I'm not going to rant about Windows. My wife's laptop has a Vista partition -- useful for playing Lego StarWars and checking out DRM-locked audio books from the public library's website, among other Windows-specific tasks -- that had an unfortunate bout with Spyware over the summer. The final result being, the activation system is broken and it insists our product key is not valid. Phone activation failed too, and I'm left with the prospect of phoning Microsoft customer care -- who are going to do what? At this point, I need media and a working key.
But I'm not going to rant about Windows. Or Microsoft. Instead, I'll tell you a story.
Many years ago, I bought a used Saturn. It was a decent little car for the money, but from the get-go I had battery issues. Over the course of seven years it would go through four batteries and countless jump-starts. (It now has a beautiful awesome battery in it that's completely going to waste because the car failed emissions and I haven't the cash to fix it. But I digress...)
Each time the battery died, the car stereo engages it's "anti-theft" feature. It locks you out and cannot be used until you enter a secret code. The first time this happened, I looked all through my manual and all the papers in the glovebox for the secret code. Nowhere to be found.
Finally, I called the Saturn dealership in town and asked them. "Oh yeah," says the mechanic, "Bring it in and we can get it fixed up for $15 or so." So, desperate for something to break the monotony of my two-hours-a-day commute, I went for it.
When I got there, I asked them if they could give me the code. "No, we can't give that out.", says he. Well, then, I asked, could they disable this "feature", since I didn't want to have to drag this thing down to the dealership and pay $15 to get my radio back every time the battery died. "No, you can't disable it," He assures me with a smile, "It's that way on purpose; it's supposed to encourage you to come to the dealership when you have battery problems."
I was stunned. Bald-faced admission of the worst kind of vendor lock-in. This was borderline extortion, and here this guy was just admitting it with a smug grin on his face.
Let me tell you something. I can put up with a lot from technology. I can put up with bugs; I can put up with security flaws. I can put up with occasional breakage or limitations or incompatibilities. I can even put up with basic design flaws. After all, humans are humans, we make mistakes.
What I CAN NOT put up with is a piece of tech that "decides" that I -- the legal, rightful owner -- no longer have the right to operate it and locks me out. NO WAY. And I'm sure not going to fall into anyone's clever scheme to force me into doing business with them.
I won on the car thing; a bit of Googling got me to a car forum where others inflicted with this "feature" had figured out how to get hold of the sooper-seekrit code to unlock the stereo. (Which brings me to another point-- "anti-theft": If someone steals my stereo, and it locks him out -- he's either going to find out the same info I did, or else he's going to chuck the stereo in the garbage and move on. Either way, I'M STILL OUT A STEREO!!!!!!! So how does this "feature" benefit me?).
Right now the Vista install on the laptop assumes we're not legal. Because IT's broken. And rather than give us the benefit of the doubt, Microsoft has decided it's more important to protect their own interests over ours. But I won't rant about it.