To make matters worse, it’s cheap. Reported in ComputerWorld, Windows 7 copies are showing up in shops, ready to be put on user’s hard drives, with activation already bypassed.

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A stall owner at one of the multistory PC markets in Beijing sold a copy of the program for 40 yuan (US$5.86) on Monday. It was not clear from the thin, DVD-shaped box or the contents of the disc what version of Windows 7 it purported to carry, but a 1.8GB file named Win7.gho was on the disc. A .gho file is an image of a system that can be copied onto a new hard drive, potentially letting a user bypass the activation key step for programs like Windows.

After seeing this, I’m sure that Mr. Ballmer is trying to keep the smoke from exiting his ears.

But wait, it gets better –

The vendor at the Beijing bazaar said she said had sold pirated copies of Windows 7 for more than a month and had a dozen buyers on some days. She kept the program discs in a low cabinet that she opened only when asked specifically for the OS.

It was not clear if the pirated Windows 7 disc carried malicious code, but its setup file promoted a Web site, www.pkghost.cn, infested with a high level of malware. Google found 31 scripting exploits, 25 Trojans and 21 other exploits on the site, according to its diagnostic page.

Of course, the article continues with the usual warnings, albeit a bit thickly layered, with a quote from a McAfee Avert Labs employee. I tend to wonder about these warnings, and the people giving them, as China seems to be a lot like the Wild West when it comes to pirated software. By that I mean that with the low regard they have for life, health and everything else, a person hawking malware would seem to be taking their life in their hands.

Still, it is amazing that these things happen, including their timing, and at that in places we tend to think as backward.

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