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Is That Pirated Software? 758

underpar writes "According to this article, Microsoft 'has launched a pilot program in which some visitors to the main Windows download page are being asked to let the software maker check to see whether their copy of the operating system is licensed.' The check is not required, but after the desired 20,000 users go through the program they might change their tune."
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Is That Pirated Software?

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  • Buyer's remorse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:09PM (#10281624) Homepage Journal
    I just walked past a copy of WinXP Home Edition in a "Bargain Bin" at Costco [], on sale for $299 CAD... so who are the pirates? Linux is free. I could see maybe $99 or something, but it's overpriced and bug ridden. So if you want to know why people are not paying Microsoft, it's a no-brainer. If it's overpriced, loaded with bugs and unstable in any way, paying for it seems like shooting yourself in the foot. Every time XP shows the blue screen of death, I get buyer's remorse.
    • P2P Updates (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DougJohnson ( 595893 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:14PM (#10281667)
      It really won't matter much, most users who are savvy enough to pirate their OS are going to be able to find updates in their favourite P2P program. I can already get SP2 and any other updates off of bitorrent.

      So once again the ones that Microsoft leaves in the cold are the unwitting consumers who had their grandson install it for them.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:17PM (#10281703)
        I know that if I wanted to update my OS I'd use some P2P app....
        • by RLiegh ( 247921 ) * on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:28PM (#10282137) Homepage Journal
          I know that if I wanted to update my OS I'd use some P2P app....

          Hey, if it's good enough for you to get your OS there in the first place...why not?
        • Re:P2P Updates (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Kent Recal ( 714863 ) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @06:00AM (#10284022)
          Dude it's windows. It really doesn't matter.
          Just a few days ago I updated this officially licensed and paid for XP box at work via official windows update. You know, service pack 2 and stuff.
          Since then the virus scanner (antivir []) is broken - the guard-service will pop up, complain about a missing dll and die.
          Uninstall/Reinstall of antivir didn't help (the dll-error seems gone but the symptom is the same).
          Also the poor soul who has to work at that box reports that apps randomly choke for up to one minute and everything seems horribly slow now.
          After a couple runs of the virusscanner, ad-aware and some other spyware-cleaning tools the box seems virus- and spyware-free. But the problems remain.

          So, what exactly is funny about people pulling their broken patches from P2P?
          I think paying for this crap in first place really is the funny part.
      • by Mattintosh ( 758112 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:21PM (#10281738)
        If I were installing an OS for a grandmother, I'd sure as hell not be installing XP. Maybe 2000. Maybe. With any luck, I'd be guiding them through "installing" a power cord on a new iMac and telling them where to find the power button.
        • Re:P2P Updates (Score:3, Insightful)

          by slashrogue ( 775436 )
          I can see the Mac thing entirely, but if you're talking PC, why wouldn't you install XP? (Assuming that *nix or *BSD systems are out of the question here.) Win2k was an OS for the more technically competent. I've been running WinXP Professional pretty much since it was released and the *only* time I've had a BSOD is when it was a hardware issue. My only other issues with it have been memory related when I was running on a pretty crappy machine, and it just slowed things down which was more of an annoyan
          • Re:P2P Updates (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:10PM (#10282036)
            Number one reason why everyone in my family runs 2k or below?

            XP's magical disappearing configuration system. After all, if you've never needed it yet, it won't show it to you so you don't know you've got it. Its bad enough having to troubleshoot something over the phone, without knowing the 50 different paths to get there depending whether the person has chosen to disable the hiding functionality, disable the "new" control panel (note that in the new control panel, there are icons that you cannot reach from the groups it displays, most notably 3rd party extensions, but a few microsoft things too), etc.

            Its a pain in the ass in Office too. I have to deal with people asking me how to do things that are right on the format menu..... if they've used them once. Of course, until they use them once, they have no idea Word can even do it.
            • Re:P2P Updates (Score:5, Informative)

              by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @06:36AM (#10284077)
              Its bad enough having to troubleshoot something over the phone, without knowing the 50 different paths to get there depending whether the person has chosen to disable the hiding functionality

              What are talking about? XP has exactly the same paths as 2000.

              disable the "new" control panel (note that in the new control panel, there are icons that you cannot reach from the groups it displays, most notably 3rd party extensions, but a few microsoft things too), etc.

              Again, eh? Open control panel, click "switch to classic view". How could you miss it?

              XP is just as easy to use, if not more. And with the stuff provided by SP2 (firewall, virus check, update checks), it's the obvious choice for a non-techy user.

          • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:20PM (#10282095) Journal
            Simple, I don't want to be part of their license tracking system. Win2k didn't require activation but XP does.

            The computer is mine, I bought the components and built it with my own hands. Those bastards can get stuffed. I'll run Win2k until it isn't useful as a dual boot solution for playing games. Hopefully by then Cedega will be good enough to play everything i'm interested in playing.

            MS-DOS wouldn't have become as popular as it was, and Windows in its turn, if they weren't allowing rampant piracy via lack of copy protection and winking at the pirates. This hypocritical attempt to maximize profits is a bunch of bullshit and will ultimately result in Microsoft's downfall once they piss off the wrong entity. They may have done so already.

            Anyone who thinks Microsoft is justified in the measures they are taking at this point is either a total shill or ignorant of history.
            • by Mitchell Mebane ( 594797 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:56PM (#10282623) Homepage Journal
              Win2k didn't require activation but XP does.

              Kind of ironic that only users who legally aquire their copies have to go through the activation scheme.
              • by protovirus ( 173869 ) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @01:03AM (#10283151)
                Kind of ironic that only users who legally aquire their copies have to go through the activation scheme.

                Well that depends on what you think Microsoft is. Viewed as a private club their actions make perfect sense. Only the members have to go through the trouble of joining. You can sneak onto the course and play night golf, but if you get caught there may be consequences.

                I don't agree with those consequences or even the registration at all...just pointing out the way I think about Microsoft.

            • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:57PM (#10282632)
              MS-DOS wouldn't have become as popular as it was, and Windows in its turn, if they weren't allowing rampant piracy via lack of copy protection and winking at the pirates.

              Baloney. The IBM Compatible PC was a cultural and economic landmark as significant as the Ford Model T. Microsoft rode that wave to dominance and never looked back.

              • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @11:28PM (#10282758) Journal
                Hmm? Could it be because Microsoft copied their OS from another popular operating system that was under copyright?

                Yes, the beige box was a cultural landmark, not the actual IBM. So, what OS came with those beige boxes? A pirated copy of MS-DOS, more likely than not. I still have tens of the hand-labelled 5 1/4" floppy copies of DOS 2.1, 3.2, and 3.3 from those days. The trade in DOS copies was fairly brisk. No one had an excuse for paying for it. The 3.5" copies of 4.01, 5, etc are long gone, 3.5" floppies seem to bite the dust much faster. That was the favored format for Windows 2.03/2.10/3.0/3.1/3.11, so those copies are also gone. Had tons of them though. No serials there, just pirated OS goodness which nearly everyone shared in back in those days.

                If people had to buy an operating system, due to not having friends who could execute the DISKCOPY command, the choice wasn't quite so clear then. IBM helpfully assisted by initially pricing PC-DOS at $60 and CP/M at $240, mostly due to the sweet deal on royalties Microsoft gave them initially due to their near-zero development cost.

                I believe they ultimately paid $75k for the MS-DOS code and IBM helpfully did the debugging for them. Why work? After all, they'd swiped the technology.

                The wave they rode was piracy and deceit.

            • by freedom_india ( 780002 ) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @12:27AM (#10283015) Homepage Journal
              I run Win98 SE for Games.

              I run SUSE 9.0 Personal edition for Work and internet.

              Somehow the old saying; Windows is for fun, UNIX is for getting things done....seems more relevant today than ever.

          • if you're talking PC, why wouldn't you install XP? Win2k was an OS for the more technically competent.

            I don't know about the OP, but I don't trust copy protection software any further than I can spit a rat. Back when I was on the Apple II, I was playing a game called Wizardry when the copy protection software decided that it was only going to let the program boot on one particular floppy drive... and that one was going bad.

            I ended up getting a cracked copy written over the original master floppy. Crac
          • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:19PM (#10282419) Journal
            The problem is that most hackers are rabid about Linux because it's phenonmentally powerful if you code a bit.

            They don't understand why the average Joe doesn't get excited about Linux. The average Joe doesn't get the benefit of all the great CLI tools out there, so Linux is, at best, just a decent XP alternative, not something that quashes it into the ground.

            If you just use the GUI tools on Linux and don't give a damn about the politics involved, it isn't *that* amazing of a system. It's just a decent OS without a number of commercial apps that people want to play with.

            Naturally, every hacker looks at people that aren't using Linux and thinks to himself "what are they thinking?". For a programmer or a hobbyist or a hacker or a sysadmin, Windows is an infinitely worse OS. But most people aren't any of the above -- and Windows lets them navigate to the application that they want to use and open it.

            I like Linux, and use exclusively it as a desktop system. Those of you familiar with me know that I like Linux quite a bit. I think that it might become the defacto desktop system in a couple of years. But it won't be because it's mind-bogglingly better and people are just reluctant to switch. For *hackers* it's mind-bogglingly better. For average folks, it's just another alternative.
            • by Photo_Nut ( 676334 ) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @04:35AM (#10283835)
              Parent poster wrote:
              "The problem is that most hackers are rabid about Linux because it's phenonmentally powerful if you code a bit."

              So are BSD, MacOS, and (bet you saw this one coming) Windows. Most hackers are rabid about Linux because they got more than they were promised. They weren't promised anything. They didn't pay anything, and they got a whole lot.

              I have a few friends that graduated with me from college with varying technical degrees, including CS, Math, Engineering, and Physics (what can I say, I'm a geek and hang out with geeks). Some close friends ended up at Microsoft. And even though they run Windows whatever at work, they still chose vi or emacs as their editor, bash and other shells, and awk and sed in their code along with their C#, C++, and Perl. One of them bought a shiny new laptop with his recent bonus and reused his old desktop (stuffing Linux on it) as a web-connected file server/bridge. He recently told me how he saved one of his machines at work by using a Knoppix CD! Just imagine an MS employee booting Linux, at work, to fix their Windows machine!

              GNU isn't just about linux advocacy, it's a philosophical movement centered around the idea that by keeping code "free of ownership" we can advance society. From another perspective, the GPL is a way of saying, "I don't own this code. You don't own this code. The public owns this code. You can't build something from this code and distribute it without the code."

              This is quite diametrically opposed to the philosophy that: "I work hard to create a software product of intrinsic value. It is my property. I sell you a license to use that property."

              Many people who wrote utilities and published them under the GPL ported their utilities to Windows, BSD, Linux, etc. They also make pure Windows apps under the GPL, and others port these. Basically, it's not the Linux OS that makes for a great hacking experience, it's the fact that it comes with a bunch of GNU tools. But then there's CygWin and other GNU toolsets for Windows and BSD and MacOS.

              The reason that Linux may be a threat to Microsoft is that there are a growing number of developers who got hooked on Linux because the development tools came with the OS, and they didn't want to pay MS (or Borland) for tools which promote Windows. Of course, there are also a great many people who still write free software for Windows (using DJGPP or other MSVC++) simply because Windows is the largest target audience of normal users, and they use it. But if the developers market is changing because of the availability of high quality tools, then Microsoft will react. Maybe too late, but it's in the cards.

              Indeed, Microsoft already has done some reacting. 57,000 employees, including some of my best friends know that their job is on the line if Microsoft goes under, and from what my friends tell me, working at Microsoft is better than all of their previous jobs. Their reaction: [] Is this too little too late, or is it the beginning?

              (getting back to original topic of activation, and tying back into the philosophy of property)
              When I ask my friends about the activation stuff, they tell me that nobody who has a brain expects it to deter piracy, but they have to do something to attempt to prevent it from happening. DRM is an equal joke, but it is another way to protect information as property. Both of these measures do something very specific: they make it so that in order to copy the "property", you need to intentionally remove its "protection". This follows a fundamental principle that property is only owned by someone to the extent that they can defend it.

              One more response to the parent poster:
              "For average folks, it's [Linux] just another alternative."
              In order for it to be an alternative for me, it needs to do everything that I need it to do. I need it to run the software I use (includes Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop and t
          • by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:31PM (#10282498) Journal

            I can see the Mac thing entirely, but if you're talking PC, why wouldn't you install XP?

            In my environment, where we have good and competent central IT support, but do not mandate what our clients (researchers) can run on their desktops, we've found that a lot of people simply do not see any compelling reason to upgrade Windows. By and large, people move from one Windows version to the next when they get a new PC. This is in contrast to our Mac OS X population, who upgrade quickly, and our Linux population, who are in between.

            Licensing is not an issue, since we have site licenses for Windows, Mac OS X, and other systems. We have a Windows subscription that allows us to upgrade any Windows install to any later version; and the same for Mac OS X. For Linux, it is of course no problem.

            Today, about 60% of the computers on our network are running Windows, according to my p0f [] results. About 15% each are running Linux and Mac OS X, and the remainder are running a "classic" Unix or Mac OS Classic. Of the Windows users, about 60% are running Windows 2000, 35% are running XP, and the remainder are running Windows NT, 98, or older versions.

            So why don't Windows users upgrade? My suspicion is that there is not sufficient benefit from upgrading to make up for two persistent problems: retraining oneself, on the one hand; and broken or lagging third-party software, on the other.

            First off, major releases of Windows make substantial disruptive user interface changes. Windows users, in my experience, tend to memorize a lot of rote behaviors -- I do this to dial up, that to search for files, the other to set up printers. The upgrade from Windows 98 to 2000, and then from 2000 to XP, each make a lot of relatively gratuitous changes. (Contrast the XP Control Panel with the 2000 one. Even if you like the XP one better, you've got to admit it looks unfamiliar to someone used to the other.)

            Second, a lot of third-party apps break when you upgrade Windows. The version of Matlab the user has installed on Windows 2000 quits working on XP, and so they have to rev Matlab as well. Oops, the Matlab script they got from NASA doesn't work on the new Matlab; gotta get the new one of those. And so it goes. Scientific software is frequently not particularly robust over operating system changes. So an upgrade is a lot more pain for our users than it might be for a business user who does nothing but Word, Outlook, and IE.

            Some contrasts from the other platforms:

            Our Linux installed base is probably around 90% Red Hat, and the remainder Debian or SuSE -- with almost all of the Debian systems being central IT servers, since we prefer it for its stability there. The Red Hat users are impelled to upgrade chiefly by the obsolescence of older releases: when Red Hat dropped support for 6.2, we had a big migration to 7.x; when they dropped 7.3, to 9; and now to Fedora and RHEL. The driving force behind Red Hat upgrades, for our users, is chiefly the assurance of support and security fixes. I expect that this will calm down a lot now for our RHEL users, who have been promised a stabler upgrade cycle.

            (For our Debian systems, in contrast, the drive to upgrade (when a new release comes out!) is to have access to the vast new supply of native packages.)

            As for our Mac OS X users, they are the quickest to jump on new releases. Why? I think it's because Apple promotes their new releases with lots of new user features: utilities, non-disruptive appearance tweaks, and speed improvements. I can't emphasize the latter too much: each release of Mac OS X has made it faster, and this is a big reason for a scientist (or a ordinary end user, for that matter!) to upgrade.

            It's been said that Microsoft's chief competition today is itself, five years ago -- that is, rather than contending for market share against Apple, Red Hat, or SuSE, each new re

            • by kylef ( 196302 ) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @03:32AM (#10283649)
              Second, a lot of third-party apps break when you upgrade Windows. The version of Matlab the user has installed on Windows 2000 quits working on XP, and so they have to rev Matlab as well. Oops, the Matlab script they got from NASA doesn't work on the new Matlab; gotta get the new one of those. And so it goes. Scientific software is frequently not particularly robust over operating system changes. So an upgrade is a lot more pain for our users than it might be for a business user who does nothing but Word, Outlook, and IE.

              I agree with almost all of your other points, but this statement is simply not correct. Windows backwards compatibility has always been excellent. Hell, it's one of the few systems where people expect to be able to run 20-year old 16-bit DOS binaries and scream and holler when they no longer work.

              In fact, Windows backwards compatibility with x86 binaries is what most computer historians acknowledge as the vehicle for IBM-compatible PC dominance for the past decade. The fact that new versions of Windows would continue to run old binaries (without patches, without recompiles, etc) has probably done more than anything else to keep businesses buying Windows so that ancient, proprietary business software will keep running. This saves lots of money and hassle, believe it or not. I know businesses still running on 12-year old DOS software because it still works.

              However, I think that today this legacy software is starting to see its demise in favor of web applications which are largely platform-agnostic. So Microsoft, IMHO, spends WAY too much time worrying about breaking old software.

              I've heard it explained in many ways, but most people tell me that they're afraid of being sued. Real, for instance, sued Microsoft claiming that changes between Windows 98 and Windows 2000 "intentionally broke" their player. So now MS is paranoid.

              XP, for instance, has this insane system loader that can actually PATCH broken apps before they are run. Just take a look under the registry key "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Contr ol\Session Manager\AppPatches". Every key listed there gets special treatment when it is executed on your system. There are even some binary blobs that are overlayed at specific memory addresses on-the-fly.

              Microsoft has an entire division in Windows that works on Application Compatibility (AppCompat). If a bug is found in a Win32 API, and the fix ends up breaking ANY vendor's app, then either an app workaround is created or the fix is backed out. I think that's horrible (backing out fixes because it might break some old program), but it amounts to putting backwards compatibility ahead of fixing bugs.

              Contrast this with Macintosh, where for years people EXPECTED to have to purchase new versions of Adobe Photoshop whenever a new OS or new hardware came out. This has allowed Apple to introduce dramatic changes over the years that broke tons of apps, but improved their systems' capabilities dramatically. Ditching the 68000 for PowerPC, for one. Switching to OSX was another radical change. In both cases they tried to have a "compatibility layer" for old programs, but lots of apps still broke. The win, however, was to take a gigantic leap forward in platform capability.

        • by OneOver137 ( 674481 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:56PM (#10281949) Journal
          With any luck, I'd be guiding them through "installing" a power cord on a new iMac and telling them where to find the power button.

          You should call Steve with that one for the next commercial!

          I'm really hoping to do this with my mom and in-laws. Both are due for a new computer and I'll be recommending a Mac. Windows is great for enterprise, but not for for those who have trouble understanding how the microwave works.
      • Re:P2P Updates (Score:3, Informative)

        by slutsker ( 804955 )
        Savvy enough to pirate their own OS? In America, this is probably so. But you obviously have never been in countries like Russia. In Russia, everyone owns a pirated version of Windows. Getting a legal version is impossible. The huge stores all sell illegal copies. So all the "non-savvy" users still have pirated stuff.

        I'm not sure what affect this will have on the people in other countries, (like Russia) but I doubt the effect will be noticable. The pirates will just introduce some russian site to give th
    • Re:Buyer's remorse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NotAnotherReboot ( 262125 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:15PM (#10281685)
      If you are getting blue screens of death on XP, I'm going to have to say that it is something that you are doing (installed the improper drivers, got some kind of really messed spyware, etc). I NEVER get blue screens of death on any of my machines running Windows XP.

      Say what you want, but Microsoft has made such a leap in terms of stability from Windows 98 to the NT/2000/XP code base that it is hard to even compare the two.

      I will agree that the price that they charge is somewhat outrageous, but that doesn't mean you need to try to support your argument with points that are hardly valid anymore.
      • Re:Buyer's remorse (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rallion ( 711805 )
        A blue screen in XP isn't even the same screen. The only time it ever comes up is for a hardware problem -- the kind of thing that will be unrecoverable in any modern operating system.
        • Re:Buyer's remorse (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lisandro ( 799651 )
          My XP installation bluescreens every time i try to use a webcam that has problems with my onboard USB adapter. On linux, the only thing that dies is the process using it.

          XP bluescreens whenever a kernel-space driver dies. It happens often enough; through it's nowhere as bad as 98.
      • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:01PM (#10281980)
        You won't generally get a bluescreen in XP because, by default, XP will reboot immediately when it encounters a blue screen condition. (See Control Panel | System | Startup and Recovery -- Automatic Restart).

        (I leave my PC on 24/7 and only discovered this when I would return home and my PC was magically back at a fresh reboot state. For a while I thought I had a hardware problem because if Windows had crashed I would've seen a blue screen halt, right?)

        While I get fewer blue screens then I did with 98, I get MORE blue screens than I did with Windows 2k.
        • I set up my laptop recently and had to turn this ON from being off by default.

          That being said, I don't get bluescreens OR reboots in XP in the whole time I've had the laptop, save once, and that was on the stock install. After reinstalling a fresh XP (day one), I have never had a single issue, and I keep my machine running for weeks at a time (not counting downtime for hibernation when going from home to the cafe).

          If you get bluescreens in XP, check your drivers, update what you can, and see if there are
      • Re:Buyer's remorse (Score:5, Informative)

        by zulux ( 112259 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:16PM (#10282064) Homepage Journal

        You don't get BSOD's on XP, because XP is set to reboot instead.


        Right-click on My Computer, click Properties, click the Advanced tab. Under "Startup & Recovery," click Settings. Under "System Failure," uncheck the box in front of "Automatically restart."

        Do that, and you'll see all the typical BSOD's that you've been missing.

      • Re:Buyer's remorse (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Keck ( 7446 )
        If you are getting blue screens of death on XP, I'm going to have to say that it is something that you are doing (installed the improper drivers, got some kind of really messed spyware, etc).

        /me pats young'n on head... That's what M$ would like you to think -- are you going for your MCSE so you can be smart, too? -- The response to your statement is, stuff in userspace should NEVER NEVER NEVER be able to take the whole system down. That's our whole point. Windows is SO poorly designed from the ground
    • Re:Buyer's remorse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:17PM (#10281707)
      "I could see maybe $99 or something, but it's overpriced and bug ridden."

      Its not over priced just because its more then you want to spend. Untill you figure out how basic economics work, there's just no helping you. Or would you be OK with your employer deciding that your services are overpriced so they wont be paying you anymore (but dont stop showing up for work)?

      • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:46PM (#10281893) Homepage Journal windows piracy. If it WAS cheap enough, people would pop for the Cd and install it.

        I got some nifty proof, too, a similar large company gives away it's disks, and has for years now-AOL. They afford it on the margin of a certain small (but still over-all large) segement of the population who will install their software and sign up for net service.

        Microsoft could sell the OS on a disk for ten dollars or something like that, and charge another ten a year (something cheap) for updates, and still be billionaires.. Most folks would buy the disk and the legit key then. Note I said most, not all, but I think most would buy it, at least in western/industrialised nations with a decent enough median income.

        Their price is not only ridiculous, it's outright scandalous. It's an affront to anyone who's thinking. If their products didn't come pre-installed on new computers, there's no way in heckfire they would sell for what they are asking. Keeping it as a "stealth" product via bundling and collusion with the vendors has been the ticket to their success, off the shelf sales are most likely no where's near where they make most of their money, at least with the base OS. 95 and 98 people were standing in line to get, by ME it slowed down, 2000 hit the doldrums, and XP although on maybe 1/2 the active boxes on the net came mostly with new machines when folks upgraded hardware. It's just lost any "new/shiny/gotta haveit" appeal, because we are 20 years into mass computer adoption now, 10 in a large way. People just aren't as gullible any longer. They'll upgrade with a new box, and that's it, as long as MS lives in delusion land where a simple computer OS is somehow "worth" well over a hundred dollars heading to 200$. Not happening when an entire new computer can be had for not much more than that..

        IMO anyway-anyones MMV of course
    • Re:Buyer's remorse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:34PM (#10281825)
      Pirates? Look, if $299 CAD is too much, don't buy it - nobody's shoving it down your throat. Use linux, or use a notepad. You don't have any right too someone else's property just because you think it's too expensive.
  • by essence ( 812715 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:10PM (#10281635) Homepage Journal which some visitors to the main Windows download page are being asked..

    Microsoft lets you download windows from their site now? ;-)
    • Re:windows download? (Score:3, Informative)

      by chachob ( 746500 )
      Actually, you can download Windows from the MSDN site, but you need a subscription. What you are paying for is the license, not the software itself. So downloading it would be useless unless you had a license to run it.
  • by __aavhli5779 ( 690619 ) * on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:11PM (#10281640) Journal
    Before the inevitable barrage of comments about how nobody with a pirated company would in their right mind agree to this, I'd like to focus on the particular group which Microsoft is actually targetting with this:
    it is a sensitive group of customers Microsoft is targeting with the program--namely, people who bought a computer that they thought had a legitimate copy of Windows, but are somewhat unsure. Microsoft wants those people as customers, so it wants to be sure to treat them kindly, even as the company seeks to encourage legitimate Windows use.

    Who are these people? Being a freelance computer tech (and knowing many others in my trade), I know exactly who these folks are. They're the ones who got a particularly good deal when buying a home-made computer from someone's garage... or, more likely, those who had an OEM copy installed with their retail computer, messed it up dreadfully, and whoever worked on it decided to forego using the "restore disks" (which are often missing, since many people have no idea what they're for, and which are generally dreadfully broken in the first place) and install a questionable copy of XP. I've faced this dillema myself, before, but I always opt to try to fix the existing installation, or inform the customer that their decision to visit every gambling and porn site under the sun necessitates that they buy a new copy of Windows.

    These are the folks who can often be genuinely uncertain whether their copy of Windows is legitimate. These are the folks who click "OK" on everything anyway. The question is what they have to gain from this knowledge, and, more importantly, what Microsoft has to gain.

    What information can Microsoft harvest, exactly? They surely know how widespread these practices are; after all, they practically encourage them with their cutthroat OEM policies. Also, they insist (at least according to the article) that they won't treat those with an unlicensed copy any differently from those with a legitimate one. My guess, among other things, is they'll start harvesting illegitimate license codes (like they have in the past... FCKGW anyone?) and perhaps block them a year in advance.
    • by Nurgled ( 63197 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:18PM (#10281716)

      Common sense says to me that if I've purchased a copy of Windows XP Professional then I've bought a right to use Windows XP Professional, so therefore I should be able to install Windows XP Professional from any install CD, whether it is mine or not, and still be perfectly within my rights as a holder of a licence to use Windows XP Professional.

      I'm sure the law doesn't agree with me, but I don't tend to take much notice of laws which don't align with my (quite reasonable) idea of right and wrong. In that situation, on my own machine I wouldn't bad an eyelid and on someone else's machine I'd inform them of the situation (after doing a little more research than I obviously have here) and let them decide, and I'm sure their expectation would align with mine.

      Fortunately, I don't use Windows XP Professional, so this will not be a problem I will have to face in the near future.

      • by LS ( 57954 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:07PM (#10282015) Homepage
        This brings up a good point. Software companys want (and get) their cake and eat it too. They get to treat software like physical property when it suits them - for instance, fighting fair-use backups. But then they treat it as information when it suits them - for instance, licensing an individual user, as opposed to a single instance of software itself. So which is it? I would lean towards information, and not physical property.

        • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @11:04PM (#10282654)
          Software is better than just that. It's a miracle commodity:

          It's copyrightable like a book.
          It's patentable like a mouse trap.
          It can hold trade secrets, like a glass of Coca Cola.
          The consumer has to "sign" a contract to use it, like a cellphone account.
          Advertising pitches can be included for a captive audience, just like a movie theater.
          It's artificially expensive, like a diamond.
          It's a recurring source of support revenue, like a lawn service.
          It's creator can disavow all liability for anything that may go wrong, and get away with it, like... I can't think of anything else like that!

          Nothing else can do more than a couple of those things. Software is just too good to be true.

      • I asked someone from Microsoft that very question a number of years ago. At least, he represented that he was from Microsoft and he did have a Microsoft e-mail address.

        His unofficial answer was that as long as you held a valid certificate of authenticity and used that number in only that machine, then it was not a problem.

        What I have been curious about is the situation where you purchase a used machine that includes an original valid certificate of authenticity.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:51PM (#10281918)
      That's the absolutely most insane thing that Microsoft is currently doing:

      Forcing OEMs to include "restore CDs" instead of installation media.

      That is absolutely, utterly, completely insane. That, in my book, negates any problem with "pirating" XP after purchasing a computer with XP installed, because they've taken away your ability to install XP by itself without all the bells and whistles the OEM throws in.

      This is an important point, because I've worked with Sony laptops that fail to work correctly with mission-critical software unless you blow away the installation and then redo it all by scratch, skipping the installation of the problematic software that Sony does not let you uninstall from the default setup. And Sony's reputation for worse-than-worthless tech support is more than justified in my opinion (crap, at work we even bought a support contract and I swear we're talking to the exact same group of front-line naysayers).

      So what do you do in those circumstances? "Pirate" XP so you can use the software you're already licensed to use? Or give in to the Microsoft hegemony and give them even more money by purchasing an additional copy of Windows XP? Which do you think Microsoft expects you to do? That's right, you must give them money.

      Sorry, but my vote, in all of those OEM instances, is to "pirate" XP. If Microsoft doesn't like it - then they can change their OEM licensing. That whole "people are selling OEM CDs on eBay" excuse for hobbling every computer owner is not defendable. Punish the people who commit the crime, don't arbitrarily punish everyone who might possibly commit the crime at some future point.

      As far as what information Microsoft can harvest? Come on, it's an ActiveX control. They could harvest anything. Office 2003 activation codes, Windows XP activation codes - anything, everything.

      What are they going to do with this information? Hasn't history taught you enough about what they do after gathering this information? Seriously. Since this is all implemented through ActiveX controls they could forseeably corrupt your software installation after finding "pirated" codes.

      So much for their overhyped "security initiative" - it's obviously back to business as usual in Microserf-land.
      • by ananke ( 8417 ) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @12:59AM (#10283138)
        I agree with the sony crap. We will never support any new purchase of a sony laptop, thanks to our last experience with their tech support and their policy on drivers: we had to pay money to get new set of drivers, because the old media broke. Instead of allowing for the drivers to be downloaded, like any decent vendor on the market, they want to gain extra few bucks by forcing you to purchase driver cds. Well sony, here's a nice fat 'screw you'. You got the fee for drivers, and you won't see again another purchase from us. How's that for kicks? [by the way, the drivers, as I recall, were essential to have the laptop working with windows. Pretty much the laptop was useless without those]
    • by stcanard ( 244581 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:05PM (#10282004)
      Who are these people? Being a freelance computer tech (and knowing many others in my trade), I know exactly who these folks are. They're the ones who got a particularly good deal when buying a home-made computer from someone's garage. There's a second group here. The people that bought a computer from a mom-and-pop style computer store, which came with Windows XP "Pre-installed". There's a not insignificant number of these stores that are installing pirated copies. Great cost saving in a tight market.
  • Likely use... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by over_exposed ( 623791 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:11PM (#10281643) Homepage
    So they'll probably use this to keep pirated windows boxes from downloading windows updates... so what? You can have microsoft send you a CD with the latest patches on it for free. Granted, it takes a little longer than a 1-20 minute download, but it's still a viable solution for those of you with the urge to use pirated software.
  • uh oh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Coneasfast ( 690509 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:12PM (#10281649)
    Those whose copies are found not to be genuine will be encouraged to go back to the company from whom they bought the PC or software upgrade. They'll also be given other information on obtaining genuine software before being allowed to download whatever software they were seeking. In its current form, the program offers no particular benefit for those who are running licensed software.

    oooooh, i'm shaking in my pirate boots!
  • by thewldisntenuff ( 778302 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:12PM (#10281653) Homepage
    then what's the point....What's scary is that someday they'll lock the pirates out of patches...Leads to two scenarios -

    1.) Increase of unpatched, demon, zombie PCs


    2.) Linux Migration! :)

    You could probably piss a hell off a lot of people, who as TFA states "namely, people who bought a computer that they thought had a legitimate copy of Windows." You're gonna force them into buying a new copy?

    And that still doesn't get around ordering a patch cd in the mail.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:13PM (#10281654)

    ...will it find all your stolen SCO code?

  • by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:13PM (#10281658) Homepage
    "You are not running a Windows operating system. Therefore, you are a pirate. Please click [Ok] to send us money anyway."
  • It checked mine! (Score:5, Informative)

    by deathcow ( 455995 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:14PM (#10281675)

    A few weeks ago I was trying a link to the next version of Windows Update, which was not publically released but someone had published it somewhere on the net. It checked my machine and told me my XP key was invalid. (My machine has a VLK 6n1 XP installed on it.) So there are indeed some windowsupdate URLs which do check and do reject!

    p.s. I own three legal copies of XP of course, but the slipstreamed SP2 disc is just handy and the only one I keep laying around.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat ( 788193 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:15PM (#10281687) Journal
    You mean they haven't been doing this since the birth of ActiveX anyway?
    Well well well, you learn something new everyday, my respect-o-meter for Microsoft has just gone up a tiny fraction.
    Oh, wait, they're doing it now, back down it goes...
  • How do they know? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spad ( 470073 ) <> on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:16PM (#10281695) Homepage
    If the user is running a VLK edition of Windows with a CD-Key other than the FCKGW one - or with the 640 PID, depending one how stringent they're being - how do Microsoft know that it's a priated copy?

    OK, so activation cracked copies will be fairly easy to ID, but if you've got a corporate copy (which most pirated releases are anyway) and a valid key there's no way to tell, surely.
  • by Linegod ( 9952 ) <pasnak@warpedsys ... a ['ems' in gap]> on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:21PM (#10281733) Homepage Journal
    Thank you for your interest in Windows Update

    Windows Update is the online extension of Windows that helps you get the most out of your computer.

    You must be running a Microsoft Windows operating system in order to use Windows Update.
    --- extension to Windows... that just freaks me out...

  • Firefox? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digidave ( 259925 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:23PM (#10281748)
    I wonder what happens if you visit with Firefox. They are obviously using an ActiveX control for this, so will FF users pass right by or be denied access to downloads? Windows Update won't work anyway, but will this affect manually downloads?
  • Right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rewt66 ( 738525 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:26PM (#10281771)
    But Microsoft said the program is a first step in trying to provide a better experience for customers using legitimate copies of Windows.

    I fail to see how asking me if Microsoft can snoop around in my PC is going to give me a "better experience". It will be a worse experience, if for no other reason than having the experience interrupted to ask the privacy-invading question.

  • by Daikiki ( 227620 ) <[ln.oodanaw] [ta] [ikikiad]> on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:28PM (#10281785) Homepage Journal
    This is one of those glorious ideas that look great on paper and have absolutely no effect on piracy.

    There was a time when Microsoft began blocking SP1 downloads for WinXP for users using one of a list of very common keys. I suppose it may have prevented a few people from downloading the service pack, but the vast majority of users who were using these keys either found a hack to change their key to something randomly generated, or simply downloaded the service pack elsewhere.

    Go back a little further and try to remember the furore over the required online or phone registration of new WinXP installs. For the poeple who do not desire to pay for their operating system, this was a similar inconvenience. Easily circumvented, but an annoyance to legitimate users.

    The music industry implements protection so weak that it can be circumvented by pressing the 'shift' key, but breaks CDs for legitimate users. Nobody who wants an illegal track or two is deterred by this. If they can't get the music off the CD they'll just go to a P2P network and download it from there.

    Time and time again we see media providers and software companies implement these rediculous attempts to spite casual pirates. The only people they ever end up bothering are there own customers, and in the rare case there is a backlash and their sales are hurt by their own arrogance, who do they blame? Pirates, of course.
    • If you're smart enough to get around having a legit copy of windows, then do it. If you're not, buy a copy. It's that smart.

      Furthermore, I seriously belive that Microsoft doesn't give a shit about power users pirating windows. I work in a computer repair store, I fix people's dumb ass windows problems all day, everyday. The fact that I have access to windows makes me better at my job. By being better at my job, more people can buy a microsoft PC, and not care if the screw it up, because they know that
  • by h00manist ( 800926 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:29PM (#10281793) Journal
    Why did they release the XP "corporate" verstion which allows installation of XP without teh required online registration?

    It's apparently worked quite well to protect Citrix and MS Terminal Server from being used.

    I believe MS likes having everyone use Windows, whether it's paid for or not.

    What are people going to do, if they can't get Windows pirated? Buy it? Nope.
  • Spyware (Score:3, Informative)

    by Guidlib ( 814472 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:30PM (#10281802)
    I can't justify buying Windows XP while Windows 2000 is still quite capable of playing all the latest games, which is the only real use for Windows now. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm often too afraid to download software for Windows, in fear that it will screw my system up, and so I tend to use my Linux box for most everything except gaming nowdays. That said, with activation, and everything else around these days, I don't think it's too big an issue. If you use the software, you should pay for it, or use something that you don't have to pay for, like Linux.
  • by chrispyman ( 710460 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:31PM (#10281803)
    I honestly wonder if it's even possible to effectively determine whether or not a user is using a pirated copy of Windows. Unlike an online game or something where no two users can share a CD-Key and be online at the same time, Windows is just on operating system, and can't always have internet access. Also, many OEM and corporate PCs share CD Keys, and there's really no way Microsoft can tell how many PCs the software is licensend on. Besides, the time Microsoft gets their copy protection working 100% is the time many people decide weather to spend $300 on Windows or $0 on Linux.
  • by thoolie ( 442789 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:35PM (#10281834)
    How many /. users actually learned Windows on a pirated copy? How many people (typicall home builders), are only using Windows because they have a pirated version? I think the key is, if it were not possible to "get" windows, I think we would see the use of Linux skyrocket.

    Hell, I know *a friend of mine* that would have to use only Linux if not for his *backup* versions of Windows.

    Just my .02$
  • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:42PM (#10281869) Homepage
    It's one thing for them to block service packs and require a serial number, but it's quite another thing for them to do the whole product activation and mandatory serial checking approach. People by nature feel that they own their software or should. The biggest problem that copyright holders face is that the more they pull, the more they are going against human nature. Eventually, the result will be either people losing interest or aggressively "stealing software" and/or supporting political action that is antagonistic to corporate software interests.

    If Microsoft were smart, they'd keep working the OEM channels, cut the cost of a new copy of Windows XP Home to $100 with none of the product activation junk and charge $50 per retail upgrade. If Microsoft is so worried about people pirating its products, they should extend steep discounts to their customers who buy off the shelf copies. Microsoft could make good money charging only $50 for Home and $100 for Pro upgrades for Windows.

    When in doubt, cut your profit margin down and try to sell more copies of your product. Since digital goods are so cheap to fabricate physical copies of, there is no reason why Microsoft couldn't experiment with much cheaper retail prices for a version of Windows. Hell, they might find that if they stop heckling their legitimate users and cut prices that the desktop Linux threat all but goes away.

    Let's face it, what incentive right now would there be for people to choose desktop linux for small business and home use if Windows had a no hassle licensing system and was sold that cheap?
  • by orzetto ( 545509 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:48PM (#10281908)

    CIA has created a link from their home page, saying:

    We would like to check if you're a member of Al-Quaeda. If you are Osama bin Laden, please share with us your current residence so we can address our issues. We are interested in maintaining a trust relationship with you as a customer.

    Internal sources indicate that the program will be made mandatory sometime during the next months.

  • by mixy1plik ( 113553 ) * <mhunt@ e c i n . net> on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:06PM (#10282010)

    Like many nerds with a job, I upgrade components in my PC frequently. I have a legitimate retail copy of WinXP Pro. I have a home-built PC, which sits happily next to my Powerbook G4. A couple months ago, I upgraded the motherboard and RAM, and took the opportunity to reinstall WinXP (as I typically need to about once a year). When I called the Windows activation department in Bangalore, I learned something new...

    Lady: I can help you with activation. First I need to ask you a couple questions.
    Me: Ok.
    Lady: How many computers is this copy of Windows XP installed on.
    Me: One.
    Lady: Why are you reinstalling Windows?
    Me: I bought a new computer case. (I just said this off the top of my head, not thinking anything of it.)
    Lady: Well, I'm sorry. You can only activate Windows XP on one machine.
    Me: It is one machine. I've transferred all the same parts to a new case.
    Lady: You can't do that.

    In the end, I had to call back and make up another reason. This was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard. The woman insisted that I could not change the case it's in, but I could change EVERYTHING ELSE. She kept telling me to read the license agreement.

    The bottom line is that MS will slowly but surely reign in the piracy. This is just a first step. The Windows activation is pretty lame, because if you have a legit number you can just keep calling and (re)installing all over.

    • That's why you just install a version that bypasses the activation scheme. I'm glad I've never had to deal w/ that unnecessary BS.
    • I used to upgrade bits and pieces frequently, but I learnt my lesson when XP forced me to phone Microsoft(tm)(r) when I transferred my OS from a 20gb to a 40gb hard drive (within the same machine) I felt like a naughty schoolboy explaining to teacher why the dog ate my homework, and any company which is willing to put computing professionals through that kind of shit is really, really stupid.

      Recently I purchased an Athlon 64, new motherboard, dual 120 gig SATA drives. I ghosted my WinXP partition onto t
      • ...I felt like a naughty schoolboy explaining to teacher why the dog ate my homework, and any company which is willing to put computing professionals through that kind of shit is really, really stupid.

        The question is how long can you make your customers feel like "naughty schoolboys" before they stop buying your product? Of course once they do stop buying it for that reasion, you can blame it on piracy and use that excuse to do even nastier things.

        To be fair to Microsoft(tm)(r), they have every right to p

    • by shyster ( 245228 ) < minus city> on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:28PM (#10282484) Homepage
      A couple months ago, I upgraded the motherboard and RAM, and took the opportunity to reinstall WinXP (as I typically need to about once a year).
      Lady: Why are you reinstalling Windows?
      Me: I bought a new computer case. (I just said this off the top of my head, not thinking anything of it.) lied. And when they check your HW ID, it shows that your HW has changed from the last install. A case swap wouldn't change any of that.

    • I had an almost identical experience. On the first call, I got ticked off because I let my actual opinions guide my words. Typically, this is called "the truth" or "being honest." My brother just checks email and goes on the Internet occasionally. I saw NO REASON why I should spend money on an additional license for somebody that never uses their computer.

      I called back and made sure my words were coated with honey. I was able to activate the operating system using that route. Basically, their stupid
  • Go MS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:07PM (#10282019) Homepage
    As much as everyone here "hates" Windows, it seems *some* here actually use it? Windows and Microsoft have a lot of problems. But that does not give you the right to steal it.
  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:43PM (#10282221) Homepage
    1. They have a right to deny service to the folks who have pirated copies.
    2. If you have a legitimate copy you have nothing to worry about.
    3. If you have a pirated copy and have nothing against Microsoft go buy a legal one NOW.
    4. If you have a pirated copy and are against Microsoft, then STOP USING WINDOWS instead of whining that it's overpriced, bug-ridden and poorly designed. There are at least TWO alternatives right now (MacOS X, and Linux), so there should no longer be any excuses.
  • by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:59PM (#10282307)
    For windows and office, they have a market dominance and their goals should be to keep that. They may be "losing billions" to piracy, but that's all imaginary numbers because they assume people would pay for it if they couldn't pirate it. If someone is pirating it and they get scared, they have two options. One is to fork over hundreds for a real license, or try linux. If they try out linux and like it, then Microsoft is worse than when they starting this scare campaign.

    Microsoft should keep to the goals of keeping everyone addicted to their software so they can't switch to something free.

    I'm not condoning piracy, it's immoral and wrong. But Microsoft's strategy should be to keep people hooked, not get every last bit of revenue on their golden goose. Their biggest fear should be the one guy who switches to linux, not the five people that are using a copy they downloaded off the Internet.
  • by Thai-Pan ( 414112 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:03PM (#10282325) Journal
    I run a part time business selling computers (approx. 10 a week) and it's a rare event that I sell a computer to a private user with an operating system.

    People do not enjoy using pirated copies. Especially when it's a pain in the ass or a worry, like getting service packs, etc. They do so because for them to buy legit copies of Windows would simply be too damn expensive. The cheapest I can do WinXP Home OEM edition for is around $150 Canadian, which is simply too much. Even $100 Canadian would be a stretch, frankly. Your average Joe would be satisfied buying an OS if it didn't exceed ~$75 Canadian. I'm not basing this off any direct studies, just my personal observations, but if WinXP was priced around there, I think I would sell FAR more copies.

    Different demographics are all obviously different too. As a computer engineering student, I'd be surprised if any significant number of my colleagues were using legit copies of WinXP. Those who are, are usually doing so because it came with their laptops. MS will give us absurd discounts on Visual Studio, etc., but we're left to spend the big bucks on an OS?

    Sure, analyzing the pricing on an OS may be a bit naive of me. But different demographics are willing to spend drastically different amounts of money on an operating system. When someone wants to buy a ~$400 system, it's hard to tell them that the OS will cost $150. Then I might turn around and build a system for someone else that costs 10x as much and they don't think twice to get me to toss it on there.

    Here's an idea that's a real long shot. Suppose a motherboard manufacturer were to design a motherboard which is targeted for low end, budget users. It is somehow crippled so that it can't be used with the more expensive hardware, but it also comes with a rebate form or some sort of discount on WinXP Home. It would be a modified OS to run only on the motherboard it was shipped with or intended for use with, and the motherboard is set up so that it would be adequate for budget users but not for high end enthusiasts. It would encourage the low end users to purchase Windows instead of pirating it, and allow Microsoft to keep higher prices for the rest of the market. I see the potential flaws in my little scheme, but it's something to think about.
  • Doesnt work. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vspazv ( 578657 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:06PM (#10282340)
    The site says my fake volume license key is legit. The people they're catching are the ones that got screwed by shady computer stores that slapped a computer together with an unlicensed copy of XP and give the customer a burned CD. If it makes anyone feel better I have 5 NFR copies of XP Pro that have never been used.
  • FYI (Score:5, Informative)

    by kc_cyrus ( 759211 ) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @04:06AM (#10283735)
    FYI, I successfully extracted the algorithm MS uses (same VLK Public Key Infrastructure), and broke the private key uses to generate product keys.

    The following computations are based on this product key: JCF8T-2MG8G-Q6BBK-MQKGT-X3GBB The character "-" does not contain any information, so, the MS product key is composed of 25-digit-character. Microsoft only uses "BCDFGHJKMPQRTVWXY2346789" to encode product key, in order to avoid ambiguous characters (e.g. "I" and "1", "0" and "O"). The quantity of information that a product key contain is at most . To convert a 25-digit key to binary data, we need to convert "JCF8T2MG8GQ6BBKMQKGTX3GBB" to "6 1 3 22 ......", where 'B'=0, 'C'=1, 'D'=2 ... we call the array "6 1 3 22..." base24[] compute decoded = , the result is: 00 C5 31 77 E8 4D BE 73 2C 55 47 35 BD 8D 01 00 (little-endian) The decoded result can be divided into 12bit + 31bit + 62bit + 9bit, and we call theses 4 parts 12bit: OS Family, 31bit: Hash, 62bit: Signature, and 9bit: Prefix.

    If you want to understand what I am talking about in this section, please refer to some Elliptic Curve Cryptography materials. Before verifying a product key, we need to compute the 4 parts mentioned above: OS Family, Hash, Signature, and Prefix.

    Microsoft Product-key Identification program uses a public key stored in PIDGEN.DLL's BINK resource, which is an Elliptic Curve Cryptography public key, which is composed of: p, a, b construct an elliptic curve G(x,y) represents a point on the curve, and this point is so called "generator" K(x,y) represents a point on the curve, and this point is the product of integer k and the generator G.

    Without knowing the private key k, we cannot produce a valid key, but we can validate a key using public key:{p, a, b, G, K}

    compute H=SHA-1(5D OS Family,Hash, prefix, 00 00) the total length is 11 byte. H is 160-bit long, and we only need the first 2 words. Right lift H's second word by 2 bits. E.g. if SHA-1() returns FE DC BA 98 76 54 32 10, H= FE DC BA 98 1D 95 0C 04. compute R(rx,ry)= Signature * (Signature*G + H*K) (mod p) compute SHA-1(79 OS Family, rx, ry) the total input length = 1+2+64*2=131 bytes. And compare Hash and result, and if identical, the key is valid.

    Producing A Valid Key!
    We assume the private key k is known (sure, Microsoft won't public this value, so we have to break it by ourselves). The equation in the product key validation system is as below:
    Hash=SHA(Signature*(Signature*G+SHA(Hash)*K) (mod p))
    What we need is to calculate a Signature which satisfies the above equation. Randomly choose an integer r, and compute R(rx,ry)=r * G Compute Hash= SHA-1(79 OS Family, rx, ry) the total input length = 1+2+64*2=131 bytes, and we get the first 62bit result. compute H=SHA-1(5D OS Family,Hash, prefix, 00 00) the total length is 11 byte, and we need first 2 words, and right lift H's second word by 2 bits. And now, we get an equation as below:

    Signature*(Signature*G+H*K) = r * G (mod p)
    By replacing K with k * G, we get the next equation:
    Signature*(Signature*G+H*k*G) = r * G (mod p) , where n is the order of point G on the curve

    Note: not every number has a square root, so maybe we need to go back to step 1 for several times.

    Get Private-key From Public Key
    I've mentioned that the private key k is not included in the BINK resource, so we need to break it out by ourselves. In the public key:
    K(x,y) = k * G, we only know the generator G, and the product K, but it is hard to get k. The effective method of getting k from K(x,y) = k * G is Pollard's Rho (or its variation) method, whose complexity is merely , where n is the order of G. (n is not included in public key resource, so, we need to get n by Schoof's algorithm) Because a user cannot suffer a too long product key, the Signature must be short enough to be convenient. And Microsoft chooses 62 bit as the length of signature, hence, n is merely 62-bit long. Therefore, the complexity

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.