I just returned from the CorelDraw Unleashed User’s Conference in Phoenix, AZ. The event is the chance for CorelDraw experts from literally all over the world to meet, share, instruct, receive instruction and in general absorb the program on which so many of us rely for our sustenance. It is a chance to meet some of the team from CorelDraw and twist some arms over features, bugs and interface issues.
As an instructor at this year’s event, I was tasked with leading the faithful on a digital photography field trip into the desert. One of my participants known only by his or her first initial “T” came up to me afterwards with a tale of woe. It seems the memory card had mysteriously emptied upon insertion into the card reader on the laptop. Fortunately, I was prepared.
Sandisk has long packaged a copy of RescuePro software with their Extreme series of Compact Flash Cards. I had a copy on my laptop and long-story-short, was able to recover the images. The person was ecstatic and went across the street to the electronics superstore to purchase a copy for themselves.
It got me to thinking a bit about the causes of digital image wiping. One of them is certainly the behavior of certain programs during installation. Corel’s PaintShop Pro, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Adobe Lightroom all install a little program on your computer that allows these programs to monitor the insertion of a mobile storage device such as a card reader or a memory stick. The theory being that if you insert a device in your machine, these programs, without prompting, will go out and extract all of those photos from the memory device, transfer them to the hard drive location of your choosing, and even erase your memory cards so you can go out and shoot more pictures.
Let’s think about the behavior of these applets for a moment:
- They install undetected as part of another application
- They monitor your computer for the insertion of a read/write device
- They transfer data without your asking
- They destroy the data on the source device
- They cannot be uninstalled or easily turned off
- It requires an OS bypass of a startup routine to effectively end their intrusion.
Do we know anything else that behaves like that? Of course we do, viruses and malware.
I went back and reinstalled these programs on a clean machine to see if I was given a hint of what they were up to. Nothing. In addition, it appears that Adobe will install a photo downloader routine for each of its programs. The insertion of a card reader with card invokes a competition between them urging you to choose between them. Choosing neither is not an option.
In most programs you have the ability to go in and modify the behavior of these programs. You can choose the directory into which they dump your card’s contents, set them to erase your card when done (a very dangerous choice) and a couple of other settings. No where can you turn them off! Ultimately I relied on Vista’s selective start up commands to remove them from active memory and reintroduction during reboot.
In the software maker’s defense, they are simply trying to make it easy on people to manage their digital pictures. What they don’t realize is the danger inherent in forcing a workflow on people who either can’t handle or choose not to accept their domination.
- Don’t install a photo downloader without my permission.
- Do give me a way to shut it off.
- Don’t make it clean memory cards by default.
- Do respect your computer user.
Get a copy of Rescue Pro anyway. You never know whose images you will be able to recover. Heroes have been made of something less.
Rikk Flohr © 2008