The recording industry has invested a great deal of time and money in a variety of schemes purporting to protect the rights of musicians. Of course they haven’t even slowed down either casual or professional pirates.

Mostly, all they’ve done is annoy their customer base by making CDs that don’t play right. I’m not writing today to blast BMG, Sony, and the RIAA, they’re getting plenty of heat already. But I want to draw a parallel between the way the recording industry and Microsoft treat their customers.

I just spent a few days rebuilding some WinXP machines for my neighbors that had succumbed to hardware failures and/or Windows malware , In each instance, the neighbor asked, ‘Why do these machines fail so quickly? Why is it so tedious to fix them?’ The first question deserves a few thousand words, but there have been millions written already and flame wars are tedious too.

The most direct answer to the second question is, “Microsoft intentionally makes it damn near impossible for users to create bootable backups, or even useful offline backups.” Their licensing and copy protection schemes include components that prevent disk cloning, and prevent disk images from booting if they were created by cloning, that force relicensing when a computer has parts replaced. This of course doesn’t slow down teenage script kiddies and professional OS counterfeiters in the least, but it does make life miserable for every legitimate windows user on the planet.

In an ideal world, you would use simple commands or GUI tools to create a mirror image of your installed and customized system on separate partitions or disks. Other simple tools would allow you choose which image your system booted from. When that image booted, it would work right whether it was drive C:, D: or Z:, That image would boot correctly, even if it was hooked up to a significantly different computer.

This is not an imaginary ideal, it is the world of Linux, of BSD UNIX, of MacOS. Only Windows OSes fall on their swords, on purpose, when users do perfectly reasonable things like pull a backup drive out of the safe and try to boot it on a new computer.

Why is this a reasonable thing? Well the payroll computer caught fire yesterday, and we need to make payroll today. But Microsoft doesn’t see it that way, they think their customers are all thieves and are trying to steal WinXP. Yeah, like we really care!

So, there’s the parallel. The recording industry exhibits complete disdain for their customers, (And their suppliers, most musicians are treated like dogs by recording companies.) Microsoft subscribes to the same business model, drumming up business by trotting out the next big thing, which is usually entirely derivative, gouging huge profits, while treating the buyers like cattle at best, and thieves at worst.

Bad enough we paid money for this stuff, how much of our precious time must we spend trying to restore a machine taken to its knees by the virus of the day.

I’m sure many of you are going to trot out Ghost, or Partition Magic, or the latest Whiz-bang Norton tool, or BackupOmatic II, as your personal favorite fix for this problem. Just like you, I’ve come up with ways to defeat the intent of Microsoft, so I could get some work done.

But the fact still stands: They did this on purpose, and all it really does is torture their customers.