Microsoft Windows Kill Switch

Does Microsoft have the ability to disable Windows remotely? Maybe:

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my serious objections to Microsoft’s latest salvo in the war against unauthorized copies of Windows. Two Windows Genuine Advantage components are being pushed onto users’ machines with insufficient notification and inadequate quality control, and the result is a big mess. (For details, see Microsoft presses the Stupid button.)

Guess what? WGA might be on the verge of getting even messier. In fact, one report claims WGA is about to become a Windows "kill switch" ­ and when I asked Microsoft for an on-the-record response, they refused to deny it.

And this, supposedly from someone at Microsoft Support:

He told me that "in the fall, having the latest WGA will become mandatory and if its not installed, Windows will give a 30 day warning and when the 30 days is up and WGA isn't installed, Windows will stop working, so you might as well install WGA now."

The stupidity of this idea is amazing. Not just the inevitability of false positives, but the potential for a hacker to co-opt the controls. I hope this rumor ends up not being true.

Although if they actually do it, the backlash could do more for non-Windows OSs than anything those OSs could do for themselves.

Posted on June 30, 2006 at 11:51 AM • 116 Comments

Comments

hggdhJune 30, 2006 12:15 PM

Well, it is sort of difficult to see this indeed being true. But, anyways, I would expect they are drawing on their experience on Windows XP licencing -- it would also create an unique key based on your machine. I guess they may reason that given the low number of calls on licences lost, THEN they can go ahead give themselves a Genuine Advantage.

I just wish enterprises would be more honest with the names they give their products.

Anyway, as usual, the just will pay for the sinner, and the sinner will happily keep on sinning.

@nonymousJune 30, 2006 12:26 PM

Couple of issues:
1) What happens if I don't have my computer connected to the Internet nor have any desire to. WGA will not be able to phone home to determine whether my copy is legit or not, will it assume that I'm guilty or will it assume that I'm innocent?
2) Is this going to be a logistical nightmare for companies that use a single ghosted install image for their machines to make mass installation of new machines easier despite having purchased copies of Windows XP?
3) Will there be blow back when mission critical machines stop working? For example if all the machines in a hospitals emergency room stop working because of issue #2 above can the hospital sue Microsoft for the monetary losses for having to revert [even temporarily] to a paper admittance system?

BrianJune 30, 2006 12:37 PM

It is easy to criticize Microsoft on this issue, but given the difficulty of managing software piracy we should at least appreciate that Microsoft is trying to solve the problem in some fashion.

I do not want my computer shutdown by a WGA exploit, but at the same time I recognize that Microsoft needs to find some way to make software piracy more difficult. It haven't seen any ideas for a better solution, so I guess what Microsoft plans is the best option at this point.

If "the backlash could do more for non-Windows OSs than anything those OSs could do for themselves.
" is true, I am not sure what that says for those non-Windows operating systems.

Pat CahalanJune 30, 2006 12:44 PM

@ @nonymous

To answer:

1 - If you're not connected to the Internet, you probably haven't installed WGA to begin with, so no worries there.

2 - If a company is using a single ghosted image, and the ghosted image was created using an OEM or Over-the-Counter Windows XP license (as opposed to a Windows Volume Licensing Edition copy), AND the image is deployed with a single product key, yes, they are going to be screwed if they are forced to install WGA. Practically speaking, this is their fault -> the OEM license that most VARs install on the machine when you purchase it is explicitly tied to the hardware with which you purchased the OS. An OtC copy of Windows can only be used on a single workstation at a time. In either case, you cannot legally use a single product code to activate multiple deployed machines, even if you have legally purchased the appropriate number of licenses. However, you can ghost a machine image using sysprep and *not* use the same product key when rolling the image out to a set of machines. Technically, you can't use an OEM key with an OtC install disk and vice versa, so practically speaking you've got a huge management headache unless you kept all the keys that came with all of the machines when you purchased them (AND every machine you purchased came with a license)... OR you have purchased a OtC license (and key) for every machine you own, regardless of whether or not it came with a license. If you have a volume licensing agreement copy of XP, you don't have this problem.

3 - in order... "probably" (I doubt MS will do this), and "not according to the EULA".

If MS enforces WGA, lots of things are going to break because of bad planning on the part of IT staff. Some of those things will be mission critical. Most companies would be hugely angry. Microsoft's legal department would get lots of billing hours, because some of those companies would sue in spite of the EULA.

Pat CahalanJune 30, 2006 12:51 PM

@ Brian

> we should at least appreciate that Microsoft is trying to solve the problem in some fashion.

Ordinarily I'd agree with you, but Microsoft's licensing practices are hideously convoluted and the impact of that has led lots of IT staff to deploy it improperly. The fact that there are licenses that "come with" a machine, licenses that you buy "over the counter", and the volume licensing agreement licenses (all of which are basically non-interoperable with each other from a product key standpoint) has made it impossible for an IT manager to deploy a canonical windows setup to an entire enterprise without (in many cases) doubling up on some or all of the number of licenses they actually own, which most companies simply won't go for from a fiscal standpoint.

I agree, software piracy is a problem. I agree, Microsoft should take steps to alleviate the problem. However (IMO), they've bungled this one horribly historically and there simply is no way to fix this problem now with the current edition of Windows.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed with the next edition, they simply can't fix the current environment.

hggdhJune 30, 2006 12:55 PM

@ Pat Cahalan

(...) because some of those companies would sue in spite of the EULA.

Well, this might not be a bad idea. Methinks the EULA has still to be validated in court.

And... there is a non-negligible change it will fail on some counts, since the buyer has almost no rights. I do not know about US law, but there are other places where no judge will accept such terms.

Pat CahalanJune 30, 2006 1:04 PM

@ hggdh

> Methinks the EULA has still to be validated in court.

I agree. FWIW, I think it would fail to stand up in court, at least against repeated assaults.

I think Microsoft would go to great pains to prevent a large volume of EULA-challenging lawsuits from being filed, for the same reason tobacco companies went to great pains to prevent product lawsuits from being filed. They're fairly aware that once a large block of EULA-challenging lawsuits gets filed, it's just a matter of time before some jury awards damages, and then the whole "software liability" question goes from being an intellectual discussion amongst IT professionals like us to a bean counter reality.

bobJune 30, 2006 1:18 PM

I paid for a copy of windows (XP PRO) that did not have this horsesh*t in it. Why should I lose my ability to use a product which I paid (a lot!) for? I agreed to the requirements of the user license at the time and it didnt say anything about them auditing my computer. If they want to change the contract then they should have to reimburse me my purchase price if I decide not to agree with the contract modification.

I need to get some experience with Linux, I guess this is the motivation I needed to switch.

Anticipating something like this is why I NEVER authorize "automatic install" of updates. When I first saw WGA I recognized it for what it is and declined (and continue to do so every time).

Joe BuckJune 30, 2006 1:19 PM

My guess is that Microsoft will maximize their profit by implying that they are about to turn on a kill switch in the hope of scaring some users into paying up, without actually doing it and breaking everyone who, say, had their hard drive replaced or otherwise changed their system in a way that confuses WGA.

Pat CahalanJune 30, 2006 1:32 PM

@ Bob

I think you should more carefully read the license agreement on your purchased copy of XP, *and* re-read the license agreements that came with all of the updates you've installed since then. You'll find that you're getting exactly what you agreed to when you selected the "I agree" radio button and hit "Next" to continue. Microsoft isn't obligated to give you updates to your software under any conditions other than their own. You may have had a different idea of what you were buying than Microsoft did, but you bear some responsibility for that...

If you paid for your copy of XP, refusal to install WGA is silly... either buy into Microsoft's model and trust them, or don't use it. If you hate the MS model, then Linux is probably the way to go for you as a user.

AGJune 30, 2006 1:34 PM

Many people are not paying for the software they are using.
Many people are not paying for the movies they are watching.

Regular people think it is okay to steal software, music, and movies.

What do you expect MS to do? Roll over?

The people do not care. The governments do not care. MS is going to MAKE them care by causing some hurt.

AGJune 30, 2006 1:42 PM

Sorry I'm just in a bad mood today...

If a store owner stopped letting people take whatever they wanted and trusting them to pay AND INSTEAD required everyone to go thru a line and pay for there goods one at a time... shouldn't there be a huge backlash?

Other software companies may get a slight benefit from MS enforcing a WGA Kill switch.
Why slight? Why not Huge?
Because they are going to do the SAME thing.
Other software companies are getting screwed over all the time by people stealing their software. They will put in the same features to protect their investment.

AGJune 30, 2006 1:46 PM

What about the Sony DRM backlash? Why not the same backlash for Microsoft?

1. Microsoft is not hiding what they are up to.
2. Microsoft created their software while Sony didn't create the music (As the creator people will give MS more leeway.)
3. Microsoft continues to be the most innovative and interesting company in America(people respect MS)...Sony is a bunch of chumps

forrealJune 30, 2006 1:49 PM

@pat
"either buy into Microsoft's model and trust them" ... I'd be as likely to trust Cheney. In fact, it sounds like a Cheney quote.

whatJune 30, 2006 1:54 PM

@AG
"Microsoft continues to be the most innovative". AG is clearly a buzz schril.
The lack of quality that marks MS products is notorious, their business practices are preditory, and they invented nothing.
Truely they follow in IBM's footsteps, arrogant and incompetent.

Pat CahalanJune 30, 2006 1:54 PM

@ AG

> What do you expect MS to do? Roll over?

Well, in this particular case they've exacerbated the problem quite a bit on their own, so my sympathy is limited.

> How many billions has MS lost to people stealing there software?

I guess that depends on what you mean by "lost". If I copy something illegally, but I would never have paid for it in the first place (I would have gone without), is that a "loss"? I was never a potential customer... and this isn't a loaf a bread we're talking about, it's a product whose cost to replicate is null. The company didn't lose any business by my pirating of their software, and indeed may have gained business because I go out an purchase other products of theirs. I honestly don't think that the accounting department at Microsoft regards pirated copies of Windows as a loss, although the business execs may. I'm not arguing that its moral to pirate software, mind you. I just don't think the idea that Microsoft has lost billions to piracy is a credible statement.

BrianJune 30, 2006 1:55 PM

Pat,

I agree that post-fixing the OS against software piracy is very difficult, and best bet is just to head to Vista.

But even though Microsoft has bungled this historically, I am (perhaps naively) hoping they got all the smart people they have together and are working to get this problem solved. They have the talent to solve the problem, lets just hope they thought it through.

And P.S. to Gnu Head, four words for you:

Not A
Viable Option

Pat CahalanJune 30, 2006 1:59 PM

@ forreal

> In fact, it sounds like a Cheney quote.

It does, doesn't it? It's not meant to, however.

I'm not saying that EULAs are reasonable (if you read all my posts here I think you'll get that). I'm just saying that indignation (righteous, self-righteous, or otherwise) over MS's business practices seems to be a little misplaced. You can be irritated at Microsoft, but don't emotionally invest yourself :)

GoodspeedJune 30, 2006 1:59 PM

While I understand the desire of MS to minimize piracy, I doubt that this will action will prevent it. It is just another administrative hassel for honest software users and an easily cleared hurdle for pirates.

ShahmsJune 30, 2006 2:01 PM

@AG

There are number of things wrong with your comments. Firstly, your implied assertion that MS has lost billions due to pirated software is questionable. It makes a number of assumptions which are dubious at best; the most basic of which being that all of the people now pirating software would have purchased said software if they were unable to pirate it. Additionally, it ignores the network effects of piracy raising the total number of users of their software thereby increasing the motivation for others to do so. There have been a number of discussions and studies documenting the benefits of limited and even widespread piracy through the contribution to the installed base.

You are vastly overestimating the amount which "software companies are being screwed over" by piracy. You also make a typical faulty analogy by comparing software to physicals goods. The reality of the situation is that they are vastly different and these differences are at the root of the "intellectual property" misnomer.

Finally, you underestimate the amount to which goverments have been convinced of the gravity of the situation. They do care about piracy. In fact, the amount of concern in the US Congress is vastly disproportionate to the actual damage caused by the same.

AndyJune 30, 2006 2:13 PM

Brian

If they could produce an OS that was (a) secure, (b) stable, and (c) cost effective, then maybe the piracy problem would not be as bad.

There must be better ways to deal with this other than "Install WGA to prove that you can have these updates that secure your computer and prevent it from being a remote zombie, or we will stop you from using not only the OS, but the $$$$ worth of apps that you are running on it."

John RidleyJune 30, 2006 2:23 PM

Well, I guess it's time to take XP off my laptop and put Windows 2000 on. Windows 2000 is still 100% adequate for everything I do, I just run XP because that's what came on the thing.
If they can cause hurt to people who are actually stealing, fine. I'm not stealing their software, so I'm not putting up with any hurt.

hggdhJune 30, 2006 2:27 PM

We may be missing the issue here. I do not dispute Microsoft's right to protect itself against being responsible for stolen (i.e., pirated) goods (i.e., it's software products).

This is not the issue. The issue is false positives. Whatever Microsoft, or any other producer of non-tangible goods, ends up doing, it cannot allow false positives.

Even a 0.000001 false positive rate is still too high, given the amount of Microsoft products out there.

Microsoft HAS the right to protect itself, as much as it has the OBLIGATION of a zero false positive rate.

bobJune 30, 2006 2:41 PM

@pat:

Actually, I do read license agreements. Its usually why I am a "last adopter" for ebay, myspace, google earth, paypal, etc, because I wont click until I understand the ramifications. For example I always laughed on page 12(?) in the NT 4.0 EULA where it says you can not use it in nuclear submarines. (I also check SSL CAs - of course that is even more useless because Thawte, Verisign, etc have seventy-two different spellings of their CA IDs, so if somebody DID manage to spoof one, you'd never be able to tell) I even read all the paperwork when I bought my house. The clerk kept rolling her eyes. And when I came to a phrase I couldnt accept I made them change it (which took walking out after 2 hours and setting up a new appt days later - which action saved my bacon 2 years later in the builder's bankruptcy).

I can see a similarity to gun control here - a very small fraction of people misuse the product (or in the case of software, steal it) so you cause the majority (legitimate users) huge pain in order to get even with the few; who probably will get the same result some other way being inconvenienced very little.

Back in the early 90s, before BG was canonized (he apparently believes) MS was very good at supporting their products. When you found a bug in any number of MS products (visual C and FoxPro come to mind immediately) you could call a toll-free number and within 10 minutes could talk to a knowledgeable person about a workaround and they could queue a fix for the next release.

The problem is MS has adopted a "users? what are users?" policy which means once (any of their products) has screwed you, it is up to YOU to spend your own considerable time and money to unscrew it; and if MS deigns to talk to you at all the meter will be running. And the problem is ALWAYS MS' fault, either through an error or a silly assumption (what, you want to BOOT off a SATA drive? We didnt think of that).

You may as well call the VA or IRS for all the help you will get from MS.

RoyJune 30, 2006 2:42 PM

@ Brian:

Curiously enough, you may have struck upon the motivation behind a WGA kill switch. Being in the industrial computing sector, I know of a *lot* of NT4 systems still running simply because they continue to do their jobs. (these are largely control systems not internet-connected and not performing the typical desktop tasks)

Similarly, I hear of a large number of business desktops that still run Win2K because there was not enough perceived benefit in moving to XP. As Neal Stephenson said in his book "In the Beginning Was The Command Line", operating systems have a limited life as a viable business model. Once you've added all the really essential services, the rest is bugfixes and eye candy.

When Vista was Longhorn, we were hearing about some fairly interesting advances (like WinFS). But as more and more features have been withdrawn, it looks more like Vista is just another UI makeover (if you have a nadly-enough video card to present Aero in the first place). It's not hard to believe that demand for the "upgrade" is waning. Yes, I know that Vista's underlying security model is a few percent better than XP's, but it's still not that compelling and the additional controls are already generating resentment from users. Redmond exchanging the carrot for the stick wouldn't surprise me at all.

DanJune 30, 2006 2:45 PM

Such a move would ultimately act more as Microsoft dimmer switch. It would be short-sighted on their part, and likely in the end would do more to tick off their loyal customer base than address piracy. In fact -- depending on the effect, it could be considered an act of corporate terrorism perpetrated on a large portion of the nations business infrastructure.

Linux (including Ubuntu) and Open Office are indeed viable options -- and growing more so by the day. This is due in large part to heavy-handed Microsoft moves like the one being discussed.

jhggfcJune 30, 2006 2:51 PM

I have not studied the UELA in any great detail but I wonder how it would stand up against the UK's Computer Misuse Act: Section 3.—

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if—

(a) he does any act which causes an unauthorised modification of the contents of any computer; and

(b) at the time when he does the act he has the requisite intent and the requisite knowledge.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) above the requisite intent is an intent to cause a modification of the contents of any computer and by so doing—

(a) to impair the operation of any computer;

(b) to prevent or hinder access to any program or data held in any computer; or

(c) to impair the operation of any such program or the reliability of any such data.

CJJune 30, 2006 3:06 PM

I've seen a lot of people saying that they just don't install the WGA update - and I know that the theory is that not installing it doesn't prevent you from downloading critical updates. But when I go to MS Update, it says I need to install WGA and I can't do anything else until I do. Unfortunately.

cjfJune 30, 2006 3:13 PM

@brian
>Not A
>Viable Option

for whom? you or someone else?
because why? it's software, it can be changed, it can be rewritten; people can learn something new.
what are the costs & benefits of staying with Windows? what are the costs & benefits of choosing something else? Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris,...

phredJune 30, 2006 3:26 PM

@AG
> How many billions has MS lost to people stealing there software?

I doubt that Microsoft loses much to people walking into a retail store and physically stealing their software.

Whether they "lose money" to people copying their software is debatable. How much money has Microsoft "lost" because I refuse to buy their software (or even use a downloaded copy), choosing instead to buy Macs for my desktops and laptops and run either Linux or FreeBSD on my servers? They haven't made one thin dime selling software to me since I was in school and bought an educational license of NT 4. Do they count that as a "loss"?

In a way, I hope the Genuine (Dis)Advantage as kill switch rumor is true. Anything that will cause a few more Windows users to switch to something else -- ANYTHING else -- is great by me!

rhandirJune 30, 2006 3:34 PM

hddgh is right,
we are missing some important points:
1. Even a miniscule false positive rate creates huge problems for the Microsoft brand.

2. The point Bruce mentioned to begin with: shutdown code would be a tremendous bonus for crackers.

3. Even the existence of an unactivated binary in the wild would give plenty of clues for where to put system hooks to capture user computers. Scenarios include phishing as Microsoft activation servers with a "if you want to use your computer again, insert credit card # here."

I was a little surprised that the phishing angle wasn't the first thing discussed. Are some of the regulars on vacation? Start your weekend early? Bruce, do you need to re-post this monday to see if anyone's paying attention?

The points raised above re:incompatible licensing schemes don't help the "moral appeal" aspect of convinicing users to do register their copies correctly. This is a classic blunder: customers can count, and really don't conceptualize software as something other than a physical product they paid for. EULAs don't matter in a _moral, practical_ sense if the customer doesn't understand them. Duh, they matter legally, but vauge legalese doesn't directly motivate human behavior. (Okay, information theory suggests that vague legalese promotes stalling behaviors, which isn't really what's wanted here.)

The points raised above re:lazyness in IT departments using the "wrong license" are also pretty good. Examples have already surfaced of lax policies at repair facilities leading to laptops suddenly being "not genuine." Sure, repair/IT houses should be doing things the right way, but it's individual users who will suffer. Individual users like doctors, x-ray techs, lawyers, engineers, cops, etc. People who need some level of reliablility/dependability in their hardware to do their job.

Another point, already raised, and mostly missed: this isn't good for the brand because it makes people like myself actually start weighing the options. I'm not talking about the open source kvetching earlier in the thread, nor the pro linux vs. pro microsoft piddling contests. What I'm saying is that I am now evaluating specific non-windows choices in a way that I have never done before.

In the past, I had always thought "gee, opens source operating systems are nice, philosophically, but so much work to fiddle with." I'm not inexperienced, though mostly I've used live cds to solve specific problems.

Now, I'm thinking "hmm, between open office, firefox, and picasa, 90% of what I do in xp I can do with Debian without having to learn a new UI." Quickly followed by "dual booting wouldn't be that difficult" and "mac books aren't _that_ expensive."

What I'm saying is that I'm thinking of sacrificing some utility in order to be freed from the uncertainty of suddenly being denied the use of my computer.* Unfortuantely for Microsoft, _they_, not the l33t hax0rz, are the ones prompting the thought.

-r.

p.s. Squid news is cool.

*I think that summarizes all of computer security philosphy in one sentence, eh?

Fred F.June 30, 2006 3:43 PM

I though the click through EULAS were accepted as valid contracts in the US. At least in some jurisdictions.

AGJune 30, 2006 3:49 PM

@All who question Billions...
Over the years I believe it could quite easily add up to billions of dollars of flat out stolen property.
The whole "I wouldn't have bought it if I had to pay for it." is a bunch of crap. People for illegally copy software are crooks. If you illegally copy software your are a criminal.

Illegally copied software is stolen property. Stolen property is lost money for the company selling it.

something to call youJune 30, 2006 4:19 PM

I'll never understand why ANYONE uses Windows today. The argument that "it's a windows world" or "certain formats require it in my place of work" in my opinion is just stupid.

There are free/open formats available and programs to open them and these formats/apps are cross-platform. Being that they are open source, porting to other less-popular/known platforms is trivial.

Removing/disabling/patching all the known bugs/features is not enough in my opinion, the OS is still closed source.

Linux is free and it's time everyone switched. The more people who switch, the quicker we can all stop using closed so-called solutions which in my opinion hold back humanity from innovation and security.

BjornJune 30, 2006 4:24 PM

@ AG
> Other software companies are getting screwed over all the time by people stealing their software. They will put in the same features to protect their investment.

Ah.... uh huh. I bought a MacBook Pro a short while ago, partly for work, and partly for THIS reason. I dual boot windows and tiger, so I always have a backup OS. When I read your comment AG, I thought of Apple. In their respect, you are dead wrong. You know why? Because pirating Apple's OS doesn't do anyone much good, because A) no one makes macs on their own- ANYONE can make a windows box. B (hinges on A)) for EVERY MAC SOMEONE BUYS from them, Apple includes the operating system. Who needs pirated mac's OSs? Everyone who has a mac already HAS the operating system, unless of course they bought it off of eBay and the seller neglected to include it, or something similar. Microsoft should just sell their licenses to PC motherboard manufacturers or something. Buy a new PC, comes with windows. Creating your own PC? Buy the motherboard, comes with windows. This may not be viable, but there must be some similar option.

phredJune 30, 2006 4:39 PM

@AG
> Illegally copied software is stolen property.

No, technically it's not. If Alice walks into CompUSA and shoplift a copy of XP off the shelf, that's stolen property. But, if Bob downloads a copy of XP from the internet, that's copyright violation. Still illegal, certainly, but not at all the same crime.

In fact, if the relative penalties for the two acts are any indication, it would seem that the software companies and their paid legislators would *prefer* that Alice physically steal the product, as opposed to Bob downloading it.

I, of course, would still prefer that Alice and Bob either get a (legally) free OS, or get a Mac.

MozJune 30, 2006 4:41 PM

The claim that Microsoft has lost money through piracy is wrong towards disingenuous.

As Bill Gates said (of piracy in China):

"And as long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

Particularly for MS Word, but also for Windows and Office in general Microsoft's product has been one of the higher priced / more featureful products in the market. Most normal people could not/would not afford to buy them simply due to high prices.

There have been many competitors on the lower end. Almost all of these have been killed, not by Microsoft sold products, but by pirated Microsoft software. This creation of one single standard locks everybody into Microsoft's products.

What has changed now?

- they have a clear monopoly with no effective competition
- they know they are immune to American law
- they know people are too scared to switch to Linux even in most situations where it's clearly better

Microsoft has probably even run experiments on real people to see whether WGA would make them switch to Linux. I suspect they are sure it won't. The only way to change that is if many of the experts a) volunteer to install Linux for their family and friends and b) install it at work.

Now is the time when Microsoft plans to make good on Bill Gates threat above.

a random article from on this subject (and the source of my Gates quote):

http://www.latimes.com/business/...

ZJune 30, 2006 4:42 PM

@Brian:

"And P.S. to Gnu Head, four words for you:
Not A
Viable Option"

IMO:

Not A
Viable Response

Linux will move mountains faster as more people and corporations switch.

You can't live in the tar pit of closed source forever.

Charles B.June 30, 2006 5:12 PM

To Pat and the comment... "And P.S. to Gnu Head, four words for you:"

First, Paul Murphy has written much of late on why competing operating systems aren't making it to the (corporate) desktop in large numbers. So I'll give a practical response regarding the home desktop. My mother (75-years old this year) uses Fedora Core 4. It took me an hour or so to set up. She does email, web surfing, word processing and picture editing. Not an option? She knows differently!

voidrunnerJune 30, 2006 5:17 PM

Heh.
1) The Linuxer numbers will rise, albeit sloooooowly (experiments show MSOffice addiction is twicw as strong as heroine)

2) The users from China will have to install to "patches" now:
Wpa.Kill.exe and WGA.fool.exe

Pat CahalanJune 30, 2006 5:20 PM

@ Charles

> To Pat and the comment

I think you meant to direct that at Brian ;)

anonymousJune 30, 2006 5:23 PM

Maybe MS is working with the US military on this one. If they suddenly "switched off" all the pirated windows boxes, the US would be fairly inconvenienced. But inconvenience doesn't begin to describe what would happen in Asia and the Middle East.
/tinfoil hat

Charles B.June 30, 2006 5:25 PM

Pardon, Pat. Yes... To Brian:. And hey, someone actually read my post:)
Thanks

me notJune 30, 2006 5:26 PM

Turns out WGA stands for Windows Genuine dis-Advantage against other OS, huh?

AnonymousJune 30, 2006 5:26 PM

Furthermore, I wonder if they can switch off Windows by region, regardless of license status? Wow.

nobodyJune 30, 2006 6:01 PM

If MS can shut windows then anybody can, muhahahaha. (sad really)

This is basicly the death penalty for the windows operating system as nobody is able to trust it anymore, not even on a basic level.

However it might be a helping tool against zombie machines.

I am glad to have switched to a real OS years ago.

JoshJune 30, 2006 6:19 PM

I think is likely that Microsoft wants to scare people into paying for licenses, but won't have the balls to disable any windows system.

IANAL, but ...
There is a precedent for a programmer disabling programs in order to "repossess their property" when a client refused to pay, but the programmer still had authorized access to the computer. In this case, it would be more like Microsoft breaking and entering to repossess property.

You could send a letter to their legal agent stating that, if they have questions about your license, they should contact you to discuss it, but that you plan to prosecute any unauthorized access to your computer by Microsoft.

Be careful. They could invoke their right to audit you!

ArchangelJune 30, 2006 9:49 PM

nobody, your hubris is remarkable. Site problem, indeed. Most of us seem to avoid the 'bug' that bit you nicely.

(watch, this post will come up five times, just to spite me. :) )

on topic,
a) remote execution security hole by design, in an OS with what amounts to no privilege separation for most users/most installs.
b) bonus on the comparison of theft vs copyright violation. Proper distinction.
c) I hate to say it, but stuff like this is why I only keep a basically functional W2K partition around for apps which are so brain-dead or hardware that is so incompatible that I can only use them with Windows, and run a legitimately securable operating system -- the running copy of which *I* control -- for real work. Mind you, I boot into Windows bimonthly, if that often.
d) Yes, prima facie win for Apple in the OS marketing category, but consider that they exert just as much control; they have mastered lock-in. The OS is the computer is the OS. Linked obsolescence. The have made their product carefully useless outside of a closed environment, neatly avoiding the very market forces that made Microsoft dominant. Yep, no commoditization for Jobs. Go, Mac, go. Defend Epirus to the last man.

AnonJune 30, 2006 11:04 PM

Read the EULA for Windows. It is Microsoft's software. They can do with it as they please. You are paying for the privilege to use it.

ashok paiJuly 1, 2006 7:20 AM

MS deserves every bit of bad luck and they need to be shut down. they introduce formats and ecosystems of software that kill every other competitor around. later they charge yu an arm and a leg. if there were interoperability, ideally, you wouldnt have issues for piracy - bcos - anybody who dint want to pay for windows could shift to liux. currently the way they have control - none of the manufacturers, cater to linux or mac, very few do - only when they are pushed for it. the companies that do try to cater to linux are tightly shut from the windows ecosystem. the reseller of computers like dell, and many small time companies suffer from "volume discounts" cancelled, for supporting linux and alternate systems. MS also wants to throw a spanner in the ODF open format. not everyone needs a bloated office software for soemthing little more than a glorified notepad usage. also piracy was encouraged by MS - because it helped them kill the competition. look at thier classic modus operandi - first move to a niche, kill competitors, behave nice, and after sometime - the usual monpolist comes into picture. dont believe me ? look at FAT file system - now that everyone has it - they proceeed to cash in, kill every competittor, or create a niche for yourself and hold everyone to ransom. there's no market regulator speaking one damn word abt all these. tear this company apart!!!

Jamie TJuly 1, 2006 7:44 AM

Can you say it would surprise you. People complained about XP and if certain changes were made you had to re-register it. Microsoft pushed Software Assurance and many jumped on it and didn't get the Longhorn update. How many peolpe have bought windows and they already own a copy? what I am getting at is as long as people keep buy Windows microsoft will do what they want to and keep putting out crap.

TQ White IIJuly 1, 2006 9:07 AM

"I do not want my computer shutdown by a WGA exploit, but at the same time I recognize that Microsoft needs to find some way to make software piracy more difficult'

NO THEY DON'T!!

Microsoft is vastly wealthy. They have cash resources that would be the envy of most of the countries in the world. They have market reach and penetration beyond belief. This has all occurred in an environment where software piracy is common. Most occurred when it was truly easy.

This is generally true of the software industry overall. While not universally so, companies whose software is broadly pirated tend to be quite successful.

More importantly, the service supplied by the software industry is completely adequate for our needs. There is no advantage to us as a citizenry to allowing them to inconvenience us further.

This attempt to "make softwer piracy more difficult" is based on greed and a desire for authoritarian control. It is the fashion among the powerful in this country to feel that any loopholes in their control must be plugged for no other reason than they feel that they must have more control and that we must be more powerless.

It is time for people to rise up and force corporations to accept the moral truth the supporting real, physical people is the priority, not the synthetic self-aggrandisement of increasing power and control of coroporations.

tqii

Ian MonroeJuly 1, 2006 9:28 AM

Well I think this is great. Linux's biggest competitor many places is not Microsoft Windows the-$100-product, but "free" Microsoft Windows.

another_bruceJuly 1, 2006 9:52 AM

some folks say pirated software is stolen property, well.....
but just one false positive is one too many. if windows goes out in a hospital emergency room and somebody dies as a result, the liability would be astronomical. the dead patient, after all, didn't click on the eula.
a false positive leading to os shutdown is essentially a theft of the user's machine. if the user paid for the software and is using it in a critical application and microsoft intentionally, wrongfully shuts his machine down, we're in punitive damages territory.
in other words, wga has to work absolutely perfectly. this would be a first for a microsoft product.

DaveJuly 1, 2006 10:04 AM

If one could credit Microsoft with sufficient long range planning one might think they had figured out a way yo make money off Linux.

I have resisted the push to Linux mainly out of lathargy but July's goal is to do everything I was doing in MSFT Office in OO2, and August XP goes away ... on my primary machine. There's just no way aroun dit ... they WDA is coming up with every kind of update ... I don't care that they check but you've checked already, a-holes.

Well, I'll never need to see Vista, that's for sdure., bye Bill ....

GillsJuly 1, 2006 10:26 AM

what does MS think they'll achieve with such a scheme? all they're gonna do is punish the honest ppl, since ppl with pirate copies will just download the wga crack.

MikeJuly 1, 2006 11:44 AM

Exactly, what makes people think there will not be a zero day hack to fix this "kill switch"? There has been ways around everything else MS has tried, this will be no different.

MarkJuly 1, 2006 11:53 AM

I agree that this could be the thing that pushes a lot of people over to Linux, you can do just about anything you can do on a Windows box with Linux, plus you get most of the apps you need straight off from the install!

The problem lies at the moment due to the fact that MS has such a HUGE market share it is taken as given that any PC is running some variant of windows, this is seen in the way that nearly all new PC's come with Windows XP installed, all new hardware and software always states it requires Windows XP/ME/2K etc. If your lucky you might see on some hardware boxes that it supports Mac OSX or even, heaven forbid Linux but support for linux is always a case of "well you know what your doing, sort it out yourself"

It's not going to happen overnight, but the industry needs to lose it's obsession with Windows and start to actively support other OS's, maybe then there won't be such a problem with software piracy! Besides I can't see why I should be paying over £100 for a piece of software that is "broken" out of the box and needs to be fixed slowly each month as more problems are found!

bajasopranoJuly 1, 2006 1:53 PM

well i know a way for microsoft to combat piracy and still be #1 os .... why not make the os cheaper .... like 49.99 cheap. the reason people pirate xp and all other ms products is because the normal person doesnt want to shell out close to 300 bucks for xp pro and another 300 bucks or so for office then pay there rent and or mortgage and then the light bill cable bill then internet and so on and so on... its hard to be a geek these days and be broke ... maybe this is why bittorrrent and all other piracy enabling programs are doing so well... take a page out of itunes 1 buck per song its not that expensive but yet it generates billions of dollars world wide 50 bucks is cheap for a os i would sure buy it and i think so would u

JamesJuly 1, 2006 3:17 PM

First, the EULA. Sure, it's legally binding, but to what extent? As with any contract, there are many clauses which would never hold up in court.
As for Linux, I'm not going to say it's better than Windows (though I've never seen a case where it wasn't through any fault of its own), but it is mature enough and supported enough that it could certainly replace most copies of Windows. What do Windows users do anyway? The majority use Messenger, Internet Explorer, Office, and Windows Media Player. There are many wonderful alternatives in Linux which are completely compatiable and are actually easier to use and more powerful. The only reason the customers I have talked to don't switch to Linux is because there's still a perceived belief that, "It doesn't work with Windows stuff," and that, "It's harder to use," both of which can easily be argued against.
And then there's the obvious argument against "copying software is theft". Well, legally it isn't, and considering how different it is in material and effect, I can't imagine how anybody could still believe that they are the same thing. It's no different than the argument "You stole my research paper" when in reality, I plagarized it. And I'll agree with many others here; I wouldn't be using Windows if I wasn't pirating it. I have Linux, but I usually end up using Windows because there is some program that I can't get under Linux (usually the latest game). But if I had no way to get it without paying $300, you bet I'd walk away and use Linux. Hell, you can get computers for $300 these days!
Now, the real topic: the kill switch. Is it doable? Absolutely! Don't think for a second that they couldn't do it. Would they is the question. It will definitely be a fool-hardy move. As many others have pointed out, only legitimate users are hurt by it. Pirates like myself can download a crack within minutes. As long as I still own my computer and my hardware (which Microsoft is trying to change with the Trusted Computing model), I can always modify the software that runs on it and force it to do whatever I want, and there's no way that Microsoft or anybody else can avoid that.
The only place where I can see there actually being a valid situation for argument is in respect to the morality of a kill-switch. Despite what some may say, Microsoft does have the right to protect its product. That's what copyright is all about. However, they don't have the right to infringe upon others, especially without their consent. Have we consented with the EULA? No, because even after reading it we still couldn't possibly have contemplated that they may at any time decide we aren't allowed to use it any more and kill it. If it's not in our reasonable contemplation, it's not in the contract.
In the end Microsoft can do whatever it wants, but it needs to be careful about balancing its right to protect itself with the duty of not infringing on others (especially its customers). This is the same balancing act that a court would perform in deciding whether their actions were legal or not.

MJuly 1, 2006 3:31 PM

IIRC, Microsoft could sell XP for $50 and still turn a profit on it, recouping development costs.

IIRC, Microsoft played dirty pool to run their competition into the ground. (Anyone remember the Dr.Dos scandal? How they bundled and dumped to run other office software into the ground. Etc...)

Tell me again about how the pirates are wrong for stealing from Microsoft... Because I'm having trouble keeping the players straight without a scorecard.

vanilla ice trayJuly 1, 2006 3:51 PM

nobody told anyone they have to remain with MS. you little haters can stfu and switch, but you enjoy being upset about something in your life.

hate bill gates.? Then switch, otherwise you sound like a whiner. and you smell like one too.

TimHJuly 1, 2006 5:09 PM

@bob
Off-topic I know, but I'm curious about the clause you got changed...

beanerJuly 1, 2006 6:53 PM

hello all,
I am typing this using my first linux live disc
sorry I don't remember the version name pc linux something.
Any way they have the kill pill I have had my
computer refuse to see the hardrive and cdrom
I have a dell in bios/ boot sequence it will same none avaliable. I formatted the hard drive
still would not read hd. I had to zero out the mbr. 3times
At point I became a linux supporter and I am a old man 63 and not a computer genius but the internet has alot of smart young folks.
beaner Ps. linux PCLinuxOS is the version

solivagusJuly 1, 2006 7:05 PM

@bob:

Actually, my friend works for a company with the most expensive level of technical support available from Microsoft. IIRC, he had trouble deleting an image from a Word document which was about 2MB in length or so. He informed them, and some time later, the tech sent him back a 10MB file with the image removed. The tech explained that he cut-and-pasted everything except the image into a new document.

It's hard not to mix feelings about Microsoft. If it were just about any other company, I'd consider this fair play, and I think even with Microsoft it may be. However, Microsoft was convicted of monopolistic practices, and worse, they rely on network externalities to sell their products. In other words, people don't often buy MS products because they are the best at what they do, they buy them because they need to interoperate with some third party. It's not uncommon to see job postings that ask for Word documents. My HR department at my last job had several forms that were excel spreadsheets, and openoffice was not very good at rendering them. I filled them out and FAXed them in, but they were so screwed up I ended up having to re-do it with excel in her office because I don't want to shell out $300 for a copy of MS Office. I'm not sure she understood the implications of using excel for documents critical to the corporation, that she was in fact forcing everyone to buy Microsoft, and thereby acting as a Microsoft salesperson - with substantial leverage, I might add.

Also, it's not clear that Microsoft really cares about what capitalism is supposed to do; I can't think of any technology they've innovated, and I can't think of any company that has become successful by partnering with them. I'm not clear that the laiety has any idea of the implications of buying Microsoft products (perfect knowledge is necessary for capitalism to maximize the public good). And to quote Eric Raymond, they view competition as a demolition derby, not a race. I'm not sure this is healthy for capitalism.

Stefan WagnerJuly 1, 2006 8:36 PM

I don't expect much movement to linux from this.

I know some win-users, who are already trained in reinstalling windows from scratch. Depending on their low investments (of time, mainly) in security every year, or every month.

It's shaking me!

Most PCs are sold with Windows preinsalled.
Users will buy Vista, and don't drop it easily after paying for it.

EssayBlastJuly 2, 2006 12:18 AM

Why Doesn't Somebody Sue These People?! I am against frivolous lawsuits just as much as the next guy - but this afternoon Microsoft demanded that I download their Microsoft Genuine Advangate thingie, and it reboot my system. For what?! To help them verify for the 20th time that I did, in fact, purchase this god damn software.

Yes, I know. haha MacOS doesn't require a reboot to reinstall stuff. Frankly, I think Microsoft takes advantage of this "haha macosx and linux doesn't reboot like Windows" stuff. Distractomatic. The issue is that Microsoft is stealing huge amounts of hours of people's time, not that macosx and linux behave differently.

NathanJuly 2, 2006 6:28 AM

Just thinking - does the EULA really allow MS to "disable" Windows? I've always though that EULAs are not valid contracts since you haven't signed it. No, clicking OK or "I Agree" is not signing it.

Arphaxnad101July 2, 2006 5:16 PM

Bill Gates, the man with the best overview of what is about to happen, has bailed out of Microsoft and opted for sainthood instead. When things go down, he won't be there to take the heat. Take a hint....

JamieJuly 2, 2006 9:04 PM

I find it hard to see why Microsoft persists on continuing with WGA. It's never going to stop pirates, only legitimate users.

I've been following WGA for a while now. For the last dozen or so releases, it's only a matter of days (or hours) between when the software comes out and when a patch is available for it. If someone's deliberately using a pirated copy of Windows, they're savvy enough to know where to get a copy of the patch from.

NocturnJuly 3, 2006 2:43 AM

@Brian

"It is easy to criticize Microsoft on this issue, but given the difficulty of managing software piracy we should at least appreciate that Microsoft is trying to solve the problem in some fashion.

I do not want my computer shutdown by a WGA exploit, but at the same time I recognize that Microsoft needs to find some way to make software piracy more difficult. It haven't seen any ideas for a better solution, so I guess what Microsoft plans is the best option at this point."

Well, i don't use Windows personally, but here is how I see this.

Privacy is a problem for the software vendors, not me as a legitimate customer. If I buy software and pay for it, whoever owns illegal version is not my concern.

A good anti-piracy system would catch most of the software copying with as little hassle as possible for legitimat customers.

WGA fails horribly in this respect, with all legit customers bearing the costs of the piracy detection including the cost of loosing their privacy while Microsoft bears little to non.

What if the kill switch takes out the systems in a hospital by accident? Or cripples a company for 2 days while it does have licenses? Does MS pick up the bill?

Honestly, this is a stupid idea regardless how you look at it and it makes me happy again that I switched 7 years ago.

NocturnJuly 3, 2006 3:16 AM

@Brian again

"we should at least appreciate that Microsoft is trying to solve the problem in some fashion."

I missed the essence of this sentence in my first reply.

Why should we appreciate them solving a problem that does not affect us in the first place?

Piracy is not the problem of the consumer, it's the problem of the vendor.


"If "the backlash could do more for non-Windows OSs than anything those OSs could do for themselves.
" is true, I am not sure what that says for those non-Windows operating systems."

Not really. The spyware that gets forced onto users is one thing, but if their machines start shutting down while they shelled out 200 € for a license may make the retraining to Linux worthwhile.

No matter how good most distros have become, switching still requires shedding old habbits and learning new things, something most average users are reluctant to do.

NocturnJuly 3, 2006 3:22 AM

@AG

"How many billions has MS lost to people stealing there software?"

How many of those that have pirated versions would actually buy the real stuff if they couldn't get it for free?

Really, the combination of WinXP + Office is already more expensive then a full laptop and you still have to shell out extra money for AV etc.

I think a lot of the modern Linux distros would see a big uptake if MS managed to lock out piracy.
Which would be bad for MS too, since the argument of companies that MS Office is needed because the users are trained on it would die.

NocturnJuly 3, 2006 3:30 AM

@AG

"How many billions has MS lost to people stealing there software?"

Strangely enough, I'm more concerned with how many millions customers have lost due to their artificially inflated prices, their abuse of a monopoly and the forced sale of an XP license with each PC regardless of the Os the user wants (MS tax).

I wonder how many new machines would have XP + Office when the option of Ubuntu/SuSE/Fedora with OpenOffice would be 100-300 € cheaper...

NocturnJuly 3, 2006 3:41 AM

@AG
"The whole "I wouldn't have bought it if I had to pay for it." is a bunch of crap. People for illegally copy software are crooks. If you illegally copy software your are a criminal.

Illegally copied software is stolen property. Stolen property is lost money for the company selling it."

Funny, for me it's also: Forcing me to buy a Windows license for my Linux laptop (which BTW only has the EULA inside, so it is only known after the purchase) is also stealing.

So in my book, MS stole money from me.

Secondly, look at the number of times they have been convicted of stealing software from other companies (Apple in the 80's, now Symantec in Vista).
If piracy is such a crime, why do they commit it themselves? Even BG seems to watch ripped shows on YouTube...

SaxonJuly 3, 2006 7:41 AM

@vwm:


"No, Microsoft antipiracy technologies cannot and will not turn off your computer"

is not the same thing as

"No, Microsoft antipiracy technologies cannot and will not disable your operating system".

I already run a partition with Kubuntu on it at home. I will probably be using it more and more over the next year or so, and will transfer all my files off of the Windows partition over that time. I have a licensed copy of XP, but as noted above, all it takes is one false positive (or one "you aren't running the correct version of WGA, your copy of Windows will not be usable until you upgrade to our latest buggy patch") to cut me off from all my data.

CoreyJuly 3, 2006 11:45 AM

@bob:

"You may as well call the VA or IRS for all the help you will get from MS."

Don't know about the VA, but I've actually found the IRS to be helpful. Twice this year, I called in with tax questions. Once was for some clarification of how "adjusted basis" applies to a situation like my consultancy partnership. The other time was a "bug report": the relevant IRS Pub said to put your clean-fuel vehicle deduction on 1040 line X, but it really ought to have been X+1 (line X was the "domestic production activities credit"), and they confirmed that.

Both times I got timely and human-understandable answers. An earlier year, I made a mistake on my 1040A (forgetting to subtract something, IIRC) and got an unsolicited refund check in the mail (I'd paid with the form).

PiracyJuly 3, 2006 1:27 PM

First off.. Copyright violation is just a "prettier" version of stealing. You have acquired something without the owner knowing or permiitting usage of it with the intent to do so. The fact that you would have purchased it if it were cheaper, or that you would not have purchased it anyway is meaningless. If you take a car with the door open and the keys in it and a "for sale" sign on it, it is still theft. Essentially, that's software: easily available applications with for sale signs.

Secondly.. If you don't want the machine to be on a network, then you don't need it to be.. That doesn't change the fact that the software doesn't require it for registration and upgradability. There are already insane requirements on memory, processor speed, or number of bits (32 vs. 64), why not have it on network? Times change, so do requirements. There is nothing that says you have to have a computer or use MS's products.

Lastly.. Demand speaks volumes. Society is comfortable with MS and will continue to use it unless something better comes along with similar support (ie: macs/linux aren't even close yet). Just like fuel (see E85 vs. SUVs sucking down gas)..

TarkeelJuly 3, 2006 1:59 PM

@Solivagus: Sure, MS know what capitalism is about: Making as much money as you possibly can by exploiting the market.

IMHO, the main reason Windows survives in the home computer market these days, is DirectX. New games are about the only thing that's hard to get done on linux.

BrianJuly 3, 2006 2:24 PM

This is obviously an emotionally charged issue, based on the comments so far. I thought the original issue was about WGA and the possible dangers of exploits to disable legal OS's and the problem of false positives. I am definitely amused by the comments directed at my comment(s), thanks for the responses.

Let me be very clear on my "Not a viable option" jibe, which obviously the more zealots people took offense to. If you are a large organization that is running on a multitude of Microsoft services like Active Directory, IIS, Exchange Server, etc. and are supporting thousands of desktops running a variety of Windows operating systems you are not going to drop all of that infrastructure to move to Linux and Open Office model overnight. The "Ubuntu/Open Office" remark is thus in my mind a simple-minded response to a very complicated issue.

I think that software piracy is a major concern for commercial companies, regardless of whether they are losing billions or just hundreds of dollars. Theft affects the bottom line and reduces the incentive to develop commercial products.

Is anyone going to develop a perfect solution that no one can complain about or poke holes in? Nope. But even if a solution solves 90% of piracy, that is a major gain. WGA may be a bad idea or implementation, but I at least recognize that the risks Microsoft are taking will likely lead to a solution in the future. I see a lot of criticism but very little of it constructive.

I also noticed a few comments on making the OS cheaper so people would be less likely to steal it, or that since Microsoft has a ton of money they can afford to do so, or my favorite that closed source is a tar pit. If a company spends the time/money to develop and sell a product, they have the right to sell it at whatever price they see fit. If it is too expensive, don't buy it. That is the free market economy. Lets try not to make software into some sort of socialist utopia that is a pipe dream.

There is likely always going to be a mix of both open source and commercial software. Open source/community driven software provides us with software that likely wouldn't be created at a typical commercial company, while commercial software delivers software that would be hard to create unless you are willing to pay talented people to build it.

I rarely bother to post on these ideas, because about 80% of people have already made their minds up to hate/love Microsoft products or hate/love open source. Nothing you say will ever sway them and having an opinion counter to their's will only bring insults and derision. These kind of people are zealots. I respect there passion, but it would be nice to see Microsoft zealots admit that Microsoft isn't always perfect, and for Open Source zealots to actually have an open mind.

Real namesJuly 3, 2006 2:56 PM

@Brian:

"Let me be very clear on my "Not a viable option" jibe, which obviously the more zealots people took offense to. If you are a large organization that is running on a multitude of Microsoft services like Active Directory, IIS, Exchange Server, etc. and are supporting thousands of desktops running a variety of Windows operating systems you are not going to drop all of that infrastructure to move to Linux and Open Office model overnight."

One could argue that those who insist upon relying upon closed source and closed formats are worse than zealots. Organizations switch to Linux overnight all the time, try reading tech world news more often. One should also consider whether or not the "zealots" are actually zealots or better informed freedom lovers.

"The "Ubuntu/Open Office" remark is thus in my mind a simple-minded response to a very complicated issue."

IMO sounds like a simple minded response to a very simple solution.

"they have the right to sell it at whatever price they see fit."

The issue should be the history of deals at the OEM level.

"Lets try not to make software into some sort of socialist utopia that is a pipe dream."

A world of free and open file formats and software/Operating Systems is an idea grounded in reality, IMO let's not blur this reality with words like pipe dream, zealot, and other hippy like religious terms.

"I rarely bother to post on these ideas, because about 80% of people have already made their minds up to hate/love Microsoft products or hate/love open source."

Then why continue? Reading the history of M$ (and I've been using computers far longer than M$ has been in business) is enough reading to make me sick and not want to use any product or service from them ever again. I value the philosophy of FREE and OPEN software, sadly most people don't understand what it's like to live with a philosophy.

"Nothing you say will ever sway them and having an opinion counter to their's will only bring insults and derision. "

I feel the same could be said for those who love closed source and love paying for it. Especially when many of them like to use words like zealot.

"These kind of people are zealots."

See?

"I respect there passion, but it would be nice to see Microsoft zealots admit that Microsoft isn't always perfect"

You respect THEIR passion? Then why the use of zealot? There's no need IMO for M$ fans to admit that M$ isn't always perfect, HISTORY ALREADY SHOWS plenty of interesting details.

"for Open Source zealots to actually have an open mind."

By switching to free and open source software against the M$ majority people are SHOWING their open minds and willingness not to settle for what the majority use: closed file formats and closed source software/operating systems.

Anyone who thinks different (pardon the Apple reference), acts different, and speaks with conviction over something which is free is labeled a hippy or zealot. Perhaps the spotlight should shine brighter on those who bad mouth these open minded "zealots" rather than the people who seek change, so the closed source lovers can be seen for what they are.

AlJuly 3, 2006 3:00 PM

"I think a lot of the modern Linux distros would see a big uptake if MS managed to lock out piracy."

Linux distros would see a big uptake if more money were put into marketing. Let's face it, that's the only logical reason more people aren't using Linux, they don't know there's other choices aside from Windows. But the word is getting out, and time is on the side of Linux.

Charles B.July 3, 2006 11:30 PM

@Bill:

Let me also be clear. I agree that piracy is illegal. And I admire the fact that Bill Gates is giving his wealth back to society. But neither Bill Gates, nor Microsoft for that matter, really matter to lots of IT people.

I've already given the 75-year old home Linux user example. On the enterprise side, it's not only an option, but a reality. Every item in your laundry list is easily replaced by an open source "option." And companies do indeed switch over night. But few IT shops publisize the fact.

Here's one that did: http://news.com.com/2008-1082_3-5065859.html

And there are lots more out there.

My new motto: "Stop software piracy, use Linux/BSD!"

Christoph ZurniedenJuly 4, 2006 5:54 AM

> "No, Microsoft antipiracy technologies cannot and will not disable your operating system"

You mean: because "No, Microsoft technologies cannot and will not disable your operating system" is all wrong and because that's also a proper superset of "No, Microsoft antipiracy technologies cannot and will not disable your operating system" the latter is all wrong too?
But serious: it's a more reasonable assumption that MS just won't let you download some of the patches if you do not install WGA and some of these patches might be of relevance for the security of the system and for such complex and closed systems like Windows even the most innocent looking patch might close a security hole. You have to run a dedicated machine to get all the patches for testing befor you can deploy them (I'm talking about business here of course, the private customer has no chance to get off the hook, as usual) which you do already, so nothing has changed at all? Well, one little extra now: this machine must have a licence which WGA, a piece of beta-software of unknown origin, accepts. Note that I didn't say a "legitimate licence" but a "licence, accepted by WGA", thus a legitimate licence does not insure a working software anymore therefore that machine may fail (doesn't download _all_ patches anymore which is a complete failure for a machine dedicated to download _all_ patches) without warning. That costs time and money. May I rise my prices now for securing a network with at least one node with a Windows system on it? No, because my competitors don't because their competitors don't. We all just sit and eat that MS-tax and get infected by heliobacter pylori[1]. It's never a lot but it summed up over the last years. I guess it's called the boiling-frog-syndrome, isn't it?
They have invested so much money in MS-products over the years, they can't change anymore without a _huge_ investment which the shareholders, interrested in short term profit only, forbid. The other extreme are the Mom&Pop-shops, they have neither the money nor the incentive to change anything and most of them don't even needed a computer in the first place, they would have been better off with doing their bookkeeping with pen&paper. The capabilities to change for the big rest of that set depends on how long and, moreso, how much they used MS-products directly (e.g. that infamous Access 1.0 application) or indirectly (e.g. AutoCAD won't be ported. Never). It would be a matter of calculating costs&benefits if they can get rid off MS products in parts or maybe even completly.

Oh, and you don't change to *BSD/Linux/MacOS/whatever you will use IBM/Novell (Linux), "a special server operating system with warranty" (OpenBSD, without the warranty you'll offer), an "operating system, specially crafted for publishing/multimedia/whatever"(MacOS) or even a "special high security operating system" (Plan9) ;-)

CZ

PS: a viable alternative to most of the uses of VB-studio is Gambas [http://gambas.sourceforge.net/].


[1] yes, the most dangerous virus for users of software is no virus at all but a bacterium.

NocturnJuly 4, 2006 9:10 AM

@Brian

"Let me be very clear on my "Not a viable option" jibe, which obviously the more zealots people took offense to. If you are a large organization that is running on a multitude of Microsoft services like Active Directory, IIS, Exchange Server, etc. and are supporting thousands of desktops running a variety of Windows operating systems you are not going to drop all of that infrastructure to move to Linux and Open Office model overnight. The "Ubuntu/Open Office" remark is thus in my mind a simple-minded response to a very complicated issue."

#1 You are starting from the assumption that this is a bit existing organization which has already standardized on MS.
It may also be a new one, a smaller one or one that is replacing another legacy system.
Even in your assumption, a migration to Ubuntu/OpenOffice is possible, though it will take years instead of months or weeks.

#2 Your argument focuses on the problems of migrating a large userbase, not on the areas where OpenOffice or Ubuntu lack in respect to windows, which is what most people understood when you said 'not a viable option'.

NocturnJuly 4, 2006 9:16 AM

@Brian

"but I at least recognize that the risks Microsoft are taking will likely lead to a solution in the future. I see a lot of criticism but very little of it constructive."

That is because piracy is their problem, not the problem of their legit customers who are being hit by this issue.

If I buy windows, I do not care how they prevent it from being copied as long as it provides minimal hassle to me. I'm after all not the interested party to prevent the copying.

This is in essence the same issue that Bruce brought up numerous times with credit/debit card fraud. The burden of failures should be upon the one designing the system as he is the only one that can fix it.

Or compare it to the Sony rootkit debacle, after all, they were only protecting their IP too if you subscribe to this reasoning.

nicariJuly 4, 2006 2:48 PM

For me, it has never been a problem, because:
Ten years ago, in 1996, I visited a Microsoft web site. A few days after that, I received a snail mail message from Microsoft, threatening me with legal action, if I use pirated softward (my copy of windows was pre-installed, and not pirated).
Within minutes after receipt of this letter, I loged onto the internet and ordered a copy of Red Hat. After that, I have never looked back, and I am very happy to this day.
No worries about M$, no worries about viruses, trojan horses, spyware.... just no worries at all. I can only recommend everybody else to do just what I did and be happy.

Beastie-the FreeBSD daemon!July 5, 2006 2:06 AM

1:
Windows Basics:Learned in 1 week.
Unix Basics:Learned in 1 month.
2:
Windows Basic Adminstration:Learned in 1 month.
Unix Basic Administration:Learned in 3 months.

No,my question goes to all the MS lovers:
After all these viruses,worms,trojans,rootkits,bluescreens,
dll-hell,compatibility issues,broken "patches"-"fixes",registry errors and most importantly...TIME spent fixing it (and MONEY)....
how many YEARS more do you intend to continue NOT actually LEARN anything?

andrew duffinJuly 5, 2006 4:10 AM

Beastie:
"how many YEARS more do you intend to continue NOT actually LEARN anything?"

So your point is that time spent learning MS products doesn't count as learning?

People have huge investments in skills with this stuff (I don't just mean Aunt Minnie-style XP client skills), they are not about to dump it all overnight, even though that might be the rational answer to some of Microsoft's antics.

mr. grumpyJuly 5, 2006 12:51 PM

Considering the last batch of updates destroyed the registry indices for my plug and play audio devices, and I'm looking building a new user account to get them fully back, I'd say the "kill switch" is already working on a per feature basis... wouldn't suck so much if I wasn't trying to create music... yeah, go buy a mac, i know, i know.

Pat CahalanJuly 5, 2006 1:28 PM

Boy, *this* thread sure turned into a bunch of bombastic blather...

AdamJuly 6, 2006 4:49 PM

I've already had XP not let me in because it thought my copy was bogus -- which it certainly is not. I rebooted and it didn't happen again. Needless to say, I was not pleased.

wmJuly 7, 2006 2:20 AM

@"Piracy":

I disagree. Copyright violation is very different from theft. Theft involves depriving the owner of something they possess -- copyright violations remove nothing from the copyright holder. The balance in the copyright holder's bank account does not reduce by even one cent as a result of someone copying their works.

To use your example of a car, copyright violation is like you leaving your car running on the drive and me coming along, looking at your car, using it as a blueprint to build my own *copy* of your car, then driving off in my copy, leaving your car sat on the drive just how you left it.

It would take a very twisted definition of "theft" to regard that as stealing your car.

wmJuly 7, 2006 2:25 AM

@"Piracy" and myself:

Just to clarify: I'm not saying that copyright violation is necessarily acceptable or that it should be permitted (either by the copyright holder or even by society); just that it cannot be equated with theft.

NocturnJuly 7, 2006 8:39 AM

@wm

"Just to clarify: I'm not saying that copyright violation is necessarily acceptable or that it should be permitted (either by the copyright holder or even by society); just that it cannot be equated with theft."

I fully agree. It's not something good (specially in the face of alternatives), but it's not drunk driving either.

kalleJuly 11, 2006 7:11 AM

There's an easy way to remove the WGA software..

www.firewallleaktester.com/removewga.htm

rickiedickiedoJuly 11, 2006 9:58 PM

All this cr*p is actually funny. Since switching to a Mac, I just laugh at all of you struggling with Microsoft's B.S. and all the associated problems (viruses). There ARE OTHER OPTIONS......

annarAugust 30, 2006 10:13 AM

WGA will go down in history as "Why Gates was ..." fill in your own blank.
The kill switch did kick in when I scheduled a chkdsk to run on next reboot. They are lying about it not kicking in - the keyboard was LOCKED - there was no prior notification - those WGA screens came up AFTER the keyboard was locked. Computer came up only in SAFE MODE. Corporate customer. When I clicked on RESOLVE now, it went to a go.microsoft site THAT NO LONGER EXISTS.

Computer was purchased 2 years ago.

Took it to Best Buy at 8pm (we do computer support after biz hours of course). Best Buy looked at the hologram sticker and said the computer was genunine. But while acknowledging our company had been screwed, they offered their 911 service, meaning, 24 hour turnaround - would have cost $900 dollars. They tried to figure out a way to lower the cost to us. However, all our biz programs would have to be reloaded.

Hey - what do you expect of a country and their anti-Racketeering policies that decriminalizes KEN LAY of Enron, and lets BILL GATES - IMO a higher echelon racketeer than KEN LAY or CARLOS MARCELLO (Mafia to those of you outside the US) - get away with CORPORATE TERRORISM?

Anna
...I'm ready to ACT, I know what the A stands for in WGA.

n00bAugust 31, 2006 6:15 AM

ummm lol ?
why people use WINDOWS ?
not LINUX ?
cause WINDOWS has advertisments, is installed on most purchased computers, is known a lot, is said to be simplier than LINUX.

BUT IT ISINT !!

and , at last - most apps are made for windows :( there are of course vers for mac/linux but most are aimed for windows ?
hell it has the most number of users !

now that was an offtopic i could write more on that subject but nvm ...

WGA ...
Windows Got A virus .... it is a virus
or exploit
or trojan
or 'unfare function'
call it watever you want . for me its just some shit most users will have to play with for hour doing it the MICROSOFT WAY ...
i prefer WGAfool way ...
i hope wga will turn out buggy so that anyone withowt wgafool can be hacked.
then microsoft will loose really a big number of costumers and potential costumers and linux will get (maybe) more popular but i think most people using windows are not ready to turn to linux ...
but anything bad to windows - is good for me :)

asshole analfabet assfucker and other :) (im learning the letter A from the encyclopedia if someone asks )
antena ... doh -.-

i am sure this post is confusing cause i am a psycho and no one understands what im sayin' ^^

anywas i dont have time now so bye ^^ :)

mike_oSeptember 15, 2006 4:12 PM

I just deleted the WGA files and switched off the updates. Effectively, MS lost communication with my PC and the chance to improve the way their product works.

pnguineOctober 15, 2006 4:47 PM

To all M$ apologists:

If software piracy is such a HUGE problem then how did M$ get to be the richest corporation on earth and how did Billy get to be the richest man on earth?

The real problem is Billy's unsatiable greed.

On behalf of all Linux enthusiasts I would like to thank M$ for thier invaluable help in promoting Open Source and Free Software alternatives.

jerriannOctober 26, 2006 8:50 AM

well i have the disc and cd key that came with my laptop but my laptop crashed so i got a desktop and put it on there,now they tell me i have to buy a new license and all that crap.now i can't use it or what.they tell me well you don't actually own the rights to use it,so we can not activate it.this is a bunch of crap!!!

DogsNovember 7, 2006 1:07 AM

Well I think that I need to look at other alternatives, i.e. Linux, at least I would not have to worry about hacker attacks viruses etc to the extent of MS. Sure Bill can /should make some money for his product but it is expensive, and just look at the size of all the critial updates. Do a format and it takes just as long to update it as it does to install it and after WGA I will be formatting again as I think that MS can get rooted.
What MS does by creating these types of BS things is encourage people to hack and attack there systems and I am getting sick of downloading updates. They wonder why people are into ripping Bill off, well I guess he should'nt be crying so much considering his departure from IBM all those years ago. Reap what you Sow, Billy Boy

jigana54December 4, 2006 3:40 PM

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hazzoDecember 23, 2006 2:10 PM

1. Apple will sue Microsoft for every penny, for breach of their use of eg sizable windows (and many other copyright issues) if Microsoft implement an Xp kill switch. Why? To collect income from users forced to change their computers.
2. Genuine users (and non-genuine?) will have to keep a separate copy of system restore files and the windows registry, and run their computers at a prior date and time, until a patch disabling WGA for good is found.
3. As mentioned by others, a) they may fall foul of computer misuse laws of various countries. If a false positive occurs in a mission critical system, these COUNTRIES will pursue CRIMINAL PROSECUTION of Microsoft, with POTENTIALLY UNLIMITED FINES.
4. Any poorer country might do well to revise their computer misuse laws before September to include tampering with operating systems, to collect the HUGEST revenues from Microsoft.
5. As stated, many will simply revert to a prior system, eg Windows 98, Windows 2000 etc
6. How many large multi-national companies will want to risk posssible major system downtime?
7. Why risk hurting innocent people?
8. What a gift to hackers, patch windows to make updates or even one update obligatory. The security of every Windows computer is compromised. This again would/ will breach many countries
Computer misuse laws.
9. Why make Microsoft a major target for International terrorists (likely to be using non WGA products?). No doubt they can through their criminal and terrorist acts afford WGA products. They might retaliate against Microsoft (hard spam/ shutdown Microsoft web site? etc)
simply for the inconvenience of having to do a major re-install of MS products.
10. The corporate backlash (already very large) against MS products would REALLY hurt Microsofts finances.
11. Perhaps Microsoft are simply THAT stupid !!!!!!!!!!

xlDecember 23, 2006 2:54 PM

A major corporate user. Will not want to risk time-bombing system. Any wish to upgrade is now forgotten. Present system does all required of it. New computers with Vista installed will have Windows NT or Win XP Pro put on. End of story. End of new business with Microsoft.

sumdudeAugust 31, 2007 3:53 PM

micro$oft=Borg=Resistance if futile (unless that little penguin is onboard the enterprise remodulating shields.)

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