Radschool Association Magazine - Vol 20

Page 4

Computers and stuff

Sam Houliston

 

Windows Genuine Advantage.

 

When it was first released, Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) was widely criticized for spyware like qualities and numerous false positives. Since them Microsoft has given its anticopying program a number of changes, but they're not enough to give this tool a positive reputation.

 

The way that WGA works today

Microsoft promotes Windows Genuine Advantage as a way to let customers avoid the security risks of malware-laden counterfeits. WGA is supposed to detect whether a user's copy of Windows is counterfeit and, if it is, tell the user how to obtain a genuine copy.

WGA affects users of both Vista and XP. The impact is potentially greater on Vista, where a copy found not to be genuine has certain features disabled, including the Aero interface, Windows ReadyBoost, and portions of Windows Defender. WGA is unavoidable in Vista, since the technology is built into Windows itself.

In Windows XP, failure to be validated by WGA means users cannot download some content (such as optional updates) from Microsoft. In addition, XP users may be treated to alerts complaining that their version of Windows is not genuine, and advising them how to correct the situation.

 

However, unlike Vista users, XP customers may be able to avoid WGA by watching what they install on their systems.

Windows Genuine Advantage has two components, validation (which checks for an authentic licensed version) and notifications (the software that alerts you if you fail validation). In XP, the two are separate downloads.

To learn if your XP system has either of these components, do the following:

Step 1. Start Windows Explorer and choose Tools, Options.

Step 2. Click the View tab and select Show hidden files and folders. Then uncheck Hide protected operating system files (Recommended). Click Yes to confirm, and then click OK.

Step 3. To learn if your system has the WGA Validation Tool, search for the file LegitCheckControl.dll in Windows' System32 folder. If you find it, the Validation Tool is already on your system.

Step 4. Finally, to learn if your system has the WGA Notifications software, search for WGATray.exe or WgaLogon.dll. These files indicate the presence of the Notifications utility.

If you already have these on your system but haven't experienced any problems, you probably don't need to take any further steps. If so, there is a free tool for deleting it.
 

If you don't have the Validation or Notifications tools on your system, you can avoid them by avoiding Windows Update, Microsoft Update, and Microsoft's download Web site.You can still get updates without WGA by using the Automatic Updates control panel. To have full control over your update process without allowing WGA to be installed, the Software Patch site lets you pick and choose the updates you need.

Even with the Software Patch approach, you may need to exercise caution. High-priority updates do not require WGA to be installed, but any downloads from the "Optional updates" section may include WGA components as part of the installation process. Be sure to read the installer screens carefully in each case.

 

What's new with WGA?

Microsoft has attempted to make WGA less odious by changing some of the features that initially brought a great deal of criticism. For example, early versions of WGA sent information from users' computers to Microsoft every day. This was later changed to weekly and Microsoft have advise that they were stopped completely by the end of 2006.


But that doesn't mean data is never sent to the home office. WGA sends Microsoft information about your computer hardware every time it does a validation check (for example, when you attempt to download certain updates). Microsoft denies that any personal information is being collected.

WGA problems persist for Windows users

Unfortunately, despite some positive changes in WGA, problems continue to crop up:

In August 2007, a problem with Microsoft's WGA servers mistakenly labeled thousands of computers as "nongenuine," restricting some Vista capabilities for a time.


A number of popular software products, including PC Tools Spyware Doctor and Trend Micro Internet Security, have caused WGA to report "nongenuine status" or prevent activation. Users have had to download updates for the implicated products in order to correct the problem.

Trial versions of some Office 2007 products have also been known to flag Windows as not genuine. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, this problem has been corrected for all trial versions of Office as of Jan. 2007.

Microsoft claims that "false positives" (legitimate Windows systems being seen as counterfeit) are extremely rare, but even if that number is as low as Microsoft's estimate of 1%, that could still affect around 5 million users.

Despite Microsoft's claims to the contrary, WGA offers few if any benefits to the average user. If you know you've bought your copy of Windows from a legitimate source and have no reason to suspect piracy, WGA does little to help you. On the contrary, WGA could conceivably become a headache if you upgrade your computer hardware or if Microsoft experiences more problems with their WGA servers.

The software giant needs to find better solutions to the problem of piracy, rather than make the legitimate customer pay the price for problems facing Microsoft itself.

 

You can read more on this HERE

 

And, if you're just bought a new computer, and it came loaded with Windows' new operating system VISTA, you, like a lot of other people, are probably wondering why Microsoft went to all that trouble to develop such a system. Not too may people think Vista is a step forward, rather, they think it a giant leap backwards. Click HERE 

 

Apart from its incompatibility with a lot of programs, when compared to XP, it is terribly slow, due mainly to its horrendous size, and if you don't want to have to buy another version of XP, perhaps you should consider the free Linux-based offering called Ubuntu see HERE. This, for most people, will work just fine for things like email and Word documents (comes with Open Office), but you cannot easily install Windows versions of software products like PhotoShop although the Linux equivalent, 'The Gimp', is free.

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is actually not a very nice person. (This is an excellent rule of thumb - believe it!.)

Some people are like Slinkies (those coil shaped toys) not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs

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