

Google is a publicly traded company and as such here's what's important to them.....
Making money for their stockholders.
That means doing things like creating spyware if it helps their bottom line. The mantra of "Do no evil" becomes null and void once you become a publicly traded company.

Something like this is trotted out so often, we should make it a FAQ.

Actually, Google's obligations on becoming a publicly traded company are to behave according to the prospectus. Many (most) companies' prospectus say things like "we will maximise our profits", because they're basically boilerplate and that's what most shareholders want. However, if you actually read Google's prospectus, you'll find that it has quite a different slant. So Google is not obliged to maximise profits at all costs; it's obliged to adhere to the principles of the prospectus - which enshrine the "do no evil" philosophy.

Re:Obligatory Google Reality Check (1)

nphase (1076925) | more than 7 years ago | (#19253335)

Although, seeing as they have a multi tiered share system, one could argue that they are in fact, not feeding the shareholder. I see those privileged shares as a big "F off" to the stock holders in terms of control over the firm and it's actions, to make sure that it doesn't pander to the shareholder.

OpenDNS is bummed (5, Insightful)

Mr. Droopy Drawers (215436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250815)

The issue here is that Google / Dell beat OpenDNS to the punch. Both accomplish the same purpose: when a user types a malformed URL into the address bar, they get an "enhanced" experience.

OpenDNS is bummed that Google figured out a way to make money off the proposition. OpenDNS should have thought of that first.

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (1)

Catil (1063380) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250931)

OpenDNS is bummed that Google figured out a way to make money off the proposition. OpenDNS should have thought of that first.
No, actually OpenDNS is bummed because they already make money this way - Malformed URLs like slashdoz.org leads to this page [opendns.com] with sponsored links. Note that it's powered by Yahoo.

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19250955)

OpenDNS did think of it first, but the Google software is one step closer to the browser, so it trumps the DNS redirects which OpenDNS uses. (OpenDNS offers an alternate resolving DNS server which corrects minor typos by guessing what you meant and directs you to a landing page with ads if there is no similar real domain name.)

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (1, Offtopic)

dpninerSLASH (969464) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251317)

OpenDNS is bummed that Google figured out a way to make money off the proposition. OpenDNS should have thought of that first.

OpenDNS has been doing this for some time, so you're just plain, embarassingly wrong. I use OpenDNS as my forwarding DNS servers and I enjoy their automatic redirection feature, but I always have the option of switching away to other forwarders. Dell's deal is much more stealth and they haven't been nearly as up-front about it.

Huge difference.

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (2, Insightful)

bodan (619290) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251525)

I think he just meant that OpenDNS dislikes the sudden (and advantaged) competition. Anyway, I'm not sure I'd call "stealth" a page that has the owner's (Dell's) branding. It's not even hidden, it's just automatic. (Yes, if you're a beginner you don't know that it's optional, but that's true of WMP, the Flash plugin and Java, too.) Nevermind, that wasn't why I answered. When you say you "have the option of switching away to other forwarders", do you mean there's something like OpenDNS that doesn't do that messy redirect? I want a DNS that tells me when it doesn't find something, not try guessing. It's hugely annoying when the Java applications I work on (or SSH for that matter) try to connect to the OpenDNS search engine whenever I mistype an URL. My ISP provides absolutely abysmal DNS service (it takes it a minute to find Google...) so I resorted to using the DNS of a random ISP I found by accident. But I don't have any guarantee that one will hold, and it's pretty far anyway.

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (1)

monsted (6709) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251639)

Dell is doing the exact same thing as IE already does, except they point it at their site instead of msn.com.

A quick test on my danish IE sent me to http://sea.search.msn.dk/dnserror.aspx?FORM=DNSAS& q=slashdoz.org [search.msn.dk] which doesn't have ads but still gives MS info about my browsing habits.

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251735)

If you use a WRT54g home router (or one of the many similar routers which can use the same enhanced firmwares), you can use that as a DNS resolver. Or you could run a resolver on your computer. With broadband, the latency on the last hop isn't so bad, so a remote recursive resolver isn't an advantage anymore. A local resolver gives you full control over DNS: you can add local domains if you want, you can avoid DNS censorship and you can ignore caching directives as YOU wish (absolutely no caching for your dynamic DNS names, for example).

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (1)

bodan (619290) | more than 7 years ago | (#19253547)

But unless my understanding of how DNS works is much worse than I thought, don't I need another DNS server to connect my resolver to? I can't connect it to the root servers directly, can I?

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19253929)

Yes, you can. (The following explanation is simplified but good enough for resolving purposes.) DNS is a hierarchy. The root servers know the IP addresses of the domains servers for the top level domains. The top level domain servers know the IP addresses of all second level domain servers in their TLD. Almost all of these servers don't do recursive lookups, which means they will only respond to queries for the information in their own domain. That's why you need a recursive resolver. When you ask a recursive resolver for www.slashdot.org, it asks one of the root servers for the address of the .org nameserver. Then it asks the .org nameserver for the address of the slashdot.org nameserver, then it asks the slashdot.org nameserver for the www.slashdot.org address. BTW, all of these responses get cached, so you rarely need to contact the root servers. These lookups each take some time, which is longer if there is a high latency link between the resolver and the nameserver, which is why people on dialup like to use better connected computers to do these lookups for them and return only the final result. But there's no technical reason why you can't request these lookups yourself and with today's networks it is not slow at all. Try it yourself: MaraDNS windows binary. [maradns.org] Run the resolver with run_maradns.bat and set your DNS to 127.0.0.1. That's all there is to it.

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (1)

bodan (619290) | more than 7 years ago | (#19254153)

I'm not using Windows, and I already have a DNS resolver which I've been using only as a cache for other DNS servers.

Somehow it never crossed my mind that it would be actually possible and reasonable to connect to the root DNSs. Thanks!

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (2, Insightful)

neoform (551705) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251589)

Isn't the very nature of a 'toolbar' to in fact *be* spyware?

They all track what you view and send that info back to home base.

Re:OpenDNS is bummed (2, Informative)

Pollardito (781263) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252405)

no, a toolbar is just a place to locate lots of tools and usually a nice visible logo for the company that made it, nothing more is implied. in some cases using browser tools causes interaction with the hosting site, but this is not the same as saying that the toolbar should necessarily be involved in other web browser functions such as intercepting bad domains. the old google toolbar only connected to home base if you did a google search with it or if you turned on the pagerank display

OpenDNS is not open (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19250825)

Dell is "monetizing" mistyped URL traffic, like OpenDNS. The customer has a choice which DNS server he uses and which preinstalled software he gets with a new computer (by choosing different vendors). Both do the same, for the same purpose. If I had to choose between the two, I'd choose Dell. At least they don't fly under a false flag, like OpenDNS, which only claims to be Open for marketing purposes.

you mean... (-1, Redundant)

verucabong (1008319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250827)

people use their computers with the software that comes from the manufacturer? I've always flattened mine first...

Kinda fitting (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19250829)

http://www.iwebtool.com/domain_lookup?domain=www.g oogle.com [iwebtool.com]

Age of domain 9 year(s), 9 month(s) and 9 day(s) - Online since: 15-Sep-1997

P.S. Roll your monitor 180 degrees.

Re:Kinda fitting (1)

charlieman (972526) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251313)

That means today their evilness grows 3/2 of normal?

Re:Kinda fitting (5, Funny)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251943)

Some may say that was coincidence. Well here's the creepy part:

Take the number of days Google have public (2321), multiply by the number of Chinese people imprisoned thanks to Google (7), multiply by the number of web pages that Google indexes (11,029,291,583), divide by Nostradamus' number that he foretold would mark the beginning of the end (10,392), and round to the nearest 6 (6 as in 666). Now simply base64 encode the number, and you get DLOeVFT0501l==, rearrange the letters and you get "D0LOTSOFeV1l".

This has nothing to do with Google toolbar... (4, Informative)

LLKrisJ (1021777) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250841)

... Or at least _not only_ The same behaviour happens on my company issued Dell D820. It comes loaded with IE6 and NO Google toolbar and yet when I mistype a URL I do not end up at the MSN search page like on any other IE installation! Instead IE redirects me to a Dell branded Google search page full of Google commercials.

Re:This has nothing to do with Google toolbar... (2, Informative)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251259)

Dell uses the Internet Explorer SDK to adjust IE on a number of points. Lots of big companies do this as well, it's noticeable in the title bar of IE, which will say something along the lines of Internet Explorer presented to you by MegaCorp or something. At which point I start FireFox.

Re:This has nothing to do with Google toolbar... (1)

Briareos (21163) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251929)

That's funny - mine says "Intranet Exploder". And that's all I use it for... :P

Re:This has nothing to do with Google toolbar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251509)

The dell Business notebooks (especially the Latitude Series) does not come loaded with a bunch of crap. Inspirons are the worst in that perspective.

Claim is complete FUD (4, Informative)

Odiumjunkie (926074) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250893)

The gist of the 'Spyware' claim comes from OpenDNS claiming the error redirecting service from Google

has no clear name and is very hard to uninstall
Complete FUD. The service is called "Browser Address Error Redirector" - which is a completely accurate and clear name for the service, and to remove it, you uninstall it from the Add/Remove Programs dialogue, as you would any regular peice of software.

I'm sure slashdot denizens will have a good time discussing how useless the bundled software and trialware that comes with Dell computers is, and how the sensible thing to do is reinstall from scratch, but that's been the case for a while. There is zero story here.

Re:Claim is complete FUD (5, Insightful)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250911)

"Browser Address Error Redirector"

yea do you HONESTLY think that you average Joe user would uninstall a program with such a scary name? thats if they even understand 1 of the 4 words in that name!

Re:Claim is complete FUD (2, Interesting)

Odiumjunkie (926074) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250977)

If average Joe user speaks the English language, then I imagine he'd be able determine what the service did. There's really no jargon. What does the service do? It redirects addresses that contain errors when entered into the browser. It would be irresponsible to call it something like "Google Search Helper" because then even techies won't have a clue what it does.

Re:Claim is complete FUD (3, Informative)

hclyff (925743) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251253)

Are you being sarcastic?

Browser - "What's a browser? You mean, like, the internet?"

Address - You are telling me that people who can't tell difference between a search bar and an address bar know what an internet address is?

Error - Sounds scary...

Redirector - "Redi-what?" (I very much doubt average user knows what's a redirect, you can as well tell them it polynormificalizes their antroendoretarterons, it does the same effect)

Re:Claim is complete FUD (1, Insightful)

Odiumjunkie (926074) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251603)

You're reducing the level of average Joe user's intelligence to such a level as to render meaningless your point. The type of person you describe is incapable of performing even the most trivial of computing tasks. The type of person you describe will not realise that a custom Google ad-laden error page is not the normal result of a mis-typed url or a bad link. The type of person you describe will believe that is just how the internet works, and will have no need or desire to disable such a page.

However, a person of reasonable intelligence who is capable of determining that the custom Google error page they see on their computer is not normal, and is resourceful enough to find an online resource that explains the problem and gives the name of the service they need to uninstall should be fully capable of disecting such a clear name.

"Browser" - Not terribly technical. "To browse the internet" is a very common phrase even amongst non-technical folks, and if one resorts to a dictionary compiled in the last four years the usage in reference to a computer program used to surf the internet will be noted.

"Address" - One hardly needs to have a degree in computer science to conflate the everyday usage of "address" to the technical usage - someone who has already realised that the problem arises from a bad link or a mis-typed URL should have no problems understanding this usage of "address".

"Error" - Once again, a completely clear, non-jargon usage of the word. It refers simply to a mistake in an entered URL ("address"). Very relatable for non-technical people.

"Redirector" - Are you kidding me? You think most people can't determine what "redirect" means? It's lifted directly from everyday usage, it's a perfect, clear, relatable term. Traffic is redirected, people are redirected - and a user is redirected if they mis-type an address. If I am giving directions to a typical person over the phone, and say "Oh, hang on, I forgot that Foo Highway is closed for repairs, I'm going to redirect you via Bar Boulevard.", they do not flap their mouths gormlessly like the lobotomised moron you describe.

The name is as clear as it could possibly be. Anybody capable of diagnosing the problem and determining to fix it should be able to dissect the name very easily. It is not obfuscated in any fashion.

Re:Claim is complete FUD (3, Insightful)

davidu (18) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252387)

Wrong.

It's highly unusual for a piece of software to not mention who put it there. Look at your other Google software you have installed. Do you have "Desktop" installed or do you have "Google Desktop?" Does it say "Toolbar" or does it say "Google Toolbar?"

Oh wait, I know what kind of software hides things like that... software that is trying to be opaque and hidden.

-davidu

Re:Claim is complete FUD (1)

asninn (1071320) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251481)

What would your proposal be for a better name, then? One that doesn't confuse the average Joe even though it's still concise...

I'm sure Dell is listening.

Re:Claim is complete FUD (3, Insightful)

jackbird (721605) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251551)

How about "Google Website Address Assistant"? I don't know about you, but my add/remove programs list gets very long very fast, and something that fits into an alphabetical scheme with a clear indication of who put it there seems better than what they're using.

Re:Claim is complete FUD (4, Interesting)

stubear (130454) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252091)

I recently purchased a Dell M2010 and noticed this "problem". It bugged me but I found no obvious way to shut it off, including the add/remove programs suggestion mentioned in the article. After reading this article I did a little more poking around and discovered that Dell is now utilizing a browser add-on called CBrowser Helper Object (or something close to that) to perform this functionality, which I promptly disabled. The point is this is not an obvious fix and Dell shouldn't be doing it anyway. PC manufacturers need to really stop loading the system up with crapware and silly little "branded experiences". I have utility programs on my Dell that basically mimic the basic functionality for some things already available in Windows. The biggest difference is Dell has their programmers "design" hideous interfaces that make absolutely no sense whatsoever and redirect the user to these utilities at every chance, just to get in yet another "branded experience". My experience thus far has been great computer, now how can I go about obtaining another clean copy of Windows Vista Ultimate to replace the shit Dell installed.

Re:Claim is complete FUD (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251183)

The story is that one mistyped-url-redirector service complains about another service doing the same... wait, you're right, there is no story.

Re:Claim is complete FUD (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251257)

Thanks, you beat me to the obvious anti-fud post. I hope people actually read it. That said, Dell is not above exploiting a captive audience, so even though one guy cried wolf here, that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep a close eye on what their machines ship with.

Re:Claim is complete FUD (1)

davidu (18) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251865)

As it turns out, this part might not be true -- It might be even harder to uninstall. And remember, lots of people aren't comfortable adding and removing software. That's what Google is betting on here. We've heard more than enough reports to believe that there are multiple names for this software, including the infamous "Browser Helper Objects" that are put into IE, outside the Add/Remove Programs arena.

But that's not the point here. This might not be spyware by your definition, but as someone else mentioned, it's certainly not friendlyware. And what do I expect of Google?

Not spyware (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250973)

The fact that it sends you to a custom page if you make a URL typo does not mean it is spyware. That's a visible change, and you would be hard-pressed not to notice the effects of the software, or the fact that it sends you to a Dell branded page.

Since Dell ships it to you that way, you have no meaningful opportunity to establish an expectation that the Dell system behave differently. I.E. Since the software "comes that way" for you, it's not as if the software made a change to your computer without your permission.

So not only is it not spyware, it's not malware, or software that secretly modified your system without authorization (because, you see, your system came that way in the first place).

Re:Not spyware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19252767)

It has non-standard behavior and results in software leaking information without a user's EXPLICIT permission (even if only once prior to being uninstalled). This is spyware. Whether you know it is on your machine or not is irrelevant to the nature of spyware. A visible camera in the ceiling is no less a spy than an invisible one (although the latter may be a more effective spy). Further, it is not known whether this handles typos or not. Ntent iss haard too jahge.

Don't Be Evil (unless the shareholders say so) (1)

einer (459199) | more than 7 years ago | (#19250981)

Google is beholden to capitalism. No longer a private organization, its board can be sued for making decisions that negatively impact the value of the stock.

Google's motto should now be "Don't be evil, unless it increases our stock price."

Face it geeks, your idols have jumped the shark.

They're not (2, Informative)

mithras invictus (1084169) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251153)

AFAICT Google is just used by Dell on the Dell search page, thats all.
This wouldn't have anything to do with opendns being powered by Yahoo, right?

Charter do it too (2, Insightful)

ByteofK (952750) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251013)

When I got broadband from Charter they changed my 404 settings to go to some Charter-specific search page and I had to go through some hyperlinked hoops to change it back to just plain old 404. I didn't look to see if they were earning from the pages.

Decrapifier (4, Informative)

astrogirl2900 (944414) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251041)

Lifehacker recently had an article on a piece of software called the PC Decrapifier [lifehacker.com] . I haven't tried it, but it seems relevant to this thread.

Re:Decrapifier (4, Informative)

Mr. Droopy Drawers (215436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252041)

Ran this on my Father-in-Laws spanky new Dell. Clean as a baby's bottom after doing so. Dunno if this specific piece of software was on this system tho (did this over Christmas). But, a VERY good piece of software whether it's a Dell, HP, Sony or other manufacturer to take your system back to the way it was before they got their hands on it :-)

a way to test (2, Informative)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251053)

This claim may very well be FUD but there is a way for people to test. Just download a network packet capture program and look at the traffic being sent. I did this myself and didn't see anything untoward being sent nor did I see any gibberish traffic to indicate encryption. But, that isn't to say that I didn't miss anything when scanning the log of the output. Basically, anything offered by a for profit company for free, really is not. If the service were entirely gifted, the company would rapidly drift into the red. Also, read the EULA. I get scared by long convoluted statements which can be subjected to interpretation. I do like Dell hardware but the first thing I do when I get my dell is to delete the partitions, re-partition, and format the HDD. I recommend everyone doing the same.

Decrapify it (3, Informative)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251061)

If you don't want to reinstal: http://www.pcdecrapifier.com/ [pcdecrapifier.com] My mother in law bought one. Now I am used to your anti-virus no longer getting updated if you don't pay. But when her spamkiller expired, her email stopped working . And I can assure you there is NO WAY she would have been able to fix that herself without paying.

So ... (-1, Offtopic)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251083)

what?

David Ulevitch is a hipocrite (4, Insightful)

binaryspiral (784263) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251111)

Using OpenDNS redirects mistyped URLs to their own site.

http://www.opendns.com/faq/#how_does_opendns_make_ money [opendns.com]

How does OpenDNS make money?

OpenDNS makes money by offering clearly labeled advertisements alongside organic search results when the domain entered is not valid and not a typo we can fix. OpenDNS will provide additional services on top of its enhanced DNS service, and some of them may cost money. Speedy, reliable DNS will always be free.


Now, to be fair I use OpenDNS at home, but I find it hard to take this kind of warning from a person who makes money the same way.

Re:David Ulevitch is a hipocrite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251225)

Lets be fair. Opendns is free, and quite costly to run. In exchange, when it cant find something and its going to show a 404 page it insteads shows something a little different, with ad's.

You bought the pc from dell... and there software overrides your dns default behaviour by the sounds of it. Thats dodgy. Its up to your dns server what to do when it doesnt intially find a domain name, not Dell's software.

But the article does read a lot like "Breaking news, Dell install bloatware"

Re:David Ulevitch is a hipocrite (1)

mithras invictus (1084169) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251263)

exactly,
Also while admitting he was criticizing the competition he stated "We don't make a dime when we correct typos. We do make money on full-word searches, but those aren't impacted by this"

I think Opendns IS a better service than Dell's, but they're being far too aggressive toward Google here.

Re:David Ulevitch is a hipocrite (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251847)

Their product seems to use e.g. resolver1.opendns.com (208.67.222.222).
If I use that as my DNS, and do a lookup for www.google.com, I get
redirected to a CNAME of google.navigation.opendns.com.
What's up with that? DNS hijacking, anyone?

Re:David Ulevitch is a hypocrite (1)

davidu (18) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251937)

We have a vested interest in this space, that's also how we figured out what Google was doing. And we have a vested interest in giving people a great experience. I don't think I'm being hypocritical in my post at all. Go to the dell page and search for microsoft.xom, then go to Google and search for microsoft.xom. When users are trapped and locked-in, they are taking advantage of them. When users have choice (like on google.com) they are given a great experience.

I'm not being a hypocrite. Everyone who uses OpenDNS is doing it by choice which means we have to deliver a fantastic experience. And for the record, when you type microsoft.xom into your browser when using OpenDNS, we just correct those kinds of typos automatically. We don't make a cent on 'em, and that's fine. Most of those corrections are corrections to trademarked words and it gets scandalous to try and take advantage of 'em.

Compare things side by side: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dannysullivan/5107389 62/ [flickr.com]

-davidu

Re:David Ulevitch is a hypocrite (0, Flamebait)

Mr. Droopy Drawers (215436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252637)

Quite whining David. You have a good product. But, your comments sound like some kid whose toys were taken away.

Looks to me like you need to partner with someone to be bundled with their stuff. Can you get integrated into an application like Firefox that everyone needs? Or, can you partner with, say HP, to provide this functionality?

How 'bout some constructive suggestions?

Re:David Ulevitch is a hipocrite (1)

bradt (682447) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252017)

Not only do they redirect mistyped URLs to their own site, THEY ARE REDIRECTING GOOGLE! dig @208.67.220.220 www.google.com ; > DiG 9.2.2 > @208.67.220.220 www.google.com ;; global options: printcmd ;; Got answer: ;; ->>HEADER- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 27571 ;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 3, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0 ;; QUESTION SECTION: ;www.google.com. IN A ;; ANSWER SECTION: www.google.com. 30 IN CNAME google.navigation.opendns.com. google.navigation.opendns.com. 30 IN A 208.67.219.230 google.navigation.opendns.com. 30 IN A 208.67.219.231 ;; Query time: 75 msec ;; SERVER: 208.67.220.220#53(208.67.220.220) ;; WHEN: Thu May 24 07:31:11 2007 ;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 104 They are probably upset because someone else is harvesting Google's search data before they can get to it! ;-)

OpenDNS uses javascript for its spyware (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251393)


they track everything you do on their "guide" from what links you click on, when you exit the page, uses hidden iframes, the list goes on all 50+kb of script to help you just like Verisigns sitefinder helped,
what they do deserve credit for is convincing people clever enough to change their DNS settings that somehow breaking DNS in exchange for seeing adverts is a worthwhile tradeoff, just like spyware/adware convinces a user that viewing adverts for getting weather is somehow a good thing.

perhaps they should team up with new.net as they do the same just using a binary to help change those pesky dns settings

here's how to stop their crap

add this to your hosts file
127.0.0.1 guide.opendns.com

shortcuts? (1)

LordGlenn (656863) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251399)

anyone know if this breaks open dns's "shortcut" capability? if it does then it could be classed as malware.

Re:shortcuts? (1)

LordGlenn (656863) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251471)

OK, yes I should have rtfa. so it is malware IF you are using opendns.

So did Google actually write this? (3, Interesting)

deadsquid (535515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251605)

I'm wondering who actually developed the software. Was it Google who developed it for Dell, or was it Dell who developed it internally and called it the "Google URL Assistant" because it redirects traffic to serve up Google ads which I presume it gets a cut off of. It's not clear if the name of the app means it was written by Google or if it just refers to what service Dell is redirecting to.

Re:So did Google actually write this? (2, Interesting)

deadsquid (535515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252047)

Ahh... the links to the OEM pages below probably mean it is an app developed by the folks in MV. Never mind, then.

This really is not evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19251761)

And it really bothers me seeing Geeks misappropriate words for propaganda purposes because it debases the word itself. Think about the word "innovate" since Microsoft started describing everything they did as innovative.

There is nothing evil in this particular story. As far as I'm aware Google has never performed an evil act. You might not approve of, for example, the decision to launch their search engine in China and comply with the laws of the local government even when that meant censoring search results. You might feel that given China's less than stellar human rights record operating in China at all is a bad thing (though you might also like to wonder if Google should be operating in America given the international outrage that is gutananimo bay and the process of "extraordinary rendition"). But to describe this evil blinds you to proper examples of corporate evil like, say Microsoft's actions towards Netscape, or Microsoft's actions towards Go, or Worldcom).

Hi, I wrote that post... (3, Informative)

davidu (18) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251813)

Hi guys,

Yesterday I got a lot of feedback from people who just assumed I was biased and an underdog out to complain about Google. This is not what it's about!

Here's what I mean:

Use the smell test. Does what Google is doing smell bad? Is it giving users a good experience?
Compare:

(and if you want to see ours)

If you just compare what google is doing to their own users you'll see that they are showing a terrible experience to the users who are Locked-In versus the users who have the choice to use any search service.

Thanks,

davidu

Re:Hi, I wrote that post... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19252131)

users who are Locked-In versus the users who have the choice

That's what it's really about, isn't it? You're jealous that you have to bullshit people into breaking their own DNS resolving while Dell can just preinstall Google's software. Fact is, the Dell/Google software changes it where it should be changed - in the application - while all DNS resolver services break DNS functionality for almost all applications besides web browsers. The user experience on all these pages is horrible, if you ask me, because none of them look like error pages. I would expect a big fat red border to alert me that I am not where I wanted to go. All pages look way too much like domain squatter pages (which they almost are, so no surprise there). The rest are minor differences. All pages show the correct URL, all pages show lots of paid-for URLs besides that.

Re:Hi, I wrote that post... (4, Insightful)

forand (530402) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252275)

Okay so you have showed that some people dislike the results that google provides to is BRANDED websites. First off how much of that is Google and how much is the BRAND? Second what you describe IS NOT SPYWARE!! Where did that claim come from?

Re:Hi, I wrote that post... (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252563)

If you just compare what google is doing to their own users you'll see that they are showing a terrible experience to the users who are Locked-In versus the users who have the choice to use any search service.

What, exactly, locks people into using the Google toolbar pre-installed with the default settings on Dell machines. That is a instance of bundling, but I don't see how it is a lock-in in any way. What prevents users from migrating to a different toolbar or just a different toolbar config? Are you sure you know what "lock-in" is?

Re:Hi, I wrote that post... (1)

lightversusdark (922292) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252675)

Bloody hell, 2 digit UID!

Re:Hi, I wrote that post... (4, Insightful)

1000Monkeys (593520) | more than 7 years ago | (#19253365)

Thanks for responding to this, but claiming that your monetized URL typo page is better than Google's hardly justifies your claims of spyware or lock-in. Every discussion of this article has been filled with stories of people who have removed the browser redirection. Let's face it, the sort of people that aren't afraid to use custom DNS servers usually also aren't afraid to remove programs from their computer. In fact, it seems like you used a lot of inflammatory language to mask what boils down to a simple advertisement.

And lost in all this is the fact that you seem to be redirecting google.com to your own servers. I really liked OpenDNS when it was just a DNS server, please trust your users to be able to follow instructions and stop intercepting their google queries.

Same as Microsoft? (3, Insightful)

scuba0 (950343) | more than 7 years ago | (#19251815)

Internet Explorer has always redirected you to Microsofts homepage in some way, why shouldn't Dell/Google be allowed to do the same?

That is why... (1)

Vrykoulakas (706735) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252013)

when I consult with my customers on Dell purchases, I advise them to bring it to my shop to work on first thing. I boot it up, go through the setup for them, and remove Google desktop / toolbar (why IE7 has pop up blockers, anti phishing, and a search bar, and Firefox has all that and more) and then towards the bottom of a fresh Dells add remove programs list is "Search Assistant." Remove it, because an end user doesn't need the extra junk installed.

Deceptive article! (3, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#19252245)

Setting aside the fact that using IE at all is the best way to get infected with spyware in general[1], the alternative to Dell's site is NOT Google's normal page.

The only way to get to Google's page from Internet Explorer in its default configuration is to explicitly go to google.com, and with the redirector in place you still get to the regular google home page if you do that.

If you open up Internet Explorer without the redirector and type a "keyword" into it, you normally end up on Microsoft's search engine.

Given the alternative of going to MSN.com or a Dell-branded google.com, I know which one I prefer.

[1] If you care you should be using Firefox which (for all its flaws) has a design that's many times more secure than IE...

Google/Dellbar also overrides company Intranet (1)

pazu13 (663695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19253291)

I had to do some network setups of new Dell machines with the toolbar preinstalled. The redirector was actually a huge headache because it overrode the instructions issued when a machine was attached to the server. So instead of automatically redirecting users to the company's intranet, they found themselves getting sent to the Google/Dell custom page. Definitely did a number on my trust of Google.

fago8z (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19253789)

Just another Arugment... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#19254293)

Just another argument...
for FireFox.
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