The problem with any reasonably secure activation system is a) it will cause a lot of problems for certain people/hardware and b) it will probably be hackable anyway. I had just endured the pain of losing my linux files due to the terrible way in which windows installations simply overwrite the master boot record ignoring any existing systems in my case actually overwriting it with a new type of boot record (GPT) which was incompatible with Windows XP 32 which then couldn't install. I thought my pain was over, all I needed to do was boot XP, install any missing drivers and be done with it. Oh no.
Activation. I have a legit copy of XP (although I had lost the key) so I expected to at least be able to get 30 days to find my key so I could activate it. In order to get past the installation, I used some key I found on the internet (expecting it to be blacklisted for activation).
I booted up to the login screen and was immediately told I had to activate before I could log in and surely enough, my only options were to activate or it would log me back off. This didn't seem right, I had never come across this before.
Surprise, surprise, there is a bug in the way activation works. The simple cause was that I had no network installed because neither of my drivers (wired and wireless) were installed by XP. Firstly, this causes activation to get confused and think you have done something bad which requires immediate activation (which is understandable if it worked) but the major problem is then you cannot activate over the network (no big deal) but if you click "telephone", it displays a page with your hardware id which is - BLANK. Why? Because part of this key comes from the network card which is not installed yet. I called Microsoft but they were mostly useless and told me to ring tech support.
What I had to do was reboot into safe mode (press F8 when starting up) but NOT safe mode with networking, that won't work. In safe mode, I had to get the network drivers (via CD because the network wasn't working) and attempt to install them along with the video drivers. The wi-fi installer wouldn't work in safe mode but the lan looked like it did. I also tried this hack to disable the activation check by changing a registry key.
Rebooted into normal and it still said I needed to activate but when I pressed "Activate Now", it told me I was already activated (presumably because of what I changed in the registry) so I changed it back. Rebooted again and this time it told me to activate and brought up the screen to activate. This time, the lan was enabled so I brought up the internet activation window and it told me my key was invalid (as I expected). Since I couldn't find my key, I found a key gen on t'internet and it generated me a key that worked! I then had the joy of installing service pack 1 and then 3 although after 3 was installed, the screen started working properly and the whole thing seemed better. I then obtained and installed the remainder of the drivers from the Samsung site (they are hard to find!) so that there were no more little yellow icons in device manager.
Now all I have to do is reinstall Ubuntu which will take MUCH less time (and no activation).