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How Pirated Software Impacts Free Software

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the free-as-in-cracked dept.

Linux Business 530

jmglov writes "Dave Gutteridge has an unusual take on why people are not interested in saving money by using a free-as-in-beer OS like Linux or *BSD: because Windows is free. At least, that is an all-too-common perception, thanks to bundling and piracy. Bundling is a well-known problem to the adoption of open source operating systems, so Dave takes a look at the piracy issue in depth. His title may offend you, but his well-written article will most likely get you thinking hard about the question, 'how much does Windows cost?'"

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Very true.... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242107)

I'm going to post this anonymously for obvious reasons. I have a few Windows XP licenses, but they are all OEM XP Home/Media Center licences that came with the computers. Those systems were so crapified by the OEMs and/or in such a bad state (my wifes computer was a mess when I took control over it) that even reinstalling the OEM version would have been a major headache.

I help exactly one person with an OEM XP Home machine and it gives more headaches than my custom installs. My custom installs are based on a Corporate Edition Windows XP Pro. Those never give problems unless it is hardware. Simply said: Windows XP Pro Corporate^WPirate Edition gives me better *value* for less money. It's the only software I pirate: all other programs are either free as in beer (iTunes) or free as in Freedom (OpenOffice, The Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird.....)

Just to appease those that say I should switch to Linux: I'm typing this right now on Ubuntu Linux, but I have a long way to go to convert all machines that I maintain.

Re:Very true.... (4, Interesting)

QBasicer (781745) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242209)

I've seen many people just loose their OEM disk (or just never got one). How should those people be handled? Is Piracy still piracy if it's the same version as what was there before?

Re:Very true.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242287)

Well, that's one of the common problems. (I'm the AC from the parent post) My wife did not have the OEM CD anymore, if she ever had one. The XP Home license sticker is still on the machine, but now it runs Win XP Pro in another language (it's English now)

I'd be willing to bet that Microsoft, the BSA and the court systems are going to rule this installation "pirated" and I can't blame them. However, what was I to do? This machine was reinstalled way before Ubuntu became viable. (I reinstalled it in 2004 or so, I think...)

Many new computers don't even come with CDs anymore: the waiter in my favourite restaurant has an Acer and one day we came to talk about his computer. A quite nice system but he has tons of problems. I suggested a reinstall, but he doesn't have the CDs. I'd say I'd help him if he finds the CD. I'm not going to hand out copies of my Corporate Edition CD to other people. I don't want it to get blacklisted by Microsoft.

This may be a "grey" area ... (2, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242591)

But there are many websites out there that will tell you the TWO changes you need to make to just about any WinXP CD so you can burn one that will be anything you need.

Start with a retail version and build an OEM version that will accept your OEM license key.

Is it "piracy" then?

I've done this when I want a completely clean install at work. None of the OEM crap. Just vanilla WinXP.

The only downside is having to hunt through the vendor's website looking for drivers for all the hardware. And you don't get the vendor specific apps.

Re:This may be a "grey" area ... (5, Insightful)

Winckle (870180) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242733)

And you don't get the vendor specific apps.

Re:This may be a "grey" area ... (2, Interesting)

Eideewt (603267) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242881)

That depends on what they are. Laptops may need a special driver for their media keys, or a card reader.

Re:Very true.... (5, Informative)

ShaggyIan (1065010) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242605)

They usually charge extra for the disk anymore. They now like to use a separate partition on the HDD to store the restore image. It's frequently accessible via a boot menu.

I've never gotten a good answer about what's supposed to be done when the HDD dies out of warranty.

Depending on your make/model or bitchiness level, many of the OEM's will ship you a disk. . . for a price.

Re:Very true.... (3, Interesting)

Lord Artemis (1141381) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242291)

In the first case, I would attempt to retrieve the current key from their system using any of several freely available tools, then reinstall with any OEM disk (I believe this works). For the second, the disk is easily retrievable by placing a phone call to the manufacturer (I know Dell works like this, I assume others do as well).

Re:Very true.... (4, Informative)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242585)

Actually that doesn't always work. In fact, unless something has changed in the past couple of years, this -rarely- works. When I was doing this often, I found that the installed key would almost invariably fail to validate the OEM setup unless you had a copy of the XP OEM disc from that manufacturer. Same revision of XP, same everything except for the manufacturer. It got to the point that we had to make copies of the OEM discs for each manufacturer just to do re-installs.

Re:Very true.... (2, Informative)

hawkbug (94280) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242717)

I do this all the freaking time - just get an OEM copy of XP Home or Pro, and then reinstall with the key on the sticker on the side of machine. I do it once a week probably for people, it works every time. It doesn't matter if it's a Dell, HP, or whatever. It WILL work if you do it right with the right version of windows. As far as activation goes, sometimes you have to call in and get the stupid rep in India or whatever to read back a very long number to reactivate the machine, but it will install and you can reactivate it. You should NEVER have to pay for another copy of windows if your hard drive crashes, period.

Re:Very true.... (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242985)

Doesn't work. Sorry. At least it didn't ~2 years ago. I agree with your last statement, and the company I worked for never charged anyone for a new copy of Windows when we had to reload their OEM copy. But if the customer had lost their copy of, say, Dell's WinXP SP2 OEM disc.. attempting to use the case code with HP's WinXP SP2 OEM disc would not allow the install.

Re:Very true.... (5, Interesting)

Cafe Alpha (891670) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242443)

I called Gateway in order to reinstall XP pro (that came with the machine - but the disk had been lost by the previous owner).

No can do. I would have to pay $200+ for a replacement OEM disk (not even a real Windows disk by the way - you can't add foreign language support from the OEM image, you can't repair a damaged installation - it's just a fucking hard drive image).

I still have the piece of paper with your license key and the hologram, I said. Not worth anything, they said. I called Microsoft, same answer.

Luckily I had a Ghost backup. Ghost had crashed as it finished the last disk, but luckily the disk was readable. How likely is that? Crashed AFTER the the last sector wrote.

My machine works again, but I still can't get Asian input support - the OEM never had that - joy!

Re:Very true.... (2, Funny)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242577)

Ghost had crashed as it finished the last disk, but luckily the disk was readable. How likely is that? Crashed AFTER the the last sector wrote.

I'd say pretty darned likely. Every time I've ever run Ghost it does that. It must be buggy in the cleanup and exit code. The images are just fine, but Ghost dies with mysterious circumstances every time. Maybe that's why they call it Ghost.

$200 for an OEM CD? (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242959)

That's such a ripoff. Gateway probably paid 45 bucks for the XP Home OEM license. Since your computer is already licensed, the CD is just a spare part. Next time lie and say the CD won't read.

Re:Very true.... (1)

Lord Artemis (1141381) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242223)

What I often do is just reinstall the OEM copy, *without* all the extra garbage frequently bundled with it. That way I get a free, legal copy of windows that doesn't have all kinds of OEM headaches.

Re:Very true.... (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242335)

My problem with XP Home is that it has disabled the ACLs of the NTFS filesystem. That sucks a lot if you want to run Limited User instead of Administrator. (Oh, yes, I do that and it works fine... a bit more work, but it works)

On Windows XP Home you have to use a command line tool called "calcs" to change filesystem permissions. How insane is that, eh? I don't know how Media Center handles it, I have it on my new laptop but it's still in crapified state and I run as Admin on that one. It's due for a reinstall with Debian though, once I get some spare time.

Re:Very true.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242459)

On Windows XP Home you have to use a command line tool called "calcs" to change filesystem permissions. How insane is that, eh?

Well, when you consider that it's part of Microsoft's plan to get "pro"-level people using the Professional version of XP, it's not insane at all. If you only need to fiddle with ACLs once or twice, the command-line option in Home is more than adequate. If you need to fiddle with ACLs all the time, chances are you should consider upgrading.

Re:Very true.... (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242573)

Huh? Well, it is impossible to run software in Limited User mode without fiddling with ACLs.... Do you understand the problem now? I don't fiddle often with ACLs at all, only after installing a program (typically a legally bought game) that needs write access to the folder where it was installed. Now, how exactly do you expect a normal user to do that without a graphical interface?

If your filesystem supports permissions, the graphical user interface must support them so that casual users can change them. I don't care for anything else in Windows XP Pro but the ACL interface....

You are saying me that a home user may not use the Limited User functionality.... Anyone actually using that feature (that Windows XP Home has built-in) needs to upgrade to Win XP Pro.... Yeah, right!

Re:Very true.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242727)

You do realize that all of the features in Pro are in Home, just many are disabled or crippled. And yes, purchasing "pro" to do "pro" level stuff is exactly what I'm saying you should do. Do you honestly expect everyone out there with Home to be messing with ACLs so that they can set up different levels of users?

Re:Very true.... (1)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242647)

My problem with XP Home is that it has disabled the ACLs of the NTFS filesystem. That sucks a lot if you want to run Limited User instead of Administrator. (Oh, yes, I do that and it works fine... a bit more work, but it works)

They only removed the ACL management from the shell (right click, properties, security). Petty, isn't it?

Like you said, cacls (and xcacls, and the API) still work just fine. My guess is that you could write some better scripts using xcacls to secure the machine than would ever be possible or desirable to do with the GUI. Or look up SetSecurityDescriptor on MSDN. It's a pain and a half to write the first time, but it makes automating that kind of stuff much easier and faster for large sets of files (say, entire filesystems being moved from an old domain to a new one with complex group permissions).

Re:Very true.... (1)

yuda (704374) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242323)

I would RTFA if it would loadfor me /. eh?? In my experience people don't change their OS's unless something terminal happens. My parents only recently upgraded their win2k OS to XP after a system meltdown. I was actually amazed by the advice given to them by the technician - basically upgrade OS, new firewall package and virus package. All reasonable advice but no advice on a backup system? come on? the price of an external hard drive or dvd burner is a lot less than the data you can loose. But anyway I digress. I really think that Microsoft has never been to worried about people pirating windows as it keeps the MS operating system saturated in the market place. It seems any 12 year old can "get you a copy" of photoshop, dreamweaver, or just about any windows software you care to need. Whilst GIMP is pretty good and getting better it's a lot simpler to find someone to teach you to use photoshop and get a keygen off the 'net.

Re:Very true.... (3, Insightful)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242415)

Isn't something "Terminal" often a big bad virus/malware infection? For many people it is and they do not know how to back up their data. USB disk or not.... I have heard of people that lost the first three years of their childs digital photos due to a "computer failure". I bet it was a big bad virus infection and they just replaced the machine without even trying to save it.

Look, I've found a P-IV 1.9GHz/512Meg RAM in the dumpster a while ago.... Completely functional.... W2k fully infected.... A clean Linux install and I was working with it again. Sure, it isn't the fastest machine, but it's nothing to spit at either. The W2k license sticker was still on it too....

But yes, I agree that it was bad advice from the tech to avoid mentioning backups. However, people have gotten used to losing data due to "Terminal Computer failure" or when buying a new system. It's just how computers are supposed to work... at least that's what they think.

Re:Very true.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242485)

I do something similar: I have a license for Windows Vista that came with my laptop, which was loaded with crap and sucked, and I installed the corporate Windows XP Pro. I don't see the problem with installing an older version of Windows than I have a license for.

All the other software on that system is paid for (separately), or free or Free (OO.o, Firefox, VLC, etc.).

Your case is even more clear-cut. You have a license for Windows XP, and you installed a copy of Windows XP, which you have a valid license for. If anyone asks which version of Windows your license is for, it's for the "XP" version. It's that simple.

Re:Very true.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242509)

My understanding tells that "free windows for everyone" is definitely true. How many people have you seen who actually go and buy windows OS? OEMed windows is crappy but is free upfront. Moreover, lack of public awareness about the virtualization in Linux is also cause of it not being popular. No one thinks that Windows can be the replacement of other OSs but not the other way round.

Re:Very true.... (3, Insightful)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242531)

Everything has a cost. Linux generally costs me a lot of time -- more time than it's worth to me. If it ever becomes massively popular, I'd install it again, but as it stands there's little incentive for me to use it, and plenty of disincentive: from compatibility issues and poor hardware vendor support to the general PITA of learning the nuances of a particular version of a given distribution. The slow pace of change and universality of Windows may make things boring, but (to invoke the car analogy), there's something to be said for having the same set of controls everywhere and knowing those controls well, even if they aren't ideal (and Linux is far from ideal anyway in many respects, IMHO).

I do like the robust nature of Linux, the ability to have multiple logins, and the endless possibility for customization, but those aren't things I need as much as the virtually endless array of high quality Windows software, vendor support for hardware, and the relatively limited Windows versioning that makes troubleshooting much, much easier. There's never a need for me to try to have multiple versions of compilers and libraries installed side-by-side; if I'm having a problem with a Windows application, it's never a peculiarity of a particular distribution (or version of a distribution) to blame*, and obviously there's never a need to reboot into Windows to use some application that doesn't have a Linux equivalent, or to play a game. I'm not wealthy, but I definitely have very limited time, which makes the decision easy for me.

* Obviously there are issues with applications and major version changes in Windows, but it's typically much less of a problem, and an infrequent occurrence (albeit thanks in no small part to the unintended consequence of a glacial release schedule).

Re:Very true.... (2, Interesting)

segedunum (883035) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242701)

I have a few Windows XP licenses, but they are all OEM XP Home/Media Center licences that came with the computers.......I help exactly one person with an OEM XP Home machine and it gives more headaches than my custom installs. My custom installs are based on a Corporate Edition Windows XP Pro. Those never give problems unless it is hardware. Simply said: Windows XP Pro Corporate^WPirate Edition gives me better *value* for less money.
So Microsoft have already taken their cut, even if you are using a pirated XP Pro? What's Microsoft's problem with piracy again?

A way to stay legal (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242855)

The 'offical' OEM version has all the crap off. It's just like windows xp, without all the extra crap OEM's put on. I think Newegg sells these versions.

You can torrent an 'offical' OEM version of Windows XP and use the cd-key on the sticker on OEM computers. I ditched my OEM XP disc since it would always install miscellaneous junk and nvidia's drivers, which I don't need now that I have an Ati card.

Hmm...TFA Link down? (1)

kc2keo (694222) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242937)

I can't access the article. Maybe too much traffic? I can't see a google cache link in google either. I'll check again later

Wow! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242141)

Ummm, that's not exactly an insight. Any story here about software in China mentions that point.

Re:Wow! (5, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242311)

> Ummm, that's not exactly an insight. Any story here about software in China mentions that point.

The point was that is isn't just China. And it is a good point, but one I have realized for years. It's why I don't make a big issue of the free beer aspect in discussions. Because Windows is free, almost nobody ever sees a line item on a ticket for a Windows license. It either comes preloaded or bootleg.

Which is the big point the linked article got wrong. Microsoft would never officially make Windows free for home users because it would hose the preload arrangments and they are THE key to maintaining the monopoly. The second problem with the piece is the assertion Microsoft can't acknoledge the benefits of piracy, they have in the case of the third world and China.

Linux must be better than Windows on the merits, disregarding the stocker price. The Thinkpad I'm typing this on came preloaded with XP Pro. It hasn't accumulated a day of runtime in the four years I have been using it. Guess that says how value I see in it.

I kept it just in case I needed to update firmware or call for tech support and they wanted to insist I show the problem exists in Windows. At some point I figured I had better boot over and let it update to SP2 so as to avoid being a menace to the Internet if someone ever used the Windows side. After which it now silently updates the firmware in the Cisco WiFi card at every boot and now I have to remember to reflash it back before shutting down anytime I let XP start. Big disincentive to NEVER boot that turd.

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242523)

And it is a good point, but one I have realized for years.

We've all realized it for years! That's why I'm surprised to see it presented here as such a novel notion. (If anything, the Slashbots greatly exaggerate the amount of pirated Windows in developed countries, figuring the typical user is like their friends, not like real users who don't even know you can change the OS that came with your computer.)

Re:Wow! (3, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242917)

Linux must be better than Windows on the merits, disregarding the stocker price. The Thinkpad I'm typing this on came preloaded with XP Pro. It hasn't accumulated a day of runtime in the four years I have been using it. Guess that says how value I see in it.

And the problem is -- it is better. Look at modern desktop distros like Ubuntu. Nowadays they support a lot of hardware out of the box without having to do the work of loading a single driver. Everything is clean and well-integrated. Most applications that people need are installed right out of the box. It doesn't suffer from the maladies of spyware, adware, or viruses/worms/trojans or drive-by downloads.

Slashdotted already (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242163)

Does anyone have a mirror of the original article?

Re:Slashdotted already (1)

Lord Artemis (1141381) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242319)

I think it was slashdotted pretty much immediately. Their ping time is fine, yet the webpage isn't loading at all, which makes me think they probably have a bit too much scripting for what I assume is mostly static content.

Text of the article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242973)

Guess I will post Anonymously as everyone else lol.

Windows Is Free
The impact of pirated software on free software

by Dave Gutteridge on August 15, 2007

A recent column on Zdnet, by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, discussed the reasons why people won't change from a retail operating system to a free one. The implication is that Linux can't even give away their software.

That sounds pretty dire. Windows retails for around 200 US dollars, give or take depending on which version and where you buy. If the above statement by Mr Kingsley-Hughes was true, it means that Linux is so bad that people would gladly pay 200 dollars to avoid it. Do users really think Linux is that lame?

This article is not to defend Linux and counter the points that Mr Kingsley-Hughes made. Instead, the intention here is to simply use his article as a starting point to discuss in depth an issue which, so far as I've ever seen, is missing almost entirely from the debate over Windows versus Linux versus Mac.

Mr Kingsley-Hughes gives five essential points to explain what is so bad about Linux that it can't even succeed for free. On the whole, users aren't all that dissatisfied with Windows (I agree). Too many different versions of Linux (I sort of agree). People want certainty that hardware and software will work (I agree that's what people want, but I don't read the situation the same way that Mr Kingsley-Hughes does). As far as most people are concerned, the command line has gone the way of the dinosaur (It has for me, I love the GUIs. But, I'll get into this more below). Linux is still too geeky (Linux developers are still too geeky, sure. I totally agree that the people mainly developing and advocating Linux often don't see users' needs the way users see their needs.)

All the above reasons have some truth in them, but consider how the price comparison makes those points seem so much worse.
I Certainly Wouldn't Use Linux if it was as Bad as All That

Take the point that Linux relies too heavily on command line interface. I would probably pay 200 dollars for a nice graphical interface instead of having to run my computer at the command line all the time. But would I pay 200 dollars instead of using an interface that had nice graphics 99% of the time, and a command line for the occasional configuration? I think I'd rather spend that 200 bucks on something else, like maybe a new MP3 player. Throw in the fact that every few years I'll have to spend another hundred bucks or so on upgrades, and I'll handle the 1% of command line time. When you add in the fact that I might, just maybe, be making a one-for-one trade of blue error screens for command line issues, then I'm definitely leaning towards not spending 200 bucks.

As I type this article, I'm using OpenOffice, a free equivalent of Microsoft Office, on Ubuntu Linux, which has a very slick graphical user interface. Much like Windows Vista, I can spin around my desktop, make my windows go all wobbly when I move them. I love nice graphics and I'm no fan of obscure command line code. I certainly don't feel like I opted for a world of command line frustration.
"I didn't tell her about Linux or open source or free software... because she doesn't care. "

Neither does my girlfriend, who makes a better example, since she's the type of user who all of us computer experts mean when we say "user". Her Compaq laptop, which had a pre-installed version of Windows XP, would die and go into the Blue Screen Of Death every time it tried to go into sleep mode. She asked if I could fix it. I said I could, but it would mean a change in interface. Of course, I was speaking about installing Linux. I didn't tell her about Linux or open source or free software, not because I was trying to be clever. I didn't tell her because she doesn't care. She wants to be able to log into Hotmail, transfer songs to her MP3 player, and watch Youtube. She doesn't care whether all this happens on Windows or whatever. Now she uses Ubuntu, and she never, ever, touches the command line. Of course, she comes to me if she can't do something, like change her desktop background. But she came to me for instructions on what to do with Windows too, so she's just as well off in Linux as she was in Windows.

At the same time, I'm not going to tell you that in the two years since I switched from Windows to Ubuntu that I have been able to do everything with a graphical user interface. I tend to be a lot more demanding of my computer than my girlfriend is, so I'm pushing the bleeding edge in order to make things work exactly as I want. I've had all sorts of set up issues, from my Wacom tablet to my SD card reader, to my dual monitors, and more. And personally, I don't really know much about the command line in Linux, or want to, so every time there was a problem I asked for help on my local Linux user group and they helped me get it all working in the end.

My point, however, is that while I have had my share of hassles, the vast majority of my time in front of my computer is just doing uncomplicated stuff that requires no command line. More than 99% of my time on Linux is spent in a nice graphical interface that is, in my opinion, better than Windows. Why would I pay 200 bucks, plus future fees, to save myself that 1% of hassle? Can Windows really claim to be 100% hassle-free anyway? Is it really worth 200 US dollars more?

Keep in mind that when you're saying that Windows is worth 200 dollars more than Linux, you're saying the differences are worth that much, not the whole thing. So if you can check your email on both, surf the web on both, listen to music on both, do spreadsheets on both, but only play 3D computer games on Windows, then what you're saying is that 3D computer games alone are worth 200 dollars to you. That may be fair enough in the case of playing games. I know gamers who would gladly pay 200 dollars more for the right gaming environment. But once I had someone tell me that they didn't want to switch to Linux because their printer model wasn't supported. Their printer was a little older and would have been easy to upgrade to a newer, Linux compatible model, for about 120 dollars. So, they were effectively trying to claim that they would rather pay 200 dollars in order to save themselves from paying 120 dollars. Which is obviously a claim that can only be made by a sane person if they're really bad at math, or their copy of Windows wasn't actually 200 dollars.
The Elephant in the Room

The fact is that there's a distortion in the idea that Linux can't be given away. There's something wrong in the idea the price difference between Windows and Linux is representative of the actual quality difference. There's an elephant in the room that no one is talking about.

Windows is free.

I'm not talking about the fact that Windows comes pre-installed in most computers, with its price hidden in the cost of the hardware. That contributes to the idea of Windows being free, but that's not the elephant in the room.
"The elephant in the room that no one is talking about is cracked software."

The elephant in the room that no one is talking about is cracked software.

People treat Windows as being free not because they didn't have to buy the copy that came with their computer. People think of Windows as free because when they need a copy, they can get it from a guy they know. Someone has a copy they can just burn to a CD for you. Or you can get it on the peer-to-peer networks.

How pervasive is cracked software? That's of course hard to quantify. No one is going to set down in any kind of public record that they use cracked software. Which is probably why it's notably absent from so much debate about operating systems. So any estimate is speculative, based on extrapolation from indirect data. Look, for instance, at the file sharing networks. You can log on almost any Bittorrent web site, at any time of the day, and there will be thousands of people participating in the sharing of Windows Vista. Or XP. Or whatever version you want. How many people are therefore using cracked copies of Windows? I have no idea, except that it's a lot.

With that in mind, let's take a little time to really explore the impact of free.
How Tempting Should Free Be?

Recently, when shopping for a portable music player, I narrowed down the possibilities to two main choices. One was the iPod Nano, the other was the iAudio player by Cowon. You may not have heard of that second brand. I certainly hadn't until I started shopping around for portable players.

The Cowon iAudio was cheaper, by about 20%. It actually played more file formats, but there was an issue of brand familiarity that made me hold back a bit. I gave it about a day to be sure I wanted to buy it. In the end, price trumped other considerations. The Cowon iAudio was good enough, and cheaper.

To arc closer towards towards my point, consider what the difference would be if the iAudio had been completely free.

I can tell you how it would have influenced my decision. I would have taken it home immediately, not even a moment's delay. Brands and design be damned, I would have taken the free option.

If one music player were free and another one expensive, the gap in quality would have to be huge to justify paying for the one with the price tag.

Is the difference between Linux and Windows really that big? Above I said that 99% of the time I use a nice graphical interface in Linux that I think is better than Windows. And in the 10 or more years I used Windows before switching, I know that Windows gave me enough of the famous Blue Screen Of Death to balance out the occasional need to go to the command line that Linux imposes on me. As far as I'm concerned, I think the two are on equal ground. When you compare all the good points of Windows, Linux, and Mac, and the bad points of blue error screens, command lines, and little bomb icons, the difference is close enough to keep the hardcore zealots arguing for hours.
"When you compare all the good points of Windows, Linux, and Mac... the difference is close enough to keep the hardcore zealots arguing for hours."

But you and I aren't zealots, we just want to do stuff with our computers like look at YouTube and get email. So we won't nitpick about features. Instead, even though I think Linux is just as good as Windows, maybe even better, I'll propose for the sake of argument that Linux is 80% to 90% as good as Windows. As I said about the Cowon iAudio compared to the iPod, it's close enough for me to not want to spend the difference.

If we can agree on the concept of close enough, let's turn to other consumer products again. We expect that market forces will shape prices so that, so long as it's still profitable, a product that is slightly inferior in features or quality will be priced less than a product of more quality and features. This isn't always true, but it's an okay starting point. It's a believable idea that some companies can stay competitive by lowering their price to stay on the market alongside slightly better quality products. Consumers only have so much money to go around, and will often trade off quality for a good price.

In fact, some companies engage in a practice called "dumping" where they lower their price drastically so that they aren't even making a profit. They do that because if they can cheapen their product enough, consumers will overlook a lot of deficiencies and cast aside brand loyalties in favour of price. Then, when the company has a foothold in the marketplace, they can slowly try to increase their prices and quality, with the aim of eventually turning a profit.
The Inevitable Comparison With Cars

In around 1988, the Korean car company Hyundai gained entry into the US and Canadian car market with this practice, and although they got called on it (dumping is technically illegal), in the long run the strategy seems to have worked. It's strong evidence that price will trump differences in quality.

Imagine for a second that Hyundai had made their cars available for free. There would not have been one Hyundai left in the show rooms. Just about everyone would have one. I would have got one. Wouldn't you? I mean, a Hyundai was at the time definitely not the same quality as similar Toyota and Honda models, but would that have mattered? I mean, come on. A free car is a free car.

My contention is that if a product can gain entry into a marketplace by lowering its price to increase its appeal, then a free product that is close enough in quality to its priced competitors should spread like wildfire.

And yet, that has not happened with Windows and Linux. 200 US dollars is enough money to give most, if not all, consumers pause as to whether or not they can or should fit it into their budget. I can definitely appreciate having an extra 200 US dollars in my wallet.

Remember the concept of close enough for free. What if those free Hyundai cars came without radios, and didn't even have any dashboard space to install one? I'd still get one. Wouldn't you? Free. And close enough.

What if Hyundai had made their cars free, but didn't advertise? I imagine the rate of consumption of Hyundai cars would have started slower. Even so, it strikes me as inevitable that word of mouth would have eventually compensated until every single cash-strapped teenager with a new driver's license was out on the road with their new, free, Hyundai.
"Suppose Hyundai didn't offer a warranty or service of any kind. Now would you refuse their free cars? I don't know about you, but free is still a pretty big trump card for me."

Suppose Hyundai didn't offer a warranty or service of any kind. Now would you refuse their free cars? I don't know about you, but free is still a pretty big trump card for me.

So long as the product I was picking up for free did not fail so poorly in its task as to cause harm or be completely useless, I would pick it up.

And yet, returning from the Hyundai analogy to the Linux reality, free Linux has not swept the market and become a large chunk of the marketplace. And I'm not even speculating on Linux suddenly becoming dominant. I'm just saying, it would have a big chunk of the market. Dare I say more than the Mac?

Hopefully the points I've made above have precluded the idea that Linux is not spreading faster simply because Linux falls down on some technical point. If I haven't drilled in my point enough already, here it is again. Linux is close enough to any other major operating systems that its price should have made it irresistible to a huge segment of consumers. There are enough consumers out there for whom 200 dollars is worth keeping, and whose computer needs would be easily met with Linux. But they use Windows, because they were able to do so and keep their 200 US dollars.
I'm Not Going To Name Names

Intellectually, people know Windows is not really for free, of course. And some people do actually buy the packaged Windows CDs in a box. Some even line up all night outside of the stores when the next version comes out.

But, I can't help but notice that among all my friends, all sorts of people I know from various walks of life, almost no one has paid for it. They usually know a guy who gives them a copy. They don't really ask where it's from. My friend bought a used laptop and it had Windows on it already. Not to mention it had the latest Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. All that, for about 300 US dollars. Did that price really include the software? Did the seller need to be compensated for anything other than the laptop? I know that all that software is cracked, but whether my friend thought about it or not, he didn't go out of his way to ask.

I started to perceive this issue of Windows being for free shortly after switching to Linux. Of course, I knew cracked copies of Windows existed when I was using Windows. But the market implications didn't have any bearing on me until I started using completely legally free software that was as good or better than the costly alternatives, and wondering why more people weren't making the same choice.

It became obvious to me when I would recommend Linux to people. As that "computer guy" who friends call up for technical advice, the opportunity to suggest using Linux instead of Windows comes up often enough. Since most of my friends do very basic things like surf the web, check email, and word processing that any operating system would handle just fine, Linux would be a reasonable choice. I would talk about how they could do everything they were already doing, but for free.
"But the look in their eyes at the mention of the word free was clear. They already had a free operating system, so they weren't impressed by switching to something else that was free."

But the look in their eyes at the mention of the word free was clear. They already had a free operating system, so they weren't impressed by switching to something else that was free. How do I know that's what the look in their eyes meant? Because it wasn't the look in their eyes that would have been there if I had offered them a free MP3 player or some other consumer good that can't be simply copied and shared.

Here's another example. One time, a friend called me with an offer. He would pay me 50 bucks to get his laptop working again. Specifically, what he wanted was to back up all his data, reformat his disk, re-install Windows, and then restore his data. I asked if he still had the original install disks for Windows. He stammered a bit, and asked if I might not simply have some on hand I could use. He didn't mind if it was a different version of Windows - subtle code for hoping for a more recent version. The fifty dollars was for my labor. He didn't see getting a copy of Windows as a cost-associated item. It was no big deal, either he had a copy of Windows or I did, or he figured I knew a friend who did.

I felt kind of uncomfortable about the proposition, so I said no. If he had asked me this more recently, I would have offered to put Linux on his computer. But he probably would have said no, because it would seem like a more expensive offer to him. He would have compared free, unfamiliar Linux to free, comfortable Windows. The cost of getting used to the new environment, as easy as it might be, is probably more tangible to him than the money he technically should be spending but won't.

These aren't deliberate criminals who walked into a store, looked at a box of Windows, considered the price and then figured they'd go home and get a pirated version off of the Internet. It just doesn't work that way. Windows is so ubiquitous that someone, somewhere, has a copy they can just give you. People think of getting a copy from a friend before they think of buying. Heck, someone will usually offer before you thought of buying.

I've sat at dinner tables with people who are by no means computer geeks, where one says they need to update their version of Windows. Maybe it's because their computer crashes a lot and they think upgrading might help. Maybe they bought a web cam or something that only has plug and play ability in the newer version. Someone, also not a computer geek, says they have a copy. A promise is made to hand it over later. The person with the copy to give likewise got it from someone else. It's as if Windows is just something that's around. If the value of the goods being exchanged is brought up as a concept at all, it's about the cost of the blank CDs. For example, the receiver might offer to provide a few blanks so the one doing the copying won't be out of pocket. A fifty cent CD is a cost item, but the copy of Windows on it isn't.
Freer Than Free

In fact, a free copy of Windows might even be freer than free. What I mean by that is, unlike most tangible consumer goods, pirated software is often easier to obtain and set up than making a legitimate purchase.
"... pirated software is often easier to obtain and set up than making a legitimate purchase."

A friend of my father obtained a legitimate copy of Windows XP from a local guy who sells custom computers. He tried to install it but he was confused by the different serial codes, authorization keys, and verification checks to pass through. My father, who is quite good with computers, tried to help. When they finally had it all sorted out on which number went where, it turned out that the length of one of the serial codes didn't match the length of the input fields. They tried calling a customer service number, but, after working their way through 1-800 numbers and option menus, the net result was that the situation was not solvable with automated service and there were no live operators available because it was late Friday night. They tried to persist in figuring it out themselves, but were stopped cold when some maximum limit of install attempts was reached and it refused any further action. Eventually, a few days later with the help of the guy who originally provided the copy of Windows, it all got sorted out and my dad's friend can enjoy his legitimate copy of Windows.

This was an extreme case, but when you consider that he could have downloaded and installed a cracked version within hours, you start to get a sense of what I mean by "freer than free". To do it the legitimate way, say by buying online or having to trudge out to a brick-and-mortar store, he would get no more convenience than obtaining a pirated copy. At worst, getting an illegal copy would take much less time than the couple of days he actually experienced in doing things the legal way.
How to be a Pirate

Microsoft would no doubt blame the existence of pirated copies for this whole situation. And they wouldn't be wrong about the causes. But in terms of results, they then become part of a general push towards pirated software. All the security measures when one installs legitimate software makes a user feel like they're being punished for being good, the same way moviegoers who go to the theatres feel like they're not the ones who should be sitting through warnings not to download movies.

The hardest part about getting cracked software is justifying it to yourself. And when I say hard, I mean relative to the other obstacles to getting cracked software, so really it's not hard at all.
"Theft is usually distasteful not as much because of the gain of the thief but more because of the loss of the owner."

Clearly, all indications are that many people will often trade in a little morality for something that's valuable to own and free to get. To make the exchange of principles for goods, one has to cut a deal with their conscience by forming the right justification. I think most people simply wonder, what's the harm? Theft is usually distasteful not as much because of the gain of the thief but more because of the loss of the owner. In software, the guy who gave it to you didn't lose anything. And the company that originally made it? Microsoft seems to be doing all right, so surely this little individual act of sharing stuff among friends is no big deal.

But what happens when you add up all the individuals doing this? As mentioned above, it's hard to put real numbers on it. I'm going by a lot of anecdotal evidence here. And I have to admit for a while I wasn't so sure of my position.
Which Numbers Mean More?

In fact, I was shaken in my convictions by a conversation I had with my friend Ken who was considering switching from Windows to Linux. He was using Windows 2000 and was starting to feel the limitations of having less and less hardware and software available for a version that was fading into history. But he was skeptical about switching to Vista with all its DRM issues. He was really interested in Linux because he's one of the category of people that doesn't use pirated software. So for him, the prospect of saving the cost of a new operating system was worth at least some of research. As we talked about Linux, I mentioned the general points that I'm discussing here. He was shocked - shocked! - at the idea that there were that many people using cracked copies of Windows.

I left that conversation wondering if his viewpoint was wrong, or was mine? What about those people who stay up all night to buy a copy of Windows when the new version is released? What about the sales figures? But then what about the claims by software companies of revenues lost to piracy? What about the numbers of users on peer-to-peer networks? What do all the numbers mean, and which numbers mean more?

On the one hand, the fact that he was surprised by this whole idea of cracked Windows being the main reason why Linux isn't more successful even though it's free, made me realize that maybe it's not as obvious as I thought it was. That's when I thought about writing this article. But as I started writing, I was haunted a little by the fear that my perception of the ubiquity of cracked software was out of proportion.

Then, another small experience made me confident that I was firmly planted in reality. More anecdotal evidence, and I know the failings of anecdotal evidence. But I still take away from this anecdote enough conviction in my premise to stand by it.
Dancing Pirates

It was a couple months after my meeting with Ken, and I was spending a Monday afternoon sitting in a Starbucks writing on my laptop. There were three people, two women and a man, sitting at a table near to me. I couldn't help but overhear their conversation, as they were the only people really talking at the time. They were dancers, talking about making a web site for their dance troupe. One of the women was apparently both a dancer and a web designer.

The other woman was interested in doing a little web design of her own. After hearing a couple of key phrases, I abandoned my effort to be polite and not eavesdrop, and went into full listening mode.

The woman who was clearly the most computer literate of the three casually offered to give the other a copy of Dreamweaver. Just give it to her. The receiving woman didn't balk at being given a piece of proprietary software worth 400 US dollars. No, she merely said thanks and wondered if it wasn't too much trouble. The man joked something about burning software all the time, so it was no big deal. The receiving woman reciprocated by saying that she also frequently burned and shared software. This last comment was said in a way as to convey the assurance that this favour could be reciprocated.
"She's not depriving the source company of any profit because it's not profit they would ever see from her anyway."

These aren't people who would for even a second consider snatching a copy of Dreamweaver from the shelf of a software store and dashing out the door. They know what they are doing is sort of not right on some level, but it just doesn't feel that wrong. They are indifferent to the crime because the ease and pervasiveness of sharing software has obscured the value of the items they're giving away. They assure themselves they aren't really doing anything wrong because, after all, if the woman dancer wasn't offered a free copy, then she simply would never use it. She's not depriving the source company of any profit because it's not profit they would ever see from her anyway. That kind of logic, and there is some logic in it, helps obscure the cost of software in the minds of the casual cracked software user.

Consider how different the whole interaction would be if the woman receiving the pirated software was offered a 400 dollar stolen iPod.

I'm typing this as they speak, actually, and while they deviated from the topic for a bit, they're back to it. The woman receiving the software just confirmed that the version of Flash she's getting is version 8. She didn't need to know the version of Dreamweaver, just that it's the latest. Oh, and she was offered Photoshop, but she already has it. And now, as they finish up the details of the transaction, they are talking about the particulars of using the crack and how to install it. Just before they got up to leave, they described the crack as a "hassle".

If a bunch of dancers are so comfortable with the use of cracked software that they discuss circumventing authentication as being something merely in the way of using software they assume to be allowed to use for free, one can only imagine how pervasive the use and culture of cracked software is. So pervasive that the humour newspaper "The Onion" made the ironic headline "Photoshop Actually Bought", the implication being that to not purchase it was the norm.
The Mac Effect... Really?

At this point, we've gone a long way without mentioning something that Mr Kingsley-Hughes discussed in a follow up article, Three More Things That The Linux Community Doesn't Get. There he talked about "The Mac Effect". The idea was that people are capable of switching, and the fact that they chose Mac and not Linux, and paid for it, was supposed to be further evidence that Linux was not delivering a decent product.
"... when it comes time to upgrade the Mac OS, just ask that guy in your circle of friends who always has the latest Mac stuff."

But really, there's no difference between Windows and Mac OS. Mac has cracked software too. I know people who stay within the realm of Mac for the same reasons a lot of Windows users stay with Windows - so they can continue to have access to shared software within their circle of friends who also use Mac. Keep in mind that a lot of people think they're getting Mac OSX for free in the same way they think Windows comes with a computer for free. It just happened to be in the hardware they bought. They don't think of the computer as being potentially a couple hundred bucks less if it has Linux or no pre-installed OS. Then, when it comes time to upgrade the Mac OS, just ask that guy in your circle of friends who always has the latest Mac stuff.

Or, you could head out on any peer-to-peer network, and you'll find the latest version, no problem. Some people clearly do that. As I'm writing this right now, I'm looking at about 74 people seeding and 206 people sharing the latest Mac OSX on the infamous Pirate Bay web site. I could download it and have ready to install on a Mac in a couple of hours. I don't suppose there are many who would mind waiting a couple of hours in order to save themselves the 130 US dollar price listed on
The Most Effective Form of Anti-Piracy

But here's where we should mention the real cap on the sharing of cracked software. There are some people who do the honest thing and pay for their software because they fear cracked copies. Are they worried about Microsoft or Apple anti-piracy SWAT teams bursting through their windows and dragging them off in the middle of the night? No, they just don't want to get a computer virus.
"They stick to audio and video downloads knowing they can't get a computer virus from an MP3 or AVI file."

All through this I've been speaking about how people can just go online and download things. While that takes a little know-how of where and how to do that, it's clearly common knowledge. The proof is in all the people downloading TV shows, movies, and music from peer-to-peer networks, enough to make copyright infringement news become commonplace. So, knowing how to get stuff on the net is common and it's not that there is anything technically stopping your average computer user from using the same interface they use to get music in order to get software. But many don't do that. They stick to audio and video downloads knowing they can't get a computer virus from an MP3 or AVI file.

There is enough fear, uncertainty, and doubt about getting a virus through downloaded software that most people want to get it from their buddy who says "I'm running it, and it's fine". And there are clearly enough of those buddies around. (Or maybe dance troupes are particularly intent on sharing software).

As should be clear by now, computer viruses on peer-to-peer networks are nowhere near stopping people from sharing software. It just hands more focus back to the friend-to-friend network that happens face-to-face, which is as common as ever. Really I just bring it up because I believe that the threat of getting a virus is more effective than security measures in keeping people from sharing software on the Internet with complete impunity.

I have no idea how cracked software becomes available in the first place. Somewhere upstream are actual computer pirates I suppose. By "actual", I mean someone who alters the software so that it's shareable, not merely someone who shares it. Shady programmers in Russia who cleverly get new releases and reverse engineer the security out? Employees inside Microsoft who trade them in some kind of software black market? Disgruntled employees maybe? I have no idea. Don't really need to know, either. Neither do the dancers.

Whatever the source, the distribution is so widespread that software in general, including Windows, is not viewed as an expensive consumer product. It's viewed as being for free.

So when someone looks at Linux, all they see is the unfamiliarity of it, and nothing there that's so good to make them switch from Windows. After all, they're not saving anything or gaining anything by switching.
What If Windows Wasn't Free?

This raises interesting questions. If Microsoft were to somehow develop the security system that ensured every single user of Windows paid for it, then how many people would start considering the actually legal free and close enough option?

Theoretically, if everyone who had a cracked copy of Windows now switched to a legitimate copy of Linux, then the user base might be expansive enough that all sorts of things might change. Game companies might start offering their titles for Linux. Hardware manufacturers might distribute Linux drivers as often as they do Mac and Windows drivers. Then more people might find Linux even easier. Perhaps the situation might snowball. Perhaps people who had held back because of lacking features or incompatible hardware would have their concerns solved. Those same people who were about to pay for Windows would consider going for the free option. Microsoft might actually lose some sales and market share, and they'd feel it in their bottom line.
"... isn't it in ultimately in Microsoft's interest to allow pirated copies of Windows to be out there?"

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but the next logical question is, assuming I've made some sense up to now, isn't it in ultimately in Microsoft's interest to allow pirated copies of Windows to be out there?

The feasibility of that strategy would depend on how well Microsoft could balance out letting pirated copies exist for general use, so that people felt it was the operating system, while at the same time ensuring that a substantial section of the market, mainly companies probably, would not want to bother with any potential legal hassles.

Personally, I don't think that is Microsoft's strategy. It comes with some risks that I think they would deem too high. One leaked memo about acknowledging the benefit of pirated software would cause chaos in all sorts of ways.

But maybe they don't have to have any kind of official position. If cracked software helps keep Windows in business, and virus threats are more effective than security measures in keeping cracked software from eating too much into Microsoft's bottom line, then one might argue that the main mechanisms for Microsoft's success come from outside Microsoft. Just enough piracy to maintain dominance. Just enough of a virus threat to keep it from getting out of control. That can't be said with certainty, but it's food for thought.

But in any case, my point here is not about the causes of why Windows is "free", just with the results.

My contention is that Linux would win over the hearts and minds of more, maybe most, users if their wallets were actually involved in the decision to choose one or the other.
You Can Tell Who's Paying

My friend Ken, who I mentioned earlier, is evidence of that. Unlike a lot of people I know, he really does reach for his wallet when he upgrades his OS, and that's why he proactively came to me with questions about Linux. I don't know if he'll actually adopt Linux, but he's very seriously considering it, because, like most people, if he can save a couple hundred bucks, he will. What he's not doing is just casually dismissing Linux out of hand like most people who are strangely far less interested in free software than they would be in anything else for free.

Enough people feel no connection to their wallets when considering operating systems to perpetuate the unspoken assumption that Windows is free. And as a result, Linux is forced to make its case based on much more nebulous, personally biased, and complicated comparisons about which one is "better" or "worse". And that's a debate that can never be pursued objectively, with objective results. Or at least, my experience in hearing people argue about it is that it never stays objective for long.
"This idea that Windows is, to most everyone, effectively free, is... the single most significant factor in explaining why Linux isn't doing better than it is."

This idea that Windows is, to most everyone, effectively free, is in my opinion the single most significant factor in explaining why Linux isn't doing better than it is.

I'm not even saying that Linux would or should necessarily dominate or wipe out Windows. I'm only saying that if the market for operating systems operated under the same rules as other consumer goods, then Linux would have a larger share of the market.

If every user who had a cracked copy of Windows had a legitimate version of Linux instead, what would the percentage of computers running Linux be? More than there are now, that's for sure.
What can be done with this information?

Perhaps one of the conclusions that can be made is that the best strategy for proponents of free operating systems is to help develop better protection for paid software.

What Microsoft can do with the information is a more interesting question. I doubt any of their payment and security schemes will ever really stop the cracked copies from being around. Vista was supposed to come with verifications that would be impossible to avoid. But you can go online right now and download copy of Vista that will appear as authenticated to the Genuine Advantage system.

In any case, the more successful their defenses become, the more people really have to reach for their wallet when considering whether or not to upgrade, the wider the door of opportunity opens for Linux to step in and say "you can still do everything you do now for free".

What if Microsoft were to recognize that and adopt a different strategy. Free copies of Windows for home use? Corporate packages that are paid? My guess is that most of their money comes from company purchases anyway. It seems possible to me that they could switch to a model that allows free personal use and paid corporate use with little to no impact on their bottom line. Because it would just be an official adoption of what may already be the reality.

I'm not anticipating that happening any time soon, because a paradigm shift of that proportion will meet resistance on many levels due to the needs of a large profit-driven organization with many employees and shareholders. However, I'm here to talk about products, not production, so the inertia Microsoft would face in making Windows more free is outside the scope of this article.

But, just supposing for a minute that they could, then by making their software at least partially free, or free to a point, they can slow down the free competition to a crawl and stay in business for a long, long time. Just like free copies of Windows are holding off free copies of Linux right now.
What Can You Do With This Information?
"If you're using a cracked copy of Windows, you have at least one less reason to feel guilty."

In closing, I'd like to just leave you with something to think about. If you're using a cracked copy of Windows, you have at least one less reason to feel guilty. After all, you may be keeping Microsoft in business in a roundabout, unintended way. You can't admit to them that's what you're doing, though, which makes it a strange position to be in. And at the same time, another thing you might be doing in a roundabout way is slowing down the development of software that you could use both for free and without any moral or legal ambiguities. How you justify all that in your mind is up to you.

For me, I've developed a policy whenever it comes to debates on Linux, Windows, and Mac.

As a long time user of Windows and Mac, who has switched to Linux, I can tell you that any debate based on feature, security, or stability comparisons between Linux, Mac, and Windows is a battle of grey perceptions, not black and white certainties. As such, they are eclipsed entirely by the issue of the market distortions of software piracy.

You can prefer one or the other for any reason you like. But to convince me that Linux isn't good enough to take for free, you'd have to not only show me side-by-side comparison where Windows did what Linux couldn't, but, more importantly, I won't even start the discussion with you unless you show me your proof of purchase (for every copy of Windows you have for personal use, and all your applications) to convince me that in your mind the features you're comparing were actually worth 200 US dollars or more.

Pretty much... (0, Flamebait)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242165)

That's actually my exact reason for not using Linux, and that's what i tell people, windows, office, photoshop, they're all free! (to me anyway...)
So i can see his point.

Re:Pretty much... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242231)

Even if Windows, Office and Photoshop would be free-as-in-beer, they would still be non-free. But I'm not surprised that someone who doesn't pay for software that he uses doesn't care about that.

Re:Pretty much... (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242631)

...Photoshop would be free-as-in-beer, they would still be non-free

You can get software that does a lot of what Photoshop does, and a lot that it doesn't, without paying and still be 100% above board and legal. Check out the WinImages page on (non)-piracy [] . Basically, you can copy the software if you have it, or get a copy from someone who has it, you just don't get support. You can't be a pirate if people won't agree to treat you as one. ;-)

Re:Pretty much... (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242257)

Windows doesn't count here, but as far as many applications used in offices go, their licenses usually allow you to install copies at home. This is true for Office, the Adobe Creative Suite, and many others. The thing is that you can't "legally" be using them both concurrently. Then again, how often are you sitting at home using Word while sitting in the office using Word? Now, getting the IT folks to actually read the licenses and let you borrow the media for a night is another story. Thankfully, I work in a place where the IT dept actually understands this and lets us check install discs out (they have a list of specifically which software we're allowed to check out and what we're not, based on the licenses).

Re:Pretty much... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242643)

Then again, how often are you sitting at home using Word while sitting in the office using Word?

Not that often, I must admit. But that doesn't mean that while I'm at work nobody is sitting at my home computer. Heck, nobody doesn't even know how to get to my place, nevermind locate the computer. The wife on the other hand ...

Windows is free... (1)

Foerstner (931398) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242181)

...server capacity, on the other hand, is too expensive.

Pirates don't hurt anyone (5, Funny)

AssCork (769414) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242185)

it's the swords -

Windows isn't free (4, Insightful)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242193)

OEM licences are cheap, but if XP lasts for 5 or so years and in that time you upgrade your computer 3 times then you've bought OEM Windows 3 times.

Even if you buy a boxed version of Windows XP then you will still have to pay for OEM XP with each PC. This is the injustice in the way Microsoft bullies OEMs into not selling naked PCs.

Re:Windows isn't free (5, Insightful)

ZakuSage (874456) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242341)

I'm not entirely convinced it is -just- Microsoft's "bullying" that keeps OEMs from selling naked PCs; they don't think consumers want naked PCs. Most computer users today are... well idiots who wouldn't know how to install an OS if their life depended on it. Beyond that, most people know Windows and want to continue using it.

Re:Windows isn't free (1)

Cafe Alpha (891670) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242501)

Oh the joy I've had installing OS2, Windows (various versions), Linux ....

It takes hours, and somehow I end up having to reformat the hard drive over and over.

The worse mistake I ever made was Os2 on top of third party disk compression software. It worked until it didn't and took all the data with it.

Re:Windows isn't free (3, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242925)

> I'm not entirely convinced it is -just- Microsoft's "bullying" that keeps OEMs from selling naked PCs;

Think ten seconds and you will realize just how wrong you are.

First admit that us geeks here on /. and other places aren't exacly legion compared to the hordes of mass consumer electronics buyers but we ain't exactly zero either. Now thought experiment time. If Microsoft were honoring their agreements NOT to enforce illegal per CPU licensing deals what would be the reason for EVERY manufacturer to have a policy where anytime a Linux crank called em up wanting to buy a machine without Windows to just say, "OK, done. Subtract $20 from the listed price. That is the difference between a stock machine with Windows and one without after we have to manually open the carton and remove the CD and blank the drive. Order 50 and we will talk about saving ya some more." Kinda amazing that instead, after over a decade of us asking, NOT ONE SINGLE MAJOR VENDOR WILL DO IT. Dell now offers preloaded Linux but it still isn't a naked machine sold for LESS THAN WINDOWS. Even Dell's N series machines usually end up costing the same or more than the same hardware loaded with Windows when you play the coupon, rebate and daily special games.

What each and every vendor refuses to do, against all economic theory, is offer what a small but non zero minority of customers have been yelling loudly for over a decade for, to be able to buy a naked PC that is in every way exactly like the same machine offered with Windows, sold for a lower price without a preloaded copy of Windows. Always smoke and mirrors and the naked or Linux preload ends up the same or more and you can't shake a sneaking suspicion you paid the Microsoft tax anyway and they just kept the media and sticker. There are enough of us that basic economic theory says ONE vendor would have satisfied the market unless Microsoft is still illegally distorting it.

Re:Windows isn't free (3, Insightful)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242475)

I could be wrong, but I don't believe there's much of a demand for naked PCs. I used to sell computers and often times customers would ask me whether the computer came with any software, namely Windows (and sometimes MS Office), or not. From my experience, not only do customers want Windows to be pre-installed, but they expect it to be.

The same can even be said about a few customers who expected MS Office to be pre-installed too. "What? I'm buying a $500 computer and it doesn't even come with Office? How come?"

Re:Windows isn't free (4, Funny)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242649)

I can relate to that. My girlfriend called me a couple of weeks ago and wanted me to install Windows on her daughter's computer. She had just gone out and bought the software. I said that I was 100% sure that she already had Windows on that computer. "No", she said, "Windows isn't on this computer and she needs it to type her resume." Turns out that the computer had Windows and what she had bought that day was Office. And this is a woman who is intelligent enough to date me!

Re:Windows isn't free (3, Funny)

Nimey (114278) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242699)

And this is a woman who is intelligent enough to date me!

What does that say about you?

Re:Windows isn't free (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242783)

What does that say about you?

He's posting on Slashdot, and so are we. What does that say about us? ;)

Windows != Word/Office (1)

dan_barrett (259964) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242671)

In my experience selling PC's for, many people expect the PC to come with Ms Office, or at least Word, and maybe Excel included. Windows is just the thing that makes Word and "the Internet" run.

When you mention the PC comes with Windows XP/Vista or whatever they seem to hear "Windows" as "Word". Much angst ensues after they get the PC home and realise they haven't paid for a copy of Office on their new PC, even after subtle prompting at sale time.

Re:Windows isn't free (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242879)

Bare PCs are a pretty small market. Most people computer-literate enough to install Windows could probably build a PC from parts too. It's pretty easy these days with so many devices integrated on the motherboard.

Re:Windows isn't free (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242939)

If you upgrade your PC, you can migrate your old XP over, even if it's OEM. As in migrate, you can't use it on the old PC anymore. The only OEM installs you can't do this for are volume OEMs, like Dell or HP. If you have a boxed (or more likely, skinny shrinkwrap envelope) version of OEM XP, you have a "System Builder" OEM version, and you're fully entitled to migrate it. You might have to speak to a helpdesk drone to get a new key, but they'll give it to you without any hassle at all.

Yes, activation is a bitch. No, you don't have to buy separate copies repeatedly. Yes, I'm sure they count on the confusion to sell more copies.

Price model (5, Insightful)

Bombula (670389) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242221)

The guys at M$ are pretty smart. There's a good argument that Windows is too expensive, and that if it was cheaper more people would buy it and that would both discourage piracy and boost the company's profits. But consider the article's point in that context: if Windows was cheaper, it would get rid of the piracy that is staving off Microsoft's REAL competition: freeware.

Maybe this is just tinfoil hat stuff, but could this all be part of Microsoft's strategy? Are they that smart?

Re:Price model (4, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242471)

Maybe this is just tinfoil hat stuff, but could this all be part of Microsoft's strategy? Are they that smart? - no, they are really dumb. They are only making billions while they could be making MILLIONS!

Re:Price model (1)

Romwell (873455) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242615)

Oh yes they are. They only really go after corporate piracy (and not that hard either). I have yet to hear about a home user being 'busted' with bootleg Windoze. Moreover, with their activation scheme it's not that hard to know who's pirating; probably they do know and do nothing about it. The main reason is that when someone who's been bootlegging buys a new computer, that computer will be preloaded with Windoze. And his computer at work will likely be a Windoze PC too, just because most people know how to work in it. etc. That's an old drug-dealer strategy - the first time is for free, then they come to you with money. Basically: 1. Let users pirate Windoze 2. Get them hooked on the OS/Platform-dependent software/MSOffice/IE 3. ??? 4. Profit !

Re:Price model (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242815)

Are they that smart?

This is the company that turned a CP/M clone for the Intel 8086 into a multibillion-dollar empire. What do you think?

Windows is free (2, Funny)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242225)

...only if your privacy means nothing.

OSS is not free. (4, Insightful)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242233)

Not sure why there is this pervasive myth that OSS is free. First, it costs people time to develop and contribute to OSS projects. Not all OSS is successful; a lot expects that others will contribute to grow the usefulness of the software.

Then there is the configuration and maintenance cost. It costs people time to install and maintain a Linux OS loaded up with software. Support isn't always free for applications. A lot of OSS software I've seen pushes the "Here is the *tool* free, now pay us to train you, and/or make it work for you."

Call me flamebait or a troll. I just don't think piracy equates to free. A lot of people know that copying Windows (or software of choice) is theft. The problem is the perceived value of the software, and OSS has a similiar perception issue...

Re:OSS is not free. (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242285)

Execpt that piracy isnt theft, and OSS is free to the USER, which is what the discussion is about here. Its not about development 'costs'.

The fact you can buy support doesnt mean you have too.

Re:OSS is not free. (1)

Nikademus (631739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242331)

Then there is the configuration and maintenance cost. It costs people more time to install and maintain a Windows OS loaded up with software. Support isn't always free for applications. A lot of Microsoft software I've seen pushes the "Here is the *tool* for big bucks, now pay us more to train you, and/or make it work for you."

Re:OSS is not free. (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242811)

"The problem is the perceived value of the software, and OSS has a similiar perception issue..."

Any 'perception' involved is more likely to be tied to thoughts of 1.) how it costs NTN for MS to make more copies and 2.) with the high price(s) charged, they've already made more money than they know what to do with. Same as with insurance fraud, sneaking into concerts, skipping over commercials and walking off with towels from the Ramada.

If piracy was going to bring MS down, the lights in Redmond would've been shut off long ago. Users don't consider that there is ANY tangible 'value' to something that can be effortlessly reproduced and frequently invisible to the naked eye. "Theft? Me??? Check my pockets!! I'm clean!! go away before I do something we both might regret. Some nerve..."

Re:OSS is not free. (2, Interesting)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242909)

I think Linus had the right idea here. He said, "Linux is free the way a free puppy is free."

Flip side (4, Interesting)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242235)

Or this is what has happened in my case.

I pirate everything I can. Never paying for any of the software I use. I start using Debian on my servers. Wow this is better then NT!

I then start using it on my workstation, and discover I like it MORE then the free copy of Windows I had.
I miss the games that I played (but never payed) on Windows. I miss the Apps like CorelDraw, MS Office, and all the games. But then I discover FREE software that works almost as good.

I now use Linux exclusively on my workstation, my Moms, my Wifes, my In-Laws, and a few of my Clients PCs too. I use Linux because it is better not because it is free.

Re:Flip side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242505)

yeah, if i didn't have any of the apps i use to i guess my pc would work pretty well too. because i'd never turn it on because it serves no use for me.

Re:Flip side (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242633)

"I miss the Apps like CorelDraw, MS Office, and all the games. But then I discover FREE software that works almost as good."

That's the crux of the issue for me though, when you can pirate it, and hence get it free when why would I bother with putting up with "almost as good"? Unfortunately, neither my will to go legit, nor my concience are enough to make me happy with the whole "almost" part.

Until FOSS is actually as good I just can't find it in me to switch, which is sad in a way because I actually like the idea of FOSS and wish I could motivate myself enough to support it better.

Re:Flip side (4, Interesting)

gaffle (1126429) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242761)

6 months ago I made the choice to go with Linux for audio production (8 analog i/o DAW) I did not make the switch because OSS was 'free', I made the switch because working with audio in Linux rules. I have worked extensively with Windows DAWs as well as Mac DAWs. Windows sucks, Mac is little better, Linux is best. However, I'm sick of being my own admin, despite the joys of total control. If I was running a professional studio on Linux, it would require that I always run outdated software simply to keep a stable configuration. Linux DAWs still rule though.

OT: Linux DAW recommendation (0, Offtopic)

rk (6314) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242981)

So, which DAW do you like most that works under Linux? I'm getting back into recording music, and the last time I did this was with a four-track reel-to-reel deck, so it's all pretty new to me.

Re:Flip side (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242707)

Wow, so you are proud of the fact that you enjoyed the fruits of hundreds of game programmers labour, and didn't pay a fucking dime for it? What magic allows people like to you to use other peoples hard work for free? are you part of some special caste that the rest of the world owes a fucking living?

Bought my XP on the streets of Bangkok (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242239)

Sucky sucky five dolla

What? (4, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242261)

Pirates are hurting free software? I think we are cutting ninjas way too much slack here.

This is why I'm glad M$ cracks down on pirates (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242263)

Microsoft helps FOSS in many ways. 1. the forced pre-installed crap on all newly purchased PC angers people (it definitely angered me). Why couldn't i use my old install CD? Because I don't have it. It's like buying a new toothbrush every day. 2. the crappy DRM in Vista which prevents even rightful use of home-made content 3. Vista's craptastic performance itself What M$ could do to help us even more: 1. Create and leak more Halloween style documents (if you don't know what i meant, google for halloween documents) 2. Stop supporting Windows XP 3. When the first DX10.1 games appear, switch to DX10.2 4. Crack down on people writing software (addons/improvements) for M$ stuff 5. Anger governments/standard experts worldwide with ballot stuffing on OOXML

Re:This is why I'm glad M$ cracks down on pirates (1)

secPM_MS (1081961) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242831)

The craplets are installed by the hardware vendors because they are paid to install them. Indeed, it is likely that the payment for craplets is the profit margin for the PC's. I would expect that if and when vendors ship Linux distro's in large volume, you will see craplets installed by default also.

The vendors don't want you to have a clean OS disc. That is why they don't offer it.

Gutman's claim about home high resolution content restrictions in Vista is inaccurate. I have a friend who is handling home High defnition video on his Vista system without problems. I like DRM no more than you, but this claim is inaccurate.

Aside from driver issues (which will improve with time), the performance of Vista is not too bad -- there is a lot of pretty GUI that loads slower and lower memory machines down. Set the system to optimize for performance (which turns off aeroglas, among over things) and turning off sidebar, and you have reasonable performance.

I don't undersand the comment about XP SP3. To the best of my knowledge, it is in beta test release. I would expect that it should release to the market in 6 months or so. People running XP SP2 should update.

While the listed retail price for Windows is ~ $200, I rather expect that the incremental price from a hardwave vendor in the US is $50. In China and third world areas, it will probably be much loser.

Re:This is why I'm glad M$ cracks down on pirates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242885)

Microsoft helps FOSS in many ways.

1. the forced pre-installed crap on all newly purchased PC angers people (it definitely angered me).

Are you talking windows, or crap apps OEM's add (not microsoft's fault).

If it's windows, buy from a manufacturer that doesn't force it on there. They exist. Support them if that's your choice.

3. When the first DX10.1 games appear, switch to DX10.2

When MS came out with DX10, did all DX9 games stop working? No. What the hell is your point then?

windows vs linux (4, Insightful)

ianare (1132971) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242281)

Yes, windows is free for many people, whether pirated on bundled. However, it is the pain and grief (the viruses, the malware, the ridiculous restrictions, the evil DRM) that is caused by using windows that will make people want to switch, not a diffrence in retail price. And people seem to be switching, however slowly.

Re:windows vs linux (1)

mastermemorex (1119537) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242395)

Switching to another SO is hard for anyone. But for my mom who barely know how to write a email imposible.

Nevertheless do anyone foget that allowing piracy for home customers was always part of the main strategy of Microsoft to wipe out the competence?

Re:windows vs linux (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242977)

In some cases I've noticed the opposite, where using GNOME for example is more intuative to people with little computer experience rather than XP. However this seems more for younger people, I don't know if my dad could do it - although when I showed him he showed interest. However, younger people at work with very basic computer experience do find certain things easier on Ubuntu. It's those "certain things" that open source needs to work on that are making things difficult right now. But my feeling is that OSS is moving in the right direction - as is Apple in many respects, while M$ is not.

Re:windows vs linux (1)

Climate Shill (1039098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242991)

Switching to another SO is hard for anyone.

"You're dumped and your stuff is in the garden." What's so hard about that ?

Re:windows vs linux (1)

Lord Artemis (1141381) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242409)

Windows isn't the only OS with headaches. Linux has major headaches when setting it up (I have yet to have any *NIX or BSD get my monitor settings right on the first try, while Windows either gets it right on the first try or with an update that it provides easily). Linux, while it can be secured more, doesn't have the easy setup that Windows does. As for DRM, if you can't play it on Windows without DRM, you can't do it on Linux either, so I'm not actually sure how that makes Windows bad.

Re:windows vs linux (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242847)

It's been a few years since I last used Windows, but when I did it only supported very low resolutions (something like 800x600) in 8-bit colour with the included display drivers, and no 3D. To get a decent resolution, I had to download the drivers from the manufacture's site (or find the driver CD, which was invariably harder), install, and reboot. My last few FreeBSD installs have picked up my display correctly first time.

Re:windows vs linux (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242747)

I don't know.. I don't have a problem with viruses, malware, or DRM. All of those are easily prevented/circumvented for even a semi-competent individual, and phishing and trojans are generally (or could easily be, in the case of the latter) platform agnostic. The only infection I've ever had was a trojan, so that was basically my own fault (although NOD32 didn't recognize it either).

Meanwhile, a less-than-competent individual will likely have a very difficult time installing, configuring, and maintaining Linux. Sure they might have friends/kids/neighbor's kids that can do it for them, but things like the Geek Squad would not exist if a large population either doesn't know a geek, or is uncomfortable asking them to work on their computers.

The only real pain and grief I have from Windows (Vista, in particular) is waiting for new releases of programs to fix compatibility and knowing that I can have absolutely no contributory effect at all, but that's not a whole lot different from Linux, since it's simply impossible for one person to address the issues of every single program, even if it is open source.

How much does Windows cost? (1)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242351)

A lot... when you factor in things like your time maintaining Windows (downloading Windows updates, scanning for viruses, spyware, etc.), the cost of anti-virus/anti-spyware protection (Yes, I know there are free programs out there like AVG and Avast! but they have lower detection rates than Kaspersky and NOD32), etc.

I just keep leading by example... (5, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242377)

Once in a while I can show someone Linux and they just use it. It doesn't matter if it's free or not. I just show them a better way. It doesn't always work but lately it's getting easier.

On the laptop of a blonde college-girl, I installed F7 and then installed vmware server and client along with WindowsXP Corporate^WPirate Edition. (She calls it 'baby windows') From that platform, she runs all the stuff she needs or wants... Linux stuff for as much as possible and "baby windows" for anything she can't figure out. So far she's ecstatic about Linux... it doesn't crash, it doesn't slow down after it has been running a while and it doesn't get the spyware/malware crap that she managed to collect while running Windows. I have also given her other pointers when it comes to other activities such as music downloads... (simply, I advised her to NOT DO music downloads... share them on the school's LAN and if you can't find what you're looking for that way, ask any guy to download it for her...of course he will! She avoids the risk and the complication.)

I recently introduced a very handy VMWare appliance (ESVA if you're interested) to my brother (Let's call him Microsoft Bob ... he's a Microsoft-centric developer and his name happens to be Robert...). While he didn't want to install VMWare Server, I was able to find a means of translating a VMWare machine to a MS Virtual PC machine so he could run it that way. After he got this thing up and running, I couldn't get him to shut up about exactly how cool and powerful this thing running Linux and free software really is.

My point is, sometimes you just gotta find the right catch... ...and then there was this other guy who was actually spending MONEY on porn sites! I was aghast at how stupid that was... I installed Azureus on his machine and showed him "empornium" and a few other sites and told him to go to town and not to forget to cancel his secret credit cards.

Re:I just keep leading by example... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242773)

You should have shown him Cheggit [] .

I don't know about the rest of you (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242383)

but I would say my sanity is worth something!

Linux will never win the desktop (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242463)

I think it is now safe to say.

When I started my career, Windows 3.1 was a joke compared to our HP Open view and Solaris workstations. They had cool GUIs, and robust Unix backends, and superior remote management and group management capabilities.

Now Windows has all these things and not much has changed in the Linux world. Other than it has replaced all those proprietary *nixes (good riddance). Windows still owns the app space and game space and they finally even fixed their joke of a webserver with IIS6+. They have remote management and group management and even robust shells and configuration by text files.

Linux will probably never go away in the server room and running backends for web apps and such, but I think the desktop war is over. Maybe Mac has a chance, but they don't have the games.

Clearly, Vista is a bust until they can give us a compelling reason to dump our nice 2003 servers and okay XP boxes, but they will optimize and debug, and we will wait. We may not pay, but we will wait for what MS says is the next desktop.

this matches my experience (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242529)

The only copy of Windows I've ever purchased cost $5. Directly, at least. That was Windows 98. My university cut a deal with Microsoft that allowed students to purchase Windows, Visual Studio and Office for $5 per CD. Back in Windows 3.1 days I think I borrowed a friend's copy. Since then (2k and XP) I've been using volume-licensed images obtained from my employers. Ditto for the Office suite.

Home Uses Are Too Small (2, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242583)

The largest customers of Microsoft Windows are businesses, not home users. Businesses generally buy new OEM hardware and get the OS and Office with the machine. There are cases where they might get some older hardware together and run a not-so-ligit OS on it, but I think that's the exception. Most PHBs consider the warranty coverage of new hardware to far outweigh the advantage of trying to keep current hardware around.

If you want Linux on the desktop, then businesses are where it has to start, and home users will follow.

office is a better example (5, Insightful)

bwy (726112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242639)

There is definitely a valid point to be made about the circumstances surrounding "Free Windows." For me, though, Office is a better example. Consider the facts: Office is pretty much never part of an OEM pre-load unless you pay for it. So everyone is aware of how much it costs.

You can buy a $350 Dell and then add $150-$400 for Office. I'm not sure if non-students qualify for the $150.

Yet the fact that so many people "require" you to use Office makes me think they assume it is free, which can only mean that everyone pirates it. For example, I was interviewing for jobs once and submitted my resume as a PDF generated with OO. They kicked it back and said they needed it in Word format so they could index it properly. I know OO saves in Word format, but I don't trust it for someone as important as a resume. Without a test machine with Office, it is hard to know what formatting/conversion defects might appear that would make me look like a dufus to the prospective employer. (Now cue the "you shouldn't work at such a stupid place anyway" comments- you're probably right!)

Also I've heard some schools require kids to do work in MS Office at home. Are they really telling parents they have to go out and spend $150-$400? Or do they THINK they're telling parents and kids to use something they already have? If they already have it, how many of those are pirated copies.

So yeah, if it suddenly became impossible to pirate office, I really think that at a minimum, schools would change their tune.

I'm not a MS basher, and try to stay pretty objective. But the fact that we, as a society, have convinced ourselves that we HAVE to use Office and make our own policies enforcing it's use... well, it drives me nuts! It is such a cliche by now, but still so valid- most people don't use 10% of the features in Word or Excel.

Re:office is a better example (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242787)

if it suddenly became impossible to pirate office then the schools will just set up a deal with M$ so the kids can get it at a very low cost.

Not "Free as in beer" (2, Insightful)

Galactic Dominator (944134) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242657)

*BSD and Linux are "Free as in Speech", not "Free as in beer" []

Re:Not "Free as in beer" (1)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242697)

*BSD is not "Free as in Speech" but Linux is. And they're both also (most of them anyhow) "Free as in Beer".

Obviously Redhat and SuSE are not "Free as in Beer".

Re:Not "Free as in beer" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242821)

I've had just about enough of this "Free as in Speech/Beer" crap analogy.

Linux is more open than FreeBSD because your changes are to be passed on to others (assuming you obey the license.)

But FreeBSD is more free than Linux because under the BSD license you're free not to share if you so desire.

Don't think freedom's being better means, by necessity, that it is better *for you*. That is selfish and immature.

"Nothing is so complete as the delusion that Beauty equals Goodness."


False pretenses... (2, Insightful)

bealzabobs_youruncle (971430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242741)

Most medium and large companies don't risk pirating software, at least not on a major scale or for any kind of significant deployment. The reason the vast majority of companies don't sue for F/OSS is because PHBs have a strange perception that buying commercial software gives them someone to hold accountable. They think that if it breaks beyond the skill of their I.T. staff that MS or Intuit or Adobe have some tech support genius who can get it fixed, or that they can then turn around and sue MS/Intuit/Adobe for not providing that level of support. Of course we all know that every commercial application out there states very early on in the license that no such warranty exist, but until the management at most companies acknowledges this MS will have an edge.

In regards to home users, not really much do discuss; most believe that MS Office is part of the OS and don't know where apps start and the OS ends, this will be a tough group to educate but the vast majority aren't pirates and just live with what their OEM puts on their PC. That article was nothing more than a perfect example of a classic Dvorak troll.

Re:False pretenses... (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242865)

Yes, the thinking used by PHBs has always been short sighted at best. It is extremely obvious they have NEVER read a EULA.

Re:False pretenses... (4, Interesting)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242867)

"Most medium and large companies don't risk pirating software, at least not on a major scale"

In what we call (or used to call?) first-world countries, no, they generally don't. However, in a lot of developing economies they do. I used to live in a country that falls into that category, and I can tell you that not only in companies, but also in government offices, locally built white-box PCs running pirated copies of Windows + the usual apps were the norm. The only place you'd see legit stuff is in the offices of large, international companies. I wouldn't have known where to even buy a legit copy of Windows in-country, if it can even be done. But you can get pirated anything for a dollar all over the place.

I don't agree with the article (well, to some extent) WRT the developed world, but it's premises hold very well in developing nations. Windows was there first, it was then and is now practically free, and because of that, is very well entrenched. Even in markets where Windows is expensive, Linux faces an uphill fight. In markets where Windows has cost parity, it's even tougher.

It's not the price (1)

commernie (1141297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20242869)

Back in my high school days I used Windows. I must have installed Windows (98, 2000 and XP) around 300 times on many computers, and all of them were pirated versions. The concept of paying for an OS was (and still is) foreign to me. Then I discovered Linux. I started dual booting with Slackware in college, and after a while realized I didn't need Windows anymore and made the complete switch, and haven't looked back since.

The point is that it wasn't the price that made me switch, since I could get Windows for free. It was a matter of realizing that Linux really did do most things better. It's also worth mentioning that the Windows I used was a clean install, i.e. no pre-installed crap; so I guess one could say that the version of Windows I used was "better" than the versions that 95% of Windows users have (the other 5% is mainly made up of /. users).

I have now successfully converted about 10 people to Ubuntu and they are loving it. The two advantages of Linux over Windows that I hear the most from them are not having to load so much useless crap in their systray and not having to deal with spy-ware.


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20242975)

Piracy puts legitimate companies like mine out of business, along with your commie socialist free-software bullshit. With you all running pirated copies of Photoshop so you can rip off hard working individuals' innovations and bastardise them into your pirate 'Gimp' product running on your insecure Linux hobby OS and not buying true American software, I've only been able to go abroad twice this year! (By the way, we all know Linux is only based in Europe so you e-Terrorists can keep on shitting all over Microsoft's patents, if we got you in a US courtroom we'd tear you to shreds, you freeloading pirates)
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