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02.12.10

Vista 7′s 8th Sin: Another Antifeature Appended with Windows Update

Posted in Microsoft, Vista 7, Windows at 7:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bad Vista 7

Summary: Microsoft makes Vista 7 even worse by adding a user-hostile ‘feature’ to it (using the operating system’s mechanism that’s intended for security)

THE reality behind Vista 7 continues to depress users. It becomes increasingly user hostile as time goes by, even without a new release of the operating system. One of our readers said, “are you looking forward to your Internet driver's license? Next they force you to you the authorised Operating System face imprisonment. Isn’t the system grand?”

Microsoft is now informing users of Vista 7 that it is adding another antifeature:

In the coming days, we’ll be deploying a new update for Windows Activation Technologies, the set of built-in activation and validation components built into Windows 7. Called Windows Activation Technologies Update for Windows 7, this update will detect more than 70 known and potentially dangerous activation exploits. Activation exploits are sometimes called “hacks”, and attempt to bypass or compromise Windows’ activation technologies. This new update is further evidence of Microsoft’s commitment to keeping customers and partners secure. The update will determine whether Windows 7 installed on a PC is genuine and will better protect customers’ PCs by making sure that the integrity of key licensing components remains intact.

It is always justified by “defence” and “security”. That is how unpopular wars too are usually sold to the public. It is a lot more likely that Microsoft is just trying to squeeze more money out of users, especially now that financial results are poor [1, 2, 3, 4]. Here is the discussion at Slashdot and the spin from Mary Jo Foley, who is obediently repeating negative words like “piracy” (for copyright violation, which has nothing to do with crime on high seas). Thom Holwerda is doing the same thing, being the Vista 7 fan that he is [1, 2] (by admission). Here is the best coverage we could find on the subject:

Who Owns Your PC? New Anti-Piracy Windows 7 Update ‘Phones Home’ to Microsoft Every 90 Days

Greetings. Sometimes a seemingly small software update can usher in a whole new world. When Microsoft shortly pushes out a Windows 7 update with the reportedly innocuous title “Update for Microsoft Windows (KB971033)” — it will be taking your Windows 7 system where it has never been before.

The whole essay/discussion is worth reading. Our reader Oiaohm asks, “How long until this is not optional?”

Bad policies are usually phased in as voluntary before they become obligatory. That reduces if not eliminates a lot of the backlash. The ID card (population management scheme) in the UK is a recent example of this.

“At some point, I believe they will go so far as to sue users.”
      –Chips B. Malroy
Our reader Ryan had some more thoughts to share on the subject last night. “This update won’t even do anything,” he argued, as “it may remove the crack for now and put you back into grace mode, but 2-3 days later there will be new cracks and if you ever do get to the end of the 30 days, you can rearm 3 more times and get 90 more. Then there’s going to be a “fixed” service pack too, so they’re not gaining any ground by turning off what’s out there.”

Chips B. Malroy says that his “feeling [is that] it is important. Because it shows the measures that MS is going to, with the phone home stuff. At some point, I believe they will go so far as to sue users. But the WGA squeezing of non-legit users, will increase as the MS profits decrease, of that you can be sure.”

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7 Comments

  1. stonebit said,

    February 12, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Gravatar

    I for one hope they CAN fix/break all of the cracks. When people are forced to pay for garbage, they usually re-evaluate the situation. This will stray even more from Windblows. M$ will always win so long as people refuse to stop using their malware. What is the quote… something about “if they are going to pirate software, i’d rather it be ours than the competition”.

    I used to pirate everything. Then i started paying for the cheaper stuff. Then i started looking at the free stuff; i was twenty dollaring myself to death. It is now obvious to me that the free stuff is always better. It was hard to change [at first], but that’s the nature of change.

    Just like any other form of DRM, if i don’t like it, i will not use it.

  2. your_friend said,

    February 13, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Gravatar

    I thought that Vista and Windows 7 already had a phone home mechanism. Language allowing Microsoft to do this has been in the EULA for about a decade. Vista is supposed to send encrypted information back to Microsoft periodically. Why does Vortex.com think that this is something new?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    See the announcement from Microsoft.

    your_friend Reply:

    Ah, the new thing is admission of what they can not deny. They have long claimed the “right” to do so, now they admit they do and try to manage people’s perception of the practice. That is worth pointing to.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    We’re supposed to sympathise with them.

  3. Robotron 2084 said,

    February 13, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Gravatar

    Like it or not, from a security perspective this does make sense. Say I purchase a pirated copy of Windows 7 here in China. It’s pretty easy to do. Exit the subway station in Wangjing, cross the overpass at the east exit and most nights there is a dude with a cart full of movies and software. I bought one just as a souvenir. Since the activation had to be removed there is no telling how else the software might have been modified. Perhaps it was modified to log keyboard activity and send it to a third party. The possibilities are endless.

    To that end, it’s important to know if the software you have is genuine. You may not agree with paying for software, but you do need to know you have received what you paid for.

    These security checks for this OPTIONAL update are small and unobtrusive, though they can leave people red-faced. Many years ago I worked part time for a local computer retailer. He had been selling people computers with a pirated copy of Windows installed. When WGA hit the scene it was my job to go out and install legit copies. My boss instructed me to lie to the customers and tell them that Microsoft screwed up and the “pirate software” warnings were false positives.

  4. satipera said,

    February 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Gravatar

    Robotron, I am not worried about what someone may or may not have done to a copy of windows before distributing it. I am worried about what Microsoft have actually done to their software, that is they have scrawled it instead of writing it properly. The real danger to a computer is in running any sort of windows software in the first place. The added risk of running an unlicensed copy is miniscule as your lovely Redmond compliant copies do not stay malware free for very long.

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