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Microsoft Scanning your computer for piracy

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The Washington Post is reporting that a recent update by Microsoft is now scanning people's machines to see if they have valid license, and reporting back to Microsoft, all without user intervention.

Microsoft today began expanding its anti-piracy program by quietly pushing out a software update that in many cases automatically scans Windows computers and reports on whether they are powered by unlicensed software.

The "new pilot program" is a fairly broad expansion of Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage program, under which the anti-piracy check was required only for users who wish to download security updates or other free programs from Microsoft's site. Under WGA, users who chose to receive fixes via Automatic Updates were not prompted to install and run the anti-piracy software.

Starting today, however, Windows XP users in the United States who have set up automatic security updates will receive the anti-piracy tool. After installation and reboot, they may find their computers popping up an alert that reads: "This copy of Windows is not genuine; you may be a victim of software counterfeiting." Microsoft also is pushing the new tool out to auto-update users in Britain, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

I hadn't heard about this program until today, when my laptop -- which of course is running a legitimate copy of XP Home Edition -- received this update today and prompted me to restart. When I rebooted the machine and went to "Add Remove/Programs," the hyperlinked Microsoft Knowledge Base article that was supposed to describe more about this patch was not available, so I sent a few questions over to Microsoft. Below are their answers:

How does Microsoft plan to disseminate this? Through automatic updates?:

"Yes. As part of the pilot program, some customers in the U.S. U.K., Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand will be invited to receive WGA Notifications through Automatic Updates (AU) to learn whether or not they are running genuine Windows. Customers who opt in to the pilot and learn they are using non-genuine versions of Windows will receive a message during logon that their copy of Windows appears to be non-genuine and will be directed to the WGA Web site to learn more. If they choose not to obtain a copy of genuine Windows at that time, the customer will receive reminders until they are running genuine Windows. While the pilot is presently opt-in, as it expands later in the year, AU and WU customers may be required to participate. Users who have not validated their machines as genuine through WGA will not be able to download IE 7 and Windows Defender among other downloads and updates. However, they will not be denied critical security updates" (my emphasis added).

Will the Windows customer who uses auto-updates have the opportunity to decline this update and still install other updates?:

"The pilot is opt-in, so all participants are given a choice about whether or not they wish to participate. The opt-in is via a License Terms dialog, and users can chose to accept or decline. Only users who accept will receive the software. Once installed, participants will have the option to suppress notifications for some length of time. Users will not have the option of uninstalling WGA Notifications. Customers [already] running genuine Windows Advantage will be unaffected by WGA notifications. Users running non-genuine Windows will see the notifications at boot time, login time, and periodically to via a system tray bubble notification. Messages are displayed until the system is running genuine Windows. Users can choose to suppress the notifier. The notifier will remind such users that they are not running genuine Windows and direct them to the WGA failure page, where they can learn more about the benefits of genuine software and take advantage of the Microsoft genuine Windows offers designed to help victims of counterfeit software. All users are able to receive High Priority Security & reliability updates regardless of their validation status. Users will not have the option of uninstalling WGA Notifications" (again, my emphasis).

What has been the rate of acceptance among Windows users to the Genuine Advantage program so far? How many potentially pirated versions of Windows has Microsoft received reports of thus far through the WGA program and installed tools?

"To date, we have already validated more than 150 million systems worldwide with WGA. As of March 2006, the WGA notifications program has been offered to more than 13 million users and we estimate an additional 13 million customers will receive the program with the present expansion. The ultimate goal of WGA is to differentiate genuine Windows software from non-genuine software. WGA also helps Microsoft learn more about counterfeit resellers and their illegal practices. We don't have specific numbers to share."

What exactly happens in the event that the tool finds a PC that is suspected of running a counterfeit version of Windows (what info, if any, is then shared with Redmond)?:

"WGA Notifications is for Windows XP users. Our client software does not collect any information that can be used to identify or contact a user. We use the same process used by many popular search engines and Web sites to determine where their users are from -- a form of IP lookup. This IP lookup process does not include any information that is used to identify you or contact you, and only gives a rough geographic representation of where users are located."

Microsoft also said it is planning to expand the anti-piracy pilot to Microsoft Office products. Initially this will affect users of various foreign language versions of Office, including Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Greek, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Russian and Spanish.

Microsoft has every right to defend its intellectual property rights, and I don't for a single second begrudge the company for trying to quash software piracy, which is a very costly and global problem. But I'm a little concerned that this action could cause a number of Windows users to turn off automatic updates completely, and as such leave their systems unpatched and sitting ducks for would-be attackers who might use those machines for criminal purposes.

For my part, I turned off Automatic Updates several months ago, mainly because I got sick of telling Windows not to install its "malicious software removal tool," (even though I checked the box next to "don't ask again" or something to that effect, Windows asks permission to reinstall the program every time other updates are available).

Microsoft also released today an update to fix a Windows security patch (MS06-015) it issued a week ago that caused problems for some users of Hewlett-Packard hardware and software, as well as some Windows users who have certain Nvidia graphics cards installed.

Microsoft said that if you are configured to receive automatic updates, you don't need to do anything: "It will detect if you have the problem and deliver the update to you. If you have not yet installed MS06-015, the revised version will be offered to you." Automatic update users will also get a complimentary copy of the new Windows anti-piracy tool as well.

Source: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2006/04/microsoft_expands_antipiracy_p.html

microsoft will do anything to get you to buy a copy of windows.

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i don't see what's so funny. if they decide to do so they could.

What's more likely to happen is that they will stop updating those computers and send a sternly worded email to those individuals.  Hey, I'm with you on the pirate thing.  I don't do it and I don't encourage others to.  The fact is, MS has a stranglehold on the general OS market and they charge too much for XP and will likely charge even more for the next OS.  Now don't get me wrong, they have the right to charge whatever they want for their product.  But just go into control panel in your computer and count the number of security updates that have been applied since you loaded XP on your system.  I count about 40 plus.  If I bought a car that had that many recalls I'd demand my money back under US Lemon laws.

Oh sure, you can get Linux for free but how many average computer users have the skills to use Linux, espessialy a free distribution.  As long as MS continues to charge ridiculously high prices for their substandard product people are going to feel justified in pirating it.  They would be wrong, but they will do it any way.

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I can see both sides. Yes you should pay for the software you use. On the other hand if you pay 300 bucks for xp pro and can only use it on one computer in your home when you may have 2 or 3 computers in your home. Its just a game between gates and hackers. Gates trys to stop them, and the hackers continue to beat him. They swore xp was never gonna be able to be hacked. Give it time. Some hacker will figure out a way to do the same with vista. Let the games begin. My money would be on the hackers. When a man like gates can afford to donate billions to charity money is not the issue. He is just giving money to charitys and we all know how honest they can be at times.

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I can see both sides. Yes you should pay for the software you use. On the other hand if you pay 300 bucks for xp pro and can only use it on one computer in your home when you may have 2 or 3 computers in your home.

What resopalrabotnick said. Also XP Pro does not cost $300, at least not for 1 license. You can buy XP Pro OEM for around $145.

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If is funny because they have already prepaired for the pirating of vista.. They will not allow areo to run on those copies. 

do you not think crackers will not crack that

vista will be cracked like everything else companys make

it will be cracked and working

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The point is, MS does not HAVE to charge 145 for an OEM copy of XP Pro.  They WANT to charge 145.  I like MS software, I use most of it in my home.  But I don't buy any of it.  It has no more issues than any other software on the market does.  They are attacked more, yes, but that because writing a Linux virus has no purpose.  You'd infect what, 10000? people at most?  If you want to get your name out there, you do after the software most people use, which is MS.  It's only natural.  But why charge 145 per copy when you could charge 50, or even 20 and still make money?  How many more copies would be sold rather than pirated if the price came down?  At some point, the price would make it stupid to pirate, because it's more trouble to pirate than buy for 30 bucks.  MS has a bad business model, not software.  They think higher price means more profits, when it's actually the other way around.  Lower the price, more people buy it, you still make the same money and you don't have to spend fighting pirates.

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The point is, MS does not HAVE to charge 145 for an OEM copy of XP Pro.  They WANT to charge 145.  I like MS software, I use most of it in my home.  But I don't buy any of it.  It has no more issues than any other software on the market does.  They are attacked more, yes, but that because writing a Linux virus has no purpose.  You'd infect what, 10000? people at most?  If you want to get your name out there, you do after the software most people use, which is MS.  It's only natural.  But why charge 145 per copy when you could charge 50, or even 20 and still make money?  How many more copies would be sold rather than pirated if the price came down?  At some point, the price would make it stupid to pirate, because it's more trouble to pirate than buy for 30 bucks.  MS has a bad business model, not software.  They think higher price means more profits, when it's actually the other way around.  Lower the price, more people buy it, you still make the same money and you don't have to spend fighting pirates.

if you complain about 145 for a license you will find some reason to nitpick a 50 dollar license and still not buy it. the pricing for their software isn't bad. the os is free with a new box anyway, they have the student teacher edition of office for 150, and that is legal for 3 installations. what more do you want?

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http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16832110001

What about MAC?  Retail Mac os will run about 110.  Not to mention the fact that you have to run it on Mac hardware.  At least when you buy a license for XP, you can put it on almost anything, including a Mac now.

At ECU, faculty and staff can buy XP Pro for 20 bucks, and students can buy for 35.  Staff can buy office for 35 bucks, and students can for 65.  I think its pretty generous of Microsoft to drop these huge discounts for us.

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well what about mac? why is there even a macos standalone license? possibly for upgrades to newer version i guess.

since you need a mac to run macos, and the mac comes with macos, i can't see the  standalone license moving much...

edit.

can pick up an update for xp for 100. all you need is an old 98se or me or w2k license...

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The point is, MS does not HAVE to charge 145 for an OEM copy of XP Pro.  They WANT to charge 145.  I like MS software, I use most of it in my home.  But I don't buy any of it.  It has no more issues than any other software on the market does.  They are attacked more, yes, but that because writing a Linux virus has no purpose.  You'd infect what, 10000? people at most?  If you want to get your name out there, you do after the software most people use, which is MS.  It's only natural.  But why charge 145 per copy when you could charge 50, or even 20 and still make money?  How many more copies would be sold rather than pirated if the price came down?  At some point, the price would make it stupid to pirate, because it's more trouble to pirate than buy for 30 bucks.  MS has a bad business model, not software.  They think higher price means more profits, when it's actually the other way around.  Lower the price, more people buy it, you still make the same money and you don't have to spend fighting pirates.

You're complaining about the price and you're not paying for it? It's people like you that have us pay more for a legal copy, because you refuse to. Besides, I don't think $145 is that bad. I mean, Windows has a couple of billion lines of code.

I'm not saying I love M$, but the fact is, as long as we buy Windows, for example, at it's current price, they won't lower it. If you want them to lower the price, then boycott their products. you don't buy, they don't make money, and the pressure is on.

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if you complain about 145 for a license you will find some reason to nitpick a 50 dollar license and still not buy it. the pricing for their software isn't bad. the os is free with a new box anyway, they have the student teacher edition of office for 150, and that is legal for 3 installations. what more do you want?

I didn't say 50 bucks, I said 20 or 30.  I would buy windows if it wasn't so high.  There's no reason ms has to do that.  150 for student office is also to much.  Unless mommy and daddy are paying your way, what student has 150 bucks to spend on office, what student mommy and daddy have that most of the time even?  And I don't "buy" my boxes, I build my own.  I don't get a free copy buying pieces.  I can get the "discounted" 145 version, but not a free one.

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You're complaining about the price and you're not paying for it? It's people like you that have us pay more for a legal copy, because you refuse to. Besides, I don't think $145 is that bad. I mean, Windows has a couple of billion lines of code.

I'm not saying I love M$, but the fact is, as long as we buy Windows, for example, at it's current price, they won't lower it. If you want them to lower the price, then boycott their products. you don't buy, they don't make money, and the pressure is on.

Despites what Linux users may say, there is not a good alternative to windows.  We have no choice but to buy, or we get left behind.  And in case you hadn't noticed, when MS sees no one buying anymore, they just cut off support and rush out the next version.  MS knows what they are doing, that's why he's the richest man on the planet.  But it doesn't make it ok, just good business.  Good business doesn't mean good company or person. And I'm not the reason you pay more.  You are.  Bill knows you will buy it despite what I do, so he doesn't care.  Do you really think the price of software would go down if piracy didn't exist?  No, it would go up, because then you REALLY have no choice.  We live in an MS world and you're an MS girl.  Bill would be the MS pimp that slaps you crosseyed and says "Where's my money?!"  I'm the guy that stays out of the alley and downloads free porn at home.  lol

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well, you complain about the price and say you're on a budget. ok. so how do you put together a box that is equivalent to any of the 4 or 500 dollar offers from dell/gateway/whatever for less than that? and when you start adding in the software licenses... (usually an xp home and a works with word) there is no way you save money by going homebuilt.

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