Peter Norton: Off My A-List

There are two kinds of pop-ups: The evil kind, which spawn unrequested when a page loads, and the relatively benign kind, which appear when requested (by clicking a JavaScript link). Virtually all browser-based pop-up blockers are able to distinguish between the two, so that sites that use pop-ups without devilish intent continue to work properly.

Over the past week, I’ve been getting email from a small handful of students informing me that the J-School’s course schedule was appearing as a blank window. Could not reproduce the behavior on any OS/browser.

Finally a student lent me her laptop, and sure enough, blank page. Viewed source and was horrified to find JavaScript in the page that I had not put there. Turns out she was running Norton Internet Security, which works as a sort of proxy server on the client, and literally rewrites web pages before they get to the browser, stripping page control from the developer. With NIS “Ad Blocking” enabled, the program is unable to distinguish between evil and benign pop-up code, and assumes the user would rather not see the page at all.

Had to order a copy of this POS today just so I can get started on work-arounds. Between this and recent discoveries of incompatibilities between Norton AntiVirus and both Final Cut and Pro Tools, am forced to the conclude that Peter Norton is no longer my hero.

Music: Graham Central Station :: It Ain’t No Fun To Me

10 Replies to “Peter Norton: Off My A-List”

  1. Does Peter Norton actually have anything to do with Symantec’s “Norton” products any more? It thought it was just a brand name at this point.

  2. The school I worked at in India were using pirated versions of Norton until I came along. I hated it – so top heavy and clunky. It was an endless cause of problems (and the two “techies” who worked for me would often think that just “running Norton” would fix severe hardware faults!).

    We replaced the AV component with Sophos which worked like a charm.

  3. I have to agree.
    During the Win 95 era the norton toolset was cream of the crop, but since then…

    Well, lets just say I’ve been less than impressed.


  4. I do ISP tech support. Norton’s Internet Security firewall has been a source of more calls of crippled connectivity than any other firewall product. I had two calls like this in the last two days: “Do you have Norton Internet Security? Ok, disable it. You connecting now? Great, that was your problem.”

    Before Norton Internet Security leeched so much of my time crippling Internet connections indiscreetly and earlier version of Norton Anti-Virus caused hundreds of phone calls about email server time outs – caused by the software replacing mail server names with a loopback to local host running a server process that would talk tothe real server. Lo and behold, the timeouts from mail clients were caused by the mail software timing out talking to Norton’s processes, not to the mail server. Similar fix – disable it and then advise the customers to consider if they really wanted to use the software, or to uninstall and reinstall it or contact Symantec if they did.

    I can’t think of any other company that has wasted so much of my time, my customer’s time, and cost various employers I have worked for so much time and money. I’ve seen the A/V software cause as much as a 50% reduction in throughput speed.

    I’ve argued with computer geeks, programmers and IT majors who insisted their PC couldn’t be infected because they ran Norton – and then I finally convinced them to run some free scans (Google Housecall or Stinger) or sent a tech to prove there were viruses on the PC.

    That said I’m still a little fond of Norton System Work’s disk defragmenter and disk doctor, they’re much more effective than Window’s own tools are, and the Registry Error scan is a useful tool. The rest of it is bloatware and vastly over-rated.
    You can’t really blame Peter, he sold off his software company to Symantec in 1990 before the Web even existed and for all intents and purposes exists merely as a branding of Norton products. Since then he’s devoted most of his time and money to charity through the Norton Family Foundation’s arts grants.

    His most notable contribution to the world for me is probably the 4th revision of Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which was sent as a Norton Family Christmas card/gift. A set sold on Ebay for $850 recently. I’m happy to have one, it’s probably one of the most collectable things I own and I’d have a hard time ever time letting it go even at that price… It’s the coolest version of the cards and in a wonderfully arty package that looks like an oversized dog bone.

  5. Oh yeah, there’s really two kinds of pop-ups, ads that is, not including your take on it. There’s the web page HTML based pop-ups and pop-unders. Run Lavasoft’s free Ad Aware, it will kill most of the sources of these for free. Google’s toolbar is also an effective stopper for most unless you run AIM. And then Windows XP SP2 ads some blocking too.

    Then there’s the Windows messenger service spam that fakes being Windows program windows. It’s not related to MSN Messenger, it’s an NT service that some programs used to use but that can be cured by disabling the service in Services on Win2K and WinXP. These are more deceptive because they can do a fairly credible job of looking like Windows errors and warnings – and ironically one of the main products they are selling is software to block that form of popups. There’s a handy tool at‘s site called Stop the Messenger that also does this for you.

  6. Mal, thanks for the report from the field. The more I hear, the less inclined I’ll ever be to use or recommend Symantec/Norton products again, with the possible exception of Disc Doctor / System Works depending on the situation (and there are arguably better replacements for those from other vendors as well).

    The “Peter Norton is a god” line comes from my Ziff-Davis days, when one particularly colorful and beloved employee was heard to shout this phrase over the cubicle walls when he fixed someone’s problem with one of Norton’s better tools. It became a catch-phrase.

  7. Back in the day I used to run Norton Dos and I still miss those days!
    Everytime I’m at a commmand prompt I find myself hitting tab to fill the rest of the file names in. Using Windows and mouse seemed like a huge waste of time compared to that sweet ndos.

  8. Peter Norton hasn’t had anything to do with Symantec since he sold it before 1987. the pop-ups,etc are not his fault. neither is the decline of the product

  9. These posts were a number of years ago.

    Does anyone know if Peter Norton has anything to do with Symantec today? Or, with any other software company?

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