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Microsoft's controversial and often-dysfunctional Windows Me Sweepstake came to a close yesterday with the promotional Web site in full working order - at last.

As we first reported here, the site was out of action for most of the week beginning 13 August, and only placeholder text blaming technical difficulties could be seen for the following few days.

The sweepstake was launched in July and promised 50 users a day a "commemorative" copy of Windows Me, signed by Bill Gates.

Quite coincidentally, after we broke the story - which pointed out that failure to deliver these as promised constituted a potential breach of some US states' consumer protection law - the front page sprang back to life. However, even after the front page was restored, the Winners List section wasn't updated.

That all appears to be fixed now too. Microsoft tells us that there's a three to five-day lag in posting the
winners (stop sniggering at the back there, you Perl and Python scripters) - with the most recent winner being drawn on from 25 August. So in a couple of days you should know definitively if you've won or not.

Is that enough punishment? Not quite.

With a slightly sadistic streak, Microsoft will begin the sweepstake all over again on 14 September - the same day that WinMe officially arrives in stores.

Perhaps this will be a "commemorative" Service Pack, signed by Steve Ballmer? ®

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