WGA and Activation Failures Don’t Faze Redmond

WGA and Activation Failures Don’t Faze Redmond
While Microsoft insists that problems with the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program are much overblown — claiming last week that “only a fraction of a percent” of the systems that fail the WGA verification are actually legal — Microsoft’s customers keep saying otherwise. What’s worse, the WGA false negatives are leading to increasing number of situations where customers run afoul of XP’s product activation, leaving them to beg Microsoft and/or their PC vendor to help.

A few days ago Windows XP on my primary work computer decided that it wasn’t a legal copy. Strange since the copy running on there was pre-installed at the time that the machine was built by Alienware. There used to be a Windows serial number on the back of the machine, but the sticker has since fallen off. What’s worse, as soon as I started receiving the dreaded, “You may be a victim of software piracy…” notices, I also started noticing increased system instability. All of this culminated in what I can only assume was some form of malware infection, a hardware crash (related to my soundcard), and a pretty complete system failure.

I was angry for a moment, but then I realized: I don’t much like Windows anyway. So I wiped the offending garbage from my machine and installed Ubuntu Linux. All in all a painless process.

The truth is, Ubuntu “out of the box” is a little lacking (can’t play proprietary video formats, run PC apps, is missing much needed apps, etc), but with the use of an installer script called Automatix, I now have a free, highly functional, and stable OS. And it’s pretty to boot.

This isn’t the first time I’ve attempted a switch to Linux, but it is the first time that I’ve made the switch and am going to stay switched.

63 thoughts on “WGA and Activation Failures Don’t Faze Redmond”

  1. Hooray! Yet another Linux convert! I switched to Ubuntu (or rather Kubuntu) a while back, and I haven’t found a reason why I’d want to switch back to Windows except for gaming. And the nice thing is that slowly more and more game developers are starting to release Linux versions of their games.

    I’ve tried developing some games for Linux myself, just to see how hard it was, and it turns out that it really isn’t too hard. In fact, if you use SDL for the base, with OpenGL for graphics and OpenAL for sound, you can use the exact same code across all platforms, which is quite nifty indeed. (Granted OpenGL won’t quite give you the graphical power of DirectX, as it isn’t updated that often, but by now it really isn’t all that noticeable. Besides, since when did games turn to rely so heavily on graphics anyway?)

    In any case, for almost every major game out there there are requests for a Linux version nowadays. Hopefully we’ll see more of those in the near future . . .

  2. Good for you! It’d be nice if you did decide to try and push SDL+OpenGL+OpenAL development.

    I’m guessing that Bad Day L.A. is DirectX based since it’s headed for the Xbox? Oh well.

  3. Yes! Good to hear! Reading the first paragraph, I said to myself “I hope he considers using an alternate OS for his everyday tasks after this fiasco.” Looks like my thoughts were right on the money. 🙂

    I would suggest you check out Gentoo, if you haven’t already. Nothing beats having control over each and every package that is compiled on your system from start. XFCE4 is a great window manager, and works very well on the least powerful of machines.

    Anyway, not to clog up your comments area with more geeky ranting. Enjoy your new found freedom from Big Brother! 🙂

  4. Beware that you will recieve a lot of zealotery from this community, like: “Seems there is still a long way till PC is not used as a synonym for Windows anymore”. 😛

  5. the only thing i like about linux is the BITCHX but im talking about redhat dunno about ubuntu.

    i think i have the same problem as with your windows xp thingy, the difference between us is that i just avoid the whole machine and pretend it doesnt exist. i moved on to another pc. i love windows. lick

  6. This is good to hear!

    I wish more people would choose to switch off Windows instead of saying “Oh well” at constant bugs and annoyances like the “Windows genuine advantage” crap.


    I switched years ago (way before WGA) and vow to never go back. I LOVE linux (Gentoo personally)! I just wish more companies would release games for Linux. Then maybe others would make drivers (CREATIVE!) or just better ones (ATI! , NVidia’s are decent…).

    Any hope for Linux game support from you in the future?

  8. Yeah, good work man… I have been Windows free for years and years and have never missed a thing. I play all the popular games and have far better applications…

    Enjoy the freedom man 🙂


  9. Good for you; I hope you enjoy your new OS.

    On a selfish note, I hope this means your future games are more likely to be Linux compatible too. I like what I’ve seen of your work.

  10. Welcome to the club, American McGee! Many have switched, if ONLY to avoid the obnoxious problems presented by WGA- like yourself. Now, if only we could see more games on Linux so it’ll even be easier for people to be able to make the choice… (Yeah, I know, hint…hint… You can’t blame me TOO much for asking, considering who I am and whom I work for as a consultant… 🙂

  11. I work at a computer store and the WGA program does not work at all. I have so many machines coming through the store that fail the WGA test, which actually do have a legit key!

  12. Well it is good to see more people go on to linux, i myself use ubuntu, while not all the time i do use it at least once everyweek.

    When the new ubuntu version comes out, i may be switched for good, the changes look promising.

    I do hope you consider releasing more games for linux now!

  13. Well done! I just hope you go on further to publish source code and make cross platform applications, but one step at a time!

  14. I did exactly the same as you recently, I’m about a month in with Ubuntu. Hell of a lot better than Windows as far as staying upright . I was hugely surprised, first time I’ve ever been to your blog and you happen to have just made the same OS switch as me for partially the same reason… Bizarre.

    Oh, and I loved Alice!

  15. Excellent choice, I love the combo of ubuntu & synaptic. I moved to linux over 3 years ago, and it keeps getting better.

    I miss having less of a choice of games, but strangely I got into older games more than I was interested in windows and now buy more games than I did before, although I do buy more older games than new ones. I’ve found that one can be quite happy with the limited selection, although my gaming is divided between computer and nintendoDS .. and I’m considering getting a wii too.

  16. Great, now you’re going to need some games to play on that Linux. How about some ports, baby?

    And definitely switch up to Kubuntu. I’m not personally a fan of the Debians (I run Slack) but gnome is just too much to bear!

  17. Congratulation !

    I hope you will now contribute to remove Windows only advantage over Linux : the lack of real games !
    But since we got you on our side, I’m pretty confident, you will make GREAT games !

  18. [insert insightful comment about WGA and Linux adoption]

    Does that increase the chance of Alice being ported to Linux?

    Pretty please?

  19. Good choice!

    Don’t listen to all those people telling you to try another distribution and stuff – if you’re happy with ubuntu, go on using it, it’s not such a bad distribution after all. Especially if you actually want to work (and not only compile, like on gentoo), Ubuntu is an excellent choice.

    And, please, consider developing platform-independent games in future. Games like Quake 4 show, Linux is perfectly capable to run modern games.
    Plus there are quite good free tools for game-developers available, like gimp, blender or gtkradiant. And some non-free ones like Maya – so you don’t need to boot windows ever again 😉

  20. Hi American. Wow I didnt know you had a Blog. i linked from Linux Games
    I am very concerned of these new Microsoft robots with Lego etc and if there would be some sort of activation code that can turn into Physical harm as well. Seriously.
    DRM sucks.

  21. well made decision.
    i disagree with gnome being that bad.
    it became really fast recently and looks really smooth now.

  22. Congratulations!!!
    I did the same and I followed the same path –> Ubuntu / Automatix.
    A wonderfull new universe had appeared.

  23. @Footissimo


    American McGee do not earn the copyright for Alice, it is a property of E.A.

  24. Welcome to the (hopefully) wonderful world of Ubuntu! Hope you will like it and that this means even more gaming for us in the free world. 🙂

    One thing that the Linux world sure could use is help and guidelines (and tools?) for creating games on the platform (no matter for what target). Maybe a professional like you could help out there, at least with tips.

  25. Another user above mentioned SDL/OpenGL/OpenAL, but I was more curious if you’ve looked for any DirectX->OpenGL/AL wrapper programs/libraries. I’d remembered seeing a GFX-only one a while back, but if you could get one that did the whole kit acceptably enough to have low overheadmaybe you could start pushing practices that would allow you to release linux versions in the future. (Mind you I think there’s a few things library-side on linux that need to get fixed first… I have as many broken linux games as Winxx ones, and finding and installing an old OS is a big no-no to me.)

  26. I switched to Ubuntu in December 2004.

    I persevered, mainly with my inability to adapt, but when I discovered Automatix it was a real ‘Damascus’ moment. I doubt that I will be switching back. I also changed my work pc to Ubuntu (i am the boss).

    i hope your future professional work is made available for linux users to enjoy

  27. Windows was unstable long before the new anti piracy software, i left a year ago, because I was just fed up with the standard windows (things not working/crashing) piss, I am now on UBUNTU and SUSE, both are great…suse is my office and Ubuntu is where I go when I want to play and with EASYUBUNTU I got all the proprietary stuff I needed on the system, no probs.

  28. Join the crowd. I have just recently fought with WGA on a legal copy of windows. Like you this came preloaded on a computer I bought from Gateway. I will say it again, WinXP is the last MS OS that I will aver buy.
    I have been a longtime linux user (Fedora Core 1-5) but always kept a Windows machine available, but no longer I have had it!
    Long live Tux!!!

  29. I’ve been a heavy user of SUSE for years. Both my laptop and my wife’s have suse 10.1 on it and we do everything with them. The one exception is a few games that I keep a Frankenstiened Windows PC around for.

    Your experience is exactly why I think Microsoft is on a slippery slope. Open Source is the future of software. Microsoft needs to realize that or they won’t last a decade.

  30. On Windows SDL uses wrappers around Direct3d I beleive. Maybe DirectX.

    I beleive by defualt Microsoft uses wrappers to run OpenGL on Direct3d/DirectX.

    Of course there is nothing stopping you from running SDL and using other things. For instance at least in Linux Quake4 did away with a lot of ID-specific stuff on the Doom3 engine and replaced it with SDL. Of course the rendering engine and all that is OpenGL for maximum performance. SDL, I suppose, is used for sound, controller input and maybe menus and such. I dont’ know for certain.

    As for DirectX vs OpenGL.. I don’t know if it matters so much anymore. All the top-level gaming engines run on Linux anyways even if they run on directX in Windows. Except for Halflife2 engine, of course.

    For more low-key stuff things like CrystalSpace and Ogre3d are open-source gaming engines are usefull. They are Linux-originated and seem to offer a lot for more budget-concious game makers. Ogre3d runs on DirectX in Windows even and obviously OpenGL in Linux.

    And there is nothing stopping commercial game makers from using these things other then some technical nagging issues (probably). I like how ID released their engines as open source, but they are still compatable with ID’s game packs. I think that a commercial gaming company could follow a similar path from the get-go and get lots of attention.

  31. I’ve just gone through the same thing. I had to call some number, and decided that i’ve already spent ENOUGH on Microsoft by buying their defective products, for me to make a lengthy phone call and interact with some shitty IVR so I moved to Ubuntu myself and Boy was I surprised!! I’ve written about it in my blog. http://www.skaag.net

    Enjoy Ubuntu, and do give Compiz + XGL a try, use Quinn’s packages, it’s SUCH a joy to use Linux suddenly!


  32. Ubuntu is the best Linux distro for the desktop HANDS DOWN!

    When Linux receives more games the mindless millions who are still asleep in their land of Wintendo will finally awake and M$’ desktop days will be over.

    That’s the only hurdle preventing Linux from being more well known, aside from good marketing.

    Every time you see a M$ advertisement in a magazine you own, RIP IT OUT and throw it away before you give the magazine away to someone else. The same goes for anything you own before you give it away, if it advertises M$ in some way, reshape the ad yourself with a permanent ink marker or just remove it.

  33. I too had enough of Windows, except I switched to a Mac instead (in May). It’s way better.

    I’m a big linux fan too, but it’s still too rough around the edges for my liking.

  34. Oh, and Ogre3d wraps DirectX and OpenGL. The user can choose whichever he wants. Of course on Linux your only choice is OpenGL.

    Cant anyone interested in making OpenGL as good as DirectX just contribute code to it?

  35. Welcome to Ubuntu, I first installed kubuntu horay about a year ago on a dual boot machine. Since then I have upgraded to brezzy and now dapper, and I wiped out my windows partition a few weeks ago for some much need extra HD space for Linux.

  36. Get a mac already. Ubuntu is cool, but nowhere near as functional as OS X. While you may have stepped up from Windows, you’ve stepped backward from where you could potentially be. In the ver least, you owe it to yourself to spend a few weeks with OS X to properly evaluate the its strengths and weaknesses.

  37. Just a few Games running under Linux (in case you’re bored 😉 They are all in 3D, you only need Nvidia oder ATI hardware acceleration:

    World of Warcraft (with Wine)
    Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
    Unreal Tournament (wineX)
    UT 2003
    Tribal Trouble
    Eternal Lands
    Second World


  38. Woo! Another convert!

    I recently switched to Linux, a few months before WGA was forced on users (I think my switch was around a year ago now), And the only thing I’ve found that beats Linux is Mac OS X. And I’ve found a way around the Linux == no games thing, put Linux on the Xbox! Voila!

    When I tried to switch back (Wanted to learn Visual C#) It was painful, and I could not get the updates I needed, my Windows box: Attempt0 went up in flames about 20 mins from the start thanks to malware/viruses/other generic windoze crap.

    I hate Windows

  39. Hey Tokay hows life, I hope you enjoy linux. Last night my legit windows install came up and said it was invalid i found out that if your time is way ahead it will freak out.. ? does this mean the dreaded WGA Selfdestruct button exists?

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