The iRig Pro Duo makes managing advanced audio workflows simple anywhere

Connecting audio interfaces to the various mobile and computing devices we use these days can be a confusing headache. The iRig Pro Duo, which IK Multimedia announced this year at CES and recently released, is a great way to simplify those connections while giving you all the flexibility you need to record high-quality audio anywhere, with any device.

The basics

The iRig Pro Duo is a new addition to IK’s lineup based on the original iRig Pro, which adds a second XLR input, as the name implies. It’s still quite small and portable, fitting roughly in your hand, with built-in power optionally supplied via two AA batteries, while you can also power it via USB connection, or with an optional dedicated plug-in power adapter accessory.

Compared to desktop devices like the Scarlett Focusrite 2i2 USB audio interface that’s a popular standard among home audio enthusiasts, the iRig Pro Duo is downright tiny. It’s still beefier than the iRig Pro, of course, but it’s a perfect addition to a mobile podcaster’s kit for ultimately portability while also maintaining all the features and capabilities you need.

The iRig Pro Duo also includes balanced L/R 1/4″ output, built-in 48v phantom power for passive Macs, a 3.5mm stereo jack for direct monitoring, 2x MIDI inputs and dedicated gain control with simple LED indicators for 48V power status and to indicate audio input peaking.


Beveled edges and a slightly rounded rectangular box design might not win the iRig Pro Duo any accolades from the haute design community, but it’s a very practical form factor for this type of device. Inputs go in one side, and output comes out the other. IK Multimedia employs a unique connector for its output cables, but provides every one you could need in the box for connecting to Mac, iOS, Windows and Android devices.

The whole thing is wrapped in a matte, slightly rubberized outside surface that feels grippy and durable, while also looking good in an understated way that suits its purpose as a facilitation device. The knobs are large and easy to turn with fine-grained control, and there are pads on the underside of the Duo to help it stick a bit better to a surface like a table or countertop.

The lighting system is pretty effective when it comes to a shorthand for what’s on and working with your system, but this is one area where it might be nice to have a more comprehensive on-device audio levels display, for instance. Still, it does the job, and since you’ll likely be working with some kind of digital audio workflow software whenever you’re using it that will have a much more detailed visualizer, it’s not really that much of an issue.

Bottom line

As mentioned, iRig Pro Duo works with virtually all platforms out of the box, and has physical connector cables to ensure it can connect to just about every one as well. IK Multimedia also supplies free DAW software and effects, for all platforms – though you do have to make a choice about which one you’re most interested in since it’s limited to one piece of software per customer.

If you’re looking for a simple, painless and versatile way to either set up a way to lay down some music, or to record a solo or interview podcast, this is an option that ticks essentially all the boxes you could come up with.

Smart glass manufacturer Click Materials inks major deal to challenge $1 billion-backed View Inc.

Click Materials, a Vancouver-based developer of “smart glass” has inked a major partnership with one fo the largest manufacturers of windows for the home, Cardinal Glass, as it looks to challenge the billion dollar-backed View Inc.

Founded in 2016 by a University of British Columbia professor, Curtis Berlinguette, Click Materials has raised only a few hundred thousand dollars in seed funding. But the technology that Berlinguette’s company is developing could provide a lower-cost more flexible option to traditional photochromatic deposition — which can be applied to plastic as well as glass.

Smart glass gets its name from the coatings that are applied to transparent surfaces (typically glass) that allow users to customize the tint of the surface between clear and dark states. The result is more control over heat and light levels in an environment. It turns out that exposure to sunlight has implications for mental health and can enable dramatic cost savings in heating and cooling for any built environment.

Click Materials claims that its windows can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to fifty percent and that it can achieve those reductions while slashing manufacturing costs by as much as sixty percent.

Through the partnership with Cardinal Glass, Click will be building out a pilot plant that could give the upstart company manufacturing capacity to reach nearly $25 million in annual revenue, according to founder and chief executive, Curtis Berlinguette.

A typical plant of that size could cost at least $10 million, according to industry experts, but Click’s process — leveraging automation and existing manufacturing lines — means that a pilot can be built for a fraction of that cost, according to industry insiders.

“The first pilot plant is to prove out the product and get it refined,” says Berlinguette. And the company has other potential partnerships lined up to take its smart window products into commercial real estate and even auto manufacturing, Berlinguette said.  

The company has scaled from one employee as recently as a year ago to a staff of ten now with plans to add another 15 employees by the end of the year.

Image courgesy of Click Materials

While smart glass may seem like an odd investment thesis, the technology has received attention from a diverse array of investors. SoftBank’s Vision Fund is a major investor in the market through View Inc., which has raised roughly $1.8 billion in funding, according to Crunchbase. Another big player in the world of smart glass technologies is the multi-billion dollar French industrial conglomerate Saint-Gobain, which bought Sage Electrochromics back in 2012.

“Both of those companies have cleared a path for us because they’ve educated the market,” said Berlinguette. “The way they make their products — even with economies of scale you won’t be able to bring the cost of making those windows down to a level that’s accessible for the residential market. Those products are two to three times too expensive for the residential sector.”

Cardinal, a longtime leader in residential glass manufacturing and construction, was impressed with the new process that Click had developed, according to a statement from the company.

“Click Material’s proprietary deposition method enables uniform, optically-pure coatings that can be sprayed at ambient conditions and has the potential to disrupt the electrochromic window industry in the residential market and beyond,” said Keith Burrows, Technology Scouting & IP Manager at Cardinal Glass.

The potential to revolutionize design using smart glass extend far beyond the residential market, according to Berlinguette. Indeed, one of the areas where the company’s technology could have a significant impact is in the design of electric vehicles.

Heating and cooling can significantly reduce the range of electric vehicles, and the use of smart glass can, conceivably, increase efficiency significantly, Berlinguette said.

“As consumer appetite to bring smart technologies into the home grows, Click is delivering innovative advancements to window technology that will truly transform the way we experience our connected homes in the future,” said Berlinguette, in a statement. “The opportunities here are immense; heating, cooling and lighting account for 35% of home energy consumption, half of which can be lost through windows. Studies have also shown that greater control over lighting can dramatically improve energy, mood and personal well-being. Our partnership with Cardinal Glass is a massive leap towards bringing the future of windows into the present, with just one Click.”

Microsoft OneDrive Personal Vault rolls out worldwide, launches expandable storage

Earlier this summer, Microsoft introduced an extra layer of security to its Dropbox competitor, OneDrive. The security features, called OneDrive Personal Vault, allow users to protect their files with two-step verification, like a fingerprint or facial recognition, PIN code or a one-time code sent through email, SMS or Microsoft Authenticator. At the time of launch, however, the feature was only available to select markets. Today, it’s rolling out worldwide and introducing new features, including expandable storage.

The company said OneDrive Personal Vault would initially be available to Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but would reach all OneDrive users by the end of the year.

With today’s expansion, it’s a little ahead of schedule, as it’s just now the end of September.

Personal Vault is available to all OneDrive users, with some limitations.

For those using OneDrive’s free or standalone 100GB storage plan, you’re able to store up to three files in Personal Vault. Office 365 subscribers can store as many files as they want, up to their storage limits.

Stronger authentication is the key selling point for Personal Vault, but it also comes with additional security measures. This includes “Scan and Shoot,” which lets you scan documents or shoot photos directly to Personal Vault, bypassing your device storage, like the camera roll. Personal Vault will also automatically lock files after a period of inactivity, restrict sharing on the files saved to prevent accidental shares and automatically sync files to a BitLocker-encrypted area of the hard drive on Windows 10 PCs.

ba2d0566 5e67 43ce 998a fa1aa6517dbeIn addition to the global launch of Personal Vault, Microsoft also today introduced new storage options for One Drive, plus new features like PC Folder backup and dark mode.

Starting today, OneDrive users will now be able to add storage to their plans in 200GB increments, starting at $1.99 per month.

Meanwhile, PC Folder backup will allow OneDrive to back up your desktop, documents and picture folders from your Windows PC to the cloud, similar to rival desktop apps from Dropbox and Google Drive, for example. This option is available to Windows 7, 8 and 10 PCs. On Windows 10, it’s integrated so users can even opt to enable it during Windows setup or updates.

And OneDrive will now support a dark mode on iOS 13.

Personal Vault is live globally, as of today.

How Axis went from concept to shipping its Gear smart blinds hardware

Axis is selling its first product, the Axis Gear, on Amazon and direct from its own website, but that’s a relatively recent development for the four-year-old company. The idea for Gear, which is a $249.00 ($179.00 as of this writing thanks to a sale) aftermarket conversion gadget to turn almost any cord-pull blinds into automated smart blinds, actually came to co-founder and CEO Trung Pham in 2014, but development didn’t begin until early the next year, and the maxim that “hardware is hard” once again proved more than valid.

Pham, whose background is actually in business but who always had a penchant for tech and gadgets, originally set out to scratch his own itch and arrived upon the idea for his company as a result. He was actually in the market for smart blinds when he moved into his first condo in Toronto, but after all the budget got eaten up on essentials like a couch, a bed and a TV, there wasn’t much left in the bank for luxuries like smart shades — especially after he actually found out how much they cost.

“Even though I was a techie, and I wanted automated shades, I couldn’t afford it,” Pham told me in an interview. “I went to the designer and got quoted for some really nice Hunter Douglas. And they quoted me just over $1,000 a window with the motorization option. So I opted just for manual shades. A couple of months later, when it’s really hot and sunny, I’m just really noticing the heat so I go back to the designer and ask him ‘Hey can I actually get my shades motorized now, I have a little bit more money, I just want to do my living room.’ And that’s when I learned that once you have your shades installed, you actually can’t motorize them, you have to replace them with brand new shades.”

With his finance background, Pham saw an opportunity in the market that was ignored by the big legacy players, and potentially relatively easy to address with tech that wasn’t all that difficult to develop, including a relatively simple motor and the kind of wireless connectivity that’s much more readily available thanks to the smartphone component supply chain. And the market demand was there, Pham says — especially with younger homeowners spending more on their property purchases (or just renting) and having less to spare on expensive upgrades like motorized shades.

AXIS Gear 1The Axis solution is relatively affordable (though its regular asking price of $249 per unit can add up, depending on how many windows you’re looking to retrofit) and also doesn’t require you to replace your entire existing shades or blinds, so long as you have the type with which the Gear is compatible (which includes quite a lot of commonly available shades). There are a couple of power options, including an AC adapter for a regular outlet, or a solar bar with back-up from AA batteries in case there’s no outlet handy.

Pham explained how in early investor meetings, he would cite Dyson as an inspiration, because that company took something that was standard and considered central to their very staid industry and just removed it altogether — specifically referring to their bagless design. He sees Axis as taking a similar approach in the smart blind market, which has too much to gain from maintaining its status quo to tackle Axis’ approach to the market. Plus, Pham notes, Axis has six patents filed and three granted for its specific technical approach.

“We want to own the idea of smart shades to the end consumer,” he told me. “And that’s where the focus really is. It’s a big opportunity, because you’re not just buying one doorbell or one thermostat – you’re buying multiple units. We have customers that buy one or two right away, come back and buy more, and we have customers that buy 20 right away. So our ability to sell volume to each household is very beneficial for us as a business.”

Which isn’t to say Axis isn’t interested in larger-scale commercial deployment — Pham says that there are “a lot of [commercial] players and hotels testing it,” and notes that they also “did a project in the U.S. with one of the largest developers in the country.” So far, however, the company is laser-focused on its consumer product and looking at commercial opportunities as they come inbound, with plans to tackle the harder work of building a proper commercial sales team. But it could afford Axis a lot of future opportunity, especially because their product can help building managers get compliant with measures like the Americans with Disabilities Act to outfit properties with the requisite amount of units featuring motorized shades.

To date, Axis has been funded entirely via angel investors, along with family and friends, and through a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo, which secured its first orders. Pham says revenue and sales, along with year-over-year growth, have all been strong so far, and that they’ve managed to ship “quite a few units so far” — though he declined to share specifics. The startup is about to close a small bridge round and then will be looking to pin down its Series A funding as it looks to expand its product line — with a focus on greater window coverings style compatibility as top priority.

How Roblox avoided the gaming graveyard and grew into a $2.5B company

There are successful companies that grow fast and garner tons of press. Then there’s Roblox, a company which took at least a decade to hit its stride and has, relative to its current level of success, barely gotten any recognition or attention.

Why has Roblox’s story gone mostly untold? One reason is that it emerged from a whole generation of gaming portals and platforms. Some, like, got lucky or pivoted their business. Others by and large failed.

Once companies like Facebook, Apple and Google got to the gaming scene, it just looked like a bad idea to try to build your own platform — and thus not worth talking about. Added to that, founder and CEO Dave Baszucki seems uninterested in press.

But overall, the problem has been that Roblox just seemed like an insignificant story for many, many years. The company had millions of users, sure. So did any number of popular games. In its early days, Roblox even looked like Minecraft, a game that was released long after Roblox went live, but that grew much, much faster.

Yet here we are today: Roblox now claims that half of all American children aged 9-12 are on its platform. It has jumped to 90 million monthly unique users and is poised to go international, potentially multiplying that number. And it’s unique. Essentially all other distribution services offering games through a portal have eventually fizzled, aside from some distant cousins like Steam.

This is the story of how Roblox not only survived, but built a thriving platform.

Seeds of an idea

GettyImages 1027412388

(Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Before Roblox, there was Knowledge Revolution, a company that made teaching software. While designed to allow students to simulate physics experiments, perhaps predictably, they also treated it like a game.

“The fun seemed to be in building your own experiment,” says Baszucki. “When people were playing it and we went into schools and labs, they were all making car crashes and buildings fall down, making really funny stuff.” Provided with a sandbox, kids didn’t just make dry experiments about mass or velocity — they made games, or experiences they could show off to friends for a laugh.

Knowledge Revolution was founded in 1989, by Dave Baszucki and his brother Greg (who didn’t later co-found Roblox, but is now on its board). Nearly a decade later, it was acquired for $20 million by MSC Software, which made professional simulation tools. Dave continued there for another four years before leaving to become an angel investor.

Baszucki put money into Friendster, a company that pre-dated Facebook and MySpace in the social networking category. That investment seeded another piece of the idea for Roblox. Taken together, the legacy of Knowledge Revolution and Friendster were the two key components undergirding Roblox: a physics sandbox with strong creation tools, and a social graph.

Baszucki himself is a third piece of the puzzle. Part of an older set of entrepreneurs, which might be called the Steve Jobs generation, Baszucki’s archetype seems closer to Mr. Rogers than Jobs himself: unfailingly polite and enthusiastic, never claiming superior insight, and preferring to pass credit for his accomplishments on to others. In conversation, he shows interests both central and tangential to Roblox, like virtual environments, games, education, digital identity and the future of tech. Somewhere in this heady mix, the idea of Roblox came about.

The first release

Alexa for Windows 10 PCs goes hands-free

In November, Amazon launched an Alexa app for Windows 10 PCs which allowed PC owners to speak to Alexa in order to set reminders, timers, alarms, create to-dos, track their calendar, control their smart home get news, information and more, and even play music. Now, that app is getting an update — amid Microsoft’s suite of Build announcements, Amazon has released a new version of the Alexa app for Windows that offers a hands-free experience.

That means, explains Amazon, you can now invoke Alexa whether it’s running in the foreground or the background. All you need to do is to say “Alexa” thanks to the new wake-word capability.

The hands-free option doesn’t replace the former push-to-talk capability. That’s still an option, if you prefer.

In addition to the new hands-free feature, the app now includes support for Pandora music streaming, allowing Windows PC owners to use Alexa to ask for their favorite Pandora stations.

The app represents another way that the Alexa experience has become untethered from Amazon Echo’s speakers, as well as a way for the voice assistant to be used in a more productivity focused environment.

The Alexa app for Windows 10 PCs will automatically update when it’s opened, Amazon says. The app is a free download from the Windows Store.  

Security giant FireEye’s Q1 earnings in line with expectations, but outlook light

FireEye, one of the largest and most prominent security companies on the market, reported its fiscal first-quarter earnings after the bell Tuesday.

The cybersecurity giant reported first-quarter loss of $78.3 million, or 38 cents a share, on revenues of $210 million (statement). FireEye reported a loss of 3 cents per share on a non-GAAP basis, in line with Wall Street expectations.

FireEye’s chief executive Kevin Mandia said the company “met or exceeded our guidance ranges for all key financial metrics” for the quarter.

The company had a good quarter news-wise. In March, the company debuted its secure email gateway, released its new Windows virtual machine-based malware analysis platform and continued to publish groundbreaking new research on prominent threat groups, as well as keeping on top of global cyberattack efforts.

And, just after the quarter closed earlier this month, the company revealed a second intrusion from a nation-state backed hacker group it calls Triton.

Looking ahead, FireEye said it expects to report second-quarter non-GAAP earnings between 1 cent and 3 cents with revenue between $212 and $216 million. Wall Street was expecting a second-quarter outlook of 4 cents per share on revenues of $216 million.

For the full year, FireEye is expecting revenues between $880 million and $890 million.

FireEye closed the day at $16.02, up more than 1%. In after-hours trading, the company was trending up.

Arizona Beverages knocked offline by ransomware attack

Arizona Beverages, one of the largest beverage suppliers in the U.S., is recovering after a massive ransomware attack last month, TechCrunch has learned.

The company, famous for its iced tea beverages, is still rebuilding its network almost two weeks after the attack hit, wiping hundreds of Windows computers and servers and effectively shutting down sales operations for days until incident response was called in, according to a person familiar with the matter.

More than 200 servers and networked computers displayed the same message: “Your network was hacked and encrypted.”

Notices posted around the office told staff to hand in their laptops to IT staff. “Do not power on, copy files, or connect to any network,” read the posters. “Your laptop may be compromised.”

It took the company another five days before the company brought in incident responders to handle the outbreak, the source said. Many of the back-end servers were running old and outdated Windows operating systems that are no longer supported. Most hadn’t received security patches in years.

The source said they were “surprised” an attack hadn’t come sooner given the age of their systems.

A day after the attack hit, staff found the backup system wasn’t configured properly and were unable to retrieve the data for days until the company signed an expensive contract to bring in Cisco incident responders. A spokesperson for Cisco did not immediately comment. The company’s IT staff had to effectively rebuild the entire network from scratch. Since the outbreak, the company has spent “hundreds of thousands” on new hardware, software and recovery costs.

“Once the backups didn’t work, they started throwing money at the problem,” the person said.

The ransomware infection, understood to be iEncrypt (known as BitPaymer) per a screenshot seen by TechCrunch, was triggered overnight on March 21, weeks after the FBI contacted Arizona to warn of an apparent Dridex malware infection. The FBI declined to comment, but the source said incident responders believed Arizona’s systems had been compromised for at least a couple of months.

The ransom note asked to email the attacker “to get the ransom amount.” There’s no known decryption tool for iEncrypt.

Dridex is delivered through a malicious email attachment. Once the implant installs, the attacker can gain near-unfettered access to the entire network and can steal passwords, monitor network traffic and deliver additional malware. With help from international partners, the FBI took down the password-stealing botnet in 2015, but the malware continues to pose a threat. More recently, Dridex has been used to deliver ransomware to victims.

Kaspersky said two years after the takedown that the malware is “still armed and dangerous.”

Incident responders seem to believe Arizona’s earlier Dridex compromise may have led to the subsequent ransomware infection.

“Initially, Dridex was used to steal credentials to enable wire fraud, but since 2017 it is more commonly observed running more targeted and higher value operations,” said Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at security firm CrowdStrike. He said the company has “observed this malware being used to deploy enterprise ransomware, which we call ‘Big Game Hunting.’ ”

The ransomware also infected the company’s Windows-powered Exchange server, knocking out email across the entire company. Although its Unix systems were unaffected, the ransomware outbreak left the company without any computers able to process customer orders for almost a week. Staff began processing orders manually several days into the outage.

“We were losing millions of dollars a day in sales,” the source said. “It was a complete shitshow.”

The company still has a ways to recover from the ransomware attack. The source put the figure at “about 60 percent up-and-running,” but the company’s security awareness has improved.

A spokesperson for Arizona Beverages did not respond to an email requesting comment. Phone lines to the company did not appear to be functioning. We sent several messages to senior executives via LinkedIn prior to publication but did not hear back.

It’s the latest in an uptick in high-profile ransomware events in recent weeks.

Last year, German manufacturer KrausMaffei was also said to be hit on November 21 by the same iEncrypt ransomware, based off a leaked screenshot of the ransom note. Similar initial ransomware infections have been connected to later ransomware attacks. Trend Micro said in December that Dridex and other malware families like Emotet were linked. Weeks before Arizona’s outbreak, a local Georgia county was hit by a similar ransomware attack.

Microsoft launches a new app to make using Office easier

Microsoft today announced a new Office app that’s now available to Windows Insiders and that will soon roll out to all Windows 10 users. The new Office app will replace the existing My Office app (yeah, those names…). While the existing app was mostly about managing Office 365 subscriptions, the new app provides significantly more features and will essentially become the central hub for Office users to switch between apps, see their pinned documents and access other Office features.

The company notes that this launch is part of its efforts to make using Office easier and help users “get the most out of Office and getting them back into their work quickly.” For many Office users, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel are basically their central tools for getting work done, so it makes sense to give them a single app that combines in a single place all the information about their work.

Using the app, users can switch between apps, see everything they’ve been working on, as well as recommended documents based on what I assume is data from the Microsoft Graph. There’s also an integrated search feature and admins will be able to customize the app with other line of business applications and their company’s branding.

The app is free and will be available in the oft-forgotten Microsoft Store. It’ll work for all users with Office 365 subscriptions or access to Office 2019, Office 2016 or Office Online.

Microsoft attempts to spin its role in counterfeiting case

Earlier this week Eric Lundgren was sentenced to 15 months in prison for selling what Microsoft claimed was “counterfeit software,” but which was in fact only recovery CDs loaded with data anyone can download for free. The company has now put up a blog post setting “the facts” straight, though it’s something of a limited set of those facts.

“We are sharing this information now and responding publicly because we believe both Microsoft’s role in the case and the facts themselves are being misrepresented,” the company wrote. But it carefully avoids the deliberate misconception about software that it promulgated in court.

That misconception, which vastly overstated Lundgren’s crime and led to the sentence he received, is simply to conflate software with a license to operate that software. Without going into details (my original post spells it out at length) it maintained in court that the discs Lundgren was attempting to sell were equivalent to entire licensed operating systems, when they were simply recovery discs that any user, refurbisher, or manufacturer can download and burn for free. Lundgren was going to sell them to repair shops for a quarter each so they could hand them out to people who needed them.

Hardly anyone even makes these discs any more, certainly not Microsoft, and they’re pretty much worthless without a licensed copy of the OS in the first place. But Microsoft convinced the judges that a piece of software with no license or product key — meaning it won’t work properly, if at all — is worth the same as one with a license.

Lundgren had already pleaded guilty to infringing Dell’s trademark by copying the look of its discs, but the value Microsoft convinced the judges those discs have (a total of $700,000) directly led to his 15-month sentence.

Anyway, the company isn’t happy with the look it has of sending a guy to prison for stealing something with no value to anyone but someone with a bum computer and no backup. It summarizes what it thinks are the most important points as follows, with my commentary following the bullets.

Microsoft did not bring this case: U.S. Customs referred the case to federal prosecutors after intercepting shipments of counterfeit software imported from China by Mr. Lundgren.

This is perfectly true, however Microsoft has continually misrepresented the nature and value of the discs, falsely claiming that they led to lost sales. That’s not possible, of course, since Microsoft gives the contents of these discs away for free. It sells licenses to operate Windows, something you’d have to have already if you wanted to use the discs in the first place.

Lundgren established an elaborate counterfeit supply chain in China: Mr. Lundgren traveled extensively in China to set up a production line and designed counterfeit molds for Microsoft software in order to unlawfully manufacture counterfeit discs in significant volumes.

Microsoft is trying to make it sound like the guy is some criminal mastermind running some big time Windows pirating empire. He literally gave a Dell recovery disc to a duplication shop and told them to make exact copies of it, including the label and paper sleeve.

Lundgren failed to stop after being warned: Mr. Lundgren was even warned by a customs seizure notice that his conduct was illegal and given the opportunity to stop before he was prosecuted.

I can’t speak to this one, but Lundgren told me that the first notice he had that this was being pursued by anyone was when they raided his house. The monetary value of the discs was so small and the counterfeiting piece so minor (fake labels for duplicates of discs that Dell doesn’t even provide any more) that if anything it would be a fine and confiscation of the shipment, not a 5-year case alleging millions in damages.

Lundgren pleaded guilty: The counterfeit discs obtained by Mr. Lundgren were sold to refurbishers in the United States for his personal profit and Mr. Lundgren and his codefendant both pleaded guilty to federal felony crimes.

Lundgren pleaded guilty to counterfeiting the Dell discs, not to counterfeiting Microsoft software. It’s an important distinction because the discs are nearly worthless and copyright crimes are sentenced based on the value of the infringed item. I’ve asked him about the claim that he sold 8,000 of them to some buyer for $28,000, or $3.50 each — something that would make so sense, since any buyer would know these things can be made for pennies.

Lundgren went to great lengths to mislead people: His own emails submitted as evidence in the case show the lengths to which Mr. Lundgren went in an attempt to make his counterfeit software look like genuine software. They also show him directing his co-defendant to find less discerning customers who would be more easily deceived if people objected to the counterfeits.

Printing an accurate copy of a label for a disc isn’t exactly “great lengths.” Early on the company in China printed “Made in USA” on the disc and “Made in Canada” on the sleeve, and had a yellow background when it should have been green — that’s the kind of thing he was fixing.

Lundgren intended to profit from his actions: His own emails submitted as evidence before the court make clear that Mr. Lundgren’s motivation was to sell counterfeit software to generate income for himself.

The plan was to sell these nearly worthless discs —remember, anybody can make one for free — for a quarter each to refurbishers.

Microsoft has a strong program to support legitimate refurbishers and recyclers: Our program supports hundreds of legitimate recyclers, while protecting customers.

The implication is that that Lundgren is not a legitimate refurbisher or recycler. He pointed out earlier, however, that his company, which handles recycling for Lenovo, Nintendo, and others, takes care of more e-waste in a year than Microsoft has in a decade.

When a refurbisher installs a fresh version of Windows on a refurbished PC, we charge a discounted rate of $25 for the software and a new license – it is not free.

But if they’re not installing a fresh version of Windows, because the machine already has a licensed copy on it, as so many do, the software is free. There’s no limit on how many a company can make on its own; Microsoft only charges for the licenses. Here, go make one yourself in case you need to do it.

Mr. Lundgren’s scheme was simple. He was counterfeiting Windows software in China and importing it to the United States. Mr. Lundgren intended the software to be sold to the refurbisher community as if it was a legitimate, licensed copy of Windows.

There’s the key right there. “As if it was a legitimate, licensed copy of Windows.”

These are not licensed copies of Windows! They’re discs anyone can make, and that manufacturers and refurbishers can print as many of as they like, to give to customers who already have a copy of Windows. These discs are for repairing or re-installing a copy of the OS. They did not come with licenses and Lundgren was not selling or providing licenses.

Don’t let Microsoft fool you the way they helped fool the judges. A recovery disc is something you or I or a refurbisher can make right now for free. A license to operate Windows comes from Microsoft and costs good money. They’re not the same thing and Lundgren was going to sell the former, not the latter.

I’ve asked Microsoft to explain this last point and will update the post if I hear back.