March 10, 2005

Update: Free Mac Mini works?!?

Yesterday out of nowhere a brand-spanking new Apple Mac Mini arrived at my office. The Mini shipped directly from Apple. Apparently— although it’s not noted in my status on their site— I’ve successfully completed the Free Mac Mini scheme.

I’ve been extremely skeptical of the whole concept of the “free” sites (see earlier program damning posts). As Duncan noted, this may be just as much a ponzi as a pyramid. I signed up for 2 free Mac Mini programs to prove or disprove their legitimacy. Here’s what I learned:

  • The process took over 2 months
  • The successful program did not alert me of winning a Free Mac Mini. You’d think they’d shower you with marketing materials to reinforce their plan’s benefits and rewards.
  • The Macintosh shipped directly from Apple- it was not altered in any way by the marketing company (ie. no spyware or branded desktops or case modifications)
  • Out of the two companies, one discredited almost all of my referrals as fraud. I find that hard to believe. After disqualifying many of my successful referrals, they prompted me to generate more referrals to make up for the lost ones. I have a nagging feeling they’re using this tactic to generate extra leads above and beyond the requirements. This would lower their product costs by increasing the marketer’s ROI.
  • The successful account generated 89 referrals. Of the 89, only 11 successfully signed up for offers before my account was completed. 12.3% success rate (Fox News style margin of error: +/- 12.3%).
  • Most successful referrals didn’t complete their offers for weeks- probably until their account received a few successful referrals and a free Mac Mini was within sight. So there’s a catch-22 here: Your referrals won’t complete an offer until their referrals complete and offer, and so on. Weeks after sign up I observed waves of completed offers.
  • That being the case, the free Mini company may still be receiving successful referrals after my account has been closed and my offer completed.
  • I personally completed my offers with the (I happily downloaded some audiobooks for my iPod including the Daily Show’s America The Book: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy) and the free eFax offer (I have now cancelled the free eFax account).

Some notes on the very cool Mac Mini:

  • The Mini’s surprise arrival caught me off guard without an extra keyboard or mouse. BYOKM. Doh!
  • The thing runs HOT! I put a ThermoCron on the back vent, and it was blowing 190°F
  • The DVI/VGA convertor does indeed have output or analog conversion problem. I plugged the Mini into a 15“ Sony Trinitron that is normally a second monitor to my Powerbook. The Mini (via the convertor) produced a muddy dark image. There’s more on this issue here.

As soon as I get a keyboard and mouse, I’ll put the Mini through the ringer at the Studio2f proving grounds. Thanks to everyone that supported this completely unscientific ”verification“ of the FreeMini programs. I’m really surprised it worked. After all my trash talking, I guess I owe an apology to the Free companies— however, I still find it hard to believe that this is a sustainable business model.

Best of luck to all of you on your referrals.


They made an audiobook of "America"? Why?

yes.. and it's narrated by John Stewart. It's a nice short audiobook for the ride to the beach.

The Gadgeteer had an article earlier in the week of a similar vein, I ment to send it your way:

Now I just need to get 9 more friends...

I've got 5 Mac minis, including one 1.42GHz model, and even with the processor loaded 100% (w/seti@home) I've never seen a temperature above 117 degrees F at the back vent (temperature probe actually inserted into one of the exhaust vents).

Are you sure you saw 190?? Maybe double check with a kitchen meat thermometer...

An iButton ThermoChron is a little more sensitive than a meat themometer...

At least it would give you a ballpark.

I've tested with a digital meat thermometer and an indoor/outdoor thermometer (sticking the outdoor probe in the exhaust port). Neither went above 117 Deg F.

If your mini is that hot, there might be something wrong with it.

It's not that this "may" be a pyramid scheme, it IS a pyramid scheme. If you get 11 people to join, each of those 11 must also get 11 people to join. However, each of those 121 must get 11 people to join. Each of those 12321 must also get 11 people to join. Each of those 1234321 must also get 11 people to join. You see where I'm going with this? A couple levels of the pyramid will see payouts, while several more levels down run into the problem that everyone has already been referred. Technically, they aren't officially scamming anyone, because everything is free. Really what they are doing is getting an excessive number of people to do excessive marketing programs, but they only have to do a small amount of payout. You got lucky because you joined early. Now you need to see how many of your referrals actually get their Mac minis. If you can, check the next level too. Based on what I've already said, you won't be very surprised that you are the one of the few that got the Mac mini.

I really should check my numbers before posting:

11^2=121 11^3=1331 11^4=14641 11^5=161051 11^6=1771561 --and this is the minimum, since you attempted to refer 89 people. If more than 11 are successful referrals, these numbers get bigger faster. It's exponential. The program doesn't work. You just wasted a lot of other people's time so you could get a Mac mini for free.

indeed. see my earlier posts regarding the business model and referrer manipulation by the programs:

the whole process of me entering these programs was a test to "disprove " the marketing plan. Surprisingly, I had the odd result of actually getting a mini (which probably supports the fact that these are more of a ponzi scheme than a pyramid).

For the background on why I did this: I got pissed with the hundreds of comments filled with freeshit links, i banned the URLs in MT-Blacklist and signed up to two free programs to document on this site that they can't support themselves and will collapse. The goal was that if they DID work, one mini would go to charity and the other would be disassembled for hacking/modding experiements. At this point there's only one and it's already been disassembled.

the thing runs HOT! I put a ThermoCron on the back vent, and it was blowing 190�F

Marcel Bresink provides a very neat and free app called Temperature Monitor, available at and also from VersionTracker, Macupdate, and other usual-suspect sources. It lets you monitor all the temperature sensors built into a Mac. My iBook has 5; other Macs may have 10 or more.

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