Stealing Software

Posted at 10:08 pm on Sunday, July 26, 2009, in Technology, and tagged , , .

I started writing this post while sitting half-asleep on a modern uncomfortable sofa in the Amsterdam airport while I was waiting for my connection to Warsaw without the benefit of wireless internet. I used WriteRoom — a software package I find myself using more and more often to write without distraction. (It actually works.) I purchased WriteRoom for $19.95 not long before my European jaunt. Other pieces of software that I have purchased since my MacBook purchase were Office for Mac (using a hefty corporate discount), ExpanDrive ($29.95), Backblaze, and the latest iLife upgrade (something stupid like $100). I also fell victim to the latest MacHeist, which brought me three applications that I use (out of 18): Espresso, Delicious Library, and WireTap Studio. Everything else that I use is either free or open-source: Picasa, Firefox, Dropbox, Skype, and Cyberduck.

While busily writing this post in Schiphol airport however, I never found myself actively discussing my main argument, that software is intellectual property, and that stealing it is very wrong. I kept going off-tangent, which I can only ascribe to my state of being. I couldn’t focus my attention on my point, that I was also confused that even in today’s (hyper) web-focused business world, and those making plays in that world, that individuals would still find it appropriate (or make endless excuses that make it seem potentially appropriate, when you squint your eyes and the stars are all aligned, but even then, everyone should know that it is still wrong) to use cracked versions of software packages, or would actively seek stolen copies or access codes. That sort of stuff is, um, frowned upon.

It was my intention to elucidate these thoughts, beginning with my personal sordid history with stolen software as a basis for my opinion. Unfortunately, I was not able to illustrate my thoughts in a purposeful manner while sitting barely awake at AMS, and now, time has seemingly run out. Either way, I am pretty sure I am not qualified too take such a high road on the issue, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

This is what I wrote on May 15…

I stole some software when I was young and stupid. A friend of mine burnt me a copy of a cracked version of Macromedia’s DreamWeaver and Flash. (Macromedia is now owned by Adobe.) I’ve never used Flash. Too time consuming. And I was all set to create a series of splash pages for my websites too. That was four years ago, and I still have no Flash-based splash pages on any of my websites. So there goes my determination. Dreamweaver, on the other hand, I got some pretty good use out of in the immediate short-term. And overall, it was a much better option for editing more complicated code than with, say, FrontPage. However, I never used it enough to say that I needed it. I have always edited my websites on the fly, with Notepad or any text editor. That is all that is really needed anyway. And when I started using blog publishing tools, the in-house editors sufficed for the most part. In the end, Flash and Dreamweaver became wasted space on my hard-drive, and as I purged my old computer a few weeks ago, in an effort to clean-up my files for a partition and dual-boot install of the latest Ubuntu release, so went Dreamweaver and Flash with the ubiquitous Add and Remove Programs utility.

That was the only software I have ever really stolen. My usual process when I think I want a piece of software, which almost always is based on temporal foolishness and not earnestness, is to find an open-source comparable. I prefer open-source (for the most part) for one reason: you know that someone is working to improve it. And that is true always. Unlike a purchase of a big-name product, say, Microsoft Office, which, purchased legitimately will set you back a few hundred dollars, there really is no reason or driving force for Microsoft to improve that product. You’ve already bought it. Open source software, on the other hand, is always being improved because that is the only reason people will use it. If the product is not always getting better, typically by way of sometimes-stubborn incremental updates (FileZilla is the best example), then the users will simply flee. There is no reason for them to stick with the product because they didn’t pay for it. If there is no comparable open source solution, I then looked at the trial period or limited free versions to see if those were good enough for what I needed this piece of software for — this ultra-important task that I had forced myself to think was immediately pressing. And most of the times, it is.

I have a long history of deleting programs — via Add and Remove — within a few hours or days of initial install, sometimes minutes.

I’ve never really spent a lot of money on software, until I purchased my MacBook. I had two incorrect perceptions of Apple products before I had finally drummed up the courage to buy one. First, I thought that the right-click was a no-show on Macs, and I was wrong. Although the built-in and Apple-branded mice do not have a right-click, the hardware (and software) recognize right-click. When I am away from my home, and I do not have my wireless mouse, I do need to use control-click on my MacBook because there is no right mouse button, but after a few weeks of use, I am entirely accustomed to the practice (whereas on a PC, I hardly ever use control-click, since I always had a right mouse button). Anyway. The second misconception was that there were no freeware or open-source software for the Mac, and I was entirely wrong.