Whoops, DRM

With no explanation, it seems Microsoft's WGA system is experiencing some down-time. One possible side-effect of this might be that your copy of Windows could be marked as counterfeit. If this happens, there is a possibility that you will see some reduced functionality.

Based on comments in the article, it seems unlikely that this will have an apocalyptic effect on Windows users. Still, this is a good warning to those who cede control (accidentally, ignorantly or intentionally) of a device to another party: your access is at their whim. Perhaps today a software bug stops you from checking your e-mail. Perhaps tomorrow, someone decides that you are not permitted to read that e-mail that maligns their software or political position.

Anything is possible.

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Whose computer is it anyway?

I had to laugh at one of the comments to Windows Update updating without permission! where Thomas Hruska described Microsoft modifying files on his computer without his permission (IE: He set Windows updater to 'manual').

In reply to the statement Thomas made saying, "In other words, Windows updated itself without my express permission.", someone using the handle Jiri said:

Look, I hate Microsoft as much as the next guy, but this is just not true.

The EULA specifically says that they may do that, and you clicked "I agree" to that.

In other words, Microsoft has claimed the right in their EULA to modify the behavior of your computer at their whim. Are people choosing to run Microsoft software aware of this fact, and aware that effectively Microsoft 0wnz their computer?

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

What DO users assume?

I suspect, in a strange way, people are aware that Microsoft provided software (not Microsoft, the company) may perform maintenance tasks on their computers. In my wanderings, I've discovered that they trust these are necessary changes to their system to improve its workings. Often, I encounter incredulity that a software company does not make customers its first priority or that a software company could make a mistake which might disable/damage/disarm the computer.

In simple terms: a strange assumption exists where the user assumes that the provider only makes sum-positive changes without error.

Perhaps this trust comes from ignorance? Perhaps the workings of the software world are not easily understood by the average purchaser of home computers and other electronic whiz-bangs?

Never understood this..

We live in a world where people don't trust their mechanics and will even second-guess their doctors, but still treat computer software as some sort of magical art worthy of blind trust.

If someone can explain this to me, I would love to understand.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

Related annoyance

The thing that's been bugging me recently is my cable company. I took them up on an offer to buy my cable box a few years ago. Every so often, I get a message to the effect that "The software in your cable box has been updated. Please check that your scheduled reminders, etc are still intact".

I don't believe that I ever agreed to them "updating" my property, and they don't seem to provide any way to opt-out. They don't even bother to tell me what the update does. At least one of these updates made a user-interface change that my wife and I agreed we didn't like.

Anti-piracy failure puts Windows users at a disadvantage

The Guardian online, as well as many other media sites, discuss this issue.

Since Microsoft has chosen a business model that they feel forces them to do this, it isn't likely going to surprise me that I have no sympathy for their situations. They could solve their problem entirely by moving away from royalty-based business models where sharing the software verbatim without additional permission/payment is already authorized, with them only needing to be concerned about competing software firms/projects infringing their copyright. They don't even have to move to a FLOSS license in order to receive these considerable benefits.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.