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Microsoft to Charge for Office Beta 190

Posted by Zonk
from the pay-to-play dept.
theodp writes "Beginning next Wednesday, those who download the 2007 Microsoft Office system Beta 2 will be charged $1.50 per download, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman." From the article: "Although Microsoft's Information Worker Product Management Group decided to initiate a fee for new users of Beta 2, the "technical refresh," or update, for current users of the software will remain free, the spokeswoman said. Those who want to test drive Beta 2 to review how it works can access the software for free. But if they need to test it against their internal systems, a download or the CD is required. "
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Microsoft to Charge for Office Beta

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  • by grolschie (610666) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:25AM (#15804404)
    All MS products are really just betas that are tested on end users. By the time that they are reasonably robust, they drop support for them. :-)
    • All MS products are really just betas that are tested on end users.

      Maybe this is why they're charging - so they actually get something from the people who would download the beta and keep using it rather than buying the full version, or dissuade them from downloading the beta at all.

      They must be assuming those people are pretty cheap. They might be right.
      • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @03:06AM (#15804727) Homepage Journal
        My boss has a theory about free software (of any type, OSS/pirated/beta/given away).
        He says that if you pirate software (or otherwise get it free) then you have no vested interest in making sure it works for you. If you come across a problem with something you paid nothing for, you are less likely to try very hard to get it resolved.
        However, once you have paid for something the mindset becomes "why isn't my program working".

        Don't know if this is the case with microsoft, but it kindof makes sense.
        • Bull.

          I have a game, let's call it Black & White 2, that works on Athlon XP 2000 with 512MB ram and nVidia FX series video card. Great! Now, move it to Athlon 64 X2 4400 with 2GB and 7900GT video card and it craps out. It doesn't even start! What did I do with it? Nothing. Uninstalled it. And yes, I payed $50 for it and it is about the same as the first one...

          Now, I recently upgraded linux to 2.6.17 SMP from 2.6.16 UP (uni-processor) kernel. Well, all hell broke loose with system calls. Suddenly, select(
          • The simple answer is that you and I are not ordinary users.

            We both know that you wouldn't even hear about the SMP problem from a normal person, they would tell you its not working and follow the brief description with "but it works fine in Windows", and thats the rare percentage that would even install linux.

            If you are the sysadmin of a company with linux machines, its your job to make sure its working and you would be the one receiving the phone calls or error mails telling you its not, there is no persona
      • so they actually get something from the people who would download the beta and keep using it rather than buying the full version,

        Isn't there a timeout on the beta version, so they stop working after a few months?


    • That is opposed to the continuous alpha testing that all users of open source software do?

      • That is opposed to the continuous alpha testing that all users of open source software do?
        It's worse.
        Simply because alpha quality OSS is not tested by ALL OSS users as you state. For example in Debian only the experimental branch might be tagged "alpha", people using any other branch, the majority, have mature beta to production quality stuff. Oh and for the "having to pay" thing too.
      • "All users"? Really?

        Last time I checked, nothing is requiring people to use Open Source software at all, much less OSS which is in alpha. If you choose to use OSS, that's exactly what's going on-- your choice-- and it's obviously possible to use production-quality OSS like Apache or Firefox/T'bird. Just what do you think Slashdot runs on, hmm?
    • All MS products are really just betas that are tested on end users.

      Fair comment, and I would happily pay the same for the latest beta as I am prepared to pay for the final product... but I think that 1.50 is a bit much to ask people. In fact when they bring out a Linux version I will be able to make a choice to not buy it (I will not hold my breath).
    • by NickFortune (613926) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @06:42AM (#15805158) Homepage Journal
      All MS products are really just betas that are tested on end users

      I'm just happy that they've finally settled on a realistic price point for office.

  • makes sense (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...they have been charging for betas (e.g. Windows XP Retail) for years!
  • Yaaaaarrr (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • by treak007 (985345) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:29AM (#15804426)
    Beta testing is a service to the company that is having their product beta tested. This will most likely deter most people from beta testing office 2007, so the office 2007 product will suffer because of this. Gotta wonder what they are thinking.
    • by RonnyJ (651856) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:41AM (#15804473)
      Most people that want to beta test Office 2007 would have already downloaded it - it's been downloadable for free for over two months now.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:56AM (#15804521)
      Are probably the ones they don't care about anyhow. Sheer numbers don't help in an open beta, unless it's for stress testing a server or something. What helps are people who will give useful feedback on problems in their environment. That is generally professionals. The high school kid who downloads it because it's new and cool probably isn't going to send useful bug reports, if they send any at all. The IT staff for a large company that download it to test against their configuration are much more likely to.

      Well, for a company, or even a serious individual, $1.50 is peanuts. I can gaurentee we'll pick up a few copies at work to test, though in our setup there is very little we need ot test agianst.

      Remember MS has internal testers, lots of them, who's entire job is to test the software and find bugs. Public betas aren't because they don't have testers, they are more for public commentary on features and impementation, and more importantly so people can test new MS stuff against their configuration. With Vista, for example, MS was well aware of the bugs in it. They weren't releasing it because they thought it was perfect, they were releasing it because they thought it was good enough to be useful for people to test with.

      In MS speak, an RC, Release Candidate, is when their internal testers think a product is ready to go. They release that to the public, or a limited set for testing against the multitude of configs. If serious problems are found, they do another RC, if not that RC goes final.

      So I think MS would be plenty happy to get rid of the casual downloaders that eat up bandwidth and, if they file reports at all, file things like "T3h program si crashing on me!!!1111". Well duh, it's beta. They'd like to know what is happening to make that happen, though they already may know about it. they are more interested in letting you test it against your setup, and figure out what you need to do to be ready for it.
      • I would think a company will start public beta testing once internal testing isn't cost-effective anymore versus the public. That is to say, once the internal testers caught all the bugs they can, it becomes harder and harder to find bugs per corporate dollar spent until the manager can't justify it anymore versus releasing it into the wild and seeing what they get there. The trade-off is, of course, bad press if the beta works particularly poorly.

        Of course, if the $1.50 charge now brings a $10 or whateve
        • That's not really effective in general with a company as big as MS. You get more bugs caught by people who are trying to catch them, and are trained in how to do so, how to reproduce them and how to report them. The primary bugs you catch in public release are ones of rare compatibility. You know you install Office and also have small app X on your system and they conflict. They do look for that in the beta phase, but the RC phase is really where they clear it up.

          When MS releases something they call a beta
      • I'd agree with this entirely, from my personal (business) experience.

        Basically people don't value what they don't spend money on.
      • Well, for a company, or even a serious individual, $1.50 is peanuts.

        Yes, but it's not $1.50. Don't know how they're organising it but it's likely to be $100 or more when you factor in the staff time and bureaucracy to make the payment.

        Depending on context the convenience+cost difference between a free download and something costing 0.01c, or having any other paperwork, can be significant.

        Bureaucrats often don't appreciate this, in part because a person's time has little value for them.

        ---

        Vista: A

    • by NitsujTPU (19263) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:10AM (#15804561)
      You're reading too much into why people download beta software.

      They don't download it to test it. They download it to be cooler than everyone else. To have the new, bleeding-edge stuff.

      So, MS probably isn't getting much useful data about bugs, certainly, if it's this many people, they only need a fraction of them. Instead, they have thousands of users of buggy software, and since they're chasing off a reputation for buggy software, they probably don't really want this.

      So, $1.50. You get software really cheaply (minus support, though, they'll probably be nagged into it), and they get fewer yahoos, a laughable amount of money, and justification for this.

      Don't forget, a lot of the beta testers will just run the betas, and not purchase the actual product. Why get the newest version of office for a couple hundred? You can get the beta for free. Now that it's $1.50, most people will probably stick to the version that came with their computer.

      That's why. Even a small company can appreciate that this many beta testers is not a favor of any kind, except perhaps for publicity's sake.
      • If they arn't going to buy it either way, Microsoft is better off with them running a free beta than what their computer shipped with. The key is in the fileformat -- If theres a wide enough userbase that people use the latest format that isn't compatible with "what came with their computer".. Someone has to pay up sometime.
        • I can see why they did it - I watched the vista betas.. as soon as it became public download the lists filled up with idiots who's installed the 'new shiny OS' and were bitching that their games didn't run, Norton didn't work, their scanner didn't work, etc. Nothing constructive at all - in fact the constructive stuff was completely swamped for a couple of weeks. What's worse is that none of these induhviduals read the lists before posting - so the same crap was repeated verbatim over and over again.

          And I
    • Let's set so double the killer delete select all.
    • All they need is 1 in 5 people not to be deterred and Microsoft will have as wide of a testing pool as they originally wanted.
    • That works as long as most people are providing quality feedback on their experiences and are using it to usefully prepare for future upgrades to the real thing (especially in a corporate environment), and as long as the beta isn't competing with the "real" product.

      As it is, I suspect 90% of the people downloading the beta are not providing quality feedback, and the beta is being used as a substitute for Office, not to augment it, in the majority of cases. So Microsoft does need to do something to deter

  • Bandwidth ! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by in2mind (988476) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:30AM (#15804429) Homepage
    Those who download the 2007 Microsoft Office system Beta 2 will be charged $1.50 per download

    I wanted to joke if microsoft wants to cover bandwidth charges.....but seems thats the real reason !!

    FTFA:

    "Since the end of May, Beta 2 has been downloaded more than 3 million times...That's 500 percent more than what was expected," the spokeswoman said. "The fee helps offset the cost of downloading from the servers."
  • Not just $1.50 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:34AM (#15804439)
    Don't forget, it's not just $1.50 -- it's also all those personal details like full name, billing address and probably telephone number that you have to hand over to MS in order for them to process the charge against your credit card. That level of detail on each downloader is probably worth in excess of $1.50 all by itself.

    I really wish credit card issuers would let us use bogus values for that information. They need it on file to bill you and contact you in an emergency like the cancellation/disablement of your card due to fraud. But for all the merchants, that info is just a fancy password to authenticate you with. But it also suffers from the same problems that SS#'s do - its a password that isn't really a secret, especially the more frequently you use your card.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      1. Credit card companies were providing throw-away card numbers for years. If your company doesn't - dump it.
      2. There is a beta refresh coming out. The previous beta was already tested through and through, so why pay for downloads initiated due to idle interest (hint: those who are truly interested download and install software in the first few days/weeks).
      3. I can venture a guess that official beta testers will not pay. If you are not one, but still interested in a taste of things to come, do you have a problem
  • Hey, 6 months of a several-hundred-dollar product for $1.50 isn't so bad... If you're anti-piracy, but want to use a Microsoft product that you can't afford right now, it sounds like quite a price-reasonable way to go.
    • Hey, $3 for 3 months isn't too bad, either! That's only $1 per month!

      What about $2 per month? Pretty good, too, right? In fact, I bet that anyone willing to pay $2 per month for it is willing to pay $4 instead.

      If the price went up to just $5 a month, would that $1 difference really make you change your mind? Besides, by that time, you would have several documents written in the proprietary Office file formats and you wouldn't want to lose access to those documents, would you? In fact, I reckon you would be
  • by doormat (63648) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:37AM (#15804453) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft needs to setup a torrent. Stop being a bunch of pussies and jump on the bandwagon MS!
  • by nighty5 (615965)
    Yep you bet, Microsoft desperately needs the cash.
  • <stainlesssteelcap> (Score:5, Interesting)

    by celotil (972236) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:58AM (#15804529) Homepage

    Microsoft is doing this not to offset bandwidth costs - well, maybe not just to offset bandwidth costs. They're doing this to test a newer method of buying MS software, a method that gets the general public used to the idea of continuously paying for Office, then Windows, then probably MS's entire software line.

    Imagine, thirty days down the road from time of purchase of a surprisingly cheap copy of Office you get a little pop-up notice telling you that you need to re-register Office, all for the low cost of $1.50.

    Every month you get this little notice, and you re-register. It's just a buck-fifty right?

    Hmm. Let's say you use the same copy of Office, purchased for the low, low! price of $49.95, for two years. Every month you pay that meager $1.50.

    49.95 + (24 x 1.50) = $85.95

    Not much compared to the current cost for Office Retail, but what about Windows, MS Anti-virus/Spyware, Age of Empires IV...

    Let's say Windows is the same price as Office - that's another $85.95 - and the Anti-virus is just marginally cheaper - $24 = 24 x $1.

    $85.95 x 2 + $24 = $195.90

    $195.90, every two years, paid by people who are likely to purchase their computer pre-made with Windows and Office already installed.

    I have no official reason to believe this, that's just my take on the situation.

    </stainlesssteelcap>

  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:59AM (#15804534)
    Here's a thought ; it's elaborate marketing.

    As pointed out above, most of the people who were prepared to download this beta software for free probably already have. Now this announcement that a charge will be imposed will have 2 effects.

    • Before wednesday, there will be a mad scrabble to download it by many people who previously couldn't be bothered. By putting a deadline on the charge, MS have imposed a sense of urgency on the whole thing.
    • After wednesday, anyone who pays for it to be downloaded is far more likely to give it a proper testing-out, rather than just opening a document or two and verifying that it doesn't crash. We value things more when we pay for them.

    There's the aforementioned use of credit card details to build up an interested customer base (and I wouldn't be surprised if there was an accompanying list of people to put through a BSA audit should they not subsequently purchase an upgrade).

    I wouldn't be surprised if $1.50 wasn't even enough to cover the cost of implementing a charging infrastructure ; after transaction charges, server costs, implementation, project documentation, etc.

    • After wednesday, anyone who pays for it to be downloaded is far more likely to give it a proper testing-out, rather than just opening a document or two and verifying that it doesn't crash. We value things more when we pay for them.

      I think that's the primary reason. Even a trivial amount of money transforms the downloader's mentality from that of "free stuff" to "paying customer." It helps them get a bigger ROI (investment being both bandwidth and time spent sifting through feedback).

    • why elaborate marketing, surely everyone who downloads the beta is a potential customer, now microsoft can contact all these people and say

      Thankyou for your important contribution to our beta test program. Your feedback has been invaluble to us. We would like to reward your contribution by offering you the chance to upgrade to the full release version for the low low price of....

      This offer is only available to members of microsofts official beta test program.

  • by aersixb9 (267695) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:12AM (#15804566)
    They're almost giving away a product that has traditionally cost $500. Even though it's labeled beta, I'll bet that this is a pretty good version of office. They've been giving away visual studio for a while now, too. $1.50 for a software download of the most popular software product ever (after windows) is a pretty good deal, I hope more companies follow and offer cheap versions of their software for download. Perhaps software wants to be free?

    On the Microsoft hatred topic...why the heck is there so much anti-microsoft sentiments, so much so that visual studio has been excluded from schools? Is it because Bill is a serious competitor against the NATO governments for leader of Earth? (As the richest (or second richest) person he controls a large number of people through paying them to do things, and can control a large amount of the earths production both directly and indirectly through financial manipulation) From what I've read of his books he's very anti-government and pro-freedom, and I'd think you'd all think he was cool.
    • I can get OpenOffice.org for free, legally. You can't compete with free, especially at $500 a pop.
      • Free does not mean its any good. Open Office is great for some people, but for people who rely on the software, have to track changes for legal documents and work with contracts - its useless.

        I use Word for one reason only - as a business owner I get contracts that are marked up with Word's Track Changes feature and I need to see those.

        So free is useless if it does not meet requirements. Free is great when it does (Apache/Linux/Adium and a thousand other things)
    • by Duhavid (677874) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @03:11AM (#15804733)
      In case you were asking a serious question...

      On the Microsoft hatred topic...why the heck is there so much anti-microsoft sentiments


      I started out liking Microsoft. My disaffect grew out of seeing the
      installer for Windows ( I think 3.1 ) tell me that the OS/2 install that
      I had on my machine was something I should remove cause it was just
      taking up space. The wording was something I recall as being very
      likely for someone unexperienced to decide to remove it. The years
      of hearing from Microsoft that their products where enterprise ready,
      when they just were not. The Stac and Novell DR Dos issues were not
      handled with honor, in my opinion. The 94 consent decree, all but
      ignored. The issue of coercing OEM's into the "pay for a license for
      every machine that leaves the building, or pay more, regardless of
      what is actually on the machine" ( how can the "free market" decide in
      the face of a built in price step like that ). All the nonsense about
      "this is about removing our ability to innovate" on the last round
      of anti trust legal wrangling. Running Netscape out of business for
      the most part, then having the gall to say that the aquisition of Netscape
      by AOL was proof that there was plenty of freedom and competition. The
      decision to embed IE deeper into the system, a stupid decision, excepting
      for how it allowed them to manipulate things legally. Microsoft's talk
      of innovation, but constantly seeing others break trail, only to have
      Microsoft come in later and "take their lunch" ( then complaining about
      Google taking their lunch, when the only reason there is competition
      between Google and Microsoft, is because Microsoft decided to enter
      Google's market niche. Which brings me to the point of Microsoft seeming
      to need to enter every niche in existance, to make it so that Microsoft
      is the only company left standing ( yeah, they havent succeeded, but it
      isnt because they havent tried ). The reduction of innovation that the
      preceeding point brings ( yeah, I'm going to invest in your startup,
      but first, how are you going to keep Microsoft from taking it all from
      you, if you prove this is a winner ). All the hoopla about Microsoft
      innovating, when the real effect is the opposite. I could go on, but
      I think I have hit the high notes.

      Hate them? No, not really. But I dont like them, nor the effect that they
      have had. No, that effect has not been 100% bad, but it could have been
      so much better.
  • I don't really have a problem with it, but it seems pointless. The article talks about bandwidth costs, but how much can $1.00 help? If it was a small shareware company, sure, but Microsoft, who loses money on every XBox? If it was $5-10, it would be useful to filter out people who aren't really going to beta test the software, just maybe open it up. $1.00 isn't any worse than the 15 pages of "signing up" (at least for Vista). $1.00 is hardly worth getting a credit card out for.
  • by enosys (705759) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:22AM (#15804603) Homepage
    I don't think Microsoft is being particularly evil here. If anything they're being pretty nice offering a free Vista beta and an almost free Office beta. For example, did Apple give out free Tiger betas? $1.50 isn't much. I first thought it was kind of ridiculous to bother charging that but then I noted the article says the beta has been downloaded 3 million times so far so it'll certainly add up.

    The one thing that bothers me about this is that they haven't considered P2P. They say the price is to offset the cost of downloading from their servers. Well, why don't they offer the beta via BitTorrent for free and just charge for downloading from their servers? I reallize their cost still wouldn't be zero per download but it should be quite small and acceptable.

    • I agree. People seem hell bent on twisting and villianizing every single action of Microsoft. But this move seems reasonable to me.
    • well they wouldn't want to allow P2P downloading because Vista likes to actively stop people from using these things. If you thought that you told your computer what to do you are dead wrong. On the forum I use most one member encountered a fairly interesting problem, being that Vista was checking what he was downloading and when something seemed like it might not be legal they had his interent connection stopped... lovely.

      You can read the e-mail he got from them at the thread here; http://forums.fedor [fedoraforum.org]
      • Did you even read that thread? He didn't say it was, he said he suspected it might be. No one came up with a definitive answer. To be honest, Occam's razor tells me that it probably wasn't vista...
        • well in the thread was a link to an interesting article by RMS, in which he was making suggestions that this type of thing would be common with "[un-]trusted computing", but it is also interesting to note that the site he got directed to was go.microsoft so they obviously had something to do with it. Whilst there is no definate proof I feel confident that Vista was pretty much at the centre of it, why would it only happen the one time he used Vista? why never with any others? why MS's site? how did they kn
  • Beta 3 (Score:5, Funny)

    by wiresquire (457486) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:22AM (#15804604) Journal
    And beta 3 will cost $450 rrp. It's just they will forget to add the Beta 3 to the name and accidentally send it out to the stores
  • by rts008 (812749) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:37AM (#15804639) Journal
    At least now they are calling their product a beta, and finally charging what it's worth.

    But it still is not as much of a bargain as OpenOffice.
  • Full circle... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlow82 (889294) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:38AM (#15804644)
    In the good ol' days, lesser-known start up companies would pay beta testers for their valuable input.

    In recent years, people could beta-test software (such as GMail, Windows, and IE7) for free.

    Now we are paying to become the beta-testers!!
    • Re:Full circle... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DavidD_CA (750156) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:03AM (#15804844) Homepage
      It's supply and demand. There used to be very few people qualified enough to beta test. Over time, that number has grown exponentially. Now it is at the point where people *want* to beta test and in some cases are willing to pay for that opportunity.

      For me it's not about hunting bugs, it's about being educated.

      Because I want to stay on top of my game, and tell my clients what to expect with the next round of software, I'd be willing to pay, too.
    • Re:Full circle... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mobby_6kl (668092)
      Professional testers are still being paid to provide their valuable input. The main reason MS started charging for the Office beta is to get rid of all the wankers who'll download it just to show their friends how cool they are, and MS certainly won't be missing those types.
      • Hmm? The Office beta is still under private testing - and testers get it for free. They are there to provide input. I'm sure people using the public release can provide input but I doubt Microsoft ever intended it as more of a preview to get people talking.
    • Full circle? Hardly, I remember there being a hooha about Win 98 beta testers who paid (I think) $19.99 for a copy not getting discounts on the final release. So this isnt new.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:59AM (#15804713)
    The real cost here is not the bandwidth. The reason Microsoft is charging a fee is to greatly reduce the number of people who download the beta. Why do they want fewer beta testers? Because every bug report a beta tester sends in HAS TO BE LOOKED AT IN SOME WAY. Granted, there's automated tools so that if a particular bug leaves a certain memory signature, they can avoid looking at the thousands and thousands of identical reports of the same bug. And, Microsoft has one of the largest information worker staffs in the world.

    Despite what we say about them, however, Microsoft is still a group of professionals. Before releasing a product, they have to make a list of every known bug and decide that every bug still in the program on release is not important enough to fix. They have to view every bug report. They are probably overwhelmed right now.
  • OSS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Borgschulze (842056)
    Why not just use OpenOffice.org... It's fast, stable, reliable, and free, and it supports all the Microsoft Office formats.
  • Action Pack (Score:3, Informative)

    by DavidD_CA (750156) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @03:05AM (#15804724) Homepage
    It should be noted that subscribers of MSDN and Action Pack were recently shipped DVDs for Office 2006 and Vista, as part of their subscription.
  • But I want a discount when I buy the retail version, dammit!
  • Charging for bug hunting. Not bad. Microsoft sells hunting permissions. A business idea for the future.
    • What's new about it? Every product M$ puts out for sale is actually a beta. That is their business model, charge everyone to be a beta tester. They have been charging for bug hunts for years. I wonder if M$ will ever release a charlie of anything.
  • I was just wondering if Microsoft submitted the concept of charging your beta testers to the patent office like they did for using advertising instead of charging fees. Wait, I've got it! How about if the beta copies of Office have advertising imbeded in them! Then, Microsoft could give still allow testers to have them for free!
  • Really? Why should I care?

    I don't need to spend my time with Microsoft's beta releases (there's no critical need in my work that they address), and I'll see it when it's fully released and my employer's IT department rolls it out. So ... what's in it for me?

    And on my home machine I don't have Office ... I'm happily using Open Office. No hassle with licenses, it's free, and it runs on both Linux and Windows.

    So err ... to me this is a bit of a non-event really. How about you?

  • And when asked how the new platform differs from previous versions of Office, Microsoft declined to comment.

Our OS who art in CPU, UNIX be thy name. Thy programs run, thy syscalls done, In kernel as it is in user!

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