And Now a Note on the Windows Vista EULA

I don’t know if you’ve checked out a Vista release candidate yet, but it looks like it may actually arrive in November (January for non-business users). It’s several years late, minus a bunch of features (WinFS, Monad, PC-to-PC synchronization, etc.), but better late than never. Probably.

Along with a new OS, you have a new EULA to be aware of. There are really six versions of Vista, so it’s more like six EULA’s to be aware of, but they are mostly the same. Generally people don’t read EULA’s, but as an open source advocate licensing agreements fascinate me more than they probably should. Here’s a rundown of stuff to be aware of:

  • Unlike XP, where you could upgrade your PC multiple times and still use your license, with Vista you get one shot. If you want to upgrade your PC twice, you have to buy another Vista license. As Microsoft is getting slower and slower at churning out new OS releases, that’s a pretty big deal. Edit: Microsoft apparently caught enough flack about this one that they changed the EULA back to what it was with XP. Though if you upgrade the wrong parts, your operating system will contact the mother ship and you’ll need to “re-active” your copy.
  • Any benchmarking you want to do must be done according to strict guidelines outlined in the EULA and in documents the EULA links to. If you know anything about benchmarks, this means you won’t be able to get “fair” benchmarks of Vista without violating your EULA.
  • If you want to run a Vista as a virtual machine, you have to get Vista Business ($299) or Vista Ultimate ($399). Using Vista Home Basic ($199) or Vista Home Premium ($239) as virtual machines would be violating the license agreement. Their official reasoning is, “For production machines and everyday usage, virtualization is a fairly new technology and one that we think is not yet mature enough for broad consumer adoption.” Translation: if you run Windows at home you are likely too stupid to run a virtual machine. Edit of translation: if you are a home user smart enough to run a virtual machine you probably wouldn’t be running Windows anyways, so nyah-nyah-nyah. Final translation: give us your money. Personally I’d like to be able to decide what software is “mature” enough to run on my PC, thank you.
  • If you use Vista as a virtual machine, you’re not allowed to use any DRM technology. So if you want to run Vista as a virtual machine so you can listen to your DRM-crippled WMA file, you’re screwed.
A word to the wise - always read your EULA, and if it’s proprietary software, read it twice.