It’s the most wonderful time of the year when the holidays end. The onslaught of shopping emails with “rush delivery” and “Christmas Eve delivery” end with an aftertaste of “post holiday blowout sale” and “holiday clearance” emails.
Then, every January, I get those wonderful emails that I always forget about:
RENEW YOUR SECURITY SOFTWARE NOW!
I have a few systems in place, and for some reason, everything I have usually expires in February or March. Thanks to having quite a few PCs & laptops over the years, some of these offers are for licenses I no longer own. So I have to sort through it all and figure out:
1) Is this for a current system or old system
2) Is this for a store bought/downloaded software suite or a bundled pre-installed suite
3) Is this software redundant
4) Is this software “good at what it does”
and finally, and sadly most important:
5) IS THIS THE BEST DEAL????
I’m a big fan of deals. I like to look for specials, “bulk discounts” for buying 2-3 year licenses for software, and just a fan of shopping in general. It’s called oniomania, the compulsive need to shop and buy things. I wish I wasn’t an oniomaniac. No one ever says “don’t get into a barfight with that sociopathic oniomaniac!” or “he’s got leadership qualities driven by his oniomania.” Oniomania isn’t a cool mania.
So my usual suspects for shopping for software would be Amazon, Newegg, and Bestbuy. Amazon has everything; usually they have the best price. Newegg is okay, but they have great reviews and they have the daily “Shell Shocker” deals with promo codes. Best Buy may be Best Buy, but having a RewardZone card means that I have an excuse to spend rewards points on purchases, or get points.
So why don’t I like to get freeware, those incredibly reviewed and fanatically supported free security programs that I read in the Linux blogs and in Maximum PC?
Buying things is empowering. You exchange money for goods and get the satisfaction of a well navigated search. You feel smarter for having done research and making a purchase. You get instant gratification at the cash register/online checkout. It’s hard to explain but there’s something about saying “I bought this car and got a rebate” vs “hey it was unlocked in front of my house so I jumped in and drove it!”
Buying feels exclusive. You buy something, you are a member of the store culture, a contributor to the business, and a client of the product. Freeware feels like you got something and hope their altruisim will be enough to support you. Buying is a contract.
Disagree? Good. That’s my oniomania kicking in. I can rationally weigh out the pros and cons of buying a couple products including freeware. But I sit back and acknowledge that overall I’m not a fan of freeware. You can’t use homespun cliches like “you get what you pay for” to support my decision, but I can say factually that the receipt I get from a monetary purchase is valuable. It’s tangible both in my hand (or printed) as well as in small claims court if necessary. And many times that receipt is going to fall back to the responsibility of a board of shareholders, not a private programmer or community who, many more times than not, will sell off their product to a corporation or find their “look what I did” magic wears off when they have to pay the bills in the next 5-10 years. I just don’t like freeware, especially if we’re talking about the security and integrity of my computer and personal information.
But back to the purchase decision. Newegg has some great deals right now, and I’m eyeing up the Norton right now. It looks like the Trend Micro license email I received is for my old Dell XPS 410, but I have to check if it’s for my Dell Netbook. I think a good resolution this year would be to get everything through one suite with two licenses. It’s tough reorganizing, and the irony of the internet era is that while it makes some things simple, we have to do more just to manage our lives.
My oniomania is convinced that Norton is the way to go, and that it will make me feel better, and that I should buy a new monitor while I’m on Newegg.
I’ll just say no.