Pretty sure we've found the problem

Consultant pilot fish goes to a client's office to install a new firewall, which takes about five minutes. Then the office manager has a request.

"She asked me to look at a couple of their older field laptops," fish says. "The users were complaining that they were slow, Outlook didn't work right, and so on. The implication, I gathered, was that the IT guy doesn't know what he's doing."

Being the IT guy who set them up, fish doesn't much like that implication, but he agrees to take a look. Both laptops are about five years old, but that should be OK because all they need to run is Outlook and some Excel spreadsheets to be sent to the office.

The first laptop brings up the first surprise: Fish knows it went out with Windows XP SP3. Now it boots up Windows 7 Ultimate. And where did that copy of Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 come from?

Fish fires up the second laptop, which had been running Vista. Windows 7 Ultimate appears again. That explains the speed issues -- these old laptops only have 2GB of RAM.

He uses a software tool to extract the installation keys for the Windows 7 and Office installs. Three of the four show up on the Internet as known pirated keys.

He calls one of the laptop users, who says his manager installed the upgrade. Fish calls the manager, who says he had a friend do it. "Do you have receipts for the software?" fish asks. Huh? "Ah. Who paid for the software?" Paid?

Sighs fish, "I advised the client they can't use this software unless somebody pays for licensed copies, and would they please tell employees again that they can't install software without clearing it with the office? Especially not to replace the entire operating system on company machines?

"Oh, and please don't blame me for their pirated software's failure to perform acceptably..."

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