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One Microsoft executive is rather ticked at sneaky users and their "hacks".

In an openly sarcastic blog entry, Microsoft's Eric Ligman tore into users who have been exploiting a workaround to allow a Vista upgrade to install on a computer that did not previously have a Windows OS, such as a new PC.  Ligman, Microsoft's senior manager of community engagement for small business in the U.S., had no sympathy for these users, who he labels as "clueless" criminals.

It was reported last winter by DailyTech that by using an 11 step process, a cheaper Vista upgrade could be installed on a PC with no pre-existing operating system.  This gaping loophole was apparently left wide open by Microsoft and stood in contrast to previous versions of Windows that required a copy of the previous Windows OS, with no exceptions. 

While many noted that the OEM version of Vista tended to be cheaper, the upgrade version did have some advantages, in that you could switch between 32-bit and 64-bit versions (OEM only allowed one specific OS), it had a more flexible license allowing easier reinstalls, and it could be found at significantly cheaper if you were a student. 

In the Windows Secrets newsletter early this month, Associate Editor Scott Dunn asserted that he believed that Microsoft purposefully left the loophole open to encourage savvy users to adopt Vista.  Said Dunn, "the fact that the upgrade back door is still present in Vista SP1 is a strong indication that the feature has at least the tacit support of Microsoft officials."

In his blog Ligman offers up a raving retort, arguing:

So if you see anyone stating, or writing, that buying an upgrade by itself (Windows Vista Upgrade for instance) without having a full license first gets you the rights to run the software, just realize that what the person is actually stating is, “I clearly have no clue what I am talking about and so I am writing a bunch of gibberish that proves this hoping people will think I have a clue, even though I obviously don’t.

If they continue to tell you that, “But I can get it to physically install, so it must be legal,” this further shows their complete lack of comprehension. Just because something will install does not make it legal. For example, a pirated piece of software will (usually) physically install; however, running pirated software is 100% illegal (and who knows what else it will install on or do to your computer). If you don’t believe me, try calling 888-NO-PIRACY and letting them know that you are running pirated software throughout your company. Explain to them that you feel it is legal to do so because you got it to physically install, so it must be legal and ask if they would mind auditing your company to verify the legality of this. Let me know how that turns out for you.

In order to clarify for "clueless" readers, Ligman offers the shortened explanation on the legality of the upgrade workaround using only three letter words or shorter-- "It is not ok to do so. It is BAD to do so."

Ligman encourages users to voice their anger against the "pirates" who have been exploiting the upgrade "hack".  He also encourages his readers to play advocate and inform news publications that have been writing about the workaround that what they are "encouraging" is wrong or illegal.

While Ligman wants to blame the users and the journalistic community for what he says is unlawfulness, many think the blame rests with Microsoft for not providing clear enough licensing terms and information.  Among the supporters of this philosophy is Paul DeGroot, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft.  DeGroot stated, "Many corporate customers still think they can buy bare PCs and image them with volume media."

DeGroot also blasts that Microsoft won't allow users to transfer installs between computers on some version, stating, "The prohibition against moving it to another computer is counter-intuitive for most people, and it smacks of revenue maximization rather than reasonable restriction."

Ligman's rant is not unfamiliar territory in the tech industry.  From Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs to Mark Cuban and Michael Bay, it seems these days nobody is afraid to opine on tech topics, and oft sarcastically and noisily at that.





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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By hcahwk19 on 4/16/2008 3:50:28 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with all software licenses today, are that they are not accessible until after you open the package and begin the installation. Only then does the EULA pop up. Read it just once. You have to be a lawyer to understand many of the provisions and clauses in the EULA. Since most people are not lawyers, and would not understand some or much of the EULA, they simply click that they agree with the terms, whether they actually do or not. The terms are never negotiated, and the only reason they exist are because we as consumers have not rejected them en masse enough to make a statement. Therefore, these software companies lead us around by the short hairs repeatedly and proceed to stomp all over our private parts because they know that we won't tell them NO. So what happens if you don't agree with the EULA. Many stores do not allow returns on opened software, and therefore you are screwed if you do not like the terms of the EULA.


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates













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