Someone reverse engineered
July 9, 2001 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Someone reverse engineered the Win-XP activation mechanism. It's not as bad as many people thought. It's certainly no cause for paranoia.
posted by Steven Den Beste (21 comments total)
No cause for paranoia? Ha. Anything that can be misused will very likely be misused at some point.

I'm not terribly interested in installing any OS that will actively get in the way of my use of my computer and my legally purchased software just because I swapped TV cards, etc. -- no matter how innocuous they make it sound.

Bottom line: it gets in my way and slows me down in the long run. I hope the idea sinks like weighted chain.
posted by Kikkoman at 11:54 PM on July 9, 2001

You are "soy" right, kikkoman! Ha! But the issue (for me at least) was less about loss of privacy than the notion that after I buy a piece of software I still have to be the manufacturer's bee-yatch just to use it, even legitimately. While I normally am a booster for MS- I've never bought into that virulent strain of anti-MS backlash- this tactic is the kind of thing that those who worried about "monopoly" might have feared. MS's sheer dominance makes this anti-consumer method of registration almost impossible to stop except by MS's own benevolent choice to do so.

I was trying to think of any situations where another type of industry or company does this sort of thing, and one I thought of was buying vs. leasing a car. While most still buy a car outright, which carries with it the freedom to do anything to it- it becomes your car- for some, the idea of leasing a car can prove to be a not-uneconomical choice despite the fact that the vehicle will come with limitations on its use such as mileage requirements, no alterations, damage, etc. If MS wants to do the same thing- allowing the lease of XP in addition to buying, for less money but with this rigorous registration process to prevent piracy- that would be different. But this nonsense is like having only one car dealership in town which allows you to buy the car at full price, but with all the post-purchase restrictions of leasing. Hey, if I'm gonna spend several hundred dollars on XP, I dang well don't want to be treated like some common thief!

BTW, SDB- I've notice that you seem to be a pretty arden MS booster yourself based on several posts I've seen; just a full disclosure question for ya: do you now or have you worked for MS or a partner company of MS?
posted by hincandenza at 12:42 AM on July 10, 2001

> It's not as bad as many people thought. It's certainly no
> cause for paranoia.

Steven, I and a very large number of others quit buying copy-protected stuff in the days when software was distributed on 140k single-sided single-density floppies. And do you know, it worked! Copy protection went away! If copy protection raises its nasty head again, the same tactic will work again. I'm perfectly happy with Win2K on machine A and Slackware on machine B. I'll be skipping WinXP.
posted by jfuller at 6:44 AM on July 10, 2001

hincandenza: it's been said a few times here, but you don't buy a copy of Windows. You buy a licence to use it. In fact, most commercial software is essentially leased. It's just that the XP activation software is like the garage hauling you in every so often to make sure that you haven't been tricking out your car, or the landlord ensuring that you haven't knocked through a partition wall.

Not that I regard the activation strategy as anything other than an attempt by MS to squeeze out the last ounce of profitability from its licensing model, and the customer be damned. But you never owned your operating system outright to begin with, unless you wrote it yourself. And perhaps not even then.
posted by holgate at 7:01 AM on July 10, 2001

Zippity LINUX!
posted by Zippity BOT at 9:33 AM on July 10, 2001

I am not now and never have been a member of the communist party, Senator McCarthy.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:43 AM on July 10, 2001

Holgate - it's nothing like a landlord checking you've knocked through a partition wall - while the landloard owns the property, and wants to be sure you're not misusing it, Microsoft don't own my computer, and I should be allowed to make whatever alterations I want to it.

Microsoft are trying to go (at least) on step further than they're entitled to. Essentially they're trying to enforce the "one purchase, one instance" rule of software licensing, but I ought to be able to uninstall my XP on one machine and reinstall it on another. Or buy another completely new machine, junk the old one and use the OS I've legitimately purchased previously. Or upgrade the processor without M$ thinkign I'm trying to rip them off. Or whatever. So long as I have only one copy of XP installed and running at once, that should be enough to satisfy M$. It obviously isn't, and that's a step to far in my book.

I shalln't be upgrading to XP. If authentication wasn't bad enough, the knobbling of MP3, SmartTags (now a dead idea, but that they were thinking it is bad enough), and URL rewriting are all too much control of my software over me. 2000 is pretty perfect for me, so I'll stay using it until I can't get the software/hardware and more, and then reassess my options.

posted by benzo8 at 10:32 AM on July 10, 2001

I just love to read these threads to see the justifications people give for "all of a sudden" deciding not to buy XP. Usually the logic is along the lines of "I had the cash in my hand ready to buy it, but then I heard that Micro$oft was thinking about introducing SmartTags which seems like it will invade my privacy. Okay, they're not going to have SmartTags, but just the thought of them adding this feature is enough for me not to buy XP! I'm going to format my drive and install LINUX right now."

Let's face it folks, if you are really set on BUYING XP, lack (or addition) of SmartTags, MP3, or activation schemes will not make or break the deal.
posted by milnak at 11:05 AM on July 10, 2001

I and a very large number of others quit buying copy-protected stuff in the days when software was distributed on 140k single-sided single-density floppies. And do you know, it worked!

I have a hunch that it only failed because the copy protection mechanisms themselves failed - not because the products were boycotted. The loss of faith from customers would have also been a factor, but software pirates just took the schemes to be another challenge.

If you really wanted to get a copy of the software illegally, it wouldn't have been a problem. Someone would have cracked it.
posted by wenham at 12:30 PM on July 10, 2001

Someone would have cracked it.

Wouldn't even be necessary since the mass-licensed versions will not have the protection mechanism installed.
posted by samsara at 12:55 PM on July 10, 2001

Slightly OT but,

XP does not knobble MP3's.

Microsoft only includes the MP3 codec for 56bit MP3 generation, if you want a higher quality than that, then you need to install software that has a codec that supports higher than 56bit.

It's nothing that you didn't have to do in the past.
posted by Mahogne at 1:08 PM on July 10, 2001

I wrote about the news this morning. In short, I'm not so sure that everyone's intentions are so altruistic or noble over at Fully Licensed...
posted by fooljay at 1:37 PM on July 10, 2001

SDB: Yeah, I was going for the HUAC thing- I think my diction was off, I should have looked up the proper syntax.

Holgate: While I agree- sort of- the point I was making is that the attempts to enforce it are unreasonable. A collection of software companies- not just MS- have been working to make these licenses completely unfavorable to the consumer, including the "If you open the package you agree to the license but you can't read the license till you open the package" craziness. This in the larger picture really tees me off. But realistically, while I've been technically 'licensing' all my previous copies of windows I could at least act as if I owned it. Now, this method of activation- or more disturbingly to the point, of deactivation- essentially puts the responsibility on me the user to prove to MS I'm not a thief even in legitimate use of the product. It's like the umbilical cord extending from my computer to Redmond never gets cut, and there's just something on a gut level that really angers me about that.
posted by hincandenza at 2:53 PM on July 10, 2001

All I can say, is gotdamn I'm happy that I just installed Slackware 8.0. Microsoft can eat a bag of dicks.

Crusty old ones. Soaked in vinegar.
posted by jaded at 4:57 PM on July 10, 2001

Jaded, how is slackware compared to other distros? I'm using RedHat and am continually thinking of going towards Debian, Mandrake or one of the others... Benefits/detriments?
posted by fooljay at 3:55 AM on July 11, 2001

Mandrake was based off RedHat, but appears to have grown a bit since then. The biggest difference seems to be Mandrake's graphical installer; I think they're really trying to rival Windows for ease of installation. I haven't installed Mandrake myself yet, but I hope to do so within the next few days.
posted by harmful at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2001

Cool. Thanks for the info guys. Debian is the most secure, right?
posted by fooljay at 11:25 AM on July 11, 2001

Of course...
posted by fooljay at 1:58 PM on July 11, 2001

Slackware 8 is fantastic. The installer is easy.

And there IS YES THERE IS a package manager. It's not all spiffy gui'd out like the redhat/mandrake one, but it does the job. Version 8 comes with nicely preconfigged versions of KDE, Gnome, Enlightenment, and many other wms, as well as like 5 different web browsers.

I use slackware because patrick puts things where they belong. The notable exception to that *always* being apache. I'll never figure out why he puts apache where he does. But if you're a sysadmin that likes to do custom things to your box, and don't like having to fight with a non-standardly configured system, then slackware is the way to go.

The problem I always had with Redhat is that software that they installed and "customized" for their environment frequently behaved in way counter to the man-pages. If I type "man fvwm2" or "man X" , then I expect the resultant man page to be relevant to the installation which I am running. WIth redhat, specifically a lot of X apps on redhat, that just wasn't the case last time I ran it. I won't run it again. Ever.

A couple of other things to note: Slackware 8.0 is a .0 release and thus-far has been problem free. Things work out of the box. THings compile out of the box. It's a solid release unlike the .0 of some other distributions I could name...coughredhatcough.

A finally: I have tools setup to watch portscan attempts on my servers. they all go into the database...and by FAR the majority of the servers out there portscanning me are rooted redhat boxes. Running redhat is, IMNSHO, like wearing a giant "ROOT ME" sign.

your mileage may vary.

Why not just download all of them and give each of them a try on a spare harddrive? (and by all, I mean all the major ones: slack, redhat/mandrake, debian). Suse, if I'm not mistaken, was originally based on the german version of slack.
posted by jaded at 4:11 PM on July 12, 2001

and one more thing....

I can do a full install of slackware in about 10-15 minutes, depending on the speed of my CDrom. And most of that is UNattended.

And as "easy" as the others claim to be, nothing is, in my book, easier than not having to be there.
posted by jaded at 4:15 PM on July 12, 2001

About 2 gigs worth of stuff is included in a full install. Some highlights include:

recent KDE(and all that it implies)
recent Gnome
recent Enlightenment
other random wms
open ssh/ssh2
sdl libraries
kernel 2.2.19 or 2.4.5

I highly recommend checking for a more complete list. Truthfully, I can't say enough nice things about it.
posted by jaded at 8:12 PM on July 12, 2001

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