When Microsoft first introduced product activation as an antipiracy scheme with Windows XP, many people were outraged. They talked about invasions of their privacy, they talked about software that would stop working if it was moved to a different platform, they even talked about the possibility that the activation process might not be available when they wanted to install the software.But Microsoft reassured us. According to the product activation Web site: "Microsoft Product Activation is easy for users to accomplish and for many users will only be required to activate once for the life of the product (some users may have to activate again if they move the software from one PC to another or upgrade a significant number of components within their PC)." Besides the fact that they need a good copy-editor, it would appear that activation was a simple process.Hundreds and thousands of Australians recently discovered that, like many statements coming out of Redmond, this wasn't entirely true.As reported in Australia's "ITnews" (https:\/\/www.itnews.com.au\/storycontent.cfm?ID=17&Art_ID=12181), the activation phone lines were down for more than six hours - from noon to 6 p.m. - on a recent Saturday.Now, when you can't get the activation code for Windows XP (either Home version or Professional version) or Office XP then you pretty much get to twiddle your thumbs or break out your back-up system (a pencil and a notepad) until Microsoft can get its act together to allow you to use the software you've already paid a bunch of money to license.Callers to the activation line first found themselves placed on hold waiting for "the next available representative." After half an hour, a person did come on the line, but only to tell the caller to "please hang up and call back in five hours or so." Later, callers simply got a recording indicating that the Microsoft office was closed and they should call back after 6 p.m. I would certainly be quizzical if I were told that an office was closed all of Saturday afternoon but would open at 6 p.m. A bar or a restaurant, sure - but a software vendor? A number of acquaintances have told me that the Internet-based activation was also disabled during the time when the phone lines were down leading to speculation that the software which generates the activation codes had developed some type of problem. As far as I can tell, it was only the Australian offices that were affected.I've also heard, though, that people in Australia attempting to obtain activation codes for Windows Server 2003 via the Internet had to wait up to three weeks to get their codes. That could really place your organization in difficulty because you only have 30 days after installation to acquire the activation code before the software shuts down.While I'm sure Microsoft will institute systems so that this particular problem doesn't reoccur, nevertheless other problems could develop. The prudent manager will not put off obtaining an activation code (where it's needed). Telling your boss that he can't use his computer because the world's largest software company is "closed for the afternoon" will probably get you a one-way ticket to the unemployment line. Don't let that happen to you.