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WGA and WGA Notification Tool


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#1 OFFLINE   LilBambi

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 11:09 AM

A new version of the Windows Genuine Advantage Notification Tool was recently downloaded out of cycle from Microsoft on my computer which got me wondering what was up. I installed it and all went well with the installation the first time with this installation of it, unlike the last time when it failed miserably.I found this posting Windows XP Update may be classified as spyware on the Lauren Weinstein's Blog and a further posting Microsoft Responds;

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Microsoft Responds Regarding Windows XP Update vs. SpywareLuke: "You lied to me. You said that Darth Vader killed my father."Obi-Wan: "When Anakin Skywalker turned to the Dark Side of the Force, the good man that was your father ceased to exist. So, what I told you was the truth -- from a certain point of view."    -- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - 1983Pat (to Mystic Seer): "You're just a stupid piece of junk, aren't you?"Don (reading response): "It all depends upon your point of view."    -- Twilight Zone ("Nick of Time") - 1960Greetings. In yesterday's blog posting, I asked the implicit question: "Is Microsoft's update of their 'Genuine Advantage' OS validity verification tool behaving as spyware?"Within hours of that text becoming widely public, I received e-mail and a call from the director and the senior program manager for Microsoft "Genuine Windows" (their anti-piracy division). We three had a lengthy and friendly chat, and I believe that I can now answer this question. However, as you have probably already guessed, the answer is, "It depends upon your point of view."And perhaps of more importance, it's not clear that the spyware question alone is really the key issue in this case, since this is all part of a larger MS anti-piracy effort with broader implications for all concerned. In the long run, the real issues are clarity and control, as we shall see.Microsoft has major piracy problems, on a massive scale -- this we all know. They have been ramping up their infrastructure to prohibit "non-validated" copies of Windows XP from installing non-critical software updates. What many people don't realize is that MS does not consider validation to be a necessarily permanent state. Even after a copy of XP has been validated, MS may choose to "revoke" that validation (via communications with their Windows Update site) at a later date if activation codes are found to be pirated in the future.Why is the new version of the validity tool trying to communicate with MS at every boot? The MS officials tell me that at this time the connections are to provide an emergency "escape" mechanism to allow MS to disable the validation tool if it were to malfunction.While most users will routinely accept the tool update from Windows Update, MS considers it to be (for now) an optional upgrade as part of a pilot program, as described in accompanying license information that (as we know) most users will never read. (I should note that while these materials do discuss Internet connections, they do not appear to notify users that the updated tool will make multiple connections to MS at various intervals, even on systems that are already validated.)I was told that no information is sent from the PC to MS during these connections in their current modality, though MS does receive IP address and date/timestamp data relating to systems' booting and continued operations, which MS would not necessarily otherwise be receiving.Apparently these transactions will also occur once a day if systems are kept booted, though MS intends to ramp that frequency back (initially I believe to once every two weeks) with an update in the near future. Further down the line, the connections would be used differently, to provide checks against the current validation revocation list at intervals (e.g., every 90 days) via MS, even if the user never accessed the Windows Update site directly.Can you safely block the tool from communicating with MS using ZoneAlarm or another third-party firewall? The answer appears to be yes. I'm told that if the tool can't communicate with MS, validation checks will be made the next time the system communicates directly with the Windows Update site, in the same manner as has been done up to now since validation began.We can argue about whether or not the tool's behavior is really spyware -- there are various definitions for spyware, and the question of whether or not you feel that the notice provided at upgrade installation time was sufficient is also directly relevant. I believe that the MS officials I spoke to agree with my assertion that additional clarity and a more "in your face" aspect to these notifications in such cases would be highly desirable.But this is where an even more important question comes into play. Microsoft (and other software vendors) are moving inexorably toward a more "distributed" computing model where users are really "renting" software services, rather than buying commodity software products. The "rental" model implies long-term vender control over the use and applications of such software, with associated communications between user PCs and vender servers for ongoing authentication and other purposes.The entire concept of authentication revocation will be utterly foreign to many users, who are used to assuming that once they've bought something that they believe to be legitimate -- and that in fact has initially been verified as legitimate -- it's then theirs forever and can't be disabled or restricted later.And as we've now seen yet again, the communications issues associated with the rental/service model introduce a range of both real and perceived privacy factors and concerns that we've hardly yet begun to explore in depth as technologists or as a society.One thing is certain regardless of your point of view -- the sorts of issues that relate to this particular case are but harbingers of what's to come, in terms of capabilities, controversies, risks, and more. The old models are dying, and if we don't get ahead of the curve by understanding and properly framing the new models, we are likely to be very sorry after the fact.--Lauren--Posted by Lauren at June 6, 2006 09:40 PM
red emphasis at the end of posting mine.
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#2 OFFLINE   Temmu

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 12:40 PM

there is no privacy.you're on the internet, duh.ms office documents are chock full of all sorts of private info; it's how the lovebug authors were in jail almost imediatly after the outbreak.ms products, as well as firefox, call home.again, there is no privacy.
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#3 OFFLINE   redmaledeer

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 03:30 PM

LilBambi - Thanks for this chilling information.

#4 OFFLINE   Rons

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 04:20 PM

The same is mentioned in a Infoworld article by Robert Cringley:LINKDisturbing!  B)

#5 OFFLINE   striker

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 05:09 PM

B)
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still the same...

#6 OFFLINE   LilBambi

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 12:19 PM

Great article Rons by Cringley!:

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Cringester David S. was not pleased when a recent “critical” Windows Update asked him to sign a click-wrap EULA so it could install beta software on his PC. Apparently he was one of several lucky XP owners picked at random to try out Windows Genuine Advantage, an applet whose sole purpose is to detect pirated copies of Windows and nag you until you pony up for a legit one. According to the EULA, after WGA is on your system you’re not allowed to uninstall it. It phones home with information about your PC, which Microsoft may share with whomever it wishes. And if it breaks your computer, sorry, Charlie -- Microsoft has no obligation to support it. I knew Redmond had gotten into the spyware biz, but I hadn’t realized they meant that side of it.
Ed Foster's Gripelog link that Cringley posted is great too:

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Windows users who download Microsoft's new Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Notifications application aren't just agreeing to have anti-piracy nagware installed on their computer. They are also agreeing to the harshest Microsoft End User License Agreement I have ever seen, and that's saying something. Not only does Microsoft place restrictions on your right to criticize the software, it won't allow you to uninstall the software or to test it in an operating environment.
And his wiki link to the WGA Notification Tool EULA which makes it very clear that MS has all rights and the user has NONE.
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#7 OFFLINE   LilBambi

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 12:33 PM

BTW: someone else I know also just had that WGA Notification Tool installation too.
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#8 OFFLINE   Marsden11

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 10:42 PM

It only reports home when the machine reboots. I only reboot on patch Tuesdays... I can live with once a month...

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...which makes it very clear that MS has all rights and the user has NONE.
That is incorrect... YOU have the right NOT to use the product... Anyone can get by without Windows...

#9 OFFLINE   Peachy

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 10:48 PM

OpenSUSE :rolleyes:

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#10 OFFLINE   epp_b

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 11:20 PM

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That is incorrect... YOU have the right NOT to use the product...  Anyone can get by without Windows...
From an MS-fanboy, this is surprising to hear.  Surely, you are aware that not every user or business can get along without Microsoft.  Businesses need to colaborate, communicate, etc.  Because of things like Microsoft's sealed-up formats (Office formats, for example), you simply can't get along with alternatives like OpenOffice or Corel WordPerfect, for example.  Sure, they may be great tools, but they're pointless when you need compatibility.Same goes for Windows.  When you need applications that only run on Windows, you need Windows.  Sorry, but it's not a choice when we have market lock-in situations like these.

#11 OFFLINE   LilBambi

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 12:12 PM

Yes, there is coming a time ... my crystal ball is getting much clearer ... soon I will see no more Windows in my future. :unsure:
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#12 OFFLINE   redmaledeer

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 10:31 PM

View PostLilBambi, on Jun 10 2006, 12:12 PM, said:

Yes, there is coming a time ... my crystal ball is getting much clearer ... soon I will see no more Windows in my future. :thumbsup:
I've been increasingly thinking the same thing,  the more I hear about M$'s plans.   I tried an Ubuntu Linux live CD the other day.   It slipped in like butter.   (The only slight problem was that I couldn't make it connect to the internet,  but that must be trivial.)   It was clean and simple and looked to have everything I need in one simple package for my modest home needs.   My Windows XP is okay,  but I suspect that the first time M$ gives me a hard or confusing time,  out will come that CD.   The only problem is that there are so many free Linuxes out there that one hardly knows how to choose.

#13 OFFLINE   LilBambi

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 07:54 AM

Well, there's a great crew over at ATL headed up by Bruno and a fine group of Mods and users who can help with that.Also, Apple has some great deals on refurbished IntelMac Minis at their Apple Store. See Neil/steelerfan's topic under ATL about that.
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#14 OFFLINE   Marsden11

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 08:31 PM

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From an MS-fanboy, this is surprising to hear. Surely, you are aware that not every user or business can get along without Microsoft. Businesses need to collaborate, communicate, etc. Because of things like Microsoft's sealed-up formats (Office formats, for example), you simply can't get along with alternatives like OpenOffice or Corel WordPerfect, for example. Sure, they may be great tools, but they're pointless when you need compatibility.
You've got to be kidding me...Anybody or any business could run just fine on Unix/Linux... unless of course you were Morons "R" Us, LLC. We all communicate just fine with different platforms... if we did not, then very little business would ever get done on this planet. It's mostly about "data" and data does not care what system or platform it sits on.Tell me again how Microsoft's "closed" office formats are closed again. If that were indeed true, how on earth would Star Office or OpenOffice ever work??? They HAD to be compatible or what reason would anyone have to use them? Then we have PDF... I guess that format does not work either...Does email care if you used SendMail or Exchange?I can run any Windows app on Linux if I really want to...The issue here is not whether or not big business can run without Windows but rather how much will it cost them to switch platforms. How much will it take to retrain everyone within the organization? What will the total cost be to port legacy code to a different platform? Can we afford to switch? Will our competition eat us alive while we make this transition?If you have any idea on how big business works, those are not easy questions to answer because they do not have easy answers... No one can predict with any certainty that there will be no issues... then look at how many businesses move with such painfully slow determination... they test, test, test for years before rolling out just about anything... Why? They can't afford to have knowledge workers sitting around twiddling their thumbs...

Edited by Marsden11, 11 June 2006 - 08:32 PM.


#15 OFFLINE   epp_b

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 09:35 PM

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Tell me again how Microsoft's "closed" office formats are closed again.
Pretty simple.  The developers for applications like OpenOffice or Corel WordPerfect Office, for example, basically have to "guess" how to read and write MS Office formats.  Why else would so-called "MS Office Compatible" programs work as poorly as they do?  Yes, I'm blaming Microsoft for this, no I'm not blaming developers of these alternative programs.

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I can run any Windows app on Linux if I really want to...
Wine does not work that well....unless you have information on Windows apps over Linux that I am unaware of?

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Anybody or any business could run just fine on Unix/Linux... unless of course you were Morons "R" Us, LLC. We all communicate just fine with different platforms... if we did not, then very little business would ever get done on this planet. It's mostly about "data" and data does not care what system or platform it sits on.
You're being over-simplistic.  Ff course it doesn't.  It's not at question.  The software applications used to open the data are the problem.  And some applications that may don't have certain necessary features to manipulate data in specific ways.  Incedentally, some of these programs are alternatives to proprietary applications.Anyway, we've gone way off-topic here.

#16 OFFLINE   lewmur

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 10:20 PM

View PostMarsden11, on Jun 11 2006, 09:31 PM, said:

You've got to be kidding me...Anybody or any business could run just fine on Unix/Linux... unless of course you were Morons "R" Us, LLC.
Missed that FUD alert again.  I can post a list of several Internet sites, that are absolute necessities for anyone in the Real Estate business, which REQUIRE M$'s ActiveX.  Some of these are govt sites.  And this is true, in one way or another, for most businesses.  How can a Lawyer access Lexus/Nexus?  How can a doctor access the Insurance co's or medical databases?  You are dead wrong, as usual.Personally, I'd love to be able to ditch** but I can't.

#17 OFFLINE   LilBambi

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 10:55 PM

Yes, way off topic and way too personal.Please debate the topic, not attack other Highlanders. There is no reason for the topic to become personal like this. Believe me ... there is plenty of 'topic' to debate!The topic IS the WGA and WGA Notification Tool out of cycle update --- for folks that have legitimate copies of Windows to be asked to allow this is way over the top.There have been some really good points made on both sides of the issue ... if we take the personal side of things out of the statements./rant onAs far as I can see ... this is just the training wheels for Vista, and by extension for the new FULLY DIGITAL ERA ... welcome to software/hardware police, music/movie police, Broadcast Flag (to keep you from skipping commercials or watching something they don't want you to watch - no fair use), Plugging the Analog Hole (so there's no fair use left at all), total vendor control over the new RENTWARE which is all that will be left if they can get the last of the marbles in place, and Microsoft knows it.They are weaning users into the 'inevitability' --- in their corporate minds --- for accepting this load of crap.And the worst part about it ... this whole load of crap has been sold as a bill of goods to OUR OWN government (that is supposed to be of, by and for The People);  and wonder of wonders (the new software/hardware police for corporate america) bought and paid for by our tax dollars....oh, and the lobbyists.And why are the citizens sitting back and letting this happen? I have no idea.DefectiveByDesignHollywood Wants to Plug the “Analog Hole” (EFF.org's Consensus at Lawyerpoint)

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Which begs the question: How will Hollywood put “an end to … movie theft on … p2p networks?” Short of dramatically re-architecting the Internet it seems inconceivable that P2P will ever controlled or eliminated.    But dramatic redesigns of the Internet are well within Hollywood’s stated desires. In 1995, Hollywood’s representatives in government penned “The Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights,” calling for a neutered Internet whose functionality had been magically constrained to “permit [rights-holders] to enforce the terms and conditions under which their works are made public.”    We can only guess at where these delusional technological speculations have wandered in the intervening years, and this “Content Protection Status Report” is a good and grim indicator.
Has anyone ever taken the time to read this:The Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights (at USPTO.gov)Sound familiar? Vista will fit in nicely with this with the new hardware/driver/software mechanisms, It is where this all is headed...I don't think their agenda has changed one bit and I also think that computer and other technology development companies -- with their hardware, software, operating systems, EFI to replace BIOS, PVP-UAB, Trusted Computing Modules TPM, PVP-OPM playing right into the 'entertainment cartels' hands...and why? Because it fits in with THEIR PLANS AS WELL. It will make rentware software, music and movies, television and radio all that much easier.And you can bet that by the time, the 'this OS is expired' 'hit' goes out for Windows XP, many will just cave and buy the next Windows because they will be even more dependent upon them with their One Care, their Windows Defender, MS Office, IE browser -- and as Lewmur mentioned even many 'required' websites are built only for IE such as in the medical field (which is an excellent example) -- and Microsoft and the entertainment cartels just can't wait for that to happen because all their little chess pieces will be in place with Vista and all the entertainment center hardware for the most part will be in place by then, they think.People's need to have the latest, greatest thing will be their undoing. One must have the latest music, movies, games, software, hardware!This is just another notch in the ladder toward the total rentware philosophy that corporate america as been pushing for -- remaking their cash cow (out of their current and future users, consumers) and that is one of the biggest problems with this WGA Notification and the constant daily (or 14 day if/when they move it to that) -- there is NO reason to daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even annually, or on every boot REVERIFY already verified LEGITIMATE users.   :thumbsup: /rant off
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#18 OFFLINE   Marsden11

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 11:17 PM

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Wine does not work that well....unless you have information on Windows apps over Linux that I am unaware of?
How about CrossOver from CodeWeavers? CrossOver is the PRO version of Wine and for less than $50 with support... CrossOver supports the following:Microsoft Office 97 and 2000 Microsoft Word Microsoft Excel Microsoft PowerPoint Microsoft Outlook Microsoft Internet Explorer Lotus Notes Microsoft Visio Quicken http://www.codeweavers.com/products/Or the next solution is to install virtual machine emulation software such as VMWare, Win4Lin or Plex86.

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Missed that FUD alert again. I can post a list of several Internet sites, that are absolute necessities for anyone in the Real Estate business, which REQUIRE M$'s ActiveX. Some of these are govt sites. And this is true, in one way or another, for most businesses. How can a Lawyer access Lexus/Nexus? How can a doctor access the Insurance Co's or medical databases? You are dead wrong, as usual.
www.vmware.com, www.codeweavers.com/products, www.winehq.orghttp://www.winehq.or...full/wine_1.pngThere's IE5, PowerPoint2000, Notepad, and Solitaire running on Linux....http://www.winehq.or...full/wine_3.pnghttp://www.winehq.or...full/wine_8.pngIt even supports DirectX9!Oh, maybe your business can't do it 'cause you do cad work...http://www.winehq.or...full/wine_6.pngEven Direct3D shaders...For your reading pleasure-http://www.winehq.or...-IT-SUPPOSED-TODead wrong... nice try but I don't think so...

#19 OFFLINE   lewmur

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 11:34 PM

View PostMarsden11, on Jun 12 2006, 12:17 AM, said:

How about CrossOver from CodeWeavers? CrossOver is the PRO version of Wine and for less than $50 with support... CrossOver supports the following:Dead wrong... nice try but I don't think so...
Dead wrong.  Wine, Xwine, CrossoverOffice or anything else that allows access to ActiveX requires a MICROSOFT LICENSE!!!!!  You must have a ligitmate copy of Windows to load with them.Actually, the best way to do this is with a copy of Windows running as a Virtual Machine.  But it still uses Windows.

Edited by lewmur, 11 June 2006 - 11:37 PM.


#20 OFFLINE   Marsden11

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 11:41 PM

It's not Microsoft's "problem" if your business needs their product to survive.  That's YOUR problem.They can't be ordered to make your business a success for you...I can run Ie5 with Active-X controls on Wine all day long.  I never signed any license agreement other than the one for IE5. [might want to read the IE5 EULA and make sure it doesn't insist that you buy Windows. . .]But you can run ActiveX controls on Firefox anyway... browsers can run active-x controls under any OS.  As long as the company that wrote the _control_ is ok with it. Not Microsoft."Microsoft grants you the right to install and use copies of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT on your computers running validly licensed copies of the operating system for which the SOFTWARE PRODUCT was designed [e.g., Windows  95; Windows NT , Windows 3.x, Macintosh, etc.]."And why exactly are you yelling all the time?Are you really that upset?

Edited by Marsden11, 11 June 2006 - 11:55 PM.


#21 OFFLINE   epp_b

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 10:01 AM

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It's not Microsoft's "problem" if your business needs their product to survive. That's YOUR problem.
Be serious, please.  How many businesses could survive without Microsoft Office?  Sure there are alternatives, but the compatibility sucks.  Sure, it's not Microsoft's problem, but it's their fault because of the locked-in monopoly.  I'll change my tone once Microsoft truely opens up their formats or adheres to already-open formats.

#22 OFFLINE   LilBambi

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 11:52 AM

Not many once Vista comes out.
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#23 OFFLINE   lewmur

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 12:53 PM

View PostLilBambi, on Jun 12 2006, 12:52 PM, said:

Not many once Vista comes out.
Yes, Vista seems to fit their pattern. IMO, the State A'sG completely missed the boat when they went after M$ the FIRST time. (I hope there will be a second.)  Where they should have attacked M$ was for its practice of  intentionally creating de facto "standards" to which they hold the patents and copyrights.While it is true that co.s aren't bound by IEEE standards or WWW standards or any other industry standards boards, it should be a gigantic red flag to the FTC when ANY co that dominates its industry refuses to comply with such boards.  That just screams that the co is trying to force others from the market.They will always claim that they are "just making improvements."  But if that were so they could always offer them to the standards boards with GPL licenses.  Others do so.Remember the old saying "If you build a better mousetrap..."  If M$ had its way, they'd be able to patent "mousetraps" the way they did "mouseclicks,"  "We hold the patent for any use of a mousetrap in this environment."

Edited by lewmur, 12 June 2006 - 01:05 PM.


#24 OFFLINE   lewmur

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 01:13 PM

View Postepp_b, on Jun 12 2006, 11:01 AM, said:

Be serious, please.  How many businesses could survive without Microsoft Office?  Sure there are alternatives, but the compatibility sucks.  Sure, it's not Microsoft's problem, but it's their fault because of the locked-in monopoly.  I'll change my tone once Microsoft truely opens up their formats or adheres to already-open formats.
The way M$ is heading, ALL Office documents will be encrypted and ANY attempt to decypher them with a non-M$ product, will be punishable with severe jail time.  Their excuse for this will be "Secure Computing."

Edited by lewmur, 12 June 2006 - 01:14 PM.


#25 OFFLINE   LilBambi

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 02:14 PM

I know what you mean. And it doesn't stop with M$ Office ... Meet, the new, improved, hardware/OS/software traffic cop,Vista ....Reworked, expanded, better than it was before, renamed, remarketed, security (but whose?) enforced on many levels (copyright, proprietary standards for hardware/software/OS interaction, broadcast flag, etc. etc.), and spewed out for the groveling masses who don't know what they will be getting.Say good bye to open source, fair use, more ... they think....The answer to theirs, the entertainment cartels, and government prayers...
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