It’s been with us since 2001, and still hangs on. No, it’s not the specter of Al Qaeda in the Middle East, waiting to attack, it is the activation scheme for Microsoft Windows. The activation scheme is something that makes Microsoft happy, as they mistakenly believe that they are keeping piracy down, and annoys many of us who are bothered by the false positives and pains we have to take when using their products.
A story that has been reported in about three places now, which is usually my number before I act on anything controversial like this, in Maximum PC tells about the latest strike on Microsoft.
It has long been said that software activation merely inconveniences and punishes honest customers, while pirates rarely have to deal with the same restrictions. It was true in the past, and it has been proven true again today with new reports from the pirate community claiming that the Windows 7 online activation has been successfully bypassed (yet again). Not only do those using the new crack not have to activate, but they don’t even need a CD key at all. The crack apparently nullifies sppcompai.dll, and even takes care of those pesky popup reminders that would normally keep nagging you to activate.
The most unfortunate part of this story however, is the fact that the crack seems to take advantage of the leniency of the activation mechanism which was tweaked in Windows 7 to try and reduce false-positives or accidental activation errors. We can only hope that Microsoft’s response to this hack will be even handed, and not encourage them to tighten up the activation process so much so that it makes it harder on legitimate purchasers or upgraders.
That last sentence sums it up for me, because the annoyance of the false positive is the one thing that, when it happens, is what pushes me toward another operating system for the bulk of my computer use.
In Microsoft’s favor, it’s not about outrageous fees anymore, because the number of ways to legitimately receive a copy of Windows, for a reasonable amount, has been increased tremendously. While I’m sure that for some, it is simply an exercise in the possibility of cracking the restrictions, for others it is a way to show a sort of superiority that makes many suffer.
I would like to see the actual numbers of piracy in the U.S., because, from everything I read, and have seen, the overwhelming majority of people get their PC from an OEM (which means Microsoft is getting their money for the license), and self-built PCs are a very small minority of machines extant. Therefore, I wonder how much actual piracy is being stopped here; perhaps prompting Microsoft to release U.S. only versions without the annoyances of the WGA and other implementations.
While I know that someone from Microsoft might state that a much bigger problem is the case of smaller OEMs, the so-called “white box” vendors, using the same keys for many machines, I don’t think it is that rampant. This was something I have seen, but as with the other things in our society where the individual is inconvenienced greatly, simply because it is easier for the party that is enforcing something to pursue that path, the end-user’s needs should always be held above those of the large entity, whether it is corporate (Microsoft) or governmental (NY attorney general’s office). It is up to the larger entity to pursue that path that inconveniences the fewest number of people, not the most.
I’m certain that this path would yield much better results for Microsoft, both monetarily and in the consciousness of the users of its products.