"Yes, but with our antivirus software you can be guaranteed that we will track and locate 98.97 per cent of all known viruses," the caller says.
"Tell me, where did you get the 98.97 per cent from?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well you say 98.97 per cent - not 99 and not something like 96, so you've obviously got a reason for it."
"Obviously it has two significant figures, so it's pretty accurate, but how do you know?"
"I mean it's not like it's some bloody MEANINGLESS STATISTIC that you'd just roll out like some mindless telemarketer that's never actually asked the question. Is it?"
"The... 98.97 per cent is our estimation of the number of virus attacks that our software would protect you from."
"So it's an ESTIMATE now?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well just a few moments ago you were guaranteeing 98.97 per cent and now you're ESTIMATING 98.97, so I'm just wondering how accurate that number is."
"It's a number based on our lab trials of the software on all the known virus vectors to date."
"So in reality you ESTIMATE that the software will pick up APPROXIMATELY 98.97 per cent of the viruses THAT WE ALREADY KNOW ABOUT?"
"Our database is updated daily to reflect each new vector!"
"Each new vector you know about?"
"Well of course. If we didn't know about it we'd not be able to update the signatures."
"So what you're really saying is that you ESTIMATE that you'd get approximately 98.97 per cent of the viruses you already know about. Then, when you know about a new one, there's a one-day delay while you update the signatures file, then probably a year's delay in updating because – like half the antivirus vendors in the world – your update is set to 3am in the morning of the 29th of February, IF the machine isn't being used and only if I've pressed the left shift key 17 times while clicking my mouse button to the beat of Yellow Rose of Texas?"
"Uh... do you have some problem with antivirus software?"
"No and Yes."
"No and Yes?"
"No, not really... and yes, absolutely."
"I don't follow."
"Well my experience with antivirus products is divided into two main categories: the Free and the Not Free."
"In the free version you get something that is either next to useless - let's ESTIMATE that it's 43 per cent accurate or you get something that is such a resource pig that the only way a virus could POSSIBLY infect a machine is if it managed to strangle a tiny bit of CPU from the software which only appears to differ from the IDLE process in that the IDLE process serves a useful purpose, OR, something that tells you it needs 'urgent updating' every month and a half, then slaps in a bunch of crippled malware it calls 'addition security features' the moment you tell your users that it's alright to OK the update."
"Well I can see how that mi..."
"OR, there's the stuff you pay for. The stuff that you get a choice about whether you want it to be 45 per cent effective or you want it to consume every available piece of resource. The stuff that will prompt you to renew about three months before the licence is due to expire - prompt you with a jacked up pricing because it's excruciatingly painful to install, requiring 17 clicks to complete - WITH VERIFICATION - then leaving its spoor all over your hard drive unless you EXPLICITLY tell it to remove it.
"AND when the renewal comes around it's also added a PANTLOAD of additional programs that you never wanted, still don't want, but can't figure out how to unbundle. I call this pensioner extortion software, because they're the sort of people you prey on!"
"I think you..."
"OR there's the third category, the pre-installed crap which says it's got a 12 month licence, except that the only component that is licensed for 12 months is the bloody BANNER, with every other piece of functionality crippled out after 30 days, prompting you for renewal, prompting you to add features and then spamming the living crap out of you for the rest of your life because you were stupid enough to put your email address in the registration line. Another pensioner extortion thing."
"As I was trying to say, I think you'll find that our software is an ENTERPRISE level solution..."
"GOOD POINT. ENTERPRISE CLIENTS – the FOURTH category. This is where we install a distribution server that pushes out software which is harder to remove than a nun's knickers, is incompatible with half the back-rev machines on site, updates itself aggressively (and usually unsuccessfully) every 20 minutes, interrupts almost EVERY BLOODY OPERATION with a potential virus warning, and then, to top it all off gets increasingly expensive and decreasingly reliable, year after year?"
"I can see you've had some issues, but I assure you..."
"Please don't assure me! Don't do anything to me. Pretend that I've seen it all and that I am so bloody jaded by antivirus vendors that I would rather give money to the virus writers themselves than contribute to the economic wellbeing of a parasite!"
"I... think that's a little harsh."
"Really? So if I built a house and one of the outside doors didn't work properly and you came an told me that you'd pay someone to stand in front of the door and stop burglars - INSTEAD of coming to me and telling me to do my job properly..."
"I think that's a rather simplistic..."
"Simplistic as in ridiculous or simplistic as 98.97 per cent?"
Well, I call that a success.