Most techies in the UK still know The Computer Shop
by its old name, Time Computers. They have the biggest ads of any
computer vendor in this country, and they’re always on the back pages
of major newspaper supplements, not just computer magazines. They’ve
never had a great reputation, but sometimes the deals look just too
good to be true, especially given that there’s a fair amount of
name-brand hardware in there (such as decent ATI-based graphics cards).
However, it was only recently that I discovered (through a friend,
whose office had bought several of these machines) where a chunk of the
scam lies. Here’s a clue from the ad:
- Modem : Dedicated high speed Supanet optimised 56K modem
- Internet Access : Supanet Internet Access Preloaded
The machine comes pre-configured to access a particular ISP. This is
nothing particularly unusual. It gets a bit more awkward when you try
and delete the Supanet dial-up from the machine – apparently it can
only be done with some registry hacking, though you’re still at liberty
to add other dial-up connections. But they won’t work, because the modem is firmware-locked to Supanet access numbers and can’t dial anything else. (That’s what it means by “Supanet optimised”) The Computer Shop will help you get around this, as long as you call their £1 per minute support line (no, there’s no email address for support) and then pay £60 to have them send you a CD with unlocking software on it (oh, and the installable copy of Windows they fail to give you).
So it gives me great pleasure to tell any poor TCS customer who’s
wandered this way via Google that they can “unoptimise” their modem for
free, like this. In the meantime… Trading Standards Authority, anyone?