Another pirate?

Another pirate?

Summary: Microsoft says its WGA validation code is so accurate that it has produced only a "handful" of false positives. It's hard to take that claim seriously when one of the most widely read members of the Windows enthusiast community just got stung.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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[See update at the end of this post.]

This is rich: Paul Thurrott just had one of his test systems rejected by WGA. Note to Microsoft: Accusing one of your most enthusiastic and supportive journalistic contacts of being a pirate and demanding that he fork over $149 for a new license is a really, really stupid media relations strategy.

According to one of the screens that Paul published, the key used to activate his copy of Windows "is counterfeit and was most likely generated by a non-sanctioned Microsoft key generator." Now, Paul and I travel in many of the same circles and are members of many of the same Microsoft programs. His copy probably came from an MSDN distribution. I have a shelf full of legitimate software from other, similar sources, including Microsoft's Action Pack subscription and its System Builder program. Not to mention the boxes of software that we get directly from Microsoft for review and evaluation purposes. People like Paul and me simply don't need or use illegal key generators.

Stories like this one make a mockery of Microsoft's claim that the WGA code has produced only a "handful" of false positives. Ha!

I'm on the road for a few more days but should have several certifiably non-genuine copies of Windows XP waiting for me when I get back in the office. I'll have more details next week.

Update 1-August: Paul T. has updated his post and now says that his copy was probably pirated after all:

I did actually buy a copy of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 in late 2005 from an online retailer to see what the experience would be like... And sure enough, the software I got came in a simple little case with no documentation or other identification. The thing is, I can't imagine I would have installed that software in a virtual machine. It seems like such a waste, since the Product Key for that version could only be activated once, while the versions I get from MSDN can be activated multiple times. But I'm honestly not sure.

Topic: Microsoft

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24 comments
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  • Wait

    This is just rich! You're right! MS is just hanging themselves by the toenails!
    Shelendrea
  • Now wait a minute....

    WGA disgusts me as much as the next person, but Paul himself writes:

    "If the WGA alerts are to be believed, it's possible that Microsoft thinks I've installed this software on too many machines, though that seems unlikely to me. I can't really say."

    He STATES he is not sure himself if it's installed on too many machines.

    These reporting "false alarms" do not help the cause.
    BitTwiddler
    • He also states...

      He has the serial from his MSDN.

      It's legitimate to copy it on more than one computer.
      ju1ce
  • Pirates

    Microsoft's market share determines that to exhibit a high rate
    of financial growth, they have to compete with their customers,
    there is certainly no one else to compete with. It's a favor to us
    really. It will prevent the stock from slipping into the teens, just
    the kind of trigger to cause a huge stock dump of one of the
    most widely held tech stocks. We would suffer in the ensuing
    tech recession, hence this favor. What is good for Microsoft is
    good for all of us... right?

    I'm sure the big buy back of yesterday is also just a coincidence.

    It's in this charitable spirit that the criticism continues. We are
    reminded that each and every cheque that goes to Redmond
    should have a note reminding them how vigillant we are.

    To demonstrate how vigillant, we might run multiple copies of
    Windows in Virtual environments to compensate for any given
    one not working properly. We might dabble our feet in Ubuntu.
    We might be impressed by everything but our own pavlovian
    habits set against it. We might doft the hat to Apple but reject
    their mercurial control over both hardware and software. God
    forbid that we become locked in, or victimized by a monopoly.

    In the end, actions speak louder, the "actual" message sent is
    that the punishment for license non-compliance is more than
    offset by the reward for obedience that a WGA pass gives. In the
    age of the shrink-wrapped EULAs, the purchase and installation
    of software is it's endorsement. Without a preparedness to cycle
    platforms and a skill sets to adapt, the critic is toothless.
    Harry Bardal
    • Hehe, truer words have not been spoken

      [i]In the end, actions speak louder, the "actual" message sent is that the punishment for license non-compliance is more than offset by the reward for obedience that a WGA pass gives.[/i]

      If you are right then what you are saying is that people would rather risk failing WGA than buying a Mac. What does that say about the Mac/OSX combination? What does that say about the Windows/"any hardware solution that satisfies your need" combination? Keep in mind here that [b]I'm[/b] not saying anything bad against Apple, I'm only taking your quote to its logical conclusion. I'm not anywhere near as hard on Apple as you were in your post. :)
      NonZealot
  • The more I hear of this stuff...

    ...the more I feel like saying, "Bring it on!"

    Now that I've seen the screenshots, I really want them to display these notices as often and in as many places as possible. Get people annoyed, embarrassed, pissed off. Whatever. I, for one, will encourage people to download it. I want it on every desktop!

    Aside from the trade, Linux and BSD really don't get much advertisement except for word of mouth. The WGA notification is as good or better than any paid advertisement FOSS operating systems have had yet. And Microsoft's footing the bill.

    So let them ignore the bulk pirates and piss off the victims. That just gives me a willing ear when I want to show off a run-live version of Linux. Surprise! It's not horrible and hard like you were told! It won't accuse you of being a criminal! Get Legal! Get Linux!
    dave.leigh@...
  • Hang on a mo ....

    I guess it makes a nice splash in a fairly so-so article, but where
    exactly does the WGA accuse Paul of being a pirate? Looking at
    the screenshots, it says that he may be a victim of software
    counterfeiting; no mention of him being a pirate. I guess they
    could say something like 'you ARE a victim of software
    counterfeiting', but they don't know that for sure.

    And as er .. BitTwiddler .. points out; Paul himself seems a little
    unsure as to how many times he's used this installation.
    fredsmith6
    • But, Since they can't find the criminal

      They're holding you accountable to foot the bill. That doesn't sound inviting and friendly because it isn't.

      Even MS has admitted that to completely remove some rootkits is to reinstall the os. That coupled with the default security setup for XP leaves the average user wide open to reinfection. It is unethical to sell software under the restrictions of the home edition with the limited reinstalls.

      If MS wishes to ease tensions and refill its coffers might I suggest a update subscription fee at least then a service is provided continualy instead of trying to sell the same Frankencode's monster a billion times when they don't need to do it to keep in the black.
      Hrothgar - PCLinuxOS User
      • that's right!

        When I purchase XP, I should have unlimited use to it?s install provided it?s on the same system. May a time, I?ve had to reformat the drive due to a virus infection or just a plain old crash due to a bad patch issued by MS. Why should I be limited to certain number of installs if the problem was poor code execution in the first place? It would be nice if I had a chance to uninstall the OS prior to a reload to reset the licensing issue, but since of late, MS didn?t hold the records for long and the same serial number was available for re-registration to another machine provided a certain length of time had passed. WGA phones home every day and they received millions upon millions of calls with information that just may take MS a few years to cycle through. By that time, XP would have been removed from their support cycle, so what?s the point?<p>

        I believe the point is testing using the public as a test bed. Not notifying WGA as beta was a mistake but they chose to ignore that fact.<p>

        The fact that Paul can?t recall how many systems he?s installed that key on may not be the problem, but I was under the impression that developer keys were unrestricted due for test purposes. And if the copy is considered not Genuine, then the key involved must be some how registered somewhere else. Even if he loaded that key on a lot of systems, either those systems aren?t in the office and his key got on the internet for all to share, or that key is genuinely illegal.<p>

        As for genuine key generators, I?ve never heard of such a thing. What does that mean? If MS loses a key generator, the person who has it can generate an unlimited number of keys?<p>

        And if that?s the case, then who?s to say that the copy I?m using isn?t from a generated key stolen from MS? And what makes MS?s key generator any different than the ones already out there in the wild? They still allow a user to load an off the shelf copy of XP. And when you update to SP1 and SP2, doesn?t that change the original build number and date? So therefore, wouldn?t that be sufficient to trigger WGA?<p>

        I think MS should despense with such licensing terms as they are unenforceable. Its like signing a contract to commit a crime and not going through with it. The person who holds the contract can?t enforce it because it was illegal in the first place.
        mypl8s4u2
    • uhm...

      MSDN licensees should NOT have that issue. Plain and simple.

      And second, they obviously wouldn't say "ARE" because it would be a PR nightmare. Then we'd be busy pointing out how they said "ARE" instead of "POSSIBLY"

      Second, you're the 2nd person on here so far that doesn't know MSDN licensing. That's making a statement that's completely false.
      ju1ce
  • Evil Empire has us by the "short hairs..."

    ...since Brad Smith's (CIPO, Microsoft) 12 Step Recovery Program means no more evil from "The House that Bill Built", then, how can we, in all good faith, do the same to them?

    I am not saying it's evil to pirate XP but it's a "gateway" drug behavior potentially leading to evil actions from any one of us.

    If MSFT begins to "walk the walk", let's make up our minds to respond in like and kind and...stop pirating their software.

    Of course, I'll have to pay for Vista when it arrives but Office? Hmmmmm. It's a tough call since it's so robust and ingrained within my computer psyche. May have to go to some of the online solutions.

    Will this hurt MSFT? No. Either way they would have gotten zero dollars from me and, they still know their product is best.

    Interesting how behaving nicely engenders nice behavior, isn't it. Of course, I am speaking about RATIONAL people here, not Hezbolla(sp?)/Al Queida, if you get my drift.
    rayted32
  • Learn From This

    We all need to learn that Microsoft reserve the right to use Automatic Updates to send us anything. Also, Microsoft clearly is so upset about pirates that it is willing to lie to its loyal and honest customers. Take control of the updating of your computer. Have Automatic Updates set to Notification Mode or Off. Don't allow Microsoft to automatically download or install anything into your computer.
    SMP0328
    • Like I've said before.....

      There comes a time when you don?t have control over automatic updates. WGA did notify but if you said no, that was it and downloading stopped, period. Every now and then, I have to manually turn off automatic updates only to see it enabled sometime down the line. <p>

      Patches, since WGA, I?m afraid to download any patch regardless of it?s true intent. I think being burned once is enough. Once you lose my trust, it?s near impossible to regain it without reservation. Because of WGA, I?ve moved on to Linux. <p>

      I?ve often wondered about the patches downloaded to my system having alternative motives and intent. I mean, a company that wrote the book on the OS can?t figure out what hackers already know? And they can?t come up with preventive measures? Why is MS waiting for the next exploit before it moves it?s feet to patch the hole? Sort of like working on a car. If you have to replace the radiator, you might as well check to make sure the water pump, the hoses, and other lines are intact since you have the car apart to ward off double work.
      mypl8s4u2
  • No - not a journalist - the horror!

    We all know that journalists have much higher ehtical standards than their readers, so it must be a false alarm.

    That's sarcasm btw. NExt time investigate the story before publishing conclusions.
    TonyMcS
    • Hey! Guess you missed this part...

      "[B][I]I'm on the road for a few more days[/I] but should have several [sarcasm!] certifiably non-genuine [/sarcasm!] copies of Windows XP waiting for me when I get back in the office. [I]I'll have more details next week.[/I][/B]

      Maybe you should read the whole story before you go off?! ]:)
      Linux User 147560
  • Best way to describe this...

    D'oh! More MS madness.

    http://opendomain.blogspot.com
    opensourcepro
  • The problem with the author's conclusion is ...

    ... that the key could have been comprimised. A key generator might have stumbled on the key and another user could be using it. The fact that two users are using the same key could result in a false positive.
    ShadeTree
    • Sorry, I meant ...

      ... "compromised". Sometimes I type faster then I think!
      ShadeTree
    • The mind boggles

      So, Microsoft gives me a key to use. I do everything within my power to maintain its security. I follow every term of the license to the letter. But someone I've never met and have no connection with guesses my key through the use of a piece of software.

      So, under those circumstances, Microsoft is going to declare my system "non-genuine" and prevent me from getting updates?

      Is that what you're saying? Because if you are, I'm afraid you have carried the term "apologist" to heights where the air is so thin it's affecting the oxygen that fuels the thinking process.

      Seriously, man, you're kidding, right?
      Ed Bott
      • If you believe the message is in error...

        ...you can contact Microsoft's Customer Support and provide them proof that you have a genuine copy of Windows -- original product key from the CD or backup along with a few other pieces of information. They should then issue you a new product key just as if you'd lost the old one, i.e. for free.

        This is from the WGA FAQ page:

        Q: What do I do if I fail the validation test, but am certain that I purchased/have a genuine copy?

        A: Contact the reseller that you purchased your PC from. If your reseller is unable to help you, contact your local Microsoft call center. The Microsoft call center agent can help you verify whether the Product Key installed on your PC is genuine. The majority of customers who fail validation purchased their PCs from system builders. The PCs came with a genuine COA, but Windows was installed using an invalid Product Key. For customers who have a legal Product Key from the COA or the backup media that came with the PC, the call center agent can point customers to a Product Key Update tool which customers can use to convert their system to genuine using the legit Product Key they have.

        I know a lot of people are going to say that they shouldn't have to do this to begin with, but hey, Microsoft has a right to protect their software, and this is what they've come up with. It does mean that some people are going to be inconvenienced, but hey, when policies such as this change, everyone is inconvenienced in some way.
        ken_ballard@...