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March 13, 2017

Fake News Fakes Out Bing’s News Search

Filed under: Computers,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:22 am

MrConsumer searches through thousands of news stories each week to find the two or three dozen best ones to feature in Consumer World. To do this, he uses targeted searches of Google news and Bing news everyday. Unlike the regular searches of Google and Bing, the news section only is supposed to list news stories from a core list of news and information sites.

Of late, however, Bing’s news search results have surprisingly been infected with listings for websites pitching fake news about, or the outright sale of illegal or counterfeit prescription drugs and other questionable potions or pills.

In a search for the keywords “consumer” or “scam” recently, Bing news presented about 20 results, half of which were not legitimate news stories (which we highlighted in green).

*MOUSE PRINT: (Use scrollbar below on the right to view.)

Bing news search

Note: Bing news results do NOT include paid advertisements or “sponsored results” as you might find elsewhere. The “stories” with green borders somehow tricked Bing’s algorithm into thinking these were legitimate news stories from legitimate news websites.

We alerted Microsoft’s technical support folks at Bing of the problem, including providing a screen capture. What ensued was an insane and inane series of nearly a dozen emails over a two week period. First they claimed they could not duplicate the problem. Then they asked for the search terms used (already provided) and a screen capture of the bad results (already provided). Then they wanted screen captures of each website that was listed improperly. (Do you own f*ing site screen captures I muttered to myself.) Then they wanted a list of all offending URLs. Oh, yes, I will find all the bad websites online that could come up in searches and send them to Microsoft. Nonetheless, we provided a list of about three dozen websites that kept offending. Their official response: they removed ONE URL.

I repeatedly suggested that something was wrong with their algorithm that was failing to filter out obvious scam sites that had nothing to do with legitimate news stories.

In desperation, we finally wrote to Microsoft’s PR firm, asking why Bing’s technical folks were seemingly doing little to weed out these fraudulent sites despite repeated complaints, and what the company was going to do to protect readers. Their response — silence. Nothing. Zilch.

In the past week, however, most of the bad listings have mysteriously been removed, but the problem may not be fully resolved yet.

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July 4, 2016

The Windows 10 Upgrade You Can’t “X-out” of

Filed under: Computers,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:15 am

Since last July, Microsoft has encouraged users of earlier versions of Windows to upgrade for free to Windows 10. The company used various techniques to keep reminding users to pull the trigger and authorize the upgrade.

With many millions of users still sticking with their old Windows’ versions, in May, as reported by various tech media, the company changed tactics.

Windows 10 Upgrade
ComputerWorld graphic


While it is bad enough that you are seemingly only given two choices – to upgrade immediately or accept the proposed upgrade date (and in fine print, cancel it) – something more sinister was actually happening. Microsoft changed the longstanding windows convention allowing users to cancel a proposed action merely by clicking the red X in the corner of the popup window. Unbeknownst to users, for this particular screen, clicking that red X not only closed the window but also accepted the proposed update date. And there was no fine print to explain that.

These are tactics more usually seen by purveyors of malware, or by new applications that tuck within their installation screens authorization of adware or other junkware you don’t want or expect.

Finally responding to widespread criticism, Microsoft last week introduced a much clearer option screen so users could opt-out of the Windows 10 upgrade:

Windows 10 Upgrade fix

Remember, July 29th is the last day you can upgrade a previous version of Windows (7 and 8) to Windows 10 for free, which most experts recommend doing. After that, it will cost $119.

• • •

March 28, 2016

“Use Only in the Case of an Apocalypse”

Filed under: Business,Computers,Humor,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

Just in time for April Fool’s Day…

Amazon recently released a software gaming platform for developers called Lumberyard. Buried in its terms and conditions is this unexpected little ditty:


57.10 Acceptable Use; Safety-Critical Systems. Your use of the Lumberyard Materials must comply with the AWS Acceptable Use Policy. The Lumberyard Materials are not intended for use with life-critical or safety-critical systems, such as use in operation of medical equipment, automated transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, aircraft or air traffic control, nuclear facilities, manned spacecraft, or military use in connection with live combat. However, this restriction will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization. [emphasis added]

So only if science fiction zombies come to life, then and only then, can this software be used to save lives.

The world can rest easy now. Thanks, Amazon.

• • •

March 7, 2016

New Rebate Requirement Easy to Overlook, Hard to Swallow

Filed under: Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

Over the years, manufacturers have come up with a variety of obnoxious rebate requirements to trip up purchasers or to dissuade them from filing for their money back in the first place.

This new one from Laplink is a doozy, which was required to get the $30 PC Mover full price rebate that Consumer World promoted a few weeks ago as a “Bargain of the Week.”

Laplink rebate

Easy to miss is this fine print requirement to include personal identification.


¹To avoid fraudulent requests, you are required to submit evidence supporting your name and address. Acceptable evidence is a copy of government-issued identification (such as a driver’s license) or the front page of a utility or credit card bill. Account number or similar information may be blacked out. The name and address are required to match the name and address on the rebate request form.

What? They want a copy of your drivers license or credit card statement? Are they crazy (albeit they do allow you to blacken out account numbers, etc.)?

No company in memory has ever conditioned a rebate on what some might consider an invasion of privacy or a security risk. We asked Laplink why they are doing this considering that the rebate is in the form of a check that has to be either cashed or deposited at a bank in an account that matches the payee. The company did not respond.

• • •

March 9, 2015

McAfee’s Rebate with Built-in Costly Time Bomb

Filed under: Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:30 am

  Tiger Direct recently advertised an amazing giveaway: a PNY 128 gig USB 3.0 thumb drive and McAfee Multi Access free after rebate. A supposed $149 value for free!?


How can they do this? The secret is in the rebate offer.



You actually have to install the software and sign up with your credit card initially to automatically renew the service after the first year. You are not allowed to cancel the renewal until 10 months of service have elapsed.

Who is going to remember ten months from now to cancel this service?

Incidentally, the annual service sells for between $69.99 to $99.99.

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