Sunday, July 31, 2005

A “genuine” advantage?

Another one of Microsoft's seemingly endless attempts to halt piracy is evolving, following a trial period.

Starting July 26, Microsoft is expanding its "Windows Genuine Advantage" program, which requires users of its software to verify their copies of software in order to receive add-ons to Windows XP.

The only plug-ins exempted from this program are security updates, like patches, due their importance in avoiding the spread of viruses and the necessity to stop hackers.

The Microsoft website explains that the validation process is simple. Upon connecting to the Internet, users will be prompted by Microsoft Update that there are available updates for them to download.

Then, once connected, all updates other than security updates will require that the user agrees to a validation process; after which an online tool will quickly validate that the user’s copy of Windows is genuine. The tool does so by scanning the PC’s operating system to determine whether or not it is running genuine Windows.

After successful validation, the tool stores a Microsoft Windows Download Key on the operating system for future use, and the updates become downloadable.

The pleasant and unexpected surprise is that customers who are found to be running illegitimate copies of Windows will have two options.

The first of these options seems like a very forgiving one, and quite a departure from Microsoft's usual hard line. The user is required to send in the pirated CD from which he/she installed the software, and fill out a 'piracy form' found on the Microsoft website. Then, that user will receive a legitimate copy for no charge! Imagine that.

The catch, though, is that Microsoft wants users to send in counterfeits of certain quality, not just any copied CD bought off the street.

To quote the Microsoft site, “for a limited time, if you submit a qualifying counterfeit Windows compact disk (CD) that meets certain requirements (high quality counterfeit, hologram) and a proof of purchase, Microsoft will send you a genuine copy of Windows for free.”

If, however, the user does not have a CD that qualifies, he/she will be expected to buy a new copy of Windows XP Home for $99 or Windows XP Professional for $149.

Back to option one, imagine what an investment Microsoft is planning to put into this initiative. It could, potentially, be committing to distributing hundreds of thousands of free software licenses of Windows XP worldwide.

Users will be going through their stacks of CDs to find those pirated CDs from which they've installed Windows XP, to see if they qualify.

For now, though, not every country in the world will benefit from this program.

Microsoft has adopted a phased approach with its "Genuine Advantage" program. It initially started on a trial basis last year, then expanded the program to more than twenty countries from February onwards, and is expected to include more and more countries in the near future.


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Increase Your Traffic by Recovering Your Lost Visitors

If you spend any time surfing the Internet, you've probably encountered a few error messages.

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As servers run different types of software and do not function in the same manner, there isn't a simple method for creating custom error pages that will work with every system. However, if you have your own domain and your site is hosted on a Unix/Linux server running Apache, this article will assist you in creating custom error pages.

If you're not sure what type of server you're on, visit the following web address to find out:

Before we begin, keep in mind, editing your server files is serious business. Even one small typographical error can wreak havoc -- make sure you make a backup copy of any file you're planning to edit.

Guidelines for creating your error pages:

1. Create your error pages in standard HTML -- just as you would create any other web page for your site.

2. Don't alarm your visitors. Never include the word "ERROR" in large, bold text. Your visitors may immediately become alarmed and think they've done something to cause the error. Instead, be apologetic and encourage your visitors to click on the navigational links to locate additional resources and information.

3. Your error pages should look just like the rest of your web pages. Each error page should contain good navigational links, a search feature, and provide information in regard to the specific error they received.

If you'd like to see an example error page, visit the following web address:

Once you've created an error page, save it as the error name. For example, if you're creating a customized error page for a 400 Bad Request error, your page should be saved as 400.html.

Here are some of the more common errors:

400 Bad Request
401 Authorization Required
403 Forbidden
404 File Not Found
405 Method Not Allowed
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Once you've created your pages, you'll need to access your server via FTP and create a new folder called "errordocs" where you store your HTML files. Upload your new error documents into your new folder.

Your next step will be to locate your .htaccess file and download it to your computer. (If you use FrontPage to publish your web pages, you cannot customize the .htaccess file, as FrontPage uses the .htaccess file. Editing the file may cause errors in your configuration.) The .htaccess file should be located on your server where you store your HTML files.

If the .htaccess file isn't visible, you can create one within a plain text editor. However, you must first make sure your server isn't configured to hide the file. Your FTP program should enable you to choose to display hidden files and folders on your server.

Once you've downloaded your .htaccess file, open it within a plain text editor, such as Note Pad, and add the following lines below any other text that may be present:

ErrorDocument 400 /errordocs/400.html
ErrorDocument 401 /errordocs/401.html
ErrorDocument 403 /errordocs/403.html
ErrorDocument 404 /errordocs/404.html
ErrorDocument 405 /errordocs/405.html
ErrorDocument 500 /errordocs/500.html
ErrorDocument 501 /errordocs/501.html
ErrorDocument 502 /errordocs/502.html
ErrorDocument 503 /errordocs/503.html

If you're creating your own .htaccess file, open a plain text editor and add the above lines.

When typing in the information, make certain you type it exactly as it appears above. You can include the error documents of your choice.

Once the file is complete, save it as .htaccess and upload it to your server, via FTP in ASCII mode, where you store your HTML files.

For additional information on File Transfer Protocol (FTP) you may visit:

If you have a Windows operating system, you will be unable to save the file as .htaccess. You'll need to save it as htaccess.txt. Once you upload the file to your server, you can rename it to .htaccess.

That's all there is to it. When your visitors click on an outdated link, your custom error page will now be displayed.

Creating your own custom error pages is well worth the time and effort, as they will enable you to recover an unlimited number of your visitors. If you follow this step by step guide, you can have your pages up and running in no time.

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