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Microsoft Privacy

Microsoft Giving Away Vista Ultimate, With a Catch 495

Opinari writes "In case you haven't heard, Microsoft is giving away copies of Windows Vista Ultimate (32-bit or 64-bit DVD), Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007, Microsoft Money Plus Premium, Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008, or Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 — you can choose any one. The caveat is that you have to let them monitor your use of the program."
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Microsoft Giving Away Vista Ultimate, With a Catch

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  • by Z80xxc! ( 1111479 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:00AM (#21667459)

    Instead of letting them see every single thing you do on your computer for a whole 3 months (or longer... who knows what stays on your computer after installing the software), why not install Windows XP in a VM, install their crap, run it once or twice a week to "check your email" or whatever, and then after three months, collect your software? They only see what goes on in the VM, you get your free Vista and everyone's happy. Well, if using Vista can be considered as something that would make you happy.

    Just to show how bad their monitoring actually is:

    3. Additional data collection

    The following list describes some examples of additional data collection our software performs:

    • Windows settings and usage, such as the number of user accounts on the computer and the view settings for Control Panel (that is, if you use the default Category view or the Classic view to display Control Panel).
    • Details about your computer hardware, such as processor type and speed (as well as the number of processors), system memory, video memory, and other hardware configuration information.
    • File and folder information, such as the number of files and folders located in common places (for example, in Documents).
      * Which programs you open (for example, which application you use to read your e-mail).
      * Changes you make to your hardware or software.
      * Problems you encounter, such as application crashes.

    They're basically looking at everything you do. Here's my favorite bit from the whole thing:

    This sounds good, but I'm still concerned. Is this anything like the "spyware" I've heard about?
    No, this is not spyware. You choose to participate in the Windows Feedback Program and you can easily withdraw from the Program at any time with no penalty whatsoever.

    This sounds like spyware? Yeah, I'll say. But noooooooo, it's not at all harmful for your computer. Rigghhhtttt....

  • Prior Art (Score:5, Insightful)

    by madbawa ( 929673 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:05AM (#21667501) Journal
    They want us to let them monitor use of their program?? Don't they do that already???
  • by Kawahee ( 901497 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:06AM (#21667513) Homepage Journal

    They're basically looking at everything you do
    Yes, they're looking at everything they do with Windows, not everything you do with your data.
  • by xubu_caapn ( 1086401 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:07AM (#21667517)
    I don't see the issue here. No question of privacy really, people can choose to do this or not, and it's openly the catch. Microsoft probably wants to watch people's use of it to see what people have trouble with and what they can improve..
  • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:17AM (#21667597) Journal
    Do people still not understand how Vista manages RAM? This is slashdot, of all places I'd expect the people here to understand pre-emptive caching. That 50% RAM usage isn't Vista, it's all kinds of stuff that you are constantly opening being kept in memory so that the next time you need it the program can open faster. It learns your habits and caches stuff it knows you frequently use. It's the reason why WMP11, firefox, or word opens nearly instantly when I click on it. You can even turn this feature off it bugs you so much, it's a service called superfetch.

    There are legitimate reasons for disliking Vista, there's so many in fact that you don't need to be using this false one to pad your list of complaints. When you do, it weakens your argument and makes it look like you don't have any idea what you're talking about.
  • by terrible76 ( 855014 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:27AM (#21667659) Homepage
    Sounds like its not free, but a way to save money instead of paying someone to test the software bugs. Give it away and just don't call it Beta testing. I think its more complicated and business wise then just spyware.
  • by moondo ( 177508 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:42AM (#21667785)
    This is probably something to do with sites like that caught on the deal earlier and maxed out the freebie. Just one of their threads [] on this deal has over 47,000 views.
  • by Zorque ( 894011 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:43AM (#21667791)
    At least it's completely voluntary and you make ~$400 off of it. Why are people getting upset that Microsoft is paying you for providing them with information? It's not like it's mandatory for Windows users.
  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:44AM (#21667797) Journal
    The caveat is that you have to let them monitor your use of the program.

    This gives the false impression that Microsoft somehow does not monitor the use of Vista for non-participants! Every single Vista user is monitored... actually every single Windows user AND Office user is continuously monitored for Genuine Disadvantage from Windows 2000 onwards, if not earlier.

    Will Microsoft add these freeloaders / testers while reporting Vista sales? Why not simply admit failure; accept that Vista was a crappy effort; and actually write a new OS capable of running on existing hardware; and existing software apps? The entire PC ecosystem has been broken by Vista; and the customer (even clueless home users) has revolted; taking his business elsewhere (Apple / Linux) and ditching Windows altogether.

    Everybody from the hardware OEMs to software developers has lost out because of Vista... so they're going cross-platform (Java) or Linux (the EEE PC from Asus). If Microsoft does not abandon Vista immediately and cut its losses; pretty soon it will have to abandon Windows AND Office entirely.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:47AM (#21667821)
    "They're basically looking at everything you do. "

    Only if you redefine "everything" for moderation purposes.
  • by Asmor ( 775910 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:52AM (#21667853) Homepage
    Glad to see that you guys don't let facts get in the way of a good MS bash.

    Anyways, just in the in case there's anyone actually curious about this and not just interested in kneejerk reactions about poorly-written, inflammatory summary.

    I've actually RTFA (and a page linked off of it) and here's something the summary completely neglects to mention:

    The automated data collection is one of two different options you can pick; the other is to be asked to fill out a survey not more often than once every two weeks. It sounds like you can pick either option.

    Now, that all said, there's also one more big thing: They're giving away FREE copies of EXPENSIVE software* which many people NEED** or WANT with a perfectly reasonable caveat. They're being open and honest, and they're providing both a manual and an automatic method of data collection. The latter is particularly appealing to many, because it basically means they can just forget about it. Those who are worried about their privacy can take the surveys.

    Disclaimer: I am a fanboy of many things, including Xbox 360, but not Microsoft in general. I like Windows XP and hate most everything that MS has put out which isn't an OS (i.e. office, internet explorer, etc). I'll definitely not be participating simply because I'm not interested in any of the offerings.

    *Expensive for a typical end user, I don't care how much your company paid for its graphics design software
    **Again, typical end user who doesn't know what OpenOffice is and just wants to be able to open their files at work without thinking about converting file types.
  • by mrscott ( 548097 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:28AM (#21668031)
    I guess it depends on how you personally think of spyware. Me - if I opt in and tell Microsoft that it's ok for them to do this and I'm getting something in return - yep, that's probably not spyware in the malware sense.

    And, if they're checking your hardware, they can probably tell very easily if it's running in a VM.

    Interesting how you define "everything". I doubt they really care what I have in my Word files, what I have in my Excel spreadsheets, etc. They're looking for general usage patterns to identify how people are really using their software. In my opinion, this is a GOOD THING. Instead of making, for example, the assumption that everyone just loves the new Control Panel layout, they're actually "polling" users via this method.

    Chalk one up for MS on this one.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:35AM (#21668071)
    I'm a big Linux fan... but I don't understand your reasoning here:

    If Microsoft does not abandon Vista immediately and cut its losses; pretty soon it will have to abandon Windows AND Office entirely.
    How can Vista prompt this? Granted, on low-end hardware, Vista is a dog that likes interrupting you with bullshit prompts. But Microsoft is still selling XP due to popular demand.

    I would love to trumpet the impending arrival of Linux dominance but there is the reality that people and companies stick with what they know -- even if it's a PITA. MS would have to give them a major kick in the ass for them to see the hassle of moving from Windows as worth it. And I don't see even Vista doing that. At worst, companies and people will stick with XP.

    Which from Microsoft's financial perspective isn't that bad.
  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:18AM (#21668247) Journal
    How can Vista prompt this? Granted, on low-end hardware, Vista is a dog that likes interrupting you with bullshit prompts. But Microsoft is still selling XP due to popular demand.

    On so-called low end hardware... which is very high end for Windows 2000 (remember Win2K can do everything a home user or office user needs, TODAY )Microsoft does not have any software to offer today, that customers can buy with confidence. No doubt XP is being offered on the OLPC, the XO laptop and the EEE PC... but it's a very dicey prospect bcos July 2008 will be the last chance for OEMs to bundle XP.

    Microsoft has to create an INCENTIVE for people to use Vista; the reality today is that almost everyone removes even pre-installed Vista and loads XP. So a year from now.... 2 years after Vista has been launched; there will be hardly anyone using Vista; bcos XP is much better at getting things done and needs much lesser hardware.

    If Microsoft withdraws XP from the market in July 2008 and makes fresh sales of XP illegal; then non-corporate-licensed users looking for additional PCs will be forced to choose Vista or Mac or Linux. I doubt they will go in for Vista, because the effort to change from XP to Vista is about the same as XP to Linux or Mac.

    there is the reality that people and companies stick with what they know -- even if it's a PITA. MS would have to give them a major kick in the ass for them to see the hassle of moving from Windows as worth it. And I don't see even Vista doing that. At worst, companies and people will stick with XP.

    I think you are underestimating the power of the marketplace, word-of-mouth marketing etc. The success of gmail and Google is testimony to the fact that open source software can build world-class software solutions; that work equally well on non-MS platforms. Many companies have decided to move away from .Net; and stick to J2EE, PHP or RoR on Linux servers; with browsers the only thing needed on the client side. If a Windows desktop is unviable for a browser, companies and people will simply move to Linux desktops - the success of the Linux-based EEE PC, and Microsoft's frantic efforts to get SOME Windows OS into these tiny PCs also vindicates my point.

    Hardware OEMs will hesitate to bundle a dying OS like XP onto their latest offerings - they risk the prospective customer looking for new, flashy things... so if Vista is no good, they'd go to Ubuntu or Xandros instead. And once thousands of customers get comfy with Linux and understand its power and potential; they will never again switch back to Windows.

    In short, Microsoft has to release a new OS (not Vista... Vista has to be abandoned) before XP goes out of sale. In fact I think it's already too late... it takes atleast 2 years for the market to warm up to anything new.
  • by SiriusStarr ( 1196697 ) <> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:24AM (#21668269)
    This is actually not too bad of a deal for one not concerned about their privacy. I can see educational institutions, businesses, or low-income individuals welcoming monetarily-free software. Besides, it beats them just implementing a feedback system regardless and still charging you $300 for the software.
  • Ummm... NO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:29AM (#21668301) Homepage Journal
    A) MS will make some drastic changes to boost Vista. Like remove DRM
    B) MS will go back to XP and continue selling that until they try yet again at a new OS.

    The failure Of Bob and ME didn't exactly stop them, and neither will the failure of Vista.

    Consider how much money MS has sunk on Office for Vista, there may be a chance they just Give Vista away in order to maintain there desktop office monopoly. I don't have high hopes.

    Now, I run Win2K because XP brings me exactly nothing. I just can't see paying 100 bucks for nothing..for an OS. I have dropped 100 bucks at craps. Hell, nearly took me 60 seconds!

    Now, Vista Ultimate does have some davatages for me..but not enough. It would need to be 100 bucks or less, and have no DRM.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:34AM (#21668329) Homepage Journal
    If some comes to your house and says:
    I'll give you 300 bucks, and in exchange I'll sit in the living room to see how you use furniture, and oh, btw I'll leave anytime you ask me, and you accept the offer. They aren't SPYING. Monitoring, but not spying. Now if you ask them to leave, and the sneak into a closet and monitor you from there, then it's SPYING.
    And considering Spying is unauthorized monitoring, You would be hard pressed to find any case where MS spies on you. Granted, thats a technicality, since they know perfectly well most people won't read the Eula, and if they did manage to stay awake in the attempt, wouldn't understand it to begin with.
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:47AM (#21668385)
    So what, I shouldn't have the right to voluntarily enter in to this sort of an agreement with a company? They shouldn't have the right to invite people to do so?

    Help me out here guys, I'm trying to see what right is involved.
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @05:19AM (#21668775)
    As far as I know, if you collect any data that shows someone has committed a crime, you're obliged to tell the police. E.g. psychologists have to report criminal activity if they are told about it, despite doctor/patient confidentiality. Let's suppose they collect a bunch of data on file accesses, which showed you downloading from bittorrent. If it is analyzed by a machine, I guess you haven't told a Microsoft employee and Microsoft is in the clear. But what happens if they send the log to a real person and he spots what you're doing? Then he'd know that you'd committed a crime and I think if he asked the company lawyers they'd advise him to report it.

    Maybe they can anonymize the logs so that a real person wouldn't know the identity of the person being monitored. But that seems like destruction of evidence to me. I'm not sure. But there was a case where a judge ordered a torrent site to turn over a list of IP addresses. They said that they only kept them in Ram, and they were ordered to log them to disk.

    E.g. here []

    So it seems like not only are you obligated to turn over evidence of criminal activity, you can actually be forced to record it permanently if you weren't already. I guess if you refuse, that would be destruction of evidence or contempt of court or something which would have serious penalties. All of which makes collecting data from people a bit of a minefield. It seems like if it is anonymous enough for them to sign up it will be too anonymous for a court if there is a possibility that any of the people you are collecting from are bittorrent users.
  • by plierhead ( 570797 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @05:26AM (#21668807) Journal
    I'm no MS fanboy but hey, lets not get all emotional. If your company was putting out a similar offer for your own software your lawyers would be damn sure too to put "not limited to" after the list of data being collected. Its a standard legal phrase that you use unless you actually a) do have the complete, exhaustive list of what will be collected, and b) you are utterly confidnt that if someone changes what is collected that you will hear about it and get to change the terms of use.
  • Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unoengborg ( 209251 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @05:57AM (#21668915) Homepage
    This will give Microsoft valuable information that will help them develop better software in the future. The quesiton is how many users are prepared to trust them enough to allow this. But as it is comleatly volentary I see no problem in doing so, other than that they may get some biased results as people that value privacy and security most likely will not participate. However, personally, I wourld like to be paid a little more than just with some free software to do this kind of testing for Microsoft.

    I would actually like to see open source projects such as Gnome and KDE to do a similar thing (As long as it is volentary). Knowing how the users use their is essential to create good usable systems, and very few usability tests are performed on software in the FOSS world, so something like this would probably be even more beneficial to these kind of projects. I would also think that more people would be prepared to volontear this kind information to e.g. the KDE or Gnome team than they would to big evil Microsoft. After all very few Gnome or KDE users would worry about that a big evil company might discover unlicenced software on their systems.
  • Re:Free... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wiseman1024 ( 993899 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @07:44AM (#21669363)
    This is starting to look like a horror movie. They'll give you the OS for free, so long as you accept to be monitorized by the Dictatorsh- Chur- Magister- Corporation can control what you do. They want to see you happily consuming products from them and other corporations, and of course, they work to the best interest of the mafiaa (who'd think a company that sells products should look for the people who's paying them?).

  • Re:Free... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigdavesmith ( 928732 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @09:03AM (#21669711)

    The have to use Vista..
    Yeah, I've already given them my feedback by not downloading it. Even for free.
  • Re:Free... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @09:45AM (#21669975)
    Or you can take the option of just filling out an online survey.. but hey, why stop free bashing?
  • Re:Free... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:03PM (#21671489) Homepage
    Deep Crack and Distributed.Net's network of nearly 100,000 PCs on the Internet won DES Challenge III in 22 hours and 15 minutes. 1999, when the Pentium 200MHz was king. Today you could do the same with a garage full of Playstation 3s and some secondhand network hardware.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik