Vista Validation Woes Caused

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-08-29 Print this article Print

by Preproduction Code"> The system shutdown that prevented Microsoft from validating some 12,000 Vista systems under its Windows Genuine Advantage program was the result of preproduction code being sent to production servers, the company said. While activations, which were also affected by the preproduction code, were fixed in less than 30 minutes by rolling back the changes, the rollback did not solve the problem with the validation service, which was down for some 20 hours. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., confirmed Aug, 27 that the problems with processing validations started at about 3:30 p.m. PDT on Friday, Aug. 24, and continued until around 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time on Saturday.
Click here to read more about how Microsoft fixed the validation issue that withheld Vista features.
"Nothing more than human error started it all. Preproduction code was sent to production servers. The production servers had not yet been upgraded with a recent change to enable stronger encryption/decryption of product keys during the activation and validation processes," Alex Kochis, senior product manager for Microsofts Windows Genuine Advantage team, said in a blog post on Aug. 28. "The result of this is that the production servers declined activation and validation requests that should have passed," he said. While Microsoft expected the rollback to fix both the activation and validation issues at the same time, "We now realize that we didnt have the right monitoring in place to be sure the fixes had the intended effect," he said. With regard to why its validation system does not assume that systems are genuine when its servers are down, Kochis said that is the default. "Its important to clarify that this event was not an outage. Our system is designed to default to genuine if the service is disrupted or unavailable," he said. Microsoft designed Windows Genuine Advantage to give customers the benefit of the doubt, he said. "But this event was not the same as an outage because in this case the trusted source of validations itself responded incorrectly," Kochis said. Microsoft is improving its monitoring capabilities so that it will be alerted more quickly should something like this happen again. Even though the validation system stopped working at about 3:30 p.m., Microsoft only discovered the issue that evening as a result of calls to its customer service lines and posts to its forum. Click here to read about the Vista update Microsoft released to stop its product activation technology from being bypassed. The software maker is also making other changes, such as increasing the speed of escalations and adding checkpoints before changes can be made to production servers. Page 2: Vista Validation Woes Caused by Preproduction Code

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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