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Windows Vista and software freedom

When you buy Windows Vista, you’ll be purchasing a product that is, to borrow a phrase from the anti-DRM guys, defective by design.

Microsoft announced enhanced anti-piracy measures for Windows Vista today. If Vista detects a pirated computer, it will lock down your system to a reduced functionality mode after a certain amount of time. And lock-down means the following: critical applications like Microsoft Office will refuse to start, and you’ll be limited to browsing the Web for one hour a day. This despite the fact that their current WGA program has been known to produce a high rate of false positives (detecting your software as pirated even when it’s not). And once your computer is locked down, your choices are either to go online and purchase a valid key; or, if you’re running genuine software, prove it to Microsoft support who will then hopefully activate it for you.

For the first time, your computer, all your data on it, and the computer’s very operation are at the mercy of Microsoft. If Microsoft feels that your OS is pirated, you will not be able to edit or view that presentation you were working on – even though that is unequivocally your own work. Whether you have an urgent assignment to submit tomorrow or you’re trying to save a patient’s life now – Vista will not care. And since the company has indicated an intent to deliberately break your system, you depend only on their good will to not interfere more drastically with it.

The dictionary should have a new definition of irony.

In our society, if you’re accused of killing another human being, you’re innocent until proven guilty. If you’re accused of having illegitimate software, you’re guilty until proven innocent.

…I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.

— Morpheus, The Matrix


  1. shashwat wrote:

    Nice touch with the morpheus quote :). Let me be Cypher and suggest that you can continue using WinXP and pretend that you are very satisfied.

    Thursday, October 5, 2006 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  2. Ashwin wrote:

    Switch! Switch! Switch!

    btw, RSS feeds are nicely maintained on the Mac (for free) using NetNewsWire Lite with Newsgator (free account).

    Thursday, October 5, 2006 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  3. Sherene wrote:

    Whoa. That’s nasty even for Microsoft!

    Friday, October 6, 2006 at 10:21 am | Permalink
  4. AJ wrote:

    I think i’ll give it a try then.
    Just that gaming is gonna take a hit.
    But surely worth changing.

    – AJ

    Saturday, October 7, 2006 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  5. Adrian wrote:

    I give this DRM between one and six months. I imagine there will be some loophole which allows certain site-licensed copies to slip through the cracks. There are big companies for which Microsoft will bend over backwards, and some of them will refuse to deal with the DRM, requesting an override for their 200,000 licenses. So those licenses will make their way onto P2P sites. Then of course someone will just crack the protection. There is no unbreakable software, and there are some very competant crackers out there poised for this task.

    Hopefully this will drive people to switch to Mac or Linux.

    Interesting to hear what’s in store, though Vista will never touch my PC.

    Monday, October 9, 2006 at 7:06 pm | Permalink
  6. Anshul wrote:

    I think the more successful the DRM is, the more people will switch. If Windows Vista turns out to be simply unworkable either with a pirated copy or with an original copy + changing hardware; people will have no option but to switch.

    Monday, October 9, 2006 at 7:47 pm | Permalink
  7. Soham wrote:

    Loved the link on ‘door’…..:)

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  8. Adrian wrote:

    Anshul, I think you are right, and I hope that turns out to be the case. It would be a functionally ideal situation if the DRM creates widespread anger and distrust toward Microsoft. It would be unfortunate if many people suffered great inconveniences because of it, but the loosening of a stranglehold is a dark time.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

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