Rant Mode Equals One: Let's Re-License Redmond

Posted by PaulFerris on Oct 16, 2006 5:08 AM EDT
LXer.com; By Paul (FeriCyde) Ferris
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LXer Feature: 16-Oct-2006

There's yet another "feature" missing in Linux -- it doesn't look for hardware changes and shut itself off, only to be reactivated once the owner has phoned someone to beg to use the software they already have the rights to use. Paul Ferris discusses yet another benefit of using Free Software; You don't have to worry about the product getting crippled or removed just because you simply added new hardware or switched to a new PC.

FeriCyde Chat

by Paul Ferris

Now we've got all this room, 
we've even got the moon
And I hear the U.S.S.R. 
will be open soon
As vacation land 
for lawyers in love
--Jackson Browne Lawyers in Love

A recent post by Ed Bott highlights once again another aspect of freedom that is granted to users of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The freedom is to use the software on as many machines as you wish, without restriction. In this case, Microsoft has added yet another new "feature" -- the product is only transferable one time. That means you get to move it once -- after that, it's time to purchase the software you already own, yet again.

It's almost comical to me just how many things related to intellectual property Microsoft has tightened over the years -- they make it so you don't even "own" the product you "purchased" in enterprise situation -- they want you to rent it instead. Over the years they've gotten even more restrictive -- for example, Windows XP users have had to come to terms with the fact that if too many aspects of their system change, may have to re-license the product they already have purchased and installed.

It's crazy stuff. Those of you who rarely have to deal with these limitations are likely thinking to yourself thoughts like "what the heck is he talking about?". Those Windows users that have been tuned to this channel might be saying something like "I don't see what all the big fuss is about."

It's really simple -- you give up your freedom when the "vendor" in question forces you to click through an End User License Agreement (EULA). EULAs typically limit your freedom. Some EULAs in the past have even prevented you from discussing how well the product performed with members of the press. Talk about audacious -- Microsoft is supposedly selling their products in a Free market, and will complain often about being able to freely compete (usually when they've been nailed by the Department of Justice). But do they have your rights in mind while they're doing all this lobbying?

Score: Microsoft 0 -- Linux 1
Nothing like real-world experience to highlight just how stupid the whole 'Let's treat our customers like the enemy' thing is getting.

Recently a neighbor had problems with their Windows XP home PC, and I was asked to look into the problem. They had a Compaq PC (fairly recent) with XP Home, "OEM" edition (Don't ask more -- I deferred to the 'experts' for some understanding of the different versions of Windows XP, and honestly forgot what they told me after that.) No install CDs, and no documentation -- they did however, come by the PC and its installation legitimately. They're not geeks, and as is typical of unprotected Windows XP boxes -- their PC was carrying so many virus infections and who knows what else that it had become completely unusable.

Complicating matters, it was hooked to a dial-up connection to the internet, so the speed of connection, coupled with everything else, made it more than a painful situation. Using a thumb drive I loaded a freeware anti-virus scanner, which found a few hundred files, deleted them (quarantine? Windows? Right!) and promptly made the PC useless.

I was the last person to breath on the house of cards, so I did what needed to be done... I braced myself for the inevitable re-install. Since they had no documentation I asked the same 'experts' mentioned prior for some kind of method of license key extraction (Something called magic jelly bean was employed for this) and pulled their office and XP license off of the infected PC.

I then re-installed XP on half of the hard drive, and of course, Linux on the remainder.

Even though we extracted the Key from the computer for their software, The Windows License ran out about a month ago -- it needs WPA action, and I'm simply not up to the task of helping them do this. The number to call is clearly printed on the screen -- they can do it if they want.

Except that all three household members simply don't have a motivation. I wouldn't even know of the situation except one of them mentioned it in passing to me. "We just use the Linux stuff. It works fine." Was the synopsis.

Thanks Microsoft, you're making it so easy to replace Windows these days ;)

Lemme answer that one -- No, your Freedom is going to be in the ability to shell out cash. Here's a thought; You're free -- especially with the roll-out of something inane like Vista -- to go somewhere else, and that's exactly where I'm going to point you.

If you're one of these people, please ask yourself -- Isn't it time you gave up the yoke of EULA limitations? Wouldn't it be nice to add hardware with impunity, switch hardware with impunity, install with impunity? With FOSS products, it's a snap -- you simply have to learn a different OS.

While this may sound like an uncomfortable experience -- I gotta ask: Aren't you going to have to do that anyway when Vista rolls into town? Lord knows when that is, but I've heard it might be last year, or this year, or ... maybe next year. I can hardly wait. Rather, I gave up waiting in 1994. You don't have to wait either, is the point I'm trying to make.

Why not take that time and learn Linux instead? There are many Linux distributions to choose from. (Just in case you're in the mood, some are listed at the end of this article.) Most of these are totally free, down-loadable off the Internet, easily (and legally) burned to as many CDs as you wish -- and best of all -- easily installed over crappy old Windows XP. Heck, you may want to do this anyway if you've been spending any time recently re-installing to fix virus or other malware-related problems. If you have to reinstall the OS, it's probably a good time to try something new on the ole' PC anyway. Yeah, that's right, you can even use your old hardware -- most of the time it'll scream under Linux, by the way -- and then you too can experience true Freedom.

Speaking of which, let me take this moment to share some of my past 11 plus years of experience using Linux as a desktop solution for myself and my family.

I know this may come as a stretch, but trust me, it's all true -- my personal experience.

I've never, on my computer at home, running Linux,

  • had an unexplained (Read: non-power-failure related) system crash.
  • virus. Nope, not one.
  • installed anti-virus software or anti-malware or any of the other day to day crud that a typical Windows-based PC requires to surf the internet "safely".
  • had to "re-install" because the OS became sluggish over time.
  • had to "re-license" my copy of Linux.
Yeah, it's kind of boring, I know, but every once in a while, you really want some boring-ness in your life. It's nice to have the dependability of Free Software.

At the end of the day though, It's a really nice feeling knowing that the people that created your software had your rights in mind.

Ed Bott's Post on ZDNET:
  1. "A sneaky change in Windows licensing terms"

Microsoft and Corporate Software Rental:
  1. The Register: "MS squeezes business for more dough with rental model".
  2. The New York Times: "Microsoft To Move To Rental Model".
  3. Information Age: "Forced march".

Microsoft Windows XP and hardware changes:
  1. Can hardware components be changed and upgraded?

    Product Activation is able to tolerate a certain degree of change in a hardware configuration by allowing a current hash value to have a degree of difference from the hash value that was originally activated. As a result, users can change their hardware without the product believing it is on a different PC than the one it was activated on. If the user completely overhauls the hardware making substantial hardware changes (even over long periods of time), reactivation may be required. In that case, users may need to contact to contact a Microsoft customer service representative by telephone to reactivate.

Easy to Use and Install Free Linux Distributions:
  1. Ubuntu
  2. Open Suse
  3. Fedora
  4. Mandriva
Disclaimer: Linux distributions are packaged versions of Linux, ready to use -- they're created by groups of people or corporations that believe in software freedom. There are a lot more distributions of Linux than this small list. In fact, someone's likely to mention their favorite distribution for new users in the talkbacks on this article. This simple disclaimer is my way of wimping out and keeping my article less than 20 pages in length...
Paul (FeriCyde) Ferris is a Linux professional and community member. He has been using Unix and Linux for a combined total of over 17 years. His articles have graced LXer.com, Linux Journal, LinuxToday, LinuxPlanet, NewsForge and various other Linux news and technical information sites. His recent expertise with enterprise-class implementations of Linux have lead to the creation of the the batchlogin project, his first large-scale Free Software project. A husband, father and more, yet his technical passion is Linux and has remained so for the past 13 years.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Hey, Windows gives you two freedoms! hkwint 27 2,985 Oct 24, 2006 11:08 PM
PCLinuxOS exwintech 2 2,827 Oct 23, 2006 4:55 AM
Paul - You sadistic b*st*rd!! dinotrac 10 2,943 Oct 17, 2006 6:35 PM
Exellent! Excellent! Excellent! article. jsusanka 1 2,704 Oct 16, 2006 7:34 AM

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