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Questionable software

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The software listed here is both notable and potentially problematic.

BitComet

BitComet is proprietary Chinese BitTorrent client.

The Problem

BitComet is notorious for its bugs, padding files, in-software advertising, and well-nigh universal ban from private trackers.

The Verdict

There is no foreseeable case in which the use of BitComet could be recommended.

Java Runtime Environment

The Java Runtime Environment or JRE should not be confused with Java (programming language) or JavaScript (web scripting language).

The JRE is a software package that is required to run applications written in the Java programming language. It includes the Java Virtual Machine or JVM, the Java platform core classes, supporting Java platform libraries, and various Java plug-ins for popular web browsers. The JVM is responsible for the versatility of Java applications in terms of platform support. Unfortunately, it is also responsible for their relatively poor performance and high memory requirements. While the situation has certainly improved in recent years thanks to the Just-In-Time Compiler or JIT, Java applications still tend to be somewhat slower and heavier than their non-Java counterparts. Notably, certain applications like Libre Office require Java for certain features, but can be used without the JRE if the user is willing to sacrifice access to those features.

The Problem

The debate about whether or not to install the JRE on one's computer is most related to security issues stemming from the various Java plug-ins for Web browsers. These plug-ins have no role whatsoever in running most Java applications and are only rarely required to display modern Web content. Due to the significant number of security vulnerabilities caused by these plug-ins in the past several years, major browser vendors like Mozilla and Google have taken steps to see that they are unable to execute without directly prompting the user. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended that one verify manually that these plug-ins are indeed disabled, since they possess known security vulnerabilities at the time of this writing.

The Verdict

Provided that best practise is followed by the user, there is no harm in installing the Java Runtime Environment or its free and open source equivalents on one's PC.

Skype

Skype is the client software for a popular Microsoft-owned voice-over-IP and instant-messaging network by the same name.

The Problem

For a detailed analysis of the problems with Skype, see 'Silver Needle in the Skype'. It is a bit dated and pre-dates the Snowden revelations by quite a few years, but it still contains valuable information.

Microsoft is capable of eavesdropping on and recording any conversation had via Skype. They are known to furnish collected data to the American National Security Agency, or NSA, and other adversarial entities upon request. The full extent of Skype's surveillance capabilities is unknown.

The Verdict

There is no foreseeable case in which the use of Skype could be recommended. If its use is required by an employer, it should be restricted to a machine dedicated exclusively to business purposes.

µTorrent

Microtorrent, or µTorrent as it is more commonly called, is a proprietary BitTorrent client originally developed by Ludwig Strigeus. Before its acquisition by BitTorrent Incorporated, it was widely regarded as being the best software package of its kind in terms of features and performance. At the time of this writing, it remains the most popular BitTorrent client outside of China.

The Problem

In the years following its acquisition, µTorrent received a number of controversial new features including 'apps', in-program advertising, and a paid version of the software.

The Verdict

In light of the many free and open source alternatives now available to Windows users, the use of µTorrent cannot be recommended. If one must use it due to tracker-specific demands, the build 25302 of v2.2.1 is widely regarded as the last acceptable version.