Monday, October 23, 2006

Piracy vs Windows Genuine Advantage

I have turned a new leaf in regards to software piracy. When I was younger I really didn't care if it was legal or illegal as long as it worked. A couple of things made me change my views on software piracy, the first of those being With something as good, and legal, and free as, why bother pirating the latest version of Microsoft Office? Now that open source software is coming of age, it's actually more of a hassle to try and pirate the corporate counterparts. Open source is not only legal, it's on the verge of trendy, and it's definitely smart. No one will catch me purchasing a copy of Microsoft Office anytime soon, even the cheaper gimped Student and Teacher Edition. Not only is free and legal, it saves me a trip to the store.

The second thing that turned me away from piracy was Windows Genuine Advantage, which is a fancy name for "Way Better Copy Protection." I'll be the first to say I think Windows XP, and edition, is overpriced. I'm also one of the few geeks that will give Microsoft credit where it's due. Windows XP is the most user friendly operating system available on the planet for PC's (Mac's OS is a different topic for another day). On that note, users of Windows XP should grudgingly pay for it. Windows Genuine Advantage is actually a good thing. It ensures you paid for your software and that you have access to all the updates and novelty features Microsoft has available. The disadvantage is that it's a pain for unsuspecting users that don't know they have an illegal version of Windows XP, and that happens more often than it should.

This particular home built PC came to the shop, and in this case the customer knew that at one time he has an illegal copy of Windows. Wanting to do the right thing he contacted Microsoft, paid them a discounted rate for a real version (nice of them to make him pay twice huh?), then sent him a Windows Genuine Advantage Kit for Windows XP Professional. I'm not posting this in my blog to complain. In fact I'm actually posting because I had very little trouble and found it interesting.

All of that happened well before the customer came to me. When he came to me he came with a dead hard drive, and his Genuine Advantage Kit. I came to find out the kit is nothing more than a Windows XP Pro CD with a different holographic on it, but the catch was it didn't come with the 25 digit product key needed to reinstall Windows on the customers new hard drive. The only complaint I had was that I had to wait until Monday to call Microsoft and get the key. It was impressive they were able to issue a key with nothing more than the customers name and phone number. I didn't even have to give her any numbers off the odd ball Certificate of Authority. For the record, pictured is a CoA I found on Google, not the customer.

I guess, all in all, I really don't have a problem with copy protection as long as they keep it simple and don't lock out people willing to pay for software. I would like to see Microsoft keep reasonable prices on software, but from what I've seen of Vista they're headed in the wrong direction. On thing is for sure, with all the open source alternatives out there, I'll only be paying for Windows and games.

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