This software vendor offers useful free utilities and has developed a novel way to add value to its products.
Bloat can be a bad and dangerous thing. A friend of mine got his pilot's license a few years back, and we began planning a trip flying from Denver to the Albuquerque balloon festival. On the appointed day, four of us met at the airport. After loading luggage in the rental single-engine Cessna 172, Dave and our respective fiancés climbed aboard and accelerated down the runway. Denver sits on a plateau about 5,000 feet above sea level, so the air is notoriously thin. Three quarters of the way down the runway, and now traveling at 80 miles per hour, the plane started to fishtail. Dave was suddenly applying the brakes. "She doesn't want to do it folks; we're going back." It turned out that the plane was overloaded for that altitude, and it wouldn't achieve liftoff.
The fact that all of us didn't wind up in a smoking heap in the corn field at the end of the runway was a testament to Dave's training and his discipline in applying what he had learned: abort the takeoff while there is still time. How we managed to overload the plane in the first place has remained a mystery since the aircraft should have taken off, according to the calculations.
Computers can be similar to airplanes sometimes. If they're overloaded, they simply bog down and may become so slow as to be practically useless. I'm typing this article on one that has that problem. While I may be in slight danger of crashing and burning, I am in grave danger of missing a deadline if I can't shut down enough processes to type the next paragraph. The problem is, with 85 processes running on my PC, which ones do I shut down without crashing the system?
Fortunately, there is a free set of utilities available today that has been designed to provide the answer to that question. SlimWare Utilities is a collection of three applications designed to clean bloat-ware and optimize your computer to streamline its operation. The suite consists of three basic utilities—SlimCleaner, SlimComputer, and SlimDrivers. The company also offers individual fee-based utilities and a suite, FixCleaner, to keep the lights on, but it promises to continue to offer the freeware indefinitely following a large-scale public beta last year.
Either the word "free" is compelling, or the utilities do work, as SlimDrivers has recorded more than a million downloads from Download.com within a year of introduction. SlimDrivers is designed to detect when a driver needs updating as well as identify the proper download to automatically begin the driver installation.
SlimComputer removes unused, pre-installed software from computers for faster startup and enhanced performance.
SlimCleaner is the suite's flagship product and repairs and optimizes a computer by cleaning and maintaining the computer from a single dashboard. It includes a "Hijack" section that scans the computer for all startup locations, Internet and network settings, system services, browser plug-ins, and other Windows settings that can be changed by third-party or malicious applications. The results are compared to aggregated scan results in the cloud before a recommendation is offered on whether to remove the file.
Of course, there are numerous utilities on the market to tune up your PC, and I personally have been using successive versions of System Suite from Avanquest for several years. I had a little trouble with conflicts when I was using industry leader Norton Utilities, but I have never had System Suite harm my computer in any way. I must say that Norton did recover a cluster of what I assumed were permanently deleted files once, which impressed me greatly.
The feature that caught my attention about SlimWare, however, apart from the fact that its utilities are free and robust, is how the company tests its products. Similar to how open-source software moves development forward, SlimWare sourced the crowd. Its Web site was designed in such a way as to encourage user feedback and user ratings, not only of its own products but other software vendors' as well. How else could a set of utilities designed to clean your system work?
"For the first time, we're bringing the power of community to PC performance, maintenance, and repair," says SlimWare founder and CEO Chris Cope. "SlimWare Utilities is based on the concept that cloud technology and community-based applications will revolutionize the performance of personal computers," he says. Slimware's products use cloud technology and crowd-sourcing to gather input from IT professionals and make unique, personalized decisions to help improve hardware and software configurations, Cope says. To that end, the utilities are designed to clean, repair, stabilize, and optimize personal computers and other Internet devices, whether PC, tablet, or mobile device, according to Cope.
Naturally, you must register for a free account before you can offer feedback on the SlimWare Web site, and there is a core group of recognized seasoned reviewers who have attained a level of stature in the community. Yet any registered user can offer feedback directly from the SlimCleaner interface. Users employ a color-coded system to rate software, but they must provide a reason for their evaluations. The feedback can help other users decide what bloat, er...software, they choose to remove from their systems. Software being monitored by the community is recognized by the chromatic slider that accompanies it. You click the slider to open a new dialog box that contains statistics detailed in actions of other users who may have encountered the same software. The bar indicates the rating for the software. Green is useful software that may be required by Windows, but red suggests malicious or poorly designed software.
It's a somewhat playful and colorful, but inherently effective, method for masses of people to quickly compare notes in a logical, managed, and statistics-based environment that could easily catch on in a much broader context. It's taking the whole concept of a Facebook user's "liking" something to a more granular, and thus more useful, dimension.
While forums, Web sites, and e-commerce portals have been encouraging reader feedback for some time, the SlimWare utilities site is taking user feedback to a new level by analyzing it to achieve, in effect, a form of global intelligence that people can actually use. Interestingly, it costs the company little or nothing to do so. Expect to see this type of user feedback incorporated into more e-commerce, software, and even non-technical products in the future.