Saturday, August 20, 2011

Windows Activation in the Middle of the Pacific

Last night on Dave's watch, our navigation computer, an older Dell laptop that we've had for a couple of years, suddenly came up with a Windows Activation Alert. Dave swears he didn't do anything unusual. He said he accidentally shut the computer down (instead of sleeping it as we normally do when underway). When he restarted it, the 'Windows Activation Needed' banner came up and stayed in the lower right corner. This computer hasn't been connected to the internet in about 2 years, and we've never had any activation warnings before. It is a Dell we bought used and has a Windows XP sticker on the bottom that looks legit.

So I wasn't too alarmed until I rebooted it again, and a warning came up that we'd have to activate in 3 days or Windows would stop working. !!!! There was a convenient 'Click Here to Activate' button.

Well, of course the Activation process requires internet or a telephone. Fortunately, we have a Sat phone, and the conditions aboard were calm and we've got a good signal on the phone. So I called the number listed--first the 'no toll free' number, which is no longer valid, and then the 'toll free' number. The Sat phone doesn't recognize toll free numbers, and so I got the warning that I'll be billed 'international rates' for the call. *sigh*

Anyway, holding my breath that we wouldn't move out of the Iridium 'cell' and drop the call in the middle of the process, I interacted with the voice-prompt computer to say the 54-digit number that was displayed on my Activation screen. It was easy, with the computer prompting for each number group in turn. The only hitch was caused by me mis-reading one of the numbers, but 'he' gave me several chances to re-read the number. Then the computer read off my activation code. Again, slowly, clearly, and in groups that matched the fields on the screen. Click to finish, and Walla! I was activated again. Guess we're good for another 2 years.

Sheesh--fortunately, even if we couldn't resolve the problem--we have 3 other computers aboard, all configured to be able to plug and play as the Navigation computer. But what next, Microsoft!???
Sherry & Dave
On our way from French Polynesia toward Tonga

At 8/19/2011 10:08 PM (utc) our position was 13°28.71'S 161°49.28'W

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