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Four letter word! (EULA)

Posted 09-03-2011 at 03:11 AM by rich_c

I recently bought myself a HP Mini 110-3612SA, which I'm generally very pleased with. Running Mepis 11 Linux, it's very pleasant to use with all the eye-candy KDE4 can provide on the available hardware. Installing Mepis was reasonably easy and everything worked out-of-the-box. (With the exception of hibernate/suspend to disk which I may not bother trying to fix as shutdown/startups are reasonably quick.) There is one issue that's left a sour taste in my mouth though.

My issue is with a leaflet I found in the box with my new Mini. It's got the End User Licensing Agreement printed on it in several languages. To paraphrase, it states that if the customer is not happy with either the hardware or bundled software (Windows 7 Starter edition.) then their only recourse is to return both hardware and software for a full refund. Clearly, I wasn't specifically aware of this agreement until after I had made the purchase and opened the packaging. On the other hand, it wasn't totally unexpected. Linux users have had to more or less put up with Microsoft tax for years if they want to purchase hardware from anywhere other than specialist suppliers. That doesn't stop this EULA from being annoying. It does go beyond that though. I believe it can be shown that it's plain wrong.

Basically, HP are forcing customers to accept a shoddy, not fit for purpose operating system (Windows 7 Starter edition.) with their netbook purchase. There are numerous reasons why anyone would maintain that Win 7 Starter is not fit for purpose, some being subjective. There is, however, one reason that any technically competent person would have to agree with. Windows 7 Starter is a 32 bit operating system. My Mini 110 has 64 bit architecture. Therefore, the package I have bought and have been required to accept or return would not be working as intended had I not installed a 64 bit operating system on it. Over and above the well known RAM limitation issues, 32 bit OSes also do not make full use of the available CPU capacity and/or features.* Based on that fact, I am of the opinion that HP's EULA is wrong. Customers should be made aware of the limitations of the supplied hardware/software bundle and have some sort of facility to apply for a refund for the operating system part of the purchase if they have no intention of using it. Personally, I installed Mepis before Windows had even had a chance to boot by inserting a USB stick with an installation/live image on it and going straight to the BIOS boot preferences on first boot.

I am going to post a link to this blog post on the HP Facebook page. I have already raised my issues in a customer survey I filled in a week ago but have heard nothing back. The reason I'm raising this issue is that I believe HP (Like many other companies.) should pay more attention to their customers' requirements and they should also consider that one developer (Warren Woodford) and a small team of community volunteers can put together a better operating system than the one that comes supplied with a lot of their products. As I mentioned at the top of this post, I'm very pleased with my system and I would recommend the HP Mini to other people. I do hope that someone from HP sees this though and gives it some thought.

* This is based on information obtained from fellow IT professional users of the LinkedIn website.
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