Jul 292009

Another software product I’ll not be buying because of activation is Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I just received a promotional e-mail from TigerDirect Canada, offering this software for only CAD 59.97. Back in the old days, I’d have placed the order without much hesitation. But that was before the days of activation.

Simply put, I don’t buy software the license of which is tied to my computer hardware. My computer hardware is always changing. I have backup and test computers, and I often install software on those before risking my main computers. I only use licensed software and I abide by the terms of the license, but I do not put up with police state nonsense. Software companies do NOT have the right to police which of my computers I install their software on, so long as the spirit of the license is not violated: I am the software’s only user, and I only use one copy at a time. The purpose of test/backup installations is not to violate the terms of the license but to ensure that my ability to work remains uninterrupted by system failures or software incompatibilities.

In any case, my computer has no money. It is silly to tie a license to my computer, which has no ability to purchase anything. I, on the other hand, do have money, and I can purchase things, but why would I want to purchase things that would be tied to a computer that really is a transient entity: tomorrow, its hard drive may change, the day after, its motherboard, and so on? (The particular computer on which I am writing this text has been through many incarnations since the days when it began its existence as an Intel ‘486 machine on my then two-computer home network in the early 1990s, yet in a sense, it still has the same “identity”. Unfortunately, not quite in the sense in which computer identities are interpreted by activation software.)

Activation was supposed to boost sales by reducing software piracy. Perhaps it does that, though I remain skeptical. Meanwhile, at least in my case, I probably saved several thousand dollars over the years by no longer buying software on a whim. What can I say… their loss, my gain, I get to keep more money in my retirement account or pay off my mortgage faster.

I also note with a mild degree of amusement that cracks for most popular software are widely available on the Internet. Further, because activation and copy protection can be cumbersome, a growing number of people who purchased legitimate copies actually use cracked versions for comfort and convenience. I am guilty of doing the same: in order not to have to insert the blasted CD every time I play some particular games, I am using cracked versions instead, in which the copy protection code is bypassed. And this is when one feels compelled to ask the obvious question: if I, a legitimate purchaser, am nonetheless forced to use cracked (i.e., illegal) copies of software just so that I can use it the way I want to, what’s the point of paying for it in the first place?

This is a sad question to ask, given that I also make a living from writing software and as such, software piracy can hurt my wallet.

 Posted by at 3:13 pm