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Microsoft Denies the Windows Kill Switch 513

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the pirates-beware dept.
WindozeSux writes "Microsoft has denied that WGA will kill pirated copies of Windows. According to Waggener Edstrom,"Microsoft anti-piracy technologies cannot and will not turn off your computer." Microsoft also says that WGA is a necessary part of its campaign to catch those illegally using Windows XP which leads one to think what WGA really does then."
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Microsoft Denies the Windows Kill Switch

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:06AM (#15645611)
    "Because we broke power management in the latest update. We will, however, make sure Windows doesn't boot once your computer is on."
    • by kabz (770151) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:42AM (#15645710) Homepage Journal
      Yes, we have reverted to the Windows 95 technique where we shut all processes down, and display a screen that says:

      "Please Turn Off Your Computer (Aaaarrrrgghhh Matey)"
      • by rbarreira (836272) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @05:57PM (#15647234) Homepage
        I hadn't thought about this in a long time, but your post made me remember of a trick (and security hole) to get a dos prompt on a win95 (and 98?) computer! Just type "mode co80" and/or "cls" on the "It's now safe to turn off your computer screen", which seems to be running on top of a command.com shell hehe.
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @07:04PM (#15647449) Journal
          In the older win2000 and NT systems, using a win98 boot floppy with the ntfs files copies to it (as described in making an ERD) we used to rename the cmd.exe from the system or system32 directory and insert it as the logon screen saver. The process would give us fully functional command promt at the logon screen were we could change passwords or check other things like server settings.

          It should work on win95-98 systems too except you would do it ot the regular screen saver. also you still can do stuff like this with the printer commands so to elevate to admin access all you would have to do is print to a hidden network printer. just like in win95, this is great for acessing recovering passwords and such. Although there are easier ways availible now.
    • by rbochan (827946) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:00PM (#15645972) Homepage
      Tell that to David Coursey [com.com].

      "SO, HERE I AM, sitting in a jet at 34,000 feet someplace above God-only-knows-where, using my computer and minding my own business when Microsoft threatens to essentially shut down my copy of Office. And at the very start of a week-long business trip, too."

      And this coming from one of the biggest Microsoft schill sites on the planet.

      • by Animaether (411575) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @06:28PM (#15647344) Journal
        Basically I'm sure the software for his Palm introduced a new networking component that has caused this. It happens with our software all the time. We have a licensing mechanism that ties into a few hardware parts of the computer - the basic HDD serial number and the MAC address being two of them which is public info. So if you introduce a new NIC of any sort, the license breaks. And of course people can go "OMFG WTF!?" all the want - but here's the deal... for those people who, for example, use a USB bluetooth dongle and plug that in and out all the time, the license breaks and unbreaks (we get them a new license which now ties to the MAC of the bluetooth dongle) then breaks again as they remove it, etc we make a new license key that ignores the MAC address.

        Now guess what has happened, twice, already...

        They come to us and say that they had to replace the HDD after a crash. They send in a new authorization file, we check - the MAC is the same, the machine name is the same, the HDD s/n is different. Fair 'nuff. So we should get them a new license.

        Or should we? Because in two verified situations, all the end-user did was rename a second computer, stick their bluetooth USB key in that, and generated an auth for it. So guess what happens? We get them another license file for what should have been the same computer with a different HDD, but which is essentially a second computer; because the MAC identifier was the USB key, the license type is MAC-less, and so will happily run on that computer.

        Instant free extra licenses - 'piracy' at its best.

        So although the author may whine about a change, probably a network stack change, he has his colleagues in the industry to thank for it - because we all know it's not going to stop the users who specifically set out to get an illegal copy, but it will stop those sneaky bastards who prefer not to get caught with pants down with a known illegal copy and instead have a 'licensed' copy to show to any auditing entity.

        In a perfect world, people would be honest. In a perfect world, copy and licensing protections wouldn't have to exist. Here's to all software becoming free-as-in-beer and professional coders finding a way to make a living through other means, so that everybody benefits. Just a shame that's not going to happen anytime soon.
        • by HiThere (15173) * <charleshixsn@ e a r t h l i nk.net> on Monday July 03, 2006 @12:10AM (#15648201)
          Interesting justification. Possibly even true.

          Guess what? I don't care. If you are threatening to shut down my computer, that's an excellent reason NOT to use your product. Ever. Under any circumstances. Or ever recommend it.

          Now I'm not a typical user, since I read the nlank-dashed MS EULA and decided already that I didn't want to go there. Over 5 years ago. That MS has just gotten worse since then only re-confirms that I made the correct decision. When I must, I use a Mac. Otherwise I use Linux. And when I use a Mac, I don't use MSOffice and I don't use MSIE. I use Seamonkey and NeoOffice (or, recently, OpenOffice2).

          You'd never guess that I started out as an MS appologist "Not that bad, for a monopoly" I said. Well, at the time it was true, but it's not true anymore.

          So. Do I beleive that "They won't shut down your computer."? No. I *DO* believe that that's the official party line, and that if the hoorah is too much they may delay implementing it until Vista has people more securely locked in. And I believe that this comment was a "trial baloon", but I don't think that it being shot down will change their plans, only the timing.

        • by arminw (717974) on Monday July 03, 2006 @01:05AM (#15648355)
          ...... In a perfect world, copy and licensing protections wouldn't have to exist......

          In the real, imperfect world, Apple's solution of making the hardware and software together, for each computer gives them the freedom not to have to go through all of this stupid, wasteful activation crap. It is pretty hard to make a free copy of a whole computer. This is only one good reason to prefer their computers over Windows. Apple makes it easy to replace an existing hard drive with a bigger and/or faster model and then re-installing the OS back thereon, together with all users and settings. No need for a user to phone Apple or have an internet connection.

          Once MS makes it hard enough for ordinary, honest users to keep their own computers running, perhaps more and more people will begin to see the advantage of a company that makes the whole widget, all as a seamlessly operating thing that "just works". What other product is there, whose continuing functionality is at the whim of its producer, other than a computer running Windows XP or later? It seems that the attitude of MS is that THEY own your computer and therefore can "license" its use to you on terms they decide, since you are just renting it from them. Why should a car owner have to get permission from the manufacturer to replace or modify the engine or some other part of the car? Apple's model is that the user OWNS the vehicle, MS makes people passengers in a taxi, where MS, the taxi driver decides the route and fee to a destination or whether you are even allowed to go there at all. As a home owner, you are allowed to make minor structural modifications to your living space or repaint the whole place in weird colors, but as a renter, you better get permission from the landlord first. MS sees itself as the landlord of every computer running Windows.
  • by adamwright (536224) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:09AM (#15645616) Homepage
    This was obvious from day one. In any deployment of software there will be bugs, and I've read plenty of incidents of WGA not recognising valid installations (or people using invalid keys for valid purchases). Even if the failure rate was 0.001%, that's still thousands of machines "killed" incorrectly. If just one of these happened to be a prominent journalist, IT decision maker or similar, the fallout for MS would be far worse than anything they'd gain by the action.

    So, another hyped story killed with a modicum of common sense (and I'm certainly not the first to point this out). I thought IT communities were meant to be filled with rational people?
    • This still will happen in one form or another...from crafting slimy legislation to WGA tricks MS is was and will continue to be a slimeball of a company.
    • by westlake (615356) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:29AM (#15645660)
      I thought IT communities were meant to be filled with rational people?

      One can but hope.
      Slashdot tends to shake your faith a little.

    • There's an important distinction to make between the IT community and IT journalism.
    • Except... "WGA will kill" is speculation which originated from advice given by a low-level tech in the company. The journalist followed up with requests for clarification from Microsoft, and that company and its pr firm would neither confirm nor deny at the time. The most recent chapter in the saga is that an official statement, quoted in the above abstract, perhaps clarifies Microsoft's intentions. Nonetheless, Microsoft's agent has gone on to say that they they will not entertain any requests for intervi

    • So, be rational.

      What is the purpose of WGA? Windows Genuine Advantage.

      It's purpose is to enforce Microsoft's Intellectual Property Rights. And what right is that? There are really only two -- the right to be paid for Windows, and the right to not have to support Windows that has not been paid for. (and, Customer Education).

      The only way to enforce being paid for Windows via WGA is to turn off Windows that haven't been paid for.

      The only way to enforce the support right, is to not allow support if WGA is not present, or finds that Windows has not been paid for.

      WGA won't work on non-Microsoft platforms. (Microsoft will support Windows 98 and ME without validation, &etc. but has stated that NON-MICROSOFT platforms are not supported by WGA).

      Not running WGA locks the user out of the Microsoft Download Center.

      Which leads to the "Advantage" part: If you are running Microsoft products on a Microsoft platform, you have the advantage of being able to given access to the Microsoft Download Center for support.

      That, of course, can't be true, because it is a violation of US monoply laws (it locks the use of MS Office to the use of Windows). Since it is ridiculous to presume that a company would so blatantly ignore laws, this cannot be the case.

      So, either WGA is not needed to get download support for Microsoft Office, OR WGA disables Windows. One is illegal; and the other is silly.

      Since I run Microsoft Office under Wine, I wonder if I can request any support via sending of the updates by a different channel (and I will not "crack", "reverse", etc. WGA). Has anyone tried this? Because if that is the case, there is another alternative:

      WGA is a tool that simply boosts consumer awareness of bootleg Windows. And that I am completely supportive of.

      Ratboy.
      • by jnuzzo (313424) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:51PM (#15646129)
        Which all points to a very convenient (and paranoid) conspiracy theory. Or should I say "another" MS conspiracy theory... try to be rational without rationalizing

        It's entirely plausible that WGA does a couple of different things without actually being yet another evil conspiracy, and without any active intervention on installed systems.

        Here are a couple of plausible theories that make WGA's existence productive, while not infringing on anybody's rights.

        1. WGA just identifies pirated copies.
        You buy a new system from a smallish vendor. On your first trip to Windows Update, you see a screen telling you that your OS is pirated. Irate, you complain to the vendor; to MS; and escalate through your state's regulatory agencies. This helps MS isolate pirates but does not affect your ability to get updates beyond a "nag" screen.

        2. WGA helps MS collect statistics and nothing else.
        When systems connect to get fixes, WGA keeps a counter of pirate-detctions. This allows MS to decide how much to budget for future legal enforcement, and how much to budget for future anti-theft engineering.

        • WGA (Score:3, Informative)

          by falconwolf (725481)

          Here are a couple of plausible theories that make WGA's existence productive, while not infringing on anybody's rights.

          This doesn't explain how or why someone sends in their Dell for service gets it back and it refuses to run Windows. Yes, an article Friday I think it was had this as one of the examples of what WGA did to a user.

          Falcon
      • When talking about 'intellectual property' rights, let's be more clear.

        It's purpose is to enforce Microsoft's Intellectual Property Rights. And what right is that? There are really only two -- the right to be paid for Windows, and the right to not have to support Windows that has not been paid for.

        Let's start with the first 'right': the right to be paid. Simply put, there is no such right. You won't find it anywhere in the laws of the United States. No one is required by law to buy Windows from Microsoft (certain public offices notwithstanding). While it is true that external factors (ease-of-use, company policy, etc) strongly compel purchasing decisions, those factors are not legal, and do not create a 'right' of payment.

        Now, the second 'right': the right to receive support. Again, there is no such legal right. True, there are implied warranties of merchantability [lectlaw.com], but these can be expressly disclaimed by an EULA. Let's take a look at the XP Home Edition [microsoft.com] EULA:

        15. LIMITED WARRANTY FOR SOFTWARE ACQUIRED IN THE US AND CANADA. Microsoft warrants that the Software will perform substantially in accordance with the accompanying materials for a period of ninety (90) days from the date of receipt. If an implied warranty or condition is created by your state /jurisdiction and federal or state/provincial law prohibits disclaimer of it, you also have an implied warranty or condition, BUT ONLY AS TO DEFECTS DISCOVERED DURING THE PERIOD OF THIS LIMITED WARRANTY (NINETY DAYS). AS TO ANY DEFECTS DISCOVERED AFTER THE NINETY-DAY PERIOD, THERE IS NO WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF ANY KIND.

        YOUR EXCLUSIVE REMEDY. Microsoft's and its suppliers' entire liability and your exclusive remedy for any breach of this Limited Warranty or for any other breach of this EULA or for any other liability relating to the Software shall be, at Microsoft's option from time to time exercised subject to applicable law, (a) return of the amount paid (if any) for the Software, or (b) repair or replacement of the Software, that does not meet this Limited Warranty and that is returned to Microsoft with a copy of your receipt. You will receive the remedy elected by Microsoft without charge, except that you are responsible for any expenses you may incur (e.g. cost of shipping the Software to Microsoft).
        So there you have it. They don't have to support their software, ever. If Windows breaks, they have to (a) refund your money, or (b) give you a replacement. They do not have to (c) fix the broken software. Just to make sure you understand that this is their only obligation, they include

        16. DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES. The Limited Warranty that appears above is the only express warranty made to you and is provided in lieu of any other express warranties or similar obligations (if any) created by any advertising, documentation, packaging, or other communications. Except for the Limited Warranty and to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, Microsoft and its suppliers provide the Software and support services (if any) AS IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS, and hereby disclaim all other warranties and conditions, whether express, implied or statutory, including, but not limited to, any (if any) implied warranties, duties or conditions of merchantability, of fitness for a particular purpose, of reliability or availability, of accuracy or completeness of responses, of results, of workmanlike effort, of lack of viruses, and of lack of negligence, all with regard to the Software, and the provision of or failure to provide support or other services, information, software, and related content through the Software or otherwise arising out of the use of the Software.
        Microsoft has no duty to support Windows. You have no right to receive support for Windows. The main reason Microsoft supports their software is because it's buggy and they don't want people to use something else.
    • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @11:56AM (#15645958)
      Note the very careful wording in the Mircosoft's press release. Microsoft's PR firm (not Microsoft) is saying that WGA will not "will not turn off your computer". The release says nothing about preventing Windows from running, which was what a Microsoft person had previously stated.

      So Microsoft, through their press agent, has denied something that they were not accused of planning to do. Releasing the denial through th epress agent prevents any further questions on the matter. The agent will just say that they have said all they know.

      Bottom line: the matter of whether or not WGA will prevent a copy of Windows from running remains unsettled.

    • by jmichaelg (148257) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:13PM (#15646012) Journal
      No, Microsoft doesn't disable your computer - it just disables your ability to install patches which, given the frequency of OS exploits, is tantamount to the same thing as disabling your computer.

      I'm one of those .001% - WGA thinks I pirated my copy of XP even though I bought it at Costco. When I disabled the "you have an illegal copy of Windows" balloon via the security panel, another little message popped up saying that I would no longer be able to download patches. I suspect WGA was unhappy because I had disabled several services such as remote registry and alerter.

      I can understand Microsoft's desire not to get ripped off but at the same time, I'm not sympathetic if their software falsely accuses me of being a thief and I end up losing a couple of hours figuring out what their problem is.
    • by twitter (104583) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @02:21PM (#15646482) Homepage Journal

      So, another hyped story killed with a modicum of common sense

      Common sense does not apply with an organization like M$. From the fine article:

      A ZDNet.com blogger reported earlier in the week on a conversation between a Windows user and a Microsoft support staffer, who allegedly admitted that users who refused to install the WGA update would be given 30 days before their copies of Windows would stop working. ZDNet.com said that Microsoft refused to deny the report at the time. But later, Microsoft appeared to sing a different tune. No, Microsoft antipiracy technologies cannot and will not turn off your computer,

      That's what I remember too, amazing.

      There would have been no kill switch story if M$ had just been honest to begin with. They are not honest, so all you are left with is the facts: WGA installs itself, if you don't have it they won't give you "updates", when installed it phones home every day.

      Speculation based on those facts and previous behavior is natural. For years, minor changes to your hardware would stop your M$ computer from working ether through technical failure or forced reregistration. Given their willingness to ship buggy product and previous mechanisms that "turn your computer off", a reasonable person would guess WGA would be doing the same thing. Indeed, what's it going to do if it does find a "non genuine copy"?

      M$'s intentionally bad non free driver situation can be compared to live CDs. Knoppix, auto configures in less time than it takes XP to boot and still has room for a complete office suite and web server. Changing hardware in a M$ computer is tricky at best. Even if you are successful, you will often be forced to re register.

      M$'s practice of forced reregistration on minor hardware changes has no parallel in any industry.

      The William Gates Agent [WGA] is going to suck.

  • by Nevtje(hr (869571) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:10AM (#15645617)
    ...it automatically sends a raid order of your premises to Tomas Bodström and the swedish police!
  • The usual spin (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig DOT hogger AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:10AM (#15645618) Journal
    Oh, that's the usual spin from the intentionally misinformed P.R. flacks (they can't tell what they don't know, eh?). Who can trust a convicted monopolist anyways???
    • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Sunday July 02, 2006 @11:22AM (#15645850) Homepage Journal

      No, this spin is just... beyond. This is one of the funniest (and saddest) things I've ever read (emphasis mine):

      Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions On Microsoft, said that while most consumers may find this sort of tracking by Microsoft intrusive, many corporations may actually welcome it.

      When asked if companies that have installed more copies of Vista than they have purchased will find those copies de-activated, Microsoft said through its spokeswoman that companies "should think of it more like an application that tracks and protects their use of their Volume License keys and installations."

      "Most corporations have no interest with getting away with anything at Microsoft's expense," he said. Indeed, corporations, especially those that have merged with another company or undergone a restructuring, often have a hard time keeping track of all the software they own. Most will "overbuy licenses because it's cheaper to do that then to designate staff people to actively manage them."

      In other words, WGA isn't a means of cracking down on piracy, it's a useful tool that companies can use to save money! This message has obvously been brought to you by the same type of people who try to tell everyone that Digital Rights Management is a wonderful thing because it allows you to access content.

      Jesus, are people really that naive? Why can't they just say what it is—a tool to keep people who haven't paid them lots of money from using their stuff. At least I could be on board with their motives. (Being paid for stuff I do is nice.) Am I the only one who is insulted not so much by WGA's existence as I am by how stupid they think we are in pitching it?

      • That entire section on tracking licenses made me laugh. According to postings on their newsgroups, Microsoft's own support people can't answer questions consistently about some of their licensing policies.

        Windows Small Business Server 2003 (SBS) uses Client Access Licenses (CALs) to control how many users or workstations can authenticate to the server at one time. If you don't have a CAL assigned to you or your machine, you can't connect to the server. SBS 2003 comes with 5 CALs, and you can buy up to
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:10AM (#15645620)
    The question is why not kill pirated copies of Windows?
    • by mrjb (547783) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:14AM (#15645629)
      The question is why not kill pirated copies of Windows?

      Because a pirated copy of windows does MS more good than a legal alternative OS?
      • by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical.gmail@com> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:46AM (#15645727) Homepage
        Here's a little hint: If pirated copies stopped working, people would buy a legal copy. Computers and components cost a lot. Anyone with the extra scap around to build a custom PC would be more than willing to shell out $99 for WinXP Home. And if you bought your PC, then just throw in the restore disc.

        I know linux mentality suggests that 99% of the pirates would suddenly up and switch to an alternative. It won't happen.

        Grandma will not spend thousands on a new Mac; she'll get the Geek Squad to install Windows.

        Mom won't install Ubuntu; she'll drop a Benjamin on WinXP.

        Starving college kids will head over the the school bookstore and grab a student copy for next to nothing.

        And MS will make it easy. They'll drop prices and offer discounts if you rat out who gave you the copy. They might even release a tool to map out the distribution of license keys to see if they could track the original licensee.

        A WinXP killswitch will not boost the download stats for Debian or RedHat. It'll just boost MS 3rd quarter earnings.
        • Have you seen what MS charges college students? You only get a discount on XP Pro last I checked, and its still 99 dollars. With the special Microsoft licensing deal at my last uni, I could get it for 89.. wow the savings.

          Apparently you make enough that 99 dollars isn't much money. To some people, thats a fifth of their rent or half their weekly paycheck before taxes! If Microsoft shut them out, they would be forced to use an alternative OS. Microsoft doesn't want to lose poor people. I got into compu
        • [quote]They might even release a tool to map out the distribution of license keys to see if they could track the original licensee[/quote] Pretty useless since you can get a program that generates unique keys over time and verifies whether or not they can be used to trick windows into thinking it is legit. It can take a couple minutes to generate a key, but you can leave it on over night and generate a hundred keys or so. I don't think you'd be able to track that down at all.
        • No, not 99%. 5% would be nice. 10% even nicer but maybe that's reaching.

          Personally, I consider something like Ubuntu (once Easy Ubuntu upgrades it:) a superior platform to Windows but that's because of all the free software I can download.

          That would be the number one reason I think Linux will eventually win - central repositories will be a huge strength to people tired of hunting down freeware/shareware to get the most basic apps.

          I had a number of people switch on this reason alone. They are casual compu
        • by SeaFox (739806) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @03:07PM (#15646620)
          Here's a little hint: If pirated copies stopped working, people would buy a legal copy.

          Wow, do you go to RIAA University? The same one that says if P2P doesn't exist all those customers would go out and buy those CDs and DVDs they pirated?
      • Because a pirated copy of windows does MS more good than a legal alternative OS?
        Exactly! If I didn't have a pirated copy of Windows XP Pro how would I run my pirated copies of Microsoft Office 2003 or Visual Studio 2003? Don't even get me started on how sad I would be to not be able to play my pirated games!
    • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:41AM (#15645704)
      You're either a troll or you've been living under a rock for the last week.

      Because Windows Genuine Advantage is not 100% accurate.

      It has declared PCs to be running an illegal copy of Windows when that is not the case.

      Now, if Microsoft could guarantee that they were only turning off pirate's PCs, fine. But the first PC they turn off that isn't running a pirated copy of Windows has some pretty nasty repercussions. Especially if that PC happens to be in a large company or owned by a journalist, lawyer or even a prominent person with a blog.

      Myself, I think this is the trial run. Let's face it, the first incarnation of anything from Microsoft always sucks. Doubtless Vista will ship with an improved version of WGA, which is slightly harder to crack. Then, a year or two down the line (perhaps with the first service pack), there will be another improved version which actually works quite well. Then... well, then remote killing of pirated Windows installations may just happen.
    • Because if you have WGA do the killing, then what does Microsoft do when it fucks up and kills *legitimate* copies of Windows by mistake. And don't tell me that won't happen. So far since Microsoft started doing their WGA rollout, I've had 4 different systems with totally legitimate and legally purchased (by me) copies of Windows XP where WGA has come up and informed me they were pirated.
    • Because the users of the pirate copies won't like it.

      You ask that question like Microsoft have some inheirant moral right to stop people using pirate copies. They have no such moral right. They happen to have the legal right in some places, but in all honestly that doesn't mean much in philosophy.

      How about we begin to consider that taking Microsoft software without paying for it is morally acceptable? Imagine if I decided to jail everyone who copied and pasted the text of this post - Microsoft killsw
    • by hey! (33014)
      Because you can't rely on any method of detecting piracy not to create false positives. And the rate of false positives doesn't have to be very high before it costs you more than the piracy itself.

      This happened to me once. We had software which is deployed on a PDA and communicates to a central server. A product manager wanted to have the server count seats to make sure the users didn't cheat on their licenses. I didn't think it was a great idea, but so be it. Subsequently, our number one support issue
  • Phoning home (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elgee (308600) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:13AM (#15645626)
    If WGA phones home more than once, it is proabably up to no good. If it discovers that your copy of Windows is legal, why on earth would it need to contact MS more than once?

    It may well be checking for pirated movies, songs, etc and MS may be in cahoots with RIAA/MPAA/BOHICA.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:27AM (#15645656)
      Once a record of what is stored on your computer exists at MS, it can be subpoenaed by RIAA, the government, or virtually any company involved in a law suite about virtually anything.

      It doesn't matter what MS says about your privacy. If they have your information, they can't protect it from subpoena.

      The only safe windows box is one that has no connection to the internet.
      • If they had cause to subpoena MS's store of your information about your computer, they sure as heck have cause to order information straight from your computer via a court-ordered diagnostic. And if you did anything to the data you'd be in contempt of court. What a difference!
    • Re:Phoning home (Score:5, Informative)

      by jfengel (409917) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:40AM (#15645702) Homepage Journal
      It phones home more than once because hard drives can be cloned. If the thing only poked its head up once, pirates would run a single legal box until WGA verified itself, then make copies of that disk and sell them. So it has to check every time if the brain wakes up in a "new body".

      There's far less cause for it to phone home if it wakes up in the same old body. There's some complexity going on if you replace a hardware component; defining "a computer" is tricky.
  • What does WGA do? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:14AM (#15645630)
    From the article:

    Microsoft also says that WGA is a necessary part of its campaign to catch those illegally using Windows XP which leads one to think what WGA really does then.

    WGA is not to stop *us* from pirating Windows, thats never going to be successful. However, it will prove successful against those shops selling whitebox builds with illegal copies of Windows, and it already gives a cheap (or is it still free?) option to consumers caught out like that in return for providing evidence against their supplier (receipt etc).

    These are the people that need to be stopped.
    • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:46AM (#15645726)
      If MS would offer whitebox builders the same price that they offer to the big OEMs like Dell and Gateway, they'd probably see a lot less for-profit piracy. As it stands, the small shops can put together good quality hardware and come out slightly ahead of the big companies, but the moment they add in software (including Windows and Office), they end up being forced to offer the complete system at a very uncompetitive price.

      • Re:What does WGA do? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by writermike (57327) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @03:36PM (#15646741)
        If MS would offer whitebox builders the same price that they offer to the big OEMs like Dell and Gateway, they'd probably see a lot less for-profit piracy.

        Quite true, but I doubt you can lay all of the blame at Microsoft's feet. This is the way the entire retail world works.

        I've built many systems and what it really comes down to is the type of system you intend to build. There's no way in hell a whitebox builder can meet a $299.99 price. They can, however, compete well on a $1500+ system, even with Windows and Office. I've done it many times. And, no, I'm not pirating anything.

        In any case, what MS does is what ATI, ASUS, and every one else does. It's still not an excuse to pirate software.
  • Stop Piracy (Score:4, Informative)

    by neoform (551705) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:14AM (#15645631) Homepage
    "Microsoft also says that WGA is a necessary part of its campaign to catch those illegally using Windows XP"

    It sure didn't stop me.. nor did it stop anyone else i know who's got an illegal copy. But it sure did piss off a whole lot of people who did pay for their copy..
    • Re:Stop Piracy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:52AM (#15645744)
      But it sure did piss off a whole lot of people who did pay for their copy.

      I doubt that even the tinest fraction of Windows users (who do not post to Slashdot) have given a second thought to WGA or even heard any one of the paranoid rumors which fill these pages.

  • DUA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by a_greer2005 (863926) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:15AM (#15645633)
    Of cource they deny this; if they let the rumor run, trust in the company is shaken, if they confirm it, their reputation is shattered...and if they go through with it...holy hell, watch out...
    • Re:DUA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moocow660 (975091) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:26AM (#15645655)
      Oh no... the people who already don't buy windows will hate Microsoft even more.

      I'm sure they are trembling in fear.
      • Personally, I beleive people who don't want to buy Windows should have no right to do so. They should be forced to buy (or obtain legally, for free) something else. But MS doesnt want they either. What they want is for *everyone* to be forced to pay for Windows.

        But people foolish enough to WANT to run Windows are probably foolish enough to pay for it.
    • Trust in the company isn't the problem, people expect Microsoft to pull shady stuff, illegal monopolism and all. What Microsoft wants is for legitimate users to feel smug because they shelled out hard-earned cash for their XP disc, and likewise wants the people that have illegal copies to think twice about not paying for it. I mean, it might get turned off and God knows what would happen to their data then. In effect, this is a form of psychological warfare, with the enemy being people that Microsoft would
  • by geerbox (855203) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:17AM (#15645635)

    Through its spokeswoman, Microsoft said that "80% of all WGA validation failures are due to unauthorized use of leaked or stolen volume license keys."

    That can partially explain why WGA will not cause the "killing" of computers with XP. That said, it's a 20% of their no-corporate users (large-volume purchasers of XP are exempt from installing WGA from TFA) that will be having problems trying to get things to update and work.

    • by Peyna (14792) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:32AM (#15645665) Homepage
      Perhaps you failed statistics, but the proper conclusion from the statement that "80% of failures are due to unauthorized use of leaked or stolen volume license keys." is that the other 20% of failures are due to something else.

      I would guess some percentage would be the unauthorized use of leaked or stolen non-volume license keys. The rest of that 20% could be anything or nothing.

      I have no idea what conclusion you were trying to draw from that statement, but you made quite a jump in logic there. That figure gives us no indication as to what total percentage of users have problems with WGA.
      • Just an FYI from someone who has failed validation with a legit copy of Windows. Mine failed because I didn't let it install, so it came back saying that WGA failed when in all reality it technically didn't. So take with a grain of salt that all of the 20% of failures were false positives.
  • by blcamp (211756) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:17AM (#15645636) Homepage
    I'm just speculating here, just my best guesses (so mods, keep that in mind):

    1. They can't (intentionally) kill working copies now. If they killed too many legit copies from too many "false positives", they'd be slapped with a class action that would make the current EU anti-trust pale by comparison.

    2. While they can't kill windows, they can divide it into two classes (legit and cracked), and thus allow the legit ones to have all the eye candy and other accessories... not that too many people really care all that much about Power Calculator.

    3. It is a test program for a future version of Windows, where they can very reliably kill cracked versions of the product, once they fine-tune their ability to tell a cracked version from a legit one.

    I can only hope, however, they don't bog thier products down with so much "detection code" that the app is 90% slower... like recent versions of Norton Systemworks.

    • by Peyna (14792) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:42AM (#15645709) Homepage
      What they really need is better copy protection out the door, instead of relying on a way of detecting it after the fact, they should be finding ways to prevent it beforehand.

      I think probably one of the biggest mistakes Microsoft made regarding copy protection was in its method of handling volume licensing. Entire Universities across the country were given a copy of Windows that requires no activation or anything, along with (in many cases) one CD key for the lot. All anyone had to do was copy that CD, give away that CD key and those people are immune from detection. Of course, Microsoft knows a lot of those CD keys that have spread like wildfire, but they haven't blocked the one I got from my university yet.

      Better copy protection and management in volume licensing upfront would have gone a long way to prevent a lot of these problems. I do suppose there is a balancing of factors taking place, in that on one hand you don't want to overburden customers that are feeding you millions for a volume license, but on the other hand, you also don't want them to turn around and give a copy to every family member and friend and acquaintance.
  • What a shock! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CXI (46706)
    Did anyone honestly believe the random blogger who said that some random Microsoft guy said that "if you don't install WGA we'll use WGA (which isn't installed) to kill your copy of Windows"!? However, it made for some great sensational headlines.
  • by TomHandy (578620) <tomhandy@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:36AM (#15645680)
    It seems like a lot of people who have pirated Windows XP just go ahead and use Windows XP Corporate (which doesn't require activation or a license key). How does MS detect a legit copy of XP Corporate vs. someone who is using a pirated copy of it?
  • Kind of funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:38AM (#15645688) Homepage
    I know of 2 major corperations that do not allow WGA to be installed on their machines because of sarbanes Oxley rules they have as well as not installing apps that report back information outside the company.

    So microsoft will not risk pissing off an entire corperation sized customer by turning anything off.

    Personally I wish they did such a boneheaded move. No matter what the naysayers believe it would force a switch to something else and braindead easy installs like Ubuntu and Mandriva will capture a larger amount of pc's.

    The bulk of PC owners out there do not care about playing games except at places like pop-cap and other web based time wasters, they dont go shopping for software on a regular basis. They want their pc to do simple web stuff.

    I have converted a large number of people over to ubuntu on their pc after scaring theim with the latest MS fud about not having WGA on there to spy on you they will get viruses and trojans ant other things instantly. So they begrudingly try ubuntu and then 2-3 months later ask me to erase their windows partition for more disk space.

    Are they pissed they cant play Quake4 or the sims2 latest expansion pack? nope most people dont have a PC capable of playing them nor plan on buying one.

    The low end computing power web/wordprocessing only people outnumber game buyers almost 30 to 1. And those that buy software at best buy and the likes only do so after they find out they cant do it at home already. Ubuntu gives them a button to get free software instantly and without effort so they save more money and I dont have to go support their pc on a weekly basis like I did with windowsXP.

    • I have converted a large number of people over to ubuntu on their pc after scaring theim with the latest MS fud about not having WGA on there to spy on you they will get viruses and trojans ant other things instantly.

      I have been having some success convincing people to move away from Microsoft's buggy bloatware by oh-so-casually mentioning how MS installs spyware (WGA) on their computers. I got the idea when I was showing a friend how to do an MS Update (he'd never even installed SP2, yet thought his sy
      • Actually, microsoft do have the right to snoop around your system and to send any information they want back to them. You gave them this right when you accepted the EULA. Don't believe me? read it more carefully.
  • Wonder (Score:4, Informative)

    by donutello (88309) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:39AM (#15645695) Homepage
    That last line should read:

    which leads one to wonder what WGA really does then.


    Come on. That's what editors are supposed to do.
  • by ErikZ (55491) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:40AM (#15645701)

    Well duh. It's not a "Kill Switch"

    It's a "Happy Sleepy Funtime Switch!"

  • Microsoft can just send their report to your local ISP daily. The FBI can pick up the Fourth Estaters. The local police can handle the software thieves.
  • by Teddy Beartuzzi (727169) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:48AM (#15645732) Journal

    The only quote in that story is that "No, Microsoft antipiracy technologies cannot and will not turn off your computer". That's not the same thing as saying "No, Microsoft antipiracy technologies cannot and will not stop Windows from operating."

    My computer can still be on, but XP refuses to boot.

  • by Osrin (599427) * on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:51AM (#15645740) Homepage
    Wasn't it some "anonymous developer" who was originally quoted? I can't see how turning off copies of Windows would ever have been in Microsoft's best interests.As others have said, even a pirated copy of Windows is a working entry point into the rest of the ecosystem.
  • As It Unfolded (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quirk (36086) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @10:54AM (#15645755) Homepage Journal
    In the 90's Microsoft would go into major cities, set up a booth and offer to exchange illegal copies of MS software for legitimate copies.

    I believe up until at least Me version and possibly Windows 2000 owners were allowed to install the OS on 2 computers in the family home and carry the OS over to a new mobo when owners updated their hardware. Fast forward to today.

    Now, if Windows owners update their mobo's they must purchase a new OS and Home versions of Windows can only be installed on one mobo.

    While MS pc Windows is still highly profitable it's no longer expanding in leaps and bounds. It may be that any forseeable increase in profits MS can see for Windows is in squeezing owners of pirated editions.

    Personally as I've posted before I'm in countdown mode on Win Xp in a switch over to all Linux/BSD machines. By way of my parents buying my first pcs and my own purchases, as an individual, I've invested in MS DOS, Windows/NT and Office pro for 23 years. No more. I can motivate many people in my sphere of influence to switch to FOSS, but I can't do it if I'm still buying Windows for multimedia/games/web purposes.

    If MS can access my computer on a daily basis under the guise of looking for it's stolen property than it's not out of the question that they can accesss my computer for the government. If you have Windows installed on an internet connected pc then you should have zero tolerance for having sensitive information on that pc.

    New technology is often met by the buying public in a herd mentality. The model T dominated sales up to nearly 50% of all autos until near existing market saturation then, with the technology having proved itself, many variations in style and manufacture began to appear. Windows is the model T of operating systems, but the early market saturation period has passed.

    If I'm right the biggest immediate threat to MS is Apple. I see Apple taking 4-8% of Windows share over the next 3-5 years.

    On the desktop Open Source can take considerable market share by way of a multitude of inroads but there are many barriers to overcome.

    As for me, as I finish building my new boxes Windows will be phased out. MS has so deeply alienated me that I'll willingly put in time to help fill in the gaps in productivity my switch over will incurr.

    • Re:As It Unfolded (Score:5, Informative)

      by nuckfuts (690967) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @01:38PM (#15646317)
      If you paid for a full retail version of Windows the license allows you to move it from computer to computer. If you're running an OEM version the licence does not allow this. Up until the last year or so if you wanted to move an OEM version from one computer to another you could phone up and say that you're using it on the same computer but with a new motherboard. Then the OEM licence was changed to specifically disallow that kind of thing, presumably because there is no practical way to tell the difference between a new motherboard and a new computer. And it's not just motherboards that can cause Windows to require activation again. If you change enough components, such as adding RAM, a larger disk and a new video card all at the same time you might cross the line into what's considered a new computer.

      All that being said, I've moved OEM versions between computers quite a number of times and I've yet to be refused activation key. It is necessary to speak to someone over the phone, however.
    • Re:As It Unfolded (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nightspirit (846159)
      This is bullshit. I've installed the same copy of XP home on 3 different motherboards, using 3 different CPUs (of course, not all at the same time, but as part of an upgrade), and never had a problem. All it took is a 3 minute call to MS to get a new key. BFD.
  • On one of the computers at my church, the WGA Notifier came through MS Update. Fair-dos, I thought. But the church logs anonymous users in through the guest profile. You can see where this is going...

    When I tried to use the guest profile, the system tray spouted an icon that said "you may not be running genuine Windows." I logged out, logged in as the system administrator, and asked why.

    "The product key could not be read."

    Well, do you think you'd LET guest users look at the product key so they can steal your copy of Windows, even if the PK isn't attached? But Microsoft contradicted itself, and I went home happy that I'd found a bug in Microsoft software. (I wasn't off the ceiling for several hours.)

    Mercifully, an update was issued that allowed the program to check the PK in the Guest profile. But note the wording of the bubble:

    "You MAY not be running Genuine Windows."

    May? That, translated out of marketing-speak and into English, reads:

    "Oh, dear. You might well have a legit copy of Windows but we believed our computer, so we assume you're a fake. So, we're going to display consistent nag screens until you cough up two hundred pounds to buy Windows."

    Or throw the (beep) thing away and use Linux or a pen and paper.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @11:10AM (#15645810) Homepage Journal
    I'd much rather instead have some nice hackers find out every vulnerability that's possible thanks to WGA being present, and start wreaking absolute hell with everybody's computers, from DDoS attacks to discreetly installing malware/spyware/child pr0n on unsuspecting people's computers, right up to wiping half of the contents of your hard drive. Perhaps then will the masses rise up against Microsoft and say "Why the fuck have you been selling us a flawed product for years and years? Give us our money back!"

    Too bad the majority of malicious 'hackers' don't have any clue about the ethical potential of their skills. :(
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @11:19AM (#15645836) Homepage
    "which leads one to think what WGA really does then."

    No, it would lead one to wonder what WGA really does.

    One would think of a conclusion, and "what WGA really does then" is a meaningless sentence fragment all by itself.
    Illiterates!
  • One 'word' BSA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by user404 (60238)
    Come on folks, think about it, Microsoft is the BSA (Buisness Software Alliance) [bsa.org]. $15,000 for each 'copy' of Windows... Bigger net, faster returns... when they just run a simple query where the ID is = and count is greater than 10, $150,000 in one shot, one visit. Now imagine a company of 8,000... They just want a mechism to get some serious cash...
  • by pipingguy (566974) *
    WGA apparently turns off Slashdot's CSS formatting.
  • It just says it will not turn off your computer. Windows will be dead but your computer will still be on.
  • oems and the wga (Score:2, Informative)

    by Sfing_ter (99478)
    for anyone who owns or has worked on oem machines, dell, hp, sony et. al. if you run keyfinder you realize that the key used in the installation is not the key on the side of the box... I like many techs you initially wipe the hard drive and install from an updated cd with the latest drives etc., and try to use the key on the side of the box, then you have a 30+ minute call/s to microsoft, where you are harangued "How many computers do you have this installed on?" If you have a dell based xp install cd (si
  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:16PM (#15646022) Journal
    I am glad that M$ has cleared this up because while I am no fan of piracy, I think Microsoft has made enough money from its products to allow for a little 'free use' - for example, the laptop I am using now to type this message is using a copy of XP enabled using a keygen program and I don't see how this is likely to affect prof.*(!"$% NO CARRIER

  • NOT Necessary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HermMunster (972336) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:33PM (#15646080)
    First of all, it is going on everyone's computer, not just the pirated copies. It isn't just checking once, as it should. It is checking all the time.

    This is the equivalent of calling you a thief every time it checks. Listen, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that when they check you today and you are legit and then they continue to check you repeatedly, they are accusing you of being a thief.

    One time. The WGA notification is not a program I will allow on my computer. I purchased my 20+ licenses. I don't expect Microsoft to make me feel, as a small business owner, as if I am a thief.

    I don't care about protecting Microsoft. I could care less about them and their profit. They pocket so much of that profit anyway instead of putting it back into development.

    Microsoft's Vista is nothing more than XP with a new interface paradigm. Other than that new look they have cut all the meat out of the new features so as to make it a "no go" on the upgrade path. Everyone needs to understand that. Clearly VISTA is XP with a new desktop look. That's it. It isn't worth 200-400 dollars to upgrade.

    So, if they make $3 billion in profit quarterly, wheres their loss at? Where's the loss of revenue to those pirates and why should I care less about Microsoft's bottom line.

    Stop calling everyone a thief Microsoft.

    Microsoft is playing a game with everyone. Over the past year they have been testing, probing, feeling to see how much violation of privacy we will take. Then they devise not just WGA but WGN. The WGN was tested in other countries first because they didn't want the outcry to be too loud from the US too quickly or it would turn the rest of the world off. So they slid their WGN into the EU and Asia in an effort to ensure it got done. Then they released it in the US under the guise that if the rest of the world allowed it and had no issue with it, the US should not either.

    But of course, we value our privacy. We recognize that one company siphoning off $3 billion a quarter in profits really should be turning something back to the us. Listen, Bill Gate's donations to charity keep him from having to pay huge amounts of dollars to the government in taxes. This simply allows him to keep more of his money.

    I've read the figures about how much his foundation gives, what their yearly budget is. Compared to $3 billion in profit every quarter $1 billion annually (from not just his donations, but others) is nearly nothing. Does he help the people in WA state where he enjoys laws that benefit his profit? From laws that give him tax breaks? Laws that provide him with a workforce that can be forced into 70-80 hours a week without compensation for each hour of work? He gives some money to libraries, schools, etc., but he does nothing for the community.

    You can see this. Look at google earth and view the area around the location where his main offices are. There are no real parks, no special services, no assistance to public tranist. Nothing.

    The bottom line is that WGN allows him to force purchases by those probably too poor to purchase his expensive OS already. XP costs alot of money for some. It is due to his monopoly that allows the OS to stay as highly priced as it is. Now he wants us all to upgrade to Vista which to anyone with a brain knows that it is just XP SP3. The security features could/should be incorporated into XP considering how much money we all paid for it and how irresponsible Microsoft has been toward the security of the OS, even after 2 years where they know that spyware/malware is so bad that even their head of the department for developing anti-spyware/malware tools tell us it is impossible to resolve all the problems and that we are just going to have to reformat every so often just to keep a safe secure system.

    They'll justify Vista as a security fix when everyone realizes that Vista is just XP with a new interface and a huge increase in hardware requirements forced generally due to DRM implementations
    • Listen, Bill Gate's donations to charity keep him from having to pay huge amounts of dollars to the government in taxes. This simply allows him to keep more of his money.

      I'm not standing up for Bill Gates, actually if you look at my posting history you'll see I don't like Microsoft, but Bill donating the money to his foundation doesn't allow him to keep more of his money no matter how you look at it. Actually he keeps less of it, tax writeoff for what is donated isn't $1+ for each dollar donated, ie you

  • by nuckfuts (690967) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @01:48PM (#15646348)


    If you really object to where Microsoft is going with WGA, here is a good article [windowssecrets.com] on how to remove WGA and use an alternative to Windows Update.

    The article doesn't mention how to get access to other Microsoft downloads, however, such as Windows Defender.

  • Misdirection (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sir Holo (531007) * on Sunday July 02, 2006 @02:06PM (#15646413)

    FTA: "No, Microsoft antipiracy technologies cannot and will not turn off your computer," said a spokeswoman with Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft's public relations firm.

    Ah, but will it disable my installation of Windows? That's the part I care about.

    She did not answer the question. She did not deny that WGA can diasble your installation of Windows. Why do we listen to PR flaks so uncritically?

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