Going Legit

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
  • Maya
  • Various SoundForge apps
  • Various commercial MPEG encoders/utilities
  • FruityLoops
  • 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
  • WinRAR
  • 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
  • 7-Zip
  • OpenOffice
  • 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?

PartĀ 2 of this series isĀ here.

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