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How Pirated Software Impacts Free Software 530

Posted by kdawson
from the free-as-in-cracked dept.
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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How Pirated Software Impacts Free Software

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  • Very true.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:04PM (#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.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by QBasicer (781745) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:12PM (#20242209) Homepage Journal
      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.... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:19PM (#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.

        • 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
          • by Winckle (870180) <mark@[ ]ckle.co.uk ['win' in gap]> on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:59PM (#20242733) Homepage

            And you don't get the vendor specific apps.
            Downside?
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Eideewt (603267)
              That depends on what they are. Laptops may need a special driver for their media keys, or a card reader.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by CastrTroy (595695)
                Also, computers usually come with free CD/DVD buring software like Nero. It doesn't have all the options of the full version, but I haven't found anything I can't do with it. Stuff like that I like to keep around. Not all software that comes preinstalled is crap, althought I'll agree that the majority of it is.
                • by Poppler (822173) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:54PM (#20244365) Journal
                  Codecs are a big deal too - for example, a clean install Windows XP is not capable of playing DVDs.
                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    Use VLC [vlc.org] or mplayer [mplayerhq.hu] if you want to play DVDs on Windows without the need of those annoying codecs ;-).

                    Research for the Linux operating system benefits Windows too :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by EtherMonkey (705611)

            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.

            But this is a significant obstacle for most people, especially when the OEM doesn't post individual downloads for drivers and utilities. Between the time Dell stopped shipping XP in favor of Vista and then started again, I had to buy a laptop for my son. I got an Inspiron E1505 with Vista Premium. As far as I'm concerned, Vista is a bloated piece of garbage

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

          by ShaggyIan (1065010) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:48PM (#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.... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @06:48PM (#20243167) Homepage
          If it's anything like the Acer Laptop I just bought, there's an 8 Gig partition at the beginning of the drive. You change some setting in the BIOS, and when it books, it resets the hard drive back to factory settings. Haven't tried it yet (and maybe won't for a while), but the option is there.
          • Re:Very true.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:12PM (#20243937) Homepage Journal

            If it's anything like the Acer Laptop I just bought, there's an 8 Gig partition at the beginning of the drive.

            There's at least two problems with that approach:
            1. It won't just restore Windows, it will wipe anything else you have put on it. I.e. it's worthless for those who use both Windows and another OS.
            2. It won't work if the reason why you need to reinstall is that the disk is borken.

            It is also very hard to upgrade the disk on a system like that, but, of course, the manufacturer and Microsoft would both prefer that you buy a new laptop...

            Back to the original post, I think it is dead wrong, and that Windows is bundled makes it worse than a perception that it's free. People feel they have paid for Windows, and feel they should use what they have paid for. I am certain there are people who don't want to blow away their $300 OS for a free OS, just because they feel they have paid for it, and they don't want to appear as fools who pay for something they do not use.
        • Re:Very true.... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by totally bogus dude (1040246) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:42PM (#20244239)

          I recently re-installed my laptop to give it to my parents. It came with XP Professional, but I couldn't find the installation disc (if it even came with one). So I just used the XP Pro image I happened to have lying around. This required a VLK of course, so the key on the sticker on the laptop doesn't work. Just used a keygen to get it to install.

          So, that laptop would be classified as running a pirated copy of Windows, just because they still try to prevent you "stealing" their software by limiting access to the shiny discs (and because I was too lazy to download an OEM image so the key would work). Furthermore, I don't have to activate this version of Windows, so yet again: the pirated version is more convenient than the legit product.

        • 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...)


          For a while I ran a pirated version of EZ CD Creator. I freely admit it. How was it justified? I have an older HP computer that did come with a wonderful recovery CD. My copy of the CD burning software became corrupted and would no longe
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by schotty (519567)
          A company I consulted for was in a real pickle -- they had the licenses for most but not all of the software. Some whitebox systems were using pirated or cloned keys of existing software or just flat out pirated stuff. I advised to either pony up the cash needed for the licenses or go FLOSS (OpenOffice, Zimbra, etc.). They chose the latter route, but took a bit. A pissed off employee that overheard the conversation got to the BSA before I could even start making an image of a server to do Zimbra, and ro
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lord Artemis (1141381)
        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.... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Verteiron (224042) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:46PM (#20242585) Homepage
          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: (Score:3, Informative)

            by hawkbug (94280)
            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 yo
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Propaganda13 (312548)
            I went to reinstall Windows XP Home on a Compaq computer with a lost disk. It had the sticker, but they had lost the disk. I used a generic OEM disk to reinstall instead. The automatic activation failed. Checked my number and I reinstalled thinking something was corrupted. The automatic activation failed again. I called Microsoft to activate. They said it wouldn't validate and they wouldn't help me since it was OEM and to call my manufacturer.

            Needless to say, I played with it. YMMV
            1. clicked on the phone c
      • Re:Very true.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Cafe Alpha (891670) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:34PM (#20242443) Journal
        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: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Mattintosh (758112)
          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.
      • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:08PM (#20244529)

        many people just loose their OEM disk ... How should those people be handled?

        Quite seriously for letting the things out - they could bite some kid or crap on my lawn. If they just let them loose and don't have them on a leash or behind a high enough fence they are a menace.

      • by MarkByers (770551) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @11:54PM (#20245623) Homepage Journal
        How should those people be handled? Is Piracy still piracy if it's the same version as what was there before?

        Yes, it's absolutely piracy.

        We need to be more tough on pirates and terrorists. In the music industry we use fines of $100,000 per 5MB of illegal pirated contraband. This should be increased to $500,000 per 5MB for Windows because it is such an important piece of software. Since Windows is about 1 GB in size that means we should be fining them about a gajillion dollars per theft. If you have multiple pirated copies then we must treat it as a commercial operation, and then clearly we are talking about *much* larger numbers.

        Once the fine has been paid the pirates should then be sentenced to death by hanging. This is a good way to prevent re-offending.

        I know that some of you think this is a little harsh but we must remember what the world was like when we were too gentle with pirates and terrorists. Do you want events like 9/11 to become a regular occurrence?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by StikyPad (445176)
      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), th
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by penix1 (722987)
        Yes, everything does have a cost. In Linux it is a learning curve (that is rapidly narrowing with distributions such as ubuntu), hardware support (again, narrowing with more vendors choosing to support it), and frustration when things go wrong. On the other hand, Windows has many down sides too from the hidden cost of the OS when you buy the computer to the same frustration when things go wrong. You have worms, virii, malware, spyware, crapware, etc. It increases cost by requiring you to get software and ha
      • Re:Very true.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by schon (31600) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @07:30PM (#20243501)

        Everything has a cost.
        Couldn't agree more.

        Linux generally costs me a lot of time -- more time than it's worth to me.
        Funny, I'd say the same about Windows.

        When it comes to installing, Linux is much simpler and faster (and thus cheaper). When it comes to configuration, Linux is (again) easier and faster. Software installation? No contest (try comparing MS Office with OpenOffice packages.)

        Then you have to factor in administration and update headaches (Linux is a one-stop-shop, updating in the background, whereas Windows update does the base OS, but then I have to update all of the other software manually.) Not to mention anti-virus and other associated headaches.

        Even with a "$0" price tag, Windows costs *much* more than Linux.
      • but not everyone sees it that way.

        I think piracy hurts Linux in developing and home user markets because when one uses pirated software, one is not required to make the decision on whether to spend money on the software or not. Businesses hav greater liability and hence this is less of a factor.

        All else being equal, people wills stick with what they know because that always costs less time.

        Because I know Linux really well, I generally find that Windows costs me an inordinate amount of time and the opportun
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by segedunum (883035)

      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

    • A way to stay legal (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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.
  • Slashdotted already (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Does anyone have a mirror of the original article?
  • ...server capacity, on the other hand, is too expensive.
  • by AssCork (769414) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:11PM (#20242185)
    it's the swords -
  • Windows isn't free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gilesjuk (604902) <[ku.oc.nez] [ta] [senoj.selig]> on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:11PM (#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.
    • by ZakuSage (874456) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:25PM (#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.
      • 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.
      • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @06:21PM (#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.
        • by nwbvt (768631) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:13PM (#20244589)

          "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."

          Lets pretend for a second that WalMart, Dell, and now soon Lenovo have all sold or announced the intention to sell computers with Linux pre-installed (and at lower prices than their Windows brethren). Yeah, they might not be that much cheaper, just a few hundred bucks (compared to the cost of the rest of the machine which can easily be over a grand), but thats about how much Windows costs.

          If you really are a die hard computer geek, there is a good chance you won't even buy from a major vendor but just build your own machine. And many of the rest of them want a dual boot machine so they can play games that are only available on Windows. And despite what we say around here, Linux has never been big on the desktop, which is what these computers you are speaking of are sold for. It is primarily used on machines like servers (where you can easily buy it preloaded). Thus the minority of users who will buy a naked or Linux PC is very, very small indeed.

          And the cost of selling machines without the standard OS is not non-zero. They have to pay to support them, install them (in the case of Linux preloaded machines), sell them, stock them, and then deal with all the cranky old ladies who didn't understand what they were buying and accidentally bought a computer without an OS. So actually economics states that it is not necessarily a profitable idea.

    • by phalse phace (454635) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:36PM (#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?"
      • by reboot246 (623534) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:51PM (#20242649) Homepage
        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!
      • by homer_ca (144738)
        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.
  • Price model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bombula (670389) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:13PM (#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?

    • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:36PM (#20242471) Homepage Journal
      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!
    • by Romwell (873455)
      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
  • by RLiegh (247921)
    ...only if your privacy means nothing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dave562 (969951)
      Linux is free

      ....if only your time means nothing.

      Ya ya, gimme the karma hit. It was too funny and too easy to pass up.

      • Re:Windows is free (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @07:15PM (#20243393) Homepage
        I know you're trying to be funny, but here's my funny anecdote. I got a Vista laptop [acer.com] over the weekend. It was dog ass slow, so I installed Mandriva (I was planning to install it before I bought it). I took me a few hours to get the network card drivers working, but after that, I had a full 3D desktop with wireless capability. So, while it took some of my time to get my machine working under Linux, but I figure I've already saved that much time in how much quicker my machine operates then when Vista is running. And I don't even get a 3D Desktop in windows, because it thinks my computer isn't good enough, and only ships with home basic.
  • OSS is not free. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by micromuncher (171881) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:14PM (#20242233) Homepage
    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...
    • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:19PM (#20242285) Homepage Journal
      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.
    • by djupedal (584558)
      "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'v
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by homer_ca (144738)
      I think Linus had the right idea here. He said, "Linux is free the way a free puppy is free."
  • Flip side (Score:5, Interesting)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:14PM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "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 th
      • Re:Flip side (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gaffle (1126429) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @06:02PM (#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.
  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by eclectro (227083) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:17PM (#20242261)
    Pirates are hurting free software? I think we are cutting ninjas way too much slack here.
  • 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 d
    • by secPM_MS (1081961)
      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

  • windows vs linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ianare (1132971) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:19PM (#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.
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      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
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:28PM (#20242377) Homepage
    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.
  • but I would say my sanity is worth something!
  • 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.

  • 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 u

  • by bwy (726112) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @05:51PM (#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.
    • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by GreyPoopon (411036)

      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.

      OK, if you're using a Windows machine, there is an easy solution. If it's a Linux box, you might be able to get the solution to work under WINE. All you need is Word Viewer 2003. This will allow you to create a Word format document with OO.org and vi

    • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @11:18PM (#20245395) Journal
      I disagree. I learned basic computing on some low end Win boxes. Slowly, the news discussions about the MS Trilogy of Windows-Office-IE Explorer began making me think.

      Firefox proved to be the easiest switch. Easy install... and ... glitches! But wait... more deep breaths... weren't we complaining about IE6 glitches? So in the spirit of the article, "if each is free and both have glitches, then MS doesn't really have an advantage, do they?" (And who pirates IE? That's super-free, because of the whole MS bundle trick the DOJ became amused with.)

      Now, I did happen to glance at Open Office in the Version 1.x stages. I had my ideology all lined up... but it was so different, that time cost forced me to decline. Life progressed, and one day on a lark, I murmured, "Gee. What's Open Office up to these days?". Now, having first suffered horribly for 3 days on V1.x, I was *grateful* for the incredible improvements in the (then-beta) V2 next generation. I still run into amusements like printing workbooks instead of sheets, ... but this is OSS Office software! The second part of the MS trilogy defeated! Sure I can survive a botch or three!

      But that last one is really tough. I am sorry to say, making the OS switch is NOT as easy as the app switches. My first day I managed to nuke my music player because I somehow turned off the GUI window. (A fit of completely inspired bravery into the command line and the manual got it back two hours later.) I'm still motivated. And I'm still researching, at a glacial pace. But that "comfy-MS" feeling is my vote for the reason no one has switched. The only reason Mac is surviving... is because Apple is pulling out every last ounce of strength they have to market themselves ... as comfy.

      Re: The resume point, I disagree. Borrow a friend's machine, whip up your resume, save the file, and that's the only windows-created file you'll ever need, right? If not, make the file yourself.. and get a friend to *check it* before you send it to HR.

      Looking at the types of word docs I see being created, I have never heard of people rushing towards Office in stark terror *if they know of an alternative*. The problem is mindshare. "You mean, something *else besides office* can create a spreadsheet!?"

      The kiss of death in business used to be the weird proprietary apps that only run on windows. However, we just switched to a unified server running clients... while not marketed as such, that windows server ... will actually enable me to take a crack at a Linux desktop ... *gasp*... in the company!!

      The last remaining problem is - the advocate of anything new ... needs to be GOOD. Currently, I'm a gibbering hatchling. But one hysterical blunder at a time, I'll learn enough to only look like a fool instead of a menace. Then I can broach the idea. I am lucky enough that my boss is actually pretty pro-tech, even if he needs help on the details. I think he'll see what I'm trying to do.

      I have a static workflow, so once I nail the pattern, ... look! here I am! Free-Source software! MS has lost a prisoner! And who plays games at work anyway? So who needs DirectX 10?

      My email is visible. My remarks are sincere. Any of you Penguin hotshots who want to volunteer to be disaster-mitigation resources, let me know. I'm right on the money the perfect switch candidate. So for all the otbers like me out there, I'm game.

  • 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/Ado
    • by gujo-odori (473191) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @06:15PM (#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.
    • by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:11PM (#20244565) Homepage Journal

      That article was nothing more than a perfect example of a classic Dvorak troll.
      Read through the rest of the comments here. I think the article is dead on.

      I've spent most of the last 4 1/2 years in the 3rd world and I may have seen a legally purchased copy of Microsoft Windows once, but I'm not sure. Many of the posters here are confirming that the same kind of copying goes on in the developed world too. Philippine internet cafe folks have to be able to run games because their strongest market is children playing games.

      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
      If that's the case, then any Linux distro would do just fine and there would be no need for any education. My mother did fine for years on a Linux box I set up (in 1998) and she was and still is computer illiterate.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @07:14PM (#20243379) Journal
    Another point that's being missed: Removing the preinstalled version of Windows on a PC (by installing something else over it) is NOT free.

    The cost includes:
      - the perceived risk of loss of the machine (and the money invested in it) if the install of the alternative OS goes wrong so badly that it can't be backed out and the machine recovered to its previous working configuration.
      - the cost of porting his data and working procedures to a new environment and learning to be efficient in this new environment.

    The cost is even higher if the machine isn't fresh, but he's been working on it for a while. Now he's risking his current working environment and the associated data.

    (And yes I know about backups and having to reinstall Windows from time to time. So what? That's also fraught with risks of loss. The cost of having to recover from backups is something he knows in his guts from past experience. So now he should volunteer to incur this cost when he doesn't NEED to, in order to switch to an unfamiliar environment and incur the porting cost as well? You have to be perceived as a LOT better to get him over that hump.)

    The way to break this cycle is what Dell is doing now: Provide new machines with Linux preinstalled for less than the same machine with Windows preinstalled. Then he has a known-good-system with support and only has to incur the porting cost, much of which he'd incur in migrating to a new machine. (And how good it is that this is happening at the same time as the rollout of Vista, increasing the porting cost for sticking with Windows by adding the migration to a new version.)
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @07:26PM (#20243471) Homepage

    For many people, both computer hardware and computer software are cheap compared to the time they spend using their computer, dealing with computer hassles, etc. For someone who's a professional graphic designer, for example, the price of a nice mac with a big screen, and copies of all the Adobe stuff, are just tax-deductible fixed costs of running their business. For people like this, the most important consideration is maximizing their productivity. If they're already used to Photoshop, then switching to GIMP isn't likely to make them any more productive. Ditto for switching from Windows to Linux.

    Since it's all about time for professional users, any time spent screwing around and getting the dang thing to work is a disaster. I'm not sure whether Linux is significantly less usable than Windows or MacOS X at this point; the question probably can't be answered because it involves a lot of value judgments, lifestyle choices, and personal issues like technical and educational background. But what I'm absolutely certain of is that any computer is a lot of hassle to set up and maintain. Slashdot users may consider that hassle to be a kind of fun, but that's not the case for most people. So let's say, for the sake of argument, that Windows, MacOS X, and Linux are all about equally full of hassles. Well, the person who is already running Windows has already worked out the hassles with Windows. It's going to take them a huge amount of time to work out all the new and different hassles of a different OS.

    Now that was all about professional users. The article's points about cracked software are mostly relevant to students and casual users. To a student, it may really make financial sense to spend a weekend obtaining and installing a cracked version of Photoshop, because he simply doesn't have the money to buy a legal copy. The thing is, it's very common in the retail world for businesses to offer different pricing to people who have different personal priorities about money versus hassle. Airlines sell first-class tickets, but they also sell economy tickets. Supermarkets give their best prices to people who have membership cards and who are willing to clip coupons from the Sunday paper. The existence of cracked copies of Windows is another example of the same thing. Microsoft is very happy that a broke college student pirates Windows, because the student doesn't have the money to pay for a legal copy, and if he wasn't using bootlegged Windows, he might get in the habit of using some other OS.

    Re cracked software, I think there's another phenomenon that the author of TFA isn't cluing in on. Commercial software tends to exploit users. For example, I've bought Mac software (Mathematica) that wouldn't work on my new Mac because it had a later version of MacOS; their response was that I needed to buy a new version of the software to work on the new OS. In the same era, I bought some Mac music software with a copy protection scheme that involved inserting a special floppy every time you wanted to run it; I bought a new mac, which didn't have a floppy drive, and the software company told me I needed to buy an external floppy drive in order to keep running the software. A very common experience is that you buy software, find out that certain functionality is broken, and are forced to pay for an upgrade in hopes that it will fix the bug. The whole computer hardware and software industry runs on principle of the upgrade treadmill: software companies arm-twist you into buying new versions of software, which then won't run or don't perform acceptably on your hardware, so you have to buy new hardware. One response to this (my response) was to switch to Linux. But a completely different, and not so unreasonable, response is to fight back by pirating your software.

  • ... to get rid of the Microsoft monopoly, and happen to be proficient at C programming:
    you could cooperate with the ReactOS [reactos.org] project (a windows compatible OS) and lend them a hand or two.

    I'd love to help them, but I have little spare time and I'm not very good with C - just C++.
  • by rockhome (97505) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:58PM (#20244395) Journal
    I mean really, how many users, without super-computer-competant friends, actually upgrade their base OS?

    I have upgraded my version of MacOS a twice, but I am a top end user. The Macs my parents own haven't been upgraded
    in quite some time. In the time that I owned Windows PCs, I didn't upgraded th eOS, I got a new PC. This seems the
    way it has been with most of the average users that I know. They use the same version of OS that was installed and use
    it for a few years until the whole machine needs to be replace and they replace the whole lot.

    In that sense, the OS is always free because they never made a line item payment for the OS on purchase, and never
    upgraded the machine they originally purchased. People don't choose Linux because it requires them to do something
    other than plug the box in. Unless they special order something, but your local big box generally offers PCs with Windows.
  • by gig (78408) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:37PM (#20244769)
    The OS should always be hardware-integrated like the Mac because for 99% of users the entire hardware is useless without it. Users see the OS as part of their PC. When the OS fails they want it repaired and they don't want to pay because they already had an OS. Cracking Windows is seen like a restore from backup. They never for a moment consider that naked is the natural state of their PC. Same as turned off is not seen as the natural state.

    As we go to no moving parts the OS is going to disappear into the hardware like firmware, it will come on a chip on the mobo, and it will finally be where users want it instead of how Bill Gates and Richard Stallman think it should be done. Ubuntu should not come on a DVD, it should come on a PC. When the PC is one chip what will be the rationale for selling it with some assembly required?
  • by smchris (464899) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @08:32AM (#20248371)
    I think the strongest point he makes is that Microsoft could give away Windows for home use. Not dissimilar to the free version of Oracle with the crippled database size and limited SMP that should discourage many people with small business and department needs from looking at PostgreSQL, and MySQL.
     

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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