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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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RE: ok
By aos007 on 7/5/2006 4:46:12 PM , Rating: 2
I know plenty of people who upgrade their machine, piece of piece, until not a single original component exists. Its therefore an entirely new machine

Except that it *IS* the same machine, logically if not physicaly. I bought the right to have ONE machine winth windows XP in my household - at least that is what any NORMAL person would think when they plonk out that kind of cash. Why would it matter what motherboard, CPU or whatever it has? It is still JUST ONE machine! Upgrading a computer is a normal thing to do for many people. And OEM copy does NOT cost $25 - it cost $120-150 depending on when and where you get it. The issue here is not someone trying to install a copy they got with their Toshiba laptop, but the one they got in a store, at much higher price than $25. If you buy from a large manufacturer, you get recovery CDs ANYWAY. Most people I know buy LEGIT OEM versions in local computer shops - if they buy them at all.

I personally did not know about this limitation when I got my XP.

Yes, you can claim "that's the license, take it or leave it, doesn't make a difference whether it is sane or not, it's their right". The problem however is that the license is contrary to both common sense AND to what industry practice is for OEM vs "retail" (i.e. packaging, extra software/warranty, branding, on occasion features). In this case "OEM" removes a HUGE part of the value. True, there is a cosiderable difference in cost to step up to "retail", but then again, such is the case with many other computer parts (big box stores price >> small store price) yet the parts are essentially the same, so no, it's NOT safe to assume that there is such a substantial difference. Most people WILL assume it's just fancy packaging and big store markup.

It's all about common sense. And in this case, the license is CONTRARY to common sense. You can say it's their right, but if you don't think it's contrary to common sense, then you're weird.

And please, no more "you can choose another OS". Because the only other choice for a consumer is Mac OS, and for an IT professional, there *IS* no other choice - what you use is dictated by what your customers, clients and colleguaes want and what the rest of the industry uses. Or are you suggesting one can choose not to work in IT? Next you'll be suggesting people in Cuba can just choose to leave if they don't like their system - after all, there are successful examples of boat escapes, so there IS a choice, right?

A choice that that is only theoretical or comes with drawbacks that vast majority of people would find unacceptable is NOT a choice.

However, I will admit, while you don't really have a choice of OS, you *can* choose to pay $400 and get the "real" single machine copy. But - here is why are people pissed off: why don't they make it crystal clear up front that you're losing such a fundamental ability, especially since it's against common sense? Are they afraid that we WILL choose something else if they do? Because if they do this consciously, happily accepting sales from small computer shops (and other than big OEM sales, these got to be far bigger than big chain retail store sales - I never ever heard of anyone buying a copy there) even though they are deceiving customers, then someone should go to jail. Pure and simple.

RE: ok
By masher2 on 7/5/2006 5:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
> "I bought the right to have ONE machine winth windows XP in my household..."

Not if you purchased an OEM copy. You bought the right to run Windows on one particular machine. Read over my post again; you missed all the relevant sections.

> "And OEM copy does NOT cost $25 - it cost $120-150 depending on when and where you get it"

OEM copies are sold to OEMs. And the price they pay (and thus pass on to you when you purchase your machine) can be below $25/copy. Some unscrupulous individuals have taken to marking up and reselling OEM copies, a practice Microsoft didn't intend (and indeed tries to prevent) but that's a rather different issue.

> "and for an IT professional, there *IS* no other choice"

There is always freedom of choice. You may not like the alternatives, or the end result of your choosing them...but that's not Microsoft's problem. They spent billions making a standard, and gambled their money, and the money of all their shareholders as a result. That gamble-- along with a lot of hard work-- paid off. That's the American way, like it or not. Apparently not, in your case at least.

RE: ok
By aos007 on 7/5/2006 6:15:37 PM , Rating: 3
you missed all the relevant sections.

As did you:

A choice that that is only theoretical or comes with drawbacks that vast majority of people would find unacceptable is NOT a choice.

There is always freedom of choice.

No, there isn't, and it is often an illusion. Your problem is that you believe that theory=practice. Or that everything is black and white. Real world is not a mathematical equation.

Let me give you an extreme example. I already did but you didn't pay attention.

Back during WW2, german troups were ordered to execute every high schoool student in a large town back in my country as a retaliation for partisan attacks. They rounded up 6-7 thousand of them and shot them all outside the city. A few of german soliders would not stand for it, they were executed alongside.

Now, according to you, all those soldiers had a choice. And they did, the choice was to shoot innocent kids or get executed.

One can blame the rest of germans for being murderers, war criminals etc. Or those few that got shot for being idealistic fools. The problem is, what would people do in a similar situation? I don't believe there is a good answer to this question.

In real life, choices and consequences are usually far less severe. What you're doing is equivalent of telling people to kill off their IT careers if they don't like using Microsoft OS. "Because that is their choice". I say that is no choice.

And the OEM copy ***DOES*** cost $120-150 and they're not sold only by "unscrupulous" people. They are sold by every single computer shop, including the biggest, and I doubt US is any diferent. What I'm telling you that I belive that Microsoft is QUITE HAPPY with this happening. You can persuade me that someone is doing this on a few dozen or few hundred license per year basis. But you are not going to be able to persuade me that they knowingly ignore sales of tens of thousands of licenses through every one of these.

And in fact - in reality Microsoft DOES allow you to upgrade your hardware, contrary to their license. Not only you can upgrade individual parts (as long as you don't go overbaord) but once every year they will let you "reset" the upgrade counter, or whatever it's called. So as long as you don't replace the entire machine more than once every year, you will still be able to use your OEM license. So they are silently accepting that people would "riot" if they were really to enforce it. This reset wasn't there from the start, they added it along the way.

However, now you have a situation that something is "not allowed" on paper, but is allowed in practice. In my view they are simply accepting the reality. Do you really think ATI, Nvidia, and just about any hardware manufacturer would not be vocal about this if it was enforced fully? Because their sales would tank.

RE: ok
By masher2 on 7/6/2006 11:36:08 AM , Rating: 3
> "Now, according to you, all those soldiers had a choice..."

You're making one of the most basic mistakes in ethical theory-- confusing coercion with the indirect negative effects of choice.

Example. A company states, "work for us or we kill you". That's slavery. A company states, "work for us or we don't pay you". That's freedom...even if their failing to pay you means you starve to death.

Freedom does not imply you are free to make any choices you wish without negative consequences. If you choose to jump off a cliff-- you will die. If you choose not earn a living-- you will experience economic hardship. If you choose not to use Microsoft products-- you will have limited opportunity in the IT industry. Your freedom of choice still exists. You are not being coerced in any of these three cases...except by your own common sense desire to avoid the consequences of your actions.

Honestly, freedom really isn't that complex a subject. Why not try to understand it? You might find you like it.

RE: ok
By Tyler 86 on 7/6/2006 8:51:49 PM , Rating: 2
Being given any choice at all is freedom ("Give me liberty, or give me death!"), but while contracts, anti-competitive practices, and slavery, still incorperates a degree of freedom...

Just use common sense.

If it gets bad enough though, tell common sense to take a hike and grab a weapon.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs
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