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Best Buy 'Geek Squad' Accused of Pirating Software 476

Alien54 writes "Texas software company Winternals Software LP has sued Best Buy Co. Inc. in federal court, alleging that the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer was using unlicensed versions of its diagnostic equipment. Best Buy's Geek Squad, is alleged to be using pirated versions of the software since talks on a commercial licensing agreement broke off. A restraining order has been granted."
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Best Buy 'Geek Squad' Accused of Pirating Software

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  • by IntelliAdmin ( 941633 ) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:41PM (#15125185) Homepage
    A slightly related comment - I used to work at a PC repair shop next to Best Buy. We would get a constant stream of customers that would be sent from Best Buy to our store after *they* broke the machine! Sometimes they would even walk right out after getting a machine from the customer and bring it to us. I laughed out loud when I started to see these geek squad commercials. I can just imagine now the peeps at geek squad that use format and reload as their way tp fix any problem the computer has.
    • Its such a shame it has to be this way. The industry seems to be filled with low grade college techs who think there is money in IT or wannabe geeks who think they know what they are doing but do more harm then good. Since leaving my desktop support role I have seen my company slowly grind to a halt because these people cannot cope with anything more than a reformat and reinstall. I could only just convince them that disk images are a good idea in the corp environment. Or is it just where I work? Please
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:55PM (#15125320)
        It's been this way for 10 years now, since Windows 95 came out. Before then, to be a PC tech, you actually had to know something (IRQs or CONFIG.SYS commands, etc). Now days it's largely a button-pushing exercise with magic solutions produced by running one utility or another (defrag. regcleaner, antispyware, etc). It's astonshing how little technicians know about the inner workings of Windows NT, routinely recommending reinstalls for totally fixable problems after their magic utilities fail. Anyway, it's essentially become a bugger-flipping job and the pay is in line with that.
        • by naelurec ( 552384 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:24PM (#15125616) Homepage
          It's astonshing how little technicians know about the inner workings of Windows NT, routinely recommending reinstalls for totally fixable problems after their magic utilities fail.

          Thats the biggest issue I have with Windows. I can run tools to get a pretty good idea if an issue is hardware related (memtest, burn-in tools, power monitoring, hard disk diagnostic, etc..) but if it is *not* and it *is* a Windows problem, where do you honestly start?

          Close to 90% of all non-hardware issues w/Windows is the result of malware. Sure running a "magic utility" *might* get it -- a few years ago, it seemed to do a pretty good job.. nowadays, it is largely useless.. run a handful of anti-spyware tools, anti-virus tools and at the end of the exercise, it might *seem* clean only to have the issue reappear soon after (either from attaching to an app or user (going to website or receiving infected email)).

          The remaining 10% end up being a mix, including startup issues where there is a lack of any information on how to address the issue. Unlike Linux where it is quite verbose as to what is happening with Windows your stuck with a list of things that already happened successfully (safe mode, command line mode).. quite pointless.

          Then there is the random issues that cause occasional crashes or other abnormal operating behavior. Once again, without apps that have logging or debugging facilities, tracking down the case of these issues is once again very painstaking (perhaps a regmon/filemon might work.. most of the time you feel like your searching for a needle .. is it a registry setting? is it a corrupt file? is it permissions? who knows!)

          Bottom line -- troubleshooting a Windows machine is largely a guessing game. Occassionally you might get lucky and have an easy issue that can be solved within a few guesses. Most of the time, I'm left scratching my head. It ends up being easier (And usually faster) to simply reinstall. Sad but true. Even for issues that should be relatively simple to resolve are difficult due to the lack of feedback from the system.

          Things taken for granted on Linux like verbose debug information, verbose startup/shutdown (w/logging), ability to checksum the installed binaries to verify they haven't been tampered with, ability to view *all* running processes, minimal areas in the system for something to startup, users running underprileged by default (a huge one), etc make it much easier to troubleshoot.

          I'm not saying that learning how Windows works is not helpful and *might* provide insight as to how to troubleshoot *some* issues quickly -- but ultimately *most* of the common problems end up being things that cannot be sufficiently fixed without a full restore/reinstall from a known, verified source.
          • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @07:45PM (#15126161) Homepage
            The chickens finally came home to roost for MS with their "registry".

            The primary reason they invented the registry was to allow software vendors to hide data about their program. Some of it had previously been in .ini files and was legit in the sense that it contained stateful information (i.e. previous window size & position, recently opened files), but it also contained info about licensing and registration which is/was fine. But instead of coming up with a standard installation for these programs, what MS gave everybody was a bunch of API calls to read and write the registry and didn't actually monitor people too closely.

            Well, people can and did write everywhere they could in the registry to hide some inner function of their program, and what we have now is a mess. If you give a program the ability to access the registry, they can affect system parameters, other programs...anything. And if they try to fix this in Vista, they'll break even more stuff, so we'll have that little legacy running around forever.

            All because they wouldn't use tried and tested methods of saving information. MS was too smart for everybody else, and now we have to install windows every year or so to clear the crap out of the registry because the OS lacks the facility to monitor changes made by applications, sandbox them, and then forcibily remove registry changes at installation.

            I'd love to hear the "genius" who thought this was an improvement over a text file, because he/she is the only one.
            • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:47PM (#15126489)

              When used properly, the registry really isn't all that bad. While I think .ini files were better, the registry isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, the security sucks. It is too easy to change things that shouldn't be changed. It is too easy to hide and bury things where they don't belong. Essentially, Microsoft was betting that application developers would be well-behaved when they wrote to the registry. They were, and are, very wrong.

              I much prefer the idea of having two sets of .ini files. Put one in Program Files for global settings. This should be locked down just like the rest of Program Files, so admin/root is the only one who can make changes. Put per-user settings in Documents and Settings/username/Application Data. This is one of the things that Microsoft borrowed from Unix that works very well, but the real problem is that not all application developers give a shit about it. For example, both Doom 3 and World of Warcraft insist on placing configuration settings, save games, mods, etc. in Program Files. What the fuck? That is soooo last century, dudes. This is what makes it so difficult to run as a non-privileged user in Windows, which in turn leads to other problems: spyware, viruses, malware, etc.

              Blame Microsoft all you want, but they really aren't to blame here. Granted they had a half-assed solution to a problem they didn't understand, but the thousands of application developers out there still don't have a clue even in 2006.

              • When used properly, the registry really isn't all that bad. While I think .ini files were better, the registry isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, the security sucks.

                The security in the Registry is excellent. Each individual key has per-user ACLs. It's much better security than plain text files are, or could practically be.

                The *problem* - as you say later - is that lazy/incompetent/ignorant application developers write their applications badly.

                This should be locked down just like the rest of Progr

              • Chrooted Registry (Score:5, Interesting)

                by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @11:31PM (#15127168) Homepage Journal
                However, the security sucks. It is too easy to change things that shouldn't be changed. It is too easy to hide and bury things where they don't belong.

                Is there any reason for a user-level app to not get a 'chrooted' version of the registry that only allows write access under a certain tree node?

                I mean, assuming Microsoft cared about security.
          • by kylef ( 196302 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @09:29PM (#15126657)
            Bottom line -- troubleshooting a Windows machine is largely a guessing game. Occassionally you might get lucky and have an easy issue that can be solved within a few guesses. Most of the time, I'm left scratching my head.

            Windows is very deterministic and easy to troubleshoot if you take the time to learn. It has distinct startup and shutdown procedures, driver installation, file system behavior, thread and process management, etc. These are all publicly documented, if you care to learn about them. Buy a copy of Windows Internals [] and you'll be amazed at what you didn't know. There are tools and utilities to automate all kinds of useful activities from the command-line, and if these tools don't exist, the APIs are very well documented on MSDN for how to create them.

            Things taken for granted on Linux like verbose debug information, verbose startup/shutdown (w/logging)

            Ever heard of that management console snap-in called Event Viewer []? You might want to look into that. And as for debugging applications or even kernel-mode device drivers, Windows has some of the best freely available debugging facilities [] of any platform.

            ...ability to checksum the installed binaries to verify they haven't been tampered with

            Read about Windows System File Protection []. Run "sfc.exe /scannow" to validate your system files on XP/2k3. It uses hashes, not checksums.

            ...ability to view *all* running processes

            Task manager? Tlist.exe?

            It's pretty clear that you don't know much about Windows, which seems to be a common thread here on Slashdot. You'd rather trash Windows than spend the time to learn about what you don't know. It's easier to write off Windows as "unexplainable" just because you are too lazy to look behind the GUI.

          • by Fencepost ( 107992 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @10:48PM (#15126980) Journal
            The first place to look is often the event log (on any of the NT-derived OSes). The quickest way to get there is to right-click on My Computer and pick Manage.

            The next things to check into are running processes, what starts with the system and what might be shimmed in elsewhere.

            For running processes, SysInternals' Process Explorer is invaluable. Tweak the columns used to show the company, description, and executable path; be suspicious of things of things with no descriptions, things you don't recognize, or anything running from a funky location. You can open up detailed information on any process that includes TCP and UDP ports open for sending or receiving, security information and strings within the executable; you can also get a listing of files, registry keys, etc. that each process has open.

            Process Explorer also does one other thing very useful - it lets you suspend a process without killing it. I've had to clean systems where that was the only thing that let me get stuff cleared because I wasn't able to kill the spyware processes off without triggering relaunches by a different process. Suspending processes on the other hand worked just fine.

            Also from Sysinternals is Autoruns, which lists off everything that gets started automatically with Windows or at login from any of the many places such things can hide. HijackThis gives a similar set of information broken down a bit differently.
        • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @07:43PM (#15126148) Homepage
          Well, to be fair, unless you know every fucking key in the Windows Registry (which gets ten times bigger with every release), it's a little hard to be able to fix Windows when it suddently stops working. Especially if the problem is caused by third party software instead of Windows itself. It doesn't help to blame the third-party software, either, but you STILL don't know which one or how it in fact screwed up the Registry.

          In some cases, you can do a Google and somebody has figured out what went wrong, or at least a smart way to fix it. In many cases, a reinstall is the ONLY way to get Windows back in operation.

          With Linux, almost always fixing one config file or doing some other minor file juggling will fix the problem. Failing that, an upgrade to a later version of the particular failing software will. You almost NEVER have to reinstall to fix Linux. Admittedly, sometimes it is VERY hard to figure out where in the maze of config files (usually due to the desktops) the problem lies. But the underlying services are usually fixable without too much searching. You might have to suddenly become an expert on, say, Linux font servers, but that's easier than figuring out the Windows Registry.

      • The industry seems to be filled with low grade college techs who think there is money in IT or wannabe geeks who think they know what they are doing but do more harm then good.

        Thats not the problem at all ... the problem is someone with the brains to be a good PC repair person has the ability to make *MORE* money than anyone will pay for PC repair.

        In other words, people are unwilling to pay enough to attract smart people.

        An Example: I used to be a consultant, one client was a friend of a friend and I gave her a super sweetheart deal, $35/hr where the going rates were $100-$150. I was basically loosing money working for her ... I was working a long term contract, and she calls up and asks if I'm avaliable and I tell her no, and to call my friend whose rate is only $150/hr. She pleads poor and could I please come out and help her, so I do the stupid thing and take pitty. While I'm down there -- she's telling me how her husband had blown 100k on a tractor she knew was a scam -- and the previous weekend she had blown 12k in Vegas.

        My point is, she wasn't willing to pay $150/hr to have someone come out and fix the computers for her business, but was willing to blow 100x the cost of that on frivilous things. It was the last time I took a call from her.

        • "the problem is someone with the brains to be a good PC repair person has the ability to make *MORE* money than anyone will pay for PC repair."

          Bingo. And it's made worse by the fact that everybody has a PC and because they installed MS Office they think they're a PC genius and therefore, the job is simple and it's not worth much.

          Meanwhile, nobody can afford decent computer help because the guys working at these companies are either (a) just starting and really good and will quit in 2 months for a better jo
        • Actually, you were treated like your time was not valuable because you didn't charge enough. It has been my experience that as a consultant in the computer industry at least, people don't have enough knowledge of the work you are doing. Therefore, they judge people by how much they charge.

          ** moved this line up because this is what I originally set out to write, but didn't. It is duplicated after the Disclaimer:

          If you don't charge much and you run into a problem, that's because you don't have experience and so you have to take jobs that pay nothing, but if you charge an arm and a leg, by god, if you have a problem than wow, it must be a really hard problem.

          Doesn't matter what the facts are, the guy that charges little and knows more is not given the respect that the other guy earns just by charging enormous sums.

          What follows actually diverged into a story about how by charging more I was actually able to do "fun" stuff and probably is quite boring. Fear not that it may actually support the above statment, after a while it begins to diverge and there is no reason for the reader to continue unless he/she finds it entertaining. I'm planning on coming back sometime and massaging it into a coherant article for posting with my cv, but frankly it's likely to be extremely rough and prone to many spelling errors, runon sentences, subject jumping and becomes just an ego boosting looking back on how by getting over the fact that I am not worth 6 figures, by asking for it, I've actually gotten more respect than when I "gave it away for free". The more you charge the more people respect you in this line of business it seems. Or to put it another way.

          If you don't charge much and you run into a problem, that's because you don't have experience and so you have to take jobs that pay nothing, but if you charge an arm and a leg, by god, if you have a problem than wow, it must be a really hard problem.

          Doesn't matter what the facts are, the guy that charges little and knows more is not given the respect that the other guy earns just by charging enormous sums.

          Consider: When I stared out doing windows consulting, 1992 or so? I charged $20.00/hour for my services before that just helping people out. At this time, because of the need for command line experience, occassionally needing to gopher, fido, or bbs for drivers or hopefully less often write your own drivers my skills we a bit more extensive that today's "tech". I eventually got to the point where I said, hey lets try to do this full time, I should be able to squeeze by until I build a customer base.

          Now that I was doing it full time and spending a bit of money for tools and such I felt justified in raising my rates to $45 an hour. The strange thing was that I immediately started to get a lot more customers, too many to handle really. So I raised my rates to $65 thinking that I would lose customers, but that I would have some time off work. Within 2 months my business volume doubled. Wouldn't it be nice if I was a businessman rather than some geek just having fun.

          The fact is that while I was astute enough to understand that to customers my competence level was directly proportional to how much they were paying me, I couldn't see charging that much, it was more than I felt I was worth and I was worried about people paying too much. My company eventually folded a few years later when I tried to be fair to a customer by not overcharging them and I ended up having to pay several weeks of salary to employees without being compensated. But as I said before I am not a business man.

          After the business collapsed I tried to get a job as a computer tech at what was then "average" wages 30-40k a year (roughly 199[56]). Let's say it went rather poorly. By accident I applied for a job that paid 80k/year more than twice the price guys with a few years of experience and college degrees were making, I was hired on the spot. Partially because the position paid well, I was considered for the job.
          • Confirm this way:

            1st raise - $8hr -> $24hr (off the street placement with a major law firm...)
            2nd raise - $28hr -> $70hr (recruiter calls me in 1999 from out of state... I am tired of recruiters, so I quote $70/hr to get rid of her...she asks when I can start!)

            It is ridiculous what happens when you raise rates.

            I bill $120hr now. I get clients who can afford it and who truly value their IT strategy, which I happen to write. Rates are going up again pretty soon with my larger customers. "So what do you
            • Nice,
              Easy to read and concise. Two thoughts strike me.

              First, it is harder to close the $40/hr client than the $120/hr client because the $120 client is looking for solutions whereas the $40/hr client is more interested in how much he/she is paying and what "value" he/she is receiving. So given the choice, go after the $120 customer. Note: I'm too much of a techie and generally don't follow my own advice since I'm not thinking about the money, but about the project.

              Second, I've got an even
      • There really is a problem with, as one professor of mine said, "Not knowing your shit." Are these "techs" even college graduates as in 4-year instutution or as in 2-year technical school? People pay me good money to fix their computers because they know it will be done right the first time. When I worked at CompUSA many of the "techs" were not A+ or Apple certified. I was Apple certified, and I was not allowed to work on computers any reason (maybe because management is too busy smoking?) even though my
    • My gf took her machine there to get a virus removed. She came back to pick up the machine and they couldn't find it. She had to spend two hours talking to every floor manager and finally had to threaten to call a cop.

      To top it off they wiped her HD without backing it up and then restored it with the wrong version of windows.

      Of course this is the same store that tried to sell my parents a $3,000 gamer's dream rig for sending email and browsing the web.

    • by UnStatusTheQuo ( 954570 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:53PM (#15125294)
      "...format and reload as their way tp fix any problem the computer has." I won't try to defend Geek Squad. However, I will defend the format and reload scenario. If you look at it, in some situations, format and reload is generally QUICKER than spending hours on a problem. I grant that it's only applicable in situations that: A) I've never seen; and B) I don't have the interest to learn to fix. It's the "guaranteed done in 2 hours" vs. "dig around for an hour or so, troubleshoot, diagnose, find fixes, pick a suitable fix, apply fix, test, etc., etc." I just don't have the time, for example, to spend a long time trying to extract a piece of spyware that loads before the system kernel when I can just reload the system quicker... and have a fresh install that hasn't been filled with crap yet.
      • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:14PM (#15125507) Homepage Journal
        All good points.

        I used to keep a hidden partition on my PC's boot drive. That partition contained a clean, perfect copy of the OS and the applications I needed to get up and running.

        Computer too hosed to continue?

        Well, my data was on another drive anyway sooo.

        Boot to Partition Magic, delete the live partition, and copy the "Known Good" partition over.

        Every few weeks I'd boot to the restore partition and install OS updates and AV definition files.

        I haven't bothered setting that up again, largely because I now go so long before reformat and reinstalls that by the time I need to do it, I might as well install all the drivers and applications from scratch anyway.

        But the scenario you describe is the general idea behind imaging a hard drive. Why go to all the fuss when you can just wipe it clean and restart?

        Besides, in the corporate environment, you often do what's faster.
      • If you look at it, in some situations, format and reload is generally QUICKER than spending hours on a problem.

        Oh, it's quicker all right...I had a situation where it was treated as mandatory.

        Seems the Ol' Lady bought a house brand machine from MicroCenter and let them talk her into an extended warranty (best of motives -- she didn't want to make me drive across town to play SA). So the machine quit reading its floppy drive, during the extension period, and she called the provider who was several states

    • by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:55PM (#15125311)
      This brings up a point, which I've usually ignored.

      Say you're fixing someone's winbox, and you need to reinstall something. The user nearly always "lost" the original discs, regkey, etc. What is expected of us? Buy a new version of all software so the user can lose it again?

      I usually pirate my way through it, no other option really. But how would a reputable shop deal with this? I hope geek squad isn't expected to buy another windows license every time a user lost their docs.

      • At least when it comes to the OS, the license key will be on that stupid Windows sticker somewhere on the machine. This won't apply to everyone, of course, but I bet it applies to at least 3-nines of the people who bring their box to BB to fix. Other apps, like Office, it would be easier to decline.
      • by Senzei ( 791599 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:00PM (#15125362)
        I would say that at that poin, the user is. If they want to keep the software they can either: 1)Go home and find the docs, 2)Buy a new copy, or 3)Suffer through their problem with the pc. My job is to fix your broken computer, not accomodate your bookeeping incompetence, especially if it involves piracy to do so.

        Then again that might be a reason why I don't fix home pcs.

      • Actually this is less of a problem now, since the Windows OEM license requires the sticker with the product key to be put on the computer case. If you're a computer service shop, you'll still have to find a version of XP that will work with that key (HP keys only work with Windows OEM CDs distributed by HP, etc) but for a place that is only responsible for a couple of brands (like Best Buy) it should be fairly simple to reload a machine using a key.

        Alternatively, if it's really a wipe-and-reload scenario,
      • I did a brief stint at a small computer shop. Between actually administrating clients' networks we'd do in-shop repair for home users (being set on fire and beaten by a shovel weilding angry mop is much more fun than this). Users would bring in computers for OS reloads and invariably have lost their Windows or Dell or Gateway discs (if they even got them at all). On some occasions they'd just look at me blankly, not realizing that I didn't just wave a magic wand and make it all okay. "What's an Operatin
      • 1) If they don't have the original disk, they don't get the software.
        2) I don't agree to any EULAs. You get to read and agree to all of them. If you don't, that's your choice, but the software won't be installed.
        3) Could I interest you in an alternative? I have this handy Knoppix disk here to show what I'm offering, and what I *will* support.

        Granted, I don't do this for a company, but even when I did I wouldn't agree to the EULAs. (As you might guess, this WASN'T my primary job. I was a programmer. An
      • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:31PM (#15126423)
        If the machine is any kind of functional before you get started, you can run Belarc Advisor [] to fish the Windows and Office product codes out of the registry. I don't care what was there before, those are the numbers I type back into the boxes when I have to reinstall. I see numbers from Belarc that match the ones on the sticker maybe 2/3s of the time. I'm not sure what happens the other third, and to be honest it's none of my business.
    • by asynchronous13 ( 615600 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:57PM (#15125332)
      A friend of mine bought her laptop from Best Buy and took it back for repairs. After weeks of getting the run-around, someone in the geek squad finally admitted the laptop had been compromised -- translation, somebody stole it. They acted as if it weren't their problem until she showed up with some cops. Then it quickly became, "yes ma'am, how much would you like refunded?" But I can't imagine shopping there again based on how they treated the situation prior to having a cop walk through the door.
    • "Format and Reload" with an up to date OS disc takes less time than solving many major virus/rootkit/malware problems.

      As a side effect it cleans out the registry and system folders of potentially years of crud build up.

      I agree most of us don't want "geek squad" dropping in the dell restore CD and saying "fixxed", especially into one of *our* highly tuned systems, loaded with dozens of applications -- but a competent tech can backup, reload, and restore the average "home users" system in the same or less tim
      • "As a side effect it cleans out the registry and system folders of potentially years of crud build up."

        Which is the problem in the first place = the fucking Windows Registry and system folders.

        I agree that reinstalling takes less time in many cases - that's why virtually all the manufacturers now use hidden reload partitions (until, of course, something goes wrong with that, as a client I had recently had a problem. Then they're screwed until they can order a reload CD.)

        The problem is that it doesn't solve
    • I can just imagine now the peeps at geek squad that use format and reload as their way tp fix any problem the computer has.

      Well, that's what Microsoft recommends! []
  • Not Surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aallmighty ( 839195 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:42PM (#15125196)
    a friend of mine works at geek squad, and apparently they have some "geek squad only" forum that has tons of pirated software on it. i don't know it to be true for sure, but that's what he tells me.
  • Ha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tktk ( 540564 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:45PM (#15125221)
    No self-respecting geek should work for Best Buy.
    • Re:Ha (Score:3, Funny)

      by russotto ( 537200 )
      Fortunately low self esteem comes with the territory, so there's lots of non-self-respecting geeks around for Best Buy to hire.
    • Re:Ha (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WCD_Thor ( 966193 )
      I would work for Best Buy. Why, because I need a god damned job and I don't want to work fast food or shitty retail anymore. As a geek squad guy, I'd at least get to work with computers at work. And because my major is not in computer enginering or computer science, other companies don't want to hire me even if I do spend almost all my free time working with my computers. Otherwise best buy sucks, don't buy stuff from there, they have shitty deals.
      • They have killer pricing on their house brand cables and such.
        My brother worked there, and right before he quit we wiped them out of three port firewire cards and cables, built a TCP/IP over Firewire mesh network. Thing rocked! Cables were under $2 each.
    • They should not even be allowed to use the name.

      I had a friend bring in a compter, they said it was a dead hard drive. It gave the Win2k message, "unable to operate boot device" after the Win2k splash screen.

      I just installed a new version of Windows and it was all happy. Any idiot knows what that message means.

      Geek squad, ha!
  • Arrrrrgh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <> on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:48PM (#15125245) Homepage Journal
    The Geek Squad pirates are only doing their part to lower glabal warming. They are thinking of the children.
  • Trustworthy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:48PM (#15125249) Homepage
    $20 says there's a story about "Geek Squad" employees being suspected of installing spyware/keyloggers on customer computers within the next 6 months...
    • Re:Trustworthy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:33PM (#15126431)
      I doubt that, but I'll tell you this now - I work at a Geek Squad in-store precinct (not saying which, since if I say anything, I will get my ass fired, then sued for "divulging confidential company information) - and any customer whose data is backed up gets their data dumped onto the precinct PC, then burned to disc.

      That data, though, _DOESN'T GET DELETED_ from the GS machines after they're done.

      I have, on multiple occasions, seen managers (especially the PCAM at my store) rifle through customer backups and take what they want, or ogle at the porn and whatnot in there - especially if the customer's female, and there's pictures of her in the My Pictures folder.

      Geek Squad used to be good - then BBY bought 'em and made everything go straight to hell.

      - CIA02** (last two numbers omitted in order to preserve anonymity)
  • Best Buy are at fault here no matter what. At fault meaning; they screwed up.

    They based their diagnostics business on a licenced piece of proprietary software that can be, and was, withdrawn completely at the discretion of its owner. "What's that? Business needs it? Well pony up then. It's a free market. Take it or leave it."

    Such is the fate of any business that relies on an outside party for its most critical infrastructure. If private companies smell weakness, they'll go for the jugular, or at least for as much as they can gouge without putting themselves at risk. If you want to avoid this fate, either use FOSS software, or commission your own.

    If you're too FOSS adverse or too broke to do this, then you can either drop the whole idea, or just take the risk. But if that horse hair strand snaps, don't expect the rest of us to be too sympathetic.
    • by Ravatar ( 891374 )
      The software wasn't withdrawn by its owner, read the article. Best Buy withdrew their offer.
    • I don't think that (outside of RMS) I've ever seen a post that actually spewed saliva and sweat! Good job!

      Oh, and the software wasn't withdrawn - Best Buy decided not to purchase a license. But of course that was stated in the article and the press release.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:49PM (#15125254)
    I knew the Geek Squad was a fake the first time I saw a commercial... There was a girl. That was all I needed.
  • by Kerosene ( 18371 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:59PM (#15125349)
    I have read on a few forums/commentboards/etc on reaction to this story.

    Many people who do work/claim to work/used to work for GeekSquad seem to be claiming on those venues that pirated software is basically part of working for GeekSquad, that they are not given the tools they need by management.

    Some are even saying that they were encouraged by managers to use pirated software in place of buying it.

    Obviously this is hearsay, but.... I think when an actual investigation is done, we're going to see a lot more than just one company in on this.
    • by Unlikely_Hero ( 900172 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:21PM (#15125570)
      This is entirely true. We were often told to "solve the problem however you can" by managers. Why? Because there pretty much =wasn't= a "geek squad" budget. It is treated as an extension of the PC/Home Office department and basically is used to placate customers who have had their machines screwed up at the service centers. We weren't technicians, we were negotiators. We HAD no budget. In fact, Store 323, North Avenue in Chicago uses pirated software for its diagnostics, on every machine that comes in. It is copied and distributed to the technicians, the other employees, their friends, ANYBODY. The passcode to get it to work, is, ironically "323". The "Geek Squad" agents have shitty jobs, utterly shitty. It wasn't "we're provding you with pirated software to do your job because we're cheap" it was "find your own pirated software to do your job because we're too cheap to buy any AND too lazy to even do the pirating"

      Why am I not posting anonymous coward when Im giving them such obvious information as to who I am?
      Because I'm not afraid of telling the truth.
      Fuck you, best buy
    • Hearsay my ass. I worked for Future Shop (owned by Best Buy) and all we had was pirated software! We didn't even have OS disks. And diagnostic equipment? HA! We had one diagnostic software app that didn't work. We asked a few times for stuff but we never got it. I remember sitting in our room with the other techs dreaming about this RAM testing machine we heard this other company down the street had. "Shit, wouldn't that be nice guys?" "Damn straight." But hey, we could install a cheap video card in
  • by MoriartyBrian ( 243062 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:00PM (#15125358)

    I used to work at the Best Buy in Miamisburg Ohio about a year ago, and I can tell you that the majority of the time, no one in the 'squad' ever used the so-called MRI disc (This is the tool disk that came from the corporate office for our use) because the tools on it were so poor that we would not be able to actually do the job.

    About half of us used a variety of bootable Linux distros such as Knoppix and SLAX to perform diagnosis and recovery. Sometimes, the best way is the traditional way - the command line.

    I personally used to use this bootable distros to prove points to customers who sometimes had a clue about what was wrong, and this would make an excellent way to show the ineffectiveness of various products and utilities designed to protect users from malware, spyware, etc.

    After enough time, I myself started to create my own set of utilities (some nothing more than fancy perl scripts that I could run off a thumb drive) to do my dirty work for me.

    Most of the time, Best Buy was totally committed to the idea of sell, sell, sell, while trying to improve their image. The ironic part of this was that our own store manager never could seemingly comprend the simple fact that good service sells and will generate more repeat customers and new customers via word-of-mouth than the stupid service plans, the countless harassment of customers that the geek squad personnel is supposed to be doing to buy plans, etc.

    Sometimes, a true geek has to take whatever job that they can get. In this part of Ohio, for the longest time, gigs like Best Buy paid the bills or gave someone something to do while they went off and pursued the next software development contract for instance, or go to school.

    Please remember Slashdot readers, that not all the techs that work for Best Buy are compelte idiots. Just most of them. And for myself, I must have been lucky, because I found a store with some guys that were actually competent and able to go on to better careers just like I did.

  • by HaloZero ( 610207 ) <> on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:01PM (#15125365) Homepage
    ...for about two weeks. Most disorganized bunch of fu*k-ups I've ever seen.

    Yes, the unlicensed software usage is true, and widespread.
    The keylogger thing mentioned above happened once, and the tech was summarily fired. I'm pretty sure the customer got a completely new machine, too, because of it.
    Our supervisor was a douche, complete and total jerk. When I confronted him about the issue of pirated hardware, he held sort of the 'BestBuy is like Wal*Mart' attitude, with the assumption that the corporation could just strong-arm the publisher into submission.

    I guess he was wrong.
  • Which is funny regarding how much these guys gouge you for a simple network cable. The suckers must be dipped in Gold. The whole Geek Squad Certified slaps 30% on any prodct $16.19 on sale for a 7 footer. Why would they need to skimp on anything when you rake in that kind of dough.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:04PM (#15125405)
    Having worked computer service in the past, my 2 cents..

    Piracy was absolutely rampant behind the counter. The policy was: so long as the customer doesn't see it, it's all good. Some stuff was frowned on, like copying a customer's key to XP and the like, and we were strict on the MS licensing rules (w/customers) except for the boss's friends, who got whatever they wanted.

    We used 3 different diagnostic programs, and the rumour was that we'd paid for one copy of one of them a long time ago. We were encouraged to warez (does anybody still say that?) new apps to make our job go smoother, and we must have had a dozen different pirated data recovery suites lying around. So this is not really surprising, if the enviroment at BB is anything like what I knew.

    The biggest problem with the service side of things is that anyone who is any good at the job is qualified for much much better things. Servicing PC's is an entry level job that requires an enourmous working knowledge to do well. Any monkey can run a ram diagnostic and format/reinstall, but anything more complex, like virus/spyware removal, intermittant h/w failure, dealing with customers, even just data backup: These all require a skill set that pays better elsewhere. As a jumping off point for geeks, its a great education, but it don't pay what its worth. Hardly a shock that this leads to less-than-professional conduct...
  • Insider's View (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jareds411 ( 968261 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:08PM (#15125452)
    I've worked on the Geek Squad for about 8 months, and most of these comments are totally false. 1.)NO employee of bestbuy, including the geek squad, works on commission. 2.)There is a geek squad forum at, however it is moderated by a corporate manager and pirated software isn't allowed. 3.)I can't speak for any other stores, but I'm positive that our store stopped using Winternals products 6 months ago. 4.)Again, I can't speak for otehr stores, but my store doesn't simply reformat machines. In my 8 months, working on hundreds of machines, I can count the number of machines I've reformatted on my fingers. Most of these comments are simply people speculating about what they *think* it *might* be like - please don't comment without any backing to it.
    • Most of these comments are simply people speculating about what they *think* it *might* be like - please don't comment without any backing to it.

      So where's your backing? Why is your word better than anyone else's, when there's no way to verify what you've said (from what you've mentioned so far)?
    • Jesus Christ.
      Look, for the last fragging time. I worked for best buy, store #323 in Chicago on North Avenue.
      I will state, in a goddamn court if I have to, that not a single non managerial retail employee of bestbuy is on any sort of commission. If anyone has ANY =reliable= information to the contrary, I would like to hear it. Until then, put your money where your mouth is or shut up.
      AS for Jareds411. I stopped working for best buy over 2 years ago, so I can't speak as to whether my store ever used winterna
    • Re:Insider's View (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Illbay ( 700081 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:40PM (#15125748) Journal
      Most of these comments are simply people speculating about what they *think* it *might* be like...

      There's more to that story.

      People are simply willing to believe that "evil corporations that want only to suck the $$$ out of every bank account they can sink their fangs into are capable of any rumored misdeed because...well, because they're EVIL."

      The fact is that, while there are corporate-types who do wrong, that's also true in the small-business world as well (I could tell you stories about a local chain of computer retail stores here in the Houston, Texas area that would make any such 'Best Buy' story pale in comparison).

      And the further fact is, our burgeoning free enterprise system, including "evil corporate America," is what has made all this low-priced tech feasible in the first place--not to mention giving jobs to every one of the small-minded punks here and elsewhere who would rather depend on simple-minded stories they can get those puny brains around, than actually THINK with them.

      Yeah, I bet you can find several examples of b*stard GeekSquad managers with no integrity--in a chain as big as Best Buy, there're bound to be some of them. But you WON'T hear any stories about the ones that just do their jobs and try to please the customer.

      "Man Bites Dog," you know.

    • NO employee of bestbuy, including the geek squad, works on commission.

      Indeed. Instead, you get harrassed and fired if you don't meet quotas for a shitty "product." (service plans)
  • Winternals lawsuit (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:09PM (#15125456)
    Not that i'm going to try to defend Best Buy but I can pretty much tell you exactly what happened since I do work for them.

    Best Buy/Geek Squad is strictly against using non-licensed tools. Pirating is a big no no and I have written people up for it and they were eventually fired for using pirated software. We only use OEM discs if a key is provided on the side of the machine or a valid license is presented. We will refuse work unless the customer can present a valid XP license or a set of recovery discs specific to that machine. Most stores have a large collection of discs already, if they need a model we have a system in place to order them directly from the manufacturer.

    When Best Buy purchased Geek Squad, this was made EXTREMELY CLEAR. Every piece of software that is approved to use, we have a valid license agreement with that comopany. We have a list that specifically states what's licensed and what's not. We don't have a "forum' of illegal software so I have no idea where that idea came from.

    Here's what happened with Winterals. All stores were given evaluation version to test out ERD Commander and when the trial expired Best Buy decided not to license this software and they developed their own disc based on Bart's PE which is completely different from ERD Commander. All on-site agents were told to evalute this software and state why we should license it and what features we wanted. In the end, we told that licensing was off and we have to discontinue all use of Winternals products immediately. All stores were sent a paper communication, a mass email and it was generally posted in all stores. We were told to destroy all discs since they were useless anyone without a valid license file.

    Basically, Winternals is pissed because they lost an 850 store contract with Best Buy, not including all field agents and stand-alone locations. This suit happened pretty much exactly after Best Buy stopped our trial with Winternals and decided to go with our own disc. It would have been a lot of money for Winternals so i'd be pretty pissed off too.

    Again, not saying everyone is perfect. There are always a few idiots that use pirated software in any business and mom and pop shops are famous for this. It was either one rogue store breaking the rules like idiots or a completely baseless lawsuit like everything else in America.
    • by TheQuantumShift ( 175338 ) <> on Thursday April 13, 2006 @07:03PM (#15125907) Homepage
      "Most stores have a large collection of discs already, if they need a model we have a system in place to order them directly from the manufacturer."

      I can testify to that large collection. Not a day went by in the three months I did support for one of the big oems, that I didn't talk to at least three people who were told by Best Buy to call us for their recovery discs. When we told the customer that all of our machines shipped with these discs, they'd start on about how Best Buy tacked on a $20 "optimization" onto their new pc...

      From what I could gather, this "optimization" consisted solely of installing several incompatible versions of security software, cd burning software, and crap like weatherbug. Oh, and snagging the recovery cd's. My first day on the phones, I thought it was coincidence, until I mentioned it to a more senior tech.

      "Oh, yeah, they take 'em. It's their policy or somethin'"

      It still took a couple weeks before I believed it, but soon my script was,

      "Do you have the CD's that came with your PC?"
      "No, it didn't come with any..."
      "So you got it at Best Buy then?"
      "OMG, How'd you know?"

      And since the item was now an "open box" refunds went right out (unless you were willing to make a big enough scene, I heard a few going on over the phone that made me cringe).

      Long rant short, after talking with several people I worked with, my experiance was not unique. Basically, BB was trying it's damndest to make sure the customer came back for an expensive service call. Whether or not this is still common practice, I don't know as it's been a few years. I also stopped shopping there for anything about the time I had 20 different associates tell me how much they loved not working on commision in one visit.

  • pirates... (Score:5, Funny)

    by zx-15 ( 926808 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:15PM (#15125518)
    Bad Geek squad, no windows Aero theme for them.
  • Where I worked ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by un1xl0ser ( 575642 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @06:21PM (#15125582)
    I have never worked at BestBuy, but at the last IT shop we worked at we had problems like this. Some people doing Windows support would pirate tools if they weren't given them. I'm not them, but I know the following:

    1) If I am not given the tools to do my work properly, I won't go and steal them. If it is a hammer, or software... it doesn't matter. It is not my responsibility to source tools for myself. I do use OpenSource utilities all the time, but I tell my manager what I am using and that it is GPL'd.
    2) If I am not clear about a licensing issue, or if I am allowed to use software, I will ask someone to clarify it.
    2) If my manager asks me to pirate software, I won't do it. I'm not sure who would be liable for it, but I wouldn't risk it.

    So far none of these things have ever caused me any problems whatsoever.
  • I used to work for a company as a Computer Technician. We used pirated software aswell. There was a bestbuy down the street from us and we would here stories on how they charged people so long for the dumbest thing. The one that will go down in history is...

    "They said they were going to charge 2 hours to clear my brouser History."

    That aside being a technician is fun in a college town...You get all the skimpy girls computers and see the sorority pictures that they take. Ah yes for boobies ^_^ I love my job.
  • by writermike ( 57327 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @07:37PM (#15126110)
    I've worked with and on computers for nearly thirty years and I'm frequently surprised by the amount of piracy in workplaces. Oh, I'm not talking about out-right piracy like bittorrented copies of cracked Photoshop, but lots of little things.

    For instance, I've worked in commercial printers that literally had thousands of typefaces. Let's say you have a job you need printed on a printing press. You collect all the images, layout files, typefaces, etc., and you send that to the printer. The printer is supposed to delete those fonts when the job is complete. They don't, of course, so you have millions of pirated typefaces out there.

    Another example: images that are only supposed to be used once, logos "retouched" and used in other publications, templates you're supposed to pay for obtained from non-traditional (i.e. free) sources, trials that miraculously seem to go on forever, etc.

    Stuff like this happens in all kinds of offices all over the planet. There are so many companies out there who, if they took a real and honest accounting of the software and tools and plug-ins they have, would find that if they did actually purchase everything they own, they'd likely not have half of it. And if they did, they would have spent themselves into bankruptcy. But they rationalize that it's all necessary, it's something they need to do in order to do business. Indeed, many companies couldn't perform some of their services without the stuff they obtained.

    I dunno. I think that, one day, someone really large with lots and lots of locations and chances to pirate stuff is going to get slammed with a huge fine and it's going to open a very large can of worms. If Best Buy really did use Winternals products illegally, it would not surprise me in the slightest, and it would be very, very typical of most companies, large and small.

    P.S. And, yes, I can't claim my hands are completely clean.

    P.P.S. Don't copy that floppy.
  • Define "Pirated"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @07:44PM (#15126155)
    Best Buy's Geek Squad, is alleged to be using pirated versions of the software since talks on a commercial licensing agreement broke off.

    To me, pirating (in the software/music sense) means: to copy without the legal right to do so.

    If you install a bunch of software under license and then the licensing falls apart, making that software no longer licensed, you don't retroactively go back in time and "pirate" the software. You're simply using now unlicensed software - not copying it.

    It's kind of like having sex with someone, dumping them, finding they still stalk you and then claiming they're a rapist. No, they had consensual sex with you. The fact that, since then, they've taken to doing something else that's illegal does not retroactively make them a rapist for having had sex when it was consensual.

    Of course, screaming "rape!" in the press gets you a lot more headlines, helps you get more awareness of your product in the marketplace, and helps you strengthen your position in future negotiations with someone who really wants you to shut up, far more than saying, "They keep hanging around outside my window."
  • I was a repair tech for about 8 monthes at one of the big chain stores and had a totally different experience. All our four techs were incredibly smart, and only one held any form of certification. We never installed pirated software, though we did keep a copy of XP in the office so we could use the recovery console or copy needed files. Over 8 monthes, and about 20-30 repairs I only ever did 2 clean installs, and both times recovered the majority of the customers files. I think its a bit unfair to say that
  • by AnimeFreak ( 223792 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @08:44PM (#15126477) Homepage
    I used to work as a computer salesperson and in the Geek Squad department.

    This is not the only thing that Best Buy does illegally when it comes to its Geek Squad department. If you buy a computer that has a recovery disc off of the floor, chances are you will not get its recovery disc, or a legitimate copy of it, because they have already took the copy out of the contents stored and have incorporated it into the Geek Squad's disc collection.

    What does that mean?

    Well, when you buy a computer, most stores will push for their "ultimate" package, which includes recovery discs, anti-virus, and system optimizations. The copy of the anti-virus will be legitimate, but half of the time, they'll encourage you to go with this because they'll fear you into thinking if your hard drive goes that the recovery partition will not be there. Half of the time, there were discs already in the box, so the extra copy of the recovery discs were pointless. If you bought an open box computer that originally had discs, you would not get the originals because the Geek Squad had already acquired them.

    Most of the guys who work as technicians in Geek Squad are working as technicians when there is work to do. Unfortunately, when there is little or no work to do, they go on the sales floor to push their products and basically fear-monger customers into their services. I will admit, most of the time, they are trying to be helpful when the manager/supervisor-types are not pushing for things.

    Mind you, Best Buy will do some good for its employees, but some of the sales tactics just appall me. For instance, shortly before I left to the current job I absolutely love, I got in trouble because I didn't use the clipboard to get the person's lifestyle choices over a bloody USB cable for a printer. The clipboard does serve a useful purpose, but do I need to ask if this cable is going to be used for a laser or inkjet printer? Hell, half of the time, I told the customer to get the cheapest cable because the markup was going to be 1000% regardless of what length.

    Ah well. If you want to work at Best Buy, work in inventory or in merchandising, because there is no sales expectation there. I was a good salesman and always scored high marks with their sales scoring method, but I didn't like the job at all.

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.