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Windows 7 - possible scam - John C. Kirk

Feb. 26th, 2010

03:26 pm - Windows 7 - possible scam

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I've been using Windows 7 at work for the last six months, and I think it's about time I upgrade to it at home as well. (Following karne_k's advice, I'm going to buy a new motherboard and salvage parts from the thrice-cursed Scaleo, so that's a good time to re-install the OS.) Since we use Microsoft volume licencing at work, I can use the Employee Purchase Program to buy a discounted copy of Windows for home use. In particular, I looked at this on 5th January, and I could upgrade from XP/Vista to Windows 7 Ultimate Edition for £94.60 (RRP £199.99), which seemed like a good deal. Unfortunately, that price has gone up, so Microsoft are now charging £180 for "Windows 7 Ultimate Upgrade English EU and EFTA". Amazon are currently charging £152.73 for it, so I'd be better off going to them.

I assume that there was an initial discount period that has now expired, so I did a Google search to investigate. I didn't find anything relevant, but I did come across a sponsored link from SoftRetailer.com:

Google sponsored link

Clicking through to their website, they're offering the Ultimate version for £129:

SoftRetailer.com website

They say that this is a special promotion until February 28th: that would fit my theory about the initial discount period, and it's plausible that Microsoft have just raised the prices a few days earlier on their EPP site. Anyway, that's cheaper than Amazon, even though it's not an upgrade version, so I put in an order with them. I got as far as the PayPal page, and then I got a bit suspicious:

PayPal goodpay@live.com

The email address looks like a freebie (throwaway) account rather than being registered to their own domain. However, I'm mainly just concerned that this is too good to be true. So, I did a search for the company name, and found this discussion:
Issues with softatlantic / softwarediscountzone
Apparently this company is based in China, and they are sending out conterfeit disks. So, I've cancelled that order, and I'll go with Amazon instead.

I don't have proof that this company is dodgy; I'm just relying on anonymous people on the internet. So, it's possible that this really is a good deal, that some of you may want to take advantage of. However, you may also prefer to err on the side of caution. The main thing that surprises me about all this is that Google are happy to keep running the sponsored link after people have complained. If SoftRetailer are in fact dodgy, that does rather tarnish Google's "We're not evil" image.

Comments:

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From:susannahf
Date:February 26th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
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I'm guessing it's not really practical for Google to go through all their ads by hand. Nor is it reasonable to ask or expect them to be the "police" of the internet. You admit that you can't tell whether these guys are dodgy or not. So how can Google? Do you really want them to pull every ad that someone complains about? How about if I get all my employees to make up complaints claiming that my competitor is dodgy when he isn't? Should Google pull all their ads?
Caveat emptor. More so on the internet than anywhere else.
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[User Picture]
From:johnckirk
Date:February 26th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
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Various people in that forum say that they sent their disks to Microsoft, then got a letter back confirming that the software was conterfeit. Assuming that they're telling the truth, I would expect Microsoft's word to count for more than a random complaint.

If this was just a random search result then it wouldn't bother me - I'm used to seeing various torrent sites turning up in the results. It just seems a bit more iffy if (hypothetically) Google have a financial motive to leave the sponsored link in place, even when they know that it's dodgy.
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From:susannahf
Date:February 26th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
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Various people in that forum say that they sent their disks to Microsoft, then got a letter back confirming that the software was conterfeit. Assuming that they're telling the truth, I would expect Microsoft's word to count for more than a random complaint.

And these people complained to google, enclosing a copy of said letter, did they? If not, how do you expect google to "know that it's dodgy"? Should they read every forum post to do with every company or person who places an ad with them (I'm guessing this is millions of ads, certainly tens of thousands)? Did these people post a copy of microsoft's letter, or are you just taking your word for it that there is such a letter?

I'm not saying that the company is legit - it probably isn't. I'm saying that you can't expect Google to do Due Diligence on every ad. Because if they did, they'd have to either:
1) take down every ad that anyone made the slightest complaint about, which would effectively ruin them, or
2) make damn sure that the ad-maker couldn't sue them for taking down the ad (remember that Google is based in America) (i.e. cover every base and be certain that a complaint is completely legally watertight), or
3) not police the ads at all

I'm guessing they do 2), as I can see 3) leading them open to some legal issues (e.g. infringement of copyright etc). But I bet they get the lawyers in, and they require someone to actually complain to them, not on some random bulletin board.
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[User Picture]
From:johnckirk
Date:February 27th, 2010 12:00 am (UTC)
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Various people there claim that they've complained to Google. In particular, this person provides links to the complaint forms. I would hope that they've sent along copies of the letter from Microsoft, although nobody's explicitly said that. (Nobody's posted a scanned copy of the letter, but it would be pretty easy to fake one, so that wouldn't really prove anything anyway.)

Basically, I agree with what you're saying: Google can't do detailed background checks on everyone who places an ad, so it's only fair to criticise them if they've actually been sent proof that the company is acting illegally but continue to run the advert. I don't have any real facts here, and it's possible that the company is in fact completely legit, so on reflection I may have been a bit harsh towards Google when I wrote the post earlier.

This is probably irrational, but sponsored links feel different to other search results. In this case, I wasn't actually looking for a place to buy Windows 7, so I only went to that website because Google "suggested" it, so it seemed more trustworthy. I now know that I need to be more suspicious of those links, which is a useful tip for the future.
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From:totherme
Date:February 26th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
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An ad appearing on a google-managed site isn't like an ad appearing in a newspaper. It's likely that no human being at google has read the ad.

The way it works is that you log in (you can use your regular google account), and upload an ad. You tell the system what search terms you want that ad to be associated with, and how much you're willing to pay per-click-through.

When someone searches for that term, the system works out how it can make most money from that search. It analyses your previous behaviour (and that of other similar people) and guesses the probability that you would click on an ad if it presented it to you. Multiply that probability by the amount-per click that the advertiser offered, and you have a figure for expected income which you can use to decide which ad to run.

At no stage does the automated system run a background check on the moral character of the advertiser. Many people might consider that a bit creepy. However if you believe that a google customer is doing something illegal with google's service, there may well be a way to report that activity.

If you're interested in the google ads process, you can take a gander at "adwords.google.com" or if you're interested in more technical details, you can google for "adwords" and look for academic papers. There's a lot of fun game theory and stuff in there.
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From:billyabbott
Date:February 26th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
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Do you really need the Ultimate Edition? From what I've heard anything above the regular home edition is a bit of a waste of money for the home user. I suspect you may have played with 7 more than I though (I'll hopefully be installing it on my Mac once I've got the Apple store to remove the CD I currently have stuck in it...)
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From:johnckirk
Date:February 26th, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC)
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I run my own domain at home, so I need to use the Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate editions. (Home Premium is limited to a workgroup.) Enterprise is basically the same as Ultimate, but you can only buy it through volume licensing (that's what I use at work).

Using the Employee Purchase Program, the only edition of Windows that they offer is Ultimate. Looking on Amazon, it costs £150.24 to upgrade to the Professional edition, so the price difference is negligible.

I currently have the Ultimate edition of Vista, which I got free from Microsoft after I attended the launch event in 2006. Looking at Windows 7, I'm not sure whether I need any of the Ultimate features, but I'd like to play with BitLocker. (My motherboard at work doesn't have a TPM chip, so I can't try it there.)
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From:johnckirk
Date:February 27th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
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That's presumably cheaper because it's an OEM version. There's nothing wrong with that, and if I'm buying a new mobo at the same time then it would probably count as a legitimate purchase. It's too late for me to buy it (Amazon order is ready for dispatch and can't be changed), but that may be useful to someone else.

Edit: Oh, looking at it again, there is one difference - they're selling 32-bit and 64-bit versions separately, whereas the retail version includes both disks in the same pack. I'll stick with the 32-bit version for now, but I'd like to move to 64-bit later (once the driver/app support is there), so the OEM route would be more expensive if you have to buy the OS twice. Still, it's handy if you know that you'll be sticking with one version.

Edited at 2010-02-27 01:05 am (UTC)
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From:karne_k
Date:February 27th, 2010 11:52 am (UTC)
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Fair point I guess if the 32/64-bit thing is an issue.

With respect to recovering stuff from the Scaleo - don't go for the parts I suggested, it was a very old motherboard a year ago and they'll be better alternatives now.

Better make sure you can take out the cpu too, it might be some silly laptop form factor one :)



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From:johnckirk
Date:March 10th, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)
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Thanks - I've taken the (huge) heatsink off the Scaleo mobo, and it looks as if I should be able to pop out the CPU easily enough.

For new mobo, I'm planning to get the Asus P5Q-EM DO:
http://uk.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=BnbKt78D3Oz4qtge
That costs about £90, so it's not the cheapest, but I won't be able to move my (AGP) graphics card across, and the integrated graphics should be good enough for what I'm doing.
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From:billyabbott
Date:February 27th, 2010 08:14 am (UTC)
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I thought you might know a bit more about it then me :)

I'll be sticking with the baby version - only one machine, only really want it so that I can play Windows games. My home computing needs seem to be rather boring these days.
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