Microsoft Launches Anti-Piracy Trojans
Next time you run Windows Automatic Update you may get more than you bargained for. Included in it is a handy application called the Windows Genuine Advantage Notification tool that sounds about as useful as a pop ads and flashing website banners. The idea is to alert users if they have a pirated OS and it does so in serveral ways. There's a logon notification box, a pop up balloon in the Task Bar, and a desktop banner that bounces round the screen proclaiming “This copy of Windows is not genuine” in place of a screensaver.
On the positive side you can decline to download the tool but be warned, once installed “the tool can not be uninstalled, according to Microsoft.”
WGAN obviously compliments the Office Genuine Advantage Notification tool, also launched this week.
One question no one seems to have answered yet is how these applications know you're legal. I'm guessing there's no internal (and hence hackable) database of pirated registration keys, so it must be done dynamically. In other words, phoning home to Redmond every time you boot. Is this another Windows 95 Registration scam - where your details get sent to Microsoft regardless of whether you click the Send or Don't Send buttons?
No doubt more details will emerge. And you can bet half the hackers on the planet are currently ripping the code apart looking for potential exploits. Meanwhile Microsoft is sending confusing messages to its user community. On the one hand they now support Linux which is free of ludicrous licensing restrictions while on the other they're screwing down their own users.
And what happens if WGAN meets OGAN? Does your PC implode?
Meanwhile Robert X, Cringely has come up with yet another intriguing Mac/Win theory. (This to match suggestions that Apple may dump OS X in favour of Windows and that they'll return OS X to its open source roots.) Cringely's spin? That OS X will run Windows XP applications natively.
It all stems from a 1997 agreement whereby Gates got to invest $150 million in the then-struggling Apple in exchange for a five-year patent cross-licensing agreement.
The idea in everyone's mind, of course, was that Microsoft would grab lots of Apple technology, which they probably did, and it quite specifically ended an Apple patent infringement suit against Microsoft. But I'm told that the exchange wasn't totally one-way, that Apple, in turn, got some legal right to the Windows API.
That agreement ran for five years, from August, 1997 to August 2002. Even though it has since expired, the rights it conferred at the time still lie with the respective companies. Whatever Microsoft grabbed from Apple they can still use, they just aren't able to grab anything developed since August 2002. Same for Apple using Microsoft technology like that in Office X. But Windows XP shipped October 25, 2001: 10 months before the agreement expired.
I'm told Apple has long had this running in the Cupertino lab -- Intel Macs running OS X while mixing Apple and XP applications. This is not a guess or a rumor, this something that has been demonstrated and observed by people who have since reported to me.
Think of the implications. A souped-up OS X kernel with native Windows API support and the prospect of mixing and matching Windows and Mac applications would be, for many users, the best of both worlds. There would be no copy of Windows XP to buy, no large overhead of emulation or compatibility middleware, no chance for Microsoft to accidentally screw things up, substantially better security, and no need to even take a chance on Windows Vista.
Wonder what OGAN and WGAN would say to that...