Tag Archives: Free software

Playing the Software Pirates at Their Own Game

In the last post I prattled on about how Microsoft et al didn’t get it when it comes to dealing with piracy. So what should they do?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’d like to see a more creative approach. After all, these pirates have an extraordinary delivery mechanism that is much more efficient than anything else I’ve seen. Why not try an experiment whereby a user who buys counterfeit software, either knowingly or unknowingly, has six months’ grace period in which to ‘activate’ a legitimate version? This could be done online by a key download and a credit card. No big software downloads — prohibitive in a country where Internet speeds are glacial — and no shipping (time-consuming, and often not possible from most suppliers). Instead, a downloaded widget would scour the program the user wants to ‘activate’, check its version and integrity (I’m not talking values here, I’m talking software) and install whatever patches are necessary (hopefully done without need for a full upload.) After that, the software is legit.

Software vendors would argue that this encourages piracy. I would argue: if the user can’t buy a legitimate version of your software in the country they live in, either online or offline, should they just not use your software? Or

Secondly, I would argue that this approach is not far removed from the shareware try-before-you-buy approach whereby users get to play with software for free for 30 days or so before buying. Of course, if they want to, the user could just not pay and continue using the software. But I suspect that they weren’t the kind of customer who was going to pay anyway, so you can hardly count them as lost business.

Lastly, it may be possible to use this approach to disrupt the economics of the pirate software network by embracing the shareware model. Instead of restricting distribution of your product, you flood the market with shareware versions of your software, allowing users a grace period in which to try out the software. If users can find trial copie of OneNote or PhotoShop or whatever free in every computer shop they visit, why would they bother buying a dodgy pirate copy that may or may not work? Sure, the free version needs paying for at some point, but that’s the point. The piracy market exists in part because people don’t have access to legitimate software — certainly not the range of legitimate software — in these places.

OK, that’s not always true. There will always be pirates, and there will always be people who buy from pirates, even if the legitimate software is available next door. But I suspect a lot of people who buy pirate software buy it to experiment, to try out software. Indeed, someone living in a place like Indonesia is likely to be familiar with many more software programs than someone living in a non-pirate-infested country. It’s not that these people want this software desperately, nor that they would buy it all full price if they had to. They buy it because the price is so low, they may as well buy it and try it. Do they keep it installed? In most cases, probably not. But the calculation for Microsoft et al should be: How many of these people would buy this software if, after trying it, they liked it?

Finding the answer to that question will give you an idea of the real losses Microsoft and co are incurring in lost business. It should also make them realise that not doing a decent job of making their software readily available in a place like Indonesia — at a price that reflects the purchasing power of the local consumer — is creating this highly efficient, but highly parasitical economy in pirated software. If they can reach their customers through that economy, or bypass it with widely available shareware versions of their programs — then they may stand a chance.

Downloading Causes Firefox to Hang

If opening the Downloads window in Firefox or downloading files are freezing the program, try deleting your download history. If this still causes a hang, try this fix from the MozillaZine Knowledge Base:

  • Find your profile folder. In Windows XP it’s here: C:Documents and Settings<Windows login/user name>Application DataMozillaProfiles<Profile name>********.slt%APPDATA%MozillaProfiles<Profile name>********.slt
  • Find and deete the file downloads.rdf.

Firefox should work fine now.

Extending Del.icio.us

Del.icio.us has come up with a new Firefox extension which includes toolbar buttons, a menu, context menus and search engine:

Delext

Pretty neat, although for some reason my Firefox is behaving and won’t tolerate some popups. More on some alternatives to this in a future post.

Recovering Your Firefox Bookmarks

This is documented elsewhere, but perhaps comes across as too nerdy for some. If you’re using Windows XP, recovering from a crash or whatever, and find that your Firefox bookmarks (and bookmarklets and bookmark toolbar) have disappeared, here’s what to do:

  • Close Firefox if it’s running.
  • Find your profile in c:Documents and Settings[your XP user name]Application DataMozillaFirefoxProfiles
  • There should be a subfolder there called bookmarkbackups. Find the most recent bookmarks html file in there (usually with a date after the ‘bookmarks’ bit.
  • Copy it to somewhere safe and rename the existing one bookmarks.html.
  • Copy it to the default profiles folder (up one level from the bookmarkbackups folder, deleting the existing bookmarks.html file.)
  • Close Firefox if it’s running and launch it. Your old bookmarks should be restored.

(And, while I’m at it, here’s a solution if your Firefox browser refuses to remember any of your changed settings in toolbars etc when you close it, resetting everything back to what it was before. The same bug — likely to be fixed soon — also deletes your search engines in the search box to the right of the address box. This fix will fix both problems:

  • Locate the localstore.rdf file in the same place as above.
  • Delete it.
  • Restart Firefox. You should be good to go.

Thanks, GreenKri.)

Firefox’s Big Menus

Playing with the new Firefox and it’s nice, although I don’t like the way some old extensions seem to have disappeared, such as the one which lets me use Opera-style mouse gestures to move through pages. Another thing I’m not crazy about is the default gap, or spacing, between rows of menu and bookmark items, which is larger than in the old version, reducing the number of menu/bookmark items you can see on a screen:

Ffmenu

This may be fine for people with huge monitors, but not for us ordinary joes. Excuse me if I’m being dense, but I’ve looked around the options and online but can’t see any obvious way to alter this, although I’m sure there must be one. Any thoughts, folks?

Flock and the Productive Web

This week’s column on WSJ.com (subscription only, I’m afraid) is about Flock, or about the things that Flock will help us do more easily, such as post to blogs, post to Flickr, turn boring bookmarks into a wealth of shared knowledge on del.icio.us, and generally make the browser a real platform for productivity:

One of the fun things about the Internet is that just when you think the game is over, somebody moves the goal posts, shoots the ref and says the rules have changed. At least that’s the way I see it with a new browser called Flock.

 You’re no doubt familiar with the Web browser wars of the mid-1990s. Microsoft’s Bill Gates came to realize the importance of the Internet late, but quickly got up to speed and crushed the poor old Netscape browser by offering Internet Explorer for free. The epilogue is that despite some upstart threats from a Scandinavian company called Opera and an open source free-for-all called Firefox, Internet Explorer still dominates the Web. In sporting parlance, it’s a bit like Microsoft has parked a big bus in front of the goal, so no one else can score.

 But I don’t think that’s the whole story. For the browser, you see, is emerging from a passive click-and-read experience to a place where you can get your work done and even share it with others.

The Bookmarklet

Good list by Steve Rubel of Bookmarklets Every Blogger Should Have:

Here’s a bunch of bookmarklets that I use every day in Firefox. I highly recommend them. To use these, drag each one individually into your Favorites or Links toolbar (in IE), or your bookmarks folder/toolbar in Firefox

Good stuff. What I’d like to find is an extension to the toolbar in Firefox that let me add more bookmarklets (God, I hate that term. Anything ending in -let is ripe for extermination). Anything out there?

Computer-On-a-Stick

Here, for those of you still lapping up the whole USB programs off your thumb-drive thing, is FingerGear’s Computer-On-a-Stick:

The Computer-On-a-Stick (COS) is a USB Flash Drive featuring its own ultra fast Onboard Operating System with a full suite of Microsoft Office-compatible applications.

According to Tom’s Hardware Guide, the drive is 256 MB and has programs taking up 192 MB, and retails for about $150. Software includes “a Debian-based Linux OS, a version of the open-source productivity suite OpenOffice as well as Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, an Instant messenger and a PDF viewer.” (Thanks, TechSpot News.)

A 512 MB version is coming soon, as is one with biometric fingerprint scanner.

Google Firefox Extensions

I don’t know how new these are, but I hadn’t seen them before: Google Firefox Extensions

Welcome to the Google Extensions for Firefox page. Extensions are small applications that you download and install into your Firefox browser to add new functionality. We hope you enjoy these extensions!

They include an ordinary toolbar, a text message sender (U.S. only) and an auto-complete tool for the Firefox search bar.