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January 27, 2014

Office Depot Offers $800 of “Free” (?) Software

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:58 am

  Every year, the office supply superstores offer either cash rebates or free software as an inducement to buy tax preparation software (like TurboTax and H&R Block) from their store.

This year, as in previous years, Office Depot is making a generous offer of $800 of free software.

Office Depot

But, according to Mouse Print* reader WAE, the promised rebates did not cover the full purchase price of some of the software titles.

Checking the Office Depot website for the purchase price and the promised rebate revealed he was right!

*MOUSE PRINT:


Office Depot
[Click reconstructed image above to enlarge, then click again]

Mouse Print* wrote to Office Depot’s media relations department asking them why they were charging money for supposedly free software and how they were going to correct the problem for customers they overcharged.

Office Depot did not respond.

• • •

November 4, 2013

How Crapware Gets on Your Computer

Filed under: Computers,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

MrConsumer’s friend always complains about pop-ups and unfamiliar toolbars taking over his browser. I show him how to remove most of them, and advise him to be more careful when installing new software.

Unfortunately, MrConsumer didn’t follow his own advice recently when downloading and installing a utility package to help get a new movie editing program working properly. The movie software company advised me to go to c|net, a respected website owned by CBS, to download the codec package I needed.

c|net has you download a small file first, and then the larger one. As I was installing the program, you first see this screen:

cnet 1

I then proceeded to the next step and chose “full installation (recommended)” since I knew little about these codecs and the options/settings.

*MOUSE PRINT:

cnet 2

Lurking near the top of the next screen were the words “special offer” and in the description of “full installation” was a notation that a “Sweetpacks” toolbar would be installed in my browser and my homepage would be switched to a different search company. Didn’t see that, and like most us, just clicked “next step.”

That next step brought up an end user license screen that most us just click and accept without reading.

*MOUSE PRINT:

cnet3

This time, I noticed “special offer” and the fine print said I was agreeing to install the Lucky Leaf toolbar and to get offers and coupons. I hit decline. But those who didn’t see that, probably most of us, would just hit “accept” figuring if you don’t, you won’t be able to install the software.

The next screen had yet another “accept” button to agree to “terms and conditions.”

*MOUSE PRINT:

cnet 4

And it had another “special offer” for a plug-in for faster browsing and turning text into links. I hit “decline.”

After a configuration screen came up with options that I clearly didn’t understand, I abandoned the installation and cancelled it.

Sure enough, and to my surprise, when I opened Internet Explorer, my Consumer World homepage was replaced with AVG search. What? Where did that come from? I changed the homepage back to Consumer World, and disabled AVG search under “add-ons.” When I re-opened IE, now Sweetpacks was my homepage. GRRRRR. Went back in and found it, and removed it.

So even having cancelled the installation of the main program, all of this crapware had already been installed on my computer.

The lesson is that we simply can no longer click “next, next, next” when installing any software, even from what you believe to be a reputable source, because these programs are being preloaded with crapware.

• • •

October 14, 2013

The Fine Print that Allows Google to Use Your Name in Ads

Filed under: Computers,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:38 am

Google Endorsement adLast week, Google followed Facebook’s lead to announce that it was changing its terms of service so it could use your name and photo potentially in future endorsement ads for products that you have liked or written about. And they are doing so without paying you or getting your explicit permission in each instance.

Here, in part, is that announcement:

How your Profile Name and Photo May Appear
(including in reviews and advertising)

On Google, you’re in control of what you share. This update to our Terms of Service doesn’t change in any way who you’ve shared things with in the past or your ability to control who you want to share things with in the future.

… your friends might see that you rated an album 4 stars on the band’s Google Play page. And the +1 you gave your favorite local bakery could be included in an ad that the bakery runs through Google. We call these recommendations shared endorsements and you can learn more about them here.

When it comes to shared endorsements in ads, you can control the use of your Profile name and photo via the Shared Endorsements setting. If you turn the setting to “off,” your Profile name and photo will not show up on that ad for your favorite bakery or any other ads. This setting only applies to use in ads, and doesn’t change whether your Profile name or photo may be used in other places such as Google Play.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Here is more detail about “shared endorsement” ads and how to set your preferences.

Google ads

Oddly, the circled text says to click the box below if you want to prevent your name and photo from being used, but the text next to the box says the exact opposite. By clicking it, you are allowing Google to use your words and pictures in ads.

This may be a matter of timing, since the new policy does not go into effect until November 11, so in the meantime, it is “opt-in.” News reports, however, indicate that once the change is in effect the only way to prevent your likeness from being used is to opt-out.

And in the actual language of their new terms of service statement, it clearly says “you can choose your settings so your name and photo do not appear in ads.”

The trouble with all this is that most people either won’t know that this new advertising policy exists, or won’t be able to find the spot to turn it off.

• • •

June 24, 2013

Free Comcast WiFi Piggybacking on YOUR Router

Filed under: Computers,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

Comcast is making a generous offer until July 4th: use their WiFi network free:

Xfinity free wifi

Comcast promises that you can access over 100,000 hotspots just by looking for the XfinityWiFi or CableWiFi network name on your list of available networks. How can Comcast have so many hotspots?

*MOUSE PRINT:

You, the Comcast customer, are providing (many of) them, probably without even knowing it. According to published reports, new Comcast routers have two channels: one for the WiFi signal in your home for you to use, and a supposedly separate one for the public (or other Comcast customers to use). They say you won’t be charged and your service won’t be degraded when others tap into your Internet connection.

And to add insult to injury, you allow others to tap into your router by default, unless you affirmatively opt-out.

While the public is invited to tap into your router until July 4th (and for just two hours after that), in the future only other Comcast customers will be able to.

How do you feel about sharing your broadband Internet connection with strangers?

• • •

March 18, 2013

FTC Warns Against Mouse Print in Online Ads

Filed under: Business,Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revised its guidelines for disclosures in online advertising, including new guidance for ads that appear on cellphone screens.

One of the most important points made by the new “rules” is that when practical “advertisers should incorporate relevant limitations and qualifying
information into the underlying claim, rather than having a separate disclosure qualifying the claim.” That means don’t advertise “all books* on sale” with a disclaimer that says “*hardcover only”, when you could have clearly advertised “All Hardcover Books on Sale” to start with.

Some of the other basic principles include:

  • Required disclosures should be clear and conspicuous;
  • They should be close to the claim to which it relates;
  • Only in rare circumstances should a hyperlink lead to the disclosure;
  • You shouldn’t have to scroll to find the disclosure;
  • Even small banner ads and tweets need appropriate disclosures.

Here are some sample ads created by the FTC to demonstrate some of their new principles:

*MOUSE PRINT:

cell ad

In this ad, 3/4 Ct. is a link that goes to a disclosure that reveal that the diamonds actually may weigh between .72 and .78 carats. The FTC wants to see that disclosure right on this screen, near the 3/4 carat claim.

*MOUSE PRINT:

cold box

There is a health disclaimer at the bottom of this ad which warns that when temperatures are over 80 degrees, this cooler is not capable of keeping foods cold enough to prevent the growth of bacteria which could cause a foodborne illness. The FTC says that something this important should be right in the ad, and in close proximity to the claim that the box keeps food “fresh and cold.”

*MOUSE PRINT:

banner ad

The FTC has separate testimonial rules that require people who are paid to express their opinion to disclose that fact. In this case, “JuliStarz” was a paid endorser. In addition, also in that set of guidelines is the requirement that the average benefit to be derived from a weight loss program be disclosed if the example given is atypical. In this case, the average person will much less than 30 pounds in six weeks, so the disclosure has to say, for example, avg weight loss = 3-lbs/wk.

Don’t hold your breath waiting to see online ads follow all these rules.

• • •
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