Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Windows Disingenuous disAdvantage:

Yes Virginia, It's Spyware (oh... and Beware of the Leopard)

So we discover that Windows Genuine Advantage, what seemed a harmless little utility to check the serial numbers, is in fact snooping and secretly reporting back to Microsoft.

Microsoft says this isn't spyware.

Actually, it's the very definition of spyware.

And they knew it. They even have it set up deceptively so that you have to copy the number it reports back and paste it into the browser. Why? To make you think that all it does is check your copy of Windows once, and that's it. It's such a simple little utility program it can't even connect to web - you have to manually copy and paste the info. How quaint. How intentionally deceptive.

I certainly thought that's all it did. Once found out, a Microsoft spokesbot was just a tad disingenuous in her response: Well, it's right there in the End User License Agreement.

Ah, if only I'd spent an hour poring over that. It brings to mind that bit in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where the "public notice" is prominently displayed in a basement bathroom blocked by a file cabinet and with a sign warning, "BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD."

Some legal challenge ought to nullify all EULA agreements. I'm not sure there's enough time in the known universe to read all of those things. (Images come to mind of some poor compulsive who actually reads these agreements, like we're supposed to, before she clicks I ACCEPT.) Congress or the WTO or somebody should legislate them away on the basis of the billions of lost hours if people actually read through every single one of those things every time.

So ... now Microsoft is saying we actually have to read each one?

You know, Microsoft has not innovated with a single thing. Everything, everything Microsoft has supplied us has just been copied from somewhere else, from the DOS (pretty much certainly copy of Digital Research DOS) to Windows (Bill Gates saw somebody else's version at a trade show) to Word (a crappy copy of Wordperfect that still hasn't gotten it right). Bill Gates didn't even program DOS, he bought it for $50,000 (he was born a multimillionaire) from the people who'd copied it from DR, and then his multimillionaire mother, who was on the board of the United Way with IBM chief Lou Gerstner, got her little boy the contract to supply all of IBM with his purloined product.

Since then? Garbage. Endless vaporware that's held back innovation.

You wonder if one day everyone well just realize, all at once, that Microsoft has been slinging nothing but junk at us all this time.

But, actually, I guess some good has come out of all the endless frustration we have trying to format tables in Word and changing settings in Windows and...rebooting: The Gates have been donating massive amounts to dealing the diseases everyone else with money has long since stopped caring about, like polio and malaria. And they've been donating at an astonishing rate.

So, let's hope when that day finally comes, the money's already been spent.


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