back to article C’mon Lenovo. Superfish hooked, but Pokki Start Menu still roaming free

As Lenovo struggles to extricate itself from the controversy surrounding pre-installed Superfish scumware on its machines, a blast of cruft from the past may give the PC slinger's critics extra ammo this week. A Reg reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, reminds us that Lenovo is still shipping laptops with a potentially …

Re: Pokki is fine

A 30 second Google should have brought you (assuming Pokki doesn't redirect your browser searches) to the Classic Shell website. Much nicer than Pokki.

I still don't like 8.1 on a desktop computer. Small touch screen it's great, but classic shell is (for me) essential on an 8.1 with a big screen or a non-touch one.

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Re: Pokki is fine

Classic Shell

FREEware

Requirements: Classic Shell works on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2012. Both 32 and 64-bit versions are supported (the same installer works for both).

http://www.classicshell.net/

Classic Start Menu is a clone of the original start menu, which you can find in all versions of Windows from 95 to Vista. It has a variety of advanced features:

•Drag and drop to let you organize your applications

•Options to show Favorites, expand Control Panel, etc

•Shows recently used documents. The number of documents to display is customizable

•Translated in 35 languages, including Right-to-left support for Arabic and Hebrew

•Does not disable the original start menu in Windows. You can access it by Shift+Click on the start button

•Right-click on an item in the menu to delete, rename, sort, or perform other tasks

•The search box helps you find your programs without getting in the way of your keyboard shortcuts

•Supports jumplists for easy access to recent documents and common tasks

•Available for 32 and 64-bit operating systems

•Has support for skins, including additional 3rd party skins

•Fully customizable in both looks and functionality

•Support for Microsoft’s Active Accessibility

•Converts the “All Programs” button in the Windows menu into a cascading menu (Vista and Windows 7)

•Implements a customizable Start button (Windows 7 and 8)

•Can show, search and launch Windows Store apps (Windows 8)

•And last but not least – it's FREE!

Pick from 8 default skins, download more from the Internet, or make your own! Check out the Skinning Tutorial

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I've just helped someone with an Acer Win8 laptop, he got at Christmas, it had pokki on it. Malwarebytes removed alot of spyware. He didn't know what pokki was and said he didn't click on it. The desktop was full of pups like Wild Tangent. He has just emailed back saying he is getting ads from Strong Signal ... anybody know that? This was an i3 with 3GB ram and it was slow. I don't know how people have the patience for the monopolist's OS.

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> I don't know how people have the patience for the monopolist's OS.

you mean Android?

Here's a hint, billium. Either they are all monopolists or they all want to be. And here's another hint - there's nothing illegal about a monopoly.

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there's nothing illegal about a monopoly

Eh? I don't know where you're posting from @dogged, but most countries have anti-monopoly laws. It may not be the case that all monopolies are illegal, but the majority are.

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Silver badge

"It may not be the case that all monopolies are illegal, but the majority are."

He was technically correct - having a monopoly is not illegal. Company may end up being a monopoly simply because others decide to leave the market.

But abusing a monopoly position is illegal. Usually it's a temptation too great to resist, so we don't get to see benign monopolies too often.

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@Kubla Cant

I'm in the UK but EU law and US law are fairly agreed on the concept. A "natural" monopoly arises from the market. Everyone got MS DOS and then Windows, nobody got OS/2 because bleh, OEMs bundled Windows because of consumer demand* short of ordering MS to make their product worse or withdraw it from sale, that's how it was.

The obligatory flawed car analogy is that if everyone buys Hondas and all the other manufacturers go bust or become tiny minority players, hey, good for Honda.

What is illegal is attempting to leverage an existing monopoly into a horizontal or vertical market. This is what MS was accused of doing with Internet Explorer (the merits of the case remain debatable - Netscape Navigator cost money and was notably inferior and there was never any effort made by MS to monetize their new leading browser market share or prevent users from choosing Navigator or Opera). This is also what Google have been accused of doing with selling subsidiary services by inflating their Search rankings and what Apple somehow failed to be accused of in leveraging their iPod/iTunes monopoly (by market share) into phone handsets and then tablets.

Leveraging an existing monopoly horizontally is illegal. It's also what's now become known as "ecosystem".

* wah, wah windows tax wah don't wanna wah linux wah wah wah monopolist wah - there, that saved you some time. Yes OEMs bundled Windows by consumer demand starting with IBM themselves. You might not want it but generally businesses on that scale don't go around doing stuff that pushes their cost per unit price up just to annoy nerds.

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Anonymous Coward

@dogged - One small detail with your post

If I ask an OEM to sell me a PC without OS, what are they scared of ? First it is a legitimate consumer demand and second, it's even less trouble for them to pack the PC just before imaging the hard disk. Please don't bother telling that computer is not fully functional, support and other crap like that.

Take servers for instance, they are almost all being shipped with hard disks purchased separately with no OS and it is the customer who is in charge of that. This is why I have a good laugh everytime I hear about shipments of Windows servers vs Linux. I've never been asked by IBM, HP or Dell about the OS I'm going to install on their hardware, but hey, maybe you know something we don't.

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Thank you dogged.

I take your points, just as you would respect Eden's view. Are you trying to re-write history?

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<snip>

" he is getting ads from Strong Signal ... anybody know that?"

<snip>

It is often bundled with free stuff and is definitely adware / malware.

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Monopolies

@Dogged: I see your point. The distinction between a monopoly and exploitation of a monopoly didn't occur to me, but your explanation makes it clear.

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Well I'm pleased the only Lenovo machine I own is an Android tablet which didn't seem to have too much bloat pre installed. Off to research what was bundled though on the off chance that something similar was included.

Up to now have been singing their praises to all but after recent revelations doubt many people would still be doing the same.

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Anonymous Coward

Any software that has been made deliberately "tricky to remove" is Malware. Plain and Simple.

There is NO EXCUSE for foisting malware on your customers.

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Like antiviruses?

Many of them fit your defination, oftern preinstalled, hard to remove, and some even break stuff when you do uninstall them.

I am frequently told not to image new laptops destined for Teacher use, despite the facts that I have the image ready, it would be much easier and quicker to image than install the 20 odd pieces of software and remove the bloatware usualy including 30 day trials of Norton, Mcafee or Kaspersky,

Then of course a few days later most of the Teachers bring them back asking if they could have Windows 7 on the Laptop instead of the preinstalled 8.

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I hope this keeps kicking off...

Let's pray that this issue continues blowing up to the point that the corporates see bundling shiteware as a realistic threat to their market share. Ideally someone with deep pockets would sue Lenovo for aiding interception of communications or somesuch.

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Silver badge

Re: I hope this keeps kicking off...

Yes. Let's keep this issue rolling. It may seem retroactive, but I want a return to the days where the bloatware/adware/crapware was supplied on separate CD/DVDs with the computer, and you could install them if you were so minded, or more likely sling them in the bin and be done with them.

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Silver badge

Re: I hope this keeps kicking off...

"Let's pray that this issue continues blowing up to the point that the corporates see bundling shiteware as a realistic threat to their market share."

And also strengthens their backbones when it comes it pressure to install spooks' backdoors.

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Silver badge

Corporate places; You should have an authorised, clean, verified, image. No excuses. Deploying any kind of machine without the corporate image is a nonsense.

Technical users: You should know to do a clean install. Your licence is always valid for that. Hell, it's valid to be a VM too, if you read the blurb. And if you can't do a clean install on day one, how do you expect to fix the machine a year down the line when it's out of warranty? Make sure you have the disks, licences, and drivers enough from day one to do a reinstall, while you can still send it back as "faulty" or "not fit for purpose".

Home users: You get what you're given. If you're given tons of junk, give it to a techy to clean up and cost that into your purchase price. Even your restore disks will be worthless and still have this junk on.

As someone who's just cleaned a Vista-era Fujitsu of adware etc. that was put on it on day one, and shocked the user by how much faster it now is than it's ever been, I know this stuff has been rife for years and it's only making the news now because of reasons unknown.

Lenovo are by no means the worst offender (I sit here with a network full of Lenovo machines, but they were all installed by clean image and I didn't do more than boot the first of them offline to see what they'd come with in terms of drivers, etc. - P.S. Lenovo's have a stupid keyboard driver for their stupid Fn-Key keyboards).

Nowadays, one Windows 7/8 image can be rolled out to a dozen different types of machine and "just work", with the free tools built into Windows Server (no, you don't need SCCM to do PXE boot and WDS) - in a rare instance you might need to build a driver package for its network card to allow it to boot or similar, but I've never needed to do that yet.

The problem hasn't caused a fuss because it only targets the weak - those who don't know how to clean-install, probably don't know how to check their computer for rogue root certificates, or think the adverts are just part of the machine. That's been the same for years.

While we're at it, can we stop such places ever bundling any kind of antivirus except as a separate installable package (the Windows one is perfectly adequate until we can get a "real" one on there, i.e. anything that doesn't bring your machine to a grinding halt like McAffee/Norton), all the photo-management junk, the user surveys, the "I'll help you update" wizards, the sidebars and toolbars, the print wizards and all the other tosh that's bundled in.

My rule to my dad: Give me any new computer first, before you use it. Then whenever something says it needs a driver disk, like a digital camera, plug it in first and see what happens. If you think you need to install ANYTHING to get it working, give me a shout first.

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Sweetlabs?!

They actually hired Sweetlabs? Bizarre. Who next, BackUpMyPC?

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None of this is a significant issue

I have been selling Lenovos for years, and I often wondered what the superfish was, and why the cert went to BoA, but I just killed it. I too have seen pokki on W8 machines, and again just uninstalled it. Also removed all of the prebundled stuff that arrives ready to install in peoples homes.

I WILL continue to use Lenovo as I think its good kit and a good price - even better now as there's plenty of deals on.

I would rather have a Lenovo than a Dell and whilst superfish is the current topic, bloatware has been on computers for years, christ, even a fresh install of Windows 98 would set malware scanners chiming.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: None of this is a significant issue

I wouldn't!

I think it depends on what channel the PC is purchased through. We're a DELL shop and lease OptiPlex and Latitudes via Premier pages, all installed with Win7 no malware or any other nonsense. We don't deploy boxes in one hit and we're a little bit small to keep a image up to date (we used to but didn't really get too much of a benefit) So we don't reimage we just configure when we deploy which probably takes maybe 30mins per PC to partition the disk add to our domain, applications and updates are then deployed automatically via SCE. But if you buy anything aimed at the home user a inspiron laptop or a dimension PC's you'll see various bits of rubbish that you probably don't want!

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Has El Reg tried to get the ICO or the Computer Crime Squad to weigh in with an opinion on this?

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Holmes

Difficult to remove?

C:\Program Files (x86)\Pokki\uninstall.exe

Wow, that was tough.

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Silver badge

Re: Difficult to remove?

Question:

Do you really trust the "uninstaller" third-party closed-source binary component of a piece of adware to uninstall itself?

Because if you did with Superfish, you'll realise it left a root-CA in your certificate store. And I've seen lots of malware where the uninstaller either goes out of its way to make things difficult and/or will actively reinfect the machine with the same (or sometimes partnered) malware instead!

Sorry, but being required to run a program supplied by the same people who wrote the unwanted program to GET RID of the malicious/unwanted program is... to put it bluntly... stupid.

Even when they are honest and uninstall themselves, they will still mess up. I've had browser toolbars on people's machines that, when uninstalled, will break Chrome or even IE because they don't remove the configuration properly. Because, well, who cares about the uninstall program? As soon as they run it, they are no longer a customer anyway.

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Crapware or bloatware, you say tomato

PCdecrapifier is a useful piece of kit to get rid of the rubbish pre loaded on computers. I am positive people would rather pay the extra £50 to get a clean machine than have to go through the aggravation of having to spend an hour or more cleaning rubbish from the kit before they can use it. Let's face it, nobody would ever buy or use Norton or McAfee if it wasn't foisted on people in this way.

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Silver badge

Re: Crapware or bloatware, you say tomato

PCdecrapifier removes crap to put its own on there ... ;-)

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Lenovo = China, you decide.

Not so hard, huh?

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Anonymous Coward

not the only lenovo crapware installed

Lenovo also package a piece of sh*tware called EMC storage manager which (as installed on a new laptop in Jan this year) automatically performs port scanning on everything connected on the same network (wireless or wifi). Not content with just that they also made it so that it hammers devices with enough scans that it is effectively performs a DOS attack

Got my laptop banned from my uni network, caused factory resets (or at least a reset that meant a loss of settings) on a BT home hub 4 and 5. Spent about a day trying to work out why as i couldn't connect to the internet regardless of whether i was connected by wifi or wired.

Muppets

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Silver badge
Windows

The other day I was handed a malware infested windows box, I cleaned it, sent it back ... I was invited over because not 10 days later the machine was in the same state ... in fact, they installed an "app store" ala pokki which installs known safe apps such as vlc, openoffice, patched with malware/adware etc ... when they got their pc back, they installed the crap app store again ... I think I will give them ubuntu next or linux mint.

The other thing is, even if you google for say winrar or vlc, you never see rarlab.com or videolan.org in the top 5 results, it is always softonic or some other bullsh*t website such as zdnet/downloads.com ... these also "bundle goodies" with their downloads ... even sourceforge does it now ... Windows ? WTF, no thanks!

You really deserve the tramp icon, now.

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Just had another one.

Acer desktop from John Lewis came with Pokki preinstalled. Quality nice!

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FAIL

I was just looking to buy a laptop...

... so it's a good job I know how to wipe a hard drive by the sounds of it!

In any case I have gone right off the idea of a Lenovo laptop due to all this malware. Trouble is, I had my heart set on an Kaveri laptop so the choice of vendors is a bit limited if we're ruling them out for cr*pware as from what I read HP and Dell are no different.

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Microsoft don't like Pokki

Microsoft don't seem to like Pokki. This morning, Windows Defender took hold of my PC and deleted it. Windows is refusing to allow me to reinstall it. I liked Pokki as it made using my computer much simpler, but even more so I despise Microsoft trying to force me to only use their products. They're trying to win back the crown of "Most Evil Corporation" from Apple and I don't appreciate it. I'd use Linux, but everything I need is on Windows and DOS...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Microsoft don't like Pokki

What do you have that's on DOS which is capable of running on a modern Windows NT DOS box?

One of our people here uses an application called Persona for recruitment purposes. Being a DOS application, we found running it in a VM was the best strategy, and at the moment, the Win32 port of QEMU is doing a fine job.

Only fly in the ointment is the need to direct LPT1 to a file, since it seems none of the VM solutions (VMWare Player, VirtualBox or QEMU) are capable of emulating a virtual printer, but the user in question is used to this, and knows how to get the print-out up in Notepad to actually get printed.

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