Cats, dogs, hamsters, horses, minks, monkeys, and bearded dragons make wonderful pets under the correct household circumstances, but sometimes we just want a furry friend that’s virtual. Online pets offer some advantages. We have little time to clean up literal litter boxes or take the adder for a walk. Life simply becomes too busy for real-world critters.
Should you wake up craving the attention and comfort of a creature, but lacking the motivation to leave the house and adopt one, consider adopting a happy Guffin as your own virtual friend. It’s fun. Many different Guffins are looking for homes at guffins.com: select a pet that looks like fun and adopt it into your browser. The cute little creature will need some virtual attention from you, but you won’t have to take it to the animal doctor or purchase a pet-owner’s license.
It will never escape your desktop and ravage the new carpet. You’ll not find a dirty litter box in the basement. You won’t have to walk it every morning. You won’t have to walk it, ever.
How does it work?
There’s no need to drive to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to pick out your virtual friend. Simply point your browser at Guffins.com. The good folks at Guffins have peppered the Internet with advertising for their site. They want everyone to get involved.
When you click the “Adopt a Pet” button on the Guffins.com home page, you’ll receive a small executable file called Guffins.exe. This file will install a program on your computer so you can get started with your first adoption.Based on the file name, Guffins.exe, we assume that there’s no Apple or Linux version of the program. The web site be be flexible enough to send you the proper file based on your operating system, but we didn’t test that possibility.
Keep in mind that any program downloaded from the Internet is a potential risk. You may be downloading a virus, spyware, or some other program that may end up making your life miserable. You may wish to scan the program with your anti-virus software and your anti-spyware software before executing it. A clean bill of health from your security utilities is no guarantee that you won’t be infected, but it’s better than nothing.
If you are logged on with administrative permissions, as most Windows users are, then this program will run with administrative permissions. Do so at your own risk.
The program you receive will come from a company named Mindspark Interactive Network and should be titled “Guffins.exe.”
During the installation process, you might want to uncheck the two options listed below. Leaving both selected will change your home page and your default search engine. This may not be considered spyware or malware, given that you ‘agreed’ to the changes. On the other hand, few users won’t be surprised when their browser begins behaving differently.
Your virtual pet will not be affected whether or not the options are selected. We ran our installation with both boxes unchecked, which is probably the choice that will be made by 99% of Guffin adopters who actually read the fine print. Very few people will want their home page changed by a Guffin.
After a brief download, the program will install. Expect a new toolbar to appear on your browser. If the toolbar isn’t visible, restart your browser program. Our toolbar didn’t appear until we restarted Firefox. Firefox has excellent add-in management: we are mostly confident that the program can be removed through the Firefox add-in management menu should we grow tired of our virtual pet.
We did not test the program with any other browsers. Internet Explorer is also popular, but we can’t say how well the Guffin adopt-a-pet system functions in that environment.
It’s time to adopt your first virtual pet. You don’t need to lay out newspaper or put a cage in the corner of the living room. Your pet will spend its’ entire virtual life on your computer screen. Pick out a pet that tugs at your heart strings. I picked the first little doggy that popped up because I couldn’t bear to leave it behind while I browsed the other pets.
Adopting a pet can be stressful because your heart tells you to pick the first set of sad little eyes that lock onto you. Walking through rows of kennels or cages means ignoring many deserving little furry friends. Selecting a Guffin is not as difficult: rest assured that your virtual friend doesn’t even exist until you pick him (her?) from the menu. No Guffins are harmed during the adoption process.
After your adoption is approved, you will receive a confirmation screen. Print a copy of it for proof of ownership, should your virtual pet get loose in the neighborhood. You don’t want to lose your virtual pet at the virtual animal shelter.
Your virtual Guffin appears in a new window, ready to love you forever. You can do some cool stuff with it:
Each time you open your browser, the Guffin Toolbar loads. This toolbar provides instant access to your little friend. Simply click on View Pet to load your pet in a window inside your browser.
Your Guffin will get sick, tired, and filthy if you don’t provide proper care. As illustrated in the following screen shot, my Guffin began to deteriorate rather quickly, during Day 0 of our relationship. The poor thing was suffering needlessly because I didn’t attend to it immediately after adopting it.
Computer programmers are intimately familiar with counting from 0, but most people count from 1. In the world of Guffins, day 0 is actually your first day of virtual pet ownership.
The No-spyware Assurance
Here is the guarantee of no-spyware, as offered by the folks who gave you your Guffin. They promise not to spy on you, record your activity, or send you any pop-up ads. The Guffin program is mostly web-based, with a small add-in tacked onto your browser (we used Firefox) but the footprint is small and seems mostly harmless.There is some executable programming that runs on your computer, but as a part of your browser. When you download the original program to set your Guffin world, you are executing code that has the same permission level as you do.
You may not be able to adopt a Guffin at work or at school: Guffin activities are not recommended on computers in those environments: you could lose your job or your academic standing. A virtual pet is fun, but it’s not worth your career.