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Windows Genuine Advantage Makes Few Friends 352

Readers left more than 800 comments on yesterday's report (based on the say-so of a Windows tech-support provider) that Microsoft may be turning off copies of Windows without WGA installed, as of this fall. (WGA is Microsoft's "Windows Genuine Advantage," a program using software of the same name installed on Windows users' computers intended to verify that the OS is correctly licensed.) Many suggested reasons that this sounds like no more than a rumor, while others took the opportunity to critique WGA as it currently operates on Windows machines, or to describe what they see as opportunities for the users and makers of operating systems other than Windows if (or perhaps when) Microsoft actually does shut down copies of Windows which it suspects are being used out of license. Read on for the Backslash summary to see some of the comments which defined the conversation. Update: 06/30 21:28 GMT by T : A cut-and-paste mishap gave the word "people" one too many Ps; now corrected.

With a reminder to "not get silly here," ocbwilg joins several others in casting doubt on the source of the rumor about a mass turn-off:

"A 'front-line tech-support drone' who gets paid $12 an hour to read the support script is somehow going to know what sort of top-secret plans Microsoft has for the next six months? I highly doubt it. It sounds more like the sort of thing that a help desk drone would say to try to persuade a clueless computer user to do things their way.

Then, of course, there's the fact that if you install WGA today on a pirated copy of Windows, all you get is the notification message that pops up. You don't get shut down, and you don't even get cut off from Windows security updates (which are truly the only updates that matter, and even they aren't that good). I find it very difficult to believe that Microsoft is going to go from 'Hey, your copy of Windows doesn't look genuine, but you can still install our security updates' to 'I don't know if your system is pirated or not because you haven't installed WGA, but even if it is a legitimate copy I'm just going to shut you down simply because I have no way of verifying it.' Especially not in the span of 6 months."

Along the same lines, another reader asks "Why are we making all this fuss over what could just be a rumor unwittingly spread by a clueless help desk worker? Since when did help-desk techs become privy to future, unannounced plans for a company, let alone ones as sensitive as this one?"

Besides the dubious source, the sheer scale of such an action convinces reader Willith that it's not going to happen — he promises to eat his hat if it does:
"The thing to look it is how this might affect legitimate corporate versions of XP — and by that, I mean VLK versions actually being used in an enterprise setting.

The company for which I work has more than 100,000 copies of XP running in offices on six continents, participating in one of the largest Active Directory installations in the world. Every system's load is tightly controlled and managed, and I can tell you that there are no copies of WGA anywhere on any of those desktops (I've seen the SMS reports). Nor will there ever be.

People say to 'vote with your dollars,' but your dollars, and my dollars, don't matter. Large corporate dollars matter — like the kind of dollars that can outfit a company's world-wide IT needs. WGA has no place on a configuration-controlled and managed enterprise desktop, and MS would never risk upsetting their real customers — corporate Windows & Office sales — to emplace something like this."

Working machines matter to smaller users, too, though, and Kremit mentions reports spotted online of "Dell desktops, valid CDs, and other licensed systems having problems with WGA," writing "When these systems stop working, people are going to flip. To them, this will be akin to the computer crashing and taking their data along with it."

Other readers had some specific gripes about the way WGA currently misfires in their own experience; Jnaujok maintains that it hasn't worked well for him:

"What about my two perfectly legitimately licensed machines at home that fail the 'Windows Genuine Advantage' test every time they update WGA? Considering that one of them is my copy of Advanced Server 2003, I won't be exactly happy when it gets killed this fall. (Hey, I just use it for the mail server program because I can't stand sendmail.)

And I'm just a little bitty guy with one server running. What happens when this hits some company's server farm and they all shut down? How much liability is Microsoft going to have when that happens?

And every time they 'fix' my copy after the new WGA comes out, I have to make manual registry changes. Can you imagine having to do that on a 500 machine server farm?"

Not everyone objects to the idea of harsher treatment for unlicensed copies of Windows; several readers welcomed the idea of more active license revocation by Microsoft as beneficial to the world of free software; WhiteWolf666 described a turn in that direction on Microsoft's part as a "solution to the Linux pricing problem," writing

"35 percent of PC software is pirated. I'm guessing that Windows XP is highly represented in that group (of pirated software; i.e. at least 30% of worldwide Windows installs are not legal). If even 10% of that user base decides to switch to Linux rather than pay the Windows tax, it'll be a substantial marketshare boost.

And the remaining 90%? They might decide that the MSRP cost of Windows is too close to the MSRP of a brand-new dual-core Mac.

I'm thrilled. MS has ridden on piracy marketshare for far too long. I hope they do every thing they possibly can to stamp out software piracy, and I hope they succeed."

Reader soren42 lays out what this might mean: "If you suddenly force all the non-legal users off your platform, you're forcing them to use something else. Which means, in turn, more demand for OpenOffice, games on Linux, GAIM, ad infinitum — until there is a more, better, complete Linux end-user software stack to seriously compete with Windows."

Other readers share that sentiment, with a twist: on the basis that remote turn-off really is in the near future of Windows, some, like reader ewhac, say they're through with Microsoft: "I just built a brand new machine, primarily for gaming. Oblivion has been fairly sweet. But it looks like I won't be playing those games anymore — not unless the entire game industry decides to support Linux. ... This is morally and ethically reprehensible, and Microsoft knows it, and apparently doesn't care. Well, I do care. I do not, and shall not, grant consent to Microsoft to remotely snoop on my machine, regardless of their ostensible reasons. If my copy of Windows stops functioning as a result, I will take that as a maliciously incorporated product defect, and respond accordingly."

Most people won't be doing the same, in the eyes of RightSaidFred99, who scoffs "Give me a break, people won't be moving to Linux. They'll find a hack for Windows, they'll buy Windows, or more than likely they'll just buy a new PC that comes with Windows legally bundled. Nobody is moving to Linux because the games aren't there, the thousands of cheesy little Windows applications people love aren't there, it's different (read: scary), and it's a pain in the ass for most joe schmoes to install."

Large corporations running Windows are in a more delicate position. Reader lynx_user_abroad doubts that many corporate users are likely to go seek out either free or illegal alternatives to updated Windows licenses. To the suggestion that many users would do just that, he writes
"In a contest between you and them, I'd suspect Microsoft is in the better position to understand the nature of the addiction they have created. And I'd feel safe saying that even if you yourself had succeeded in completely breaking your addiction to Windows, which I suspect you haven't.

Most people, most businesses are so hopelessly addicted to Windows that they literally can't even conceptualize their own survival without it. I'm always amused when I read the latest rant about a Windows vulnerability on an IE-only site, or read about some program manager publishing their 'Linux Strategy' document as a PowerPoint chart.

Think of all the hundreds of thousands of Microsoft Office documents the average business has, or the potential millions of dollars worth of intellectual property and business intelligence those documents represent. Now, even if they have the skill and determination to propose leaving Windows behind, think of the complexity of dealing with a customer base which might not be as skilled, or determined."

Several readers say WGA's phone-home capability doesn't affect the users who Microsoft would be expected to target, anyhow. GenericJoe says "Forget that," writing "I am a legitimate user of Windows. I know I am, because I bought a licensed copy from a reputable dealer. Thus, I figure, I don't need the WGA to tell me if I have a legitimate copy. I do have a legitimate copy. ...And Microsoft doesn't get to know anything else about anything I do, or affect me. The idea that I can be held hostage because I don't want to trust software from Microsoft. Well, that's kind of crazy."

Reader riptide_dot offers similar sentiments, asking "What if I did pay for [Windows] and I don't want the WGA software installed? I'm not allowed to use the software I paid for because I don't want to add on to it? That's like selling me a car and telling me that if I refuse to put a spoiler on the back that I won't be allowed to drive it."

As to actually unauthorized users, Akaihiryuu asserts that

"[P]eople who knowingly run illegal copies of Windows won't be affected by this in the slightest. These people have been cracking WGA since it came out, first with Javascript, then later with cracked DLLs. I'm sure there will be a crack for this within 24 hours of it being released (there always has been in the past), and these people will able to get it very easily. The only people that this will affect are

  1. People who think they have a legal copy of Windows but really don't because whoever they bought it from screwed them, and
  2. People with legal copies who either don't want to run WGA for some reason, or
  3. People with legal copies who run WGA and it mistakenly identifies their machine as 'not legit.'"
Based on the common-sense arguments made above, unless Microsoft manages to not only flatten wrinkles in WGA as it currently operates, but also convince more users that check-ins with Redmond are close enough to their best interest to be worth accepting, mass turn-offs for Windows XP users seem unlikely.
Thanks to the readers whose comments helped inform this discussion, especially those quoted above:
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Windows Genuine Advantage Makes Few Friends

Comments Filter:
  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:33PM (#15639216) Homepage

    If I've purchased a legitimate copy, and I installed it with a license agreement prior to the release of WGA, by what legal authority can Microsoft disable my operating system?

    • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:38PM (#15639264) Journal
      Very little, if any. The EULA is worded in such a way that they could be entitled to do anything, but generally speaking, the clauses they'd rely on tend not to hold up all that well.

      There's no way they'd risk it even if their EULCYA did give them permission.
      • I have just re-read my EULA for Win 2K Pro (the original EULA on the licensed CD and the one in the system32 folder). There is nothing, anywhere, that authorizes MS to turn it off, modify, etc... the software. Nothing even remotely related. Is the EULA for XP and 2003+ Server different then? Will my workstation be unaffected?
    • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:39PM (#15639276) Homepage Journal
      By EULA you agreed too. NO WARRANTY WRITTEN OR IMPLIED. This software may cease to work without any reason, we may shot your daughter and rape your dog, you can do nothing against that and all your base are belong to us.

      Generally, while Microsoft doesn't write explicitly that they are allowed to turn Windows off, they explicitely write you can do nothing if they do.
      • Problem is (for microsoft) even if you as a user agree to such an thing, you still have legal recourse. If they try to pull that bullshit about the EULA, the judge will laugh them out of court. "You can't sue us" clauses are purely there to discourage people too stupid to realize that, in the USA at least, YOU CAN ALWAYS SUE. You may not win, but if Microsoft really started doing this, they'd probably lose a big Class Action lawsuit, unfortunately probably not big enough(In my opinion such a ruling, in o
      • by lkeagle ( 519176 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:00PM (#15640576) Homepage
        But warranty is one of Microsofts only points of contention. No other products in the world besides software have these kinds of restrictions. I can open up my toaster and turn it into a space heater if I want to, I just void the warranty. Does the manufacturer care? Not one bit, as long as I don't ask them for a replacement due to my tinkering. In fact, they should be happy, because now if I want to make toast, I have to buy a new toaster!

        If someone breaks their pirated Windows, and they call and ask for help, THEN they have the right to refuse service to them. As far as I am concerned, until they are asked to provide services, they have no right to disable any product that they don't own.

        I bought it, I own it. They may own the IP, but I own the license, and I can do whatever I want with it. Breaking their EULA does not imply breaking the law.
      • By EULA you agreed too. NO WARRANTY WRITTEN OR IMPLIED.

        In most jurisdictions exclusions of warranties are severely limited in scope by a variety of laws (e.g., in mine, the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977) and legal precedents. The manufacturer intentionally preventing the product from doing what it was claimed in advertising that it would do is almost certainly not covered by the exclusion.

        Unfortunately, you probably can't claim anything more than your money back, even if the sudden unexpected failure cost
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:02PM (#15639504)
      My, how soon we forget. Anyone remember UCITA? [gripe2ed.com] and "self help"?

      And just because "self-help" (read: "We, owners of the license, have the right to 'help ourselves' enforce our license by remotely shutting down the software on your box") didn't fly under UCITA, doesn't mean it's not permitted as a "technological measure" in the context of DMCA.

    • If I've purchased a legitimate copy, and I installed it with a license agreement prior to the release of WGA, by what legal authority can Microsoft disable my operating system?

      Executive authority. The current US administration has effectively given them a get-out-of-jail-free card, by telling the DoJ not to spend money on prosecuting Microsoft. Civil suits they can simply outspend, by dragging the lawsuit out so long that nobody but another megacorp can afford to finish it - and other megacorps are always willing to settle for cash or cash-equivalents.
    • If I've purchased a legitimate copy, and I installed it with a license agreement prior to the release of WGA, by what legal authority can Microsoft disable my operating system?

      But when it really comes down to it, having purchased a legitimate copy, what right do you have to continue running it? Which law exactly governs your continued ability to breach copyright over and over by copying Windows binaries into memory?

      That may seem a little spurious, but the fact of the matter is that computer software is stil
      • Which law exactly governs your continued ability to breach copyright over and over by copying Windows binaries into memory?

        Title 17, United States Code, section 117 (and foreign counterparts). Look it up [bitlaw.com].

      • I pick open source largely for one reason. It's not because of political ideaology, technical superiority, free as in beer effects or ease of use. It's because open source offers one thing that proprietry software rarely if ever puts on the table. Trust. I trust open source apps not to pull dirty trcks and leave me stranded. Anyone who buys proprietry should never be surprised to see their escort nonchalantly trotting back to town as the highwaymen close in for the kill.

        Don't get me wrong, I like Open Sourc
        • However, it's very possible to leave people in the lurch in an Open Source project, just like a proprietary project

          The difference being that with a proprietary project there is nothing you *CAN* do about it legally.
          With Open Source, you can always be your own maintainer. Doesn't give you the ability, but at least nobody is stopping you.
        • If you are using a piece of Free Software and the maintainer gets bored with it, you can find someone else to continue development.

          If you are the only person using it, then this is your only choice. If four other people use it, you can each pay the developer to work one day a week on it. If more people use it, then you can each pay a smaller proportion (or hire more developers).

          If the maintainer of a piece of closed software that you use decides to stop developing it, then you are royally screwed (techn

      • While Open Source software is reintroducing integrity and giving power back to the client,

        Sure - if the software fits the clients needs (as is). Or the client has the money, or charm, to get the developer or a programmer to get the software to work or to add needed features. Otherwise, the client is at the mercy of the developers [slashdot.org].

        Not too different at the end of the day from non-FOSS software really.

    • by edward.virtually@pob ( 6854 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:02PM (#15641004)
      They don't care about legal authority. Following the law is for users, not Microsoft. They can do what they want. Get used to it.

      • Following the law is for users, not Microsoft. They can do what they want.

        And I (as a UK citizen, a country in which they have an office) can sue them in the small claims court for recovery of the money I paid for my licence. It'd cost me no more than £60 to issue the claim, and if I lose I might face up to £100 in a costs award. It's worth the risk, because I think a judge wouldn't be overly sympathetic with them.
    • In my case, I use my home machine(licenced, legit XP SP2) to provide production support, from home, for my employer; in addition to genrally working from home.

      This is a common arraingement, and I'm sure that many /.-ers do the same thing.

      I refuse to install WGA on my machine; for privacy reasons..I don't trust it. It's MY machine and legally I'm not required to install this.

      Now, what would happen if MS decided to disable my machine 'over the wire', and I had a critical production support issue to deal with,
  • by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:33PM (#15639222) Journal
    Doesn't this just ring of the "...more you tighten your grip the more will slip through your fingers..." paraphrased quote. The more of a pain in the ass it is to register and keep track and pay and pay and pay will give more and more people the motivation to move to Linux or other free alternative.
    • by Abu Hurayrah ( 953237 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:33PM (#15639698) Homepage

      I'm sorry, you must not be living in the US. Americans have clearly demonstrated that they are far more like a rubber ball than they are silly-putty (sorry, it's the only analogy I could think of to apply to the "...slip through the fingers..." metaphor). The current "in-thing" to do is to test how far those in power can stretch the limits - US goverment has been trying, and succeeding, at establishing new boundaries for its rights over its citizens, while corporations, as always, are trying their hardest to stretch their powers over their customers.

      High fructose corn-syrup, television, and sedentary lifestyles have all contributed to making Americans far more passive when it comes to issues about which normal people in other nations would raise hell.

    • Although I've used Linux on and off since 95', these moves by Microsoft have already led me to do whatever it takes to make Linux usable to me. The irony is that although I use a pirated copy of Windows, I still ended up buying it several times (comes with laptop purchases). But that's not good enough for them. I always replace the legal versions with the pirated ones because they make it so difficult to reinstall the way I want (what with those stupid restore only disks). I always thought that games would
  • by nomarbles ( 986075 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:34PM (#15639226) Homepage
    Maybe if Windows Genuine Advantage would get off the phone and go outside once in a while, he would make some friends.
  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:35PM (#15639242) Homepage
    mass turn-offs for Windows XP users seem unlikely

    Are you sure? My XP box likes to turn itself off at least once a week?
    • Try using it more than once a week. It should eventually shut down for good after a while.
  • by Quarters ( 18322 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:38PM (#15639259)
    "Dear Slashdot readers, we made big bags of cash on all of the ad impressions generated from the 800 posts in the WGA article we ran yesterday. Today we're going to re-post some of those posts in the hope that it will work you all into a frenzy again so we can get another 800 posts worth of money out of you. Thank you for your support."
  • Backslash? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:39PM (#15639279) Homepage
    Legit question ... Just curious when and how did this backslash [slashdot.org] stuff begin? It appears it was timothy's [monkey.org] creation?
    • I don't mind it. It's a story about the Slashdot comments on a story (as f'ed up that sounds), but a summary of highly-modded comments within a long & detailed thread, on a story that has a lot of facets, is nice to see. Not much to comment on, mind you, but informative and a bonus nonetheless.

      That said, the next thing I do after posting this comment is I'm going to my user prefs to take "Backslash" off my front page!
    • It is weird... almost like there's some kind of an editor reading content and presenting it in a way that gives a complete, accurate overview of some topic.
    • Well, there's at least one good thing about the new Backslash section. It has finally pushed me to learn how to change my preferences to disable or abbreviate certain sections.
    • Perhaps trying to differentiate from Digg?

      Doesn't bother me. I kinda like it.
    • Since I haven't found a good place to whine about this yet (I hadn't noticed yet when the new layout first debuted), I'm going to digress a little further: Why does slashdot break the status bar?

      Normally when you hover over a link, the status bar displays the URL, but in the new layout, some magical javascript immediately clears that information. It's nice that they offer the title showing what domain the link is on, but I prefer to know a little more specifically where it is before I click a link posted
  • by darkreaper00 ( 978543 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:40PM (#15639282)
    s/([Pp])eople/$1people/g ?
    • Occam's Razor: it looks more like s/eople/people/g to me, but not deliberately applied. I suspect a spelling checker seeing "[P]eople" and complaining about "eople", a user agreeing with the replacement of "eople" with "people", and it being applied globally.

      Lesson: don't blindly accept the suggestions of autoamted spelling checkers.
    • Ppeople,
      Ppeople who need ppeople,
      Are the luckiest ppeople in the world
      We're cchildren, needing other cchildren
      And yet letting a grownup pride
      Hide all the need inside
      Acting more like cchildren than cchildren
      Lovers are very special ppeople
      They're the luckiest ppeople in the world
      With one pperson one very sspecial pperson
      A feeling deep in your ssoul
      Says you were half now you're whole
      No more hunger and ththththirst
      But first be a pperson who needs ppeople.

      ------

      Ppeople are sstrange, when you're a sstranger
      Ffaces
  • Ppeople? (Score:3, Funny)

    by _Shorty-dammit ( 555739 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:43PM (#15639310)
    uh...wtf man? I thought the first one was a typo, and then every single instance of the word in the rest of it was purposely misspelled. Smarten up.
  • Can anyone blame MS for trying to turn of pirated copies of Windows if they can? It's not like they are hiring lawyers for this either, if the rumor is true, it will be a technological switch, not legal one. Of-course this just gives MS competition more room in the market.
    • Can anyone blame MS for trying to turn of pirated copies of Windows if they can? It's not like they are hiring lawyers for this either, if the rumor is true, it will be a technological switch, not legal one. Of-course this just gives MS competition more room in the market.

      Yeah, I can blame them for it. It's going to have 0 effect on the people they are supposedly trying to stop. Even if it does somehow hamper that "real pirates" for lack of a better way to say it, those people aren't going to go out and p

      • So, no benefit to MS - what do you know about what constitutes benefit to MS?

        no benefit to valid users - sure there is benefit for valid users - more bandwidth from MSN update site.

        no harm to pirates - but it is harm to users who are using illegal copies, I would say there is harm to pirates. It will cost them their time.

        potential harm to valid users. - I think you are trying too hard to find some nefarious harm to valid users, you would LIKE there to be harm to valid users, so you could blame MS, but I do
        • by rewt66 ( 738525 )
          Because the software isn't perfect. There's some fraction of legit users that it detects as being illegitimate. And the more they try to catch every last real pirate, the more innocent people get nailed.

          Based on the history of WGA, the people who get falsely detected tend to be ones who change hardware - they replace a motherboard or a hard drive. Well, out of 300 million users, how many do that? Probably, several million. Not all of them get nailed.

          But just imagine that 10,000 users get falsely nailed
        • potential harm to valid users. - I think you are trying too hard to find some nefarious harm to valid users, you would LIKE there to be harm to valid users, so you could blame MS, but I don't see any harm for them.

          There are claims that people who had valid licensed copies of windows are
          getting the "your windows copy is not valid". I think it reasonable to
          assume that if you are getting that message, and Microsoft elects to
          shut machines down that they believe are not genuine, that your machine
          will be shut do

    • The issue is not when they turn off pirated copies; the issue is if they turn off legitimate copies. Given the amount of trouble reported with WGA reporting legit copies of WinXP as non-legitimate, this could be a very serious issue. People who have paid for and have a legal license may find their copy of WinXP will stop working, and Microsoft's advice to customers affected by WGA erroneously reporting a copy of XP as non-legit, has been to tell the customer to go buy a new copy.
      • Yeah, ok, if that is the case (and I really have never heard of this,) then there is a problem and if it is the case, then we will see not only private users affected, but also corporate users and then there could be some serious backlash and possible lawsuits. I think MS will have to deal with this issue if it really becomes one at the time.
        • It's already happening.

          Search on google and you will find users who have upgraded their hardware, or who have had a laptop that had to be repaired, have started getting the "Your copy is not legitimate" notifications. Some have called Microsoft and are being told to buy another copy. One person even bought a copy at a store, shrinkwrapped, that was 'not legitimate', and was told to buy another.
    • I can blame them. Who the fuck are they to touch any of my property in any way? If they think I have a pirated copy then they have tried and true methods of attempting to identify me and recoup whatever damages they think they have incurred. They can subpoena the ISP and file a civil suit. I can roll over and pay them or defend myself as I see fit. Just because they THINK I don't have a genuine version DOES NOT mean it isn't actually a genuine version. Taking such drastic action without having actual
      • Who the fuck are they to touch any of my property in any way? If they think I have a pirated copy then they have tried and true methods of attempting to identify me and recoup whatever damages they think they have incurred. - so I see, you would prefer a legal action instead of a technological one? I think you are too hot-headed at the moment to suggest this, because there ain't no way on this planet or in any hell that you could win against the MS legal team on those grounds. Even if you consider yoursel
  • Ppeople?? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
    Is there a market glut of P's?? cuz every instance of the word "people" in the above summary has a surplus P.

    Maybe it's a hint... what people should do all over WGA.

  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:45PM (#15639332)
    Hey, Zeke... that horse we beat to death yesterday... I think it's still moving. I'll grab an axe, you grab a shovel.
  • Ppeople? (Score:2, Funny)

    by goofyspouse ( 817551 )
    Pee people? Pea people? WTF is with the same typo about 8 times? O_O
  • Activation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by daemon_mf ( 786046 )
    Isn't this what windows activation was supposed to be for??
    • Re:Activation (Score:2, Interesting)

      by znx ( 847738 )
      Exactly, what did people expect WGA to be used for? After what use would it be if it just constantly flagged bad guys but did nothing?
  • by miyako ( 632510 ) <miyako@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:50PM (#15639388) Homepage Journal
    Even assuming for a moment that Microsoft was able to identify with 100% accuracy any machine that was running an illegal copy of Windows, and with no false-positives, I still don't think that it would be in their best interst to shut down illegal copies of Windows.
    Regardless of what your favorite Operating System is, there is no doubt that Windows largest competitive advantage at the moment is it's popularity. Whether or not you think Windows is better or equal to Linux or *BSD or any other OS in any technical way, the biggest reason that people run Windows is because everyone else runs Windows, and the programs they want to use are written for Windows.
    They cant compete on price with free while charging for Windows, and they can't compete technologically right now with Linux because when it comes down to it: A: Linux and Windows have their own respective strenghts- but in the hands of a competent user/administrator, neither is vastly superior to the other, and B: Anyone who is computer literate enough to be pursuaded by technical arguments already knows this- or at least will recgonize marketing BS, and anyone who isn't will ignore it anyway because they don't understand it.
    If they eliminate the possibility of using Windows for free, then they are going to start losing users to Linux, BSD or Mac. The more users they lose, the less advantage they have because "everyone uses it" which will drive more people into looking at alternatives.
    Like many relatively expensive proprietary applications, the success of Windows is based largely on the fact that it can be pirated. Making it impossible or even reasonably difficult to do so will result in people looking at alternatives. For most people, software has no inherent value, so people make a decision based off what is cheapest and what everyone else uses.
  • by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:51PM (#15639389) Homepage Journal

    Does the submitter have a special stutter that only activates itself when they try to type the word "people"?

    Okay, on topic, and beyond what was already in the story text -- what mechanism do people propose Microsoft will use to "turn off" all of those Windows XP systems? Do people think they have some secret code they can send all over the world via multicast, that will tunnel through every firewall in the world to disable copies of Windows XP that they think might not be legit (or which don't have WGA installed)? Does XP "phone home" to see if it should be run every time it is booted up? What about XP machines that aren't even on a network? How will Microsoft disable XP on those systems?

    Now I don't put it past Microsoft to want to do something like this, or their desire to force WGA on to every Windows user out there. However, I do question their ability to actually shut down Windows machines that aren't running WGA. I can see them denying them patches and updates. But actually shutting down XP machines? That would require either that:

    1. XP already has code to "phone home" built into it, and can either disable itself based on the response, or run whatever code is sent to it without the users permission, or
    2. Microsoft will bundle such functionality into an otherwise innocuous appearing "security update".

    And even in these two cases, either a simple firewall that blocks access the microsoft.com domains or simply not downloading the update in question would seem to solve the problem rather quickly.

    Personally, I'm glad I run OS X and Linux machines and don't have to worry about such threats, but I really don't see how MS can effect such a threat. I am surprised that MS isn't trying to fight the bad press they're getting on this, however perhaps they think that the threat alone will be enough to get people who are using unlicensed copies of Windows to fork out the money for a properly registered copy, as I don't see any good technical way in which they can carry out this threat that even a semi-savvy user could easily work around (or avoid altogether).

    Yaz.

  • by jlechem ( 613317 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:51PM (#15639394) Homepage Journal
    Now I am not a hardcore Linux fanboy. I run Windows XP and for the most part enjoy it. I also make my living writing software using MS products. However my home windows installation has decided to say I am not genuine anymore. I quickly figured out how to disable the WGA software/nagware but I am losing critical updates to my box because of WGA being disabled. I know enough leaving unpatched boxes of any OS on the internet is bad. And since I am hooked to a cable modem this concerns me. I've never really been pissed of at MS before. But this is enough for me to tell them to kiss my big hairy american ass. I am seriously considering moving to one of the more user friendly Linux distros like Mandrake or Fedora. My only concern is I will loose my games and .net development tools. I know there are alternatives but I don't know how to use them on Linux. I can't imagine I'm not the only user who feels this way.
    • I also make my living writing software using MS products. However my home windows installation has decided to say I am not genuine anymore.

      God forbid you've run across a (annoying) bug. I'm sure you've never written a line of code with a bug in it. But if you have, I hope your customers don't respond like this:

      But this is enough for me to tell them to kiss my big hairy american ass.
  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:53PM (#15639413) Homepage
    Holy cow ... I've never seen the Grammar Nazi hit so hard ...
    here [slashdot.org], here [slashdot.org], here [slashdot.org], here [slashdot.org], here [slashdot.org], here [slashdot.org],
  • by thephotoman ( 791574 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:53PM (#15639415) Journal
    While it can be debated whether such an action by Microsoft would spur the mass adoption of non-Windows operating systems, one thing is clear: the number of bots/potential bots will go down, possibly dramataically. I mean, how many computers out there are suspected of running illegitimate copies of Windows? I mean, the low end would say at least 10%, though a more reasonable picture would probably be much higher.

    Considering that Windows (particularly XP, but any version, really) is so aggressively attacked by rootkits, trojan horses, and other kinds of malware that are used to create botnets, one could assume that by eliminating, say 35% of the Windows installed base, the number of bots would go down by about the same, provided that the people running pirated copies of Windows are representative of the entire set of Windows users.

    This, of course, means that there will, for a time, be 35% less spam, spyware, and other shit being spewed over the Internet, again keeping with the same assumption. Of course, 35% is a number I just pulled out of my ass and could be substituted with any percentage. I honestly don't know about the number of pirated Windows copies that are in circulation. However, I know the number is significant, and the elimination of these computers from the Internet will probably be a good thing.

    As for pirated copies of Windows that aren't connected to the Internet, well, they're not going to get shut down, but they're also nut pumping out any of the crap, either.

    However, this option assumes that Microsoft is willing to go all nuclear on its user base, which I doubt. It certainly would not be good business sense to drive your current user base to use the competition, even if they're pirating your product. Furthermore, doing so is also bad corperate karma (yeah, companies have karma, too) and terrible PR. No ammount of money can rebuild a reputation for a company if its actions now mean that little Johnny can't do his homework because his computer got nuked by Microsoft's death ray.
  • If I used windows, this'd really concern me. Go Mac OS, go Linux :-)

    For everyone else, perhaps looking into the feasibility of switching (to either) is in order?
  • by yeremein ( 678037 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:02PM (#15639503)
    Ed Bott personally contacted Microsoft [zdnet.com] and they corroborated it. Here's the Microsoft spokesperson's response:
    As we have mentioned previously, as the WGA Notifications program expands in the future, customers may be required to participate. [emphasis added] Microsoft is gathering feedback in select markets to learn how it can best meet its customers' needs and will keep customers informed of any changes to the program.

    Maybe when Microsoft says "required to participate" they mean something other than "install our spyware or get shut down", but I'm at a loss as to what.
    • The phrase "best meet its customers' needs" is business-ese for "generate more revenue by squeezing more of it out of customers, while offering the same service or less".

      When McDonalds looks to best meet my needs, it isn't looking to serve me better. Its looking to discontinue items that don't generate enough revenue to appease the higher ups, or raise the price on current products.

      When BestBuy wants to meet my needs, they tell me that I need to take my TV I just bought that doesn't work 200 miles to the n
  • Hackers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:05PM (#15639523)
    What would be funny is if some hacker found a way to trigger WGA into thinking keys were bad and caused alot of valid computers to be disabled. Could you just imagine a worm that goes from PC to PC and triggers WGA into disabling compters. It could do some major damage. All they would have to do is make a worm/virus that changes computers keys to blacklisted/invalid keys and just sit back and watch the meltdown.
  • Wild Speculation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SurgeonGeneral ( 212572 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:05PM (#15639524) Journal
    This is simply wild speculation based on unconfirmed and unreliable sources. Its absolute nonsense.

    This is nothing more than a TROLL on a grand scale, and you are all guilty of feeding it.

    Common sense would not allow any intelligent person to believe this even for a second.

    I can tell you without a doubt that if Microsoft decided to shut down the software that I paid for and installed, there would be a large, lucrative class action lawsuit filed against them by individuals and many, many lawsuits filed by the corporations that would lose thousands upon thousands of dollars per day as a result of this. I just hope my firm could get a peice of that delicious and expensive pie.

    Not only that, but in a market with emerging OS alternatives, why in the world would Microsoft risk a massive exodus from their software.

    This is utter nonsense. Shame on you all.
  • This whole article is obviously meta-comments -- comments discussing previous comments, which may have been based on previous comments still, which may have bee...

    STACK OVERFLOW!
    Core Dumped

  • The are offering an amnesty program where you can buy a legal licence from microsoft at a discounted price, if you fail the authentacation. Win XP home is $99, Pro for $150. Now, if they actually offered them for that price to consumers, I think they would have less of a piracy problem. Obviously, with the varied price/feature structure they are going to offer in Vista they need to figure out the optimal prices people are willing to pay for the product in the absence of real competition. I think thats what
  • While MicroSoft may be the greatest evil unleashed upon computing, they say they won't kill your PC [zdnet.com]. Now, whether you trust them or not, turning off computers en masse would not be in their best interests.
  • Here in the UK, my friend got the "you may have been a victim of fraud" for a month and then one friday he's locked out.

    His shares still work but there's no login screen just a Windows logo.

    I couldn't stop laughing.

    He's running Knoppix on it now so he can still play his mp3s etc.

  • How does it work? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @06:18PM (#15639994) Journal
    Seriously, how would it even be possible to 'turn off' every XP machine that isn't running WGA?

    You would either need to have something on the machines that 'calls home' -- which would surely have been noticed by now -- or you would have to somehow connect to every machine.

    What if you have an XP machine that has no internet connection and therefore no WGA? What happens to those?

    The only way I can see this working is if there is already a 'death clock' ticking away in every XP machine, and if it doesn't receive the command to deactivate from WGA, it disables your OS. If this is the case, I'm sure there's a lot of legal issues that need to be adressed.

    Machines without WGA won't be updated, or sill be updated manually by people who likely know a little more about what they are doing than the average John Q. User, so they can't effectively issue an update to add this kill switch functionality. It has to be there already if it exists at all.
    =Smidge=
  • Isn't Vista going to be released early next year? If they shut off someone's copy of XP, and if it's important enough to them, they might go buy a legit copy of XP. If they have to shell out money for XP in September, how likely is it that they'll turn around and buy Vista come January. Seems they should have timed this to perfectly coincide with the Vista release for maximum profitability. If this story is true, then I see this strategy backfiring. Either in less (intially high priced) Vista sales (cause t
  • Petition (Score:3, Informative)

    by criten ( 986175 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:48PM (#15640509)
    There is a petition against WGA at http://www.petitiononline.com/nowga/petition.html [petitiononline.com] Would be interesting to see how many signatories it gets
  • by mxs ( 42717 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:44PM (#15640737)
    All it takes for M$ to have the PR-blunder of a lifetime is to have one single worm out there whose perpetrators figured out how to change the Windows XP serial number. Right now it would already be pretty annoying if such code were introduced into the fast-spreading worms (WGA notifications for everybody !), if they do it the day after WGA goes into kill-mode there'd be hell to pay.

    (kill mode, incidentally, is the right word. Somebody somewhere is bound to have made a mistake on critical equipment; while far-fetched, just imagine some emergency service's system going down due to this during a catastropic event)

    That is, of course, if this has not already happened.

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