Norton imps reappear, help hard to find

This time I thought I'd got away with not having to invoke any real help, but that lasted only a few weeks, writes Stephen Bell

I’ve had problems with previous Symantec internet security products, which led to an unsatisfactory response from the service line.

According to some overseas reviewers, this continues to be a problem with Norton Internet Security 2009. This time I thought I’d got away with not having to invoke any real help, but that lasted only a few weeks.

Everything worked smoothly, starting with the product almost living up to its promise of sub-one-minute installation. I timed it at about one minute 20 seconds. Symantec now has its own installer and has cut itself loose from reliance on operating system routines.

Previous Symantec products overlapping in functionality were identified and, on request, painlessly cleaned up, leaving no detectable remnants.

The usual ever-broadening repertoire of safeguards is provided, from virus, spyware and intrusion detection to password management. The last still too easily lets a novice user stay logged in, increasing the very exposure it was designed to prevent.

I scoured my spam email for phishing-like website addresses and all were correctly flagged — though ISP-based detection got to one site first leaving me wondering whether there was some other reason that one was particularly worth blocking.

Symantec has delivered on its promise to make the multifaceted product small and light on resource use. Update is managed when the PC is idle and the product offers continuous reassurance by running a CPU consumption monitor on itself.

The user interface has been rejigged again and is commendably clear. Symantec gives you a choice of “skins”, running all the way from the default black and yellow up to dark brown and mid-grey. Since I criticised Norton 360 for its “lollipop” colour-scheme, I can hardly complain about the sombre note of this one.

I had to wait another couple of weeks for the evil imp to turn up, in the shape of a panel with an incomprehensible Symantec error message (a sequence of hollow-rectangle characters) every time I booted up the PC. I clicked on the link in the panel for technical support and a page came up with garbage character strings appended to the words “Product” and “Version”, then “ModuleID 10; ErrorID 340.”

Following the suggested sequence of clicks, I encountered supposed links to “administrative tools” that refused to run. I was then asked to run a full system scan and “start you [sic] Norton program”.

The error persisted. Searching the help database for Module 10, Error 340 finally got me a sequence of comprehensible instructions to load apparently missing DLL files, using the command-line interface — not something to present to a first-time home user.

The problem is apparently fixed, but it’s hardly a stellar performance.

Norton Internet Security 2009 costs $99.95

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