Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Windows Genuine Disadvantage

If you visited a shop whose owner appeared to suspect you of being a thief and sometimes insisted on searching your bags before you left, you would probably take your custom elsewhere. And that's pretty much how I feel about Microsoft. Several times in the last few years since the company developed its obsession with software piracy I have been subjected to heart-stopping moments when, instead of working normally when started up in the morning, one of my computers decided that my copy of Windows wasn't genuine and I had to waste time jumping through hoops to prove that it was.

The latest occurrence was this morning when I switched on the shack computer - an HP mini-tower - in order to start my APRS gateway, Microsoft Security Essentials popped up a message saying "You may be a victim of software counterfeiting" and stating that it would stop working in 30 days unless I did something about it. It offered a link to check the system. This opened in Firefox where I was requested to download a plug-in. After that I was asked to click a Continue button which was supposed to run the validation check. Nothing appeared to happen. Eventually I tried the second option provided for browsers on which the first one wouldn't work, which downloaded an .hta file to my desktop. With no other instruction as to what to do next, I clicked on it - all the time wondering if this wasn't some clever software hoax to trick me into installing malware on my system. Fortunately it wasn't. I was informed that, hoorah, hoorah, my copy of Windows supplied by HP was indeed genuine after all. Thank you, Microsoft, that's ten minutes of my life you just wasted. But by the by, if you must be so anal about pirate copies why do you have to make the checks so intrusive and complicated?

The previous time something like that happened was the trigger for me to dump Windows and install Linux on my shack computer. However, as I have written previously, I found Linux forced me to make too many sacrifices which is why in the end I went back to Windows. Linux the OS is fine, it's the lack of high quality applications (particularly in the ham radio sphere) and the decision by many hardware manufacturers not to provide Linux drivers that makes it frustrating. Having said that, most of the programs I regularly use are either available in Linux versions (like Fldigi) or will run on it under wine (like APRSIS32.) But the truth is, the older I get the more I feel that life is too short for faffing around with computers.
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