This seems like a very good time to lay out the situation vis-a-vis PivX and their product Qwik-Fix Pro Home edition. Let me say right now that my “beef” (as one of the principals in this matter put it) is not necessarily with PivX or with eWeek, who published the review that got ME involved with it.

To my mind, the situation hangs on common usage of the English language and some ‘fuzzy’ definitions of words. And, mea culpa, some corner-cutting on my part, for which I apologize.

One reader complained that the story wasn’t “hot enough,” yet. I hope that the wrap-up here will give him something to think about. It forms an object lesson, I think.

We begin with an article in eWeek’s newsletter. There was a review there for a product by the name of Qwik-Fix Pro, by PivX. PivX has been in the security business for some time now, and had an enterprise product line of security software targeted at stopping online threats by things like worms. Fairly recently, they decided to field a ‘home strength’ version of their software. As they began to near the end of beta testing, they released the final RC (I suspect) to the public. The only difference between it and a gold version, as I understand it, was a time limitation on unregistered use, just like any common shareware program. If you didn’t enter a registration number in time, the program stops updating.

Since then, I’ve gotten an update from PivX, explaining that the ‘shareware’ version will be a free download until November 30, 2004, but that at that time, it will stop updating itself from the Net.

Here’s a quote from the original EULA-

The Software will be fully operational, and will be updated with Content Updates, for a free trial period that expires at the end of the day (midnight PST) on October 31, 2004 (“Trial Period”). If You do not activate a full subscription for the Software (“Subscription”) prior to the expiration of the Trial Period, the Software will cease to function upon the expiration of the Trial Period.

Now, PivX lists the software as a “free download until October 31, 2004”. Notice the word ‘download,’ since it’s kind of important. The eWeek article I referenced says that the software is “free until October 31.” No mention that it will “cease to function” on that date in EITHER case. As I said, PivX has since modified that to a date of November 30th and clarified matters to explain that “cease to function” really means that it will cease to update itself against new threats.

Do you begin to see what I mean about the definition of ‘free?’

In my dictionary, ‘free’ always meant ‘without cost’ and didn’t include a time limit. I think that a better way of saying it would be ‘fully functional and free for use until October 31st.” The fact that the “freely downloadable” version will keep working after that date becomes moot when you consider that it won’t get any further updates. Presumably, although I haven’t checked with PivX, at that time (Nov. 30) Qwik-Fix Pro will have to be paid for before you download it. I haven’t seen anything in writing contrary to that.

I admitted to corner cutting – I didn’t immediately go to the PivX site and confirm that it really was FREE. Nor did I read ALL of the EULA (End User License Agreement). That won’t happen again!

Now, where does this all leave us?

It leaves us with no blacks or whites, simply shades of gray. The one major gray area is the question of the definition of the word FREE. Another is whether the article author was told or led to believe that the software really was free (as in MY definition of free) until a certain time. Or was it all simply a big misunderstanding? I’ll let you decide…

Sorry if that isn’t hot enough for some.

The one good thing to come out of this is that one reader put me on the trail of a similar product that (as of this moment) really IS free. I’ll publish a report as soon as I’ve tested it a while longer.

One thing I do have to say is this: this free program, like any other program out there (including Windows itself) may or may not cause problems on your particular computer. I want to put that up front. I’ve had one report of a problem with a user, but he was able to run Qwik-Fix Pro with no problems on HIS machine. So, if it screws up your system, feel free to let me know about it, but your main resource is their tech support, NOT me. And, yes, it’s a free program even AFTER November 30th and, no, I won’t refund your money if it won’t work :).

Now let’s cover the problems I’m seeing reported by readers. I think it only fair to include comments made by one of the people who were in on beta-testing the software.

This program was developed for Corporate and not home owners in the
beginning but after postings on BugTraq after requests they opened it to
home owners. Actually, I thought this was a big mistake as one requires
knowledge of program use and a layman home user I figured would not be able
to figure this one out. You showed me what I said was true. I found the
program very easy to use and self-explainable but then I know computer file
paths and what they are for. Anyone that does not fully understand computer
security should not use this program since actually this is the intent of
the program. Besides limiting XP it also limits Internet Explorer but has
no affect on the Mozilla browsers or Opera that I know of.

The program itself is exceptional as Corporate has been using it with no
pain and it does work. One advantage is that when there is a windows flaw
Thor has a fix until Microsoft issues a patch which is posted as an update
for this program. I am actually both since I work from home I use it on
both my regular computer and my company computers/server. It also has a
help banner on main left page activated by right click on icon in taskbar
then left clicking on Open QwikFix.

It does install to the add/remove control panel. If one does not have it
there they did not follow the install correctly. It is also under
start-programs-PivX Solutions.
When installed properly one can go into start ups and stop it from employing
at boot the same as most programs. Place a shortcut on desktop or whatever
they chose to start it if they do not want it to boot. Actually I prefer it
to boot up since I have a short memory and might forget it. It places a
icon in the taskbar which can be right clicked and enabled/disabled. As
stated since it does stop some of the Windows XP flaws when enabled, certain
aspects of XP will not function most are like if you in a user mode with
limited abilities. I find that yes I have to disable if using any IE
browser if I want to do anything that shows in the list on the Qwik-Fix
program. The list is actually explainable which you can open by right
clicking the Icon in taskbar then click open Qwik-Fix. To see the list
Qwik-Fix must be enabled. It has a update to check for updates at left top
which will auto install or give u a message no updates available or you are
currently up to date.

And…

QwikFix main screen: Right click QwikFix icon in taksbar/left click Open
QwikFix this brings up main screen. All tabs are on left side of screen.
Screen has Update which will auto update if any upgrades or patches are
available. Help files. Enable/disable. A+Advanced Options-General
tab , options are self explainable. Files tab: Highlite each item on
list will show one the fix description at bottom and what it does. With
this one should be able to figure out which one should be enabled/disabled
according to users security.

I have never tested this on any other Windows except XP so I do not know
what the results would be or if it works on just Internet Explorer alone
without Windows XP. Actually if one knew how to set the setting in XP
Services and on Internet Explorer none of the programs would not be needed
except for the fact this is updated long before Microsoft ever issues
a patch. Or if Microsoft ever does issue a patch, either way this is
sort of a failsafe measure to insure your computers protection.

Jeff, I hate to say this but it looks like just by reading your reply
to me that the users never bothered to read the help in this program
Lol. Even with my knowledge I scan over the help section specially if
I do not understand a function.

In any case, his comments do reflect a lot of the errors reported to me. I’ll let this report do the job of letting those affected in on some answers.