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MS Office compulsory registration: does it really work?

According to a victim of the 'successful pilot,' not entirely...

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The introduction of compulsory registration for Microsoft Office 2000 might raise spectres of Big Brother Redmond, but eye-witness accounts from the countries who're already on the receiving end of the system suggest Microsoft has a way to go before it ends up knowing everything about everybody. Australia, New Zealand and Brazil have been running with compulsory registration since O2k first shipped, but rather than being worrying, the process seems more clunky and humorous. The basic process is that you contact Microsoft with a 16 character code and some information when you're installing, and Microsoft then gives you an eight character unlock code. This can be done via Internet, fax, voice phone, or mail. A New Zealand Register reader chose voice, and at that point things started to get weird. About this information Microsoft wants - what is it? "'As little or as much information as you wish,' they said. 'What information do you want to know?' I enquired. 'Anything you want to tell us,' they said." You can imagine this kind of conversation going around and around forever, which is perhaps why Microsoft is now stressing that the only information it wants is the 16 character code and the country you're in. But the apparent nervousnessness of the New Zealand call centre jockeys makes it crystal clear that last year's storm over unique identification numbers in Windows 98 made a deep impression on Microsoft, and that at least for the moment the company really is concentrating on registration as an anti-priacy measure, rather than an exercise in information gathering. But there were more complications in our informant's experience. He was running a dual boot Win2k and Win98 machine, so needed to install Office 2000 on both partitions. Each install generates a unique 16 character code, which should match unique eight character keys supplied by Microsoft. So he has to do it twice, right? But thinking about it, he oughtn't to be able to do it twice without a posse showing up on his doorstep - if he's told Microsoft where his doorstep is, of course. None of this however seems exactly true. "I decided to keep the original key which MS gave me, and when I got a new install code generated on screen in Win98, decided to be a bit tricky and enter the same key as was given to me for Win2k." But although O2k is supposed to generate a different key for each install, it accepted the older one "but then automatically changed that key as soon as I typed it in." He phoned Microsoft again, pretended he hadn't entered the key, told them he was installing on Windows 98 and was given a new key. Which turned out to be exactly the same as the key Office 2000 was changing the old key to. This is of course impossible, as the key is supposed to be generated at the Microsoft call centre, not at the local machine - or is it? Whatever, we reckon Big Brotherdom won't be upon us until certain software companies get their systems under control. ® Related stories: Office 2k SR-1 makes registration with MS compulsory

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