Thundercloud and Eightball RANT - Cloudeight Internet LLC

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Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
First published in InfoAve Premium Issue #144 July 21, 2006

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Bungalow Bill

The cyber world's going crazy again. Now, the entrenched Microsoft bashers are calling Microsoft's "Windows Genuine Advantage" "spyware". The term "spyware" is just about the most over-used word on the Web these days. It's turned into a catch-all phrase for anything someone doesn't like. And the more it is used the less "shock value" it has. Someday the word spyware will have no meaning and ordinary folks won't know the difference between real "spyware" and the zillions of program that are called "spyware" without just cause.

And, now, the Web is virtually bristling with news about Microsoft WGA and the two lawsuits filed against Microsoft for allegedly installing "spyware" on us poor, unsuspecting, innocent, Windows XP users' computers. How dare they!

But you have to understand, filing a lawsuit against Microsoft that you can never win, is a really great way to generate traffic for your Web site and, let me tell you, traffic equals dollars. And if you don't yet have a Web site, I'm betting you're going to soon; and you'll get off to a heck-of-a-start. And if you opt-out of creating the overnight sensation - site of the year, you'll opt for the talk-show circuit where you can make big bucks too. In any case, win or lose your lawsuit, you win.

When you read the lawsuits which were filed you have to wonder what the real motivation was. Which brings to mind that EB won't let me sue Microsoft. I could've made us famous! Darn it, I wish we would sue Microsoft for something, maybe then we'd be rolling in the dough from all the traffic which would come our way when people, curious about this site called "Cloudeight" would come see what we were all about. Wow! Cloudeight on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, and BBC, can you imagine? But EB won't let me sue Microsoft! I can picture myself on Oprah ranting on about Bill Gates and his swashbuckling anti-pirates - and not having to worry about punctuation, quotation marks or grammar. Is Oprah's grammar better than mine?

Sort of seriously, let's discuss the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program; what it is and what it does - and why some think it's spyware. Believe it or not, I'm not going to be verbose (really!). Most of those of you who have used Windows XP for any length of time know the basics of Windows Genuine Advantage. It checks to make sure your copy of Windows is genuine (i.e. not pirated - eh, Bill?) and if your copy of Windows checks out everything's cool. If it doesn't you've got a problem. See I was brief!

Unfortunately, the Web is not a perfect place and fortunately not everyone's computers are the same. And, there's a lot of griping going on because Windows Genuine Advantage is not perfect - in fact, it's far from perfect. And because a small percentage of the time Windows Genuine Advantage calls innocent people "pirates", those who lie in wait for another Microsoft blunder writhe in indignation and spew forth their anti-Microsoft tirades. These anti-Microsoft crusaders (am I still allowed to use that word?) have nothing better to do than bash Microsoft. (Funny thing, they are probably bashing from a Windows PC.)

Argh! Matey! You be a pirate? Probably not. But if Windows Genuine Advantage mistakes you for a pirate, understand that nothing on the Web is perfect. So don't go off firing your cannons and raising the skull & crossbones. If you're sure your copy of Windows is genuine, you can actually pick up the phone and call Microsoft and speak to someone. (Yes! They do have some real people there that can actually speak and in English too!) It doesn't take as long to get through to a live, living, breathing person as you might think; and they'll be able to help you and get you off the "pirates" list. If you have a problem with WGA and cannot download from Microsoft you should get it taken care of soon. If you don't get it fixed in the very near future you will not be able to download important security updates and patches.

One thing more about genuine copies of Windows. If you bought your computer from Dell, HP, Acer, Alienware, eMachines, Tiger Direct (SystemMax) or any major computer company or computer retailer your copy is genuine. If you bought it from Joe's Downtown Computer Store & Repair, umm I don't know what to tell you. We've read a lot of horror stories about custom built PCs coming from little shops in little towns that don't exactly have legit copies of Windows installed. You see, Joe might have "stumbled" upon a Windows XP corporate key as he surfed the Web one night and he might be installing the same copy of Windows on every computer he builds and using that corporate key he "stumbled" upon. That makes Joe a pirate. Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A pirate's life for Joe.

Unfortunately for you, when you go to Microsoft's Web site and want to download software; Windows Genuine Advantage will need to check your copy of Windows for authenticity. And, of course, if it finds your copy is pirated and you won't be able to download the software. But wait, there's more! Turn around and look out your window (no pun intended). Do you see police cars amassing on your front lawn? No? Do you see FBI agents skulking through your shrubbery? No? Do you men in black raincoats milling about in front of your domicile? No? Of course not. Despite what the bashers want you to believe, Microsoft is not "spying" on your personally and they're NOT going to come and have you arrested if your copy of Windows is not genuine. In fact, you can call Microsoft and tell them where you got your computer (you know, the one from Joe's Computer Shop, the one with the pirated copy of Windows) and they'll probably give you a real copy of Windows. But you'll have to tell them about Joe and Joe might not be so lucky as you. There's a remote chance that charges may be brought against poor old Joe; but more likely that they won't be. Big bully Microsoft picking on the likes of poor old Joe's Hometown Computers would not be great public relations; and Microsoft's public image doesn't need any more fiascos. Microsoft has to tread carefully. They'll probably tell Joe to stop making illegal copies of Windows. Slap him on his mouse-hand and hope he'll be good from now on. Microsoft is after the criminals who set up multi-million dollar counterfeit software shops. The guys and gals who are pressing thousands of illegal copies of Windows and MS Office and selling them on the Web and the black market. They're not after you and your dog, Camille. I promise. Ain't that right, Bill?

But according to Microsoft-bashers (You have to understand something: if you're cool, you bash MS - like when you're in school it isn't cool to "like" your teachers and even worse to admit you actually like school. It's not "cool" to be knowledgeable about computers and "like" Microsoft - so bash away!) Microsoft sits silently on top of a hill in Redmond drooling - just waiting to pounce on Emily, Jack, Willie, Karen and little Tina-Marie (and her Barbie doll and pet turtle) should they be ferreted out as pirates. Hmmm! Yo! Ho! You Ho! A pirate's life for me!

Really, you have to take much of the stuff written by renowned MS bashers with a HUGE grain of salt. The anti-Microsoft crowd may have many ulterior motivations for bashing the Redmond giant. Here's some rules for you wanna-be Microsoft bashers:

Rule #1. Do you want to be a geek and garner the respect of your peers? Bash Microsoft. If you want to be respected and loved, you cannot like Microsoft.

Rule #2. Do you want to make your torpid web site bustle with activity? Bash Microsoft endlessly. It's good for traffic and traffic is good for business. Don't let up. Bash MS for everything they do. Bash Melinda Gates for shopping at Wal-Mart. Bash Bill Gates for drinking cheap spring water. You don't need any justification. And you sure don't need any verification. Bash! Bash! Bash!

Rule #3. If you have money or have a source for money (tell us first then), sue Microsoft. That will take your lethargic little Web site and put it on the map. You'll get big time publicity on major broadcast and cable networks and you'll be famous or infamous depending on whether you win or not. But win or lose you win. Because, big time publicity equals big time traffic; and big time traffic equals big time bucks.

I'm not a lawyer, unfortunately, so I cannot say who's going to win the "spyware" suits against Microsoft. But in my humble and grammatically incorrect opinion, I don't think either suit has a chance. But, just in case you've been visiting Aunt Suzanne in the hills of central Bolivia and don't know anything about these lawsuits, take a few minutes and read the news reports about them (don't forget to come back though, I'll miss you!),aid,126387,pg,1,RSS,RSS,00.asp

It goes without saying that Microsoft has clearly made some huge blunders with WGA. Hey Bungalow Bill, you listening? We like Microsoft generally, but to say they've gone about this whole WGA thing in an amicable and forthright way would not be true. It's hard to believe with all the talent they employ, that they couldn't have gone about this whole thing in a kinder, gentler, more open way. But to conclude that WGA is nefarious and that it is "spyware" simply because it mimics some of the activities of spyware is ludicrous. The motive behind spyware is totally different and that separates "spyware" from other things like WGA.

McAfee and Symantec (Norton) do the same thing that Microsoft is getting all the flack about and they do it all the time. Has anyone raised a ruckus about them? Not that we know of and if they have it hasn't made a big splash on the Web.

Well, let's take McAfee as a "for instance" because, heck, we've picked on poor, old Norton enough! When we had McAfee installed it "phoned home" about every three days. If you didn't let it phone home, it stopped working and left your computer unprotected. That's pretty nasty. But no one is yapping about McAfee (but us) and no one blasts Norton (but us). And, whatever in the world possessed us to try McAfee is beyond me; but we did. Then we discovered we couldn't completely uninstall it, it had tentacles in every crevice of our brand new machines. We had to format to get rid of it. Well that was yesterday and yesterday and McAfee are both gone!

Back to WGA: Do you have a right to protect your property from theft? Certainly. Are copyrights property? Yes, they're intellectual property. Try plagiarizing one of John Grisham's novels once. Does Microsoft have the right to protect its intellectual property from piracy. Indeed they do. The round-about way they go about it might be clumsy (and a public relations nightmare), but they do have the right to ensure that the copy of Windows that you're using is genuine. Like it or not my friend.

But, let's say you disagree and think Microsoft has no rights in this regard. OK. I'm going to tell you right now what's going to happen. Someone at Microsoft is going to start thinking and they're going to reach the same conclusion that I reached when I gave this whole mess some thought. And if I can think of it, you know they can think of it. And, it's ingenious. I should charge Microsoft for this information, but because I'm the sort that loves to say "Hey! I told you so!" I'm going to tell you what's going to happen if all this commotion continues over WGA and/or one or both of the two parties suing MS for being spyware, wins their lawsuit

This is what I'd do if I were Bill Gates: I would charge you for your copy of Windows the same as always ($98.00 or so). Then I would charge you a yearly subscription fee that would entitled you to all Windows Updates. I think $49.95 is a nice number because it's the same as my buddies at Norton -Symantec charge a year to keep Norton Internet Security working and updated. If you don't pay up at the end of the year, your Windows won't work. HA! HA! Just like Norton and McAfee don't work if you don't ante up at subscription renewal time. Ha! Ha! Ha! Pirates? Pirates? We don't care about no stinkin' pirates! Then (if I'm Bill Gates) I'm thinking: "OK. So they ripped me off when they got their copy of Windows free, but I'll make the $98,00 back in two years, plus another $98.00 in the next two years. I'll be richer than ever and I won't have to worry about WGA or pirates. Hey, Melinda, grab me one of those Sam's Club spring waters while you're up!"

You read it here first. Because, I can almost guarantee you this is what is going to happen. It's so simple it's brilliant. But when it does happen, don't blame me. Blame those Microsoft-bashers who just had to go off the deep end with their ridiculous "Microsoft is Spyware" accusations.

So, sometime in the future all those anti-Microsoft people and their baseless charges - and bizarre rantings and ravings - are going to cost you and me and every other Windows user about $50.00 a year.

But it might be worth it to me. Because a year or so from now, I'm going to tell you all - "See? I told you so!" And, you know how much I love doing that!

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