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Letters Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) - what's the actual advantage?

Microsoft has sort of reacted to the continuing customer uproar over WGA - its "anti-piracy" software which checks your software and phones Redmond. The sneaky software will now phone home once a fortnight rather than every day.

The software giant also released a question and answer document on what the programme does. Read it here.

Register readers weren't too impressed either - here's a selection of your views:


Hi John,

Not sure what this means in the grand scheme of things, but I figured I'd let you know anyway.

On changing my video card a couple of days ago, my (legal) copy of XP started whinging about reactivation and WGA. Just like in the article "Microsoft product phones home every day".

So anyway, I called up Microsoft activation. After spending what seemed like 10 minutes entering the long installation ID, I got told this was invalid and that I'd be put through to a customer support rep.

On speaking with him, he claimed that this installation ID was invalid, and I'd have to purchase another copy of XP. Annoyed, I put the phone down on him. However, I wrote the installation ID down, and tried again today.

"Is this a first-time activation or a reactivation?" "Reactivation" "And what is the reason for reactivation?" *explains* "And how many computers is this product installed on?" "Just this one" "Ok I now have your 32 digit id ready"

On comparing the one from 2 days ago to the one today, both installation ID's are EXACTLY the same. One day I'm unable to activate, a few days later I am.

Weird, huh?

Simon


Sometimes writing a story you miss the obvious point, so thanks to Stephen for asking the bleedin' obvious:

your article on MS WGA phoning home was very informative - thank you.

you spurred me to checking into WGA at microsoft.com; I have several machines, all with legal copies, and have downloaded WGA to all of them (successfully).

what I failed to find at microsoft, and would love to have your insight into, is "Does WGA offer any benefits to the CONSUMER?" microsoft.com has white papers and lots of other stuff telling OEMs and system builders of the benefits but I can't find anything for the people who spend the money. Except, of course, that it appears that if I DON'T have WGA installed (and it reports that I have a legal copy) then I can't get updates - so the "benefit" is that I get fixes to faulty products if I get intrusive software installed. Reads just like Redmond.

thanks stephen


Reg reader Shannon is not so bothered by the privacy problems of WGA, but is annoyed about what it does to PCs:

Not sure if you have the technical resources to investigate it, but Microsot's Genuine Advantage is also making the boot process quite a bit slower. Customer satisfaction is not actually an issue for Microsoft. They have most of us firmly by the short hairs. Given that all of Microsoft's software is trashy and steadily getting worse, you can't really blame them for desperately trying to squeeze the last few drops of blood out of the turnips. Microsoft Genuine Advantage? Advantage = Microsoft, and screw the customers.

Now don't get me started on the awesome awfulness of PocketPC.


Next up is Peter:

Oookay,

so we have a tool here that reports on your piracy status. Daily. Leaving the tricky privacy vs crime debate aside (MS is, after all, in your house without a search warrant), I have one single question:

Is there evidence in the field that a copy of MS software changes status from 'legit' to 'pirated'? If not, why not report on /installation/ only (and maybe on removal) - obviously starting with the premise that a user would agree to this at all.

Personally I would like to start seeing a bit more transparancy from vendors. It should almost be a legal requirement to force functions on code that:

(a) makes the code announce itself on installation (Sony DRM) (b) requires the code to obtain permission for transmission (explicitly, not implied somewhere in the small print) (c) makes it possible to find it later (d) enables review of any communication in human readable form, with stiff penalties for 'accidental' mistakes that make the readable form not equal the contents as sent. If tjhere's nothing to worry about, fine, but the onlu judge of that can be the user whose system is not being used for their wn benefit.

We're veering dangerously far from the principle that someone is innocent unless proven guilty..


Time for one more from reader Brian:

The Windows Genuine Advantage Active X control cannot be disabled either, unlike virtually every other commonly used Active X control.

Good point. Keep 'em coming. ®

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