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Office XP Activation Explodes in ZDNet's Face

By aidoneus in MLP
Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 01:15:04 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

I saw this rather interesting example of the MS Office XP activation backfiring over at ZDNet yesterday. From the sounds of it, something as simple as installing an application for a Palm was enough to trigger the anti-piracy "features." Problem was, this ZDNet correspondent was over 2000 miles away from where his installation discs, and was now trapped with a broken version of Office that would not let him edit existing documents of create any new ones. If anything is a good reason to switch to OpenOffice, or StarOffice, or anything but XP, this is it.


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Office XP Activation Explodes in ZDNet's Face | 43 comments (37 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
OfficeXP + laptops (3.64 / 14) (#3)
by starbreeze on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 11:04:38 AM EST

That's an interesting article... +1. Thanks. I've been reading about the Activation crap and this makes me think it would be wise for our laptop only setting in the office. We've all got identical laptops and are often known to switch hard drives etc for testing reasons. NIC to wireless card as well. There seems to be a fine line between how much new hardware makes it need reactivation.

"There's something strangely musical about noise." ~Trent Reznor

left out an important word (3.50 / 4) (#5)
by starbreeze on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 11:06:01 AM EST

would NOT be wise for our laptop environment. i didn't catch that when i previewed, sorry.

"There's something strangely musical about noise." ~Trent Reznor
[ Parent ]

NIC swaps not significant hardware changes .. (3.85 / 7) (#17)
by gbroiles on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 01:18:27 PM EST

At least not for me - and I certainly wouldn't want my office apps to stop working if I was on a trip and needed to swap NICs or add a new NIC - those dongles and X-jacks don't live forever, and it's not hard to imagine snapping one off by accident while in a hotel room somewhere, finding a CompUSA or whatever nearby, and continuing to work .. unless that means Office is about to get medieval on my pirating ass. And it's not like I'm going to bring my original CD for a $500 software package on a trip - too easy for things to get lost or stolen. Haven't these guys ever travelled? Shit happens, and the only thing to do is keep working with whatever's at hand, or whatever you can buy or borrow on short notice in an unfamiliar place .. and I sure don't need my applications working against me.

[ Parent ]
NICs... (none / 0) (#34)
by ajduk on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 03:31:27 AM EST

Well, if I was designing a Hardware key unique to the machine, it would include the unique MAC of the network card.. indeed, if you were cloning machines (as an OEM might), it might be the only difference between machines (even date/time stamps would be the same..).

How about this: Modems have a unique number similar to a NIC MAC. Modems can get blown up by nearby lightning strikes (I know, I replaced one last weekend). If the modem stopped responding on bootup, windows XP might not boot (hardware change..), so you couldn't diagnose the problem, and in any case would need to reactivate Windows as well as replace the modem. A 15 minute job turning into a several hour job..

[ Parent ]
You should probably mention... (4.14 / 14) (#6)
by DeadBaby on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 11:14:27 AM EST

In the end nothing happened. This guys copy of OfficeXP worked perfectly the entire flight. None of it probably had anything to do with activation but rather just another random Office bug.
- "Stay up late, smoke cigars, and break windows" - Tom Waits
No sir, (none / 0) (#41)
by Wah on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 06:06:56 PM EST

that bullet wasnt' meant for you. Sure, it went right over your shoulder and past your ear, but we were aiming for that evil pirate right behind you. Oh, that's your shadow, sorry.

Who's ever had a MS product that worked right in the first version? By OFFICE XP SP3, you can bet that a quick reboot won't save you. And god forbid if you scratch that $500 ten cent piece of plastic one of those innumerable times you have to re-insert it. The simple fact is that the feature EXISTS. This is one of the joys of monopoly on inetellectual property. A good part of the money you pay for a product, is to pay to make that product harder to use. Or are there that many new features here?

Any guesses what the crowbar is that's going to push companies to have to upgrade? The old one, where new computers came installed with the latest MS software (since OEMs have little say about this) thus creating an installed base, thus creating incompatibilities, thus forcing upgrades, probably won't work as well this time. Mostly because the PC market is pretty much in the shitter and no one who doesn't work with graphics or heavy numbers needs anything NEAR a ghz machine.

As hardware prices continue to drop and OS prices continue to rise, more people will break ranks. MS is cutting off their nose to spite their face, and they are already ugly in the public eye.
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP
[ Parent ]

Just for reference: MS page on "XP activation (4.00 / 17) (#7)
by TheophileEscargot on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 11:15:08 AM EST

MS activation page

"...Product Activation stops that by forcing the copied software to be reactivated. It does so by comparing the hardware on which it was activated to the hardware on which it is now being booted. If the hardware is substantially different, then reactivation is required. If it is the same or similar, then the software will continue to work. Those who upgrade their PC's hardware substantially may be asked to reactivate. Reactivation for this reason is easy and can be completed by contacting Microsoft to obtain another confirmation ID..."

Would be nice for them to define "substantially"
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death

I wonder... (3.50 / 8) (#13)
by Anonymous 6522 on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 12:56:10 PM EST

...if this guy had his palm's cradle attached when he got the error (he does mention installing some software for his palm), and removed it when he rebooted. If MS considers such an addition a substantial change, it could explain it.

[ Parent ]
Another possibility (3.90 / 10) (#16)
by Erbo on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 01:17:41 PM EST

It could have something to do with his configuration of PCMCIA cards, or whether or not his notebook was attached to a docking station at install time. (Though, if Microsoft is basing their definition of "substantially changed" on stuff like that, they're asking for trouble.)

Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

Laptops (4.83 / 6) (#28)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 06:02:38 PM EST

The docking station one is the thing that worries me as Windows has decided that I had "new" hardware more than once. And, of course, when you are dragging a laptop around is exactly the time when you are not likely to have the original disks.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Not to mention USB (4.00 / 1) (#42)
by Wah on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 06:14:02 PM EST

when I plug in my camera I get a PNP wizard, two inane clicks later, it's a new device that acts roughly like a small drive. This would probably set off the alarm, but I doubt I'll every know.
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP
[ Parent ]
Add PnP, mix and serve (3.66 / 6) (#30)
by weirdling on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 06:12:07 PM EST

Geez, if I put my Visor in its cradle and hit synch before the Visor software loads, M$ thinks there's a new piece of hardware it needs to support and gets busy making sure it won't work again until I reboot, and wait the appropriate time for the Visor software to load. Now, at work, not only does Outlook depend entirely on a flaky Exchange server working all the time, but Office might evaporate if I hit the synch button too soon? Woohoo, more time spent at home because my computer is down...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
God... (3.64 / 14) (#8)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 11:22:24 AM EST

We really eat up this anti-MS stuff. +1 section.

In more topical vein, I had a similar bout of computer rage when someone asked me to use an upgrade of some random profiler from Compuware. The stupid thing actually sets up some idiotic "license server" in order to use. I could deal with that, but the way to use it is to actually email those usability masters and wait up to 48 hours for them to mail me back with some license file. Then I have to create a predetermined directory on my HD and copy it there.

Companies who've depended on stock options and the internet frenzy are now having to squeeze their customers. It will be interesting to see how Free Software fares in the light of this. Companies always needed a level of inefficiency to protect their intellectual property. Now the level is getting higher.

If I had the Tao, I would just use a hex editor and satisfy its needs for a license file, but I am too deep in the dark side now.

Speaking of which... (4.10 / 20) (#9)
by IntlHarvester on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 11:37:07 AM EST

Has anyone else noticed that despite PR to the contrary, that mofo clippy is still out in full force in Office XP?

Clean install on a new Win2000 machine, next thing I know the UI is disabled because the squinty-eyed little freak wants to know if Word should be my e-mail editor. Urrg.

GUI disabled (3.66 / 6) (#25)
by kaatunut on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 05:07:53 PM EST

I met the infamous "squinty-eyed little freak" for the first time couple of weeks ago, and noticed that too. One thing I don't get - why the heck does that clippy fellow have to disable the gui until I click on the "Get the fucking lost and let me just write" button?

there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Ummm... (3.37 / 8) (#26)
by Refrag on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 05:22:30 PM EST

Because he's modal? :)


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

Modal windows... (3.66 / 3) (#32)
by Anonymous 6522 on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 01:22:39 AM EST

...are the spawn of the devil.

[ Parent ]
Re: Modal windows (3.75 / 4) (#33)
by IntlHarvester on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 02:02:21 AM EST

At least model windows had the good sense to pop up in the center of your screen and not float beigely in the corner while your keyboard bell dings.

[ Parent ]
"tabbed" windows ... (4.00 / 2) (#38)
by bediger on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 12:53:25 PM EST

are just modal windows in another guise. Hence, "tabbed" windows are also the spawn of the devil.

But seriously, folks, what's wrong with modal windows? That's easy: they limit your interaction with a given software system to only the prescribed ways. You can only do the actions allowed by the modal window, you can only use the information displayed in the modal window.

Once we see this, it's easy to understand why Microsoft products typically have mostly modal interactions: they think they know better than you do what you want to do.

-- I am Spartacus.
[ Parent ]
Stupid software (3.60 / 5) (#29)
by weirdling on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 06:07:54 PM EST

Probably the same reason Outlook insists on popping up the last email message I looked at every time I try to use the calendar feature. M$ software is hideous unless used exactly as intended...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Reboot (3.42 / 14) (#11)
by Refrag on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 12:07:36 PM EST

In all fairness, Office continued to function normally after the guy rebooted. He wasn't stuck with a broken copy of Office as the post says.

However, Office continuing to function once he rebooted was probably the bug. Not the fact that he got the error in the first place.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches

My "other"... (2.92 / 14) (#12)
by RareHeintz on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 12:10:09 PM EST

How about Emacs/[La]TeX/bc/calc/etc.? I mean, how much does PowerPoint do that a similar "slideshow" written in HTML doesn't? I realize that I might not represent the center of the bell curve, but I don't think most of us need a lot of the "features" in the various MS Office versions. And I certainly need Outlook like I need a second asshole... Mutt, Pine, or using Yahoo! Mail as a POP3 front-end are all superior alternatives to what appears to be a sort of digital petri dish for viruses and worms.

Just my $2e-02.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily

Outlook Elaborated (3.90 / 10) (#14)
by Devil Ducky on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 01:00:08 PM EST

I certainly need Outlook like I need a second asshole...
I think you have understated your point here. I can think of times where a second asshole might be useful, after some powerful Buffalo Wings perhaps? But I can not think of any situation where Outlook is useful/wanted.

I certainly need Outlook like I need a second bellybutton... is more like it.

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
Only One Use (none / 0) (#35)
by Pyrrhonian on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 07:52:49 AM EST

Actually I do know one use for outlook, it keeps me in a job. Fixing things that get broken because of its attempt at security.

Apart from that... I certainly need Outlook like I need a hole in my head

Or for those of you who can think of a use for a hole in the head, I certainly need Outlook like I need to drill through my CPU

[ Parent ]

You should... (3.71 / 7) (#18)
by DeadBaby on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 01:18:41 PM EST

Use powerpoint once or twice. You can't even compare a html slide show to a powerpoint one, in production or in simple overall quality.
- "Stay up late, smoke cigars, and break windows" - Tom Waits
[ Parent ]
I have... (3.50 / 6) (#19)
by RareHeintz on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 01:20:35 PM EST

...used PP more than once or twice. Unless you're really hooked on the chrome (e.g., neat fade or slide transitions), it really doesn't add that much value - at least, not for me. YMMV, especially if you're in sales or marketing and chrome is your life.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
[ Parent ]

Future of PowerPoint Viewer == IE (3.75 / 4) (#22)
by IntlHarvester on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 02:42:04 PM EST

IE has had the transitions for a long time, and when you look at what they are doing with HTML+TIME and vector graphics it's pretty clear what direction they are going in.

(Not that the file format is all that relevant, it's the toolset.)

[ Parent ]
Production time (3.75 / 4) (#24)
by DeadBaby on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 04:56:25 PM EST

Graphics have very little to do with the choice of Powerpoint over HTML, the main benifits of Powerpoint are reducing production time for complex data slides.
- "Stay up late, smoke cigars, and break windows" - Tom Waits
[ Parent ]
emacs->html -> ps2pdf etc (3.66 / 3) (#23)
by moggo on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 02:55:02 PM EST

Oh, and through in a script or two. I'm not that clever. I like things simple and stable. Don't wanna be second guessing software no mo.

[ Parent ]
MS Project - the one irreplaceable app (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by 42 on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 09:22:14 AM EST

Before you get out your flame-throwers, let me point out that I am not saying that MS Project is the best application for managing projects, nor am I endorsing in any way the use of a Microsoft operating system. What I am saying is that this application (or any equivalent app from any other vendor) is the only one that I know off that doesnt have a free software equivalent. If I wanted to switch at work to a completely non-MS work environment - MS Project is the one application that would hold me back.

For Visio, Powerpoint, and their like, I could work with xfig. For everything else that I can think off, I have either free-software applications, or non-free applications that have been ported to Linux (my choice of a free-OS. Not that there is anything wrong with the *BSDs - its just that this is my choice.). Now, if someone can tell me that MS Projects works under WINE, that would be music to my ears. Does it?

[ Parent ]
trends (3.54 / 11) (#21)
by al3x on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 02:19:32 PM EST

While I have, at times, had poor experiences with Microsoft products (as we all have), I have had equally poor experiences with open source applications. What does this tell us? Software is stupid. Not a new or complex thought. And who tends to have terrible problems with Microsoft products? Stupid people. Certainly some wacky, totally unpredicatable errors come up every now and then with MS 'ware, but honestly I have Office XP running in tandem with Win2000, and it works cleanly and, so far, without error. Is it bloated? Yes. It is satanspawn? Hardly. Solving problems, part of anyone's daily routine when using computers, tends to be simpler on more robustly graphical systems like Win and MacOS, unless you're an idiot. Your typical Windows horror story is told by your typical corporate officemonkey, and that's no coincidence. What's important aren't platform wars, though. It's making software smarter, and letting those poor bastards who can't troubleshoot a Win box really get in there. Everybody isn't going to take the time to learn the ins-and-outs of computer systems, even if they SHOULD as an empowering exercise. So that leaves the folks in the know to do something about. Something more than posting on community sites. *grin, this is why I don't post much*

Wow (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by Steeltoe on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 05:01:31 PM EST

If you are so l33t Windows user that can troubleshoot your computer, then you can mayhap enlighten me on why my win98-box crashes whenever I try a "Windows Update" (to get rid of crashing when I shutdown, which again introduces errors on my harddrive at boot-up)? Yes, I've tried the usual troubleshooting (reinstall, reformat, patches, doing random stuff in random locations, ripping my box apart, whatever).

Please forgive me of being sarcastic, but "troubleshooting Windows" just seems like an impossible paradox to me and a herculean effort in reinstalling applications. Well, at least I should be happy I can still write on Kuro*General Protection Fault 0xf7d8f103*

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
Well, duh! (3.78 / 19) (#27)
by CaptainZapp on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 05:44:22 PM EST

Problem was, this ZDNet correspondent was over 2000 miles away from where his installation discs, and was now trapped with a broken version of Office that would not let him edit existing documents of create any new ones.

Serves him right!

But then I digress, it's not really that simple, that Micro$oft is producing overprized crapware, that strangle you into a license stronghold which is bad news; personally or as a business. It's somewhat more sinister then that:

I don't have a problem with the fact, that M$ makes an absurd profit by selling software. It's a company, run by insanely clever business savvy people. It's not so much the person of a Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer or Nathan Myrvhold (sp?), but the combination of those brains; and kid you not - they're brilliant in what they do.

It's not even the documented, rotten business tactics they apply. I worked for a database vendor for somewhat over 4 years (not the evil empire of database) - and man. Software is a business which is rotten to the core. So actually a lot of what they do is business as usual in that field.

What gets me, is the fact that M$ is attempting to manipulate our everyday lives to the worse and charge us for us for every move on the way.

Wanna listen to a tune?

You better have WMP, with integrated digital rights management on a very low level.

Wanna watch a movie?

Well, bad news: Your copy of this DisneyWarnerSonyViacom flick can only be viewed three times within a year. But fear you not: It anyway won't play, since your copy is not licensed to be played on a computer in Wyoming. And most certainly only on a DCMA protected EvilCompany licensed device, which is certainly not available for your OS of choice.

Wanna browse the net?

Certainly not a problem. If we don't take care however, it will be a net crippled to the lowest common denominator. It will be a net where companies like M$, AOL, Disney and CyberPatrol will be in charge for providing the content. Their content of course.

Paranoid? Not really. Actually I wouldn't give a shit if they're out there to get me. I do fear however, that computers are turning into dumbed down CPRS controlled AOL compliant, Micro$oft taxed idiot devices, which is not that far away from your average game show on telly. And yes, I believe this should be fought with all the might of people who are in a position to fight such a development.

How? Well, for starters:

  • Do you really need a M$ OS and applications on your pc?
  • What about supporting a free software project by writing code, or if that fails, support one by using it, reporting bugs, writing some documentation, or donate some of your time to a worthy cause
  • Are you in a position to make, or influence decisions? Yeah? way to go!
  • Support your local art community, write, subvert your school or company, whatever.

    But by all means, if you don't want your computer to provide the cultural value of your average telly program in five years then do something!

  • Can't resist (4.00 / 1) (#40)
    by urgan on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 06:04:04 PM EST

    Wanna listen to a tune?
    Turn on your radio or TV set.
    Wanna watch a movie?
    Force yourself to go out a cinema.
    Wanna browse the net?
    Only while it still exists. When the "content" companies take over I think i'll buy more books, travel take more and take vacations.
    You're right of course, but it's not the end of the world, we lived before the net and we'll survive it's end/degradation, whatever comes first.

    [ Parent ]
    Must Resist! (4.00 / 1) (#43)
    by Wah on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 06:24:40 PM EST

    Turn on your radio or TV set.

    To what?

    Force yourself to go out a cinema.

    And pay $10 to watch commercials?

    Wanna browse the net? Only while it still exists. When the "content" companies take over I think i'll buy more books, travel take more and take vacations.

    No, this is our Internet. It's been shown very convincingly that we, just folks like you and I, can sustain a completely full featured media venture. Peer to peer gave us this. It's an international effort and right now we are ahead of the laws. But we need to change them and mold them to create a world where you can experience your culture without a subsidizing fee. And this especially includes the media world of our forefathers, which under current rules will be locked away forever. Exactly like the cultural artifacts being created today.
    Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP
    [ Parent ]

    Remarkable (3.80 / 5) (#31)
    by weirdling on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 06:14:49 PM EST

    M$ has been moving towards this ever since Win95 was sold in two versions, one usefull if you reformatted your drive, the other useful if you didn't. That was annoying enough.
    Anyway, I'll go home to my Mac and Linux box, with Apple and IBM commercial software installed that never bothers me for a liscence (it's legal, anyway), and continue to be smug. Don't you know, M$ is the wave of the future and the courts need to preserve its right to 'innovate'...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    microsoft's favour (3.66 / 3) (#37)
    by mcm on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 11:35:44 AM EST

    i think microsoft has done us all a big favour. by filling office xp with all these paranoid piracy features no office user in their right mind will upgrade now. if that happens the document format used in office 2000 will be a kind of a standard in the windows world and we will never have to worry about those .DOC, .XLS files everybody sends us will work with staroffice, koffice, etc..

    Office XP Activation Explodes in ZDNet's Face | 43 comments (37 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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