Did WGA take advantage of us all ?

Discussion in 'privacy general' started by eyes-open, Jul 23, 2006.

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  1. eyes-open

    eyes-open Registered Member

    May 13, 2005
    Part One - An Introduction

    Just felt a need to Look a little more closely at what's happened already and what if anything the WGA tool means for end users. There has been a fair bit written, lots of it speculative and to some extent I think deliberately agitating to get a response from Microsoft. If I say at the outset that I don't have a particular agenda here - other than my desire to have some control over what happens on my machine.

    In an earlier post (not important) I was suggesting that it's not always what you do, it's who you do it to, that can get you into trouble. Traditionally the feeling is that as long as Microsoft attempts to meet the needs of business/industry it will remain the top dog in the field of commercial operating systems. As long as that is the case, we the home user will be carried along in the wake and have to take what comes.

    Where we the 'little people' lack the power that comes with volume buying, what we do have on our side, are those key individuals & websites that are reported on regularly and which carry a high enough following, to be of some concern to large companies. Therefore when something sufficiently different that impacts the individual end user occurs - pretty soon those individuals - Mark Russinovich, Ed Bott, Paul Thurrott etc... start to collate information in their blogs. These become linked directly to places like the register, slashdot, tech republic etc .... and these in turn are picked out as key issues in central hubs such as daily rotation and a cycle of information sharing and profile raising begins. If it raises sufficient concern, then links spiral out even further. As it happens the WGA issue is all around us - but doesn't seem to have captured the imagination or raised temperatures as much as perhaps I think it should.

    I know I've been aware of bits of info around the WGA tool for a while, but I think what really makes me sit up and take notice, is where, what I refer to as a key individual or expert, says - "hey it happened to me". Admittedly I wonder if there is sometimes some facilitating of the event in order to promote the issue.... but once I get past the cynicism and if I can accept the possibility it happened to these 'experts', then I have to accept things can happen to a muppet like me. At that point I become a little more focussed and need to know if there is something here that I can and need to learn.

    Personally, more even than the stories around corporate hard ball, high prices, security holes and slow responses etc that abound around Microsoft, this WGA story is the one that has made me look again at raising the profile of Linux in my home. At present it co-exists on a dual boot, as an experiment - but little more than that.

    In fairness, If I give an example from microsoft. wagalulu.com then it's not hard to understand why Microsoft would want to deal with volume licencing problems:-

    So no argument from me, an issue to be looked at and resolved. One that simply reducing the cost of Windows, might not solve as easily as some suggest it will - free is still cheaper than any deal Microsoft can come up with.

  2. eyes-open

    eyes-open Registered Member

    May 13, 2005
    Part Two - So what's the problem with WGA ?

    Centrally, the problem is one of trust, the feeling that the relationship between Microsoft and the end user is changing and not for the better. The overwhelming view in blogs is that Microsoft were underhanded in their introduction of the WGA tool to the end user - initially placing the beta version amongst the general heading of critical updates. Given that Microsoft encourage express updates and taking all that's offered, hardly surprising when trusting souls simply accept the WGA tool as being a necessary add-on to their computing safety.

    Apparently, it wasn't felt important that people should know they were both being assessed for honesty on this level and then reported back on by their own system. Can it really be that Microsoft are becoming so focussed on the piracy issue, and our role as 'licence users' as opposed to 'product owners' - that they really don't understand why we feel we should have some control and be deserving of consideration ?

    Levels of concern rose further when after introducing this beta status software, it became obvious that the software was programmed to phone home almost on a daily basis if it could. Surely, it was asked, once the information had been assessed and sent - there was no need to keep on phoning home. Microsoft insists the callbacks were a "safety check" to ensure that WGA can be terminated quickly if things run amok - fair enough, but why wasn't this information made available until the beginning of June ?

    As Microsoft began to sense all wasn't well in 'blogland', and with the pressure of lawsuits being introduced, they started to back-pedal. They made changes to the WGA tool and EULA so that since the end of June it should only phone home sporadically and be a little more clear about the purpose of the WGA.

    Microsoft have even gone so far as to produce a knowledge base article with instructions on how to remove previous WGA versions.

    Was it introduced as spyware ? - you decide. I suppose a Devil's advocate could begin making references, to that other recent outcry the Sony/DRM debacle. While nowhere near an exact comparison - it was born of what was seen as the underhanded placement of software on end user machines, which also resulted in the distributing company having to offer guidelines for the removal of its software, to avert some of the concerns and anger that had begun to be expressed.

    So why does it matter ? Well forget for a moment the way it was introduced. See past the excited hyberbole about Microsoft, setting themselves in a position, whereby the nagscreen will warn that in 30 days the OS will cease to function unless the licence is validated successfully. There are so many people that could innocently be caught out, that I think the outcry would be beyond that, which even Microsofts PR machine could easily endure.

    In fact, beyond the nagscreens, the only side-effect of being identified as having a machine without a genuine licence, may be that you will only be able to receive critical patches. Well that, and for the paranoid, the fear of what Microsoft intend to do with the IP address/time data, that they collected at the time they identified your machine as operating illegally.

    The problem is the potential for honest* people to be very easily caught out by this. People who have made a purchase in good faith don't want to be called dishonest and nagged by technology sitting in their own front room **. It is these people that will feel upset and worried. It is these people that will feel the need to spend time & money to resolve being accused of a theft they either never knew about, or simply didn't take place. It is the honest family who really believe that they have a genuine licence who will feel driven to try desperately to find on-line remedies and seek the aid of Microsoft helplines, paying local engineers and trying to contact original suppliers. It is these people that will be desperately searching for receipts that they haven't seen for years in an attempt to avoid having to fork out twice. Spending time and money to regain control of something they had naively believed was theirs to begin with. The real crackers and cheats will simply be content to use a workaround ........ it's what they do. In fact I daresay a proportion of people who find themselves innocently caught up by this, may well also feel that a workaround solution will do very nicely thank you, becoming the very people that Microsoft is trying to reduce - The deliberate cheat.

    More than ever, and here I think is the thing that really matters, more than ever, your PC will feel well and truly owned by Microsoft.

    I know I shouldn't be bitten by this unless I somehow experience some data corruption that triggers a false positive. I know it may be because I have just read so much that the subject feels as large as it does.

    Still since the introduction of the WGA tool, even 'tho I've always known that I am just a licenced user of an OS, the reality is that I feel a little less of an owner now and more of a renter than ever I did before - and I am looking more closely than ever, at my options as a result.

    * Honest in this context meaning people who genuinely believe they have a licenced product.

    when a false positive isn't a false positive - it doesn't mean you're a thief

    Note: I've only used the microsoft.wagalulu link in this post - it shows how easily someone can find themselves on the wrong side of right. Google is full of information you can find independently in a format you prefer - rather than have myself cherry pick stuff to support a particular viewpoint.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2006
  3. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

    May 9, 2005
    I am thankful for WGA. WGA was the final straw that decided it for me. Never to buy another Microsoft product again.
    I have had mixed feelings about WGA, but once it showed up, all my doubts were gone. Here you had an uncontrolable software, in terms that it could not be removed, stopped or anything, and it phoned home every once in a while. Kind of reminds you of some other-other software.
    And then, I decided to see how far they could go with it. I phoned their support. Day after day. I started posts. And eventually, I proceded to remove this crap.
    One of the things I hate most about software is aggressiveness. Even when you disable a critical update and checkmark "don't show again", WGA will still show up in subsequent windows updates and ask to be installed as a critical patch.
    First, it is not critical. Second, my wishes about updates are not respected. Third, you have a wild, beta software that has spyware-like behavior.
    And I'm a licensed user, piad with hard-earned money for my licenses. Not one or two. Six licenses.
    And then I think about the future - Vista. It's only going to be worse. WGA will be embedded and there will be no way to remove it. You will have DRM that will dictate what you can adn cannot install. And who is going to tell me what music or movies I can watch - Sony, the rootkit fellas? No thanks.
    So apart from the very nature of the software, it was being pushed hard in every update. And then, the rumors that the tool would become mandatory, shutting down of pcs etc.
    This bred paranoia. In fact, I no longer trust Microsoft with any of their critical updates. Can you be sure wga does not come now embedded in one of the other, innocent updates? So, I have come to a stage that I will prefer to run an unpatched system that risk their updates. Protect windows from Microsoft. It's not that I cannot protect my system without updates or that I cannot remove anything they try to install. It's just that I don't feel the thrill for doing it. There are things that are fun to hack and there are things that are not. Trying to outsmart the operating system you run on your pc is a futile kind of combat.
    And so I'm grateful. No more illusions. I know what the future will hold for me. Linux. That's the way to go. Every day, I use Linux more and more, learn new things, new commands. It's fun. It's productive. It's user-friendly and pro-user. And then, if you ever yearn for windows applications, you can use wine or vmware to run them, or a complete operating system, but then you will have the windows caged in a virtual prison.
    I guess Microsoft think people's pcs are their property. The monopoly they enjoyed for the last decade or so seems to warped their perception of reality. PC are NOT made for windows. It's just one of the many options.
    Linux is the future.
    What I'm worried about are not Microsoft, though. I think about hardware makers. I wonder what Intel or AMD will do. Will they make their chips DRM-ed and pre-Windows-ed or will we still enjoy a full freedom of choice. If the hardware gets owned - we will be in serious trouble.
  4. Lamehand

    Lamehand Registered Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    the Netherlands,very near to the North sea
    Don't underestimate the power of the home user in this, most of the computers sold to 'home-users' have windows pre-installed on them, if that where to fall away they would lose a significant source of income.In fact i don't think MS would have become the company it is today without that 'little guy'.

    Company's don't like to invest in things they don't need, i know company's who still use W2K and don't have any desire to change that in the future, and why should they?, if you have your own IT-department with the knowledge to maintain it.

    The home-user is a different story,this WGA-crap was made specially for that category, there is a lot of money to be made if you 'own' those computers.
    We are more inclined to install the newest from the newest software.
    I think WGA has nothing to do with legit or illegitemate software but everything with locking you out of your system and make you pay and pay again for everything you want to use, this is only the beginning.
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