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Location: Sitting inside a TV truck, Somewhere, more then likely in the Southeastern region, United States

I am a grouchy, bald headed old fart filled with opinions and not the least bit shy about sharing them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Microsoft is not my conscience

Recently while trying unsuccessfully to view a video on a blog it came up that I was using an older version of Windows Media player. It was suggested that I upgrade Windows Media Player to view the video, but I declined. The reason for this is simple. I can no longer trust Microsoft not to cripple my machine with some form of Digital Rights Management (DRM). And I don't know enough about computers to roll back any damage Microsoft might do to my machine.

In a nut shell, DRM is software that restricts or prevents you from making digital copies of anything from music to videos to software to e-books. I do not agree with locking down a product that I legally purchase, especially when it restricts my Fair Use rights allowed under the law. However with the current moral standard that seems to be prevalent in today's society I can understand it.

However, Microsoft has taken DRM to an extreme. Starting with Vista (and it is rumored to be even earlier) Microsoft took it upon themselves to not only protect their own product, but to act as the copyright police over everything on the user's computer. For example, It appears that Microsoft doesn't believe there is any such thing as fair use for music or video files.

Early beta testers of Vista were frustrated to find legally purchased and licensed software disabled due to a DRM hook in the operating system. A friend testing Vista on several machines in the graphics department at a major television network suffered the software lockout problems with high end software packages. Vista would not allow the software to run, even with the original CDs.

He was also running a beta test on the computer in his office. That afternoon he went to rip his latest music CD to MP3. Vista refused to do it. To get around that he installed a free CD Ripper called Audio Grabber. This time the Vista operating system intercepted the attempt and stopped it, displaying a dialog box stating he did not have a license to do that. All the machines under going beta testing in his division were back on XP Pro by the end of that day.

I am told that these problems were corrected with the general release of Vista. But the point is the code that did these tricks was in the operating system at one time. For all we know it may still be laying dormant in the operating system. Who is to say that Microsoft won't turn it back on sometime in the future.

Windows 7 turned up similar problems. An article in Slashdot discusses numerous DRM headaches including disabling legally installed software, allowing other software vendors internet access through firewalls regardless of user settings, degraded quality on audio/video inputs and locking the user out of the registry file on his own computer.

Microsoft publicly acknowledges anti-piracy measures in Windows 7, in theory placed there to improve the customer experience.

"Counterfeit software delivers a poor experience and impacts customer satisfaction with our products, particularly if users do not know that their software is non-genuine."

Williams gave the example of one piracy exploit that caused more than a million reported system crashes on machines running non-genuine Windows Vista before Microsoft was able to resolve it.

"Customers running genuine Windows Vista Service Pack 1 are protected from that experience. And there is an even simpler reason: if you pay for something, you want to know that you got what you paid for," he said.

PC Authority: Microsoft outlines Windows 7 anti-piracy measures

What a complete load of crap. Again, I can understand Microsoft wanting to protect their own product. But that is where the line of understanding ends. How does degrading quality when I want to rip my bought and paid for music improve my user experience and satisfaction with their product?

The point of this rant is that Microsoft is not my conscience. Nor is Microsoft a law enforcement agency, federal judge, or my mother. Microsoft is my software vendor, nothing more. Not only that, but their software is running on my computer. Note the emphasis on the word "my."

When I tell my computer to do something, it doesn't need to check with Redmond, WA first. You see that is my computer so what ever I tell it to do, right or wrong, is my decision and my decision alone. The boys and girls at Microsoft don't get any say in the matter. When Microsoft takes it upon themselves to interfere in that decision, they cross a line into a roll that I cannot live with.

Unless Microsoft can loose their delusions of Godhood, my next machine will not be running any version of Windows newer then XP Pro. In preparation for this possibility, I am already researching Apples and testing Linux on an older laptop computer. 

The decision is purely up to Microsoft: Mind their own business or lose mine.

- 30 -

"I think Microsoft will have to change. I think that the business of Microsoft, the company of Microsoft, is going to continue to succeed. But I think the business model of Microsoft is going to have to change. "
- Tim O'Reilly

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