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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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RE: Microsofts disregard for customers
By MrBlastman on 4/17/2008 9:48:28 AM , Rating: 2
Apparently I have an unpopular opinion, I don't really care as there is quite a bit of bias here.

As far as the turbo + engine example - yes, THAT would be an upgrade.

However, going from XP -> Vista is NOT an upgrade in the sense that:

1. XP is a standalone operating system
2. Vista is a standalone operating system

When you move from XP to Vista, or put Vista on a blank machine, you are essentially installing a whole new operating system and not overwriting or RTPatching the individual XP files (or diff'ing, whatever you want to call it), you are installing a complete, new instance of the operating system on the machine.

This isn't the same as adding a turbo to an existing car, changing out the Coilovers, adding endlinks, bushings, swaybars, strut bars, control arms, camber plates, lightweight clutch, 4-pot brakes, bigger pads, slotted rotors, lighter-weight but wider wheels, R-compound racing slicks etc... Why? Because you are adding them to the same chassis.

You are not adding Vista to the XP install, you are installing a new instance of Vista. Granted, I have never upgraded XP to Vista so I'm speaking from knowledge of past versions of Windows. 95 - 98 upgrade, now that was an upgrade of sorts, but the fact that you can take the Vista "Upgrade" CD and install it on a FRESH PC, without any prior working version of XP, lends direct credibility to my argument that the Vista "Upgrade" CD is in fact, installing a completely new instance of Vista. That isn't upgrading, that is giving you a new model.

This is why I am pointing at this fallacy and trying to bring it out.

You aren't upgrading anything when you are using the workaround to put Vista on a blank machine. The CD contains a complete version of the OS, not bits and pieces, such as a "Turbo" to add to a working engine of XP. I'm very aware of what an upgrade is and what it is not.

Yes, the box says it is an upgrade, they also give you reduced prices when you buy this, and provided you have XP on your machine, they will let you install it. This is serving as proof of being a member of the Microsoft Owner Appreciation club.

EULA aside (I've never been in agreement with any of them for anything), conceptually I feel my argument is sound. I can not argue with what the EULA says - that much is in writing. Installing Vista standalone with an upgrade CD is in violation.

As another user points out, a EULA is only as good as its enforceability, like any real law.

I'm just trying to get across that this "Upgrade" is not really an "Upgrade" but a veiled complete piece of software.


RE: Microsofts disregard for customers
By Jellodyne on 4/17/2008 11:07:28 AM , Rating: 2
> I'm just trying to get across that this "Upgrade" is
> not really an "Upgrade" but a veiled complete piece of
> software.

Honestly, its not all that veiled. And it may blow your mind that Vista Basic OEM and Vista Premium and Windows Server 2008 Datacenter Edition for the Enterprise all pretty much the same thing, only one of them can cost more than a new WRX.

You want a copy of windows you can pretty much do whatever with, buy a full retail copy of Windows. It costs what it costs. If you want to save some money, you can buy an OEM copy or an upgrade copy. With the OEM copy you're agreeing to install it on one computer only, and with an upgrade copy you're saying you're going to install it on a machine that currently has a previous version of Windows and stop using the previous version. You can't agree to that, then don't buy it. Thise conditions are the reason its cheaper. Its really not all that complicated.

If you don't like it, you may be suprised at how much you can do on Linux these days, and how easy it is to install and use. And the price is right.


By MrBlastman on 4/17/2008 11:21:56 AM , Rating: 2
You are correct as they bascially all are the same thing.

I think there are thousands, if not millions of people that both ignore what the EULA says and could care less. The average mentality is - if you buy it, hold it, and can feel it, it is yours. This is the problem the IP industry faces and I think it will continue to be a large problem for many years.

I've used Linux, BSD, Solaris, Tru64 Unix, AIX and other flavors for years. At home though, I can't since the software I run (flight simulators with high end supporting hardware) only runs on Windows. The stuff just won't work on a non-Windoze box... yet :)


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