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Microsoft Bug

Corporations Suffer Microsoft Activation Bug 744

Posted by michael
from the under-the-yoke dept.
Uncle Bob writes "Trustworthy Computing, eat your heart out! As of the 2003-04-14 update, people are reporting that Office 2000 SR1a is now asking to be "registered" again. And again, and again. Very little information has been posted on the traditional news sites (the only link I could find was The Register. Note - The Register's story is not quite accurate, but the registration bug is real. Our company with approx 80,000 PCs has been hit...."
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Corporations Suffer Microsoft Activation Bug

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  • Sweet. (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:02AM (#5750876) Homepage Journal

    "You have successfully activated Microsoft Office 2000.
    Your computer will resume crashing.
    • Re:Sweet. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Canard (594978) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:42AM (#5751251)
      Isn't it fraudulent to sell someone a perpetual license for software that you've knowingly designed to stop working after two years?
      • Re:Sweet. (Score:5, Informative)

        by racermd (314140) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @02:51PM (#5753293)
        The expected lifespan of just about any desktop computer system in the corporate environment is 5 years (you can only deduct 1/5 of the computer's cost each year). That has more to do with how the IRS allows companies to use computers as deductions and less about the actual technology and/or software. As we all know, the real-world lifespan of a computer is more like 2-3 years until either the technology is no longer cost effective to support or newer and faster systems are just less expensive to purchase. I agree with your comment, however. The manufacturer should be responsible for the reliability and quality (kwalitee?) of it's products, whether hardware or software.

        More interesting, however, is why these companies haven't tested their upgrades prior to deployment. Surely a company with 80,000 comptuers has a few system on which to form a small testing environment behind an internal firewall? "Upgrades" from MS shouldn't be exempt from security and stability testing prior to deployment. And just because MS says it's a fix doesn't mean that it will work with your company's configurations. In reality, this should be a non-issue as proper testing would reveal any major problems. The fact that this *is* an issue should be a wake-up call to all IT managers and those above them that proper testing is required on *ALL* software and upgrades.

        Sheesh. Some people.
        • Re:Sweet. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Jason Earl (1894) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @03:29PM (#5753740) Homepage Journal

          This particular bug is triggered by the date. In other words, the testing procedure would have had to include moving the clock forward past a certain "magical" date.

          Personally, I think that this sort of testing should be done by Microsoft. As far as I am concerned that's why you are paying hundreds of dollars a seat for their software. If this bug was triggered by the existence of some third party software then I could maybe see your point, but this is a simple bug in MS Office. The fact of the matter is that after a certain date certain versions of Office 2000 try to register themselves and fail (because Microsoft shipped a broken wizard).

    • Makes me glad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nigel.selke (665251) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @11:39AM (#5751730) Homepage

      That our company has switched over to OpenOffice exclusively. It's been a year since we switched over from Microsoft Office, and there have only had a handful of documents that have had MS Office/Open Office incompatibilities.

      Plus, OpenOffice is totally free. Retraining was a non-issue. We told the employees when we switched over that they were welcome to use MS Office, but they would have to buy the software themselves and keep the licenses handy. There were no complaints about switching over after that.

      So we can sit back smugly as all of our branches are unaffected and read stories like this without blanching :) If you haven't checked out OpenOffice [openoffice.org], I highly recommend that you do.

      • Re:Makes me glad (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MonoSynth (323007) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @01:04PM (#5752453) Homepage
        Makes me wonder...

        How many companies donate money to OSS projects when they use it as replacement for proprietary products? With as little as 15% of the license-costs you'll normally pay for the commercial product (MS Office in this case), you can give most OSS projects a significant boost in their development.
        • Re:Makes me glad (Score:3, Insightful)

          by error0x100 (516413)

          Indeed. If some organization could get 1/10th of the income Microsoft gets for MS Office, I'm sure they could develop an Office suite that kicks MS Office's butt, and still have a few billion $ left over for, I don't know, a couple Ferraris and Porsches for every member of the development team. The amount of money companies all over the world collectively pour into MS is ridiculous.

      • It's been a year since we switched over from Microsoft Office, and there have only had a handful of documents that have had MS Office/Open Office incompatibilities.

        I use Office for a variety of data analysis tasks, and I rarely have a document more complicated than a letter that doesn't get corrupted in some way when making the transition. Even simple graphs lose their axes (or worse). More complicated plots get completely corrupted. I've never had a powerpoint presentation that opened correctly.

        Additi

  • This hit us. (Score:5, Informative)

    by sakailind (663992) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:04AM (#5750895)
    This hit my company yesterday. We've got about 500 Windows 2000 workstations with Office 2000 and a site license. At the time we were negotiating I was arguing that we should be looking at free software and Linux, but was laughed at. While I'll agree it wasn't the best time for Linux on the desktop, this does have me pulling a 'I told you so' as hundreds of our employees are bugged each time they try to start office.

    The solutions microsoft has suggested to us thus far:

    • Set the clock back two years. Means all our files have bad datestamps, and interferes with our content management system, so this is not an option.
    • Go through a four page process to clean the registry. This leaves you at a point where Office starts again, but it is still complaining upon startup. IE you still only have 50 times before you need to do this again.
    • Install new site license key. They've promised we'll get the opportunity to try that RSN. No idea if/when they'll get us a key - they've been stalling on this one. It could be that it's impossible without another patch first.
    Are we happy? Oh noo....
    • Re:This hit us. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TopShelf (92521) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:11AM (#5750964) Homepage Journal
      If you have a Help Desk application that tracks hours related to working on this mess, you (and other customers) should ask for a reduction in your support costs to compensate for all the non-value added work your internal staff is having to do. Ideally, this sort of clause should be built into a purchase up front, and it would have to start with large customers, but MS (and other vendors) need to face some serious financial consequences for blunders like this...
      • Re:This hit us. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:42AM (#5751252) Homepage
        That's not the deal they signed with Microsoft. The deal says that the company pays Microsoft a ton of money in exchange for using their software and technical support of that software. It would be nice if MS gave them a break for all the time the support staff spent dealing with bugs, but that wasn't the deal. If you even proposed that deal I would bet that MS would tell you to get lost. "What are you going to do? Not use Office?"

        From a practical point of view, who verifies the costs? What if I report to Microsoft that my 100 person support team spent two work days dealing with some small bug. And by the way, our support people make $250k/year.

        As nice as your proposal sounds in terms of fairness, any person or company has two choices in software:

        1) Use Microsoft's products and take what they're given.

        2) Don't use Microsoft's products.

        The parent poster's company has made its decision. They should deal with it.

        -B
        • Re:This hit us. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) <[xanadu] [at] [inorbit.com]> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:50AM (#5751327) Homepage Journal
          The parent poster's The parent poster's company has made its decision. They should deal with it.

          I got the impression that is exactly what his/her/it's point exactly was. They locked themselves into software that they only use because "everyone else does". I know I'm in the same boat despite everything I (litterally) prove otherwise. I'm surprised (from time to time) that I haven't got canned yet. I've been told (essentially) that I can't even say the "L" word anymore. OK, fine. I still speak up on alternatives, and also PROVE that they are viable ones (Mozzie, OOo, etc.). It's like talking to a wall, though.
          • Re:This hit us. (Score:3, Interesting)

            by JWW (79176)
            OpenOffice doesn't have an "L" word in it ;-)

            I do feel sorry for you about that, though. The Linux users group at my company had to shut down untder the same kind of threat. Funny thing, as they allow internally hosted employee group sites from quilting to fishing to almost anything you can think of, but LINUX, can't have a site for THAT.
        • Re:This hit us. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DarkZero (516460)
          From a practical point of view, who verifies the costs? What if I report to Microsoft that my 100 person support team spent two work days dealing with some small bug. And by the way, our support people make $250k/year.

          There's definitely a way to implement this in the contract. As with any contract regarding constant service, from rental homes that require repairs to service contracts for air conditioners and heaters, a penalty for lack of service can be required either at a set rate, by percentage, or som
    • Re:This hit us. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tempestdata (457317) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:28AM (#5751135)
      hah! You're having trouble with your company not wanting to use Linux for the desktop. My company wants to have nothing to do with open source. They wont even let me use an open source library for an internal tool!
      All the big wigs here think open source software is way too buggy to be trusted. At the same time I see them complaing about Microsoft bugs, and think to myself... "Lets assume for a minute that OSS is buggy, but atleast you are not paying for it!"
      But I dont care. I tried on multiple occassions to save the company money by advocating the use of open source libraries, and enhancing existing libraries, instead of writing them from scratch or purchasing a commericial one. I was made dismissed as being another one of those 'linux geeks who have no understanding of how business works'. Who knows? perhaps they are right. But I'm never going to try to propose an open source solution to a problem to this company again. Besides, I realized, that if my suggestion DID save the company money, I wouldn't get much out of the savings, all of it would go into the pockets of the top few. Whats the point?

      Anyway, as far as this bug goes. Microsoft will probably have a quick fix available on their website soon.
      • by sterno (16320) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @11:15AM (#5751565) Homepage
        The reason that they won't touch OSS is because they perceive risk to their careers in going with it. It's not that OSS is more or less buggy, it's a matter of them having to take the blame if it goes badly. If you buy from a proprietary software vendor, then you've got somebody that you are paying, that you can yell at if things go wrong. The decision to use their software won't ever be questioned, and either they'll be made to fix it, or another vendor will be chosen. The decision to pick that vendor will likely never be questioned as long as the manager can show some due diligence in making the decision.

        On the other hand, if they choose an open source product, if there is a bug, there's nobody to pass the buck too. So the manager is taking on the burden of responsibility if that software does have bugs in it. He'll be perceived as exposing the company to unnecessary risk just to save a few bucks.

        This is part of an overall attitude problem in corporate america. Managers, generally, suffer more for a mistake than they gain for a success. Success is expected, that's doing your job. Failure is incompetence. Of course failure caused by an effort to get the company ahead of the game is still failure, so why take the risk. Hire contractors, and pay for software vendors because if there is a mistake you just dump the blame onto them, cut ties, and your job is secure.
        • by Gauchito (657370) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @11:55AM (#5751846)
          But that's what companies such as Redhat use as their business model. They don't only sell support, they also sell responsibility, and provide a target for managers to blame so they can tell they're managers it's an outside problem, and then they can say that any other delays they're having (whether related or not) stem from that.
        • by RoLi (141856)
          Completely wrong. This is not open source vs. closed source, this is established vs. "different".

          If you propose something different, you will have to take the responsibility for it, no matter wether it's open or closed source.

        • bad attitude (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Erris (531066)
          Hire contractors, and pay for software vendors because if there is a mistake you just dump the blame onto them, cut ties, and your job is secure.

          That mindset has always been silly and now it's dangerous. What happens to a moron who keeps buying stuff that sucks when he could get stuff that works for much less? Hmmm? The test case implementations of Linux enterprise wide are out and enough people know about them that it's in Forbes and the Economist read by the big dogs. The folks mindlessly clinging to

        • by SysKoll (48967)
          So this company's management has a mental neon sign saying "No one ever got fired for buying Microsoft". Which is false anyway: The architect of National Westminster bank got fired after recommending an all-MS front office solution.

          The parade is to dust that older sign saying "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM". Which also has exceptions but hush.

          Get the management to contact IBM Services, a branch of Big Blue that make half the revenue of IBM these days. They would be very happy to discuss Linux sol

        • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @01:25PM (#5752619) Homepage Journal
          On the other hand, if they choose an open source product, if there is a bug, there's nobody to pass the buck to.

          The problem with that argument is this: do you actually see Microsoft or any other software company actually _accepting_ laibilities due to bugs in their own software? So there's really no one to pass the buck to, regardless of who wrote the software, open or closed source. I guess at least you can _blame_ Microsoft and be somewhat out of the hot seat, but they would laugh at you if you want compensation for broken software.
    • Re:This hit us. (Score:5, Informative)

      by David McBride (183571) <david+slashdot@@@dwm...me...uk> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:39AM (#5751230) Homepage
      To protect against replay attacks, most security frameworks (including Kerberos, as used by Active Directory) insist that the clock skew (ie the difference in time) between two machines is smaller than a specified threshold -- in the case of Kerberos, the default is 5 minutes.

      By implication, if you put the clocks on your workstation back two years to fix this Office problem you must *also* do the same to every other host those workstations talk to, like the Domain Controllers.

      And if you put the clocks back on the DCs, every machine they talk to must have their clocks put back, and so on. Pretty soon, you're going to have to put the clocks back for a significant portion of your entire computing infrastructure.

      Which means that people are going to start getting very confused (and concerned) when web frontends, emails and other documents from affected companies start showing dates in 2001...

      I guess we can call this the Real Millennium Bug.

      Anyone seen any cases yet?
    • by anticypher (48312) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (rehpycitna)> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:49AM (#5751316) Homepage
      I've been getting a few calls from friends who have seen this the last two days. Lots of companies are suffering through this.

      So far, one really big ex-client with 20000+ office2k installations has had their help desk swamped with calls from clueless/scared secretaries and PHBs. Since this place exists just to create huge amounts of worthless documentation, no M$Office means no work is getting done. Aparently there was a lot of screaming and shouting in the IT department yesterday, stress levels are through the roof, and finger pointing is the only activity going on.

      Despite a huge support contract with the beast from redmond, they haven't been able to get a real response (they also got the set the clock back idiocy, which doesn't work). I've told the big boss to keep track of lost time, and to smack the M$ sales slime for the bill next contract renewal time. Guesstimates from the M$ support people is that they may have a fix to be rolled out by hand on all 21200 machines by the end of next week, at the earliest. So much for a 2 million euro/year support contract.

      the AC
    • by iabervon (1971) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @12:36PM (#5752205) Homepage Journal
      In order to get good tech support from MicroSoft, you need to use the secret codephrase. In this case, it's "We'll just use OpenOffice until you get it fixed." If you say that, they'll handle everything twice as fast. And when purchasing time comes around, don't forget the magic phrase, "We're evaluating open source alternatives" good for half off the price.
  • by deego (587575) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:05AM (#5750902)
    > again. And again, and again.

    It's all about creating trust. Interaction increases trust.
  • by Bobulusman (467474) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:05AM (#5750909)
    I'm using Office 2000 SR1 (not SR1a), so I'm just fine. I never really felt a reason to upgrade, since I haven't had a problem with it since I installed more than a year ago.
    • I'm using Office 2000 SR1 (not SR1a), so I'm just fine. I never really felt a reason to upgrade, since I haven't had a problem with it since I installed more than a year ago.

      Well, I'm using Office 97. Nothing wrong with it. So there.
  • by xchino (591175) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:06AM (#5750911)
    ..of MS Licensing 7.0. Your software decides when you've used the program enough, and decides that you should probably be paying more for this great program.
  • QC? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by say (191220) <sigve&wolfraidah,no> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:06AM (#5750913) Homepage
    This seems like quite a nasty failure in Microsoft's QC department. Heads will probably roll.

    My company is not affected, though. We have a few Office 2000s installed, but they work without trouble. My school, on the other hand, changed to OpenOffice a year ago. Guess that's the safer choice for now ;)

    But seriously: If Microsoft keeps making mistakes like this one (which effectively costs a LOT to large companies), they're pretty much giving away a huge market share to open source. Thank God they are (still) so incompetent!

    • Re:QC? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MECC (8478) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:28AM (#5751125)
      HoHoHo! Like they've lost market share as a result of any other problems. Sadly, there will always be a healthy supply of muffin-headed consumers only capable of buying msoft. They're the MS-Kateers. Free from the burden of thought, they shell out for 'software' that is just like what the Jones' have. If the Jones' use it, it must be good. Never mind it spreads viruses faster than a whore on a submarine.
    • Re:QC? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pmz (462998)
      This seems like quite a nasty failure in Microsoft's QC department.

      Actually, this is more an indication that MS doesn't have anything resembling a QC department.

      This bug appears to be affecting so many people with such a clear cause-and-effect relationship to the upgrade, that I doubt anyone at Microsoft even tested the damn patch!

      Perhaps more plausible is that internal Microsoft software doesn't have "activiation" or "licenses", meaning that even if they did try to test the patch, they really didn't te
  • open office (Score:5, Funny)

    by w1r3sp33d (593084) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:06AM (#5750915)
    it's too bad I am running open office, now I have to work today.
  • A reported fix is to set one's clock back 2 years. Perhaps they can set their clocks back 4 years to see if they can survive y2k this time round.

    Why do corporates put up with this shit??!!??

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:08AM (#5750925)
    Oh wait, we use this at work ... ;-)
  • upgrade (Score:5, Informative)

    by asv108 (141455) <{alex} {at} {phataudio.org}> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:08AM (#5750929) Homepage Journal
    To OpenOffice.org [openoffice.org](No Reg Required). Openoffice is now to the point where it is more than adequate for 90% of MS Office users, especially those who just use word and powerpoint. For the other 10%, just keep using MS Office.
    • Re:upgrade (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dmccarty (152630) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:14AM (#5750995)
      [...] those who just use word and powerpoint.

      Is OpenOffice really there yet? During our final presentation last week in a CS class, a fellow was trying to explain to the teacher why his entire presentation featured scrunched up, barely legible text. "I created it in OpenOffice and brought it into PowerPoint," he explained, as the class laughed at at him.

      I'm not saying that it's not a good product, but is it ready for prime time?

      • Re:upgrade (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot.castlesteelstone@us> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:24AM (#5751083) Homepage Journal
        Is OpenOffice really there yet? During our final presentation last week in a CS class, a fellow was trying to explain to the teacher why his entire presentation featured scrunched up, barely legible text. "I created it in OpenOffice and brought it into PowerPoint," he explained, as the class laughed at at him.

        The student deserved it. He should AT LEAST have ran through it once on the presentation setup, to catch any bugs like that. (We do that here at work, and we all have the exact same system.)

        OoO isn't quite ready for prime time yet (see last 2 journal entries). It's getting better and better, but it's still behind Office in too many areas to perform a coup.
      • Re:upgrade (Score:5, Insightful)

        by johnnyb (4816) <jonathan@bartlettpublishing.com> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:24AM (#5751094) Homepage
        That's true any time you transport documents - INCLUDING UPGRADING BETWEEN VERSIONS OF THE SAME PRODUCT. If you have different fonts, if you have different software versions, etc., etc. My guess is that he actually created it on _Linux_ using OpenOffice (Linux has completely different fonts) and then moved it to Office. Font issues (at least from my experience) do not exist on Windows OfficeWindows StarOffice conversions.

        The only way to _really_ be sure that something looks exactly right in two places is to use PDF.

        THe same thing would have likely happened in many other cases not involving StarOffice at all.

        I'm not saying StarOffice is perfect, but people seem to be blaming StarOffice for every little problem they have, completely ignoring the times when they happen on their current system, or even when it might not be StarOffice that's at fault.

        One thing I love about the latest StarOffice beta is that it allows you to convert PPT files to Flash for web usage - that's a cool feature!
      • Re:upgrade (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MeNeXT (200840)
        I wonder how many of those who laughed had a legal copy of MS Office?

  • Ahem... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ace Rimmer (179561) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:08AM (#5750937)
    Nice bug. They really encourage people to pirate so-called corporate versions (no activation needed).

    I'm looking forward to a day when BSA (and other above-law organisations) will enforce all win users to buy ms licences for everything they use. That'd be a happy day for Linux.
    • Re:Ahem... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Phronesis (175966)
      They really encourage people to pirate so-called corporate versions (no activation needed).

      Read the article. This bug affects only the corporate versions:

      The problem appears to centre on the Select Customer - ie. non-academic volume licence purchasers
  • sue? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by adamruck (638131) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:10AM (#5750948)
    how long before someone sues microsoft for lost time/effort , 80000 pc's for a single company.. how many pc's total? Could it be in the millions?
    The only thing I can think of protecting mircrosoft would be the EULA, but im no expert in that area.
    • Re:sue? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @12:22PM (#5752058) Homepage Journal
      Microsoft isn't the correct party to sue over this.

      The lawsuit should be by the stockholders of a company, against execs that sign large licensing agreements with Microsoft after this incident. Microsoft fuckups are now a historically established and well known problem. Only an incompetent (or corrupt?) executive would flush company equity down the drain like that, or take such huge risks in the future. That would be wilfully negligent mismanagement of someone else's assets.

      I hate to say it... but it might be worthwhile to examine such an executive's own portfolio, to see if they have anything to personally gain by transferring funds from the company where they work, to Microsoft. Although I'd certainly hope it's not the case, it may be that there's more going on than mere negligence.

      Nah, I'm being paranoid. Nobody running a large company would do anything against the interests of stockholders for their own personal financial gain. Just forget I said it -- it's so inconceivable.

  • by jamesjw (213986) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:11AM (#5750956) Homepage

    I think Microsoft have gone a little overboard this time.. maybe they got the licence code crossed with the auto save..

    "It has been fifteen minutes since you last entered your licence number, would you like to enter it again now? [Yes] [Yes] or [YES!]" :)

    -- Jim.
  • by haystor (102186) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:14AM (#5750990)
    Every time I hear that software price is only a small consideration in TCO, I wonder where licensing administration goes in that TCO. Be sure to file this one in there too.

    I've also never seen acquisition costs for free software, "well I've got a meeting with the vendor this afternoon. we're gonna haggle over the price of 20 seats."
  • Piracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wiggys (621350) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:14AM (#5750993)
    Yet another example of how ordinary consumers can be hurt by anti-piracy measures.

    So far we've seen:

    products which won't work after 30 days until you "activate them" (Win XP, Office XP, Autocad, etc),
    games which install fully to your hard-drive but require the CD in to be played,
    games which require a CD key to be played online (try playing a second-hand game online!),
    games which won't work with certain CD drives thanks to the way the Safedisk copy protection system works,
    programs which require you to enter a particular word or phrase from the manual every time you want to use it,
    CDs which stop you from making a legal backup copy,
    DVDs which only work if you are in a particular region, or use a particular OS, not to mention Macrovision problems
    etc etc. Yet the people who pirate products rarely have any of the above mentioned problems. OK, so they have to keep up-to-date with keygens and no-CD patches, but my point is that ordinary consumers are penalised for the crimes of others.

    • Re:Piracy (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hobophile (602318) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:44AM (#5751268) Homepage
      games which won't work with certain CD drives thanks to the way the Safedisk copy protection system works,

      I am going to second this point, as it truly is one of my pet peeves.

      The new Securom 4 is absolutely awful about this. I have many friends whose brand new games will not play because Securom tries to do things with their brand new CD-ROM drives that those drives just don't handle well.

      What are these customers supposed to do? Buy a new CD-ROM drive? What if that one doesn't work either?

      The one solid workaround that I have found is to use Daemon Tools in conjunction with a product like Alcohol 120% to create a perfect MDS image of the CD.

      Let's face it. With names like "Daemon Tools" and "Alcohol" these products are clearly not targetting your casual software buyer, who is just as likely as a pirate to be locked out of a game he legally purchased. They won't know what's going on, they just know that their game doesn't work 90% of the time. Oh, and good luck returning that opened software if they simply can't get it to work at all.

      The irony here is that anyone who makes an effort to play games illegally is probably familiar with these tools, which is to say precisely the people Safedisc, Securom and others are trying to stop.

      Most asinine of all is that the games which have CD-keys and are more or less entirely multiplayer oriented -- Warcraft 3, Unreal Tournament 2003 -- have for some reason adopted the most bleeding edge versions of Securom. Anyone serious about the game is going to need a legitimate copy of the game in order to have a valid CD key! Why force them to have the real CD inserted as well?

      So far Bioware, with Neverwinter Nights, gets my award for the most clued-in company in this regard. NWN shipped with Securom 4 support, which was almost immediately disabled by the first patch.

      I only wish Blizzard would do the same for Warcraft 3, so I could stop explaining to my friends that everyone gets those "Please insert the game CD" messages, and that their options are: repeatedly click 'OK' until the stars align properly and the game decides you're not evil; or, use an MDS image with Daemon Tools and you won't have any more trouble.

      • Re:Piracy (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wiggys (621350)
        A friend of mine bought Command and Conquer on the budget range recently. It wouldn't work - came up with a strange error message about a .TMP file.

        I looked on the net and discovered it was a SafeDisk problem - his CD drive wasn't behaving in a way which was compatible with Safedisk.

        He could have returned the game to the shop, bought a new CDROM drive and hoped for the best, or resorted to www.gamecopyworld.com for a no-CD crack. In the end he chose the latter option, but he told me that he somehow feels

  • by Chocolate Teapot (639869) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:18AM (#5751024) Journal
    Within a couple of years you will not even be able to log into windows without standing with your hand on your heart, pledging allegiance to the gilded image of Chairman Gates and singing the anthem. All together now...

    "Developers, developers, developers, developers.."

  • good example! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:23AM (#5751077) Journal
    This is one good reason why things like online registration and verification (like Windows XP has), and certain flavours of DRM, are flawed. There's the obvious privacy concerns as well, but this is a good example to show your friends, family and bosses why this stuff is bad. They might care less about privacy and rights, but they will care that, when a registration or DRM scheme will screw up, you will not get the benefit of the doubt!. Instead you will be locked out of your system and/or data.

    This is a problem that PHBs, legislators and your dear old granny can understand, so spread the word.
  • Why is it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:27AM (#5751119) Journal
    That outside of the register and slashdot there's no mention of this bug? Google turns up empty, nothing in the MSDN.

    Apparently it's affecting few systems, and not every install of SR1a, else it would be major news and be covered by mainstream media, and there'd be a downloadable patch or something.

    Could it be some sort of user error? Installing as an unprivelidged user, or using some automated registry cleaner? Or Gator? Gator wrecks a lot of stuff, ya know.

    It isnt affecting anything in our office, or any of our clients.

    Is it possible that linux zealots are making a mountain out of a molehill? Nah, that's unpossible.
    • by FreeUser (11483) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @11:04AM (#5751464)
      Apparently it's affecting few systems, and not every install of SR1a, else it would be major news and be covered by mainstream media, and there'd be a downloadable patch or something.

      Or (much more likely) many of those same "news" organizations use the very product they cannot use today.

      Though I say that somewhat tongue in cheeck, it is quite possible Microsoft is excersizing its economic and legal muscle (threat of lawsuits etc.) to keep a number of customers and news sites quiet.

      Another factor is quite possibly that most people (rightfully) mistrust Microsoft and only upgrade when they are compelled to (e.g. purchasing new hardware, renewing a support contract with the Evil Empire, and so on). That being the case, most people who have stayed away from XP (the majority of Windows users), and those who are running old-enough versions to be unaffected, will not have been so crippled. This time.

      Whatever the reason, this is akin to the lack of DMCA criticism seen in the mainstream media (which is a part of the very cartels benefiting from the DMCA), the lack of skepticism in the reporting of "trusted computing", "DRM", "Palladium", et. al. Clearly it has been reported in a couple of places, and very obviously it is affecting a fair number of people.

      Silence doesn't mean nothing is going on. The fact that a few journalists have enough integrity to point out a story others either can't, or won't, report doesn't mean there is nothing going on. Did you really expect MSNBC to say something bad about Microsoft's core strategy ("trusted" computing)? They may hold their punches on bug reports and security alerts, but with something this important to their long-term monopolistic strategies you can bet they'll pull all the stops out to keep things as quiet as they can. We have seen such strong-arm tactics in the past WRT PC Magazine and others, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Microsoft was building its first monopoly. Expect to see such successful tactics used in a similair fashion as Microsoft seeks to encode its monopoly into every PC at the hardware level, and into every program at the software level through trusted key exchange and encryption protocols (Palladium, TCPA, DRM, etc.).

      Whether or not this particular instance is an example of such strong-arm, corporate censorship and intimidation isn't really important (I merely point out that such things have come out of Redmond in the past, and can be expected to again), it is important to remember that, in a Palladium/TCPA/DRM/Microsoft world, the ability of anyone to report any kind of failure of this kind will be reduced to zero as more and more people adopt such crippled technologies. For purely technical, if not both technical and political/litigious, reasons.

      The only real protection for people's data, freedom (including that of expression), and their ability to use the hardware and software they have purchased is to use uncrippled software. Right now those choices are limited to Apple and Free Software (on the consumer end), and to various non-Microsoft systems on the higher end (workstation/server). Of all those, only free software is guaranteed to remain uncrippled in perpetuity; all of the others can (and will, if it is deemed to be profitable) cripple their software at any time in the future whenever they so desire.

      Which is why anyone taking a long term view toward protecting and preserving the integrity and accessiblity of their data must at least consider using free software, and deploying it wherever possible.

      Open formats are good (and important), but open implimentations are really required for true safety. What good is an open format if only one company has adopted it, no free software to read it exists, and that company goes under? Not much, particularly if that format is difficult or cumbersome to impliment. Now you get to pay someone to reimpliment that open format in order to get at your data ... far better to have used
    • Re:Why is it (Score:5, Informative)

      by spinlocked (462072) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @11:22AM (#5751609)
      Apparently it's affecting few systems, and not every install of SR1a

      If you RTFA, you'll notice that it is affecting corporate users running Microsoft Select software. Microsoft Select is a bulk licensing scheme which saves corporations from all that tedious mucking about with license keys (a practical impossibility with this size of user base).

      I happen to know the 'global energy company' which is mentioned in The Register article. They pay Microsoft a huge sum of money for their software and this is going to affect their relationship significantly - they are not amused. I expect there will be a significant discount on future licenses, a large penalty payment or a very high profile public relations disaster for Microsoft.
  • by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:30AM (#5751150) Homepage
    Well least it gets round the problem of any pirated software. No one can run anything now :)

    rus
  • by TWagers (657500) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @10:34AM (#5751183)
    I work for the help desk of a company that supports 30,000 windows PC's, and while we have never officially deployed or distributed Office 2000, we do have a few users that have it installed. We got an advisory from our backline support that this problem is discussed in a technical article Microsoft provided to its partners. The partner-level article is 816642 - You Cannot Register Office 2000 After You Change the System Date. The link is https://premier.microsoft.com/premier/library/defa ult.aspx?path=/premier/kb/en-us/816/6/42.ASP?KBID= 816642 , but if you don't have premium support, you can't view it, and I can't find a mirror of it via Google. The cause? Well, the issue appears related to the "End of life" code written into the product, which is what that article discusses. Apparently, Microsoft coded Office 2000 to 'expire' and to need to be reativated at some point, but apparently there's a glitch in that code that causes it to happen over and over again.
  • by thogard (43403) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @11:35AM (#5751699) Homepage
    If sun knew what was good for them, they would fedex a copy of Star Office with a license allowing the company to use the current version forever for free to every major company that got nailed by this. If any of thouse compaiens took the StarOffice solution, then they would be making a killing on license fees with the next version or else they are out the cost of a fedex packet and a CD. Considering how much sun sends out anyway, it makes me wondering whats going on inside their marketing department... Oh never mind its a marketing department so nothing useful is going on.
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @01:25PM (#5752618) Homepage
    Don't ever set your clock back. Some other copy protection schemes, such as Globetrotter/Macrovision's FLEXLM, interpret that as an attempt to extend an expired license and lock out the license [globetrotter.com]. (FLEXLM returns an error code of -88) Worse, FLEXLM records, in some secret place, that this has happened. Setting the clock forward again may not fix it. One Softimage|3D manual said that the computer had to be discarded if this had happened.
  • Not a bug.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by lionchild (581331) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @02:02PM (#5752909) Journal
    Remember, it's not really a bug in the software, it's a liscensing feature!
  • by aking137 (266199) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @02:03PM (#5752917)
    This error can occur in (AFAIK) the first version of Microsoft Office 2000, on at least Windows NT (SP6a) and Windows 2000 (original release).

    Within the first few seconds of running Office, users are prompted with the one line message:

    "Do you wish to register Microsoft Office 2000 Professional?"

    Whether the users click Yes or No, Office (whether it be Word|Excel|Access|Publisher|Powerpoint) just simply exits.

    It had me confused for a bit, until I realised that you have to log on to the machine as /local administrator/ and then click 'No'. I suspect the reason is that when you submit your answer, Office tries to amend a file or registry key that is writable only by local administrator, and so it fails.

    Once this has been done once per machine, Office 2000 has worked fine for us.

    Presumably this simple fix no longer applies for Office 2000 SR1a, since it made a Slashdot post.
  • Further Implications (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pkinetics (549289) on Thursday April 17, 2003 @02:04PM (#5752922)
    Has anyone else noticed that this is a little more far reaching impact.

    MS has effectively been able to disable an application suite that has been purchased, based on a date.

    It won't take much more for them to figure out how to make it so that its part of an application service pack update.

    And how much harder would this be to tie into an OS. Instead of a blue screen of death, you'd get nothing. Heck, imagine trying to boot your system and getting nothing.

    Some say MS would never do this, that it would hurt the market too much.

    But how many people don't rush out to get the new OS, who stay 2 or more versions behind, who really don't care about upgrading.

    The next update you get from MS could render your system inoperable after a few years. ***wisecracks left out***

    "Hmm... we need to disable Win2k systems so that we can drive market sales for our next OS we release in 2005."

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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