There’s No Free Lunch: Lenovo and Superfish
Lately, I’ve been reading or rereading some classic sci-fi novels, including The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (published originally in 1966) which many consider Robert A. Heinlein’s greatest work. The story traces the revolutionary uprising of a former lunar penal colony against its ruling authority on Earth via the reminiscences of Manuel “Mannie” Garcia O’Kelly-Davis, a computer technician who becomes a leader in the rebellion.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was the first novel to popularize the concept of TANSTAAFL, an acronym which Mannie says means, “’There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’ And isn’t… Was reminding (her) that anything free costs twice as much in long run or turns out worthless.”
I was reminded of this recently in the public dustup resulting from Lenovo pre-loading Superfish, onto some of its consumer notebooks. If you’re unfamiliar with Superfish, it’s a visual search company that develops advertising-oriented software (adware) which injects commercial links into users’ online search results.
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NOTE: This column was originally published in the Pund-IT Review.