Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

Summary: The next time you want to install your favorite browser, update iTunes, get the latest security release for Flash, or set up any of 80 free Windows apps, do yourself a favor. Skip the vendor’s site and go straight to Ninite.com instead. Here's why

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The next time you want to install your favorite browser, update iTunes, or get the latest security release for Flash, do yourself a favor. Skip the vendor’s site and go straight to Ninite.com instead.

This cleanly designed web service offers immediate access to more than 80 programs, utilities, and runtime environments in a dozen categories. It’s completely free for personal use (a Pro version is available for businesses). Ninite will save you time, and it guarantees that you won’t have to deal with the potentially misleading dialog boxes that can result in unwanted third-party software—what I call foistware—being installed on your machine.

Here’s how Ninite works:

You visit Ninite.com and click check boxes to select one or more programs from the categorized list.

When you’re finished, click the big green Get Installer button and wait while the Ninite back end builds an installer that targets the correct versions (32-bit or 64-bit, XP or Windows 7, and so on).

Download that installer, run it, and let Ninite do the work of downloading the files and silently installing them in the background. It automatically refuses any toolbars or other third-party software that the regular installer runs.

When it finishes (very quickly, in my experience), you’ll find the shortcuts to your newly installed programs on the Start menu, where you can run them and go through any required initial setup steps.

It really is that simple.

And here’s a bonus: If you save the installer and rerun it later, it will find and install any newly added updates for the apps in your selection.

I spoke with Ninite’s co-founder, Patrick Swieskowski, about the service and how it works. (If you’re curious, by the way, Swieskowski pronounces the first syllable with a soft I—nin rhymes with win. But he acknowledges that most people pronounce it with a long I, like Nine.)

Is it legal? In the arcane world of software licensing, who knows? But Ninite’s terms of serviceseem clear enough to me: “By using Ninite you certify that you have read and agree with the license agreements and restrictions of any software you install with Ninite.” As Swieskowski explained, it’s no different than hiring a friend—or the kid down the street—to set up a new PC for you.

Is it secure? I’m comfortable with the checks and balances. The installer goes out to official sites to download the code you install; Ninite doesn’t host any files on its own. Before it begins an install, it checks the digital signature of the file to ensure that its hash matches the known good version you’re expecting.

One of the most interesting Ninite options is the way it handles URLs. You can save a selection of software as a single URL, which is constructed from the names of the products. So if you want Mom to install the latest versions of Firefox, iTunes, and Skype, send her this link: http://ninite.com/firefox-itunes-skype/ When she visits that site, she gets a custom installer that sets up those three programs without any dialog boxes:

You can even use custom URLs on the fly to install single programs. You want Skype? Go to ninite.com/skype. Flash? Try ninite.com/flash (or ninite.com/flashie if you use Internet Explorer).

For now, Ninite  is available for Windows and Linux only, but a Mac version is in the works. Highly recommended.

Topics: Windows, CXO, Operating Systems, Software, IT Employment

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41 comments
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  • Like Skipping Commercials on a PVR...

    Or watching TV episodes online, sooner or later depriving the vendor of the revenue gained by offering the foistware is going to cause someone to change their business model. Either the vendors are going to have to throw the foistware at us in a different manner, or they are going to make a case against Ninite and force them to stop.

    Not that I disagree with what they are doing. I have lost track of the time I've lost trying to lean up the extraneous junk on relative's PCs.
    TBone2k
    • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

      @TBone2k

      If my income depended on sneaking unwanted sofware onto naive or careless people's PCs for a few cents each, I might be reluctant to call attention to that humiliating fact by making a stink about this service. I lose respect for apps like Java and Reader because I can't use the installer defaults, or worse, as you say, have to clean up the junk they leave behind.
      1DaveN
      • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

        @DaveN_MVP That exercise I did to save my capped data (Internet reality in South Africa) and/or do it on the machine not connected to the In<a href="http://www.tran33m.com/vb/">t</a>ernet. I know that Google Earth without Internet connection is ... well, unique idea, but it was my first candidate for testing...
        alasiri5
    • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

      @TBone2k

      No one relies on this as a source of income. This is all just a bonus for them. It would be as if I decided to extort the people on my drive home in order that I not vandalize their houses. It's not ethical, and I don't need the money to do my job.
      tkejlboom
  • Welcome to 2009

    I have been using this service for a while when I first seen the Computerworld Article on it. Wow ZDnet has fallen behind the times.
    nucrash
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    Never heard of it before but thanks for bringing it to my attention, Ed. I will definitely give this a look the next time I build a PC.
    LoverockDavidson
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    Works like a charm.
    praveenkc26
  • Bookmarked

    Thanks, I will have to keep that in mind next time I am restoring or setting up a computer. Anyway to avoid that Foistware and to make installation of these software applications and plug-ins a bit easier.
    bobiroc
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    Works great for one-off new equipment setups!
    zetR1
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    For me, there are far too many optional settings that I make in many installs to make Ninite's blanket approach practical. Skype Extras, for example, is not something I want, since it's an extra process in memory that I'll never use. VLC would be another example. How on earth can it know which media associations are appropriate? And on and on. So while Ninite can say no to toolbars (and "junk," whatever that means), that's as far as it can go since it can't read my mind.
    rseiler
  • Two possible outcomes

    1) Ninite stays irrelevant.
    2) Ninite becomes relevant.

    Only if Ninite stays irrelevant then it'll keep functioning. The majority of users won't benefit off it though, which is not a great success.

    If Ninite takes on any degree of importance instead, the very junkware deliverers will just shift the junk *after* the install phase. I.e. the applications will keep all the junkware opt out stuff like today plus (in case it was not installed) they will try install it again (half in the background perhaps) after the app has been installed.
    Therefore Ninite will be just one additional step on the neck for the end user, who at the same time will still get a plethora of junk to be installed after the main app is launched the first times.

    This is market at work: on one side end users wanting a free meal with no strings attached, on another side software developers who can't survive without attaching strings to their apps. Since it's the developers who dictate their own apps, they will win the escalation in the end.
    dfumagalli@...
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    Ed, thank you for informing us of this service. I have saved this blog for future use.
    charleyj98
  • Regarding iTunes

    I wonder if it can install only the iTunes components that one needs to run, well, iTunes.
    TunerGeek
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    No good if you want a Mac version tho'
    Brahyih
    • Mac version coming soon

      @paulbunch@...

      As I mentioned at the end of the post, a Mac version is in the works and should be released soon.
      Ed Bott
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    Whats in it for Ninite? untill I know I wont be able to run &
    relax.. I always run and watch VERY carefully.
    ronangel
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    Windows users,<br><br>welcome to the Linux way of doing things.
    Alan Smithie
  • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

    Ed, does Ninite automatically install a new version of an app in the same place that an older version is installed? And, for a new app, will it let you specify the installation directory? My d: drive contains a well-organized, directory structure for all of my apps, and I don't want an installer "plopping" apps on my c: drive.

    TIA

    AtlantaBill
    BillSpeights@...
    • RE: Ninite is fast, easy, and foistware-free

      @BillSpeights@...

      If you simply go to the site and re-download the software, it does a check and skips the up-to-date ones. The updated software are on the site within a few hours of release. Yep, plops them in C drive n the free version.
      idiot101
  • Hey's that great. Almost like Ubuntu Linux Ed.

    Users just sit back and relax because every program/binary/blog coming from the Canonical repository is GnuPG keyring protected for safety, software is vetted before being accepted by PPA and users can be assured of quality software will get installed, AND NOTHING ELSE (bundling is typical with Windows products).

    So, as I see it, Microsoft is starting to see things the Linux Way.

    Ubuntu Linux: the safest operating system on the planet.

    I stake my reputation on it.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz --- Your Linux Advocate