pcns august 2009 newsletter

Counterfeit Office CD

Counterfeit Microsoft Office from EBay

Was called out to setup a new Dell Laptop.  The reason why the customer didn't buy Microsoft Office from Dell was because he wanted Office 2003 Professional, not Office 2007.   Instead he purchased Office 2003 Professional from a Ebay reseller from Florida.   When installing the product, the dvd drive would not read the Office CD.   It said "CRC error" (short for Cyclic Redundancy Check) and the installation failed.   This was definitely a bad cd, as evidenced by the tiny "bubbles" on the hologram, top side surface of the CD.  A closer inspection of the product, and visiting Microsoft's Counterfeit software website:


revealed this was a high grade counterfeit copy of Microsoft Office.  He got burned to the tune of $265.  If the hologram side of your Microsoft CD appears to flake or peel, it is most likely a counterfeit copy, the real Microsoft product CD, the entire top surface consisting of holograms and complex graphics is laser embedded and is part of the cd itself.

Counterfeit software is not unique to ebay. It has been found on Amazon marketplace, Craigslist, and on lesser known websites.  A google query Office 2003 Small Business returns over 30 million results.  There are obfuscated websites, for example this actual working website (Southern Illinois University) redirects you to oem-share.com and offers to sell you electronic downloads of Microsoft Office.


So not only do we have counterfeit packaged software we also have electronic download of software, which, I'd hazard a guess, is not legit.

People ask me where can they find old version software.  My answer, unfortunately, is I don't know.  In this case, I think it would be appropriate to answer it's HARD TO TELL!

Back to School Laptop Considerations

I have compiled my findings on some major laptop vendors.   When things go wrong - such as a bad motherboard, bad LCD, or other catastrophic failures, where do you have to take your consumer class notebook for service?

I called local service centers as well as manufacturers - Acer, Apple, Dell, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, Sony, and Toshiba, to get some answers.

It's just as important know how and where your back to school laptop will be serviced, as well as the features.

Acer: Warranty issues for Acer laptops have to be shipped to central Texas - Temple Texas to be exact.   Acer is direct channel, so nobody except Acer can perform warranty service.

Apple: For warranty issues, even if you take them your Macbook to a local Apple Store, for some repair items, including the Logic Board (Apple's term for a motherboard), the notebook has to be shipped to San Antonio.

Dell Consumer Notebooks: Ship back to Dell, unless the customer has purchased on-site service.

Gateway Consumer Notebooks: Send back to Gateway's Temple Texas repair facility, there are no local warranty service locations. Note Acer purchased Gateway in 2007.

HP Consumer Notebooks (including Pavilion and Compaq Consumer notebooks): Service depends on your location; based on living in Dallas Texas, HP India would not disclose the exact address, however they stated there is a repair facility in Texas.  One website has stated it's within 75 miles of Dallas.  They boast a 7 to 10 business day repair turnaround.   Note you can buy extended (and accident) warranties for your consumer notebook from HP.com directly.

Lenovo Consumer Notebooks: Finding out where to send Lenovo notebooks was the most difficult of the bunch in getting a straight answer.  Their answer is call Lenovo (at the Ideapad number below) and you'll find out.  They state that they have some service outlets in Dallas.  Richard's Computer Center, while they perform warranty service for IBM Corporate Thinkpads does not offer service for Consumer Lenovo notebooks.   A company in Dallas CompuCon, found in IBM's directory did not state that it works on consumer notebooks, and that it works on their servers and other corporate products.  

Sony Vaio Laptops: If they develop a major warranty issue, they have to be sent to the Sony Service Center in San Diego, California.  While you may find some local Sony authorized repair center, some only repair appliances, such as TV's.  Others like Data Applications in Addison claim they can perform authorized Sony Service, you should call to find out - they could ship it to San Diego so they're acting as an intermediary.  Many times when you use a middleman increases downtime.

Toshiba Satellite Consumer Notebooks: Warranty Service is available in Dallas Texas, at Richard's Computer Center.

Do not depend on extended warranties for a quick turnaround.  Stores like Frys and Microcenter will ship your laptop to the manufacturer's warranty service center.  I've said this before, PCNS recommends Corporate Notebooks, such as Toshiba Tecra, Lenovo Thinkpad, HP Compaq NC Series, or Dell Latitudes.  While these notebooks cost more, the Service after the sale is much stronger and business laptops last much longer than consumer notebooks.

If you buy a cheap laptop, expect it to perform like a cheap laptop!

The Family Net - a Tangled Web

PCNS had to defer a PC call, a customer was experiencing unusual Windows installer runtime errors.  Fixing these kinds of problems often causes new problems, especially with any software which is already installed.  As a precautionary measure, all software CD's need to be on hand - whether it be to fix existing software by doing a refresh or repair reinstall of software, repair of missing components, or heaven forbid, having to reinstall the entire operating system.  The issue here was the husband installed Microsoft Office 2000 Premium from an unknown source, and the couple is on the brink of divorce.  She never had the CD's.  PCNS has some Microsoft CD's for the purpose of repairing an installation, but the customer must provide evidence that they own Microsoft Office.  Since PCNS does not have a copy of Office 2000 Premium this became a moot issue - we were unable to proceed with any repairs.  If you do not own Microsoft Office, then it's time to come clean and buy a legit copy.  The customer has been benefiting by having Microsoft Office.  It makes her day to day operations more efficient, allowing her to spend more time doing her business, not the backend of business.  Microsoft deserves to be paid a fair wage for the hard work they've done in their Office software, which is making the customer's life easier.

Note:  PCNS can provide a copy of Microsoft Office for the purpose of repair, re-installation or maintenance purposes.  The customer must have a legitimate COA (Certificate of Authentication), OEM (such as Dell or IBM), or retail CD Box with the product key available, and proof of purchase documentation available.

Side Bar: The Difficult Business of Consumer Notebook PC's

While at a Dallas Computer Superstore, I was in the returns department, exchanging a Motherboard I had just purchased for my PC test lab.  While in line I saw a mother/daughter returning an HP Consumer (Windows Vista) Laptop.  Evidently this was the second time they returned it.   The daughter insisted that the Laptop was not starting correctly, but the store employee said that their service department checked it out and it was working fine.  Tempers were running quite thin with the mother, especially since they wanted a refund, and the store policy said they were going to take a 15% restock hit.  After much lively discussion and irritation I believe the retailer caved, and decided to issue them a full refund, however to complicate matters the laptop was purchased with an introductory store credit card.   You know this when you go to some Computer Superstores, at checkout they ask if you want to apply for their store credit card.  Evidently these buyers did, and purchased the laptop on this virtual card.  Long story short, they could issue a refund with a credit card in hand, and since there was no credit card, they couldn't issue credit the traditional way.  Don't know how they were able to resolve that, but it indicates several things:


For less hassle for get out of the credit card business.  Tempting people with more debt in these days and times is wrong.  People who default on their loans cost the retailer money, and in turn increase costs for consumers.  The store employee that handled the return shouldn't be in the returns department - her handling of it seemed as if she was getting hysterical, in times like this cooler heads need to prevail.  Maybe the customer was seeing a problem, had she opened the laptop and powered it up maybe that could have straightened out a lot of things.


Customers need to do their homework.  Check out reviews, both user and professional.   Websites for customer reviews include newegg.com, amazon.com, and tigerdirect.com.   Professional reviews can be found at Cnet.com, Notebookreview.com, and pcmag.com.   Check out the store's reputation, at ripoffreport.com and complaints.com.   Investigate the retailer's store return policy.  I'm not saying all notebook PCs you find in Computer Superstores are junk, but a lot of them are.  An inexperienced computer buyer should know that buying a $400-$500 notebook is a bad idea and causes everyone headaches - for both the retailer and the customer. For the inexperienced Notebook users and buyers who just wants something that's going to work and last a long time, just get an Apple MacBook (with the 3 year Applecare plan).   It won't be plagued by viruses, trojans, and malware, and with it's strong user assistance and service connections after the sale - you can visit Apple Stores and get technical help from Apple Guru's, it's a support plan that no PC vendor can match.