Jumping the Shark – from wikipediaJumping the shark is an idiom used to describe the moment of downturn for a previously successful enterprise. The phrase was originally used to denote the point in a television program’s history where the plot spins off into absurd storylines or unlikely characterizations. These changes were often the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose audience had begun to decline, usually through the employment of different actors, writers or producers

As I was looking through some of the entries from some sites I visit less frequently these days, I came across a piece that made me wonder what has happened to a program that I used to use all the time, installing it on many customer’s machines, because it was free, but also because it did a great job of keeping the virus and malware attacks at bay.

Now I wonder what has happened to the people who write this once great utility, for they seem to have forgotten that antivirus programs are a necessary evil, not a productivity applicationit may allow you to be productive, but not directly in and of itself.

The article from gHacks states that the usage on a modern system can be up to 500MB of RAM, and that few other applications take that kind of memory at startup. (Nero is mentioned, but I don’t think it comes close to this revision of AVG.)

The article also lets us know that up to 8 separate processes may be attributed to the program, which certainly is enough to slow an otherwise zippy machine, and enough to worry anyone casually poking through the task manager’s entries – I know when I have seen a sudden rise in the number of processes, I immediately think I might be under attack, and start the cascade of emergency procedures immediately.

What happens when the average user, with a little bit of knowledge about the situation begins nosing around on their machine? Since this is a free version, there is no immediate help for the user (either by phone or online advisor, and e-mail responses are usually 48-72 hours away), who might be fearing that his system is under attack, and freaking out about the increased activity.

Beyond that, what do these extra threads of activity do to the responsiveness of the machine? Not all of us have quad core monsters these days, or work on them all the time, and it doesn’t take that much effort (under Windows) to make a machine feel sluggish.

The article makes it clear that there are ways to reduce the clutter that is installed, and make the system more responsive to the needs of those that have the patience, or the knowledge, to read and remove the overkill installed by the AVG Free edition.

Is this what the users of the Free edition deserve? (Caveat emptor?) It is not the way it used to be at AVG. I cannot remember another version that might take 25% of the average memory found on a reasonable computer these days. However, there were signs as far back as version 8 – it took a large jump in resources needed from version 7. I used version 8 for a while, but then moved to Avira, another free solution. Avira has a much faster scan of the drive, and when you have lots of files, on a very big drive, on an underpowered laptop, you want to get the virus scan over with as quickly as possible. For my laptop, the change from AVG to Avira was like a 2 step binning jump on the CPU.

Should you continue to use AVG? Not when there are alternatives like Avira, which is faster in every respect, and does a slightly better job of finding viruses, and a much better job of not hitting the user with false positives. For the very wary, Microsoft has Security Essentials, which makes for an effective solution for those frightened of names they might not be familiar with. It also can be effective for the small business user on the cheap, as it has just in this month become available for use on up to 10 PCs, without cost. It also is the only current antivirus with a 64bit version that is free.

Perhaps a mass rejection of the AVG Free product would assure a return to sanity once the people at AVG started quizzing those dumping the product as to why they did so. It might only change the way the typical install proceeds.

Either would be preferable to what is happening now.

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Opera, the fastest and most secure web browser

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