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Too Expensive By Far 27 August 2002 Edition
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Like most computer users I buy a new piece of software every now and then.

The vast majority of people reading this column will probably have handed over a fist-full of cash for one of Microsoft's operating systems -- but that's more than likely not out of choice.

Microsoft is becoming increasingly paranoid about people ripping off its software and spends a huge amount of money tracking down and dealing to pirates.

They do this because they have to. Although Windows XP and later versions of MS Office require the user to register each and every installation -- thereby allowing Microsoft to detect and respond to piracy, this technique is only marginally effective.

That's because crackers have already been circulating a number of installation keys that work without the need to contact Microsoft and register your installation.

If you know where to look it becomes trivial to get one of these keys and therefore borrow a friend's copy of Windows XP to install on your own PC.

Of course Billy-boy has noticed this and responded by including a sneaky little extra in an update to Windows XP (see the headlines below for details).

You've got to wonder, given the way Microsoft is so heavily criticised and the quality of its products so often denigrated, why some people go to all the hassle of stealing Windows or Office.

Those who bitch most loudly about Microsoft's attitudes and the quality of its code are also those most likely to steal it -- go figure!

It's not like there aren't some very good open source equivalents to Windows or Office is it?

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    If the BSA's claims are to be believed then software theft is a major problem around the globe.

    But do these people ever stop to think why this might be?

    Last week I took a look at all the software I'd purchased during the previous 12 months and noticed something very interesting...

    It was all cheap (less than NZ$100), it all offered a free trial period, and it was all downloadable from the Web.

    This weekend I forked out US$45 for a piece of software that I'd been using for the 15-day trial period and had found to be of excellent quality with all the features I wanted. I'm a happy customer.

    Two of the alternatives to this piece of software cost US$295 and US$495 respectively.

    Were these more expensive products better?

    It sure didn't seem so on the spec sheet -- but I'll never know because one offered no free-trial download and the other offered only a crippled version for evaluation.

    This is an excellent program that sells for what I consider to be a very realistic price so I was more than happy to pay for it and reward those who had spent a lot of time and effort developing it.

    But maybe I'm an exception -- after all, I'm one of the few people who spent US$10 to register their copy of WinAmp several years ago, because I figured it was also a great piece of software and US$10 wasn't much to spend to reward those who wrote it.

    So what would happen if Billy-boy (and the music industry) decided to adopt this same strategy of offering good quality software at very realistic prices?

    If Windows XP were just NZ$95 and MS Office cost just NZ$149 do you think anyone would really bother pirating it?

    Maybe if certain members of the software and music industries realised that all people want is good value for money then they could all but wipe out losses due to piracy overnight.

    Of course the fact that this might mean trading the Ferrari F40 for a Lamborghini Diablo due to slightly reduced profits will likely sour all those high-fliers to the idea :-(

    Coming Soon
    Later this week I'll be comparing two dial-up modems designed for use on noisy lines.

    This feature should be of interest to all those who emailed me to say that they are also suffering from noisy copper that affects their ability to stay online and transfer data at a sensible rate.

    I'm also putting the final touches to the next section of the Aardvark Online Marketing Guide in which I will be dealing with the touchy issue of marketing by email.

    It's my hope that perhaps a few ISPs will link to the page so as to educate their users as to what's acceptable and what's not -- particularly in light of what appears to be an increase in spam originating from local sources.

    And of course -- that Tivo-like box is coming along nicely. If you are thinking of making one of these yourself then you're going to love me for the amount of leg/finger-work and hair-pulling that this article will save you ;-)

    Have your say.

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    Security Alerts
    Microsoft plugs critical Office holes
    (ITWorld - 22/08/2002)

    Security flaw hits Windows, Mac, Linux (NewsFactor - 7/08/2002)

    PGP Outlook plugin has major hole (TheReg - 12/07/2002)

    IE scripting flaw uncovered (TheReg - 12/07/2002)

    Microsoft Reveals Still More Security Flaws (NewsFactor - 28/06/2002)

    Virus Alerts
    Worm spreads through KaZaA network, again (TheReg - 22/08/2002)

    Apher worm: From Russia (ZDNet - 22/08/2002)

    Kowbot worm targets Kazaa network
    (VNuNet - 01/07/2002)

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