Well done! This is just the kind of stuff I keep hoping to find -- it will take me a while to read through it but so far it looks fascinating. (I think that, concerning computer and software makers, I've reached my annoyance threshold, it can't get any higher.)
And ... it reminded me of something
Having by now posted on so many forums, everything having become so convoluted, I simply cannot believe that until I began reading the link you posted I'd completely forgotten, for many months now, what had been my very first suspicions way back in April. This seemed to coincide very closely with the beginning of my computer's problems, maybe you'll know whether or not it could possibly be connected.
(As this post is probably just inb4loc, I don't mean to re-open the discussion unless you think that something here may warrant it -- I'm perfectly comfortable leaving things as they ended yesterday, but this may at least be interesting.)
I had just installed the trial version of an image processing program, DxO Optics Pro, and a few days later happened to notice a new folder for an application which I hadn't installed, Pace. Googling that took me to Warning: DxO Optics Pro Version 5 Uses Pace Interlok: News Discussion Forum: Digital Photography Review
The thread leads appropriately through discussions of the ethical questions surrounding DxO Labs secretly bundling and installing this third-party anti-piracy program with their demo, but more to our point also addresses and provides more links to many accounts of resulting PC system damage.
"DXO uses it on the demos too. So demoing the program leads to software being installed outside of your operating system. So be very careful. I have experienced other programs being disabled along with various other PC issues including email issues since attempting to use DXO V5. Do not clean your registry for example. That is considered a piracy event and damage occurs. Interlok can reboot your machine at any time. Try googling wave and pace interlok or other searches on this subject."
I immediately uninstalled the demo, but for myself and many others that did not get rid of the Pace program. Some had no problem, the difference seeming to have been which program functions had been enabled in the demo. I remember one man posting a removal solution involving modifying or deleting several dozen registry keys. Rather than go through that, I decided to just do a clean install of XP. I certainly don't know enough to do more than suspect, but might that have been the very first of the many which followed?
 just noticed this, http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=25812845
I've been using Nikon Capture NX2 for about 2 or 3 months now, but I don't think
that it put Pace back on my PC ... maybe because this is registered, not a demo.