Usually, new software enables you to do more with your computer. Vista, though, is designed to restrict what you can do.
Vista enforces new forms of “Digital Rights Management (DRM)”. DRM is more accurately called Digital Restrictions Management, because it is a technology that Big Media and computer companies try to impose on us all, in order to have control over how our computers are used.
Technology security expert Bruce Schneier explains it most concisely:
DRM gives power to Microsoft and Big Media.
Windows Vista includes an array of “features” that you don't want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry—And you don't get to refuse them.
- They decide which programs you can and can't use on your computer
- They decide which features of your computer or software you can use at any given moment
- They force you to install new programs even when you don't want to (and, of course, pay for the privilege)
- They restrict your access to certain programs and even to your own data files
DRM is enforced by technological barriers. You try to do something, and your computer tells you that you can't. To make this effective, your computer has to be constantly monitoring what you are doing. This constant monitoring uses computing power and memory, and is a large part of the reason why Microsoft is telling you that you have to buy new and more powerful hardware in order to run Vista. They want you to buy new hardware not because you need it, but because your computer needs it in order to be more effective at restricting what you do.
Microsoft and other computer companies sometimes refer to these restrictions as “Trusted Computing.” Given that they are designed to make it so that your computer stops trusting you and starts trusting Microsoft, these restrictions are more appropriately called “Treacherous Computing”.
Windows Vista, like previous versions of Windows, is proprietary software: leased to you under a license that severely restricts how you can use it, and without source code, so nobody but Microsoft can change it or even verify what it really does.
Microsoft says it best:
The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the software. Microsoft reserves all other rights. Unless applicable law gives you more rights despite this limitation, you may use the software only as expressly permitted in this agreement. In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways.
To make it even more confusing, different versions of Vista have different licensing restrictions. You can read all of the licenses at http://www.microsoft.com/about/legal/useterms/default.aspx.
It's painful to read the licenses, and this is often why people don't object to them. But if we don't start objecting, we will lose valuable freedoms. Here are some of the ridiculous restrictions you will find in your reading:
- If your copy of Vista came with the purchase of a new computer, that copy of Vista may only be legally used on that machine, forever.
- If you bought Vista in a retail store and installed it on a machine you already owned, you have to completely delete it on that machine before you can install it on another machine.
- You give Microsoft the right, through programs like Windows Defender, to delete programs from your system that it decides are spyware.
- You consent to being spied upon by Microsoft, through the “Windows Genuine Advantage” system. This system tries to identify instances of copying that Microsoft thinks are illegitimate. Unfortunately, a recent study indicated that this system has already screwed up in over 500,000 cases.