Watchdog: May 2008

Nathan Edwards

Winslow, watchdog of the month

Wrong to Trust Trustware?

I read in the February issue (“Security 2.0”) that Trustware’s BufferZone Pro would provide Vista support by the time the article was published. I purchased a one-year BufferZone Pro license only to discover that Vista support doesn’t exist. I contacted Trustware’s customer support and asked if the company would honor the one-year subscription once the Vista version was finally available. I have yet to get a response. This makes me very displeased since I put faith in the article. I know it’s not your fault, but if it’s still OK, I’d like to vent a bit and get a little pissed. A response would be nice from both Maximum PC and Trustware.

—Brian Starr


We’ll use the Han/Lando rule and simply say, “It’s not our fault.” Just kidding. While the article did preface the statement about Trustware’s Vista plans with “If true to its word…”, we are sorry that some readers were lead astray. The magazine must occasionally report estimates from software and hardware companies when it comes to pricing and availability, and as you might expect, that information is sometimes wrong—as it was here.

So what’s the story with Trustware? The Dog pinged the company to see what happened to the promised Vista support. A spokesman told the Dog that, due to additional quality assurance tests, the company felt compelled to delay Vista support until the end of the second quarter of 2008. In other words, it’s expected to be out by June. The official apologized but assured the Dog that Vista support is “definitely” coming. He said the company is offering full refunds to folks who purchased the product with the intent of running it under Windows Vista. Reader Brian Starr opted for a refund, but he did tell Trustware he plans to purchase BufferZone once Vista support is offered.


BufferZone's Vista support has been delayed a few months, but the company pledges that it will come out.

When is ‘New’ Not?

After testing his "new" drive, a reader found it had already logged nearly 5,000 hours of up time.

Last month I purchased a 250GB EIDE Western Digital hard drive from 3BTech.net. The drive, however, posted failed-read errors and reformats, so after a week, I decided to return it. I set up an RMA with the company and requested an exchange. Before I sent off the drive, I ran Hard Drive Inspector on it to look for issues. This is when I found that the drive had 5,111 hours (212 days) worth of run time on it. This was obviously not a new drive. I included a printout of the report and a request for a full refund when I sent the drive back. Two weeks later I inquired about the refund and was told that a replacement drive was on the way because that’s what I initially requested when the RMA was created.

I figured that if the new drive was truly new, I would not concern myself with a refund. And how could 3B Tech send me another used drive after I discovered the first one? I received the drive, ran Hard Drive Inspector on it, and discovered 4,924 hours (205 days) of use on it. I emailed the company requesting that I be reimbursed for shipping and given a full refund.

The next day I received a response that my request would be granted. I believe I will receive my refund, but a company that can send old hard drives as new should not be trusted. I will never buy from 3B Tech again. I would recommend that anyone buying a reportedly new or OEM hard drive check the SMART data to see how many hours of use the drive has on it.

—Vance Sykes


This isn’t 3B Tech’s first problem with hard-drive misinformation. Reader Lynn Means reported purchasing a new drive from 3B Tech and receiving a drive that was actually remanufactured. After she returned the drive, the company refunded her just 75 percent of what she had paid for the drive, added a restocking fee, and stiffed her for shipping both ways. Sounds pretty low.

The Dog tried to reach 3B Tech numerous times for its side of the story but never received a response. That’s no surprise, as the company has a pretty lousy reputation. On ResellerRatings.com, consumers give the company a rating of 5 out of 10, with several people making complaints that echo those of Vance and Lynn: bad drives out of the box, restocking fees for defective merchandise, and apparently used items being sold as new. The Better Business Bureau also gives 3B Tech a thumbs down and has logged about 27 complaints about the company in the last three years.

Since 3B Tech did not respond to interview requests, the Dog recommends that readers steer clear of the company. Readers interested in seeing how many hours have been logged on their drives should give Altrix’s Hard Drive Inspector a spin. It’s available as a fully featured trial at www.altrixsoft.com .

Yoke on My Face

On the recommendation of Maximum PC , (February 2008) I bought a full-blown Saitek Pro Flight Yoke System to play flight-sim games. But I can’t get the game to stay in virtual cockpit view when using the controller. The game switches views on me automatically, going from virtual cockpit view to an external view, then to a side view, then to a rigid cockpit view, then back to the virtual cockpit view. This can be quite frustrating when trying to take off and land.

After talking to Saitek, it was determined that the system was emitting phantom button presses, which was causing the changing views. The tech promised to send me a replacement unit as soon as possible and advised me not to return it to the vendor or Saitek through the normal RMA process.

After two months I decided to call the company. I don’t remember the name of the tech I spoke with, but he was very rude. He told me not to send any more emails to Saitek and to be patient. I asked how long I should be patient, and he told me the company was shipping new units out between 30 and 60 days from when the company was notified of a problem. The tech also told me Saitek was experiencing problems with the new flight yoke systems and was trying to replace them as quickly as possible. Have you heard of this problem? Please don’t growl, as I still put faith in your hardware recommendations, but this “fix” by Saitek has me a little angry about the way I have been treated after spending more than $300 for these controllers.

—Thomas DeKalb


The Dog contacted Saitek and was told by spokesperson Mark Starrett that “We did encounter an issue with the Pro Flight Yoke in the first production run last October. We determined that a small percentage of users encountered a ‘phantom button press’ phenomenon when using the Pro Flight Yoke on some PCs. The problem manifested as button signals going to Flight Simulator when no button is pressed. It was random, and the majority of users will never encounter the problem. Of course, this was still unacceptable to Saitek. We were able to modify the product’s firmware to eliminate the problem, and all the yokes from subsequent production runs do not have this problem. PZ44 Pro Flight Yokes with serial number 491277 or later have revised firmware. All the product that Saitek received after November 12 and shipped after this date has the revised firmware. Since the revision, the issue appears to be eliminated. It is very important to Saitek to take care of the consumer in the fastest and most effective way possible. We ask that any consumer be directed to our technical support for assistance. Saitek will determine if the unit is defective and arrange for direct delivery of a replacement and pick up of the defective unit. We have set aside units for this purpose.”

Mark said the company has also been in contact with Thomas and has taken care of his problem as well. Woof.

The Devil Is in the Details

Several readers chimed in to say they disagreed with the Dog’s position that Symantec isn’t at fault concerning the wording on packaging for its three-license antivirus and security bundles, which confused one reader (March 2008). The reader, who thought the licenses could be used individually at any time, said that it isn’t clear that the licenses for all three begin with the initial installation, even though the box says, “…which begins upon initial installation.”

Reader Dave Grenker, an attorney, said Symantec is in the wrong. He explained, “While one reading could certainly be the one that Symantec claims to intend (i.e., that there is a single, unified service period for all PCs covered under the license), another reasonable reading of the language could be that there is a separate service period for each computer that begins on the initial installation on that computer. If the language said something clearer, such as '...during the service period, which begins upon initial installation on the first PC,' then I would be more sympathetic to Symantec’s argument.”


Got a bone to pick with a vendor? Been spiked by a fly-by-night operation? Sic the Dog on them by writing watchdog@maximumpc.com . The Dog promises to answer as many letters as possible, but only has four paws to work with.

Around the web

by CPMStar (Sponsored) Free to play

Comments