I’m a naturally paranoid person. I always check for the closed security lock in my browser window. I never click on email links to unsubscribe. After John Gruber talked at length on the hazards of Input Managers1, I keep an eye out for them, and remove them whenever I notice they’re installed.
Recently I purchased a new MacBook (black), and I’ve been slowly moving stuff over from my old machine. As is my habit, I move files and applications over as I need them, so my machine remains as clutter-free as possible for as long as possible. (It’s never very long.)
One evening, as I was poking around, I came across the file “CPNotebook” in my ~/Library/InputManagers folder. Somehow, I’d managed to miss it (so much for my paranoia). More curious than concerned, I decided to search it out online. I surprisingly didn’t get as many hits as I’d hoped for, but it quickly became clear that it was from Circus Ponies Notebook, an application the developers describe as “powerful outlining and organizing for your ideas!” and which I’d installed a while back when comparing various note-takers (NoteTaker, VoodooPad and my current choice Journler were the others).
Since I couldn’t find anything definitive on what CPNotbook did, I wrote to the developer:
Hi there, can you tell what this input manager does, what functionality does it provides?
Two days later, the developer, Jayson Adams, writes me back, explaining in a two sentence response that the input manager provides some of Circus Ponies Notebook’s “magical features”. He says he can’t go into details but that “it’s not harmful to remove it”, should I choose to do so.
Hm. “Magical features”, huh? I’m not big on responses meant to deflect from the question, so about a week later, followed up:
Thanks Jayson, that’s good to know. I’m wondering what it does do, though, since I’d like to know if I want to leave it in. I haven’t been able to find any discussion of what it provides, or what I’d lose if I didn’t have it.
“Magical features” bothers my programmer’s brain.
Three hours later (can’t say he doesn’t respond to email quickly!), Jayson responds with “I can say that it’s not *black* magic :-).”
Useless, but cute.
At this point, I have the sense the developer is hiding something. I don’t know what, but my spidey-sense is tingling. I’m also ticked off, because I feel I’m being patronized. When a customer asks a direct question, he should expect a direct answer. Playing around with the responses, and being cute, are not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for reassurance that the Input Manager the application installed (without asking, by the way), isn’t collecting every keystroke I type in any application and sending it back to Circus Ponies. After two messages from Circus Ponies, I still have no clue what the CPNotebook Input Manager actually does.
If Circus Ponies really cared about their users, they’d give a straight answer to a very clear and direct question: What does CPNotbook do? But, since I can’t seem to get a straight answer, I’ll just delete Circus Ponies Notebook and its Input Manager.
If you currently are using Circus Ponies NoteBook, I strongly recommend you likewise delete the CPMaager from your system until they come out with a definitive statement on what it does. (You can find it in [your home folder]/Library/InputManagers.)If you choose to look at replacements, and want to try one of the other note takers on the market, as I mentione at the top, I’m currently partial to Journler (donationware, and my donation will be forthcoming), but have also enjoyed VoodooPad.
Let me close by stating something I hope is clear, but it never hurts to spell it out: I am in no way suggesting that Circus Ponies’ CPNotebook Input Manager does anything malicious or untoward. It may just make the application run 1,000 times faster than without it, or make me waffles in the morning, but that’s not the point here. I just want to know what software installed on my machine does, especially since it affects all my other applications too.
That request seems reasonable to me.