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Saturday, 10 June 2006 15:11

Windows anti-piracy program causes shock for doing its job

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The news that Microsoft users are shocked because the anti-piracy Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program reports back to home base is astounding. The astounding thing, however, is not that WGA calls home but that some users claim to be shocked by this.

News flash shocked users. WGA is supposed to be an anti-piracy program. Is there a better way of identifying whether your copy of Windows is pirated than calling home base to check?

You may be an open source advocate and not agree with the concept of charging for software. That's fine, use Linux. However, if you opt to be a Windows rather than Linux user, then presumably you accept Microsoft's pricing model, even though you may not like it.

For its part, Microsoft has been pretty up front about the WGA program. The company flagged that it intended to implement WGA quite some time ago. Faced with an explosion of millions of pirated versions of Windows XP all over the world, particularly in emerging markets like China, a program like WGA appears to be the only practical way of combating the problem.

Register Microsoft mentioned up front that it was going to send nagging messages to users of pirated versions of Windows requesting that the users upgrade to a genuine version. From the sound of things, the messages are fairly innocuous. They do not threaten to prosecute users, they do not shut down the pirated copy of Windows and they even presume innocence. "You may be the victim of software piracy, please upgrade to the real thing," sounds a lot better than "warning, you're a software pirate and we're coming to get you."

Now Microsoft is being criticised by various groups for downloading WGA in its critical security updates, despite the fact that before the program installation process begins users are notified via an enduser license window that gives them the opportunity to opt out. Anyway, Microsoft has made it clear that before the end of the year WGA will probably be mandatory for all Windows users, so what's the big deal?

What is surprising, however, is that Microsoft appears scared to death of letting the public know that it wants to make sure that people are using legitimate copies of its software. It's bending over backwards apologising and reassuring everyone that later versions of WGA won't be phoning home as often. However, why should legitimate users worry how often their Windows software checks in with home base?

As far as pirate users are concerned, if a legitimate version of Windows is too expensive, now is a good time to start making the switch to Linux. Perhaps there is a good reason for Microsoft to be scared after all.


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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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