After approximately a year of searching and testing various schemes, I had finally worked out how to change the product key on my illbegotten (read: pirated) copy of Microsoft Windows XP Pro. Immediately preceeding this was my discovery of a valid Microsoft corporate key which hadn't been hog-tied down with a "this software is pirated" product ID, of which there are two:


In fact I happened upon a list of about 200 Microsoft corporate product keys, a few of which I'd recognized from the months I'd spent looking for them, but ultimately finding nothing. The product keys I found did work, but you couldn't install any service packs or make any kind of significant upgrades to the operating system while you were using them.

So, yesterday, I found that cache of valid keys. The first one I tried worked. I selected the one I was to use, deactivated my copy of Windows XP Pro, rebooted, and entered the new (apparently valid) product key. When XP finally dumped me back onto the desktop, I activated it ("by telephone," of course) and all seemed well. I checked the internal XP product ID and it was not on the list of pirated IDs, in fact it didn't even come close to resembling one of them except in format or syntax.

"What next?" my apoplexied brain demanded, so I fired up MSIE (before you poke me with sharp sticks, I normally use Phoenix), and hit, to download and install the lengthily-titled Microsoft Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1 Express. (Whew!) About 67% into the installation process, my ever-benevolent computer (most likely the motherboard, which is failing and is going to be replaced later this week) decided to crash right at that moment. I was unsurprised, but also nonplussed. Crashes are no fun at the best of times; when you're installing a new part of an operating system, a crash means that you'll probably end up having to format the drive the OS is on and reinstall the damnable operating system.

Which is...


...what I had to do.

One would think such a task simple! But no, sir! This is Microsoft we're dealing with here! Pirated Microsoft software, in fact! Suffice it to say, I waited around for an hour while the format-and-install scheme ran through and hung on 53% of installing some probably useless Visual Basic DLL.

At that point, I'd had enough. I got dressed, put on my paratrooper combat boots, and my eleven-year-old black leather motorcycle jacket and leapt into my car, gunning the engine. The tires squealed as I pulled out of my parking lot. I was going to ...


Yes. My old arch-nemesis, Wal*Mart. I knew as well as they did that they would be the only place in the three Parishes that would be open at 7:30AM on a Sunday morning. Upon arrival, I squealed into a handicapped spot near the entrance and took off running towards the innards of cultureless megacorporationland. I walked inside and grabbed a hand basket. I started whistling a jaunty tune, hoping to menace whoever might question my mission. I had to get to the electronics department!

I tore through seemingly unending rows of Middle America's dresser drawers; bras, panties, gowns, footed pyjamas, slippers, pantyhose, and garter belts (at Wal*Mart? I idly pondered) flew past my periperheral vision as I cut corners on my way to the software subdepartment, near where the PlayStation2 and PC games are kept.

And there it was. The last one. It was on the top shelf, grinning smugly at me from behind its lucite casing and $99.88 price tag. I stepped on a short stack of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen VHS releases, and grabbed my prize. Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition. I made for the checkout lines with all speed, except for a stop along the way to pick up a bottle of Coke and an Energizer 2032 battery for my motherboard. After I paid for it all, I returned with all haste and the speed of the gods to my apartment, some 15 miles distant. And there, I remove the Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition from its pleasant-enough box, and slammed the dervish into one of my CD drives, where it began installing itself.

And it was good.

The moral of this story is, well, Sonny Jim, sometimes software piracy drives a man to adventure. Otherwise, he's left with plenty of pirated software, don't get me wrong here, boy. But he's also got to understand once in his life, Sonny Jim, just once; you've got to buy a retail copy of one of the easiest operating systems to pirate, just in case your comrades there can't get it for you.

Now let that be a lesson t' yuh!