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Dell To Techs: Don't Help Customers Remove Spyware 1013

Posted by timothy
from the thanks-mike-thanks-a-bunch dept.
Alien54 writes "Well, more exactly, be advised that if you are giving a Dell for Xmas, not only will it probably come preloaded with spyware, but their tech support lines will refuse to tell users how to remove it, and will not give people advice on where to find some good tools to remove it. As seen in the latest newsletter from SpyWareInfo, Dell sent an internal memo to its tech support minions which says in part: 'NOTICE: Use of spyware removal software may conflict with user license agreements of other applications installed on your system. Please consult your user license agreements for further information. Dell does not endorse the use of spyware removal software and cannot provide support on these products.' This means we do not take callers to download.com or doxdesk.com, nor do we recommend spyware removal programs, nor do we advise callers on the use of spyware removal programs. This includes using phrases "We don't support the removal of spyware, but I use..."'" (Read on below.Update: 12/03 06:36 GMT by T : And for an update, too.)
"Now isn't that just nifty. Several folks in the antispyware/antivirus community have signed an open letter to Dell Inc. asking them to retract this possibly foolish and misguided policy. That letter is located at here." Update: 12/03 06:36 GMT Mike Healan, editor of spywareinfo.com, writes "The original posting is misleading. Dell is absolutely not installing or preinstalling spyware and the headline gives the impression that it is."
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Dell To Techs: Don't Help Customers Remove Spyware

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  • Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Steve 'Rim' Jobs (728708) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:37PM (#7615189) Journal
    But an obvious solution, I guess, is simply to not recommend Dell to your friends and family. Not that I ever did in the first place.
  • by bconway (63464) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:39PM (#7615205) Homepage
    If you buy a Dell, they support the hardware and software they sold you. They don't support random crap you decided to download from the Internet, nor will they be able to answer your cooking questions. Why does this surprise people?
  • can't blame `em (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:40PM (#7615209)
    Spyware is a pain in the neck to remove (regedit anyone?), and tech support for removing it probably costs them a fortune.

    This just sounds like a semi-good excuse to me.
  • by Azadre (632442) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:40PM (#7615225)
    Why don't they just refuse to put these software titles on their computers. I feel if a company thinks it can steal your data, it shouldn't be forced upon users and potential new users.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:42PM (#7615246)

    After a quick RTFA, I see:

    If you or a family member receive a Dell PC as a gift this Christmas, you may be in for a surprise, if it becomes infected with spyware.

    Emphasis mine.

    So there's no spyware known to be shipped on Dells. That's good at least. On to the memo.

    NOTICE: Use of spyware removal software may conflict with user license agreements of other applications installed on your system. Please consult your user license agreements for further information. Dell does not endorse the use of spyware removal software and cannot provide support on these products.

    What?? They won't support third party utilities that muck around in your registry and delete files in your system directory? Those bastards!

    Seriously, nothing to see here folks. It's common sense.

    Weaselmancer

  • well, duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rebelcool (247749) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:43PM (#7615250)
    More often than not, the EULA's of software that install spyware contain a clause about it saying 'you agree to install this horse shit v1.0 blah blah blah'.

    Now, of course, you can violate the EULA and get yourself some spyware removing tools and be ride of it.

    Its a whole other story though, if Dell starts advising people to break these agreements. Granted, they are legally gray, but thats the point entirely of not wanting to get into the fray and being a potential party to breaking a contractual agreement.

    A lawsuit avoided entirely is better than a lawsuit won.

  • by AvantLegion (595806) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:43PM (#7615252) Journal
    Well, the problem is that Dell can get a bad name for customer support, from idiots whose spyware-riddled computers don't work right. If Dell can't fix it for them, then Dell products must be crap, the idiot thinking goes.

    Most people would be smart enough to realize that damage caused from sugar being poured into a car's gas tank is not the responsibility of the car manufacturer, but when it comes to computers, far fewer people are able to make similar parallels.

  • Re:Sorry, hang on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nexex (256614) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:44PM (#7615256) Homepage
    not only that, you could you argue that it was an endorsement from dell. if you end up frying your system from using some software the dell tech told you to use, dell might be found liable
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:44PM (#7615261)
    All Dell is saying that they can't endorse any spyware removal software. They are not endorsing any spyware. Most likely this is only to save Dell from any legal entanglements. Legally they might be liable to spyware companies if they intervene on user's behalf. If you read the last line, they are telling their reps that they can give personal testimonials but cannot do so for the company. While this is not an ideal solution, we do live in a litigious society.
  • Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. No Skills (591753) <lskywalker AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:45PM (#7615273) Journal
    Well, I was starting to type a message about how disappointed I was with Dell, given all the money I've thrown them. Then, I RTFA for a change and this may not be as bad as it seems.

    Dell may just be concerned about legal issues with helping Joe User de-install some software where the EULA requires the Spyware to be running -- Dell would be the ones with the deep pockets after all. And, some spyware removal that involves registry changes might destablize things in some way (I don't know). Probably more corporate lawyer nonsense than a misguided attempt to support spyware in its various forms.

    Some program installs come with spyware, and the license agreement does require leaving it alone (since that's the compensation they get for the free software). So, Dell may just not want to step into the middle of this.

    Maybe the finger should stay focused on the spyware creaters and bundlers for the time being...
  • by vwjeff (709903) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:46PM (#7615277)
    This is what I always end up doing for family and friends. In the future I will end up working on their computer anyway they go (most of you probally have the same experience). When I work on it I would like to have the most knowledge of the software/hardware configuration.
  • by kraada (300650) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:46PM (#7615281)
    and i think they're reasonably justified. What I gather from the memo is that they're saying "spyware removal stuff might break EULAs and we don't support that, so we don't want to get involved". Furthermore, you'll note that they can use phrases like "we don't support spyware removal but I use . . ." (em added). So officially, they don't want to get sued into the ground by Gator or CometCursor or whoever else wants to install spyware . . . but unoffically, they'll probably still go on recommending it to users as "I've personally found this program to help, go to google and type in 'adaware'".

    It sucks that they have to do this, but I can't say I'm surprised. Having worked in tech support for years, there are always crazy rules about things you "can't do" -- and every good tech I've ever worked with breaks them on a routine basis, when they think it will make the customer happy.

  • by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:48PM (#7615293)

    These days we buy the hardware and, sure the preloaded software probably sucks, so you reconfigure what you want or possibly even reinstall your OS. No problem!

    But what happens when the hardware is in cahoots with the operating system, as will be the case with trusted computing [wikipedia.org]? Well it may be a lot more difficult to get your computer to do what you want, because certain software components carrying the right keys will easily slide into operating system hooks, while un-"trusted" software (the stuff you want to run) is more difficult to install and run freely.

    I can imagine what a spyware-sporting vendor can accomplish with a trusted computing system. Their spyware, "trusted" software, may be automatically installed and automatically re-installed beyond your control. 3rd party efforts to keep this unwanted software out of the system will fail, because that 3rd party software (no matter what you want) is untrusted... hell, the BIOS itself [phoenix.com] will help police usage of the system. You're in luck, your hardware is going to protect you ;)

  • by Steve 'Rim' Jobs (728708) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:51PM (#7615321) Journal
    OK, this spyware thing is just one example. The fact is that Dell has just lost touch with their home user customer base. One thing I've learned from working with Dell for the past few years is that they don't give a flip about the home users... But then again, why should they? They make money off corporate/government contracts, not supporting grannies who don't know where the any key is.

    After having such good experiences with Dell in the Office, we started recommending people buy Dell for their home, too. Oh boy BIG mistake. The hardware is substandard, just about every default installation is munged somehow or another, and the things generally stop working within a year. *NO ONE* I know has gotten a good Dell home PC recently. Meanwhile we noticed a definite decrease in quality of customer support in the past year...

    Me: Here's an article from Adobe that says there's a known issue between this motherboard and Adobe Acrobate 5.5, what's the solution?
    Faceless E-mail Tech: Here's an article on how to troubleshoot Windows 2000 startup problems.
    Me: Argh!

    Ad infinitum.

    On that note, is there any big name manufacturer that still makes/supports good home machines? People always ask me recommendations but I'm out of them, other than "Just buy a Mac".
  • by DarkBlackFox (643814) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:53PM (#7615345)
    dozens upon dozens of help forums talk about it. Whole articles are dedicated the fighting spyware. If a customer is looking for an answer there is no possible way that he could miss many of these articles.

    1) How many average Joe Sixpack computer users are aware of the existance of forums or discussion groups.

    2) A number of said spyware programs hijack search pages. Running a search through what appears to be Google may result in viagra ads and links to more spyware.

    3) Some spyware physically interrupts the internet connection. How would average user find the online articles with no internet connection or a computer too slow to do anything with?

    I work for a small computer repair shop, and 95% of the calls/service requests we get are directly related to spyware/junkware. I can't complain, because Dell refusing support would only increase our business. However, I can't help but feel a bit ashamed that the largest OEM in the industry shifted all consumer phone support overseas, and now refuses to support one of the biggest problems facing home users to date. Why aren't spyware apps considered viruses? Certainly the behavior of some programs borders on virus-like. Does Dell even support virus removal?
  • Internal letter?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kajoob (62237) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:54PM (#7615349)
    I think it's good to be a little bit skeptical first before telling everyone not to buy a Dell. That being said, I have some issues:

    1. The validity of supposed 'email' that Dell sent out. According to this site, this refers to Dell's own preloaded applications. OK, but since when would Dell EVER refer to their own applications as "spyware" as they have done in this email. Spyware is now quite a volatile topic, and I would imagine that if Dell did infact have some sort of spyware preloaded on their machines, they'd at least be good enough to lie to us (via their techs) about what it is.

    2.3rd Party Applications - As mentioned in (1), I don't think Dell would refer to their own applications as spyware, and if for arguments sake believe the email is geniune, then it refers only to 3rd party applications. So then we have a policy that is in line with Dell's general policy of not supporting 3rd party apps.

    Most of us work in an environment where we have to deal with Dell's. I personally think the machines are pretty good and the service isn't bad. I've even gotten the techs help find a conflict with a 3rd party app before on a couple of occasions, but I recognize this is above and beyond the call of duty. Does Dell owe us a duty if we install 3rd party spyware to tell us to use a 3rd party spyware removal tool? What if that spyware removal tool removes an important dll and hoses the system? Then the tech support lines become even more efficient.

    I just wanted to play devil's advocate here. I have no idea if that email is real or not, but I think we shouldn't immediately jump all over Dell until we can find out the truth. As it stands now, someone has posted a few sentences on a website somewhere - hardly damning evidence.

  • Move on people... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rune.w (720113) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:57PM (#7615365)

    Even though it's not very nice to hear that from a computer manufacturer, it is no surprise that Dell won't give out advise on how to break somebody's EULA, even if it protects something as nasty as spyware. Endless lawsuits would loom in Dell's horizons if they chose to do so. The thing I'm a bit more concerned is the timing: if they were so concerned, why not to issue this statement before?

    Anyway, my 0.02

    R.
  • by wilson_c (322811) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:01AM (#7615397)
    Seriously, nothing to see here folks. It's common sense.

    Hang on, no it's not. If a customre calls with no clue what's causing problems and the Dell support person on the phone knows, common sense (not to mention common decency) dictates that they point them towards a simple spyware solution. Common sense does not suggest you avoid mentioning the likely source of the problem; it does require that you send your customer to the ISP or the OS vender or in any way start them on a fruitless runaround when you could simply say "spybot might solve your problem".


    I understand Dell's liability concerns regarding EULA's they know nothing about, but it smacks of cowardice when a corporate behemoth is afraid to give decent tech support. Are they that afraid of Gator and other scumbag spyware companies?

  • by psychogentoo (582658) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:01AM (#7615402)
    I stopped building systems for family and friends several years ago. Now I just tell them to get a Mac.

    For people I really don't care for, I tell them to get a Dell or something.

    Its too much hassle dealing with issues with puters brought on by the downloading various crapware.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:03AM (#7615417)
    I absolutly refuse to answer any question about anything computer related for any of my family. As soon as you fix one problem on their pc you are it for life when ANYTHING happens to that machine.

    Screw 'em -- they can figure it out themselves or deal with the helpless desk with whomever they are buying the box from.
  • by laird (2705) <lairdp@nOSPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:08AM (#7615452) Journal
    "If you buy a Dell, they support the hardware and software they sold you. They don't support random crap you decided to download from the Internet, nor will they be able to answer your cooking questions. Why does this surprise people?"

    That's not what's going on, however. Dell is selling you a computer with spyware PRE-INSTALLED, and are refusing to help you remove it because the spyware companies are paying Dell to put it there. Even more horrifying, they're claiming that if you remove the spyware they won't support you. This isn't motivated by any real issues of customer support -- it's pretty well established that removing spyware makes computers more stable. They just don't want to annoy the spyware companies that are paying Dell to be allowed to harass their customers.

    That tells me that Dell cares more about its bundled software deals than its customers. The answer is easy -- give your money to a company that puts its customers first.
  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:18AM (#7615524)
    As Microsoft is quick to tell us: the OS and the browser are the same. They're integrated.

    Dell supports Microsoft's OS and thus its browser. All these spyware apps attach to IE and cause huge problems. I had one person hand me a laptop chock full of spyware constantly changing the homepage (one program would change it and another would change it again) while in the background there were more than a few processes trying to download more spyware and another installing more.

    Needless to say IE didnt work at all, it was just stuck on some orbitz page and the thing was more or less locked-up, but I did manage to get ad-aware to run.

    Most of my friend's PCs problems can be traced to spyware they dont even know about because of how official ActiveX boxes look and the tons of legalese involved.

    Dell would rather recommend a full-reinstall than ask the person "This may remove software you've installed" and be off the hook, legally. Instead Joe and Jane Dell owner will lose their baby photos and everything else they didn't backup after being told to reinstall from the rescue CD.

    I think Dell has the obligation to be honest with their customers. If the tech believes its spyware he should tell them what it is and how to remove it - if they want.

    More generically we need some kind of media campaign or some way to inform people about spyware, perhaps every company giving away free software without spyware should have an obligatory like to Ad Aware or Spybot during the install process.

    Check out some of the support forums in the PC world. A significant number of serious problems are fixed simply with Ad Aware or Spybot.

    Oh well, Dell gets a negative mark for not being honest with their customers. Tell the family to buy a Mac this year.
  • by naktekh (517517) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:21AM (#7615539)
    That's all well and good, but at least Dell offers warranties on their systems. I build my own systems, but I recommend Dell systems for people who don't have the need or technical knowhow to build their own. I personally don't see a problem with Dell's policy on this... I think it's their right to avoid potential conflicts from software that did not come preinstalled on the user's system, and they're not obligated to offer support for that.
  • Re:Go Free. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bofkentucky (555107) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `ykcutnekfob'> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:22AM (#7615544) Homepage Journal
    What spyware in XP, are you talking about automated error reporting? Or perhaps automatic windows updates. Both of those warn the user before they are used, msft is deplorable for many of their actions, but automated windows update is good for the grannies and youngsters on the internet, and if centralized automated error reporting is "spyware", then mozilla and NS7 need to be called out for having similar functionality.
  • by lurker412 (706164) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:24AM (#7615560)
    If spyware was included in the machine that Dell shipped, then the issue is really: why did they include this software in the first place? If they are including spyware on new machines, then they deserve death by a thousand paper cuts. On the other hand, if someone ends up with Gator-or whatever alias they came up with lately-because they installed Kazaa, then it seems to be reasonable that Dell would not want to get involved in the risks of removing scumware from their machines.

    Flame me if you like, but I have had pretty good experiences with Dell's tech support on the few occasions I have needed it. Mind you, I only go to them for hardware issues. I don't see that they have any obligation to provide support for stupid things that I might do with my own software.

  • Re:Nasty (Score:-1, Insightful)

    by t0ny (590331) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:27AM (#7615578)
    I did recommend Dell, and I still do. I would rather have them buy a quality computer than some junk from Toshiba, HP, IBM, etc or thru Best Buy or CompUSA.

    Dell is doing this for legal reasons: especially when anti-spyware companies are getting sued for calling a spyware company "Spyware".

    Besides, if somebody I know gets a computer, what they hell are they calling Dell's phone support for? I dont know about you, but the people I know recognize me as an expert on computers. Perhaps if the people you know dont, its because you arent.

  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:28AM (#7615587)
    I've been recommending Apple to my family for a while now. It just isn't worth my time to dick around with windows 98, talk people through antivirus installs over the phone, tell people that "No, a firewall isn't an antivirus" and yeah, they need ad-aware.

    Seriously, is there any reason why the clueless folks shouldn't just use apple? Isn't it still more user friendly? Isn't it reliable, with a good warantee?

    Sure, the $1,000 PC is more "powerful" than the $1,000 Apple, but which one do you think will work flawlessly for the next five years?

    I don't have an apple, because I'm a poor college student. Also, they don't have ProE or Solidworks on apple, so I doubt I'll be getting one soon. Or maybe I will, just for home stuff so I won't take work home with me. Who knows?
  • Question of risk (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kid-noodle (669957) <jono&nanosheep,net> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:30AM (#7615596) Homepage
    They aren't scared, this is a corporation - its a question of risk evaluation. There is less risk and lower probable cost in not breaking EULAs, and not advising people to use software that Dell cannot promise won't trash your machine (e.g. Adaware vs. New.net), and which Dell don't even offer support for, than the other option.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:41AM (#7615660) Homepage
    perhaps it is because I become nearly violent with them when they ask me to help with something.

    I have absolutetly no interest in helping people with their computer problems. They didn't buy that computer from Dell to ask me to fix it.

    Perhaps you aren't a raving asshole to them when they ask for help but you sure do come off as one when you post a comment for others that probably know as much, if not more, about computers than you do.
  • And in other news: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spoco2 (322835) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:46AM (#7615680)
    * Car manufacturers won't give people instructions on how to fit after market exhausts.
    * Mobile phone makers won't guide people through how to fit after market flashing antenna attachments to their phones.
    * Apple won't support customers who want to install linux over the top of OSX...

    Really... this is predominantely a guy bitching about how Dell won't send people to his website to buy his product (he is, check the article)...

    They have no reason to provide support such as this, it's time the consultants should be using to support the Dell Hardware and Dell Software. Let LavaSoft et al handle their own darn support.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:47AM (#7615687)
    I have a friend at work that just bought a Dell. First thing he did was install Norton anti-virus software not knowing it was preloaded with McAfee AV. Oops! Dead computer. Calls up Dell and asks what to do. Dell tells him they will send him three CDs that will allow him to reload everything. It works. Then he got the bill for $300 for the disks! They say, send 'em back. He will find out tonight if they are copyable or not. Dude! Your getting screwed! I'd say, stay away from Dell mself. I always build my own, but he elected to "avoid the headaches". I will point him to Slashdot and this story tomorrow. I am sure he is not going to be happy. Though I have already pointed him to the usual anti-spyware websites. Lindows from Wal-Mart anybody?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:05AM (#7615777)
    I also stopped recommending Dell about a year ago. I had a Dell that stopped working, so I swapped out the perfectly-normal-looking ATX power supply. When I turn on the computer - poof! sparks and smoke. It's not documented _anywhere_ on the Dell website (I checked), but many systems use a nonstandard pinout on a standard ATX connector. Using a normal power supply will burn out the power supply and possibly the motherboard, too. Dell tech support basically told me, "we don't care" when I complained about this. This isn't just ideological - I'd like a computer where fixing it doesn't cause more problems than I started with.

    I've had a mixed record with laptops from Dell. One laptop's screen failed last year after about three months of use (and they did replace it). But try getting a wireless minipci card if you didn't get it with a new system. They shuffled me between three departments on the phone, taking about two hours to decide that they finally found the right part number, but it's out of stock. So...helpful. Yeah....

    So if you want a company that'll sell you maliciously nonstandard hardware, and keeps a model in stock for about 15 minutes, then Dell's for you...
  • Re:Sorry, hang on (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CrowScape (659629) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:13AM (#7615817)
    OK. I was just thinking that since there seems to be little functional difference between a click-through agreement and something just attached to a piece of code that there might be a problem. Plus the word "License" in both the names "End-User License Agreement" and "General Public License" seems it would put them into the same category. But, now that I think about it, copyright should protect it.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hatchetman82 (719635) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:30AM (#7615911)
    i think the point he was making is that DOS boot disks (if it is indeed plain old DOS) cant read NTFS
  • I don't get it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LucidityZero (602202) <sometimesitsalex.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:37AM (#7615961) Homepage
    I have a dell running Linux... I've never had a spyware problem...


    Oh, wait. You mean it's the OPERATING SYSTEM that is at fault here, and not the machine?

    Oh, wait. You mean that everyone here is flipping out cause Dell won't support users making bad decisions due to an insecure OS?

    How is this Dell's fault again? Seriously...

  • Re:Nasty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dbc (135354) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:37AM (#7615968)
    Nice troll, but I'll bite. I'm happy for you that you are recognized as an expert on computers. When you also become expert at time management, like say, the day when you grow up and your time actually becomes valuable, only very special friends will get your free advice.

    As to IBM, I must say that the most pleasant, almost-no-time-on-hold, intelligent, responsive, helpful, "please send it back to us shipping charges COD", help line call I have ever been on was to IBM. I made a note of that.... what a contrast that was to hours of wasted lifespan waiting for and talking to idoits at other companies (Dell, to name one). Using my personal data points, I simply can't paint IBM's customer support with the same brush as everyone else.
  • by Paladin144 (676391) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:41AM (#7615993) Homepage
    Come on, I mean Microsoft installs viruses on your computer all the time. They call it "Windows." They also put Outlook on your machine, which is a big sign that says to any passing viruses, worms or trojans, "Hey, come over here! I'm stupid!"

    Such is the dry smugness of a Mac user.

    Really, this is a big problem, though. Companies seem to be taking more and more liberties with users' computers. I, for one, am disturbed by the recent push towards cataloging each of us in massive databases so they can understand our buying patterns and market goods directly to us. I consider such invasive advertising to be boarding on threatening; it gets my blood up.

    Perhaps I'm overreacting, but our capitalist system seems to be changing from one of the free market towards one you might call the "compulsory market." We are being coerced into buying things we don't need to "improve the economy." Screw that, I never see any of those fat corporate profits from the recent productivity increases. It's not just about money, it's about realizing that there are more important things than money and market share and commerce in general. When will advertisers realize that methods like telemarketing and spyware are going too far and pissing off more potential customrers than can be made up by the suckers who pad their bottom line by biting at the hook? We have to protest not only spyware, spam and telemarketing but also firms that associate with known offenders, which Dell is trending perilously close to doing.

  • by Dagmar d'Surreal (5939) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:41AM (#7615999) Journal
    This should have never been moderated up in the first place. Removing spyware is not in violation of the warranty. Everything that's been posted about this (that has been rational and based on facts) has indicated that the removal of spyware may violate the licence agreements of other software that was installed with those programs. Read some of the EULAs every once in awhile and you will quickly find that partial removal of the software that's being installed (meaning: you keep the app but remove the spyware) is expressly forbidden.

    Of course, if you as an individual want to risk being sued by these nasty companies (which isn't likely to happen since they can't possibly sue you for much) for violation of a EULA, go right ahead. Dell can't risk that kind of nonsense because there are evil lawyers out there who would sue Dell over it, given the chance.

    Remember, this is the new economy, where if you can't come up with good idea and working business model, you can still make a profit by coming up with a half-assed idea and finding people to sue for damages.
  • User Error (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KevMar (471257) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:49AM (#7616030) Homepage Journal
    The real problem is when we do clear out all spyware, pop-ups, and other crap that drains preformance, we quickly disable it. We either use tools, reg hacks, or msconfig. and it is gone.

    Now when we do that to a users computer, especialy a home user. apps no longer work, their taskbar nolonger tells the tempature, gator no longer saves passwords, that talking monkey or pariot is gone, that flag is gone, and the wallpaper dont change anymore. To them, we broke it. It dont work now and it did before.

    The real problem is that it takes so much work to educate those users.

    My solution, reformat and reinstall. (use any os except the system restore)
  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigman2003 (671309) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:51AM (#7616047) Homepage
    I recommended an Apple one time.

    For the next 3 years, my neighbor/friend would ask me every month or so why they can't run all of the software that was on sale at the computer store.

    I tried to tell them that well, the computer was easier to use, and all that.

    They just wanted to run the copy of Freddy Fish that grandma bought for the kids.

    Honestly, that was the last time I recommended a computer to someone like that.
  • by sniggly (216454) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:56AM (#7616079) Journal
    I wonder why this is modded flamebait, it certainly deserves better moderation than that. Anyone with a clue who has ever helped (computer) clueless friends or family will often find self become indispensable. And asked/pleaded to fix stuff without reimbursement. People expect stuff to just work and don't understand the inability of x86 systems to just work. That systems failiure becomes your failiure because you once touched it and they as self admitted clueless users can't do anything wrong with it. So you didn't fix it right.

    It's been the same pain ever since IBM started the modular approach and hardware manufacturers take creative license with the "standards". Naturally it doesn't help when most people run an operating system that is notoriously buggy and insecure.

    If they (computer clueless friends & family) already have x86 buy or burn em a mandrake 9.2 set and tell them its either that or the highway. And if they don't have a computer or think of upgrading for gods sake get them to fork out the extra cash for a mac; you and they so won't regret it. Btw they can get a really sweet & speedy ibook G4 laptop for less than $1000.

  • by H310iSe (249662) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:02AM (#7616114)
    Actually, like other posters I refuse to build systems for people since that makes me responsible, no matter what they say, for hardware maintenance (i can handle the software side of things... they call me for that no matter). I used to recommend Dell until I received a shipment, about 1 year ago, with their new OS build, full of adds (this is not a friggin' PeoplePC!) and buggy crippleware, one nasty peice that leads to a blue screen under XP if .jpg pictures are viewed, I've reproduced this across multiple computers and called Dell tech support to no avail. At that point I fired them.

    I've yet to find a replacement however. Currently I buy from wallmart (lindows PCs $200) and recently from Envision (link?) and in both cases I do the software build myself (I have a nice sys'd ghost of a standard office computer).

    If anyone has recommendations on good, low to medium end PC vendors that include nice software builds (windows I'm afraid) please post here!
  • by sniggly (216454) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:02AM (#7616116) Journal
    Hello dear AC you will probably never read this so it's unfortunate that you will never google about ATX compatibility on motherboards so you will never understand that ATX compatible parts are not just random parts but that dell 'embraced and extended' (broke) the standard without telling anyone so that a totally valid act blew up the hardware.

    Pity most AC's are so anonymous.

  • by zymano (581466) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:02AM (#7616119)
    all the spyware shit on it.

    Dell is obviously getting paid for all this crap they are installing on your computers.

    Until people speak up and then take their business elsewhere they will continue to abuse your ass.
  • by ShinmaWa (449201) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:08AM (#7616138)
    3) factory installed spyware.

    Ummm.... where in the article, the letter, ANYWHERE did it say this?

    Just because Dell techs aren't allowed to help callers remove spyware (probably to keep Gator and its ilk from suing the pants off of them), doesn't mean that Dell has installed spyware itself. That's a very big and reckless jump you made.
  • by jr416de (550253) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:14AM (#7616168)
    You might as well sell yourself into slavery. they will expect you to support it for the rest of your life and be mad at you if anything EVER goes wrong with it.
  • It's good for me. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius@driver.mac@com> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:14AM (#7616172) Journal
    I'm an on-site computer technician. Probably 25-33% of my business is fixing spyware/adware-related issues. Out of my four jobs today, running Ad-Aware fully fixed three of them. The fourth also had a virus. (Yet spyware was causing more problems than the virus.)

    I say more power to them. Heck, I love Microsoft. Without all the security holes in Windows XP, I wouldn't have much business. (I even got to be on the local TV news as an expert on computers when blaster hit. My recommendation, on the air, was to buy a Mac, or run Linux.)

    No, this post is not a troll. MS' bad security is good for me. Dell's new decision is good for me. Heck, anything that is bad for the user is good for me. (Although my PowerBook, which I carry with me to appointments, and tend to pull out at least once per appointment to make notes, or look things up, is probably bad for me. People see that I use a Mac, ask me which is better, and I flat out tell them. I wonder how many ex-clients are using a Mac now, and haven't called me because of it?)
  • Re:...An Answer (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:35AM (#7616235)
    It's called "IT'S A THIRD PARTY APPLICATION". Dell doesn't provide Tech support on your Microsoft app so why should they help you with spyware removal and/or installation. 9 times out of 10 they installed a piece of software that came with it.

    I hate Dell with a passion but this is just like refusing to help them because Office 2k screwed up their system. Restore cd or call Microsoft. End of line.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:37AM (#7616243)
    It doesn't matter how thankful they are, once you demonstrate some skill they'll come to you for every little thing rather than try to figure it out themselves. if you're not so lucky, they'll reccomend you to their friends, and then you'll end up fixing computers of people you've never heard of before.
  • by Funksaw (636954) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:38AM (#7616244)
    Some spyware programs have the capacity to prevent my idiot (only in regards to tech) father from using Internet Explorer? The same reason he ends up getting all those virii and spyware anyway?

    Well, hell, I'll take three of those! 99% of his computer problems could be fixed if he just switched to Mozilla, ran his antivirus software (switching to OpenOffice instead of MSOffice might help) and stopped accepting click-throughs that pop up on webpages.

    100% of his computer problems could be fixed by switching to Linux, but he'd come up with 10% new ones.

    -- Funksaw
  • Re: Sorry, hang on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Niten (201835) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @03:55AM (#7616465)

    Of course, the correct solution for Dell would be to tell vendors that they will not ship computers with software that has EULAs that enforce such a blatant screwing of Dell's customers.

    I believe the hypothetical EULAs that kid-noodle is referring to are not EULAs for software pre-installed on the computer, but rather for software that the user installs himself.

    For example: Imagine somebody purchases a Dell, then hooks it up to the Internet and downloads Software A, which includes - and by its EULA can only legally be run with - Spyware B. Now imagine that the user, irritated that B is having its way with his computer, calls Dell tech support for help. If Dell instructs the user to download an Ad-Aware workalike that delete B but leaves A still installed on the system, then Dell has put the user in violation of an EULA.

    Now telling a friend to violate an EULA in such a manner would hardly place any of us in a moral dilemma; however, it does present a potential legal issue, and one that cannot safely be disregarded by a company with as many clients as Dell. I, for one, see how this could be a necessary move on Dell's part.

    Think of it this way: When you buy a new car you are given a warranty on what the manufacturer has sold to you, but you cannot rightfully expect the manufacturer to warranty the new ignition control chip you put in. This is no different.

  • Since When... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LuYu (519260) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:13AM (#7616502) Homepage Journal

    The article says:

    Dell cites the possibility that removing spyware might violate user agreements between the user and some other company.
    ...
    NOTICE: Use of spyware removal software may conflict with user license agreements of other applications installed on your system.
    Since when does copyright protect the "right" to restrict people from removing information? I would think ripping an unwanted page out of a book and throwing it away would be unquestionably fair use.

    What are we going to have next? Is McDonald's tell us not to remove the pickles on their hamburgers because they have an agreement with some unknown pickle vendor?

  • by Undefined Parameter (726857) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [modeerf4leuf]> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:15AM (#7616509)
    I have but three questions.

    At what point does "cost cutting" (sometimes aka "corporate greed") go from being "bad" to "acceptable" or even "good?"

    Second question: As Microsoft Windows OSs are literally 3rd party software, does this memo (if authentic) indicate that Dell will stop supporting Windows or any other Microsoft OS?

    Third and final question: Would or does this memo prevent a tech from telling a customer something along the lines of "I'm sorry [sir/ma'am], but it's company policy that we are not to recommend spyware removal tools, such as AdAware. Even if I wanted to, I could not tell you to visit lavasoftusa.com or advise you to install and run that program. I am sorry again, but it's company policy that we are not allowed to inform or advise you of such things."

    ~U.P.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:31AM (#7616575)
    "may", because they don't know.

    However, they know that some software comes with spyware and an EULA that says you cannot unintstall the spyware without uninstalling the program. So, if you have spyware, you MAY have one of those programs, and in that case, Dell would be helping you break the EULA.
  • Re:Go Free. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arker (91948) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:45AM (#7616620) Homepage

    I'm not going to go into why mshtml.dll, explorer.exe, and friends are trying to reach the rest of the internet when you are using Opera (or mozilla), but it basically boils down to microsoft's active desktop subsystem

    Then explain why it happens with Active Desktop turned off or even completely removed?

    Do a tcpdump and you'll find the packets are harmless.

    Transmissions taking place without the operators knowledge or consent are unacceptable, 'harmless' or not.

  • by cortana (588495) <sam@robo[ ]org.uk ['ts.' in gap]> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @05:29AM (#7616726) Homepage
    Anyone who believes that Trusted Computing, having been implemented as described above will _stay_ that way in subsequent implementations is a god damned fool.

    It's all about acceptance. Remember the old adage about boiling frogs? You do it one degree at a time...
  • Re:Nasty (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @05:45AM (#7616756)
    I've been recommending Apple to my family for a while now. It just isn't worth my time to dick around with windows 98

    As for myself, I wouldn't recommend Apple, because System 8.1 is just too ugly and outdated to try to support.

    At which point, all the MacTaliban scream "wot y00 on d00d, System 8.1 came out in 1998!!1 Modern macs use OS.X!!1! it's much better!".
    I rest my case.
  • Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @05:55AM (#7616776) Journal
    ... that just tells me that they recognize you as a sad geek with no self-respect. Not necessarily saying you are, just saying that's what they think of you. "Bah, he doesn't have anything better to do with his time, anyway."

    Let me put this in perspective:

    - if a car engineer lived next door, would they call him every month to fix their car for free? Nope.

    - if an electronics engineer lived next door, would they call him every month to repair their TV for free? Nope.

    - if a plumber lived next door, would they call him every month to unclog their toilet for free? Nope.

    - if a skilled carpenter lived next door, would they call him every month to fix some piece of furniture for free? Nope.

    Why? Basically because they have more respect for that plumber than for you. They can understand that:

    1. Plumbing is real work, and it deserves compensation. On the other hand they likely see you not as an "expert", but rather as "bah, even kids know this stuff. If we only had a 10 year old, we'd ask him instead."

    2. They can understand that the plumber has better stuff to do with his time. Like, dunno, grab a can of beer and watch the football game. Whereas what they think of you is more likely the exact opposite "some sad geek who surely has nothing to do with his time anyway."

    3. Also because that plumber has enough self-respect to say "no". Whereas you seems to measure your worth by how much other people abused your time. Well, keep flattering yourself, and I'm sure they'll be more than happy to take advantage of you. Because that's all it is: taking advantage of someone who can't say no.

    So, dunno, personally I'd rather be know as the "bad" guy who will _not_ fix your computer. (Well, not unless you're willing to pay my consultant fee.)

    I don't give a flying ____ (sexual intercourse) if some random neighbour considers me an expert or not. What really matter is if my boss considers me an expert.
  • Seconded (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Channard (693317) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @06:11AM (#7616822) Journal
    It doesn't matter how thankful they are, once you demonstrate some skill they'll come to you for every little thing rather than try to figure it out themselves. if you're not so lucky, they'll reccomend you to their friends, and then you'll end up fixing computers of people you've never heard of before.

    Definitely seconded. Most people who don't or haven't worked in tech support don't get this. I've actually had only mild aquaintances actually ring up for computer help - the moment I got in from work. I've even had one person ring up with a problem with getting pictures from a mobile phone they bought that day. Hello? Try calling the people you bought it from, dammit!

    Would you ring up a solicitor out of the blue, only knowing someone who knows them, expecting free legal advice? I think not. And don't even get me started on people not even reading what's on the damn screen on front of them. Once word gets out that you know about PCs, people will start ringing, or trying to collar you to talk about PCs etc. People may label you mean for putting your foot down, but it's your free time they're wasting. (rant mode off).

  • by h4rm0ny (722443) * on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @06:12AM (#7616823) Journal

    This isn't limited to Dell but it's where I first ran into the problem. I bought a laptop from them and paid for MS Windows. When it arrived Windows was pre-installed (fine) and all I got was a re-install disc (most definitely not fine).

    How was I suppose to add Linux to the HD? Reinstall discs are no good after re-partitioning. I called them and they very clearly didn't give a shit and the problem appeared to actually be beyond their comprehension. After five minutes I decided to write off the loss of Windows and just enjoy myself by annoying the person on the other end of the line as much as possible.

    Half an hour later I did indeed feel much better.

    And I won't be buying from them again... even assuming they were willing to sell. 8)
  • Re: Sorry, hang on (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jettoblack (683831) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @07:28AM (#7616973)
    Unless Dell is the one who runs Ad-Aware on the user's machine, how can Dell possibly be held accountable over the terms of a EULA which they've never heard of, never seen, and certainly never agreed to?

    What Dell is saying is the equivalent of a Best Buy employee telling you "I can't tell you where we keep the CD-Rs, because you might use them to commit a crime and then I'd be liable."

    No, something more sinister is going on here...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @08:15AM (#7617185)
    Seriously, when they started outsourcing tech support to India, did anyone think it was so they could provide customers with better service at a fraction of the cost, or just to get the customers to stop calling.
  • Recriprocity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LittleGuy (267282) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @08:41AM (#7617321)
    We have a neighbor who is a vet, and when she comes over, she gives the kitties a free fifteen-second checkover while scritching their heads. There have been times when the older kitty has not looked well, and, after much deliberation, we've asked her for a second opinion.

    When Blaster came out, it hit their computer, and I offered to get rid of it, as well as patch up their machine to the latest Service Pack, et al. It was our way of thanks for some much-welcomed advice about the cats. To their credit, they haven't asked for any further help, but it's available, but it needed, I will avail myself again.

    There are some professions where you are the "walking free advice", and you get to respect that when you meet a professional 'cousin'. It's also a hallmark of good friends to ask for that help sparingly.
  • Re:Seconded (Score:5, Insightful)

    by acidrain69 (632468) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @09:05AM (#7617428) Journal
    This isn't limited to computer tech support. My girlfriend holds a masters in counseling. Half the time she tells someone that she is a psychologist/counselor, they start dumping their problems on her or asking for advice. I count myself lucky that I only hear about their computer stuff.

    And I'm not accusing you of this, Channard, but holy shit! There are a lot of whiny people on here! "I refuse to do tech support for family". I don't know what kind of relationship you have with YOUR family, but most of mine is pretty cool, and they do a lot for me. The least I can do to repay them for helping me get through college and allowing me to live while growing up is give them a little help with their computers. I do helpdesk troubleshooting for DSL, and I get yelled at half the time, but I can still manage to go home and answer a few questions about why windows 98 is a piece of garbage for my family. It's almost refreshing in fact. No corporate rules about what not to say in front of the family.

    I wonder if the people who said they would assist family would even help their own mothers. I'm not saying you have to be the end-all of tech support. You can refer them to the OEM.

    Reading this thread, you'd think these slashdotters hated computers or something.
  • by 13Echo (209846) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @09:47AM (#7617640) Homepage Journal
    I've also considered this. Though I don't use Windows anymore, and haven't for years, I can still troubleshoot anay new Windows product that might show up on a family or friend's machine, as well as the usual hardware problems. That's the problem. I've been trying to get away from assisting people with Microsoft-related problems. Maybe stretching the truth a bit is the actual answer to this. You can't help someone if you "don't know how it works."
  • by calethix (537786) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @09:51AM (#7617664) Homepage
    Gee, I'm glad my dad didn't have that attitude the first time I asked him for help changing my spark plugs, making home improvements or any of the many other things he has helped me with over the years.
    Ideally, when you help someone with a problem, you also teach them enough about it that they don't need to ask you about it the next time it happens. With any luck, they'll learn enough to try to fix new things on their own. You might have to actually be social and try to educate them though. Acting like the office tech support guy on SNL doesn't do it.
  • by Glonoinha (587375) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @10:49AM (#7618095) Journal
    -If anyone has recommendations on good, low to medium end PC vendors that include nice software builds (windows I'm afraid) please post here!

    Bah - get the machine out of the box (I buy Dells) and turn it on to see if everything works. Download the drivers for all the hardware from their support site, burn them to CD, repartition the drive so the primary drive is about 4G smaller and add a secondary partition of that 4G, format the drives (format the D: drive as FAT32) and reinstall the OS onto the C: drive.

    Once the clean OS is installed with the drivers you burned onto CD, do a Microsoft Update to get the latest updates from Microsoft. Install your favorite anti-virus (McAfee with the web install / updates is a good idea, cost +/- $30 a year), WinZip, Adobe, Office or whatever came with the box, any toys you think they are going to need and know do not have spyware. Add their users and passwords.

    Reboot the machine using the boot CD you made, and make a (Ghost / Drive Image / whatever) of the nicely configured C: drive onto the D: drive, splitting the files into 680M sized chunks if the box has a CD burner, or 2G sized chunks if it has a DVD burner. Reboot the machine, burn those to CDs or DVDs and make two copies, one for you, one for them. Burn the app you used to make them onto the media also, and make it bootable.

    Voila! Takes a few hours but from then on when (not if) they hose it up you simply walk them through restoring that image - if you are nice and if their machine is limping along well enough you can walk them through backing up their documents first.
  • by mwood (25379) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @11:51AM (#7618637)
    ...I'd treat them the same as the ones I build: step one is to repartition and install the OS the way I want it. Spyware? what spyware?
  • by PONA-Boy (159659) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:13PM (#7618846)
    This strays a bit from the topic at-hand but I felt compelled to weigh in on this subject.

    In the past, I had much the same attitude as the majority of /. : screw other people's computer problems, if I'm off the clock I don't want to be bothered. I thought that way until my mother wanted to buy a computer. She bought her first computer from me when I was a young(er) lad at Radio Shack...it was the right thing for her to do.

    I provided little or no tech support for her and, indeed, felt a little indignant when she would call for help. It took several years to figure out that helping one of the two people responsible for bringing me into this world (then clothing, feeding, educating, and disciplining me) was just the right thing to do. The way I see it, I want MY own children to grow up, become successful, and help ME out as I grow old. What makes me so incredibly special that I am too fucking GOOD to do the same for my parents?

    So, I help my mother out and occasionally field some support when I am at my fathers or my aunt's house. Hell, I even troubleshot my brother's son's computer during the holidays. Why? I would _never_ consider myself a good samaratin or, even, a terribly pleasant person. Nor do I particularly enjoy doing family computer support after-hours. But, I do it because it is the right thing to do.

    What good is the hard-fought knowledge and experience we have gained over technology if we cannot help to improve the lives of our family?

    -PONA-

  • by twofidyKidd (615722) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:14PM (#7618871)
    Given some of the residual effects of the dot com bust (which is still evident with a few people I know), sad to say that might just be the case...
  • by red floyd (220712) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:15PM (#7618879)
    Depends. Does RealOne Player count as spyware?
  • by ninejaguar (517729) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:30PM (#7619649)
    That's a big YES.

    = 9J =

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