Front Men

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(Ed. note: I toss around terms like “dishonest” a lot in this article. When I do that, please realize that I realize the
situation in poorer countries is much different than in the U.S., and MS’s pricing can make legitimate buying impossible even for
the most honest. That’s a much more difficult and complicated situation than what I’m talking about here.)

There’s an article over at PCWorld about Product Activation.

We’ve already raised our problems with it, but honestly, the problems we face with it are not going to be faced by the average user.

When I read the article, I can’t help but feel that at best I’m seeing some pretty infantile sentiments being expressed, at worst, I’m not hearing the whole story.

“Microsoft is telling customers that we can’t be trusted.” Why, yes.

What does the evidence show? That customers as a whole can’t be trusted. No matter what you think of Product Activation, you can’t deny that.

“But I can be trusted.” Well, first, do you think MS makes copies of XP like Grandma used to make a bunch of cookies, just for you?

Or should Mr. Gates follow Santa’s lead, as in “making a list, and checking it twice, he’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice?” I can just see the headlines now: “MS Enemies List Exposed!!”

What’s really ironic is what the two people who actually had an experience with product activation did to get that experience. They tried installing on a second machine. So much for trust.

Yeah, they said they uninstalled it on the first machine. What I find sort of funny, though, is that neither tried to call MS to rectify the problem, which makes you wonder whether they really did uninstall.

Even if these two are completely innocent, though, is every single person who installs on a second machine going to be so honest about this? Product Activation was meant to stop precisely this.

“Running the Microsoft gauntlet to get it changed isn’t worth it,” said one of the second-machiners. A one-time phone call isn’t worth using a program? Please.

The Problem

Let’s assume the fellow I’m quoting is a candidate for sainthood, and he’s as honest as the day is long.

But if a hundred people do the same thing, and say the same thing, I know for sure a sizable proportion of those people will be lying through their teeth and trying to install two copies on two machine. And so does Microsoft.

So what are they supposed to do?

Ideally, they might toss in some sort of deactivation command during an uninstall, though that might be a little tricky. Probably a good idea, but it’s quite possible MS didn’t find this feasible and decided a one-time phone call wasn’t too burdensome under the circumstances.

Microsoft’s licensing agreements do not allow the average desktop user to put a single copy on multiple machines. They may have a long, long time ago, but not any time recently.

They have the right to do that. Some companies let you install a second copy, some don’t.

If you think you’re entitled to that, let me ask you this: if you ever bought a computer for work in your office, did you ever tell the salesperson, “I’ll be bringing work home, so give me a second machine for free?” How far do you think that would get you?

More basically, since when did you get the right to unilaterally determine the price or conditions of the purchase? Name one other activity in your life where you can do that and the person on the selling end doesn’t have the right to say, “No.”

At least some of those hundred people I mentioned earlier think they’re entitled to that second copy, and they’ll be more than happy to parrot what the honest man says.

Go down the line and you’ll see the same thing. “Privacy” is another issue brought up. Unless you think MS is going to steal your bank account numbers or secret corporate papers, or spam you with hardware ads (none of which is the least bit evident), why should you care if Microsoft knows your hash code?

In many cases, the real reason is fairly likely to be there’s something on that machine that’s either highly embarrassing if not illegal.

So for every “privacy” person who may have fears of MS probing into seriously private documents, you’ve got porn addicts saying exactly the same thing.

How do you tell the difference?

The Dishonesty Tax

Have you ever walked into a store that made you park your bags upfront, had all kinds of security cameras around, and had salespeople keeping a bit too close eye on you?

Why is that? That’s because quite a number of people went into shop, but not pay.

Ever seen or heard a statement to the effect of “YOU pay for shoplifting.”

Did you immediately stomp out of the store saying, “You don’t trust me” or “You’re violating my privacy” or “I won’t pay for shoplifters.” I bet not.

So why are you doing it now? This is exactly the same thing.

For years, folks have been stealing MS products left and right, and now payback time is beginning. Now you’re going to start paying for all that shoplifting.

We’ve argued against PA due to our skepticism about its effectiveness, not because MS doesn’t have the right to get paid for their work.

Before I hear the nonsense of it costing too much or they make enough money already or I can’t afford it, weren’t all these things being said about a company called Intel?

So how many Intel processors did you steal?

Only difference is that it was easy to get away from the first and not the second.

You can hang on to your current OS as long as you like, but if MS hangs tough, eventually you’ll have to upgrade.

Go to Linux? Go ahead. A hundred desktop users will go out, ninety plus will come back. (A bigger proportion that goes out will probably stay on the server side.)

Go to the warez side? MS has historically been very lax in that cat-and-mouse game. I think the cat is going to be chasing the mice a lot more over the next few years.

There’s certainly a lot of MS practices I don’t like, but the notion of them getting paid something for their work (how much is arguable, especially in poorer countries) is not one of them.

Front Men

The dishonest take cover under the honest man. Honest men should realize this. They’ve been effectively footing the bill for the dishonest all along. If not for the honest man paying for his product, there wouldn’t be a product for the dishonest to take.

And what have the honest gotten as a result of the dishonest? Product Activation. The honest man needs to realize that his problem isn’t product activation; it’s the dishonest.

So when the honest object, their objections should take into account MS’s legitimate rights and try to strike a happy medium that assists the honest without sheltering those who are not.

Otherwise, unwittingly or not, you serve as front men protecting those who got you into this mess in the first place.

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