Archive for category Software
A while back I decided to give up a life of petty theft and electronic burglary and behave like a respectable young(ish) man. I had amassed thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal software, operating systems, games, music and movies, and had downloaded enough patches and cracks to start my own plumbing company. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. I was a web developer, so I had the entire suite of Adobe products installed, plus the (then separate) Macromedia line, plus the commercial modelers and raytracers and development studios, plus all the operating systems my junk was running on, plus whatever else my greedy little heart desired.
But now I have a friend in Obama (he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me how little I own), and I’ve Changed.
OK, scratch that last. I gave up improv long ago, so there’s no longer any reason for me to pretend to be gay and/or socialist in public (or semi-public, as this blog seems to be). But forgive me, my three faithful readers and half dozen stumblers-upon, for I tend to wander. I did eventually amend my habits, though, and I’m happy to report that I’m in my 20th month of keeping them amended!
Anyway, so I’ve always been interested in the concepts of piracy, DRM, copyright law, etc., and because I’ve participated actively on both sides of the central issue, it’s something I’ve often given thought to. I came across something yesterday that piqued the interest of my inner technowonk, and I want to share it here: perspective and counter-perspective on the theft of music.
Essentially, what happened was that some dude blawged about music piracy a while back, and then someone else chimed in with some actual sense, and then the original dude posted a new entry about that, and then things started really getting out of hand. OK, actually he argued in his original post that there was a big difference between piracy and unauthorized duplication, and that, while one was big and bad and evil, the other other wasn’t so much a deal. To that I say, “Fart sandwiches.” Degrees of theft can’t be quantified, and no amount of rationalization can justify taking something from someone else without their permission. He argues that it’s going to be taken anyway, so nobody should fret over it too much. He argues that it spreads the artist’s notoriety, but doesn’t explain how popularizing a particular theft and encouraging more and more folks to steal from someone will help them pay the rent. Then (my favorite part!) he speculates that maybe, just maybe, people shouldn’t be forced to actually pay for things they can’t afford.
I was waiting for his logic to start expanding like J-Lo’s butt and encompass all things in life that aren’t free but might should be, but he disappointed me by not going there. Just think: if music is necessary to life, how much more so must the Big Mac be? What right does McDonald’s have to charge actual money for their stuff anyway, when there are people who can’t afford it? I think I should steal about 20,000 fish sandwiches and share them with friends and perfect strangers alike. Wouldn’t that expand their fan base? It would be fantastic for everybody, wouldn’t it? To be fair, though, that’s not a perfect analog since it takes actual effort to create each sandwich while music can just be copied. A better example might be sex, but I won’t really explore that option in depth. The saner of you get my meaning, though, so I can probably just wrap up this paragraph with my trademark lack of conclusion.
I’ve been following Worldwide Groove Corporation for a while, and it’s actually Ellen Tift, the mom of that particular mom-and-pop, that stoked the fires with her passionate rebuttal to the dude’s original post. I’m a huge fan of chillout (and have really always been an electronica kiddy at heart), and I’m currently head over heels in love with Chillodesiac Lounge (vol. 1). I hadn’t actually been on their site much before the butt hit the scuttle, but one of the comments on the dude’s entry mentioned a Killers remix that I had to go check out there. And… wow. What can I say? Other than that I’m now the proud owner of a kickin’ version of Somebody Told Me? You really, really should go check these folks out.
I have lots of music bidness friends and contacts, and most of them are quite outspoken with their anti-music-piracy messages. They know first-hand how damaging minor theft on a grand scale can be, and they wholeheartedly support the artists and authors in question. What’s interesting, though, is that several of them do trade unauthorized copies of other things – movies, video games, etc., and I always wonder how their rationalization process works when they do things like that. Oh well, at least they’re not stealing fish sandwiches…
Vista is crap. Let me just lead with that. I got all excited about the possibility of downgrading to XP, but my hopes were dashed like so many Hobbits on the rocks after reading that Home Premium wasn’t one of the versions included in the offer.
So I’ll have to move my expensive-as-crap XP Pro license from my desktop to my laptop, and I guess just be happy with a KDE desktop downstairs or something. I don’t delude myself that I’ll have time to do that anytime soon, though, so in the meantime I’ll have to be stuck with Microsoft’s most miserable excuse for an OS yet.
Today I learned something new about the crappy thing, though, that brings it a bug’s hair closer to the pathetic/miserable threshold (it still has miles to go before I’ll consider it good enough to be a pathetic OS): how to permanently unblock an application Vista won’t stop bitching about, no matter how many times you uncheck the “always annoy me about this” checkbox or click the “freaking unblock this application” button. It’s a simple fix, really, but to a problem that (in Microsoft’s typical fashion) is remarkably stupid.
This example is a discussion of unblocking the excellent PuTTY SSH/Telnet client, but it should work in most similar situations.
I use CDEx to rip all my audio CDs, and up until now have been using 192Kbit CBR to encode everything via LAME. Of course, all my idiot friends (hi, idiot friends!!) have always made fun of me for using such an “overkill” bitrate. They tell me 128K is plenty, but they must be deaf or summin’, cause those extra 64 Ks make a huge difference to my poorly trained ear.
So I’ve always just ignored them (as I tend to do ’bout most things) and continued to rip at 192/CBR.
But then today I stumbled across an elderly but very interesting blawg posting about one guy’s thoroughly unscientific experimentation with various encode parameters with CDEx/LAMEEnc. He now uses VBR from 192K to 320K because, although he admits it results in even bigger’n’fatter output than CBR at the lower extent of that range, he thinks it’s much closer to the original source. That source, incidentally, is some old Breeders stuff I wish I owned. I used to have a big crush on Kim Deal, even though I thought she was sort of ugly. Weird, eh?
The guy went on to talk about his sensitivity to higher registers, and how that affected his final decision. That’s always been one of my problems, too, even though I suspect I’m starting to develop midrange deafness. I can still always tell when a CRT TV is on, though, because I can hear it whine. I’ll definitely have to play with these settings a little and see if they make a difference to me.
Last year my church offered a co-ed Bible study on the topic of financial stewardship which covered giving, investing, deficit spending and the correct perspective toward work. It was a fantastic study and my wife and I really enjoyed spending that time together, but what affected me the most during those weeks was a casual question the teacher (one of my better friends, and to whom I’ll refer from here on out as Axel) raised one night: should a thief be trusted with money?
That question made me feel uneasy right away but, as I’ll admit to a certain callousness toward introspective criticism, I just brushed it off. I wasn’t a thief, after all. I was a good person. Except… how many CDs borrowed from friends or the library had I ripped? And how many had I downloaded via bit torrent or–back in the day–Napster? How many computer games had I downloaded and played without ever buying? What about other software? Operating systems, even? But, like I said, I really, really wasn’t a thief. I had never stolen a car, for example, or broken into anybody’s house. So no biggie. I figured the software companies charged way too much anyway, and since I didn’t see any starving record execs on the street there wasn’t really much harm in the lightweight shenanigans up to which I had been.
As the days slipped by, though, that initial feeling of unease came back, and soon it grew too strong to ignore. Axel has a way with words, and I’ve often found myself thinking about something he’s said even if I disagreed with him initially. I began wondering, from a purely human perspective, and ignoring the intangible concept of the soul, how much I was worth. They say everybody has a price, and I realized mine was something in the neighborhood of ten bucks, or maybe even less, because that’s how much any of the CDs I ripped-slash-stole would have cost me at the used music place. But really, since most people know I have pretty crappy taste in music, actual market value might have been just a few cents on some of those discs. So I wasn’t a thief, I reckoned, unless the item in question cost more than a nickel or two. That’s no good. I once heard the street value for all the chemicals and minerals and whatnot in the human body was around $38 (but does that include the bottled water?), and I decided right then not to be worth more dead than alive. I was going to go legit, dang it!
I threw out all my “undocumented” software, including:
- The Macromedia suite (Flash, DW, etc.)
- Photoshop (sob)
- Vegas Video
- Windows 98
- Windows 2000
- Windows XP Pro (the one with the corp key you know by heart)
- Office Pro two-thousand-and-something
- Battlefield 2
- Thief 2
- Various SoundForge apps
- Various commercial MPEG encoders/utilities
- Several Sims 1 expansion packs
- A disc full of apps like Bryce and Poser (very old, but still)
- Some Mac OSes
- CoolEdit Pro and various plugins
- VMWare Workstation 4 (but now server is free!!!)
- Nero 7
- Much more I’m not remembering on the fly
And replaced them with:
- Two purchased upgrade copies of WinXP (Pro for me, Home for the wife; fortunately I had a legit copy of NT workstation, and a friend of mine gave me his old copy of ME, so both of those upgraded nicely)
- The free version of Nero that came with one of my burners
- The Gimp (still struggling to be effective with this one)
- VMWare Server
I’m still looking for a user-friendly looper/tracker that can be had cheaply or for free, and I’ll probably also want to get back into editing old digital8 footage on something similar to Vegas… but, again, it has to be cheap or free.
I also made a point to delete all the MP3s I don’t rightfully own. That hasn’t been accomplished yet because my file server has been down for an eternity. Once Henry is back up, though, it’ll be a huge undertaking to weed through all that stuff.
I already feel better–if not poorer–about my decision to go legit, but I know it will always be a struggle. There will always be those gray areas, like at the LAN party my friend… uh… Wayne… yeah, that’ll be his name… is about to throw. If I don’t own one of the games he’s hosting, he’ll be sure to have a copy I can use for the day, complete with crack or auto-generated license code. On one hand, if I delete the game right after the party is over I’ll feel like I’ve skirted my obligation to pay for high-quality and entertaining software, and on the other, $45 – $55 is an awful lot of money to pay for (ostensibly) one day’s enjoyment. Of course, I’d have a legitimate copy of that game next time around… and I do like playing shooters from time to time… so I’d have it to enjoy whenever I wanted. I did find a review of a site that supposedly rents PC video games, but at a starting price of $14.95/month for one game at a time, I would have to be going to an awful lot of LAN parties. Axel’s at most of those parties… I wonder what he would think about all of this? Or about the manly name I gave him?
Part 2 of this series is here.