The WGA Trap

June 4, 2007 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

This article is kinda late in writing, by over a week. It’s kind of funny when you look advertisements, sometimes because the hype is so obvious or when the advertising machinery has gone overboard. But sometimes, it’s much more interesting when you spot a trap disguised as an advantage.

In a recent newspaper ad, Microsoft offers the Pinoy Genuine Kit as a promotional chance to get genuine Microsoft software for only Php7,748 ( roughly $170). The ad states the following:

  1. VALIDATE. Log on to http://www.microsoft.com/philippines/genuine and validate your operating system. If your OS appears non-genuine, you automatically qualify for this special Pinoy Genuine Kit promo.
  2. BUY. For only Php7,748, you can now purchase your genuine Windows XP Professional license in two ways:
    • Option 1 – Buy from participating Elite, Advanced Volume License, MVPP Resellers and FG Distributors who will order it online for you.
    • Option 2 – Buy online using your credit card. Major credit cards like Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners are accepted.
  3. GET YOUR KIT–WE’LL SHIP IT FOR FREE. No need to worry about shipping, handling, duties, and taxes. Your genuine license is on its way to your doorstep!

So what’s wrong you ask? I’m not condoning piracy, but the first step is like a bear trap camouflaged with flowers. If you’re using a pirated copy of Windows, once you go to the validation, there’s no turning back; once the WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) tool is installed, your computer is host to some limitations, including being able to download only critical updates, being nagged at login, etc. You can read more about the restrictions WGA tool places in this Wikipedia article on Windows Genuine Advantage.

The real problem is that the WGA tool is not really perfect; Windows Genuine Advantage Falsely Accuses Millions of legitimate Windows users–as many as 5 million people are being wrongly accused of software piracy! Critics have also slammed the WGA tool’s spyware-like behaviorThe WGA tool “phones home” with information about your computer to their servers. Microsoft admitted to this behavior, but denies that it’s spyware. Something bad is only bad unless it’s Microsoft doing it. That’s such a nice, friendly company you’d like to put your trust that you won’t get burned by them in the future.

They also offer free shipping, which is funny if you know what you’re actually buying. You’re not buying a boxed Windows XP Pro OS. You’re just buying the license, which is basically a paper leaflet with a cardboard backing, and that doesn’t really cost much shipping now, does it?

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Entry filed under: Operating Systems, Windows.

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