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July 17, 2001
12:04 PM   Subscribe

Win XP's Product Activation as a breeze to hack. Provided that RC1 still ships as is and you keep your RAM locked at a fixed number of sticks, it's simply a matter of keeping a backup of a DBL file. For all the ballyhoo, it's amazing that something this obvious slipped under the cracks. With WPA this sloppy, is this the only half-hearted facet of Windows XP?
posted by ed (36 comments total)

 
Hmm, so Joe Consumer won't know how to do this workaround since he has a hard enough time getting his Flash plugin working right.

Meanwhile, the people that do know how to get something like this working are likely using or thinking of using Windows2000, OSX, or Unix.

This shouldn't be a big deal for MS.
posted by jragon at 12:37 PM on July 17, 2001


Well, someone's already found a security hole in XP Outlook. Quelle suprise. From Betanews
posted by Su at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2001


So, people can pirate copies of Windows. No matter what counter-piracy measures are implemented in software, its a matter of days before it's cracked by hackers.

I run a pirated version of Windows 2000 Professional, as well as Photoshop 6 and Dreamweaver 4. I admit that I'm stealing from the company that produced my software. But, I don't think I'm cutting into their revenue. A software company isn't going to fail because of people like me. As a student, there's no way I'd spend over $1000 for Windows 2000, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver. If I couldn't pirate them so easily, I would use freeware, shareware, or older, cheaper, feature-disabled software for making web pages. I'd run the Windows 98 SE that shipped with my computer.

Instead of spending money that I don't have on software, I could spend a few hours searching and downloading this software, after some bored students with some programming knowledge spent a day reverse-engineering the anti-pirating schemes.

Now, my economics is weak, but I don't think I'm hurting the software companies by pirating their product, when I have no intention of buying it.

In fact, I might be helping the software companies when I pirate their product. Because I'm already familiar with Microsoft, Adobe, and Macromedia products, my future employer would save on training costs if she had that software. As more people pirate the software, it becomes more ubiquitous, eventually becoming the standard. This ubiquity can be leveraged by the company to reap tremendous rewards.

This, of course, relies on somebody actually buying the software. That would be corporations. I'm not saying that we should legalize software piracy, or give everything a GPL, but acknowledge that the struggle between programmers trying to prevent piracy, and pirates wanting to steal their software is ever-present. So, let's not jump every time the pirates get a little break. The corporations will still pay lots of money for the software.

What do you guys think?

Su, new security holes are found every few weeks in all types of software. There are dozens of security patches that have come out for IE 5 and Windows. And there are just as many that come out for Linux distributions. With the complexity of software as it is, we can't expect programmers to anticipate every possible input the user could give. Instead, make an effort to keep your computer up-to-date on security updates, and be aware that there is a slight chance your computer could be hacked regardless of the precautions you take.
posted by ktheory at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2001


As a student, there's no way I'd spend over $1000 for Windows 2000, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver.

Two words: student discounts. Microsoft pretty much gives away Win2000 on most campuses (especially to student computer groups such as ACM), and most other major software packages can be found in campus bookstores at substantial discounts.
posted by gyc at 1:57 PM on July 17, 2001


Perhaps real colleges. The Academy of Art in San Francisco doesn't give shit away. Your best bet is to hope to win an iMac by registering early. And our book/software store closed.
posted by jessie at 2:01 PM on July 17, 2001


Even "non-real" college students can get discounts; order online, or in some cases such as Apple, direct from them.
posted by hijinx at 2:45 PM on July 17, 2001


If I couldn't pirate them so easily, I would use freeware, shareware, or older, cheaper, feature-disabled software for making web pages. I'd run the Windows 98 SE that shipped with my computer.

Then why don't you? Must be because you see some value in the commercial products. Gee, if they have value, maybe you shouldn't steal them.

I don't think I'm hurting the software companies by pirating their product, when I have no intention of buying it.

It's not about hurting the companies; it's about taking things that don't belong to you. Photoshop is not yours. Windows is not yours. Dreamweaver is not yours. On what basis do you behave as if they were?
posted by kindall at 2:56 PM on July 17, 2001


Discount smiscount. Usually, you have to be a full-time student. And even places who do offer student discounts (such as JourneyEd.com) still have prices in the hundreds of dollars.
posted by jessie at 3:02 PM on July 17, 2001


they're selling all the MS OSes and applications at my school's bookstore for five dollars each... except for office XP, which is eight dollars.
posted by lotsofno at 3:23 PM on July 17, 2001


Wow! What school?
posted by jessie at 3:35 PM on July 17, 2001


I did a quick google search. www.micromasteronline.com (who I know nothing about) has Windows 2000 professional for $123, Frontpage for $88. No mention about being a full-time student.

Amazing how people will rationalize theft by any means necessary.
posted by milnak at 3:38 PM on July 17, 2001


Irony Alert: ktheory's web site states:

I believe that tolerance is very important. I am skeptical about everything except the existence of God. I try to live like Socrates, Guatama, and Jesus.

Jesus wants you to pirate software!
posted by milnak at 3:40 PM on July 17, 2001


Jesus lived before the notion of intellectual property existed. All those guys did.
posted by sonofsamiam at 4:02 PM on July 17, 2001


Software piracy makes the baby Jesus add dongles.
posted by rodii at 4:44 PM on July 17, 2001


University of Cincinnati.
posted by lotsofno at 5:54 PM on July 17, 2001


Kindall said: Gee, if they have value, maybe you shouldn't steal them.

But the software is not worth hundreds of dollars to me.
If I can get it for free, and I'm not hurting anyone, why should I settle for freeware?

The question is: Who am I hurting when I pirate software?

Milnak: I choose to use myself as an example in this discussion about piracy, thinking that would allow more open dialogue than considering a hypothetical example. I'm not saying that Jesus wants us to pirate software. Noteworthy, however, is that Jesus did break many laws of Roman society. We all have my hypocrisies, so let's not explore this ad hominim tangent.
posted by ktheory at 6:55 PM on July 17, 2001


If I can get it for free, and I'm not hurting anyone, why should I settle for freeware?

Because it doesn't belong to you. It's not yours to take.
posted by kindall at 8:00 PM on July 17, 2001


out of curiosity... how many people here paid for their version of photoshop? and if you don't mind, for the sake of comparison, are you in the 20-45k, 46-70k, 71-100k, 100k+ a year range?
posted by lotsofno at 8:20 PM on July 17, 2001


ktheory, your argument fails the same way all Machiavellian arguments fail. In order to get to the end, you must go through some means. Those means do indeed hurt software companies.

That said, I find the second part of your post interesting (about ubiquity and familiarity) but I think that takes a lot more long-term vision than the normal company's shareholders or executives can stomach.

Anyway, back on topic, I just finished up writing a bit about the Microsoft potentially wiedling the DMCA to control the consumer (MPAA/RIAA-style) even further than they do today. I come here and find this thread... Aack.

So the question is, can Microsoft use the DMCA in a case such as this?
posted by fooljay at 8:46 PM on July 17, 2001


Paid for mine, and three upgrades... as for what I'm making, well, at the time, it was in the $20-$45K range.

Haven't bought the 6.0 upgrade yet.
posted by kindall at 9:04 PM on July 17, 2001


kindall,
I can go to the library and read a book that doesn't belong to me. I can make a tape of a friend's CD. Our laws of copyright, ownership, and property worked fairly well until digital media greatly extended our ability to duplicate and distribute bits of information. Digital media flip our traditional ideas up-side-down. I'm sure you're aware that consumer's don't actually own Windows software. They purchase a license to use the software. It is ok to duplicate an analog recording for a friend, but illegal for a stranger to download an MP3 via Napster.

As we examine ideas of property in the digital era, we should not expect people to obey rules that are unenforceable. I, personally, and I think the majority of people, will not be swayed away from terabytes of free software or music because they might hurt the bottom line of monolithic corporations.
posted by ktheory at 9:25 PM on July 17, 2001


"Because it doesn't belong to you. It's not yours to take."

You don't "own" any of your software. Go read those "click-through" EULAs that everyone just clicks "I Agree" on and never reads.

" In order to get to the end, you must go through some means. Those means do indeed hurt software companies."

How? Honestly, how? I have no CD, manuals, box, etc for my copy of Win2k -- no physical damages. No copy of Win2k that otherwise would have gone to a paying customer is now unavailable. I never would have paid the $219 that MS wants for it, so they haven't lost a sale either. So tell me, what did Microsoft lose?

And don't quote me numbers from some MS press release saying "$X was lost to software piracy." Those numbers work on a flawed assumption -- that all "stolen" copies would have been paid for in the first place.

This isn't like the theft of a physical object. If I steal your car, I now have your car, and you do not. If I copy your Win2k CD, I now have Win2k, and you still have Win2k too.

In fact, calling it "theft" is a horrible misnomer, since you don't own the software anyway. If anything, it's "unauthorized use."

Also, having "stolen" win2k may actually bring MS more money. Now that I've had first-hand experience with it and been suitably impressed by its speed and stability, I'm much more likely to reccomend its use at work (as a desktop OS, anyway...I have yet to evaluate it as a server).
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:56 PM on July 17, 2001


Paid for Photoshop 5.5 (received student discount), when I was making $60/week working at the on-campus post office.
posted by riffola at 9:58 PM on July 17, 2001


ktheory wrote:
I can go to the library and read a book that doesn't belong to me. I can make a tape of a friend's CD.

Not for long if the RIAA has anything to say about it.

Our laws of copyright, ownership, and property worked fairly well until digital media greatly extended our ability to duplicate and distribute bits of information. Digital media flip our traditional ideas up-side-down.

Interesting, I just wrote the something very similar in my blog. I agree that copyright laws don't work anymore. All that is transipiring now is the last ditch attempts of corporations desperate to restablish order, politicians desperate to (re)establish power and both desperate for profit. At our expense.

CrayDrygu wrote:
How? Honestly, how? I have no CD, manuals, box, etc for my copy of Win2k -- no physical damages. No copy of Win2k that otherwise would have gone to a paying customer is now unavailable. I never would have paid the $219 that MS wants for it, so they haven't lost a sale either. So tell me, what did Microsoft lose?

Heh, while I certainly agree with you in spirit, I have to take exception. Let me illustrate a point. I was walking through Buena Vista Park in San Francisco the other day (in the Haight) with my roommate's six-year old son. We happened upon a smattering of dandelions (or at least that's what I think they were). He ran up and picked a bunch for him mom and we went on home. As I walked away, I suddenly realized that if everyone passing by that park took just one flower, there would be nothing left but dirt and trees.

One consumer (who otherwise wouldn't pay for the software) copying software doesn't hurt the corporation. But the effect of thousands or perhaps millions doing so would bring it and its revenue to its knees. With sagging revenue comes lower quality products.

I'm enamored with the shareware model to be honest and I support shareware developers. I think it's noble and worthwhile. I give them some, and they return the favor by continually working to make a better product.

Unfortunatley with the system, software companies and copyright law set up the way it is, piracy WILL kill them.

Should we, as consumers bear the brunt while our neighbors get the stuff for free? I think that's each person's choice to make.

I do think that the corporations have a responsibility to respond to the market. If a product is priced to highly for its perceived value, piracy will increase at a near exponential rate. Finding the right price point is an essential part of business.

Of course, where this WHOLE thing breaks down is when a monopoly exists. A monopoly can charge whatever it wants and if its product is a commodity, you are either forced to buy it or steal it. There is no price pressure besides piracy, which is why Microsoft and the entertainment cartel are so big on anti-piracy measures.

While I am not condoning (at least in this forum) massive civil disobedience in the form of piracy in the face of increasing control and exploitation by monopolies, I can see how such a thing would have a great effect on making them wake up.

Or it might have the opposite effect of making the government crack down.

Do YOU have your Senator's home number? You can bet that Jack Valenti, Hilary Rosen and Bill Gates do...

Also, having "stolen" win2k may actually bring MS more money. Now that I've had first-hand experience with it and been suitably impressed by its speed and stability, I'm much more likely to reccomend its use at work (as a desktop OS, anyway...I have yet to evaluate it as a server).

BY the way, that's what .NET is all about. They are going to eventually make Windows free (or close to it) and become a service.

Scary indeed.
posted by fooljay at 10:22 PM on July 17, 2001


In fact...Windows is turning into the Trojan Horse (add virus to that phrase if you like) concealing in its belly the legions of costs from .NET, Passport and Hailstorm...

You can quote me on that...
posted by fooljay at 10:23 PM on July 17, 2001


Oh (triple post, great) so back to the DMCA thing, would such a claim by Microsoft hold water? I'm wondering...
posted by fooljay at 10:24 PM on July 17, 2001


I don't pay for any software that I use in the office for use on my personal computer. At work, I make decisions about software standards and try to apply the corporate PO to the most approprate purchases.

I doubt I will ever feel the need to pay MS, Adobe, Seagate, Macromedia, Oracle, etc. any money out of my own pocket, considering they milk corporate customers for every dime.

However, I do pay for games, and anything that I would never use at the office. Those companies are only compensated by home users and deserve my support.
posted by avowel at 10:27 PM on July 17, 2001


You don't "own" any of your software.

Exactly my point.
posted by kindall at 10:36 PM on July 17, 2001


So WinXP's activation is easy to avoid - it is SUPPOSED to be fairly low security - to make it significantly more secure would require it to be substantially intrusive and intolerant of how people use PC's.

In a sense the choice Microsoft was faced with was to add in some protection against extremely casual piracy or to reduce the abilities of the OS to the point where it would destroy their user base.

They chose the reasonable option and decided to take some protection instead of non - but not cripple the OS.

This was the right choice and far from being sloppy this was a well thought out and reasonable decision.
posted by soulhuntre at 1:02 AM on July 18, 2001


" As I walked away, I suddenly realized that if everyone passing by that park took just one flower, there would be nothing left but dirt and trees."

It sounds nice, but it doesn't work. If you walk by and take a flower, there is one less flower in that park now. But what if everyone who walked by took a picture instead?

My Win2k CD is a "picture" (a perfect, digital one) of someone else's.
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:44 AM on July 18, 2001


Question for the audience: Is there a difference between pirating Windows 2000 and downloading mp3's?
posted by gd779 at 9:07 AM on July 18, 2001


It sounds nice, but it doesn't work. If you walk by and take a flower, there is one less flower in that park now. But what if everyone who walked by took a picture instead?
My Win2k CD is a "picture" (a perfect, digital one) of someone else's.


To use your phrase, it sounds nice but it doesn't work. The flower doesn't represent a copy of the software. It represents potential sales. If more and more people were to turn to piracy, it would be easier to do, because it would suddenly no longer be an underground phenomenon. Software companies would be playing whack-a-mole and would surely become inundated.

Then what starts happening is that people who WOULD have paid for the software start saying, "Hey why not? Every one else is doing it.". Next thing that you know software companies go out of business because they are set up in such a way as to try to make money from selling what people are copying.

To give you another example, one person pissing on the sidwalk doesn't make the city unclean. If everyone starts doing it, you suddenly live in a sewer...

I think part of the problem is that we're thinking about micro-effects of one individual's piracy on large powerful corporations. While that happens to be what the media focuses on, it is certainly not the biggest issue. Smaller software companies are hurt even worse because they don't have billions of cash on hand and annual revenues larger than France to pad them.

It's easier to justify piracy when it's related to products sold by big monopolies (entertainment cartel, Microsoft etc) because they are able to charge outrageous prices for their products and there are few viable product alternatives.

Imagine for a second if some company were to come out with a killer Office suite that is equal to or better than Microsoft office and if somehow it could read and write in Office formats. Let's say they charged $50. What would Microsoft do? Or Adobe if someone came out with a great Photoshop rival for $100. They'd have to lower their prices because they suddenly have market pressure. The other question is, would you pay for the software or would you copy it?

I was thinking about this last night: Next to the sales of Microsoft software, piracy of Microsoft software is the second biggest competitor to MSFT's competitors. It's a shame that even in being stolen from, Microsoft further dominates the market.
posted by fooljay at 10:01 AM on July 18, 2001


Anyone got a copy of Maya?
posted by jessie at 12:11 PM on July 18, 2001


jessie: Try Hotline, I've seen Maya for NT4 there, although that was back in '99.
posted by riffola at 2:14 PM on July 18, 2001


Ktheory: we should not expect people to obey rules that are unenforceable

Like rules against rape or murder? People do break these rules and some don't get caught. By your logic, it is then OK to rape or murder. Or do you mean rules are worthwhile only if they are "Mostly Enforceable?" Then hitting my wife and kids is OK, because most instances of abuse go unreported and, if reported, the abused more often than not drops the charges. Pretty much unenforceable stuff, those pesky domestic violence laws.

Ktheory: I can go to the library and read a book that doesn't belong to me
And what happens if you take that book from the library and don't return it in two weeks?

Following unenforceable rules because doing so provides a benefit or prevents catastrophe for society is called ethics. They're what you follow even when it isn't convenient.
posted by dchase at 2:55 PM on July 18, 2001


Microsoft softens XP anti-piracy feature
posted by fooljay at 10:03 PM on July 18, 2001


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