Dell (Australia) Refuses Vista Refunds

It would seem that after contacting Dell for about 5 days straight, I have been thusfar unable to obtain a refund for my UNUSED copy of Windows® Vista™ Home Premium (32bit) that came with my XPS M1730.

Here are some of the lame "reasons" they gave me:

  • We are unable to refund due to Microsoft Licensing.
  • You accepted the agreement when you purchased the computer online as part of our policy.
  • You will be breaching the Microsoft License if you send the product back.
  • Because this is OEM version, we are unable to provide a refund because it is bundled with your computer.

These "reasons" didn't seem to make any sense, so I did some digging around on the Dell website for these policies and this is what I came up with:

The Dell's "Total Satisfaction" Policy states the following:
"You may return software for refund or credit only if the sealed package containing the diskette(s) or CD(s) is unopened"

I also checked their Terms and Conditions of Sale ("Terms and Conditions") and that states the following:

"All software provided is subject to the terms and conditions of the license agreement relating to that software. Customer acknowledges its obligations to abide by such license agreements. Customer acknowledges that Dell does not warrant any software under these Terms and Conditions. In addition to any rights the customer may have under statute, all software is warranted in accordance with the license agreement that governs its use."

So, if I do NOT to agree to the the Windows® Vista™ EULA and adhere to the conditions within it (don't use it and uninstall said software), am I not entitled to a refund???

One thing is for sure: The call centre minions at Dell don't know ANYTHING about software licensing and are not trained to deal with this situation, which means I am now stuck with a rather expensive coaster :P

UPDATE: 08/12/2007 @1620
I have lodged a complaint with OFT as I believe that Dell is not acting in accordance with their own policies and is therefore acting illegally by refusing a refund (IANAL).

UPDATE: 03/01/2008 @1605
I got a call from an Australian Dell representative (Sydney) and they left a message for me to contact them, just have to wait until 10/01/2008 before I can call him. Hopefully he can give me some good news...

UPDATE: 06/06/2008 @1036
This is a very late update. There will be no refund from Dell as I have not only lost the telephone number for the person I needed to speak to, but I have failed to get this done within 90 days of the purchase, due mainly to work and the fact that I don't want to have to do this process in a hurry again. Since the release of Windows® Vista™ I will no longer use windows for personal use (and soon to be for work use to), so even though I will have to go this process yet again, my next Dell Notebook *WILL* be Windows-free!


Gentoo GNU/Linux on Dell XPS M1730

So I just received my brand new M1730 from Dell and since Dell sent a 32bit version of Windows Vista I have decided to decline the Windows Vista EULA, opt for a refund/credit and install Gentoo on it instead.

Heres how I did it (this is not intended as a howto).

First of all I ghosted (both) installed HDD's for the factory configuration (in case I had to restore for some reason).

Next I slid the good 'ol Gentoo 2007.0 LiveDVD into the DVD drive and proceeded to boot the machine with a one-time boot option (F12) but after trying many different versions and arch types I finally resorted to the amd64 LiveDVD which seemed to do the trick (except iiNet's rsync mirror seems to be borked).

Once I installed the base system it was as easy as doing a normal install except for the following options that I added to /etc/make.conf

CFLAGS="-march=nocona -O2 -pipe"

I was intending to use suspend2-sources as this is a laptop and it would be nice to be able to suspend/resume this beast between UNI and home (suspend2-sources are patched with both genpatches which includes the patches found in gentoo-sources, and Software Suspend 2 which is a new and improved implementation of suspend-to-disk for the Linux kernel¹) but unfortunately its masked for the amd64 arch.

About the only problem I encountered (other than accidentally trying to use the wrong arch for the stage3) was the CONFIG_PHYSICAL_START option in the default kernel configuration, as it was set to 10000. As per this webpage, I edited the .config and set it to 20000 and then the kernel happily compiled (I even have 32bit emulation too!).

All I need to do now is emerge xorg, wine/cedega, firefox and openoffice, then configure suspend2 (tuxonice), dual monitors and all the other niggly little laptop features on this thing (like aux LCD, mic sense jack, media buttons and wifi) :P

I will try to remember to post as I get devices working on this beast.

UPDATE: 07/12/2007 @ 1336
I managed to get output on the DVI interface in single link mode, but the resolution is all wrong (way too small)! It is either an xorg.conf MetaMode miss configuration or the latest nvidia drivers are borked...


Squid logging issues

I finally got denied websites and ntlm group-based authentication working on the squid server at work, but it seems that it (still) doesn't log usernames in the access.log (which also has to be explicitly defined in squid.conf to be able to log for some reason...

I have tried allot of Google searches for it but there's nothing relevant that I can find, so I think this is either an undocumented 2.6 bug or I am not looking properly for any possible userid logging bugs.

This sure is beginning to bug me.

Maybe I have missed something...


No Alienware Laptop for me...

On the 4/9/2007 I purchased an Alienware Aroura m9700 notebook. Until the last few days I have not received any correspondence or communication from Alienware about my order because it looks like they have gone into receivership.

Below is a snippet of the email that was sent to me that confirmed this:

From: sales@alienware.com.au
Sent: Tuesday, 9 October 2007 3:59 p.m.
To: <deleted>
Subject: RE: Arora m9700 status.

Dear Mr <deleted>,

We apologise for the serious delay in your order. Alienware Australia which was a subsidiary company of Jackar Holdings has been affected as its parent company Jackar Holdings which operated the Alienware license in Australia has fallen into bankruptcy last week. Alienware America has taken over all operations and will honour all sales and warranty claims. We are able to process your order and it will be dispatched to you in the next 7 – 14 days.

I will try and push your order through faster and keep you updated.

Best Regards,

Alienware Sales

Alienware Australia

After waiting even longer for it, they still failed to get my order done within that time period as the next email states:

Sent: 29 Oct 2007 13:08
To: <deleted>
Subject: RE: Arora m9700 status.

Dear <deleted>,

Firstly I would like to apologise for the current situation as stated below your order was affected by the bankruptcy of our local partner. The M9700 has gone end of life I am able to upgrade you to the M9750 at no extra cost however we would need you to do a chargeback on your credit card for the last order and re process your card. If this is of interest please provide a contact number and I will give you a call to run you through the process.

Best Regards,

Alienware Sales


The problem with this was not necessarily the waiting, but the lack of communication and the fact that this was also arranged with my current employer as a salary sacrifice. Alienware also will not directly refund me so I now have to fill out a funds dispute form for my bank and so hopefully I should get a refunded soon.

Anyway, it looks like Dell have a similar product for about the same costs and specifications.

UPDATE: 8/12/2007 @1638
The Credit Card Charge back went through last week and now my funds (and happiness) is back. Hooray!


Very Clean USB Flash Disk

I now have a very clean USB flash disk. Not wiped clean of data, but hermetically/hygienically clean :P. I not only accidently left it in my pocket during my scheduled clothes washing, but I also left it outside to alow it to dry, only to forget about it and have it get rained on. Funny thing is, it still works!

With this in mind, I think I will continue to buy Astone USB mass storage devices due to there (tested) reliability and toughness when completely submerged into liquid, dried and used again!


WSUS Breaks itself

It seems that the WSUS-3.0-sp1 update from Automatic Updates has broken WSUS on one of the servers at work!

Apon initial investigation, I found that WSUS 3.0 was installed, the files were all there and the database existed, however there was no registry entry for the configuration.

This is how I fixed it (after realising that it refused to uninstall).

Logged onto the Perth main WSUS server and exported HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Update Services\Server\Setup and imported it into my replica server. I immediately uninstalled WSUS and installed the default 3.0 version and I am now back in business :)

NOTE TO SELF: Move away from Windows-based servers and workstations...


GWN Contributions

Well, I have finally decided to contribute to my favourite OS!

I have sent an email to the gwn-feedback team to see if I can help by writing articles for them every so often. If accepted, I will write-up about planet.gentoo.org blogs and maybe even Gentoo Press related articles ^_^

I just hope this this doesn't take up too much of my time like these blogs of mine :P


CIFS and Windows Server 2003

Today I had an incident this morning (which, as of the time of writing this, I am still working on) where a Windows XP machine decided to BSOD with the UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME.

Doesn't surprise me to see that the KB article above won't help me fix this issue as I found out a few hours later that there was a power surge from the night before!!!

So to fix this I (naturally) fired up a Linux distro (this time it was Knoppix

Next up I begin receiving this error when trying to connect to mapped network drives for storage of the recovered data using smbmount(8)...

    cli_negprot: SMB signing is mandatory
4650: protocol negotiation failed
SMB connection failed

Well, after about 5 minutes of pulling my hair out while googling for a solution, I found the answer!!! CIFS! I thought that smbmount(8) was broken (I've had some bad experience in the past) however it seems that if if you use CIFS instead it will happily connect to a Windows 2003 Server file share!!

Now if only I could get all this data recovered :P

Time to call Dell for a replacement HDD (gotta love their support) and purchase one in the interim...


Random Post #2

I used the Dell Support Request form for the first time and noticed that the fscking web application won't work with a standards compliant browser (Mozilla Firefox) *argh*

I am also starting to really dislike administering Windows servers at the moment because of weird user home directory permissions and active directory in general (replication times over frame really are soooooo sloooowwww!)

Not only, but also, I am in the process of migrating my DCSE to a self-managed account so that regardless of what company I work for, I will always have access to, and be able to manage my DCSE profile.

CLI-Tip #0001:

mstsc /v:server

This allows a user to quickly connect to a server running
terminal services (or a Windoes XP machine with remote
desktop configured) by specifying the name or IP address
on the command-line. Very handy for those that use
"rdesktop" alot :)


Cygwin is broken.. no wait! windows is!!

Well I was starting to wonder why my good 'ol mkisofs for windows (cygwyn port) was not working.

I'd had this issue such a long time ago but I forgot how to overcome it because I didn't have a blog back then and didn't bother to document any of the technical stuff I did (I'm also still lazy that I don't document these sorts of things, but instead I occasionally blog it here)

Anyways here goes:

I usually like to dump my command-line tools in %SystemRoot%\commands and seperate some of the bigger projects and utils that need additional libraries (cygwin is one of them) and throw them into seperate directories underneath that one and put all the path environment variables into windows so that everything just works... but it didn't :-/

I got some DLL entrypoint was not found error in cygevt__somethingorother so I thought "WTFOMG!!!11!!1 cygwin is broken!" I was only half right.... ...

I downloaded the latest cygwin base tarball, extracted it and I was having the same error. This didn't seem right it all! so I scoured the utils directories to see if one of them had a corrupt/bad version of cygwin... and lo behold! my cdrdao package directory had a fUxx0r3d version!!! (not only that I noticed that the directory it was in, was defined in the %PATH% environment variable before cygwin was!

... well not really :P

At least I have all my essential command-line unix-ported tools now on my windows box at work :)



Since I can't get broadband in my dormitory up north, I have decided to go halves for the cost of Telstra 3G Wireless Broadband with a workmate of mine. Problem is this. I refuse to put ANY windows machine onto the internet without a free (and fully functional) open source firewall solution.

So I decided to look (again) at windows-based free open source firewall software and here it is! WIPFW. If it's truly based on OpenBSD's pf, it sounds very promising. (yes I'm a big OpenBSD fan). It has a very experimental GUI, but I don't necessarily need it.

Acording to this article I think it might actually be a better idea to just buy a Motium MPC-210 Mobility PC (or equivalent cheap but small machine) for use as a (Gentoo) Linux firewall for this thing. Probem is, I have have never used iptables before :P


Breaking My Gentoo

After much deliberation and scouring the net for a Linux command-line based passwordsafe (and ompatible with Counterpane's Password Safe) program, I found pwsafe.

This seems like the ideal app that I had in mind, problem is it's not masked or even in portage!
Not to worry! Gentoo Sunrise has come to my rescue!

There is an overlay for it that seems like it's in the process of being reviewed, however it hasn't got a maintainer (this is probably the reason why it's not in portage yet).

Now I am wondering if I should just add it and install it using the once off ACCEPT_KEYWORDS="~x86" use flag and hope that it doesn't kill my system.
I already have the masked version of Hamachi installed how can this be any different?

I think I will end up installing yet another masked package :P



New Monitor

Not much to blog except for the fact that I have just purchased a Dell 27" Monitor (2707WFP) ^_^

Now that I have my old 17" up north in my dormitory, I have determined that I probably should have done it the other way around :P

Oh well, at least sending it to the Perth office helps guarantee delivery.


Microsoft Breaks Automatic Updates

I have discovered that Microsoft®'s own Automatic Updates service for both Windows® XP and Windows® 2000 is broken. There is a KB article that states that there is a known problem with Widown Updates that sometimes causes 100% CPU utilization (more like always!), causing the operating system to become unresponsive.

Although Microsoft have released not one, but two patches for this problem, it still exists! but here's the kicker: Not only is the patch not included in Windows Updates, but it isn't even available for Windows® 2000!!?!??!!

Great to see Microsoft® continuing to make quality software!


CD Backup Script (Updated)

Bellow is an updated version of my CD backup script that I developed a while back:

version_date="Mon Oct 30 15:59:14 WST 2006"
version_author="Dean Bergin (dean.bergin@gmail.com)"
version_desc="A basic automated CD backup script"

# initiate a variable to hold the iso filename as a sting
iso_filename=backup-`date +%Y%m%d`.iso
# Check for existance of an iso with the same datestamp
# and rename acordingly
if [ -f /u1/${iso_filename} ]
mv /u1/${iso_filename} /u1/old.${iso_filename}
mkisofs -v -J -V backup -A '' -N -sysid '' -o /u1/$iso_filename $backup_dir
# TODO: Add more checking to see if the files we have for
# a backup will fit onto a CD

# If all is fine then go ahead and make the iso
mkisofs -v -J -V backup -A '' -N -sysid '' -o /u1/$iso_filename $backup_dir
chmod 0740 $iso_filename


# Initialise a list of directories to include in the backup cycle
dirlist="/boot /etc /root /tmp /var"
# Dynamically create tarballs based on the directory names
for dirname in $dirlist
tar cfvz ${backup_dir}${dirname}.tgz $dirname
# This section deals with specific exceptions for dirictory names
# that requires additional filename formatting
tar cfvz ${backup_dir}/usr-home.tgz /usr/home

# Directory cleaning function that will automatically delete
# all files in the $backup_dir automatically. It is assumed that
# previous backup iso's have been performed
for file in `ls ${backup_dir}`
rm -rf $file

# Initialise $backup_dir and give it a value
# call the custom made functions

This script has been tested, and works fine (on my own system).
Feel free to copy and modify this script to suit your own needs, but don't come crying to me if it doesn't work on your system! There is no warranty or any of that stuff and the above code is provided "as-is". Perhaps you should write your own scripts then you won't have to worry about all this legal stuff :)

Converted to Genkernel

Genkernel makes Admin on a Linux system easy!

In one single step (genkernel all), Genkernel can:

  • Create a (custom-built) kernel (bzImage) from the latest sources.

  • Make kernel modules and install them.

  • Include all (custom) CHOST optimisations that are set in make.conf in your kernel

  • Minimise human error (ie. manually copying a kernel bzImage and forgetting to rename it or relink it etc).

Not only but also, genkernel keeps config files in it's own directory (/usr/share/genkernel by default) so that means I never have to worry about whether I copied the previous kernel .config file from /usr/src/linux before purging older kernel sources by running: emerge -Pa gentoo-sources

I recommend Genkernel not only to newbies but also to Linux pros that want to make kernel upgrades less of a troublesome task.

/hug Gentoo


Screen makes mv dissapear

bash: /usr/bin/mv: No such file or directory

Just discovered this error today. Seems that screen (v 4.00.03) occasionally breaks coreutils/bash in that it can't find the mv executable in any other screen other than the first one that you create...

Not sure how screen actually works, but it seems like theres a bug in the way that it handles creating a new environment for a screen when using the -t option (or mabee when you try pass it a command enclosed in `'s)

Tempted to post this as a bug, but I have never done a bug report, and I haven't got the time to investigate why this is (intermittently) happening. Besides, I would much rather rant here on my blog :P


Gentoo GNU/Linux LiveUSB

Not long after buying a 10Gb ASTONE USB Mass storage device, I decided to turn it into a portable OS. Naturally, I chose Gentoo :)

One small hitch that I came across was the fact that busybox was failing to compile. This is how I fixed it.
emerge --sync
emerge binutils
emerge busybox

Now all I need to do is get wireless support/war-driving tools and some other rescue utils installed and noone will be able t stop me!

Have I ever told you that I love using Gentoo? :P


DVD Burning annoyances

About 2-3 years ago I noticed that Jörg Schilling had developed Cdrecord-ProDVD, and being that I was quite happy with using cdrtools on both Linux and Windows, I decided to give his DVD burning software a try.

Cdrecord-ProDVD worked reasonably well on Linux (apart from the annoying licensing variable), however It would NOT run under Windows at all. Today I thought I would revisit the use of it it and try to get it working again, but to no avail.

Apart from the fact that Jörg Schilling doesn't like Windows, why is it that Linux gets free, powerfull, and working (command-line!) DVD burning software and Windows get's none?

Now the only thing that's in the way of me ditching windows in favour of Gentoo on my desktop is WoW :P


Linux Kernel Fun: Adding a new IDE Controller

I managed to afford a new HDD for my upgrades and an IDE addon card to boot (<--- Pun intended :)

The plan:

  • Buy new 250Gb IDE HDD

  • Swap the 200Gb currently in my fileserver with the new 250Gb HDD

  • Swap the (newer) 200Gb taken out of my fileserver with the (older) 200Gb HDD in my XBOX and vicea versa

  • Install an IDE addon card into fileserver and attach the 200Gb to it

Most of this went well except for the addon card.
After many hours and 4-letter words being said, I realised that the new addon card wanted take over as the first available IDE chip after the kernel had initialised the hardware giving me VFS kernel panic errors even after changing the lilo 'root=' kernel option (and editing fstab). It seemed to work fine when I manually specified the root= option at the lilo prompt, but I was forgetting one important thing...

I forgot to use the kernel option "Boot off-board chipsets first support" which funnily enough tells you what the option is for in the linux kernel help: "This can improve the usability of some boot managers such as lilo when booting from a drive on an off-board controller."

Nuff' Said :P


Dell BIOS Wierdness

Today I not only discovered that a Dell Inspiron D800 and a Precision M60 are essentially the same laptop (identical/interchangable M/B) with a different BIOS and to turn a Precision M60 into a Inspiron D800 is as simple as flashing the BIOS using a "/forcetype" as a command-line argument at run-time of the bios binary. Furthermore it seems that some (specifically the D800) BIOS binaries will run on either win32 or MS-DOS, but to get the previously mentioned hack to work, you have to use MS-DOS.

WARNING: Try this at your own risk. I will not be held accountable in any way shape or form if you turn your Lappy into a brick!

UPDATE (20070329): It seems that Dell still use similar motherboards for their D820/M65 product lines, but the BIOS from a D820 cannot be flashed to an M65 by using the /forcetype command-line switch anymore. Way to go Dell.


V.Busy = "no WoW"

I have been so busy that I haven't even had time to pick up WoW since just before the expansion was available... until now, however I have been able to buy random assortments of gadgets and useful stuff, such as...

As for the StreetSmart® StreetExpress™ those not wanting to continually insert the the CD every time they want to use it, can simply copy Data directory into the installation point. This should also improve load-times too :)