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Ten Rules for Rebates

Before plunking down your dollars for that "after rebate" offer that seems too good to pass up, here are some things you might want to think about.  Sometimes there are offers that, while posing as a rebate, might turn out to...


Viruses, Trojans, Scams, and Spam

Not very long ago, you had to be really careless and/or really uninformed to fall victim to the various forms of digital mischief lurking in the ether. Viruses, Trojans, scams and spam were relatively easy to avoid. All you needed was a little basic information...


Whatever you're doing with your system, whether adding hardware or learning the ins and outs of software packages, it's nice to have someone who knows the way to guide you.

What you want is real technical support for what you're doing.

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It's the technical support you imagined in the first place..only better: 24 hours a day - 7 days a week - 365 days a year!





OEM and Clearance Savings
Deep Discount Software

If you’ve never priced an office software suite, like Microsoft Office, Corel WordPerfect Suite, or IBM’s Lotus SmartSuite, it can be a shock to discover that the price tag attached to software of this type can easily exceed the cost of an entire computer system. It’s bad enough for a single installation, but if you’re setting up multiple computers, the economics of obtaining and installing software you need can easily get out of hand.

The same goes for operating system software, like Windows XP or 2000, and utility/security packages like antivirus, firewall, or disk maintenance titles.

Looking for OEM or clearance  software?  Get it here...

Software is expensive...

If, for example, you have five computers, five copies of Norton Internet Security could, if purchased at a local retail outlet, set your checkbook back by $300, easy. Five copies of Microsoft Word? Somewhere around $500, if you shop carefully and qualify for upgrade pricing.

Even if you're buying for a single system, it's easy to resent the often high price of application, utility, and (especially) security software packages. After all, few people really need all the bundled features used to justify the price, and security's a major imposition..

Whether or not such software is worth the asking price, alternatives are few. For the most part, freeware offerings, good as they may be, are really not a substitute for the genuine article. Sometimes, you really do need the features, quality, reliability, standardization, and compatibility of the big-name brands.

With newer releases from Microsoft and subscription based software like antivirus, you may not have the option (never permitted but often exercised) of “borrowing” an installation disk, or taking advantage of the old POIM plan (purchase one, install many). Aside from the ethics of it, some manufacturers’ current activation sequences simply won’t let you do it.

Rebates that drive the price to something more attractive won’t help you out if you’re a small office or multi-system household; they’re almost always “one per customer, household, or address”. You could enlist the aid of Granny, Mom, and your backyard neighbor to… well, never mind. In the end, it’s more trouble than it’s really worth- and sometimes you’ll never see the rebate anyway.

There is a market in used software, but we don’t recommend it. There’s just too big a risk of winding up having paid good money for a disk that cannot be installed or registered, with no access to update patches, and no recourse for the hapless buyer.

Fully Licensed Software. Cheap.

For reasonably knowledgeable buyers, there is an alternative. If you know what you need, and/or never have a use for manufacturers’ technical support, you can save some serious bucks with OEM and clearance software.

Wholesale to the public?
OEM (generally interpreted as Original Equipment Manufacturer) software is what computer makers like HP, Gateway, Toshiba, and the rest install on new computers. Obviously, they don’t pay retail for their preinstalled software. Not so obviously, you don’t have to either.

Originally intended for wholesale distribution to computer manufacturers (whether the size of those above or a local “white box” store), OEM software is technically “for distribution only with a new PC”. Sellers have gradually, but repeatedly, expanded the definition of the required “computing hardware” to include mice, USB cables, and sometimes nothing at all. After all, what, exactly, constitutes a new PC? What, exactly, is distribution?

These are questions to be pondered by greater (or at least more highly compensated) minds than ours.

Leaving interpretative readings of the reseller contract out of it, the buyer of deeply discounted OEM software (whether large-scale equipment manufacturer or solitary end-user) essentially gives up the right to technical support. If you call the software manufacturer for assistance, they will recognize the serial number as OEM and refer you to the equipment manufacturer. Under the original theory, this would be a brand-name computer manufacturer, or at minimum your local white box assembler- someone at least theoretically prepared to help you.

Tech support: who needs it?
As a buyer of OEM software, of course, you’re technically your own “equipment manufacturer” and there’s no one else to call with any problem you may have. You’ll figure it out, one way or another, on your own. As we see it, anyone prepared to make that trade-off is entitled to the sometimes substantial savings that come with it.

And it’s not as though you’re giving up a lot. On the extremely rare occasions when we’ve tried to get assistance (before we made the switch to OEM), we’ve wound up solving the problem on our own anyway. And this was when they had actual technicians on the lines rather than today’s script readers.

As it is, you still have access to all the online assistance in the form of knowledge bases, FAQs, patches and downloads. Windows Update, for example, works the same for OEM or retail installations. The serial number is valid; the installation’s legal, and in most cases will (but not always) qualify for upgrade to future versions.

Know what's involved...
There are some limitations to OEM. Depending on the package, it may or may not be exactly the same as the retail version. For example, Corel Office Suite includes in its retail version voice recognition software, something not included with the OEM. Norton Antivirus retail comes with a one-year subscription to Symantec’s virus definition update service, while the OEM includes just 90 days. With any OEM CD, there are no printed manuals, no “quick start” instruction leaflets, no shrink-wrapped packaging. The license agreement is often (subject to interpretation) more restrictive than with retail, but for most people this isn’t likely to be relevant.

Provided that you understand what it is you’re getting, OEM can be a great way to save some money on your software purchases. Prices are a fraction of the retail, usually much lower than all but the most aggressive “after rebate” deals, without the increasingly iffy nature of some rebates. For example, we recently purchased several copies of Windows XP Professional OEM (the “full” version that requires no qualifying previous version to install) at a price only slightly higher than the retail XP Home Edition Upgrade- a savings of well over fifty per cent. For some packages, you can keep up to 80, even 90 per cent or more of the retail price cozy where it belongs: in your pocket.

Looking for OEM or clearance  software?  Get it here...

Clearance Software

Sometimes, you may not need or even want the latest software versions. Newer is not always better. Sometimes, in fact, it’s worse. From increased hardware requirements to newly introduced encumbrances (like product activation), there are many reasons to avoid the new releases.

In a small office setting, for example, it’s desirable to have all users with the same version of a software package. File compatibility is guaranteed, and a standard user interface greatly simplifies support and training issues. If you have three systems running Office 2000, and you add a new computer, you don’t necessarily want Office XP added to the mix. If you’re equipping more than one computer, the argument is more financially compelling. You’d be hard pressed to find Office 2000 at your local store, but if you know where to look you can get it- fully licensed and brand new- for a lot less than it used to cost.

Software manufacturers are forced by market pressures to release new versions, with or without significant enhancements. There’s nothing sinister about this, it’s just the way the market works. Who’s going to buy Norton Antivirus 2002 if McAfee 2003 is on the shelves? The answer? Smart, informed shoppers.

What's in a version?
According to all the reviews we’ve seen, there’s little difference between the 2002 and 2003 Symantec firewall and antivirus products, yet they still maintain their “best buy” ratings. When a credible reviewer at PC World or ZD Net says there’s no call to upgrade to a newer version, the conclusion seems plain: if you can buy 2002 at a fraction of the price of 2003, we see no reason not to.

Clearance software is usually “last year’s” model, though older versions often are available. Unlike OEM, these are unsold retail packages, sometimes remaindered out by mainstream vendors, sometimes left sitting in a distribution warehouse. The boxes may be crinkled, but the software is good as new, exactly as it was when it sold for full price, sometimes just a few weeks ago.

As with purchasing OEM titles, information is the key to saving money with clearance software deals. You have to know what you’re buying, what you’re giving up by foregoing the current version. Calculation is required, weighting the benefit of low price against whatever drawbacks there may be.

Know what you're getting...
Among the variables in this equation, compatibility is by far the most important. It won’t do you any good to save a bundle on a software package if it won’t run on your system. Sticking with Symantec for example, we recently obtained several copies of Norton Antivirus 2002 (full retail versions with a year of subscription updates) at a cost of about $10 each. We could have got 2001 for even less, but it is not compatible with Windows XP.

This is more an issue with utility than application software, but it pays to do your homework either way. In addition to reviews by major publications, we’ve found the “groups” tab at Google.com to provide invaluable information about potential issues with proposed clearance software purchases.

Just as is the case with OEM, if you know what you’re getting (and can get what you need), clearance software can be a cost-effective way to obtain top-notch titles at a fraction of current-version software prices.

Where to get it

If OEM or clearance software sounds like a deal, you’re left with the problem of finding it. Obviously, normal retail outlets like CompUSA or Office Depot aren’t the place to look. You have to go online to find a vendor, and this can be intimidating. Some of the sites that sell this kind of merchandise aren’t exactly confidence inspiring.

In our experience, Eagle Computer stands out as a good source, and not just for software. Carrying the BBBOnline seal, they’re also highly rated by the Yahoo Shopping feedback service. Even more encouraging, they’re active eBay sellers with a long and uniformly positive feedback history (not a trivial achievement).

We also like the complete, informative product descriptions, a rarity among vendors in the deep-discount market.

We found the web site well-organized and easy to use.  As always, the search box can be a major aid in finding what you're looking for.  Our merchandise arrived very quickly, and was exactly as expected.

In addition to OEM and clearance software, Eagle Computer offers very attractive prices on parts, accessories, and complete computer systems.

Eagle Computer: Big Savings On Software and Hardware Products!


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