Evading the Microsoft tax

Dec 6, 2009   //   by Teo   //   Amarok, KDE  //  11 Comments

A few months ago I submitted my work for the Social Desktop Contest, organized by Frank of openDesktop.org. As you may remember, my submission was the social about dialog for KDE apps, currently only in Amarok, but I hope to move it to KDElibs when my university thesis work, my work work and other IRL stuff gives me a break.

Turns out, lots of people seemed to really like it (thank you for voting!), and it won the first prize, which was a Dell Mini 10v netbook with Ubuntu – a really great and appropriate gift for a Free Software contest.

Unfortunately Dell has a really weird way of doing business, long story short, regardless of the free movement of goods inside the EU, because of Dell’s arbitrary business choices it was virtually impossible to ship the netbook from Dell directly to me in Italy. Anyway, Frank and I found an alternative solution with me placing the order on Amazon.co.uk, and a few days ago I received an EeePC 1008HA (they didn’t have the Dell Mini 10v). The netbook market has changed a lot since its beginnings and nowadays it’s very hard to find a netbook without Windows, this one was no exception as it had the Microsoft tax on its price and that ghastly Windows license sticker on its underside. I hoped to get back the cost of the license, mostly for ethical reasons, and I hoped that Amazon.co.uk would do the right thing as described here, but a few weeks ago I picked up some random report on Slashdot about Amazon now refusing to cooperate in honoring Microsoft’s EULA, which made me worry a bit.

EeePC 1008HA with Archlinux and KDE SC 4.4

After I got the package, I just sent a polite message through the official Amazon.co.uk support channels, and at first, I got a canned response from a support guy offering me a full refund for the netbook. When I replied kindly requesting that they actually read my message, the support person replied with an e-mail full of apologies and offered me a ~30€ refund for the Windows license, without asking any further information or proof of any kind. I wouldn’t bet that the 30€ bill made it all the way to Microsoft through Asus, but I hope that if enough people bother Amazon with this, they might eventually poke Asus. So, including shipping and after the Windows refund, this netbook cost about the same as the Dell Mini 10v with Ubuntu would have, and it’s an awesome little gadget.

I’m running Archlinux on it, installed with the Chakra live distribution (the latest Archlinux live USB stick image isn’t recent enough for a confortable installation on this hardware), but I removed the stable (and awesome) KDEmod packages to replace them with packages from a KDE SC 4.4 snapshot repo. Hardware support under GNU/Linux is great, aside from the wired ethernet adapter which required some tweaking but it works now. Battery life is incredible. I had no trouble getting used to the keyboard, which is quite good, but the touchpad buttons are hard and they make middle-clicking difficult. The Atom N280 based system feels reasonably fast.

I want to take this chance to thank Frank Karlitschek for his hosting of the OCS contest and his help and cooperation.

Thumbs down Dell for actively refusing to do business like any decent internet store in the EU, and thumbs up Amazon.co.uk for cooperating with me in exercising the rights that the Windows EULA grants me.

11 Comments

  • Does anybody know if the refund thing works with German Amazon?

  • Téo:Congrats to both wins!

    @All: I bought an EeePC 1005HA from MediaMarkt (Germany) and wonder if they might refund the WinXP lisence. Does anybod know.

    • Thanks!
      If they are anything like their italian brand MediaWorld, I wouldn’t count on it. Try calling MediaMarkt’s support number, or even Asus directly.
      @Tim With Amazon.de you might have more luck.

  • In the Netherlands I got a € 70 refund for Windows Vista Business which shipped with my Acer TravelMate 8371. I did not contact the seller for the refund though, I contacted Acer directly. Also, they required me to send my notebook to them. The process was far from easy, if you’re interested you can read my horror story here: http://alexandervanloon.nl/english/?p=292

  • I’m pleased that you got your refund as painlessly as my own experience.

    It seems a bit hit & miss and largely dependant on who you speak to I think, but the more “good” stories about it should help other people as they can refer to these posts.

    Cheers

    Al

  • I totally agree on Dell being retarted when it comes to shipment within the EU, especially since they are essentially in the online-only shop business and everyone else in that business can do it.

    Maybe it is a comany wide policy, e.g. they also do not ship from one US state to the other, or maybe their EMEA management has been on vacation the last decade and totally missed the formation of the common EU market.

    Whatever it is, it is good to see that it costs them sales. Stupidity of this magnitude should not be rewarded.

  • I tried to buy a linux laptop (in Spain) for a friend recently. Dell’s only Linux offering here is the mini 10v and neither Dell, HP nor any of the Taiwanese outfits will sell any fully-fledged laptop without Windows preloaded. The only laptops you can buy with no OS are clunky things with max 12″ screens and inferior specs. Amazon.de has stuff from Acer and others but with out-of-date low power processors. I can’t believe these limitations on choice of OS from the OEMs are down to anything other than arm-twisting by MS.
    Dell USA has a couple of decent offers but a) won’t deliver to Europe and b) won’t do a Spanish keyboard. Emperor Linux won’t deliver to Europe, Zareason will but won’t do the keyboard.
    In the end, the girl in question had to fork out for a Windows OS she didn’t want or need.
    I just wish that the EU, instead of worring about browser ballot screens, would focus on such extortionate practices and oblige OEMs to offer any system that they sell in 2 versions, one with OS and one without, the price difference being the unit cost to the OEM of an OS license.

  • I ordered a Dell Mini 10v with Ubuntu for delivery in Italy this summer (2009) directly from Dell without problems. The warranty covers only the country where it’s ordered, so if you want a warranty in Italy, you have to order it from . What problems did you run into?

    • My netbook was a prize, and the trouble was ordering the netbook for delivery in Italy while sending the invoice to the contest organizer in Germany.

  • I had a local computer store company (not a big box) order my Acer with GNU/Linux pre-installed for $300. Easy to avoid MS tax, just have it ordered from the manufacturer without windows installed. If a company won’t do that for you, don’t buy from them.

  • Nice contribution. Thanks.

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