Ed Bott – Is Microsoft about to release a Windows “Kill Switch”

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my serious objections to Microsoft’s latest salvo in the war against unauthorized copies of Windows. Two Windows Genuine Advantage components are being pushed onto users’ machines with insufficient notification and inadequate quality control, and the result is a big mess. (For details, see Microsoft presses the Stupid button.)

Ed Boot further says in this article on his ZDNet Blog:

Currently, no one at Microsoft is blogging about this fiasco. No executive has been quoted on the record about it. There are very few technical details available, and those that have been published are being tumbled through the spin machine and spit out as press releases.

What’s he talking about? Windows Genuine Advantage Notificaiton Tool, aka WGA Notification. This has been foisted on Windows users with an ‘out of cycle,’ (beta) pre-release piece of errrr, software, claiming it was a ‘critical’ update. Critical for whom? And why use unwitting XP users as guinea pigs for an ‘anti-piracy’ ‘pre-release’ piece of software and tell them it can’t be removed once it’s installed? There was no notification to users that this was coming in the manner Microsoft has always used to disseminate information on ‘critical’ security patches.

And now, there is apparently mounting information that this may be a way of sending a ‘kill switch’ to what Microsoft ‘believes’ to be pirated copies of Windows XP (and apparently the tool has gotten it wrong quite a few times), but also may be used to kill Windows XP whenever they want or when they decide they will no longer be supporting, likely to promote Vista (the mother of all DRM enablers)?

One really has to wonder at the logic of such a move and there has been quite a bit of backlash about this possibility.

We discussed this possibility in an earlier posting last week on the up and coming Vista and this WGA Notification training wheels for Vista and using us as guinea pigs to figure out how to do it in Vista and the possibility to turn off Wndows XP to promote Vista ‘at the proper time.’

There has also been a tool released to remove the WGA Notification Tool called RemoveWGA. Corrine at Scotsnewsletter Forums posted:

In fact, similar discussions on this topic have occurred among MVP’s in private locations “in front of MS employees”. Highly respected owner of Calendar of Updates and an MVP, Donna Buenaventura, comments about it here: http://msmvps.com/blogs/donna/archive/2006/06/19/101842.aspx

I have a valid copy of Windows XP Pro that I own and is only used on one computer. I did have a Windows XP Pro computer and a Linux computer. Now however, I have a dual boot WinXP Pro and Linux computer, that spends about 98% of it’s time in Linux and I still have the other Linux computer. Also, my WinXP Pro does not have WGA Notification on it and it will NEVER see the Internet again.

Some have suggested that only those who are doing something wrong would worry about such things. To them I say, get a life! Either you are too young to know history and should start reading about history, or too foolish to think the transgressions of governments against citizens across time and countries wouldn’t be so much easier in such an environment. Freedom and liberty are not something that are given, they are earned and must be diligently maintained or they will be lost.

Until recent years, I have loved Windows, even Windows XP which many have a love/hate relationship with!

But no more … I really have had it with ‘copyright holders’ who think just because they made something that they can reach across a wire or the air to restrict what you do with what you buy or put whatever they want on your computer hardware (or make computer hardware that you pay for with disabling abilities in it that can be remotely disabled) just because you bought their hardware, OS, software, music or movie. This IS NOT what US copyright law or US patent law was supposed to do, nor what it was until Disney, Sonny Bono and the DMCA.

And just wait for Vista …. as the saying goes … you ain’t seen nuttin’ yet!

If you are not familiar with HDCP, you should be….check out our posting entitled: Understanding HDCP for more on what’s coming to computer hardware, software and Vista…

The list of hardware vendors now supporting HDCP is staggering. They make it out to be some great thing, the greatest marketing ‘parlor trick’ of all time. But pretty soon there will be NO FAIR USE of what you buy, just as the entertainment and software/OS cartels have been drooling over and wanting all along.

BTW: There are also recent postings on Blu-Ray, HD DVD, Big Media, broadcast flags and the DMCA as well here on my blog and they all tie together to show how easy it will be to remove ALL fair use rights you have ever had and enforced by our own tax payer funded government.

And what happens when all the backbones in this country are on this new ‘restriction enabled’ hardware? Will the backbones be forced or unwittingly, or knowingly install the new enabler operating systems and software? Will there be new ways to constantly monitor users, restict access, create toll roads that the broadband providers want, suppress information, personal freedoms, freedom of the press and more? Will there even be a land of the free and home of the brave? Only time will tell.

EDIT 8-2-2006:

In Groklaw’s discussion about WGA and the future, the following is the ending to the very well done article:

You have been given a vision of the future, where software will be a service, and all you get is a license to use it the way they allow you to use it. How do you like Microsoft’s Brave New World?

Surely they will find a way to check that you are complying with all the above, so I think it’s clear that if you stay with Microsoft products, you have to agree to share your computer with them, that your privacy will be in their hands, and that they can control your computer without your say so. And they won’t necessarily tell you clearly what they are doing, judging by this incident, or perhaps there will be no notice at all, as mentioned in the EULA. It’s not about you buying a product and using it any way you wish. They let you use their software only within strict limitations they set which by the way do not conform to your rights under Copyright Law. This is a license, a kind of contract, whereby you waive rights you would otherwise have in order to use their software. And you are presented with a EULA at least one paralegal can’t even understand, too late to say no in a meaningful way.

Is that your only choice? This unintentionally funny article “Windows anti-piracy program causes shock for doing its job,” says Microsoft has been “pretty upfront about the WGA program,” and if we don’t like it, we should switch to Linux. That’s a very good idea. You could use GPL software instead. It doesn’t care how you use it. Share it, lend it, rent it, install it on as many computers as you wish, write about it, test it, transfer it to a third party, work around any technical limitations of the software, improve it, personalize it to make it do what you want it to do, and use it for commercial services. Do all of the above and you still haven’t violated the software license, and by the way, the software is yours. You own it. No one has a need or even a right to check to see if you are using it properly or if you have the right license or if you swapped in a new hard drive or where you live or what your IP address is. Think about it. And then ask yourself, which do I prefer?

The world is at a crossroads, where for the first time there really is a choice. You don’t have to accept Microsoft’s demeaning and insulting EULA terms. If you are a business, do you want Microsoft having free access to your computer? If you are a government? I’m just an individual, and I don’t.

If you wish to remove the Windows Genuine Advantaage tools, and I expect most of you do, why not go the whole hog and remove the entire software package, replace it with GNU/Linux, and find out what it feels like to be treated with respect and to breathe free?

I hadn’t even read this article till today. But I have been in Linux 100% of the time for about a month and a half now on my main computer. I can tell you for a fact … I do feel like I am treated with respect and I do breathe freely. And I haven’t missed Windows at all.

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Comments on: "Ed Bott – Is Microsoft about to release a Windows Kill Switch" (2)

  1. […] Anyway, I thought the following post by LilBambi had some great, succinct observations on this topic, plus the general ‘architectures of control’ mindset and its implications for a free society: “Some have suggested that only those who are doing something wrong would worry about such things. To them I say, get a life! Either you are too young to know history and should start reading about history, or too foolish to think the transgressions of governments against citizens across time and countries wouldn’t be so much easier in such an environment. Freedom and liberty are not something that are given, they are earned and must be diligently maintained or they will be lost. […]

  2. […] Dan, thanks so much for your kind words on your blog about my posting here. Keep up the good work! […]

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