Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

Heads up... The Microsoft Genuine Software Initiative (GSI) has begun

Heads up... The Microsoft Genuine Software Initiative (GSI) has begun

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Have you had a chance to look at the most recent announcements we've made about the Microsoft Genuine Software Initiative (GSI)?  How about the Microsoft Software Protection Platform (SPP)?  Well, here's a heads up on some rather significant changes that are steaming your way and will be featured in Windows Vista.

First, check out the press release at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2006/oct06/10-04SoftwareProtection.mspx.  Make sure to download and read the Software Protection whitepaper.  It discusses some of the history and mechanics behind GSI and SPP.

Here's a couple of snippets from the presspass announcement:

"Today we are announcing the Software Protection Platform –a new set of technologies that will help Microsoft make software piracy harder, help protect consumers from the risks of counterfeit software, and better enable small to large businesses to manage their software assets. The Software Protection Platform has been under development for several years. It brings together new anti-piracy innovations, counterfeit detection and tamper-resistant features into a complete platform that provides better software protection to programs that leverage it. Initially, the upcoming releases of Windows Vista and Windows Server “Longhorn” will be the first two products to ship with this technology included, and eventually more Microsoft products will adopt this technology.

In addition, the Software Protection Platform enables the next generation of genuine validation programs such as Windows Genuine Advantage (product differentiation). In short, it introduces new ways for Windows Vista and Windows Server “Longhorn” to activate, validate as genuine, and behave when tampered with or hacked."

"One of the things the Software Protection Platform enables is enhancements to the genuine experience in Windows Vista, thereby differentiating it from the non-genuine experience. Customers that use genuine Windows Vista product should expect, and will get, an enhanced set of features that will not work on non-genuine or unlicensed versions of Windows Vista. Customers using genuine and licensed copies of Windows Vista will have access to Windows Aero and Windows ReadyBoost features, as well as full functionality of Windows Defender and extra optional updates from Windows Update. Computer systems that do not pass validation will not have access to these features, although they will still have access to critical security updates. Aero offers Microsoft’s best-designed, highest-performing desktop experience and is available in Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate. ReadyBoost lets users use a removable flash memory device to improve system performance without opening the computer to install additional memory. Both are key features that a user of non-genuine software will quickly realize are not running. Windows Defender helps protect a user’s PC against pop-ups, and security threats caused by spyware and other malware.

In addition, users of non-genuine Windows Vista software will be notified if their copy of Windows Vista is determined to be non-genuine with the appearance of a persistent statement in the lower right hand corner of their desktop space that reads, “This copy of Windows is not genuine.” "

What does this mean?

Microsoft is developing and now releasing the first new technologies that form part of the Software Protection Platform (SP Platform). The platform will help fight piracy, protect consumers from the risks of counterfeit software, and better enable volume license customers to manage their software assets. The Software Protection Platform brings together new anti-piracy innovations, counterfeit detection practices and tamper resistance into a complete platform that provides better software protection to programs that use it.

So what do you think?

I'm guessing Cyrus at http://www.engadget.com/2006/10/04/microsoft-will-cripple-pcs-running-pirated-copies-of-vista/ doesn't like it too much.  The folks at http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=339 seem to think it’s going to help promote open source adoption.  Hmmmm….

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  • What’s going to happen is MS is going to screw up and millions of computers are going to boot into a mode that doesn’t allow them to do anything useful... IT folks don't like this prospect; we like to have control of what’s going on in our companies. MS has already messed up with the VLK version of XP requiring IT departments to manually fix their mistake, this took many hours of our time with no benefit to us other then fixing an MS problems with activation. With XP it was only a warning but with Vista it will be much worse. We’re therefore looking into alternatives, I agree that nothing now really meets our needs, but there is no real need to upgrade to Vista, and hopefully in the next 3 or so years others will step up to the plate without all of this nonsense.

  • Millions and millions?  I hope not.

    Ck, when you say you are looking into alternatives, what does that mean?  Are you saying you are evaluating Windows Vista, SuSE, Red Hat, etc. desktop operating systems?  Is it safe to assume if that is the case, it isn't JUST because of our attempts to thwart piracy?

    I would hope you are evaluating OS X, Windows Vista, Linux, etc. based on the needs you have, the total cost of operation, etc.  I think you are going to find that Windows Vista will compete nicely with the other top operating systems.

  • I hope not as well... but when you put a time bomb in your software, in case it may be pirated. What you're doing is risking problems with paying customers in trying to thwart the pirates. Why should I have to take my time fixing a problem with a “feature” in your software which existence adds no value to me whatsoever? In my opinion, which doesn’t matter, WGA and other things of that nature end up creating more work and problems for your paying customers? Just think, if something goes wrong in this “new” WGA in vista? What if a virus goes around that messes with the computers in some way that they are reported as pirated? Or what if some code is updated on your servers that starts flagging computers incorrectly? You could end up with a big problem on your hands and those things are not in the realm of impossibility, they are bound to happen. So basically as I see it, software that could create problems for paying customers is added so MS can make a few extra dollars? I don’t think that’s right. But I understand as a company why you do it. I just think it’s a bad thing, and press releases that try to make it out as something users want or need is laughable. But you’re right in that our evaluation is based on many things. But things like this just add to the list of cons for Vista. But who knows. At this point our plan is to stick with XP for a few more years, no need to rush :) Cheers

  • One more thing since it looks like you're reading and maybe will answer... I have posted this many places but haven't gotten an answer... maybe you don't know and that's ok. But I'll give it a shot... It looks like in Vista you can't backup EFSed files. We have done some tests with RC1 and can't figure it out. The whole dumbed down backup interface is a nightmare for IT people. I'm hoping that in the biz version of Vista they have the normal NTbackup.exe back in but I haven't seen anything to support that. But it just skips the EFSed files... no warning or anything. Very bad news for people who encrypt there data and think it's getting backed up... Also you can't set paths or any advanced features that were in the XP ntbackup... it seems that in a push for simplicity many features were removed. But the EFS thing is serious as you could have many users that encrypt there data and then use the backup program thinking it’s backing up, until it’s too late.

  • I am checking on the EFS question.  You are correct, the simplified backup and restore process doesn't backup EFS encrypted files or folders and this is documented in the help for the feature.

    However, I'm pretty sure CompletePC does. In fact, I'll be testing that will RC2 in a little while but have forwarded the questions into the internal Windows Vista alias.

  • "At this point our plan is to stick with XP for a few more years, no need to rush :) Cheers"

    By then, hopefully we'll have a whole new operating system for you to test.  Which reminds me, how often should we ship a new desktop OS?

  • Why MS would remove a feature from the OS is beyond me. I don't want to do "complete PC" backups! I want to be able to select a drive (we partition our OS from data drives) or folder and back it up, with the encrypted files. This is very easy with XP and now imposable with Vista. I can't understand what would make MS remove a basic feature like this. MS could have just left the old NTBackup for power users, and IT guys, and had the new dumbed down version up front for the masses. In this case Vista removes needed options that are available in a 5 year old OS, I can’t even start to believe it. And saying it’s in the documentation is not really realistic. Do you think an average user is going to check in the docs to make sure the directory they just encrypted with MSs own encryption is going to be backed up? No way! People are going to EFS directories and then go crazy when there computer crashes and they find out that none of it is backed up. I think is a critical mistake for MS to release Vista like this, but it’s too late to change I’m sure. While I’m on the subject of things that were easy to do with XP that you can’t do now with Vista how about this… We use D: for all user data, and right now if you right click on “My documents” in XP you can “map” that to the D drive and all folders then are routed to the new location. Now in XP you can’t do that to the root folder anymore… You have to go to like 10 folders and map each one to the new location. And you can’t map the root directory anymore at all it seems. (I could and hope I am wrong on this). I haven’t used vista much installed RC1 to check it out and after 1 afternoon with it had quite a few showstoppers for us, the main one being the EFS problem. As far as how often the OS should be released. I would say 5 years is too long but not by too much. Maybe 3 years or something like that as long as there was good value added to the product.

  • I love how Microsoft and its corporate mouthpieces (Yes, Keith, you...) portray WGA, GSI, SPP and yet more acronyms as something positive for Joe Blow. Apparently, GSI will "protect consumers from the risks of counterfeit software". What risks would those be? Ignoring the Microsoft's completely artificial crippling of functionality, can you actually name ONE risk the consumer faces should he / she use an unlicensed version? For some products, the non-availability of one-on-one support might be defined as a risk, but Microsoft hasn't provided that to consumers for a while. Provided Microsoft are happy with the risks (and happy bearing the financial cost of fixing the inevitable screw-up) introduced by these anti-piracy measures, it is entirely reasonable for them to be introduced. However, they should be described honestly; a feature designed to protect Microsoft's bottom line. They're not there for the protection or benefit of consumers at all, and to market them as that is fraudulent.

  • I have confirmed from the program managers that there is no planned support for EFS backup at Windows Vista RTM.  They are planning something for a future release but the release vehicle and timeframe has not been determined.

    Hopefully the other backup vendors will come up with something that meets your needs.

    Sorry for the bad news.

  • Corporate mouthpiece? That's a bit harsh. I didn't express an opinion on the subject.  Almost the entire text of my orginal post was from the whitepaper and press release.  

    I am an evangelist.  One of my main roles is information delivery.  The message or information isn't always well received.  Should I chicken out and not deliver the message?  That's far too easy.  I would rather get the information out and let you know whats coming.

    I have not tested the full ramifications of the changes coming so it's premature for me to predict if pushback is warranted or not.

    If on the other hand in your testing you find issues with this, feel free to contact me.  I'll be happy to convey any horror story you have directly to the VP of the Windows division.  I've done it before, I'll do it again.

  • Wow, quite a roasting. WGA is of no benefit to the average user? Try having the OS priced where normal people can buy it and not just big corporations because the pirate base isn't larger than the legitimate users. I might not be as jaded as you guys but I've never had a problem with licensing. I don't take it personally when I have to opt in to WGA, I know that Microsoft is trying to thwart the CD mills around the world blasting out copies of XP by the millions. It's their product, they should have a right to protect it.

  • Thanks for getting back to me on the EFS deal. I've been trying to get a straight answer on that for a long time. That makes the decision to upgrade to Vista a no brainer for anyone using EFS. I'm still surprised by the decision to drop something like that. Would be interested in the thinking behind it. But it's ok. I'm sure in a few more years they'll get it right.

  • Oops.  Dan posted another interesting response and I published it.  However in responding to it, I decided to remove it and go back an make an edit.  I thought it would put it back in the unpublished queue, but it nuked it.  Sorry, it was unintentional.  Still learning the new mechanics of CS2.1.

    Regarding Dan's post, he indicated he called me a mouthpiece because of the line he quoted.  However, that wasn't something I said.  Cori Hartje, Director, Microsoft Genuine Software Initiative made the statement in the answer to the third question of the press release.

    Regarding the rest of Dan's assertions, that was the part I was going to edit and essentially delete.  The thread had taken a decidedly different course and I decided to use my rare moderator skillz.

    Just so anyone reading this understands, I have asked one of the content leads on my team to provide slides and demos on this feature so we can all get a level set.  After that, I'll be happy to answer technical questions.  Legal questions will hence forth go unanswered and unpublished.

    To be continued for sure...

  • Most backup solutions will handle EFS in Vista. With RC2, OpenEncryptedFileRaw and ReadEncryptedFileRaw (as well as WriteEncryptedFileRaw and CloseEncryptedFileRaw) still work the same as in Longhorn, 2k3, XP, and 2k.

    Using those API's is naturally preferable to solutions that decrypt the file, then back it up, or backup the key material with the file. So that takes care of the data backup.

    Of course you already have a comprehensive key escrow and key backup policy in force, right? In the absence of that, EFS backup aupport in Vista is the least of your data loss worries.

  • Yes I have a good backup key policy. And I realize that I can go out and buy a 3ed party app to do what both XP and a 7 year old OS (win2k) have done all along. How is this step back a good thing? I don't get it. And how MS overlooked this? Maybe they just figure that no one uses EFS?

    I have to say that EFS if XP with the normal backups are very useful and I haven’t see another solution like it. Take disk level encryption the only way to back it up is to back-up the whole disk, if you backup the files to a network location they won’t be encrypted. But EFS allows you to keep your files transparently encrypted on your computer while letting you back them up to a network location in a safe way. And because it’s file bases you can do incremental backups etc.. Very cool stuff… if Vista hadn’t ruined it all with the worst backup implementation I have ever seen bar none.

    Check this article out, it mostly about networking but they bring up the horrible backup system in vista and don’t even mention the EFS thing… I should write them :)

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9003835&source=NLT_ES&nlid=42