Microsoft has finally activated the most aggressive part of their Windows Genuine Advantage program -- active notifications.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/05/you-may-be-a-victim-of-software-counterfeiting.html
Also, southern california is full of pirates. But you knew that already.
Towards the end you say, “Microsoft is certainly entitled to protect their IP by annoying pirates into buying cd keys”, but the tone of the rest of the piece sounds like you don’t really believe it.
Can you name any cases (sofware or otherwise) where merchandise or IP that’s known to be stolen (or counterfeited) from the manufacturer is provided with full support?
As you noted, Microsoft does still provide critical security updates to non-genuine installations. The language used in the dialog box does not imply otherwise and doesn’t seem misleading to me in the least.
You say, “Notice the word “Purchase” appears in three of those five options. There’s almost no way to finagle a free cd-key out of this.” These options sound perfectly reasonable to me (though they may not to someone who has to choose one). Your copy isn’t legal. You can buy one that is, take it up with the bstrd that told you it was, or prove to us that the counterfeit was so good that you shouldn’t be held accountable for falling for it. No, a Memorex CD with “M$ Windoze” written on it with a Sharpie doesn’t count.
I don’t see anything wrong with this. I don’t disparage anyone for finding fault with this scheme, though. For those that do, there are alternative operating systems available.
Well if the follow what other companies like SAS and SPSS have doing for years, when they find you have a bad cd key, the software shuts down.
I personally know 8 to 10 people running pirated versions of Windows, and I would be VERY happy to see them be forced to pay up. Currently they just say “it’s too easy to find keys online” why should I buy it. What a sad state of affairs.
In my opinion, if you pirate software you are a criminal and should be treated as such.
You can buy one that is, take it up with the bstrd that told you it was
This entire post was motivated by someone who posted a comment to my thread on update reboot nagging. He bought a computer from eBay that evidently didn’t have genuine windows, and he mistook the WGA nag balloon for the update reboot nag balloon.* What are the odds of him getting redress from J. Random eBay User? I’d say pretty slim.
All I’m saying is, sometimes being a nice guy when you don’t technically have to be a nice guy can generate a lot of user goodwill. And user goodwill is not something Microsoft had a lot of the last time I checked.
The language used in the dialog box does not imply otherwise and doesn’t seem misleading to me in the least.
Regardless, using threats and fear to motivate people isn’t a viable long term “strategery”.
the tone of the rest of the piece sounds like you don’t really believe it
There’s a fine line between the popularity graphs of open source software and pirated software. It’s the elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. The long tail guy has a much better article on this than anything I could possibly write:
I am ambivalent about this because I think the marketing model is wrong. It should be more like Visual Studio-- the basic core versions of Windows should be free (eg, “express edition”), and the fancier, more feature rich versions cost more (eg, “pro”, “standard”, “team system editions”). This also mirrors the business model of, say, Basecamp and Movable Type. Basic stuff is free to drive adoption, because without adoption, it really doesn’t matter how much you’re charging. This may be difficult to see now because Windows is already so pervasive.
- as an aside, at the point where users are getting their naggy balloon popups mixed up, it’s time to reconsider the entire strategy of naggy balloon popups in general. Why is this acceptable, yet every web browser now has pop-up blockers built in?
will not be able to enable the fancy Aero “glass” interface
Great! Nobody outside of MS cares about “Aero” anyway and the first thing I do with XP is disable the eye candy. Installing a pirate version of Vista will probably be the quickest and easiest way of avoiding all the ridiculous cruft.
How long until we see a phishing version of this dialog?
My girlfriend got (I think) this dialog at work. She said a window popped up and said she had pirate software. It provided a way to buy a license online. She provided her credit card details etc.
When I asked her what software produced the message, what she had actually purchased by providing her details etc. she didn’t actually know.
This is just teaching people to enter credit card details when some program asks, in fear of the software police.
Funny how those caught with their hands in the cookie jar make endless evasions and denials, and paint those who catch them as the villians?
Software piracy has a lot in common with speeding tickets this way.
Already been burned by this one and posted a detailed blog article about it on my website (http://paulcoddington.info).
Plenty of room for exploit here - I wonder how long it will be before we see malware that sets the critical data file to read only (potentially unlimited fun with false piracy notifications and subsequent help desk calls) or better yet one that starts harvesting, swapping, and re-registering product keys at random between machines to screw up Microsoft’s database.
The thing that is most astonishing, is that all you have to do to trigger a false alarm on someone’s PC is to set a single file to read only which everyone must have write access to.
This message appeared on my sister’s laptop after she applied all the recent updates.
The version of XP installed is genuine - but the new update insisted it wasn’t - I did a bit of digging and found out that the “Windows Genuine Advantage Notification” service was actually failing to authenticate my sister’s copy of XP because the date time settings on the client PC did not match the date time settings on the authentication server. This caused an error - which manifested itself by showing the notification that the client machines version of windows wasn’t a “genuine copy”. Once I adjusted the laptop’s clock it validated ok.
Not a good end user experience.
I have to be, for one, pretty thankful to the fact that Microsoft products are easily crackable and avaliable everywhere. Because, in my case, I work on what I love AS A DIRECT RESULT of computer piracy.
I’m a self-taught computer programmer. I never went to the University, never made more than a couple of courses and seminars. At the beginning it was just me, my computer, a book on VB4 programming… and my pirated copy of the IDE. Back then I couldn’t afford a licensed copy, no way. Without that I couldn’t have learned anything. Without that today I wouldn’t be a programmer. A friend of mine started at around the same time, using the same methods as mine, delving into Photoshop and 3DStudio, both programs which were even more expensive than VB4. Today he’s a successful designer.
And yes, today one has alternatives: you can use the Express editions to learn the language, you can use the excellent SharpDevelop, and so on. But even today I have a pirated copy of Visual Studio 2003 running on my desktop. Because on my day to day, on the firm I work for, I have to use VS2003, not SharpDevelop. And I’ve thought about purchasing one, but I simply can’t afford it: at almost 700€ the Professional Edition, that’s almost the price of one of my monthly mortgage pays.
And I’m not trying to defend myself: I know I’m commiting a crime, a theft. But although I’m not paying Microsoft for using its software, I’m also not receiving direct cash for using it. I’ve never sell one of my house programs. Sure, I use it at my everyday work and I’m earning wages for it, but in my everyday work I use my employer’s copy which, by the way, is ALSO pirate.
So ask yourselves this: should Microsoft pursue me or my employer?
The problem I have with all of this b.s. activation stuff is it just doesn’t work. I have an XP Pro CD, bought at my local software shop, which I used to upgrade an older machine. Installed everything, and it worked - for about a month. Now, anytime I try to run Office apps, I get prompts indicating MS doesn’t think my copy of windows is legal. Oh, they don’t say it in so many words, but it thinks I don’t have a “genuine copy”.
I’m very selective about which updates I do. I haven’t updated with the Genuine patch yet, and haven’t had any issues so far. I don’t know what the consequences are for not patching that particular update though.
And for the record, I got my copy of XP from an MSDN subscription I used to have for work. I remember trying to validate a few months ago, and it didn’t, so that’s why I’m not updating with the Genuine patch. If that makes me a pirate, ah well.
That map is the funniest thing I’ve seen posted in a while.
This isn’t just a service you can disable, or a process you can kill in task manager, either. You’ll have to install some kind of questionable third-party hack to get around it.
Or just not install that update
What I think is the most interesting part about this is the timing. Think about it for a minute. If they did this AFTER Vista shipped it would be taken as a move to force users to upgrade to Vista. This pretty much has to happen now or it can’t happen at all.
But I think that this move is fine as long as it coincides with an appropriate price reduction (as I’ve heard Vista intends to provide in the form of Express versions). The idea is that if Microsoft can significantly cut piracy then it should benefit the rest of us in the shape of a lower retail boxed price.
I’d rather be able to pick up a copy of a standard Windows product for $99 that includes a strong/dependable activation scheme than to have to pay $199 just because no one else in the world is capable of being honest. Why should I be penalized?
Have you checked eBay? I don’t think you’re trying very hard…
Everything on ebay is pirated. Even though it’s easy and fun to laugh at obvious fakes, I still get burned one in three times buying software, music, or dvds off ebay and amazon market. (“Everything” may be an exaggeration, but with the well so poisoned it amounts to the same thing, since you can’t verify in person.) Even when they’re not you have to deal with companies’ unwillingness to transfer license and support.
On the other hand, rampant piracy has led to ebay giving companies carte blanch to shut down any auction regardless of its legitimacy, if they don’t want used versions circulating. (Because First Sale is just a pleasant fantasy entertained by the judiciary or something.)
It used to only be games that you had to find a no-cd crack to make it work reliably as soon as you bought it. Now it’s easier to buy a lot of software for the printed manuals (if any) and download the cracked torrent or activation keygen for the actual install. I refuse to waste my time with product support because I have an unusual hardware configuration, reinstall windows, or reinstall the app. Problem is, the ease and cheapness breeds laziness about buying it even for someone with a strong conscience.
Howard and Paul highlight some interesting failure conditions:
the date and time on the client PC must be close to correct
the user must be logged in as an administrator
And I’ve thought about purchasing one, but I simply can’t afford it
Have you checked eBay? I don’t think you’re trying very hard…
“This entire post was motivated by someone who posted a comment to my thread on update reboot nagging. He bought a computer from eBay that evidently didn’t have genuine windows, and he mistook the WGA nag balloon for the update reboot nag balloon.* What are the odds of him getting redress from J. Random eBay User? I’d say pretty slim.”
Pretty slim indeed. However, the basic creed of eBay is “Buyer (and sometime seller) beware.” It sucks that the commenter was ripped off, but he was screwed by the seller, not Microsoft. It’s a shame that there is no assurance that an eBay seller isn’t selling things illegally, but that’s the world we live in and I think most people shopping on eBay are acutely aware of that fact.
I think most computer users (hopefully) understand that there is a difference between being in possession of the pysical machine and legally owning a license to use the software installed on that machine. “It’s ok that Microsoft didn’t get paid for my copy of Windows becuase I bought it on eBay” is a nonsense claim. Pay for it or live with the annoyance of this silly dialog.
This certainly isn’t the ideal situation for either party. Microsoft does not want to punish people who got duped into buying an illegal copy and I’m willing to bet this dialog was implemented only after a lot of internal debate. (Most Microsoft employees are normal folks, not the evil software overlords many assume them to be.) If things like this annoying popup will get people to consider or verfiy the legality of a software installation before buying from unreliable sources, they won’t have to resort to things like this.