[Samba] OW #10.08 - Offers too good to be true

OFFICE Watch wow-robot at woodyswatch.com
Fri Mar 4 13:35:17 GMT 2005

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                  4 March 2005	Vol 10 No 8
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1. Editing incoming messages
2. Preventing Editing of your messages
3. Too good to be true
4. Publisher 2003 for $50
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Thanks to everyone who wrote in about Outlook's ability to edit an incoming message.   http://www.woodyswatch.com/office/archtemplate.asp?v10-n06  For many readers it's just a handy feature but for anyone in the legal or corporate world it could have interesting consequences.

I think the best summary can from James R who wrote:

"After working for many years for a legal department consulting on various IT issues, it has become remarkably clear to me that the law puts way more stock in the integrity of e-mail than is deserved. Email messages are edited enroute to there final destination every day. Most times these changes are innocuous, beneficial and mostly identified by the system doing the changes. However, it is a far leap from the integrity assumed by lawyers, and to be fair the vast majority of the e-mailing population "

While there's a difference between the changes to the email header made enroute and changes in the substance of the message - his point is a good one.  It's a mistake to treat emails as having the same verifiable integrity as a printed document.  Unlike a paper document, an email can be changed without trace and that needs to be acknowledged by everyone.

It's worth remembering that not only received items can usually be edited but the 'Sent Items' copy of message you send can be edited after sending.  So it is possible for someone to change their record of an email that was sent.

Far be it for us to give legal advice but we suspect that any savvy legal department is covering themselves by putting some form of disclaimer that says the emails supplied are as found and there's no guarantee that the messages have not been edited after receipt. The same applies to government departments subject to Freedom of Information laws.

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                   an Office Watch guide

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There's a few ways to block the editing of a message you have sent but they are by no means fool-proof.

In an all Outlook situation (ie sender and receiver) then marking the outgoing message as 'Private' will make the message body un-editable by the receiver.  Strange, hardly obvious but true.  You can mark an outgoing as Private in the View Menu, Options, Sensitivity.

Beyond the narrow confines of Outlook you can send the message with a digital signature attached.  The signature should verify the sender and if the message is changed, the certificate should display an error.  Sadly digital signing of emails has been poorly implemented in Outlook (it is there but it's a pain to use and receive) and isn't universally accepted so it is not the solution it could be.

Of course once you hit the Reply or Forward button you can edit the contents of the message to your hearts content but that doesn't change the contents of the original incoming message.

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Some prominent ads have been appearing on the web offering Microsoft Office, among other products, at very low prices and with immediate download.  Usually these offers are via spam or obscure web sites but we've seen one site advertising prominently, some might say shamelessly, on Google.

With a retail price of US$500 and legitimate street prices around $390 or less for Office 2003 Professional then an offer of US$69.95 looks good, but only the most optimistic or na‹ve buyer would think that there isn't something very strange going on.  When you see Autodesk products for $100 instead of $3,750 then surely alarm bells ring.

US$70 is well below the wholesale price to legitimate retail outlets, and furthermore Microsoft's main products like Windows and Office are not legally available for sale via download.  You have to buy them as a 'box product' with a CD or bundled with a new computer.

Mostly likely these sites are selling downloads of the readily available 'pirate' versions of software that almost anyone can get from a peer-to-peer web service.  Assuming you get any kind of download at all (or your credit card isn't misused in some way) then the software won't have any support and most likely won't qualify for updates from Microsoft.  And that assumes that the software will install properly and run at all.

Redmond's product activation system is being increasingly used to prevent access to product updates as well as allowing access to the software in the first place.

We asked Microsoft for comment on this particular web site and to confirm that sales via download was not available for their core products.  We also asked them to confirm that the retail price on offer by the site was well below the wholesale price.

Microsoft declined to answer our questions and would say only that "we will not be able to confirm whether or not (web site).com is selling legitimately".  We find that response to be disappointing but unsurprising.

For many years Microsoft has 'battled' piracy but has placed the obligation on their customers to know if they are buying legitimate software or not.  In this case it's pretty likely from the prices and method of delivery that the software is pirated - but if Microsoft can't or won't say whether it is legitimate or not - how do they expect customers to know?

On the company's anti-piracy web site it has plenty of generic information but nothing that covers this common situation of a web site selling Microsoft software for immediate download.

Microsoft loves painting Office Watch as the enemy - but in situations like this we try to do the right thing and get stonewalled.  Makes us wonder how serious Microsoft really is about software piracy.

If you want a good and legal deal on Office 2003 it is still hard to go past the Student and Teacher Editions we talked about in http://www.woodyswatch.com/office/archtemplate.asp?v9-n17

OFFICE 2003 TIMESAVING TECHNIQUES FOR DUMMIES Woody's book is available now - click here for a list of online booksellers http://www.woodyswatch.com/l.asp?0764567616  or try our new online store http://shop.woodyswatch.com


4. PUBLISHER 2003 FOR $50
Much as I hate mail-in rebates, the bottom line on this offer from Amazon is pretty good.


Publisher normally sells for US$169 and Amazon offers it for US$130 but then there's mail-in rebates amounting to $80 making the final price only $50.

If you're willing to wait and live in hope of receiving the pesky rebates then it's a good deal, but rebates are so unreliable and slow you'd be forgiven for ignoring this offer altogether.  Vendors budget that many customers will simply forget to send in their rebate forms, and that non-receipt of a rebate check will probably be also overlooked.

There's a great marketing opportunity for the online retailer who arranges to by-pass the mail-in rebates and offer direct discounts at time of purchase.  Amazon would have the clout to do it - how about it Mr Bezos?

We're not too concerned about the size of our Outlook PST/OST file especially since Outlook 2003 has lifted the size limit on the main data file.  We like having the file attachments in Outlook partly because deleting them is time wasting and partly because they are a useful informal backup.

But we know many readers do fret about attachments cluttering up their Inbox and for those people, it is nice to report that You Software has a utility that can move file attachments to one or more folders on your hard drive.

Check it out at http://www.yousoftware.com/save/  for US$29.95

If you like the no-nonsense style you see in this newsletter - the straight scoop, whether Microsoft likes it or not, dished out in a way that won't put you to sleep - get one of Woody Leonhards  books!

"Office 2003 Timesaving Techniques for Dummies" , Wiley

"Special Edition Using Microsoft Office 2003" with Ed Bott, Que

"Windows XP Timesaving Techniques For Dummies", Wiley

"Windows XP All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies, 2nd Edition", Wiley

"Special Edition Using Microsoft Office XP" with Ed Bott, Que

"Special Edition Using Microsoft Office 2000" with Ed Bott, Que

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Copyright 2005 by Peter Deegan. All rights reserved. ISSN 1328-1674.

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