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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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  • Then... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by setzman (541053) * <(stzman) (at) (s ... sandremoveit.org> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:37PM (#7615192) Journal
    What DO they recommend instead? Reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling to solve the spyware related problems?
  • by That_Dan_Guy (589967) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:38PM (#7615199)
    Who's lawyers called up theirs to tell them user license agreements would be violated if Dell techs told people how to remove Spyware and therefore make Dell liable and sueable?!

    Well, no matter, we wipe all the Dells we get in at my company (thank god for RIS).

    Jeesh...
  • by jr87 (653146) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:40PM (#7615220) Homepage
    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.
    "we don't support it but I use Spybot Search and destroy" (on my dad's win2k box)
    "We don't support it but I use linux"
  • No luck for many... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Angram (517383) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:41PM (#7615228)
    I don't think that will work for the average user. Dell provides special CDs to restore Dell programs (drivers, support software, and now spyware, it would seem). Since most people would not want to search for every driver individually on the internet, and many use the Dell programs, they'll probably just use the restore CD they reformat, which would just put the spyware back on.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:42PM (#7615245)
    so yeah, this is a terrible idea.

    I work in an on-campus computer repair shop. We're the Dell certified repair center for the entire college.

    We pretty much only sell Dells to incoming students, and we're always getting them back in with "my computer is slow." we boot it up and find out they have like 90 million spyware/adaware apps installed. SaveNow, Gator, PrecisionTime, New.Net, WhenUSave, MySearch, SearchNow, IE.Net Drivers, and the list goes on.

    Usually we just remove all of them however we can and send them on their way, but apparently if we do this, we'll now be breaking Dells Warranty?

    this is definitely not cool, since we can't do that and stay certified...
  • Go Free. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by twitter (104583) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:44PM (#7615260) Homepage Journal
    What DO they recommend instead? Reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling to solve the spyware related problems?

    If the spyware is on the computer when you buy it, the spyware is also on the "recovery" CD.

    Dude, you're getting Debian [debian.org], and you can try it out with Knoppix [knopper.net], is the only answer that won't cost you $150 and still come with spyware. That's right, XP home comes with spyware all on it's own. Tools such as spybot and addaware, as nice as they are, can't really solve the problem. Closed source sucks that way, and it's getting worse every year.

  • ...An Answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ironmaus (725832) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:47PM (#7615285) Homepage
    In the open letter [spywareinfo.com] from the anti-spyware community, they say a representative from Dell informed them the response would be: "Call your ISP."

    If that's true, it's a travesty. That's like your car insurance provider telling you that dealing with damage to your vehicle from a collision should be dealt with by the Department of Transportation.

    I don't understand why Dell doesn't grab the bull by the horns and partner up with somebody. Isn't that what all the pre-packaged computer companies do these days? They all have a buddy in the anti-virus industry. When digital music became the craze, they leapt to bundle MusicMatch and the like. Why not call up LavaSoft and say, "Want to get packed in with everything we sell?" Dell's choice seems like a step away from gaining customer confidence.
  • by JayBlalock (635935) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:48PM (#7615296)
    I worked for one of the outsource tech groups that handed customer support for Dell. Their global policy is (or at least was as of a year ago) that they do not support any third party software that didn't ship with the box, period. The Dell techs weren't even technically allowed to help customers remove viruses, although many found loopholes around that. ("I'm not removing a virus, that's against our policies. I'm merely cleaning items out of your startup group and registry which don't need to be there to help the Operating System run better.")

    So it's definately a lousy policy, but this would be a clarification, nothing more.

  • Sounds awful, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dtfinch (661405) * on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:49PM (#7615305) Journal
    The memo only says not to recommend a third party spyware removal program. It does not say they can't assist the users in uninstalling spyware.

    A lot of companies have policies of not recommending third party products they're not prepared to support if something goes wrong.
  • by shadowcabbit (466253) * <cx@NosPAm.thefurryone.net> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:50PM (#7615308) Journal
    I work for an ISP, and we received advance warning of this about two days ago. The reason we're concerned is because our policy generally states that if it's not a problem with the cable modem, then it's a problem with the computer and thus the customer needs to call the manufacturer. Spyware falls into the category of "problem with the computer". I've been recommending the use of SpybotS&D for about four months now and haven't been blasted by the managers, but other techs are undoubtedly going to get the "but Dell said spyware was something you guys could fix since it uses the internet" song and dance from customers.

    Not that Dell or my company has the right answer either way, but I just wish the weaselly fucks who write spyware would just stop.
  • Please explain (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:52PM (#7615331)
    The following statement:
    be advised that if you are giving a Dell for Xmas, not only will it probably come preloaded with spyware>

    What makes the author assume that Dell will deliberately install spyware on consumers' machines ???
    Just because I won't help my neighbour quit smoking, that means I'll buy him cigarettes?
    ok bad example, but I'm sure you get the point.
  • Gateway's Policy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EvilFrog (559066) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:53PM (#7615342)
    While I typically don't care much for Gateway, I have noticed whenever I need to take my laptop in for repairs (whenever meaning frequently- the hardware is junk) they have fliers all over the place warning their customers about spyware and telling them how to get rid of it. I've never liked Dell, and I like them even less now. While most of us on Slashdot are just as happy (if not happier) using custom built machines, I know a lot of less savvy users who like having one company they can go to for support. Unfortunately for them, there just don't seem to be many deservedly reputable manufacturers out there anymore.
  • Now here THIS! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheDarkener (198348) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @11:55PM (#7615355)
    To those of you who say "Blah blah blah, of course they're not going to support some random crap you download off the Internet, blah blah blah":

    Ok, so basically any and all tech-support contracts that came with someone's new Dell, that they paid for, is now void because they installed a PROGRAM? Right. So now what, are we only allowed to install "Dell Approved" software on our own computers? I think I hear the sound of a hood being welded shut.

    It all comes down to money, every damn time. It's about the pre-installed software that contains spyware. Dell has contracts with these 3rd party software companies ($$$), and these 3rd party software companies will profit from the use of their spyware. It's a win-win for Dell and the 3rd parties. Guess who doesn't win? The customer who paid $700 for their new computer... But who cares about the customer, anyway? We'll just put them on the line with some $7.00/hr 1st tier call-center techie in India (No offense at all to Indians, but that's where most tech support calls get fielded) that's reading off a script, and has no actual verbal resemblance to a human with feelings or compassion for the poor user who just wants to send their mom a picture of their new baby.

    I always used to tell people that if they were going to buy a name-brand computer, to buy a Dell. At least their hardware isn't complete crap.

    I guess that recommendation goes in the garbage now.
  • by slaker (53818) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:10AM (#7615463)
    Bah!

    There is no porn-ware I have not conquered.
    One of my clients in a hard-core freak (it's his business, only guys work there, and his PC is largely private anyway. The man has Voyeurweb for his home page, for crissakes) who keeps falling for variations on "Porn Dialer" installers.

    The really vile stuff tends to hang a piece of itself in win.ini, where it'll get re-collected into the registry on every reboot. You smack it out with the registry editor or msconfig and it comes back because a little installer that's loaded up because of unpreventable 16-bit Windows compatibility crap.

    I've also seen pornware smart enough to modify system DLLs AND the copy in dllcache. sfc.exe fixes that sort of thing, and packages that pull a new.net and redirect DNS requests. Evil stuff.

    I don't know where those programs come from but the guys who make those programs are just showing where mainstream spyware will be going next.
  • Re:Sorry, hang on (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BortQ (468164) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:11AM (#7615473) Homepage Journal
    EULA bullshit pisses me off.

    It's just legal FUD. I cannot honestly believe that Dell is scared of breaking some totally unenforceable third-party EULAs.

    There has to be another reason why they are doing this. I can't think of any good ones though...

  • by loraksus (171574) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:19AM (#7615527) Homepage
    yeah, they support removing viruses - fdisk, format, reinstall.

    Whether one can consider that "support" or "rolling" is a different question, but hey. . .
  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pentalive (449155) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:22AM (#7615546) Journal
    I stopped in at the local gateway barn, and asked about their machines. If you install Linux on your gateway - you void the warrenty.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yuri benjamin (222127) <yuridg@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:27AM (#7615580) Journal
    If you install Linux on your gateway - you void the warrenty.
    Even on the hardware? Is that legal?
  • by Platinum Dragon (34829) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:33AM (#7615618) Journal
    I work in the retail wing of the tech world. The very first thing I recommend to people who complain of slow systems is Ad-Aware, even before I ask how much RAM their computer has, or how fast their processor is. Considering how much crap comes bundled with commonly downloaded software, it usually helps a lot just to run the spyware cleaner. A person who can't tell RAM from Rama can be easily instructed to download a helpful program from a certain site, and told in general terms why it will help. Thankfully, Ad-Aware's pretty easy to run--it even pops up a window offering to do a scan when the install is finished.

    For a retail dork, I do a surprising amount of tech support on the job. Assheads that write bloated crap like spyware, and their fellow assheads that tell their employees not to help remove it, make me think I should be paid for doing someone else's damn job.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrLint (519792) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:40AM (#7615652) Journal
    Funny, i stopped recommending Dell a number of years ago. and this is why, Useless tech support, Using lexmark OEMed printers that abuse the DCMA and are counter to competition and customers choice not to be price gouged.

    Let see i recall the time that i had a dead *clicking* harddrive and the tech wanted me to boot to a dos floppy to attempt to access the NTFS formatted hard drive. All of these things i made him aware of. i left the receiver on the clicking drive for 5 minutes while i wasted time making up the dos floppy he requested. this is but one of a number of unpleasant and unproductive support calls to dell.

    So now i have 3 reasons. 1) stupid support 2) OEMed DMCA abuse, and 3) factory installed spyware.
  • by spoco2 (322835) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:41AM (#7615653)
    They are not shipping PCs with spyware on it already, they just aren't telling people how to install programs like ad-aware etc. They don't have any requirement to do so, they support problems with the PCs as they ship them, not with extra programs on them.

    Stop making stuff up... where do you get this crap information from?
  • by halo8 (445515) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:59AM (#7615744)
    Having whored myself to CPQ, HP and IBM (ya im the village bicycle of techsupport)

    this is nothing new.. at all three companies the only software we supported was M$ thats its.. 3rd party.. call them..

    Example of a Call..

    oh? sorry... you REALLY REALLY want our help? cause you waited 45 minutes on hold.. and i actually speak english you can understand.. well.. were Not supposed to.. but for $35 charged to a major credit card i will be authorized for a one time support fee to ATTEMPT to resolve the issue you are having that you described to me


    now.. the key words we used.. were ATTEMPT, ONE TIME, Described to Me.

    wich means... im going to try to fix it, i really aim.. if i cant and you call back to get someone more experianced coff up another $35. and if during the course of troubleshooting i find out its something else.. coff up another $35

    only the opening, closing scripts, hold times, talk times and pay cheque ever changed
  • Re:Nasty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ibsteveog (442616) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:06AM (#7615781) Journal
    Well, I know it sounds crazy, but i went through the same harddrive problem you just described...

    However, we put the dead and clicking harddrive (it wouldnt boot b/c the motherboard wouldnt recognize it) into another computer as a slave, and even though that computer's motherboard didn't recognize it either, windows was still able to access and read it, and the drive still works as a slave to this day (only a few weeks after the fact, but still).

    I considered myself fairly knowledgable about computers, but I was really surprised to find that a hard drive was readable even when it wasnt recognized by the BIOS and was unbootable.. so maybe if you had booted off a DOS disk, you could have read it. It never hurts to try something... (also, we froze the harddrive for several hours to try to resuscitate it... I dunno if it helped, but it didnt kill the drive.)
  • by Adam_Weishaupt (636032) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:11AM (#7615802) Journal
    You are mistaken, I just bought a Dell Dimension 2400 two weeks ago for my mother inlaw. Inside the box was an OEM Windows XP CD, Works Suite CD, Modem Kit (cables and driver CD), a restore CD (contains all the non-modem drivers for the system) and a backup application CD (which contained Music Match and various other software). On other Dell systems I have seen shipped in the last year have also included MS Office, Roxio and PowerDVD software depending on configuration. I have never seen a Compaq/E-Machine style system restore disc for a Dell system.
  • by spazoid12 (525450) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:12AM (#7615806)
    Not only that, but Dell is a source of Spam email. In fact, they are currently my largest source of spam.

    Here's how I know. Whenever I begin any "relationship", or line of communication, with any commercial entity (actually, basically anyone other than close friends), I tell them that my email address is "[entity-name]@[my-real-domain].com". I use a combination of Virtualmail and Procmail for this. Then, I *always* communicate with any entity with the virtual email address corresponding to them, and I *never* use it for any other purpose. It's a hassle finding a good MUA/POP3-client that will support "personalities" in a convenient way to manage the "From:" header, but it's doable. Eudora works OK for this (although it has really annoying bugs, in particular with pathetic multithreading code).

    So, this helps me to understand who is selling or leaking or giving or trading (etc) my address to spammers.

    I've bought things from Dell for maybe 2 years now. About 3 months ago I began getting spam addressed to "dell@...".

    Was it a deliberate thing they did to provide customer email addresses to spammers? Was it an employee smuggling customer data out? Was it an outsource employee doing as much? If smuggled out, what other data went, too? Credit card info? Address info? Hmm...

    TechSupport and CustomerService were absolutely clueless, but that's not surprising; although it was funny to see how well they can embarrass themselves.

    Conveniently, it's a simple matter to redirect all of my "dell@..." email to something like "csd@dell.com", lol. They can keep it!

  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slamb (119285) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:12AM (#7615816) Homepage
    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.

    I don't know about you, but the people I know recognize me as someone who is very busy. I occasionally help out friends/family with computer problems[*], but there's no way I could possibly keep up if they all came to me with all their computer-related problems.

    Even so, I'm more likely to recommend they get it from a smaller dealer or, for somewhat more knowledgeable people, stretch themselves by trying to build it themselves (I help pick out good parts). I tell them to take it to a place in-town for help if they need it. The per-incident cost, though it doesn't seem like it, will actually be less than the up-front support cost at a place like Dell.

    [*] - It's much easier to solve the problem when you know the person's skill level and are actually there. Even assuming there is someone competent on the other end of the support line (a shaky assumption), they're handicapped, so I know I can do a better job. Besides, it's quite rewarding when I can actually teach someone how to do something.

  • Dell En Danger (Score:3, Interesting)

    by deepakgupta1982 (646741) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:16AM (#7615834)
    If this letter is made public, and the media creates a lot of hue and cry, Dell will find this too hard to swallow.

    If general public are made aware of the Factory installed spyware, they will simply stop buying Dell.

    End of Story, End of Dell
  • by Baggio (8432) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:17AM (#7615840)
    Hell, I'm a techie type myself, and I think some of their prices are tough to beat. If I'm just building a generic rig, I can be completely sure that Dell is going to have a model with similar parts at a fraction of my cost. I won't be using that as my gaming rig or my main PC, but for everything else... can't beat it.
  • Re:...An Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shostiru (708862) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:17AM (#7615841)
    I work for, and co-founded, an independent ISP. Like many independents (actual independents, not virtual ISPs), we regularly recommend AdAware and Spybot and provide basic support for them (and other programs that have little or nothing to do with our primary business). However, make no mistake about it, the only way we can afford to do this is by keeping prices above average.

    The way some companies keep prices low is by treating their customers, employees, and community as resources to be exploited (e.g., partnering with spyware companies, selling service to known spammers, refusing support for anything but Windows, firing their CSRs and outsourcing support to companies who use customer service scripts). Remember this the next time you save a few dollars buying a computer, getting a DSL line, or even shopping for groceries.

  • Re: Sorry, hang on (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:26AM (#7615879)


    > That excerpt from the memo says no such thing. What it says is Dell are for some reason now very aware that they're at risk of getting sued if they advise people to do thinks that violate somebody's EULA.

    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.

    There's something very wrong with the PC economy if a company the size of Dell has to go along with what their suppliers want instead of what their customers want. Especially when what the customers want is so damnably reasonable.

  • by Cyno01 (573917) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:34AM (#7615935) Homepage
    I only own one dell, my laptop(latitude lt, if your wondering), and i found their support amazing. I bought the laptop 3rd hand from my boss who bought it at a sale at the university who had originally purchased it. I'd recieved it wiped and installed win98 (its several years old, p200mhz, 64mb of ram...), but unfortunatly i didn't have any of the drivers. The display wouldn't go to the 600x800 that the lcd was(it still wont in dos), and i also didn't have the modem drivers. One of their tech support guys helped me sift through the website for over an hour to find drivers that might work for this laptop that i had bought third hand. That strikes me as standing behind a product well past any sort of waranty or even reasonable expectations. As for this spywayre thing, it seems to me to be a legal thing. Most programs that contain ad/spyware state in ther EULAs that you have to install gator (CLARIA IS SPYWARE!) or gain or whatever. By removing it, you're probably violating those terms and dell doesn't want to be liable. Here's hoping EULAs will be found void in court sometime soon.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by corbettw (214229) <corbettwNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:36AM (#7615949) Journal
    Reminds me of the time I spoke with some moron tech support rep at Cox Cable Internet. The guy wanted me to type in "help" in the address bar of my browser. I asked him what he expected to happen. He said it should take me to the ISP's help section. I asked him "Do you know what a resolver is?" He said "huh?" I said "Transfer me to second level, you're out of your league."
  • I'm not suprised (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Thund3rbolt (729123) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:42AM (#7616004)
    You would expect Dell to do this. Afterall they have to do something to stay competetive. God knows it's not in building a better product. Instead they use their volume purchasing to cut sweet deals from software and hardware vendors. They always manage to look like a good deal to the average Joe from all thier weaseling, hidden costs and crappy support. Stooping to pre-injecting spyware is only 1 level lower in the hole from which they fester and breed. They call it Dell but we know it better as Hell. tb
  • This isn't news. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by naelurec (552384) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:57AM (#7616085) Homepage
    Dell didn't preinstall spyware. They are not going to recommend tools that randomly delete products off a users system. I can think of quite a few software products that install spyware and will not run without that spyware on the system.

    So if Dell recommends a product that effectively destroys other applications on the system .. well it isn't a good situation for them.

    <rant>
    I still recommend Dell systems. I maintain them for several businesses and I have yet run into a problem with support. Infact, I don't think I ever had to request a supervisor, level 2 support or anything of the like. I state the symptoms, state any diagnostics I did on the system, tell them my results and what appears to be faulty. There have been a few times they requested a few additional tests for me to do just to confirm, but afterwards, a part is shipped out usually next-day air and I install it (or a tech is sent if I cannot address the issue). I can't complain about that. Hehe .. over the past weekend I tried the same thing with Gateway .. yikes.

    I had the problem pinpointed to a specific part of the motherboard .. their answer? Send it to a local service shop (gateway store), let the computer sit there for 7-10 days before they can look at it.. after they look at it .. it will sit there for another week while the part is shipped in and then sit in a queue until they can install the part and test it .. estimated turn around time? 3 weeks. I'll stick with Dell thank you very much.
    </rant>
  • Re:...An Answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:16AM (#7616180) Journal
    Why should the ISP or the computer manufacturer take responsibility? They weren't responsible for putting it there!

    If that held true, I would agree with you.

    It does not, however.

    My parents just bought a Compaq (without consulting me first... Not a bad machine, but I could have done a LOT better for the price). A bit short on memory (XP with only 256MB does not do well), so I sat down to tweak it a bit.

    It totally blew me away that AdAware found six distinct problems on an out-of-the-box system. Two browser hijacks, and four questionable registry keys (possibly all related, but irrelevant - It contained more than zero spyware blobs direct from Compaq), a condition I consider totally unacceptible.

    So yes, Compaq, and Dell, and HP, and any other companies that have decided to reduce costs by sleeping with the enemy, should all have to then suffer the support costs of people wondering what this "Gator" thing does. AFAIK, every major manufacturer includes Norton or Mcaffee on any Windows machine, by default. They want fewer tech support headaches? Include AdAware Pro as well. Until they do that (and especially if they put the spyware on the machine themselves), they should not complain about (much less outright refuse to respond to) calls concerning spyware removal.
  • by wmguy (724524) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:40AM (#7616254)
    My experience with Dell was this:

    1. 10 minutes on the phone to determine laptop motherboard is dead, so I ship my laptop in (they pay for it)
    2. 2 days later I get it back, but this time it is in even worse shape. Another 10 minutes on the phone and I mail it in again.
    3. 2 days later I get it back again, seems to work fine, until I realize that it will no longer charge the battery.
    4. Finally I gave in and upgraded to on-site service, and my computer was fixed and working in another two days.

    Needless to say I was not too happy that with three trips to their depot they still couldn't properly fix my problem. It seems like their techs should have at least tried turning on my computer before shipping it back. I buy Dells all the time at work, but I think when it comes time to replace my personal computer I will either go somewhere else or build my own (not a laptop obviously).
  • by bonch (38532) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @03:17AM (#7616367)
    A tiny line at the bottom that requires you to click "Read More" and find it.

    Most reputable places would update the headline or the beginning of the summary at the least. They're basically accusing Dell of something we hate that they in fact don't do.
  • What I would say (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BrainInAJar (584756) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:02AM (#7616478)
    If I were still working helldesk my reply would be something along the lines of "Sorry sir, Dell inc. has advised me I am not able to help you with removal of spyware, and this includes reccomending such programs as AdAware to you."

    Then again, I liked to stir sh*t up, and stuff like this was a common occurance to me (I really wonder how many of my customers tried linux or got off AOL b/c of me)
  • IE and Spyware Tools (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xQuarkDS9x (646166) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:38AM (#7616592)
    I don't agree with Dell and other people saying that Ad-Aware and or Spybot: S&D can screw up IE. It's people who mess around with settings and or install other kinds of crap that screws up IE in the first place.

    I've been running Ad-Aware and SB: S&D for years now and it's never yet screwed up ANYONES IE installation, even with online associates of mine or the occasional time I go over to some of my relatives houses to fix their computer(s) because their young kids download all kinds of crap that installs the spyware in the first place, only for me to find that the computer had over 300+ spyware items found!

    As to whethr Dells installing spyware? Doesn't suprise me one bit - Dell strikes me the same way HP and Compaq do - they mass produce PC's the same way they do toasters, massive amounts of pc's that may only last 1-2 years before your toaster and or PC breaks down (whicever comes first).

    And people wonder why some of us prefer going to LOCAL computer stores to buy computers prebuilt by them with quality motherboards and or parts or just buying everything yourself and assembling it..
  • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:43AM (#7616612) Homepage
    I just simply cannot help them - I know nothing about Windows anymore, so I can't help.
    It's about time we have a re-run of the thread "Why I won't do free labor for Bill this Christmas".
  • by bishiraver (707931) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:49AM (#7616631) Homepage
    Heh, reminds me of the campus labs at my school. The computers read from the server when they boot up, so every time you boot you get a fresh image. This is annoying if you want something like xchat or mozilla to stay installed (they have netscape and IE.. morons).. but nice for spyware. The first thing I do whenever I hop on one of those pieces of crap is reboot it, especially if it's late in the day. There will usually be about 4 different search bars, gator, bonzi buddy, and countless crap running in the system tray. The first thing I do when I reboot it, is install the google toolbar into IE and disable feedback. Future users not smart enough to use netscape instead (hey, it's better than IE) are at least saved from popups. It's amazing how much utter crap the average university student will download and install onto their computer. If this is the next generation of suits... god help us all.
  • by Reziac (43301) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @04:49AM (#7616632) Homepage Journal
    Okay, so how about if (as I suggest above) Dell were to ship consumer systems preloaded with spyware-removal tools, and an EULA that says something to the effect of "installing any program that includes a component that our system maintenance wizard removes, is in violation of the terms of service for this machine". IOW, put the onus of either being well-behaved or "in violation" on the spyware-bearing applications.

    As to the spyware's host app's EULA of "you can't remove part without removing all", isn't that kinda like an EULA saying "You may not read this book unless you agree to read ALL the pages", or "You may not watch this television program unless you agree to watch ALL the commercials"?? Even tho Dell is just covering their legal asses, I seriously doubt any such EULA would hold up in court anyway. (Anyone have contrary information?)

  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mormop (415983) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @05:42AM (#7616750)
    Had someone in the UK that bought a laptop from Dell. It came with MS Works which she wanted to use for day to day paperwork while visiting clients. Anyhow, first problem was that there was no way to set the deafult page size to A4 or anything other than US Letter for that matter.

    She calls Dell and asks them. The first thing they ask is "have you installed any software on it"? Not seeing a contractual getout coming she told them she'd installed her Mortgage Broking software (for that is her job) only to be told that as she's put software on that didn't come from them it would cost her 15 an answer.

    Now I can see that they don't want to answer questions along the lines of "I put this obscure bit of freeware on and now it won't start" but for christ's sake, bundling a package that requires regedit to set the page size to the correct one for her country and then charging her to sort it out is shitwit behaviour of the worst order.

    After this I won't use the likes of Dell, Gateway, etc., and go for small/medium independant suppliers or build it myself as you can at least get support from the same person who tends to remember you.
  • by zoward (188110) * <email.me.at.zoward.at.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @06:05AM (#7616807) Homepage
    This is one of the really great things about being a computer geek that puts us up there with auto mechanics, plumbers, lawyers, and anyone else with a skill the average Joe needs but doesn't want to pay full price for. I get a lot of home-cooked meals, free beer from the storeowner down the street, extra hardware from people who ask me to replace an older part with a newer one (I replaced a DVD-ROM recently with a DVD bruner, and took home the DVD-ROM), and inherit a lot of older computers when their owners buy a new one :-).
  • by MacDaffy (28231) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @07:32AM (#7616985)
    If I had mod points, I'd boost this one. This poster knows what he's talking about. My partner and I use AdAware for spyware removal because of the sheer volume of malware in the wild. We treated a system day-before-yesterday that contained 420 different malware/datamining/spyware entities. I'm charging these people $85 an hour (the additional twenty dollars per hour compensates for three hours of drive-time). I don't want to charge them for the time it would take to remove that much crap from an infected system by hand. And we'd have to carry around an up-to-date list informing us of the processes, startups and other system modifications that are the telltale signs of infection.

    I know Dell has legal issues to consider, but they need to come up with a better response than the one they have. They can remain arms-length from possible solutions, but they can also put users on the road to finding them. BTW, viruses, spyware and malware have made Macintosh and Mac OS X much easier to sell recently. I direct customers to used Macs available on the PowerMax and MacResQ sites if they can't pay full-price for a new system. It hasn't failed yet. And those used Macs are turning out to be much more serviceable than PC's of equal age. I don't recommend anything older than the first Power Macintosh G3 desktops. Anything after that has been flawless so far.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bdowne01 (30824) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @08:43AM (#7617332) Homepage Journal

    Apparently unlike everyone else replying to this, I did buy my mom a Mac.

    Her requirements were problems: Microsoft Money, had an HP printer/fax/copier that didn't have OS X drivers, as well as some other misc. software

    However, running Win2K at the time on a PC, she was having the constant security updates, virus problems, and of course spyware (Gator was rampant on her machine).

    I just explained that not everything she had on the PC would work on the Mac, and she might have to rebuy some of her software or convert to a different package. In return for helping buy her the computer, she agreed to do that.

    HP released an official driver a few months after her G4 arrived, and in the mean time, I let her borrow my old DeskJet.

    That was 3 years ago, and she's never been happier with her Mac. She's had one problem with a faulty modem (a simple return to an Apple store had it fixed in an hour), otherwise it's been problem free, and I've had more free time to work on other things than my mom's computer problems.

    You could copy and paste that story with my mother-in-law as well...

  • LOVE THE MAC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by www.sharkdefense.com (682987) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @09:07AM (#7617437)
    Ive been a desktop/server support person for 10-12 years and always was a Wintel user. At the end of 2002, I was sick of all the problems which had to be readily repaired on my 98/xp/2000 machines at home. Short of a w2k proliant server for storage, all required ENTIRELY too much upkeep, patching, cleaning and maintenance. I have since purchased a DP Macintosh G4 and although its a lot more expensive than a PC, its flawless, and it runs all I need it to run (Video editing, email, web, office apps) 24/7. I now, too, recommend iMacs or Powerbooks if people ask. For the record, my Dell p3 733 is still running fine, I have never had an issue with Dell's tech support. I just can't stand Microsoft's security holes and instability.

    For the record, I still do have a 1 Pentium III class machine for whatever I cannot run on the max with OS X.
  • by DoraLives (622001) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @09:32AM (#7617580)
    Apparently it helps if you're possessed of a less than fully pleasant personality.

    I've got ALL of 'em trained to fork it over when I come around and bail them out. Barter is my favorite, but cash will do just fine, thank you.

    From my own (warped) perspective, this is good news. Crapware removal is my bread and butter. It's excellent from a 'repeat business' point of view, also. I clean their machine, give 'em a stern lecture, and then find myself coming back to repeat the process. Nice to see that Dell has taken such a kindly interest in my financial well-being.

  • by metamatic (202216) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @10:04AM (#7617755) Homepage Journal
    Yup. If they have a Mac or run Linux, I'll help.

    If they have Windows, I'll help them install Linux. If they don't want to do that, I tell them to call Microsoft's tech support.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dillon_rinker (17944) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @10:06AM (#7617772) Homepage
    I will bet you my next five paychecks that this is not official Dell policy. Rather, this is an employee using a vague but believable pseudo-policy to end customer calls as quickly as he can, thereby improving the statistics that are used to evaluate him

    For those who have never worked in a call center, there is one core stat used to evaluate workers: call volume. The more calls you answer, the more they pay you. The phone switches allow this stat to be measured easily. There is the expectation that customers will be satisfied, policies will be followed, etc. but it's practically impossible to measure or verify this.

    Your conclusion still follows - if you can buy locally from someone who can support you, do so. It doesn't matter if you're being screwed by a technician (who disobeys policy) or by his corporate masters (who implement poor policy) - you're still screwed if you buy nationally.
  • by Lord Apathy (584315) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @10:41AM (#7618015)

    Yes, I couldn't agree more. I tryed that good sumaritan routing a few years ago but once it starts you never get rid of them. Every little problem same thing. Twenty five bucks is my going rate. Cheaper than the local computer shop but it keeps them from calling me all the time with anything but the most serous problem.

  • Re:Nasty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jridley (9305) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @11:44AM (#7618561)
    For instance, if you installed a retail version of PhotoShop, your warranty would be void. However, this is not illegal.

    It might be. If, for instance, you can show that they market and sell the computer and imply that the computer can run software other than what came with it. If you bought the computer with the expectation that you could run this software, and they encouraged that belief, then they can't then pull your warranty when you follow through.

    Otherwise, it'd be like a car dealer not honoring the warranty on the powertrain because you bolted in a fire extinguisher in the trunk.
  • Re:Nasty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:53PM (#7619304) Homepage
    Actually, in a way it does make sense to void a warranty if someone installs a different OS. You see, windows controls power management by doing things like spinning down the hard drive after inactivity or turning off the monitor when not in use. These things extend the life of the hardware, and using a different OS may, as a result, shorten the length of the hardware. Not that it is a good policy, but it is not a completely unreasonable one, either.
  • by hross (608039) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @01:05PM (#7619409)
    Dell, like any other company that employs hundred of people, has both good and bad. Also, their home technical support is worse than their business technical support partly due to the quality of people, but also due to the fact that most home callers don't know squat, and the tech people get used to clueless newbies who gave them a little more respect than any /.er is likely to.

    So, if you get someone who is unhelpful, take their name, hang up, and call back. I've had conversations with subsequent tech people who apologized for the previous tech behaviour and ensured that my opinion was escalated. How else do you expect to improve tech support without constructive feedback.

    Once I get a knowledgeable tech person - and some groups like their server support seem uniformly good - I've had excellent experiences with Dell.

    I once had a problem where a hard drive was slow. It worked, but it was slow. All diagnostics passed but some benchmarks indicated a performance problem. Dell replaced the drive. The new drive worked for a week and then exhibited the same problem. So they replaced the motherboard, but the problem continued. Finally, a tech realized that it was heat buildup related and the power supply fan was probably spinning too slowly to vent the heat and so the drive was going into failsafe mode. They replaced the power supply and the drive again and everything worked.

    At this point, I can call and simply state that I need a certain part and why I think it's the problem and I can usually get a replacement without further diagnostics because I know what they expect and so pre-empt the 'make a floppy' routine. Why have you still got a floppy drive on your system anyway?

    But realize that the techs have a script to follow and often must satisfy certain steps in order to replace expensive parts. Help them to satisfy these steps and don't waste both your time arguing about each step. If you are sure of exactly what will happen, just tell them it did. But you'd better be sure since any company that ships tens of thousands of systems a week may have a little more insight into what could happen than you, in spite of your wider knowledge.

    Dell tech support may frequently suck, but they suck less !

  • Encompass Monitor (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hafidhahullah (602256) <`hafidhahullah' `at' `kittymail.com'> on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @02:01PM (#7619950)
    Sorry if this has been covered already in an earlier post - I didn't attempt to read all 949 postings listed as of this moment.

    I bought a Dell a few years ago and, after installing a desktop firewall, discovered that it comes installed with a program called "Encompass Monitor" (encmon.exe). Encmon was attempting to call out something on the order of 20 times per minute, and I blocked the program. A friend advised me that this program is well-known Dell spyware and I should uninstall it. It is not hard to uninstall. You just locate the program on the Control Panel/Add Remove programs and remove it.

    Behold - a week or two after I removed Encompass Monitor, I began seeing daily probes INCOMING in the desktop firewall logs from various DSL-identified addresses associated with Dell Computer, Inc. So, the people in Texas who were receiving the log files from this spyware suddenly realized their baby was not phoning home any more and began sending probe packets to my machine to find out why. I am really not sure what Dell was tracking, but I suspect it may have been my web-surfing habits, in an attempt to do data mining for sales to other companies who could target my "interests." If anyone has any better intelligence on what data is sent to Dell by Encmon.exe, I'd appreciate a reply, just out of curiosity.

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