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Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



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9 November 2018

An unknown (but seemingly quite large) number of Windows 10 Pro users have had problems over the past 24 hours.

It seems that some installations of this software have somehow become "deactivated" and began showing messages that even suggested the product should be downgraded to Windows Home edition.

What's going on?

It seems that some kind of SNAFU within the inner workings of Microsoft is requiring a percentage of Win 10 Pro users to re-enter their product keys and re-activate the product they've bought and paid for.

Obviously stuff-ups happen from time to time... but this really does ram home an incredibly worrying aspect of software like Windows 10.

No matter how much you've paid for Windows 10, you do not own it -- or even a right to use it in perpetuity.

Despite your handing over of large wads of cash, the software remains the property of Microsoft and, it would seem, they retain the ability to cripple it or even shut it down completely if THEY choose to do so.

Microsoft has posted an advisory and explanation on their "answers" website which further shows that their "activation servers" control your desktop in a way you may not have been aware of.

Since the only thing I use Windows for is video editing, I'm not familiar with what happens when an "activated" copy becomes "deactivated" but I guess there must be some kind of functional limitation involved -- or people wouldn't bother paying the money required to "activate".

Microsoft has put a 1-2 day timeframe on sorting the problem so if the current situation compromises the functionality of systems affected then I bet some folks are spitting tacks right now.

It is worth remembering that although "phone home" product registration/DRM systems work fine while the Net is up and running, they can pose a real problem if, for any reason, your connectivity is lost. I for one would not like to have a mission-critical system reliant on a working Net connection. In the past 12 months, there have been several days when my own connection has been lost or failing to perform adequately but at least I've been able to work off-line during that period. I shudder to think of the productivity implications for those whose software would not work unless it had phoned home first.

This "phone home" issue was one reason why I opted for a dongle-based authentication system for my video editing software. I could have gone with a product-key-code option but I believe that when this is used, the software needs to authenticate each time it is run -- thus requiring a working Net connection.

With live-authentication-based systems, you also have to wonder what happens if/when the software vendor goes out of business and the authentications servers are turned off.

I know this has happened with certain games and left users "high and dry" so I would worry that if I'd spent mega-dollars on some esoteric piece of commercial software which required live authentication, that their demise would effectively disable my purchase.

Is this vulnerability to a lack of Net connection or the demise of the software developer a factor you consider when purchasing new programs?

Should it be?

One interesting footnote is that the Linux system on which I'm typing this (and will be doing all my other non-video work today) is running just fine. It hasn't complained at all and I'm sure it will continue to work fine next week, after I upgrade it to Mint 19 with that new SSD and a new video card.

(gloat).

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