Genuine Advantage, My Ass

i-8a401df0f7533ad743e1e964a5277bd9-nowindows.pngIn recent years, I’ve bought three copies of a useful piece of software as part of package deals on computers. The software licences include free on-line upgrades, and hardly a week goes by without an offer of some tweak or patch to improve the workings of things. I gratefully partake.

I’ve been a loyal customer of this software company for almost 20 years. But when I heard what the newest version of their product is like, I began considering alternatives. And in the past few days, I have received offensive messages from them that made up my mind real quick.

Dear Reader, have you heard of Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage? It’s offered to users of Windows XP as a free upgrade. This “genuinely advantageous” little program’s sole purpose is to check if the machine it’s installed on is running pirated Microsoft programs. Yet it is offered to me as if it were something I might find useful. This is exactly like if you have shopped at the same grocery store for decades, and then one day the proprietor starts frisking you for stolen goods every time you leave the store — “for your own safety’s sake”.

Linux, baby, here I come! I know there’s going to be a learning hurdle, but it’ll be worth it to get an operating system that puts my computing power to work for me, not for various large American corporations including the music and movie industry. And not getting called a thief every time I start a machine of mine will be a genuine advantage.

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  1. #1 factician
    March 30, 2007

    You may find the learning curve for Mac OS X to be a little less steep. That may be the single best thing about Macs is that they’re user friendly. I made the switch to Macs about 9 years ago and have never looked back…

  2. #2 Karen
    March 30, 2007

    I got the lovely update notice recently too and finally downloaded it last night (only because I couldn’t get rid of the stupid little update icon from my tool bar). Guess I probably should have looked at what it was first. One more reason to steer clear of Microsoft (as if we all needed another reason).

  3. #3 paddy
    March 30, 2007

    I tend to agree with factician – Mac, although not the magical and perfect OS that a lot of people claim, is definitely more user-centered than rat-ass windows. If you insist on ploughing ahead with a free system, then try Ubuntu, a basic (and free) Linux system.

    Hopefully, with the Google online office suite and OpenOffice picking up steam, we will bury Microsoft Office under its own stinky excrement.

  4. #4 Mark
    March 30, 2007

    If you are simply changing operating systems on an existing computer, then Linux is a reasonable way to go. If you are getting a new computer, then a Mac is a great choice. You also get Unix with OS X, you know. Plus, if you absolutely have to have a Windows-only application, you can always boot Windows on a Mac with Boot Camp or Parallels (my choice).

  5. #5 Martin R
    March 30, 2007

    Thanks everyone! I’m keeping the three PCs, so MacOS is not an option. I run it at work, though, and it’s OK. But OpenSource has its own appeal.

  6. #6 Janne
    March 30, 2007

    Ubuntu is a very good choice. You might want to hold back on converting for a couple of weeks, though; the next version is just around the corner.

  7. #7 kai
    March 30, 2007

    You know that OS X has been ported to the Intel platform? So, with a bit of effort, you can install OS X on a PC.

    Quite possibly this is highly illegal or something, but hey, you want that cool, well-functioning OS X, don’t you?

  8. #8 Jason Fox
    March 30, 2007

    I run both XP and Ubuntu on my laptop and it works very well. I love Linux.

  9. #9 Aerik
    March 30, 2007

    Yeah, my next computer is definitely going to be a Linux of some sort.

    Damn right WGA is offensive. Like the RIAA/MPAA anti-piracy ads you can’t skip through on DVD’s you legitimately paid for at the store, Windows has decided that its customers must be treated as criminals 100% of the time. F*** that!

  10. #10 Martin R
    March 30, 2007

    My buddy Hans P tells me I can boot Ubuntu’s current version off a CD for starters, then upgrade when the new version is released.

  11. #11 ThePolynomial
    March 30, 2007

    I got this “offer” this morning, too. I almost always download Windows upgrades, but when they asked me if I’d agree to these terms, I looked for the “Hellz, No!” box. I settled for “I do not agree.” Not that my copy’s pirated, but please. I’m getting a Mac in July.

  12. #12 Rebecca Clayton
    March 30, 2007

    I’m a Unix kind of girl, so I’ve been happy with both Linux and Mac OSX. The free Linux flavors are much easier to install and learn than they were even five years ago. I agree Ubuntu would be a good choice for a first adventure. (I really like the Debian “lineage,” which includes Ubuntu.) One great thing is all the free advice and help available for Linux.

    Linux also lets you keep older machines useful and functional–you don’t need a new computer every time you turn around.

  13. #13 Rupert
    March 30, 2007

    I’ve moved to Ubuntu as far as I can, for exactly this reason. (I write about MS a lot, so I need to keep an eye on things. On the other hand, I’ve unilaterally declared independence at work and am running a Ubuntu PC connected to the work Windows-only network. And it works for email, printing, shared files… it’s REALLY confused our IT support. Heh.)

    Ubuntu is ridiculously easy to try. You can make a bootable CD, boot that and play around. When you’re done, pop it out and you’re back to Windows. Or if you like it, install Ubuntu straight from the CD.

    Things you need to think about: what data do you have, and in what format, that you’ll need to use after the move? Do you have any Microsoft-only software? Do you access any websites that need Internet Explorer? None of these necessarily mean you can’t move to Ubuntu, but do mean it won’t be a plug-and-play transistion.


  14. #14 Rupert
    March 30, 2007

    Oh, and any chance you could use the proper English term “my arse”? Ass is a weak and feeble Americanism, and creates needless confusion with donkey ownership. With ‘arse’, you can roll the R deep within the throat and turn it into a really meaty, hard-hitting epithet.


  15. #15 Michael Burton
    March 31, 2007

    I’m a Mac bigot — Apple is pure goodness, Microsoft is the Spawn of Satan — all that stuff.

    That being said, I wouldn’t try to install Mac OS X on a non-Apple PC, except as a learning exercise. It puts you at the mercy of Apple in much the same way that Windows Disadvantage puts you at the mercy of Microsoft. Apple releases OS updates frequently, and it seems they could pull the rug out from under you with any update. That’s not a problem if you’re a hobbyist hacker, but it’s a killer if you’re trying to use Mac OS X to get work done.

    Because Linux is open source, if someone tries to take your rights away from you, you (or another Linux-knowledgeable person) can just take them right back. Ultimately, you are in control. That’s definitely not true of Windows, especially Windows Vista. It’s not true of the Mac, either, even if Apple is pure goodness.

  16. #16 James W.
    March 31, 2007

    Martin, I’d suggest Mac OSX. It’s got all the open source love you can want in a nice veneer (and by that, I mean window manager) with typically bleeding edge technology.

    I personally have run Debian for two years now and use Ubuntu on a number of systems as well. Luckily, doing this also pays my bills each month but it didn’t come without a steep learning curve and a lot of nights fraught with WTFs.

  17. #17 Martin R
    March 31, 2007

    Rupert, the data formats aren’t an issue any more since OpenOffice came along. Besides, I habitually use RTF in stead of DOC for text files since back in the day when the file size difference was important.

    I hadn’t thought about the IE issue, though. I do use a few poorly constructed map sites that need it. But I checked another IE thing yesterday: Ubuntu mounts a DAV drive without a hitch!

    “Blah blah blah, my arse” is mid-Atlantic English. Nobody British says that!? Sounds a bit like “Blah, blah, blah, Myers”, come to think of it. Wouldn’t want to have any beef with the Tentacled One.

  18. #18 Joseph j7uy5
    March 31, 2007

    If you are fairly sure you are going to use Linux, and if you are swayed by the recommendation to use Ubuntu, then you might want to consider Kubuntu instead. It’s the same thing underneath, but the user interface is more Windows-like. Linux users argue incessantly about which interface is better. It is not hard to try both, though. What you do is download the image files for both live CDs. Those can be booted without actually installing them, so you can try it out and not risk changing anything on your hard drive. Most distributions offer that option now.

    You can see a list of distros at, by the way, and there page for each one typically has links for many different reviews. For a beginner, it is good to read the reviews.

    Plus, for what it is worth, I personally like Sabayon, one of the fastest-growing distros. Some say it is not for beginners. It is easy to tinker with, and easy to break. But if you do not tinker with anything, you probably won’t break anything. (Although in order to get the best performance, you do have to tinker with it.)

    My second choice is OpenSuse, Third, probably Fedora. Some people are upset with Novell, the sponsors of OpenSuse, because of the recent alliance between Microsoft and Novell. I used to be but decided it does not matter that much.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2007

    The learning curve for Linux is not bad and well worth it. I recommend Ubuntu. Let me know if I can ever be of assistance!!!!

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2007

    It is much easier than Joseph describes to try both. You can run KDE and Gnome on the same computer, and just choose different logins. Install one (gnome, because a) it’s the defulat, and b) it’s better) and then after that is in, use the handy dandy installation system to also install the KDE desktop. Then you can switch to KDE instead of Gnome on login.

    Is Gnome really better like I said? I did go back and forth on the two, and I agree with Joseph that linux users will fight to the death over this.

    I don’t agree that KDE is more windows like and Gnome is more mac like. I never understood that. I was personally very happy with Windows 2000 interface (last interface worth using from Microsoft) and I dislike the Mac interface with a passion, yet I prefer Gnome over KDE, but I’m not entirely sue I could articulate why.

    There are actually other interfaces that in concept are WAY better than either, in my opinion, but they are toys not ready for prime time.

    I also agree with Joseph that Suse is problematic because of the Novell thing .. you might as well stick with microsoft and let them fuck you over. I never liked Suse anyway.

    Fedora is kind of the ultimate distro for messing around with. I don’t kow Sabayon.

    Ubuntu is easiest and has the best supporting community, so I would stick with that.

    You might find these two posts useful:

  21. #21 Martin R
    April 1, 2007

    I ran into trouble with Ubuntu. Here’s what happened.

    1. BEFORE: laptop booted WinXP from a single large partition.

    2. I ran Ubuntu’s installer and had it shrink the XP partition to half and make a new partition for itself on the freed space.

    3. The installer froze up toward the very end of the installation process, when it had already copied everything to the new partition and was making configs.

    4. AFTER: laptop now won’t boot anything at all. Judging from the partition manager program invoked by the Ubuntu installer, the XP partition is intact, and there is a well-formed Linux partition as well. However, the Ubuntu installer doesn’t seem smart enough to-reinstall over the botched Linux installation: it believes that the data on that partition must be respected.

    5. I am now only aware of two options, none of which is attractive: a) reformat entirely, or attempt to install a second copy of Linux in a third partition torn out of the newly made yet inactive Linux partition.

    I’d be grateful for any suggestions!

  22. #22 Martin R
    April 1, 2007

    Eureka! The Gnome partition handler allowed me to back the process to step 2. I’m back on track.

  23. #23 Martin R
    April 1, 2007

    And now I’ve got a well-behaved dual-boot system with WinXP, Linux and no data loss! W00t!

  24. #24 Hans Persson
    April 2, 2007

    Welcome over from the dark side!

  25. #25 Martin R
    April 2, 2007

    Now I’m trying to figure out how to hook the Linux installation up to my wireless access point. It works fine under XP, and it worked fine when I originally booted Linux from the CD, but now that I’ve installed it on the hard disk, Linux no longer makes it on-line either when booted from the hard disk nor the CD. /-;

  26. #26 sharon
    April 2, 2007

    “Blah blah blah, my arse” is mid-Atlantic English. Nobody British says that!?

    Oh yes we do, mate. Sounds like Myers, my arse!

  27. #27 Martin R
    April 2, 2007

    Your arse sounds like Dr P.Z. Myers? You mean it teaches evolutionary biology and denounces Christianity? I’d like to hear that!

  28. #28 sharon
    April 3, 2007

    Hmm, I don’t think it’s that clever. And it has some spiritual leanings. (Oops, my mistake, that was just hot air.)

    But I bet it’s prettier than PZ.

  29. #29 srilyk
    January 9, 2008

    So… I tried *not* installing WGA, through windows update and guess what the at redmond did?

    Somehow totally pooched my user accounts. I mean *seriously* screwed them.

    The only way I was able to recover my data was boot into knoppix and copy my data into a NEW folder and go through umpteen painful steps including making new user accounts… bah, it was severely problematic!

    If my WACOM worked perfectly under linux, I just don’t think I’d use my windoze box again…

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