piracy/anti-piracy: an elaborate ecosystem
Tuesday, November 11 2003
I had a housecall north of Rosendale off of DeWitt Mills Road today. Everything went well, but when I got out to my truck, I noticed that my left front tire, the spare I'd put on the other day, was nearly flat. So I decided to drive it slowly to the nearest gas station and put some gas in it. I didn't get very far. At the intersection of DeWitt Mills Road and State Route 32, I found an Ulster County deputy sitting around wasting time in his cruiser. He was unusually observant for a man in his line of work, and he immediately signaled for me to roll down my window. I had, he wanted to tell me, a flat tire. By now there was very little air in it so I tended to agree with the deputy that I shouldn't drive on it anymore. He was a helpful guy and called the nearest gas station to have them send down a somebody with a tank of compressed air. While we were waiting for that to happen, the deputy took the opportunity to run my license to see if I had any outstanding warrants. You can just never be too careful these days.
On the way home, I stopped at the Hurley Stewarts and bought one of those fix-a-flat canisters, though I didn't deploy it right away.
I spent much of the day working on a multi-thread project that was in turn interwoven with several other unrelated projects. This is typical of the way I operate these days, and I'm convinced it's a reflection of the interactions I've been having with computers since Netscape, and (before that) Macintosh System 7. The windowing environment of a modern, globally-networked computer might be intended as a metaphor of the normal interactions in the real world, but it takes that metaphor and gives it absurd multitasking capabilities. In the days before computers, it wasn't physically possible to read sixteen magazines, stopping to research every insufficiently-understood topic as it is introduced, while also writing three separate documents and checking in frequently on breaking news stories.
The core project involved a series of installations of operating systems on two different hard drives. The primary goal was the recovery and restoration of a client's hard drive that had been rendered useless by a combination of porn-borne viruses and adware. A secondary goal was to create a bootable device to help me recover unbootable Windows XP hard drives in the future. In so doing I stumbled into an ecosystem of software piracy, counter-piracy, and counter-counter piracy. It was far more elaborate than I could have possibly imagined. On first blush, it all seems so pointless, since the pirates have a much bigger staff than the anti-pirates, and all it takes is Google to find the access to the latest ammunition. But companies like Microsoft are depending on the average person not being quite that resourceful, a reasonable assumption that will carry them far into the indefinite future. Google and KaZaA Lite (and other internet methods) make it possible for savvy individuals to keep ignorance at bay, but there will always be a vast majority who remain in ignorance, either willfully or (most tragically) ignorantly.
Meanwhile I was figuring out how to disassemble a dysfunctional Gateway Solo laptop. I looked for documentation online, but there was none, so I had to puzzle it out all by myself. To anyone searching Google (as I did) and encountering this page: the key is the two plugs just below the screen. Beneath those are the screws that hold the frame around the screen. Once that is out of the way you can remove the plastic behind the keyboard, find the screws holding down the keyboard and remove those, ultimately exposing the inner-guts. For me, my exploratory surgery ended soon thereafter - I found a burn on one of the CPU card's connectors. This indicated some sort of deadly short had ruined the "brains" of the laptop. I wish I knew the pinouts of the Gateway Solo's screen - it seems like the centerpiece for a project worthy of either the sagas or the ragas.
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