Gives Full Refund When New Ubuntu Distribution Breaks Netbook

Adam ordered an older netbook from When it arrived, the wireless Internet didn’t work, so he upgraded the version of Ubuntu Linux from 8.04 to 10.04. This just broke almost everything else on the computer. He returned the netbook to, but didn’t expect them to offer a full refund of the purchase price and shipping — which goes against the stated return policy.

A few weeks ago I bought a netbook laptop as a special from It was $199.95 plus $9.95 shipping — total of $209.50. It was an off brand and an older model, but would suit my needs…if it worked. It came installed with Ubuntu linux 8.04, a version that was two years out of date.

The wireless networking didn’t work, so I let Ubuntu upgrade itself to the latest version (10.04.01). This broke many of the drivers, including video, audio and USB, and didn’t fix the networking. I contacted the manufacturer, who pointed me to the chipset maker, Via. I tried different driver versions, but couldn’t get it working.

Finally, I entered an RMA with Their policy is that they will replace defective merchandise or give you store credit on the site, and you may be subject to a 15% restocking fee. In the comments of the RMA, I asked if I could get my money refunded because I considered it defective merchandise.

Two days later, they contacted me that I should ship it back and they would refund the full purchase price. Then, they sent me a FedEx prepaid tag so I could ship it back for free. When they refunded my money to my credit card, it was the full purchase price *plus* the original shipping, which I hadn’t even asked for and didn’t expect. So, all told I have not spent one penny on this.

Kudos to for taking care of me as a customer when they didn’t have to. I will happily shop there again.

Sounds like Adam wasn’t the only one with a problem with this netbook. Still, that was great of the company to refund everything when they didn’t have to.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Daverson says:

    I’ve been a customer for years. They’ve always been an awesome company to deal with.

  2. FatLynn says:

    This is good to know, as I am in the market for a Linux netbook.

    I wonder why they were selling something with a 2-year-old distro to being with.

  3. fuceefacee says:

    “This broke many of the drivers, including video, audio and USB, and didn’t fix the networking.”

    It’s not that the the drivers “broke”, it’s a matter of they simply didn’t work for that updated operating system.

    All the same props to for giving a full refund.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Exactly…the title of the article was written by someone who fundamentally doesn’t understand computers.

      A new version of the OS isn’t going to “break” the computer…the computer is in exactly the same state it was…nothing broke. It just so happens that there was no corresponding drivers…software…to go along with that new version of the OS. Restoring the original OS version would have brought everything back to the way it was. Which unfortunately in this case, seemed to be without a working driver for the network card already…

      • theblackdog says:

        Well it technically broke the connection between the hardware and the OS since there was no driver to allow them to talk to one another.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          If you get your jeans wet then leave them outside and they freeze – you can’t wear them. Does that mean they’re “broke?” No…it means you let them thaw out and dry, and use them again.

          Same thing here…nothing’s been “broken” by the new OS and it’s associated lack of drivers.

          • Red Cat Linux says:

            Meh… I think it’s a bit of a nit harvest to complain about this term.

            I’d accept ‘broke’ in reference to misbehaving drivers in the same way that I’d accept ‘broke’ in regards to a friend who is strapped for cash.

            In neither case do I believe that there is something actually broken. I and other techs have used the term to refer to some element that should be working, but no longer does after some event takes place.

            You can get particular about pointing out is that it is the OS, or drivers that ‘broke’. Not the Netbook. But in the end the customer lost use of the Netbook functionality. Which I would argue came ‘broken’ out of the box.

            The customer contacted support, tried their recommendations, and the original problem never was corrected, and the subsequent problems made it worse. This is a fair argument for defective merchandise. What they didn’t have to do was an outright refund, rather than grant store credit.

  4. c!tizen says:

    Good on, glad they came through… though I’m sure there are going to be many a comments about why he didn’t try downgrading the OS, why he didn’t contact the linux community for help, why didn’t he try so and so driver or this kernel or that distro… either way, is an awesome company to deal with, kudos.

  5. GMFish says:

    Wow, I just installed Ubuntu 10.10 on my son’s very old AspireOne netbook and it works better than XP and all my hardware works. (Built-in camera, wired and wireless networking etc…)

    I’d try a fresh reformat and install with the latest Ubuntu before sending it back.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      That’s not the issue. I had an older dell that required a lot of custom coding to get anything besides windows on it. This is because hardware support for older stuff just isn’t there. Technically speaking he could’ve made it work, maybe. But he would have had to do a lot of stuff. Geeks did a good pr move in taking it back but they shouldn’t have.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      That’s not the issue. I had an older dell that required a lot of custom coding to get anything besides windows on it. This is because hardware support for older stuff just isn’t there. Technically speaking he could’ve made it work, maybe. But he would have had to do a lot of stuff. Geeks did a good pr move in taking it back but they shouldn’t have.

  6. radio1 says:

    What’s wrong with having a 2-year old distro? You can easily add/update through Synaptic (or whatever) to get the lastest drivers. I mean if someone getting Linux rig, they aren’t going to have to have a Windows-like experience- no matter how pretty the UI is.

    10.10 is really fast on a desktop. But Ubuntu Netbook Remix on a netbook is really heavy, at least on my Atom 450 w/2GB and a 250GB HD…

    I’d suggest running Lubuntu, Mandriva or Peppermint OS… Or Jolicloud.

  7. obits3 says:

    Maybe he should try Ubuntu netbook edition. Just a thought. Also, I would recommend Gateways with intel for Ubuntu as I’ve put it on two gateways and not had any problems. Best to check all the parts before buying a computer for Linux. Basically, you have to do the work that would already have been done by the manufacturer of a Windows machine.

    • Benanov says:

      Ubuntu netbook edition has the same drivers in Ubuntu desktop. This one looks like the manufacturer had drivers for 8.04 but didn’t supply them for 10.04 and they weren’t in the base distro.

  8. CrankyOwl says:

    Geek kitty diagnoses your problem: you’re using CatNip version 1.0 when you should have upgraded to 2.0.

  9. georgi55 says:

    Maybe they changed in last 5 years, which is when I last used them when they sold me a used desktop as “refurbished”, it when it didn’t work as advertised, they did not me to allow to return it to them. Had to file a charge back, which finally prompted them to allow me to send it in for refund. Then they claimed the keyboard and remote were missing, and would subtract $100 from refund. Luckily I was able to prove that the shipping weight in and out were same, and get them bastards off my back.

  10. _UsUrPeR_ says:

    VIA is, quite possibly, the worst chipset manufacturer ever when it comes to linux and open-source driver releases. At one point, some of their video drivers on their smaller motherboards were upwards of 4 years old, only capable of working with Ubuntu 6.04 (Dapper). They know where their bread and butter is, and release most drivers with Windows support only.

    • Benanov says:

      Manufacturer drivers for linux are typically bad. The best drivers come from linux kernel programmers who are given proper access to documentation and hardware samples.

  11. DrRamblings says:

    Back in my FrankenPC days I dealt quite a bit with They were always very helpful and they stood behind their products. I had a power supply issue and they refunded my shipping and cross-shipped a replacement to me. I haven’t shopped much over there since switching to Macs, but I think they are one of the better ‘net companies out there, particularly in regard to customer service support.

  12. Benanov says:

    Not to get too geeky on this one, but I like ZaReason for this purpose. Instead of supplying drivers for one version, they focus on getting their hardware supported upstream. This way you have choice of Distribution and Version.

    (It also means they don’t have to run their own driver repositories.)

    Oddly enough it also means that sometimes your hardware comes with “surprises” – hardware that was in some module they used, but isn’t supported so it’s not advertised. Sometimes that hardware will get supported given enough time.

  13. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I had a Dell laptop that was probably the worst laptop of choice for attempting to Install Linux on. Wireless not working is a common symptom of Broadcom based chipsets, which was probably the issue (and mostly workable if you’re willing to get into terminal and fix it).

    While updating to the newest Distro might have helped, in his case the drivers got even worse. Wasn’t’s issue to fix, but its nice to see that they did right by their customer.

    • Benanov says:

      There’s some motion around Broadcom to have them come out with Free Drivers but the drivers have mostly been reverse-engineered by this point.

  14. Tracer Bullet says:

    The OP is not much of a geek if all they did to try and fix the issue was upgrade to the newest version. Generally it is wise to install a fresh copy of the latest version rather then try and upgrade from an OS that outdated.

    For Netbooks I’ve had good luck with Aurora (formally eeebuntu, but now a Debian derivative rather then Ubuntu), though my favorite distro for the Desktop has always been Fedora. I’ve had no problems with it on my eee 1000 netbook. Overall I prefer RedHat based distros over Debian, though OpenSUSE also makes for a pleasant desktop experience.

  15. bearymore says:

    I have two 2005 vintage laptops, an HP and an Averatec, both running the latest version of OpenSuse. All I had to do to install it was to insert the DVD and wait until the OS installed itself. Same with two home built desktops that were put together with off brand and surplus components, one of which is running on an MB with a vintage VIA chipset. All the hardware worked perfectly with no tweaking at all.

    The fact that the OP’s netbook didn’t work correctly even with an older version of Ubuntu suggests a hardware problem rather than driver issues.

  16. Bix says:

    Does Geeks still charge ridiculous shipping fees? I liked their stuff, but…

  17. RvLeshrac says:

    Does anyone even understand that crap like this is why we have to overpay for Made-In-China-By-The-Lowest-Bidder electronics?

    The unit’s defective wireless card was a valid reason to send it in for repair or replacement. Failing to perform due diligence before changing the OS the unit shipped with, however, was not a valid reason for a 100% return.

  18. John Agar says:

    I’ve placed dozens of orders with Geeks over the years. I’ve never been disappointed.

  19. LastError says:

    Geeks really is real. Great place to deal with.