Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The case against pirated software

There are a lot of tools that we need, which do not come standard with Windows. Common ones include CD burning software to burn ISO images, an FTP client, a SSH/SFTP client, Office productivity software, firewall software, and importantly anti-virus software. Some of these may come standard with the computer you purchase, but most of this is stuff you need to install yourself. There is an obvious temptation to just head over to Kazaa, or BitTorrent, and get pirated copies, or get eval copies and keys / cracks off astalavista.

However, over the past couple of years, there are an increasingly large number of genuinely free - meaning free as in beer and/or freedom options available for a lot of this software. This in itself makes a case for not using these. Head over to to find pretty good free versions of software you need.

But enough of me moralizing. The REAL reason you should not download this is that the potential for malware is fairly high. It is trivial for someone to totally mess up your system by making you install malware Nasty 2.1 when you think you are installing Nero 7.1. Why take the risk? It is increasingly not worth it, when there are mature, stable pieces of free software available for most reasonable uses online. Except for MS Office and Symantec AV (I have this from an academic license from school), everything else I run is freeware/open source. And absolutely everything I run is 100% legal. No piracy in software.

here's a list to give you a better idea
Windows XP home - came bundled with my laptop
Browser - Firefox
Mail Client - Thunderbird
Firewall - ZoneAlarm free version
Music Player/CD burner -iTunes
DVD Player - Intervideo (came bundled with my laptop)
CD (ISO) Burner - DeepBurner
FTP/SFTP client/server - Filezilla (GPL - from sourceforge)
Photo manipulation - GIMP - it's overkill, since I use it mainly for lowering resolution on digital photos.

Additonally recommended - AVG
Spybot search and destroy

Get all these off - fast mirrors help the case.

I rest my case - except for Windows itself (I need that for VPN access to my office), and Office XP ( for legacy reasons - many documents don't work well with OpenOffice), I've reached the point where my dependency on paid software is reduced. It makes eminent economic sense, as I am getting off the latest and best upgrade treadmill that companies want you to be on. I am not a gizmo freak, so the support for the latest USB/FireWire knick-knack isn't important to me. Support for a digital camera, whenever I buy one will be, as will be support for sound and wireless. For my present and short-term future requirements, this seems to be working fine.

If you feel you are the cat's whiskers when it comes to coding or something, hop over and land a hand at one of the open-source projects. Find one that fits your interests and skills, and maybe you'll feel justified for taking all that stuff for free :-). And even if you don't, it's perfectly legal. Though it's amazing to see how so many people seem to be giving back.

No, I don't work on any of those projects. However, I do documentation for the Internet Archive

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