I am reinstalling Windows on a few of the systems here tonight and things are rapidly getting ridiculous. This is a not-altogether-abnormal household in terms of computer ownership (definitely on the upper side of ownership, but I know families without geeks who have similar numbers of computers, just on a one-per-person basis), and it’s actually getting impossible to keep track of things. Microsoft don’t offer domestic site licensing. But, damn, they should. I’m using ProduKey to audit licenses because I’m never going to affix those ridiculous OEM stickers to anything (so bite me, I’m a criminal) when they’re licensed with whatever dodgy hard drive or network card I bought them with. Accordingly, I’ve lost the key (yeah, $AU200 value) of one system, and confused the keys of three others — because, get this, we paid for three legit academic licenses which LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME AND DON’T HAVE STICKERS. So compliance on at least three systems is rendered damn near impossible, even if you do follow all of their ridiculous rules to the letter.
Not to mention the OEM copy of XP MCE sitting in a draw that I’d lost track of (I think the system is now using a regular XP Pro license) or the miscellaneous systems that have affixed OEM licenses but for which there is no (misplaced) physical media.
Accordingly, if I want to obey the OEM sticker directive, I’ve got to download a CD ISO from a torrent site (because I don’t fork out for MSDN). But MSDN is increasingly attractive; it effectively offers the desired outcome. Unlicensed, unactivated systems that work perfectly well on a subscription basis… sure, subs suck, but whenever they stop their XP activation servers we’re all going to be screwed, anyway, so it hardly matters.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting here making a list (on paper, which I’ll store with the physical media) of all the licenses in use, and roughly where. Thanks to the unauthorised rebuilding of systems that I own and have built from scratch so often (resourcefulness in anyone else’s book, evil work of a pirate to the draconian OEM overlords) whatever descriptions are attached to aforementioned systems is likely to be rendered completely untrue in eighteen months time when I once again get around to the wholesale slaughter rebuilding of them all. Intermittent reinstalls will probably happen, too, unless I’m driven so insane by the inability to discern one license from another I end up, as I do now, simply taking out the lot and shooting them all a new install.
To Microsoft: whatthehelldoyouwantmetodo? I am so not forking out the at-least-$2000 you would have me pay for retail Vista licenses for this lot – it’s that much because Vista Business retail licenses come in at a delicious $500 each. Say it with me: hell no. I’ve heard from a reliable system builder source that you’ve been telling them that the new OEM rules work in their favour as it’ll bring them more business. Sure, but it’s pretty crappy business if I don’t say so myself. I have absolutely no interest in becoming a Microsoft certified system anything, simply because it’d mean dealing with your crap in a professional capacity, and I deal with it quite enough in a professional capacity trying to do other sorts of development as my job, thankyouverymuch. I’m not going to pay a Microsoft tax twice (first for certification, second for individual licenses) just because you claim that your crappy system builders do it better than DIY-ers.
Whenever the time comes around to upgrade to Vista, if I ever deem it worthwhile on the other home desktops here not for any commercial pursuits (still running Business in response to the crippling networking capabilities of all Home line products), I’ll be making a trip to my local store, who, for what it’s worth, don’t even offer retail Vista Business for sale on their website, but mention the OEM edition an awful lot, with the token “(only sold w/ new system or to a system builder)” tacked on to placate anyone from officialdom who comes looking. I haven’t had the pleasure of breaking OEM conditions-of-sale (that’s all they are… are such things even legally enforcable in this country?!) just yet, but have no doubts there will be ample places that want to take my money when and/or if I do.
I’m actually in the position of having one spare XP license (two if you count XP MCE) at this point, but am sorely tempted to install Linux on at least one of the three systems I’m taking care of tonight just to avoid having to deal with these mediocre attempts at extortion in the future. It’s not morally defensible to refuse to acknowledge system builders as “original equipment manufacturers” when they are, in fact, conducting exactly the same tasks as their so-called ‘certified’ builders. Clearly, it’s not being pursued for retail sale: the only retail products that belong in an operating system product mix are upgrades for people who enjoy having computers that don’t work (i.e. most of the population, anyway).
It’s an indictment upon the difficulty of upgrading/reinstalling Windows that so few people take this route: quite frankly, the products don’t work. Everyone who is unqualified (in the literal, capable-of sense, not some arbitrary didacourse, paidMSsomemoney sense) to build a computer, in my experience, is unqualified to successfully install Windows independently. Even if they succeed at booting from a CD, negotiating the installer prompts (admittedly better than they used to be), manually answering questions about daylight savings and other such things that should long since have been dealt with automagically (c’mon, we’ve had GeoIP products for what, ten years now? Longer?), or at least correct from the outset (two HP machines last week were insistent the default timezone should be Singapore. They shipped in Australia. Is it so bloody hard to pick a populous east-coast state zone as the default?), chances of users correctly installing things such as drivers in post-install stages are slim to none. Nearly all phone a tech-saavy friend (I know no-one who’s ever called the Microsoft support line for OS installs… more should, but few do).
The point stands: retail licenses are for newbies, OEM licenses should be accessible to everyone who doesn’t give a crap about shiny packaging, manuals, and shooting their wallet to bits.
Here endeth the rant.