February 27, 2007 4:55 PM PST

Windows adds 'maybe pirate' category

Until recently, Microsoft's antipiracy technology was pretty decisive: either your copy of Windows was genuine or it wasn't.

Image: A 'maybe pirate'

With a software update this week, however, Microsoft has added a new "Yellow state" for times when it just can't tell whether a copy is legitimate. According to Microsoft, the new indeterminate reading can occur, for example, when a local error or network error prevents the validation check from being completed.

The message is part of a controversial add-on to Windows XP, known as Windows Genuine Advantage Notification, which tells users whether Microsoft believes their copy of Windows to be legitimate. Validation is required for most Windows XP downloads, though users can still get automatic security updates. With Windows Vista, some features won't work at all unless a machine is validated as genuine.

For machines that get the new "maybe pirate" reading, a window pops up that says "unable to complete genuine Windows validation." Encountering the new reading does not limit a user's ability to download additional software, as is the case when a computer fails validation.

A user can "click to see more details and address the problem, ignore the messages, or suppress them altogether," Microsoft said in a statement.

Microsoft said it hoped the new state would lead to better experiences for customers. "If a system or network error prevents an accurate status check, Microsoft wants customers to know that and have the option to fix the problem," Microsoft said. "We have seen many instances where the failure to complete validation is masking other system problems that users should attend to.

The change was noted earlier by technology site Ars Technica.

See more CNET content tagged:
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Microsoft is making yet another mistake
because most firewalls will block the activation process unless the user allows it. This is going to cause a lot of false positives and people will get upset that their legit version of Windows is now labeled "Maybe Pirate" and they get that warning in their face every time they log on to Windows.

The WGA software is spyware by the way, and Microsoft is being sued over it. Microsoft does not give users the option to opt-out of the WGA, and if they don't run the WGA check they cannot install updates, and now if the WGA check has technical difficulties they will be labeled a "Maybe Pirate".

If Microsoft really wants to drive their customers to Windows alternatives, this annoying WGA stuff will most certainly do it. Linux, OSX, *BSD Unix, etc don't have these annoying features and are gaining marketshare now that Windows does have those annoying features.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not sure what you mean??
"If Microsoft really wants to drive their customers to Windows alternatives, this annoying WGA stuff will most certainly do it. Linux, OSX, *BSD Unix, etc don't have these annoying features and are gaining marketshare now that Windows does have those annoying features."

Linux: Free (can you steal free?)
OSX: (only runs on Apple hardware?)
BSD: Free (can you steal free?)
Unix: Expensive hardware needed?
Windows: Runs on 90% of the hardware out there, can buy it anywhere, install it on your own and is not free, they actually have a business model so yes is a target for piracy

I guess unless you count Red Hat, Suse and the countless other Commercial Linux Distros who wave the peace flag and call themselves opensource while in the same breath buy opensource companies like JBOSS etc tighten control and charge for the OS instead of giving it away for free and charge for support and call themselves a non-ms type business

other then that Microsoft is a easy target for piracy, like it or not it runs the world
Posted by mcepat (118 comments )
Link Flag
M$ Acknowledges that WGA is useless...
... in their own subtle way but however they hedge the fact, it sure is overdue they started hedging WGA's benefits to Microsoft. We never for a split second believed WGA was for the benefit of users - that was a given from the get-go.

Even tho WGA can easily run straight past most all home/SMB software firewalls, the fact is that WGA started turning up lots of embarrassing results for Microsoft's largest direct customers. You and I are not usually Microsoft's direct and major customers. The OEM's and large organizations are, thus, M$ has always been in the business of pleasing these customers.

BUT when Redmond started discovering last summer that WGA was uncovering huge numbers of end-user systems running non-valid Windows that came pre-installed by certain of their OEM clientele who had chosen to ship reverse-engineered Windows pre-loads domestically on systems marked "for export only" it caused a nasty "double embarrassment" for Redmond.

WGA was meant to catch software pirates and others knowingly and maliciously breaking M$ software licenses. WGA was successful. Redmond learned that they were one or two of our country's largest OEM's, who are their largest customers; ergo, the new "maybe pirate" catagory.
Posted by i_made_this (302 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No problems with WGA here, and...
I haven't had any problems with WGA.

In addition, a while back, WGA was nice enough to nag me to upgrade from SP1 to SP2.
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yep, it's funny...
Those who aren't targeted by the dictatorship see nothing wrong with the situation, while those who are dragged out into the streets and shot have a less favorable opinion.
Posted by ejevo (134 comments )
Link Flag
True for many, Untrue for many others
It's a crap-shoot, apparently.

At home, I don't have to worry about WGA at all... Linux and OSX don't use it.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
Proof Every Reason for Hating MSFT is Valid
MSFT has never hidden their contempt and hatred for their customers.

WGA is just its latet manifestation.

That and that the fact that the company is doomed.

Posted by Sumatra-Bosch (526 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS Close to a mental breakdown and has lost touch with reality
In a paranoid individual?s mind there is a constant fear that there is a force directed at them to destroy them. They also have a loss of a logical grasp on reality.

There is no doubt that the Windows Operating System has been bootlegged, but with Microsoft?s blinding greed and thirst for power they have crossed the line of paranoia, and reasoning. In Microsoft?s solutions to stop bootlegging they show a severe lack of concern for their customers.

Rather than develop logical and efficient software. Microsoft has chosen to use it?s money and power to attempt to buy out and suppress opposing companies and developments. Investing in Novel is a prime example.

There is only ONE answer to Microsoft?s problem, RESEPECT! Respect for their customers, and Respect for their fellow IT members. Respect would reduce the price of their products, and allow input from their customers. If Microsoft had sold their operating systems at an affordable cost in the beginning, they would not have to worry about bootleggers, and would still have become the world?s largest provider of operating systems.

Microsoft has got to launch an honest attempt at eliminating their blinding greed, thirst for power, and paranoia, or we may witness the down fall of one of the worlds largest corporations.
Posted by the1kingarthur (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS is laying off people and downsizing and re-orging as we speak, I put in my two week notice and I am leaving this dump, before the exodus starts and too many people looking for jobs are in the market place.

MS is the rudest company I ever worked for, period.
Posted by RompStar_420 (772 comments )
Link Flag
MS is laying off people and downsizing and re-orging as we speak, I put in my two week notice and I am leaving this dump, before the exodus starts and too many people looking for jobs are in the market place.

MS is the rudest company I ever worked for, period.
Posted by RompStar_420 (772 comments )
Link Flag
"the new state would lead to better experiences for customers"
that statement is true. If I ever see this pop up on one of our computers, I'll fix the problem by installing Linux.

If it happens much, we'll quit buying Windows computers. We have very few people who really need a windows computer these days. We buy them mainly out of habit.

But that habit is getting easier to break every day.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ha, Mac users.....
Even on THIS post they find a way to try to convince people how better their Mac is. OK, so according to your saying (and often C/Net articles), Mac are obviously the best computer ever, with the best OS. That's why they constitute 98% of the market and... Uh, not 98%? OK, but they sure make it for 90%, right? no? How much are you saying? 4%?!! Heee, yes, but their chips are the best ones, nothing to do with WIntel machines and... What? Apple dropped their chips and migrated to Intel? OK, but hey, they make the best MP3 player! Ha ha ha.
Posted by Repère (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Never ceases to amaze me...
...that so many people think Windows controls 98% of the
market, (which I am not sure they do, they just claim to),
because it is a "better" product than anything else.

It is about a) availability, until other OS manufacturer's machines
start showing up at Costco, Best Buy, et cetera. People will
continue to buy Windows boxes out of lack of choice; b) what
your friends are using - hard to get your friends to help you
when you have the only Linux system on the block; and c)
misconceptions promoted by other Windows users and Microsoft
- Macs are not more expensive than Windows boxes, (MacBooks
start at $1099 and Mac Minis at $599 with Intel Core 2 Duo

Look at it another way - if quality were the driving force in
market share, more people would be buying Porsches and
Ferraris than Fords and Chevrolets. Porsches and Ferraris are
clearly better cars. If we follow your model - user base as a
function of quality - the opposite must be true, Ford and
Chevrolet must make a lot better cars than Porsche or Ferrari...

Apple has changed through the years. Three times they have
changed CPUs - from Motorola 68000 series to PowerPC to Intel
- and they have made one major change in OS - from MacOS to
MacOS X. Through this, they have continue to grow their market
share, (remember the main reason Apple lost market share was
IBM - who came out with the PC standard - not MSFT), establish
a loyal customer base and be profitable. MSFT is still stuck in the
100% backwards compatible mode, which sorely limits
innovation, and must drive its OS sales by dominating, bullying
and dumping on their customers in the name of profits...
Posted by MTGrizzly (353 comments )
Link Flag
Ha, Porsche users.....
Or, how to refute a moron in less than 30 seconds flat:

[i]OK, so according to your saying (and often Car and Driver articles), Porsches are obviously the best sports car ever, with the best engine. That's why they constitute 98% of the market and... Uh, not 98%? OK, but they sure make it for 90%, right? no? How much are you saying? 4%?!! Heee, yes, but their engines are the best ones, nothing to do with Volkswagen machines and... What? Porsche always had VW-built engines? OK, but hey, they make the best logos! Ha ha ha.[/i]
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
Guilty until proven innocent
I just love Microsoft's attitude of "every customer is a potential thief". Now Office has a genu-swine advantage ActiveX module that you must load before receiving any updates.

I've had enough of this crap. I switched from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice a while ago, and I've been very satisfied with it. When I get tired of Windows XP, my next operating system will be Linux, not Vista. Microsoft can kiss my money (and my *ss) good-bye.
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS misbehaviour should be stopped
the unfair ways in which MS attempt to insert in everybodys PC their WGA ought to come to and end. After 10 minutes- in fast connection - of "updates" downloading you are told that you WGA should be installed , why dont they tell so prior to downloading? Because they are looking to get you tired and accept their tricks.
If you are told a hundred times you should prove you are not a thieve you might finally believe it. But this by no way can prove that MS has the right to do so.
I shall not accept WGA and I am looking to move away from MS, despite the money invested, not upgrading to Vista.
Puting error over error the "may be" category is a way to get free of their own net and conection errors in WGA intruding.
How should so flawfull software (as Windows is) makers dares to be both the prosecutor and the judge of supposed user piracy?

Pablo Balonga, PhD
Posted by balonga (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A desktop is a terrible thing to lose . . .
. . . whatever it takes to keep MS on every desktop - stripped down cheap version for China, free and pirated for impoverished Russian school teachers - nothing is worse than losing a desktop to open source, even if MS has to pay you for the privilege of being on your desktop just to link you to its media "services" . . .
Posted by imhodudes (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I've added a 'maybe I won't ever purchase again' category
for vendors who have such little respect for their customers.
Posted by jd1023948 (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
LMAO - You are soooo Right
I could not help but fall out laughing from your short but excellent
post. Can anyone imagine how much more bovine feces people
are going to take from this company that cares about them so

Made My Day
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
I would do the same thing
I see a lot of people giving microsoft a hard time for this. I see no reason why they should not check the validity of the program.
It is true that some people who have genuine versions maybe caught up in the validation, MS is doing something about it and make the status "maybe".

However If I owned a software and there were literaly MILLIONS of people pirating it, I would also do something about it. It is just a matter of principle.

On the other hand I do not approve of Microsoft's other practices such as stifling competition like they did with their Internet Explorer. Frankly their product sucks and I enjoy using Firefox as my primary browser. However I stil use IE since many websites fail to optimize their code for firefox.

In any case, the fact remains that in order to increase profitability (which all companies do in a capitalistic society) they must do something about piracy.

As a end user, what you can do is to use Linus or Apple OS X as your Operating system. Use OpenOffice instead of MS OFFICE. I wish I could get OS X on my PC but cant so at the moment its not an option. But I am very happy with Open OFFICE.
Posted by lavacentral (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It doesn't matter
Market forces will ultimately decide. There is not use talking about it. I have seen scream and shout at insurance companies just as they scream at Microsoft/Intel but in the end (in the dark quiet private places in their home), they choose what is the easiest, cheapest, and least problematic machine to use.
1. Right now, you can buy some many Windows based software and hardware for such a cheap price, it isn't even worth switching to a Mac.
2. Compatibility is also another issue for the end user escpecially with having software that works both at home and at work.
3. Windows comes pre-installed with most end-user "regular" computers. By the time you need to upgrade an OS you are usually upgrading a computer also (HP/Dell/Gateway etc).
4. The Mac is too tied into Apple. By closing their system, they are able to have a better product but the trade off is price and compatibility with the rest of the planet.
5. In the end, as the Mac "opens" up to 3rd party vendos, they too will be just as unstable and just as hated as Microsoft.
Apple and Microsoft will determine what their product will be. If people started pirating the Mac OS, I am very very very sure that Apple would start the same practice. A thief is a thief, is a thief. The validation process is a simple quick thing. The only people who hate it are the ones that steal and those whose technical knowledge and tinkering of a system is so hight that they are bound to expose the inherent weakness of the authentication system.
I bought a new computer with Office and Vista installed. I had not problems activating it. PCs are so cheap today for doing the daily chores that it insn't worth stealing software/hardware anyway.
Posted by rgor (332 comments )
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