The Genuine Disadvantage of Windows

Windows XP users — have you recently been “unable to complete genuine Windows validation”? You may be a pirate — or at least Microsoft thinks you might be. Then again you may just be a parrot. Don’t worry, Microsoft will figure it out.

The message is part of a controversial add-on to Windows XP, known as Windows Genuine Advantage Notification, which tells users whether Microsoft believes their copy of Windows to be legitimate (see “Windows adds ‘maybe pirate’ category” by Ina Fried in CNET News.com). It’s an antipiracy measure that will no doubt get in the way of many folks’ legitimate system operations and software udpates. Validation is required for most Windows XP downloads (though users can still get automatic security updates). As one CNET News.com reader commented, “If I ever see this pop up on one of our computers, I’ll fix the problem by installing Linux.”

If there’s a better example of why operating systems should either be completely free, or completely embedded in the hardware so as to be part of the product, I’d like to hear it. The many flavors of Linux are free (even if you purchase them on CD), so there is no such thing as a Linux pirate. The Mac OS X is essentially sold with the computer and unless you are going to pirate the hardware, you don’t get anywhere making pirate copies of the software — ain’t no percentage in it.

Microsoft said it hoped the new “yellow” state of we-think-you’re-a-pirate and Microsoft’s response that until-we-find-out-you’ll-hang-by-the-neck will somehow lead to better experiences for customers. Or something like that. How could you possibly trust Microsoft to figure out whether your copy is good enough to emerge from the “yellow” state? This is the company whose security services — Live OneCare — placed last in a test on the effectiveness of anti-virus security packages by Austrian researchers (see “Microsoft’s OneCare flunks anti-virus test” By John Leyden in The Register).

Of course, you would expect this: in Windows Vista, some features won’t work at all unless a machine is validated as genuine. Good luck with that.

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