The Top 5 worst downloads of Spring 2009

This batch of our quarterly feature on the worst downloads brings terrible names, useless services, redonkulous verbiage, neural networks, and one very, very bad joke.

Worst downloads of spring 2009

The end of the aughts is nigh, and the first few months of 2009 have brought us new corporate bailouts, new unemployment figures, and a new batch of download disasters. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get to 2020. Until then, here are five of the worst downloads from the beginning of '09--maybe we can just laugh ourselves into the future.

Be sure to check out CNET TV Editor Tom Merritt's hilarious video (on the left) on these five gems and just what happened to Peter Butler, my "Worst Downloads" predecessor. Oh, and a quick disclaimer, just so we're all on the same page: none of these programs are malware of any kind, and all meet CNET Download.com's software hosting policies. You're safe in downloading them and trying them out. Consider yourself warned, though: they suck.

5) Internet Speed Up, Bandwidth Saver & Offline Proxy is the name of number five on our list. I'm always wary of programs with names that sound like sentences, and this one's no different. It promises to "speed-Up browsing Internet," which right there makes us want to slap the developer--with a monitor. CRT, preferably. Folks, any time anybody tells you that they've got a way to speed up your Internet browsing and it'll just cost a mere pittance, walk away. It's all smoke and mirrors.

There are settings you can adjust in your browser and other programs that regularly access the Internet to give priority to one application over another. This one claims to make things go faster, and save bandwidth, and work as an offline proxy, and--yes, there's more!--block Trojans.

This wouldn't be so bad were it free, but the eight dollars that this costs would be better spent if you just set them on fire. And where there's smoke, you just don't need to go.

4) Next up is a program that can help you improve the largest organ in the human body. That's right, the Skin Analyzer asks you a series of leading questions followed by leading answers. It starts off somewhat benignly, like a tiny blackhead. The first question asks, "Why do you want to improve your skin," followed by two possible answers: "Mainly for beauty reasons" and "Mainly for health reasons". So far, not so bad.

By the third question, The Skin Analyzer turns into a raging zit of anxiety: if you have "wrinkled and aged skin," for example, you're offered skin care links with paid options such as the Peter Thomas Roth Age Defense kit at the top. To its credit, it do offer a few links to information, like a Web MD article on skin health, but the only real defense against snake oil hucksterism like this is not downloading it in the first place.

Come on, there's nothing here that a quick Google search for "skin care" can't do.

Whack A Gnome

3) Sometimes, the problem with a download is that it's snarzzle-whamaringtone-plockit. I mean, it's a goblin Transpolyporter 6000 that's been spotted in Gnomeregan, and they're struggling with the Trogg scourge and there's a lost Razzle Sprysprocket. Whack A Gnome may have a simple name, but the description defies belief, dictionary, and possibly several international laws on linguistics. It may also be the greatest game in the world, but who can tell when the publisher needs to learn that to get people to download their fozzie-binglot, they need to stop drinking thunderbrew and smoking cannelopy and make a just a wee bit more zertif-qualeebers, right?

2) Lotto Sorcerer is the program I've been waiting for my entire life, and is your instant ticket to unending riches.

Just kidding. There's always one or two special cases, and is there really anything more special than a lottery number predictor that claims to use a neural network? It can bend spoons with it's mind, too. The publisher's description of this geek- and greed-speak mashup says, "Lotto Sorcerer employs neural network (artificial intelligence) techniques to look for non-random and weighted influences in prior lottery drawings, then advises optimum playing strategy."

The "privilege" of owning a program that uses real, honest-to-goodness artificial intelligence to determine how you will fail to win the next lottery you enter will set you back $34.95.

The Ultimate Virus

1) The Ultimate Virus is the ultimate way to get your friends to shove you into oncoming traffic. I thought that the neural network was hard to take, but get this: The Ultimate Virus isn't a virus--it's a practical joke.

It's a program that runs a progress bar informing the user that a virus is being loaded, and then follows it by hiding the taskbar and desktop icons. I imagine the effect on a friend is much like hiding their antipsychosis medication. We're all for having fun, and everybody likes a good prank, but this is the computer equivalent of telling a friend you've siphoned all the gas out of their car when you haven't.

If you just can't resist trying some of these out, even that last one, check out Revo Uninstaller to obliterate all traces of these programs once you're done and friendless.

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