On warez

I seem to be on a binge for tired old subjects, so now seems like a great time to come back to this one.

To be perfectly honest, I don't use bootleg software, but I strongly believe in its power. The power of the almighty dollar, as of thousands of people in unison around the world say "Enough! We will not give our money to you." When it comes to business and politics, there are only two ways to cast your vote: Your wallet, and your checkbook.

So, here we go, descending into the vicious circle: People "steal" copies of Microsoft(R) Windows(tm) (though what they are really stealing is a license to use the software), and Microsoft responds by changing the Key algorithm in every version of Windows.

Before long, it becomes clear that this is not going to be enough to deter piracy, so Microsoft rolls out Windows Product Activation. WPA is a fantastic idea, because it is a corporate invasion of privacy hereto unrivaled by any other. Truly, truly marvellous. But WPA does not go far enough; For this flaw, License 6 is the solution. License 6 gives Microsoft the power to inspect your computer whenever they wish (via the internet, when you are connected) and disable any software they believe was pirated.

Of course, thus far it appears to have been a resounding failure, with one exception: It is souring people on the notion of a future with Windows. Even legitimate customers resent having to prove their innocence (curiously excepting my own father, who does not object to it at all).

In the meantime, l33t 0DAY H4XX0RZ battle furiously to defeat WPA, with what appears to be wide success. Recently, I saw a Windows 2000 CD that included 3 versions of Windows 2000, 3 versions of Windows 98, and 2 versions of Linux (slightly modified tomsrtbt). It really is true that if you build a better antipiracy device, the world builds a better L33T H4XX0R. Not enough? I've seen a Windows XP CD that included somewhere in the region of FOUR flavors of Windows XP.

I wonder how Microsoft feels, knowing that their efforts are driving away legitimate customers in favor of less restrictive alternatives. Especially since they have admitted that Linux is their most feared threat. Jim Allchin must be shitting bricks nowadays, as he tries to justify to the shareholders why Microsoft is sending $450 million to india, $550,000 to the Peruvian President (and so on), while at the same time driving away many of his formerly loyal customers.

He's got a lot of reason to worry, I think. Many Linux zealots run scared, predicting the end of free (lowercase 'f') software, expecting that any day now, the government will make it illegal to run Linux. They might do that, but not before Microsoft is brought to its knees. By that time, Linux will be so entrenched (and in many ways, already is) that it would be impossible for Windows to make a recovery. Linux->Solaris conversion would be much easier for most people (not to mention cheaper).

So as you see, warez is clearly helping to speed Linux adoption- especially on account of the hungry BSA lawyers. Is warez a good thing? That really depends on which end of the stick you are on; the warez d00dz are guilty of vigilante justice, which (clearly) is not legal. But take a look at the bigger picture: Robin Hood was a vigilante, guilty of the same offenses. Yet we recount his deeds with heroic appreciation, not criminal intent.

Whether they want to or not, warez d00dz are increasing the viability of Linux (and other non-microsoft) platforms. While I cannot condone the cause, I am very much in favor of the effect.