PCs with Compulsorily Bundled Software Should Be Outlawed

The Windows Tax

The Windows Tax

I’ve written about the Microsoft Tax many times before and have even had a minor success with regards to getting it refunded.

Now a fellow Open Source blogger and businessman, Dr Adrian Steel of Mercian Labels, is trying, so far without luck, to get the cost of an unwanted Windows License refunded from a company called Fonestop Ltd. He’s kindly providing an ongoing record of the correspondence between himself and the supplier whilst he seeks a fair refund for the software that he does not want nor require.

This example goes a long way to indicate why the bundling of software and hardware in this way is so wrong. It is incredibly hard to buy a computer in the UK that is not already infected with an inefficient, outdated, expensive, bloated and, still alarmingly, insecure operating system called Microsoft® Windows. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to get even a partial refund due to the updated terms in the EULA that comes with version 7 of the OS (you can read most of the license agreements here):

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine its return policy. You must comply with that policy, which might limit your rights or require you to return the entire system on which the software is installed.

In earlier versions the statement about returning the entire system was not there. Here’s what the Vista EULA said:

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine their return policy for a refund or credit.

Reading Adrian’s struggle to get back the money that is rightfully his makes me quite angry. There are plenty of computer users that do not want or need Windows software when they buy a new computer. Even if they are not aware of the great Free Software operating systems such as Ubuntu or Fedora or many others, they probably already have a perfectly legal and valid CD of Windows in a drawer or cupboard anyway. Even I have a legal and valid Windows XP CD in my office; not that it ever gets used nowadays…

So what’s to be done? I really feel like starting some kind of campaign to get the lawmakers here and across the EU to make this kind of practice illegal. I as a consumer should be able to select and buy any computer I like and decide for myself if I wish to pay for a pre-installed operating system or not. That should be a choice I am free to make. Currently, apart from a few very brave and admirable vendors, I do not have this choice. And now it’s even harder to obtain a refund due to the change in the wording of Microsoft’s EULA.

These Brave and Admirable vendors deserve a mention:

  • Brave because I’m sure that they will come under pressure from businesses like Microsoft to bundle their software and conform to the way that they want you to sell Computers.
  • Admirable because they are standing up for something which is good and noble and may not be the most profitable course for their company to take.

As many of you know we started a website some time ago called Naked Computers to track these Brave and Admirable suppliers around the world. It’s been useful to many but it has been quite quiet recently and it could definitely do with a revamp to make it look more appealing (any WordPress Theme designers fancy knocking up a new look and feel for the site?).

In the UK there is one computer supplier that, in my humble opinion, should be applauded for their attitude: Novatech. I think that every machine they sell from their website or retail outlets are offered with or without an Operating System; it’s your choice. It’s quite interesting to look on their site and see just how expensive Windows really is: ~£70 to ~£800 or more!

Recently I noticed Novatech making a few noises on Twitter and I commented positively on their approach to selling naked computers. This was their reply to me:

@opensourcerer Thanks for recommending us, we sell all systems without operating systems as we like to give our customers a choice.

So come on you lot! Let’s try and come up with a plan, ideas and suggestions as to how to go about fixing this problem once and for all… Our company, The Open Learning Centre can host a wiki or something if needed but please use the comments here to start the ball rolling.

Are there any lawyers out there who fancy a challenge? Want to fight for Freedom and allow consumers to make their own choice rather than be forced to pay for something they frequently neither need nor want?

Finally, for those naive souls who believe that an EULA gives you some protection or guarantees, think again…

Sam Varghese Got It Wrong?

On the 10th of February I updated my original “Is Canonical becoming the new Microsoft?” post to make it clearer that what I was actually asking was about whether the company is becoming the next organisation that we love to hate because of the increasing level of criticism aimed at it and it’s flagship product Ubuntu.

Today, the 15th February, Sam Varghese has written about a conversation iTWire have had with Mark Shuttleworth regarding my original post. Unfortunately not only does he seem to have missed the point of that original post, but he also writes as though I was making an accusation or statement rather than asking a question:

“He was responding to queries from iTWire about a recent blog post that has claimed Canonical is becoming the new Microsoft.”

He goes on to list some of the points I made:

The blog post had listed a number of reasons why the writer thought Ubuntu was allegedly becoming the new Microsoft: the inclusion of Mono as a default; the creation of Ubuntu One, a proprietary software repository; removing the GIMP and other applications from Ubuntu; changing the default search engine to Yahoo!; discussion about what proprietary applications should be included in the Ubuntu repositories; and the appointment of Matt Asay as chief operating officer.

Please, let’s get this straight. I have noteworthy opinions on one or two of the points I mentioned, but that was not the point of the post. They were supposed to be taken as examples of a collection of decisions that are apparently, in various quarters, providing the fuel for an increase of criticism overall.

Personally I really am not bothered about the Gimp being removed (it is easy to install), nor OpenOffice.org from the UNR (I actually install the desktop edition on my netbook anyway), nor am I upset about Ubuntu One; it’s an interesting solution, I use it sometimes myself and I’m sure a Windows version will be most welcome by many around the globe. Neither am I bothered about the Yahoo search thing (If Canonical can get money from Microsoft then that’s just funny IMHO), and I was actually pleased about Matt Asay’s appointment; he will bring a wealth of commercial experience, a good dose of much needed sales & marketing skills to the operation and I’m sure much more besides.

Sam also didn’t mention any of this from my original post:

I really like Ubuntu. I use it everywhere, I help in the Ubuntu-uk irc channel when I can and we [our company] promote Ubuntu to our customers and I [as an individual] to friends and family.

What concerns me is not any particular item in the list above: some I care about, others I do not; as I am sure many of you will do too. It is the increasing volume of criticism and vitriol as a whole. It is getting louder. This, I believe, is indicative of a turning tide that, if we are not careful, will result in Ubuntu losing popularity and more of the FOSS community exercising it’s freedom.

I did not claim Canonical was becoming the new Microsoft. I asked if it might be. I also (admittedly not very clearly on my first pass) was interested in the reasons why Canonical/Ubuntu is getting more criticism directed at it at a time when it is becoming more successful and more important and was hoping to solicit some ideas and opinion as to how we could stop that increasing criticism and prevent what seems to be a fairly common occurrence with big and successful companies; we are even seeing it with Google now. Ubuntu/Canonical is built on very different principles to traditional commercial enterprises, so could we, as the community, come up with any ideas to prevent the “love-to-hate” syndrome?

I don’t read iTWire much. I only noticed this post from Sam as I had a couple of referred clicks to this blog today and was interested in where they were coming from.

Sam, your article paints me with a brush which I do not believe to be fair or accurate.

Idiot goes Open Source

It seems that even the cat is using Ubuntu… the kids have seemingly seamlessly adapted to Open Source Software. My computer has also taken sides and is so slow it’s definitely trying to tell me something. Finally I’ve admitted defeat and have had to ask Al to make the change, with one caveat – that I can still use iTunes. A robotic sounding “virtual machine” is apparently the answer – it will pretend to run Windows in a little bit of Bill-space and iTunes will be none the wiser that I’ve actually left the Dark Side at last.

I know my new look will take some getting used to and I just have to get familiar but it definitely feels quite different. The icons look more home-made and the whole thing seems less slick. I keep repeating “Kill Bill” and “It’s Free”. I know I will get used to it but at the mo I could almost say I felt sad although probably remembering the “helpful” paperclip will remedy that – Yes, that’s done it – I will give it a chance.


This is an excerpt from my ramblings on going over to Open Source Software. My husband (The Open Sourcerer) has persuaded me to put it on here but I’ve really no idea why. He said “people will be interested, you’ll be surprised.”

….surely they have better things to do??? I’d be interested in the work/chore that is so bad you’d rather read this than do it.

Miserware Energy Saving Software now cross-platform

Perhaps you will recall the Miserware power saving software I blogged about last year?

I’m still running it on all of my machines here and it has been great – I really don’t notice it at all. It just sits in the background and according to the logs is saving between ~20% & ~60% power consumption by my various CPUs. And that’s just what it should do.

Miserware have just (18th Jan 2010) started a new trial programme to celebrate the introduction of the first Beta of the power saving software for that [ahem] other OS, Windows. The trial itself and entry into a competition to win iPod Nanos or Asus PCs is open from today and the Micromiser software is available for: Vista, Windows 7, Windows XP, Debian 4.0, 5.0, unstable, Fedora 8, 9, 10, 11, RHEL 4.7, 5.3, SLES 10 and Ubuntu 7.04, 8.04, 8.10, 9.04, 9.10.

If you want to try it out and join in the trial and competition just follow this link to sign up.

Note: Do please note that (on Linux at least – am not sure about Windows as I don’t use it) there is a script you should run after installation called mw-feedback. It sends back textual information about your hardware. This is a plain text file of mine for Lobsang so you can see what it contains. The purpose is so they can identify any hardware issues with the beta software and also verify the widest range of solutions for which the product is suitable.

Our Windows 7 Special Offer

This post is a “reprint” of an email we have just sent to the subscriber list for our Liberation newsletter. The audience is largely UK based businesses and public sector organisations. Should you wish to receive Liberation, you can subscribe here and please feel free to pass it on.

Today, Microsoft invite you to part with your hard-earned cash and upgrade your computers to Windows 7®. If you are one of the majority still using Windows XP, then moving to Windows 7 may not be a pleasant or inexpensive task…

Surprisingly there isn’t actually a way to upgrade your computer from Windows XP to Windows 7 in the traditional sense. You’ll need to back up all your data, re-format the hard-drive and start again from scratch.

Windows doesn’t store your documents, personal information, historical data, emails, passwords, cookies, preferences, settings etc. in one place. So backing up and rebuilding Windows computers is a very time-consuming and complicated process:

  • Work our how many licenses you need then go and pay for them
  • Buy some new storage for all the temporary backup space you’ll need
  • Back up everything on every computer
  • Install the basic operating system
  • Find and install the right hardware drivers for your machine(s). Much hardware may not yet have suitable Windows 7 drivers
  • Register and Activate each new computer, requires you to have network access
  • Find all the disks and license keys for the applications you use, then re-install them. If they are still compatible that is
  • Install & configure the drivers and software for printers and other peripherals. Many peripherals may also not yet have suitable drivers
  • Copy your data and settings etc. back to all the right places on the new system.

Plan for this process taking anywhere between 4 and 8 hours for each and every computer you have.

Gartner estimates that real migration costs will be between $1,035 & $1,930 per user from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Why can’t I upgrade?

Windows 7 Upgrades

Windows 7 Upgrades

That is a good question, and one that we have not seen a good answer to. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal asked Microsoft about upgrade paths and was sent this matrix showing all the different ways you can’t upgrade from other versions of Windows to Windows 7 (Blue = No upgrade, rip out and replace. Green = in-place upgrade).

Microsoft have also provided a document explaining the same thing in words. There is no upgrade path from any of the following operating systems:

Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows XP, Windows Vista® RTM, Windows Vista Starter, Windows 7 M3, Windows 7 Beta, Windows 7 RC, or Windows 7 IDS, Windows NT® Server 4.0, Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server® 2003, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Server 2008 R2.

That’s a complete mess. What can I do then?

You could do nothing and stay on Windows XP for as long as possible. Although we think this will be a very popular choice, staying on a nearly 10 year old OS probably isn’t the best policy for a forward thinking organisation.

You do have a choice

Ubuntu Solution Provider

As you are going to have to rip out and replace your computers’ operating systems anyway, now is a real Carpe Diem opportunity to investigate an alternative (or two) whilst considering your options.

The Open Learning Centre recommends that your organisation investigates the many benefits offered by a modern Linux-based desktop operating system such as Ubuntu. As an authorised Ubuntu partner we can help your organisation with evaluation, installation, testing, migration, implementation, training and support services.

Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu is a modern, stable, reliable and secure computing platform that includes most of the applications we all use every day, such as a compatible office suite (Word-processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations) OpenOffice.org, email and calendaring, web browsing and image manipulation tools.

Best of all, Ubuntu is free:

Ubuntu is and always will be free of charge. You do not pay any licensing fees. You can download, use and share Ubuntu with your friends, family, school or business for absolutely nothing.

The retail price for a single Windows 7 Professional license is £219.99 and it’s £229.99 for the Ultimate version. This doesn’t include applications either.

Our Offer: On-Site Ubuntu Installation and Training

The Open Learning Centre will visit your premises, install Ubuntu on a suitable computer, and provide approximately 2-3 hours (i.e approx half a working day) of professional training and advice on Ubuntu for £229.991 (inc. VAT). An outline of the training is available on our website. Please contact us to book your Introduction to Ubuntu.

Open your mind to Open Source software today

1. Depending on your location we may need to charge extra for travelling expenses etc.

An Honest Windows 7 Review

I just read this excellent review of the Windows 7 Professional [sic] edition by Ramon Cahenzli. It’s really well written, especially as I assume English is not his native language, detailed, funny and very poignant.

I wish I’d written it. But then that would mean I’d have to buy Windows which isn’t something I really want or need to do.

Here’s a couple of quotes but do go and read it when you have a few minutes spare. You’ll remember why we use Ubuntu and other Free and Open Source software.

The Windows boot manager still believes that only one system needs to be installed on a machine. It flat out replaces any existing bootloader with itself, and then only displays Microsoft operating systems for booting…

… Windows Update wanted to install a few urgent updates. It downloaded the files and tried to install once. The installs all failed. It didn’t tell me why. The system log only showed “an error occurred while installing…”. I retried and one install went through, the other failed. After another try, all installs went OK and the system wanted a reboot…

…I don’t know how, but Microsoft managed to break ASCII text files. That’s an achievement.

On the new Windows 7 UI…

It’s like a room with 1960s spherical chairs (with orange cushions) placed around a 2008 Ikea living room table, on an 80s synthetic flokati rug

I must say I’d forgotten about all the reboots that you have to on Windows. Surely they could have fixed that by now?

My conviction that Windows is pants remains even with their new version. About the same release time a far better, more secure and more modern operating system will be released: Ubuntu 9.10. It will be free and available from here.

Don’t waste your money on Windows; seriously.

Don’t waste your money…

As a piece of software given to a human being, Windows 7 is a trap. It is full of non-free software, and you cannot follow your natural instinct to share and pass it on to your neighbor, otherwise you act against the law (and the license). By purchasing and using the system, you surrender much of your freedom and are under the control of a single company.

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