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Dodgy goings-on backstage?

Andrew Busigin of The Inquirer discovered some very mean things going on under the hood of the Norwegian web browser. Which shouldn't shock anyone: The Opera people have a reputation which precedes them.

Andrew never came to any conclusions; he merely reported on what he'd seen - which at least from a programmatic standpoint was extremely alarming. Andrew stated he was suspicious enough to not use Opera for a while.

But that's where the Opera Mafia comes in. The gang of ruffians running the snake oil side show are a disgrace to their beautiful country: They're mean and nasty and will stop at nothing to squelch any negative attention they get, whether it be deserved or not. Intimately dependent on trends and image to maintain their dubious market share, Opera play 'no holds barred' and evidently did so with Andrew's company this time too.

With the result that Andrew is now foaming at the mouth at Usenet and elsewhere and that The Inquirer is now cowering with its tail between its legs.

Andrew reported on what he saw. Anyone would have done the same. Worse still, it must still be Andrew's 'take' that Opera cannot be trusted. Which, given Opera's track record, hardly classifies as 'rocket science'.

How Opera 'Operate'

Back in the mists of time, Opera did not have an ad-heavy freeware browser, only a time-limited version.

Unfortunately, the wizards in Oslo did not always upload the correct version, and people spent a lot of time downloading only to discover the program wouldn't run.

And matters weren't helped by trying again at a later date: Even when it wasn't going to run, Opera did something to people's hard drives.

What the wizards at Opera had done, it turns out, was put a phony WinZip key in WIN.INI. But that's not what they told customers.

What Opera told customers was that their programmers had pulled a really good fast one and done some 'very low level direct disk writing' that could only be removed by completely erasing and reformatting the hard drive.

Good thing WinZip never used the same key in WIN.INI. And it's instructive to note that Opera were fully willing to cheat and deceive ordinary users, and even put them through the ordeal of reformatting their hard drives, all for this stupid little key.

The people at Camino would never pull such a stunt. Then again, their browser is both true open source, and free.

Andrew's Alarm

As the original Inquirer article reveals, Andrew's alarm was not so much that Opera might be spying, but that the software engineering was so abysmal.

Well, one of the things about Opera for some time now, is that I've noticed Opera's memory footprint growing on my system as if it had a bad memory leak. And after a hour of use, the Opera footprint could be pretty large. Opera crashes seemed to happen repeatedly after sucking up mucho memory, but I had thought that a design flaw that failed to dump old memory/pages aggressively enough.

Right now with about 7 active windows, it was taking about 47 MB, with an additional 69 MB of virtual memory swapped out. I had lots to spare, but that's a pretty big chunk of memory. Opera commonly pumped itself up well over 100MB, and sometimes well over 200.

And how many modules was Opera loading? In all one count just yielded 80 modules. Compared with all the other tasks running, it appeared to be the program with the largest number of modules linked.

The Process viewer also showed me the 8 threads it was running, and strangely, though MS Task Manager showed Opera operating at normal priority, the child threads showed a different story. No less than two threads were running at Time-Critical priority, and another thread was 'above normal'.

Which, given even a fair amount of software engineering experience, is enough to warrant the following conclusions - regardless of whether the program is spying:

Ownership & Influence

After making the discoveries he relates in his article, Andrew draws the following conclusions. Note that these conclusions ostensibly are not about the original 'spyware' issue, but about the rather poor programming used.

Now I'm worried. At this point, I no longer trust Opera, and will soon be removing it from all the PC's I own and influence - and that's a great lot of PC's BTW.

As far as I'm concerned, they have a near-impossible chance of winning back any trust from me...

And note that the above was impartial and objective observation, conducted with, among other products, Igor Nys's ambitious process viewer. These then are facts, and Opera then, in their efforts to stifle Andrew and get his newspaper to retract, are...

You fill in the blank, dear reader. Pick a really nasty word. Enjoy yourself.

Who to Believe?

After Andrew's revelations, the forums at Opera were alive with comments on his article. After a while, someone claiming to be an Opera developer and identifying himself as 'Yngve Pettersen' wrote a reply, discounting most of the technical points of the article.

Further, most forum contributors pointed out that The Inquirer is many times to be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, what is not written about is the correspondence between Opera and The Inquirer. The Inquirer know exactly what was written; for those familiar with how these Norwegian thugs traditionally 'operate', it is not hard to fill in the blanks.

Opera insist their adware is not spyware; bully for them: their software, whether ad or spy, still stinks, as does their way of doing 'business'.

Opera 'enforcers' are paid to check Usenet forums, out of the way websites, any place online where their precious product's name is called into question, and their tactics and their threats are by now well documented.

They write threatening letters and attempt to bluff the media into agreeing to prior approval for all mention of their product.

Which of course is no more and no less than total censorship.

Don't look now, but Norway is a free country. They resisted the Nazis in the 1940s, and would do well to resist these new vermin with the same resolution and valour.

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