John Walkenbach on Genuine Advantage For Office



Office 2007 has many great new features. And one that really sucks: Microsoft Office Genuine
Advantage. If you're looking for a good reason to justify not upgrading, this could be it.
I'm using Excel 2007 Beta2TR, and I want to use a template that's available at Microsoft's
site. The templates are easy to access using the Excel UI. I click on a template and I get


Yes, their bogus software concludes that my copy of Office XP (not Office 2007) is not genuine.
When I click the button in order to get genuine, I go to a Web site that tells me Office 2007
isn't activated (which is not true). I eventually find a page that will tell me more details --
but it doesn't work with Firefox, so I have to download a program. Eventually, I find out the
reason why I can't download an Office 2007 template:

Microsoft Office XP Professional with FrontPage: Validation Failed.
The product key used to install Office has been blocked by Microsoft.

Apparently, it checks every version of Office on your system. If any of them is suspect, you're
locked out with no apparent way to resolve the problem -- short of buying a new copy or
uninstalling the product. At no time does it ever suggest that the problem could be with their

John Walkenbach
J-Walk & Associates, Inc. is a small (very small) consulting firm based in Tucson, Arizona. I
won't try to fool you. J-Walk & Associates consists of a single person -- me (John Walkenbach).

I earn most of my income by writing spreadsheet books and magazine articles. In addition to
about 30 books, I've written approximately 300 articles and reviews for magazines such as
InfoWorld, PC World, PC/Computing, Windows, and several others that no longer exist. For about
three years, I wrote the monthly spreadsheet column for PC World.

I also developed several popular Excel add-in products, including Power Utility Pak, Enhanced
Data Form, and Sound-Proof. When time permits, I do some consulting -- usually

I did my undergraduate study at the University of Missouri (major in psychology, minor in
computer science) and then earned a Masters and Ph.D. in experimental psychology at the
University of Montana (geography played a major role in my decision to attend that university).

After graduation, I spent a brief period of time doing work that was actually related to my
coursework. I soon lost interest in psychology. More specifically, I lost interest in doing
what it takes to get funding for psychology. Next, I began my second career in the banking
industry, purely by accident (it was the only job I could find). I worked for a financial
services data processing supplier in Oregon, a large credit union in Los Angeles, and
eventually landed a job as V.P. of market research for HomeFed Bank in San Diego (which has the
distinction of being the largest S&L to fail). When HomeFed failed, I decided to try
self-employment -- and I've never looked back. Currently, my third career lets me work out of
my home, and I never have to wear a tie -- or shoes, for that matter. In the summer of 2004, we
abandoned California and moved to the desert.

In 2000, I was named a Microsoft MVP. The primary advantage is an annual MVP Summit conference,
which allows me to interact with other Excel MVPs.

Besides computers and spreadsheets, I'm also interested in music, especially blues and jazz. I
have a growing collection of guitars, and a very decent two-channel stereo rig. Lately, I've
been keeping myself amused by creating digital images with a variety of digital cameras. And
for those who are really bored, you can peruse my Web Log.





Office 2007 has many great new features. And one that really sucks: Microsoft Office Genuine
Advantage. If you're looking for a good reason to justify not upgrading, this could be it.

by André Nogueira
Even if you don't use Windows, it's almost certain you've heard about activation - when you
install Windows you can use it only for a few days without activating. After that, you'll need
to activate it (ie. communicate with a Microsoft server to tell it you've just installed
Windows, and receive a message saying if it was successful or not) or it you'll only be able to
start Windows in safe mode.

But does Windows Genuine Activation (WGA) work? Not likely. Is it completely transparent and
hassle-free for legitimate, paying customers? Maybe in a parallel universe, but not on Earth.

Being a beta tester for several companies I format my computers all the time. I have a handful
of licences, but I don't keep track of what licence is installed on what computer - the family
computer has an OEM version of Windows installed, and on all other computers (which get
formatted at most once a week) I use the first product key I can grab. I have 3 full XP
licences for 2 computers, so I'm certainly not a pirate, right? Not according to Microsoft.

I don't know how many activations you're allowed to have during a given time period, but I've
lost count of the number of times Internet activation failed because I had activated "too many
times". When this happens you have no alternative but to call - not too big a deal, right?
Wrong. I don't know how it's like in the rest of the world, but at least in Portugal there are
two phone numbers - a regular paid one, and a toll-free one. The problem? More and more people
don't have fixed phones anymore, just mobile phones, and here in Portugal you can't call the
toll free number from your mobile phone - you get a signal like the number didn't exist. If you
want to activate from a mobile phone, you have to pay the 10 minute phone call (this includes
trying to activate by phone, hearing all the instructions you can't skip - I've tried countless
times - and explaining what happened to the operator you're transfered to when activation

Furthermore, your copy isn't deactivated when you uninstall. Imagine you work on a small
business which owns a boxed version of, say, Office. You'll be doing a presentation later that
week, so you install Office 2003 on your laptop, since now you only have Office 2000. You
install and activate, but something went wrong with the upgrade - addins stopped working,
random crashes. You format your computer, and install and activate Office 2003 again. This time
everything works, but at the last moment you find that your laptop is too old to play that
embeded video in your presentation, so you uninstall Office and install and activate it on your
boss's brand new laptop. Chances are you'll have a problem activating, even though these are
legitimate uses - you can have the boxed version installed on only one computer, which was the
case here. However, because programs aren't deactivated Microsoft thought Office was installed
in 3 computers at the same time when in fact it was installed in only one. Trying to convince
the operator that you're not breaking the licence can be though, or at least take some time.
And if you think this was just some made up story of what could happen, think again - this
happened to me last Sunday.

But think about it - just who is prevented from installing pirated copies of Windows? Have
pirated copies of Windows stopped circulating? They haven't - on the contrary, with the
widespread usage of peer-to-peer software it's never been easier to find cracked software,
including software which requires activation.

So to sum up. Is WGA serving its purpose? No, and I honestly don't believe WGA in Vista will be
any different. What WGA is doing - and it does this brilliantly - is annoy paying customers,
preventing them from doing their work. I've lost count of the number of times I went to some
company to prepare the computers for some presentation later that week, and ended up having to
install OpenOffice.Org because I couldn't activate their copies of Office. If anything, WGA is
the #1 reason for people to stop using Office and Windows.

Resources which are currently being wasted with WGA could very well be used for more
interesting projects - perhaps make some Microsoft Research prototypes a reality, or creating
new products all together. As it is, WGA is doing nothing more than making Windows, Office and
other products which use it a bit more expensive because of the money spent on developing and
maintaining it.

Edit: It was suggested in the comments section that I simply don't activate Office and Windows,
since I will be reinstalling them anyway. Since Office (at least all the versions I'm using)
limit you to opening Office applications X times, I have to activate. I can't take the chance
of needing to edit a document or make a presentation, and have Office tell me "Sorry, you can' - you need to activate". Regarding Windows, it could work if it weren't for the fact that without activating I can't get access to Windows Update and a lot of downloads on Microsoft Download Center. To be able to fully use those two services, you need to have an activated copy of Windows (not all downloads from the Download Center require activation, but many do).


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