The other day I invited some friends round. I cooked them a nice meal and we enjoyed drinks and a movie, then as the hour became late we said our goodbyes promising to catch up again soon. I didn’t realize quite how soon though… The following day I was working at home as I usually do, when I heard a noise downstairs. On investigating I found that my new friends had let themselves in, were helping themselves to my snacks and were watching a movie on my TV, using my electricity and generally making themselves at home.
Now you might think this is a bit off. It’s one thing to invite your friends round when you’re ready to entertain and give your house over to them, but it’s another thing entirely if they abuse that trust and without so much as a “Please may I…” they just do as they please with your place. Well if like me you’ve tried Google Chrome, then you’ve got these same friends as well!
You see a while ago I installed Google Chrome after reading how quick it is, and how it makes Firefox (my current browser of choice) look like some lardy pizza shop owner. Indeed Chrome does feel quite sprightly, and I must say I do like the Speed Dial extension, which looks far superior to its Firefox counterpart. However what I didn’t realize when I installed Chrome, and which is probably buried in the small print somewhere, is that Chrome will run a process on my Mac even when Chrome itself isn’t even running. It’s called KSURL and at least four times a day it will attempt to call home, presumably to see if there’s a new version of Chrome or some other Google component that needs updating.
In fact, had it not been for Little Snitch blowing the whistle on ksurl, I would never even have known that it was running and helping itself to my Mac’s CPU and memory resources. You see up popped a warning that process ‘ksurl’ was trying to connect to a Google web address (cache.pack.google.com), but looking in Activity Monitor there was nothing, not even when I chose to view all processes rather than just my own. So, even though Chrome isn’t even running, some process has been spawned by installing Chrome, that periodically runs and calls home to see if there’s an update. Ok, the resources used by this process are probably tiny, but that’s not the point. It’s the fact that the authors of Google Chrome decided to let it behave like this – basically to run on your Mac without your knowledge or permission.
Now I’ve got quite a few applications on my Mac that check for updates and the accepted way seems to be a preferences setting that says ‘Automatically check for updates on start-up, or daily, or whatever’. Basically when you run the app then with your permission the first thing it does is to check to see if there’s a newer version of itself. Why isn’t that good enough for Google Chrome? Why do they have to be sneaky about it? Sure there’s a, ‘Update now’ button on the About Chrome dialogue, but if Chrome is constantly checking for updates in the background, then what’s the point? Imagine if every single app you installed on your Mac took the same approach – you could have potentially hundreds of background processes always running, always calling home, always consuming your precious resources.
Now it just remains for me to find the process that triggers these ‘ksurl’ warnings in Little Snitch, so that I can kill it off.