“My name is James and I was a software pirate.”
I have been legal for five days now, it has been difficult but I have thrown out all the counterfeit software, wiped my drive clean and purged my life of the demons of illegally obtained applications. This is the story of my cleansing.
About five years ago I had my first brush with the Microsoft legal juggernaut when the Windows Genuine Advantage updates caught me with a counterfeit copy of Windows XP. In disgrace I was shunted to a Microsoft website where I was pleasantly but firmly presented the opportunity to right my wrongs and lay out some actual money on a genuine copy of XP. This particular shot across my bow caught my attention and I reached for my credit card. I must say though that it was not the fear of getting caught that caused me to lower my skull & crossbones and hand over my pieces of eight, it was more a sense of respect since the alerts were so polite in implying that I was most likely a victim of software counterfeiting; if only the real police were so understanding.
Some years down the line when Vista hit the shelves I knew I had to have it (despite the bad press), but I didn’t fancy going through the rigmarole of downloading potentially virus riddled cracked copies and then playing cat and mouse with the Windows Updates so I went straight for the plunge and bought the copy outright with a strong sense of satisfaction.
Unfortunately when Windows 7 came along I was not in the same position, you see my wife is pregnant with our first child so all spending on anything that is not directly baby related has been cut. Despite my efforts to convince my wife that a happy baby is one whose parents are running the latest version of Windows I was not appeased and the wonders of 7 were denied me.
Or were they?
For a good few months I was happily and legally running the public beta testing version of W7 on both my PC and laptop, but that could never last. I needed a version that I could run indefinitely, so one night I snapped and fell back into old habits. I pointed my browser towards the seedy underbelly of the internet where you can get hold of anything, ask no questions and I’ll tell no lies and so on. One dodgy 4gig download and an evening of guilt-ridden installation and I had a fully functioning copy of Windows 7 running smooth as silk on my PC, but could I live with myself?
Pangs of guilt would wake me in my sleep as the computer cried out from behind the closed office door, dirty from the illicit garments it was being forced to flaunt. Then came the day I had been dreading; the Royal Navy cannons were in range of my Jolly Roger once more.
“This copy of Windows is not genuine”
There I was, smoking gun and blood-stained fingers, I had fallen down into the very pits of computing hell and violated my PC and my laptop, and more importantly risked fines and prosecution which I could very much do without.
So with my head firmly in my hands I repented and removed the illicit software from my sullied machines, but what should I replace it with? Well I had two options, option one was to go back to my legal copy of Vista, and option two was look for a freely available legal alternative. In the end I took both options, installing Ubuntu onto my laptop and putting the PC back to Vista.
Once I had finished installing Vista I was left with another dilemma; you see I didn’t exactly own the copy of Office that I was using prior to installing the 2010 beta version, and I saw no value in reinstalling that since I knew I could never buy the full license once the evaluation period ended, so what could I use? I concluded that when I am using the computer at home I am not exactly an Excel or Word power-user; I create spreadsheets to organise the monthly outgoings and write the occasional pointless letter to supermarkets but I could certainly live without some of the more advanced features of Office so long as I could find something that would open and save Office files.
The answer was to be found while I was installing Ubuntu, you see it comes pre-packaged with OpenOffice, and without wanting to make this a long winded advertisement for said software suite, it is very good at replicating the basic and intermediate features of Office for the home user.
So now I have legally obtained Windows on my PC, legally free Ubuntu on my laptop, which is also now running a virtual copy of Windows XP which I legally purchased previously, and I also have legal open-source software alternatives to Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and all the other premium packages I thought I couldn’t live without. The funny thing is, some of these are better than their £800 premium alternatives.
“My name is James and I am clean.”
This is actually a repost of a blog I wrote and published last year, but the pictures were lost somehow so I found this copy on my trusty Windows Live Writer and recovered the images. In case you are wondering, I now own a fully licensing copy of Windows 7 and managed to get Office 2010 through a special license through work so I am well up to date (and still legal!).
In case you are interested in the story of how I came to get Windows 7, have a look at this Flickr album.