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Microsoft sheds a little more light on its WGA iniative

A recent blog by Ed Bott over at ZDNET has brought even more attention to Microsoft's Windows Genuine Authentication (WGA) which has been coming under increasing scrutiny and has even been the subject of a lawsuit. Computerworld and Ed Bott have been trying to get to the bottom of the whole WGA mystery and some of the issues being brought to the forefront are quite interesting.

Microsoft’s WGA utility, which is used on the Windows XP operating system to combat piracy, has been used in the past to validate OS installs so that users could download certain system updates as well as downloads like Internet Explorer 7.0 Beta and Windows Media Player 11. But while Microsoft sees WGA as a major ally in the fight against pirates, the utility has been pegging some innocent customers as having pirated copies of Windows XP. "80% of all WGA validation failures are due to unauthorized use of leaked or stolen volume license keys," said a Microsoft spokeswoman to Computerworld.

Ed Bott, not satisfied with this response from Microsoft, fired off his own inquiry into the reason for a 20% false positive rating for WGA and received this response from Cori Hartje, Director of Microsoft’s Genuine Software Initiative, "While we will don't have specifics to share on other forms counterfeit installations, they mostly result from activities such as various forms of tampering and unauthorized OEM installations."

It'd be nice if Microsoft would go into more detail on that other 20%, but that likely won't happen anytime soon. Microsoft is no longer accepting interviews on the WGA matter -- possibly due to the pending lawsuit.

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reality check
By IMPoor on 7/5/2006 3:02:29 PM , Rating: 2
All software companies must battle piracy. When was the last time you BOUGHT any software and did not need a serial, cd key, activation or some other type of anti-piracy to install and use it. So I can't blame them for their need to protect their financial interests. But and here is the real argument: Microsoft did not release full details about the WGA program. I still would buy the software even if I knew as I bet most of you would also but I would like to know.

So lets be clear on what we are pissed about. is it the fact that you bought a OEM copy and can't install it on other machines? or replace hardware that voids the OEM license? (read the OEM terms instead of just clicking the "I agree" button) Or did you buy a used computer with a pirated version on it? Or did you simply download a illegal copy and install it? These excuses are not MS fault. These problems are your fault and your mistake! Don't blame WGA for your mistakes. I think its cool that MS lets you still use the software if its pirated.

RE: reality check
By Bowsky on 7/5/2006 5:07:17 PM , Rating: 2
Let's see... Oblivion runs fine without any kind of serial, CD-Key, or spyware (aka StarForce). Don't forget Galactic Civilizations II that only requires a serial number to download new content.

One other that might suprise you. Microsoft Office. Yes, you heard right Microsoft Office 2002 for the MAC (I haven't had any experience with 2004) is free of any copy protection. Focusing on the Apple side of things, OSX doesn't require any sort of CD-Key or activation.

Companies have been so obsessed with stoping the minority of people who pirate software that they are now spend millions of dollars trying to fix the problem. The flaw that appears is that, copy protected or not, the same level of piracy occurs. All the added keys and authentacation does is hurt the user experience.

I just reformatted my computer the other day. Upon installing Windows I was asked to enter a serial key, activate my copy of windows, download the WGA notifier through windows updates, download the WGA ActiveX plugin for internet explorer, and download the WGA Extension for Firefox. I hope after all that Microsoft finally believes that I'm running a legit copy.

In the past I have delt with less than legal versions of Windows XP where all I have had to do is enter a serial. I and many people have asked ourselves recently "shouldn't it be easier to install a legal version". This pattern is continues through almost every peice of software with very few exceptions.

This last idea, more than price, is what I believe is driving more people to piracy. Unfortunately companies have been focusing so much on pirates they have completely over looked how they are treating the honest paying consumer.

RE: reality check
By masher2 on 7/5/2006 5:27:01 PM , Rating: 2
> "Companies have been so obsessed with stoping the minority of people who pirate software "

Minority, eh? I know in some countries, the number of pirated copies exceeds the number of legitimate copies by 1000% or more.

Even here in the US, you'll have a hard time in some circles finding people that won't give a friend or relative a free copy of Windows if they ask, or sell or give away a computer with Windows on it...and still retain their original copy.

In the case of game software, US-based piracy is even worse. I know people with hundreds of games, each and every one of which they copied from a friend or downloaded via torrent. People that think there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

In any case, your entire issue is off base. Regardless of how big a problem YOU think piracy is, the owners of software have a right to protect it how they wish. It's THEIR property. They don't complain about how you wish to lock up your house or guard your car. Don't deny them the same freedom. If the safeguards are too onerous, don't buy the product. Period.

RE: reality check
By plywood99 on 7/5/2006 6:34:38 PM , Rating: 2
It is not the pirates who are paying the price of piracy though, it is the legitimate customer. I'm a hardware enthusiast, always upgrading my ONE computer. After having to call MS and talking to someone from India or who knows where that I could barely understand to have my copy of XP validated. I've already decided I will not be upgrading to Vista when it comes out. When a legit customer is put through the ringer, then it's time to change os's.

I buy ALL my software and hate piracy, but MS and others are treating me like the pirate...

I am switching to Linux, slowly but surely. MS and many others are hurting the honest consumer, when it's the pirates they should be hurting. I agree it is their software and they can do whatever the LUA says, but I will no longer support them. When the honest consumer is given a fair hand I may return...

RE: reality check
By mindless1 on 7/6/2006 2:59:52 AM , Rating: 2
No, they do not have the right to protect it how they wish.

They have the right to include the protection prior to selling the license, IF it's fully disclosed. tacking it on after the fact may well be illegal in spirit "if" not in code but our laws have unfortunately not caught up to all these software issues yet, or to put it another way, some are so rebellious that they'd even argue again the obvious unless it is specified in the most minute of detail what not to do instead of general terms.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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