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back to article Microsoft Windows patent will spy for advertisers

If you thought adverts on the web have become more offensive and more intrusive than ever before, then it might be time to find alternatives to using software from Microsoft. Microsoft has filed a patent (here) that threatens to breathe life into Bill Gates' and Ray Ozzie's Frankenstein-like Windows Live "vision", unveiled in …

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Live Lives

To be fair to MS, I don't think they are going to put this into, say "wordpad" or whatever software you think you normally use. It's oriented toward the MSN-like features, such as messanger and maybe in the future toward software that is free, but with a small, sponsored, twist.

Obviously the privacy will be an issue, and you just know that you absolutely can't trust these companies, because as the track record shows - sooner or later there will be a slip up, and ID data will leak.

Suppose thought, that the system is designed to look for some keywords and if such are found, display the relevant ad, without actually retaining any data on remote servers; It might not be all that bad, if you get something free in return.

For now the Google's advertising model seems to be holding up better than the rest, but Google is only a virtual god. In the truRealm (tm) of our everyday lives, advertisment companies DO want to know who you are, how much money you have and what are you interested in: data, which is a total violation of privacy, at least in my opinon. And the model these companies will use is clear - sexy girls (if that's your thing) will at random spawn here and there to sell you stuff you can barely afford but desperately want. Microsoft is just thinking ahead on this one.

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Nuts

Nuts , there goes that upgrade , until a new lite version will rapidly de-evolve from the spy ware infested version!

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Anonymous Coward

Unlikely to happen

It's unlikely to happen. Just imagine the fuss that would be kicked up if they did try something like that. OK, half the world would just continue and not know what's happening, but the other half would really consider walking into the arms of Macs or Linux. Implementing this would be corporate suicide.

It's probably just one of them there patent trolls to piss Google off as they're Microsoft's enemy du jour.

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Anonymous Coward

Windows drives me off the plantation

So not only are you paying for the software to run on a dodgy DRM laden platform like Vista, but now the greedy feckers at M$ are going to "suck" your private information which will enable them to deliver intrusive ads in a non-webbroswer environment.

Can you say "time to abandon this ship, me hearties, me thinks the capm's brain be addled!".

To all you unwashed, tree hugging, M$ hating open source hippies out there: Prepare to greet me with open arms.

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wim

paying ?

So now I have to right to pay microsoft to get advertisements that use my (paid by me) bandwidth ?

Or is this a step to a free windows version (add supported) and a non add (paid version) ?

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Utter. Frustration.

So, does this mean that if I buy a product.. they'll still have the ability to stream me ads? Isn't it enough that I buy something, you have to make money on me more? Screw all you people. Word is already crappy enough without ads. I hate being locked in to windows for things I need to do. And things like this just re-enforce it. Every step of the way, MS and their friends have been removing my ability to control my computer, what it does, and what I see.

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MS at it again

So let me get this straight... If I want to use a MS product, I have to let them spy on what I am doing so that they get more revenue on TOP of the ridiculous price they gouged out of me for the software and OS?

And I'm suppose to consider it a Good Thing(tm)?

It MY computer, Mr Gates. Stop trying to tell me what it will/won't do.

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Anonymous Coward

Microsoft must be real keen of shooting themselves in the foot.

First, WGA. Now this?

They really like to invade people's privacy, don't they?

They must be real keen on shooting themselves in the foot.

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Nevermind privacy, security, and etcetera

Just consider the arrogance!

Time for everyone to switch back to paper and pencil. And keep a shredder next to the desk.

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Who would trust Microsoft?

I had to check the calendar to make sure this wasn't some sort of April fools' stunt.

Why would anybody want a company which seems to have cornered the market in security flaws let them anywhere their desktop?

And how would that be affected my Microsoft's own security software which should be stopping this kind of thing?

Mark

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One more reason..

Just another great reason to dump Micro$oft crapware.

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Trust in Microsoft

Microsoft never get anything wrong, there is no way that this tech could possibly open up your PC to trojans or anything nasty, honest.

The first thing I would do if I knew this was happening on my PC would be to block anything to do with it or just simply crack the software with a patch some enterprising fellow would no doubt make.

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That would be the last straw

The moment they do this, I'm finally done with Microsoft.

I may have to stick to Windows because of a couple of apps I've got from way back, but the moment that happens I'm switching to Linux and taking my chances with windows emulation.

Oh, and the obligatory complaint: Just when I was getting used to every other article upon your once-fine website containing something about the iPhone or Paris Hilton or preferably both, you stop doing so and place something both serious AND IT-related upon your website! I've been reading the Register for many years now, and by far the bootnotes are the best part of your publication. How DARE you post something that has something to do with your motto, "Biting the hand that feeds IT"? You should be ashamed. I don't know if I will continue to read your website if you continue this stream of non-non-IT material.

(whoops, better watch out! If I put that tongue any farther in my cheek, I'm apt to bite it off!)

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Gold badge

Not so fast..

AFAIK it's not possible to implicitly sign away your rights to privacy (i.e. somewhere embedded in a EULA), you would have to sign that away EXplicitly (i.e. on a form that clearly states that you give away the right to x/y/z privacy). Until such time, handing off private details (even when transmitted separately) to other parties without your explicit permission is illegal under Data Protection laws (and, AFAIK under EU privacy laws in general) so Gates & Co may be heading for another case of breach of EU regulations.

IANAL, of course, but it's not *quite* as easy as they make it out to be - they could land themselves with a new EU headache before their old one has even stopped.

I actually wonder if this is not already the case with Vista, 20 out of 50 or so services proven to call home to Redmond doesn't strike me as a good model for being compliant. And even in the US itself, what about HIPAA compliance?

I can't quite understand Microsofts' attitude, it's almost as if they are deliberately pulling a long nose at legislation. What are they trying to prove?

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It's not like people didn't know it was comming

Jokes about Microsoft putting advertisements into it's operating sytems aren't new. In fact, what more than an advertisements was including AOL-icons on the desktop or selling PCs with 12 month licenses of virus scanners.

I don't feel bad for Windows-users being spied on. Anybody who still uses Windows made a deliberate choice for it. They even spent a lot of money for it. So they chose to be spied on.

It is, in a way, like hitting yourself with a hammer and then complaining about the pain.

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Well, if they do that....

They'd damn well better be giving us the software for free. And free software never comes with support that's worth a damn. So what's stopping us from making a hard-cut to non-advertising opensource software?

Google started us down the slippery slope.... Microsoft, in their quest to emulate Google's supposed "success", just may destroy themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Kiss it Goodbye

Can you imagine it - corporations allowing ads to interfere with productivity, while at the same time risking corporate data?

MS' greed will be their indoing, and if this comes in without a proper OFF switch, it will only hasten the move away from MS.

MS has a near monopoly, they can kiss it goodbye.....

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Anonymous Coward

Microsoft Privacy

I'd say that this is Microsoft's competitive strategy against Google Apps. Imagine free or cheap advertising supported OS and Application variants... like XP home but much worse.

But what are you going to do? Run Solaris/BSD/Linux/MacOS? Each one of these is an affront to either personal or enterprise computing.

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MS' arrogance

Microsoft shows an increasingly indifferent attitude towards the opinions of its customers. It's like a government that's been in power for a long time who thinks it can treat the voters poorly and still get elected time and time again. MS should remember that people can vote with their wallets and, if pushed into a corner, will do so. This will become more and more apparent as Vista take-up remains poor and people crave for their new PCs to be shipped with XP (or any other alternative that keeps their PC under *their own* control). I never thought I'd say this but after XP I don't think I'll be installing another MS O/S if they keep heading down this road. My only problem now is "where do I go after XP?"...

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maybe im getting the wrong end of the stick

But if somebody asks me to buy software with ads in it they can fluck off, everyday M$ turn me into a bigger Linux user.

The simple fact is PEOPLE HATE ADS and at M$'s prices why should we put up with them. I don’t care if there of interest to me because I can bet there not going to be. If im interested in buying something I go looking for it. For example no matter how many ads I see for vista im not going to buy it cause its crap

While where talking about ads El Reg, what with all the smut filled ads on your page lately, im supposed to be able to read this site at work. Without getting fired!

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Anonymous Coward

Realistic idea?

Wonderful idea Microsoft obviously think this is, I don't see it getting off the ground, myself.

In the past Microsoft have always let us know when their software is about to 'phone home' with cheery phrases such as "Join the customer experience improvement program!" or "Help make our software better!", and other such pearlers. It would be a big departure if their software began to monitor our habits without any explicit 'opt out'.

As for advert delivery, are businesses really going to stand by and allow their bandwidth to be flooded by advertisments everytime someone opens their email? Are they going to take the risk that none of these adverts have been hijacked to - and here's another cheery Microsoft-phrase - "execute their own malicious code" on their computers?

I don't think so.

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Presumably...

...this means they will be giving their software away for free? Or do they expect me to pay for their product and support it by viewing adverts?

Also, what would happen if you used your firewall/router to prevent access to the advertising servers? Would your spreadsheets disable themselves?

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NRT

How 'nice'

I think I can hear my HOSTS file requesting an update.

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What will be the straw that breaks licensee's back?

How far will the likes of Microsoft, the music/entertainment industry, and the others go to repeatedly annoy and abuse the position they've wiggled themselves into of providing "content" though licensing and not actually allowing people to own things?

I buy CDs. I like CDs. I rip them to FLAC (for archiving) and mp3 for playback on various devices. I'm not legally allowed to do this, and DRM tries to stop me. I'm not going to stop, as I want to play the music I've bought (I've bought it, not licensed it) when I want, where I want. In my lounge via the Netgear MP101. In my car. On my phone/pda thing. When the worst DRM offenders were around, I did return stuff to shops until I got a non-DRM version. I did rip the DRM'd version just for the challenge: it's not like it's difficult... Never did I upload or share the resulting rips.

I buy DVDs. I somewhat like DVDs, but loathe the enforced adverts, the accusations of copyright being theft and the fragileness of them when compared to the treatment that they get from my 3 year old son. I consequently back them up, removing the propaganda and playing the main movie as soon as the thing is inserted. This is not legal as I'm circumventing copy protection. Will I stop? No. The producers have abused their position to force feed me adverts, so I'm fighting back.

I buy MS software. I also buy Apple software. I use Linux too, and OpenBSD. GPL v2 or v3 is great, as is the BSD license - I'm happy to use that. Commercial licenses however do their level best to remind me that I'm licensing the software I've paid for, and that I should be grateful for that, and also that I shouldn't expect any warranty... I don't appreciate that, but live with it as it's causing me no real issues. At the moment.

Adding adverts into applications I've paid to license will see me spurred into action against the protection racket that's being attempted in the name of "anti-piracy" or whatever that will be spun as a benefit for me. It isn't. Get your fingers out of my stuff, or get lost. I've had enough of people knowing better than me what I want to do with stuff that I've bought (not licensed).

In the UK there's no law of fair use. We need one. We also need a test case about the unfair licensing clauses that are everywhere. And against the bright sparks who abused the measures built into DVD players to force feed adverts.

Rant over. I feel better now.

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Surely Knot (brought to you by Acme String Inc ™)

Once again, the US patent office (brought to you by BigCorp Inc) seems to have granted a patent on software (Softwear™ - making your life easier®*) which, on the face of it, has many instances of prior art. If Web ad placement or shareware/adware/malware isn't prior art, then I'm very worried (Worried? Then contact FleeceYou Psychiatry Services).

Personally, I find the whole idea of software patents thoroughly unethical and philosophically unsupportable, even though I work for a company that has a very large IP portfolio. Hypocrite......me?

(* royalties may go up but not down - terms apply)

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RE: Kiss it Goodbye

This is exactly right.

For example the IT security policies in Financial Institutions (and L&P requirements) prevent software that phones home. If MS incorporated this kind of targeted advertising into core products it would force many organisations to find alternatives.

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Smut filled ads ?!

Where ? Where ? Lead me to them...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS arrogance

Why go anywhere after XP. I stopped at 2000. Still running all my fave apps, mostly open source. I bought a Windows 2000 CD, installed it, and setup my firewall software into complete and utter stealth mode. It's MY computer and it's staying that way. I'm neither a geek or security wizard, I just decided that I'd treat my PC like my home, if I don't want you there you ain't gonna get in. Period.

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A boost for the opposition

I can see the takeup for linux on an upward curve when they switch this on.

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It's already been patented

In his Dilbert blog, Scott Adams describes how he thought of a similar idea and tried to patent it, The application was rejected because it had already been patented by somebody else, see http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/06/good-stories.html

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Anonymous Coward

Ads...

If you mean the google ads on the side, they are selected for you based on your previous search queries and matched to you by account information. So if you search for an adult site through google at home and use the same machine to log into your gmail account, then accessing the same gmail account from work connects your private qeries to your work machine and you will get ads for porn sites on your work machine too. Personally i've tested google results for the same question for different people using the same machine with their own account and i always got different but repeatable results indicating my friends prefernces in online content. (they tagged themselves by using my machine to check their gmail account)

The difference between google and microsoft's patent is that google only stores information you knowingly submit from your system, but microsoft described a data minging spyware application that extracts data from the system's storage and transmits it in exchange for ads.

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Silver badge

Just stick to pre-Vista software

And buy a hardware firewall and turn off Windows Automatic Updates.

XP has no adware in applications, and Office 2000 is more than enough for almost everyone.

I will never pay for ad-supported applications, not will I fork over my hard-earned money for any OS or app that I know spies on me and phones to its masters.

It's MY computer ! MINE ! And I'll do what I feel I want to do with it, whether or not that pleases Gates & Co.

Microsoft is now officially way off course with their software department. They are using the slogan "Your potential, our passion". That should be changed to "Your privacy, our revenue".

If I want ads, I'll pick up a mag or look at the tube or take a drive. I DO NOT want ads on my PC, and CERTAINLY NOT when I'm working on it !!

Where do I want to go today ? ANYPLACE WITHOUT ADS, MORONS !

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Where is this a patentable idea?

This is a programming issue requiring a specified interface to allow data exchange between applications. Something that has been going on for decades.

Sounds like it is just going to be another proprietary solution and therefore copyrightable but patentable? Has already been done but not with those apps.

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They will call it Windows Genuine Improvement(tm) and you'll have no choice

By the time this idea makes it from the legalese of the patent application to the marketese of the product description it will have a title like Windows Genuine Improvement, it will claim that it "analyses computer usage to help Microsoft provide a better service" (without specifying for whom the service will be better), and make all future security updates depend on the presence of the adware module. After that it's a matter of changing a few parameters so that certain items will only work if the user clicks on a certain percentage of adverts.

As long as people keep on using Windows Microsoft will see no reason to behave any different.

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The next MS business model

I thought I read that M$ intend for a future release of Office to be free but supported by advertising so this is the preparation. A few more tweaks to the Openoffice suite and there will be no need touse MS Office anyway!

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Anonymous Coward

It's just a patent application..

..doesn't mean MS will use it but does mean (if granted) they can charge others for doing so.

It's such a blatently obvious "progression" from what we have now that I don't see how it could be a valid patent anyway, except on the minute technical details.

Not that I think MS wouldn't jump at the chance of opening another revenue stream, hoarding private data and bloating out their already corpulent software with adverts.

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Putting the arse into patent arsenal

Now, I'm a very long way from being any kind of supporter of Microsoft or software patents, but one imagines that MS may actually be able to do some good with this patent; they can sue spyware/adware authors for patent infringement if they implement something like this.

On the other hand, it would be amusing to watch the anti-virus and security software vendors battling it out with Microsoft to write fixes for this MS-inflicted spyware. Amusing because I don't use Windows.

Gleb: I'm sure I won't be the first or last person to tell you this, but there is a vast universe of free and Free software out there that doesn't come with any kind of twist whatsoever.

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This is just not going to happen

Imagine the kind of asskicking anger and frustration when management at a large organisation such as a bank etc find out that all of a sudden all of their Microsoft productivity software such as office applications on all of their desktops across all of their sites across the world have suddenly started displaying logos and adverts for their direct competitors and it can not be turned off. These management types then find out that they have actually paid for their competitors to advertise on all of their organisations computers. Now if mad hardware specs, compatability issues, stupid bugs and security holes was not a good enough reason not to upgrade to the latest version of microsofts cash cow this would be. It would be a sure fire way of NOT getting people to buy their stuff.

I agree that this is clearly Microsoft getting in on the ground floor and getting the patent in so competitors such as Google, Real and Apple etc all end up licensing the technology to use it in their products.

The risk of the open source mob getting together and stumping up the cash so that every windows PC in the world constantly dishes adverts for linux and other free alternatives to microsoft software is just too great.

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Anonymous Coward

I ignore the ads anyway.

Does anybody remember the older free versions of Opera, with the ad on the top of it, and how now the free version dosnt have the ad, perhaps this type of advertising dosnt work?

Arent targeted ads just a silly idea dreamed up by computer geeks to impress the ad people?

I dont understand their worth. Lets say I like thing(s) X chances are I am going to know about X and where to get X, I am going to know about alternatives to X, so sending me ads about X is only going to just annoy me, and i will ignore them more then I do the other ads that seem to infest websites.

However I might not know about Y and upon seeing an ad for item Y might take alook find out more and chose to buy it.

So isint it a waste of time and money to send ads to people that already have/are interested in X?

Perhaps the poster above is right about how we pay for the bandwidth that the ads are getting pushed down, perhaps we should start sending bills to the websites that push ads for the bandwidth they use up?

I do wonder what kinda spyware is embedded in OS X and the various linux/unix alternatives.

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Anonymous Coward

Companies that allow "RELEVANT" advertising ...

... often FORGET that by far the most "relevant" advert is the one for their biggest competitor.

Now think about it again ... is "targetted" advertising SUCH a good idea ?

How stupid does TESCO look when you go into their store at midnight and the shelf stakers are allowed to scatter personal radios around the store playing commercial radio stations and those stations are extolling the virtues of Ocado's home delivery service and Sainsbury's current BOGOFs ... ? That's precisely what application vendors will be doing if they go down the same stupid path.

As for the annoyance factor, there may be some justification on a completely free service, but it shouldn't be tolerated on commercial products. Mail.com lost my subscription renewal because despite paying for a service I was still being pestered by adverts trying to promote other parts of their service. Make up your mind -- either sell it or give it away free, but if you charge for it, it has to come WITHOUT annoyances.

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Maybe ...

Maybe M$ don't want to actually do this (because of all the good reasons stated above) but do wish to retain the ability to crush, sue and generally stomp upon an application that might try to do this ? I remember an email client that had embedded ads (was it Eudora, I dont recall) - it's a small step to add context sensitivity to this, then *WHOMP* huge MS lawsuit.

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Rob
Bronze badge

Too much worrying going on....

... this isn't going to happen on the scale some of you mention, at most, like someone said earlier, it will probably apply to MSN type apps like they do already with Messenger. (check out the live ideas site, they have desktop mail that will probably do similiar and really not that different from what Google already does with it's mail app).

I'm pretty sure the main reason for this is IP, all the large corporates are at point where they need to get the IP portfolios in order and MS has been doing it a lot lately as they know that they have reached a type of market saturation. The division within MS that make money are things like the server and office divisions, the rest of them are supported by the money making ones. The next biggest revenue earner is Intellectual Property, HP did it awhile back which made the news.

You'll probably find a lot of patents appearing that will never actually come of anything but are there as future potential earners for any corporation IP portfolio. Although I think it will get a bit crazy and I'm still intent on filling a patent in the US for going for a piss, which means once approved I will be a very rich person (once rich I will buy a drinks company and lace all the drinks with a laxative, shortly after I filled a patent for going for a crap).

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Hair-brained idea.

Just who has the devious mind to sit down and work out all these ludicrously fiendish schemes? We`re all living on the same planet, for goodness sake. Do the designers not consider what it would be like for themselves to be afflicted with their own plans? The great god "money" is the motivation - pretty obvious, really. I`m also teetering on the brink of switching O.S. and this might just do it, if introduced.

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Smile and nod everyone....

OK. 2 possibilities I can see...

1. Everyone gets even more ticked off at Microsoft than what Vista has made us, and we all move to Linux, *BSD or MacOS.

or

2. MS offer free versions of programs with the ads, or pay versions without. This seems more likely.

If it's 2, then I'd be OK with MS giving me some ads in exchange for a free copy of Windows. No way I'd use it on a normal box, but I'd be OK with using it for a gaming PC or a media PC... PCs where I don't keep or handle files of any privateness.

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Nice - more bloatware

Considering the impact the ads have in Live Messenger, I for one am not willing to accept them in anything other software.

For instance, after I "upgraded" to live messenger due to the constant nagging, I noticed a jump in memory utilization... with Live Mess open on screen it consumes some 80Mb (for an IM client?!), minimise it and it drops to six (6).

More of the same in M$' already bloated and resource hungry applications? I don't think so. Maybe it's time I started looking seriously at other packages - maybe other OSes while I'm at it. That MacBook Pro is looking exceedingly attractive...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ads...

Brings a interesting question. Who takes the blame for ad content, The site or the ad provider (ie. Google)

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Silver badge

Ubuntu now!

For a start, this is almost certainly illegal. Your statutory rights, including "fair dealing" with copyrighted material, reverse-engineering for interoperability and/or plain old morbid curiosity and the rights given to you under the Data Protection Act and Misuse of Computers Act, are sacrosanct and *cannot* be abridged by a legally-binding contract, let alone an EULA.

Not that there is ever any common sense about wherever computers are concerned, though.

Adverts are a pain in the backside and I for one do everything I can to avoid them: on TV I use Sky Plus to record my favourite programmes, then fast-forward through the breaks; and on the Internet, I connect through a proxy configured to block all known advertising sites. In addition, I actively avoid advertised products as a matter of course, preferring to spend my money with companies who invest in the quality of their products rather than slick marketing campaigns. And I do not believe I am the only one who thinks this way!

But it's not enough to complain about Microsoft, however loudly, if all you are going to do then is just grit your teeth and bend over. If you really want control over what you can do with your own computer, your own files and the media discs you own, then get an Open Source operating system -- Linux or one of the BSDs. Ubuntu and Mandriva are both good choices for beginners. The easiest way to do it is just to replace your hard disk drive with a new one (they're cheap enough now), install Linux on that and lock up the old drive in a drawer -- that way, no harm can possibly befall what was stored upon it. If it does all go Tango Uniform, you can restore everything in five minutes, just by swapping the drive back.

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For those who hate DVD ads...

...just put the DVD in your computer, and run VLC player. Choose Open DVD. It goes straight to the menu page, without seeing the whole "You wouldn't steal a car.." crap.

Don't even bother with WMP any more, since it will BSOD when certain codecs are run.

Put simply, if they ship Vista's successor with this, no-one with any knowledge will buy it. Companies will stick with XP (as the majority are doing for the forseeable future), home users will stick with either XP or Vista (the poor souls) and the only people who will buy the new OS will be the ones that grab an off-the-shelf computer from PC World or Dell.

And it will serve them right.

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re:They will call it Windows Genuine Improvement(tm) and you'll have no choice

More likely

Windows Genuine Product Placement(tm)

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Anonymous Coward

MS Pushing good software... ?

So, it seems to me to the best way to avoid all this advertising is a combination of Open Office, Opera or Firefox and Pegasus for email. This is of course if you have a windows OS in the first place.

With OOO's adoption of the open office standards, opera and ff being much better browsers and pegasus being [still] as good as thunderbird [ok, thunderbird looks better] it seems that this 'advertising malarkey' will drive the adoption of far better software................

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