Software That I End Up Avoiding

You are reading an older blog post. Please be aware that the information contained in it may be technologically outdated. This text may not necessarily reflect my current opinions or capabilities.

April 10th, 2011

Having recently acquired a brand-new smartphone, I'm still fiddling around with the system, installing apps and configuring things. So far I'm really happy with it, a definite step up from my previous cell phone (and that one wasn't even that old).

Imagine my surprise when I found out that the new one has an office app installed on it by the vendor. Inspired by a semi-recent article on OSNews, I'd been wondering what a good mobile office UI might look like, so I was eager to have a look at this one that came free with my phone. It's called ThinkFree Office and supposedly it works really well. Unfortunately I never actually could look at it. How come? Because the EULA is completely friggin' ridiculous. And here's why.

License Agreements

On a newly configured Android phone, one of the first negative things I noticed was that it kind of spams you with license agreements. It seems like there's one for each Google service (like the App Market, Mail if you use it, Maps, or YouTube) and then more for a lot of other apps that use remote services. Generally these work such that you have to agree to them to use the software – if you don't, you don't get to use it.

In my humble opinion, the ones for the Google services are okay. Obviously I'd prefer it if they weren't necessary, but from what I recall they were worded comparatively clearly, not so bogged down with legalese, and fairly agreeable as far as the actual terms go. I try not to leave more data than necessary with Google, but their license agreements didn't give me that much of a bad feeling for using the Android Market, for example.

And then along comes ThinkFree Office.

Some Choice Quotes

To put my rant into the correct perspective, please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer and I have no formal education about EULAs, how they're written and why they're worded as they are. Also, the EULA presented to me is German and I'm translating it on the fly. I'll do my best, but I make mistakes. At any rate, the wording in this blog post is not the exact wording that I'm asked to agree to.

That said, here are a few quotations illustrating why I think that the ThinkFree Office EULA is completely unacceptable:

The software may be used for personal and internal commercial purposes, but not in the operation of a service bureau or to the advantage of another person or commercial entity,

Okay, so let me get my head around this. The gist seems to be that I can use it to write personal stuff, like laundry lists and diary entries. I could probably use it to write this blog entry (theoretically), even if I was making any money off this website, since it's internal use and I'm not running a service bureau, as far as I know. (What exactly constitutes a “service bureau” anyway?)

But wait… if you're reading this blog entry, and you think it's interesting or funny, did I then write it to the advantage of another person? Or is that only financial advantage? I wonder what would happen if I (hypothetically speaking) used it to write a gift coupon for a book for my mother's birthday. Would that be me using it to her financial advantage? My guess is as good as yours.

Finishing the sentence quoted above, we get this gem:

including but not limited to the development of other software.

Sure, I guess that's… wait, what?

Yes, it is explicitly forbidden to use ThinkFree Office for programming.

I started this blog entry with good intentions, but we've already reached the limits of both my goodwill and my imagination. This doesn't even try to make sense. Who wrote that, and what were they thinking? That I might hack ThinkFree Office from within itself, steal it, and sell it as my own? I'm sort of grasping at straws here. Let's leave it at a big fat “WHAT.

You are not allowed to display, publish, modify, rent, lease, lend, sell or share the software or any part of it.

Right, so if I hand someone my phone, I have to be really careful to not let them use your software, because the license grants it to me and to me alone. Right? Or is it coupled to the phone? It doesn't say so, so I'd have to assume it's not.

Is the license agreement considered to be part of the software, anyway? I'm guessing it is. Good thing I haven't agreed to it, so I can still quote it here.

The software is intellectual property of Hancom Inc. and may not be shared with or displayed to any person besides you and other people who have agreed to this license and are registered with Hancom Inc.

Ah, here we go. I guess that clears that up, at least. If anyone here ever borrows my phone, do not open ThinkFree Office. They don't want you to see it. At all.

You have no rights of property concerning the software. You are merely granted a license to use the software under the conditions outlined in this document, and Hancom Inc. reserves all rights not explicitly granted to you.

Even though this reads like satire, it is sadly commonplace these days. I'm not saying that I think it's a good thing to agree to, but compared to some of the other stuff in there, this is almost sane.

This agreement terminates immediately and without notice, if you violate any of the conditions outlined herein.

Translation: If you don't play by our rules, go to hell.

You agree to destroy the software and all copies of it immediately after this agreement terminates.

Translation: And don't even think about coming back.

The software is provided “AS IS” and Hancom Inc. disclaims any liabilities, implicit or explicit, INCLUDING any silent guarantee concerning admissibility, fitness for any particular purpose, or compliance with the law.

Right. I'm not supposed to assume that the software does its job well. Repeat after me: If the software fails to do its job, I will not complain, because complaining is the way of the devil.

Also, if there's any code in there that (unbeknownst to me) does anything illegal, it's totally my fault, because I didn't check beforehand. Oh no wait, there's a whole paragraph further up that I didn't even bother to quote, that forbids me to even try to look at the code by any means (like decompiling or reverse engineering). So I'm not allowed to make sure that nothing can go wrong, but if something does go wrong it's my fault anyway. Gee, ThinkFree Office, I've only known you for a few minutes but it already feels like an abusive relationship.

You acknowledge and agree that Hancom Inc. may change these conditions at any time. By continuing to use the website, content, service and/or your files after such a modification of the license agreement by Hancom Inc. you agree to be bound by the changed agreement.

How do I know? You probably won't notify me, right? Let's say I check for license updates every time I use your software. What if you update them while I'm using it?

Oh well, I'm sure you'll only change the license agreement in minor ways, update the lawyer-speak or whatever. It's not like you'll say I have to pay you 10€ every time I launch your software…

Hancom Inc. reserves the right to at any time start charging a fee for access or usage of the website, content, services and/or your files.

… nevermind. ಠ_ಠ

You agree to take full responsibility for all activities or actions made by a person using your password, regardless of whether they have been authorized by you or not.

If someone bruteforces my password, or hacks your servers and steals it, it's my fault if they then do something bad with it. Riiiight.

Living in a big city, I've had my fair share of crazy people randomly walking up to me and blabbering about something or other. In situations like that, I try to smile politely and nod, while fervently searching for a way to get out of there. You know what? That is exactly what I am doing right now. Smile, and nod…

The agreement then goes on to list a whole bunch of things I'm not allowed to do while using the software. Among those things: saying stuff that's likely to be misunderstood, accessing “inofficial” parts of their website, doing penetration tests (as in network security), using automated tools or anything else that's not a normal web browser (tough luck, blind people!), sending spam mails, reading the headers of TCP/IP packets or e-mails (I swear I am not making this up), and porn.

And that's about it.

Icing on the Cake

Even after all of that, the best part is yet to come.

As I said earlier, ThinkFree Office came with my phone. It's part of the standard load of crapware you tend to get because the software vendors pay the phone vendors to install their stuff and make it non-removable. Yes, I checked, I can't uninstall ThinkFree Office without voiding my warranty.

Remember earlier, when the license agreement told me that I have to destroy the software if I ever break the license agreement? Think about that for a second. I'll be right here.


So did you figure it out? Yes, indeed, if I agree to be bound by those conditions and I ever break them (even accidentally or through no involvement of my own), I am contractually obligated to void my cell phone's warranty. If I were a conspiracy theorist I'd imagine some evil mastermind behind this scheme. “Isn't it glorious?”

I wonder if I could send my phone to the vendor and demand to have this application removed.

The Verdict

Dear Hancom Inc., or whoever is ultimately behind all of this: As I said, I would have loved to take a look at ThinkFree Office. I appreciate that you took the time to develop a cool mobile office application. I'm not someone who says that absolutely everything has to be free software (though I'd certainly prefer it if it was). But there is simply no way I'm ever agreeing to this. No. Effing. Way.

Dear Samsung, loading your phones with artificially unremovable crapware does not get you any brownie points. It does the opposite. I don't know how much money those people pay you to put their software there, but I'm willing to bet it's low enough that I'd gladly pay it on top of the normal price to get a phone without crapware. This is one of the (few, in my opinion) things that Apple consistently gets right. For that matter, Google gets it right too, concerning the Android hardware they sell directly, or so I've heard. So why live in the nineties?


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