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Pirates–Without Boats

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Pirates.

What does that word mean to you? You most like think of the smelly men on a boat always saying “Aargh!” The ones that the popular movies are about. The ones that plunder gold. But, there is a different kind of pirate in modern times. These new pirates are the ones that plunder software. The ones that don’t pay for their licenses to use a product. The ones that download movies.

Strictly speaking, a pirate is someone that steals (takes without paying for) software. They may download the software, burn it from a friend, “borrow” it, crack a demo to allow full access, or any other way to get around paying for something. It may be hard to think of someone stealing an item without actually taking a CD or DVD. With piracy, the pirate takes intellectual property. A company can own the bits and bytes that are inside a program. When you buy that program, you’re actually just buying a license to use that software. By downloading it and not paying for it, you are taking those bits and bytes without having a license to allow you to. Thus, you are committing software theft–piracy.

The most popular form of piracy today is illegally downloading music. There is an enormous amount of software that lets you download songs. These songs aren’t “free” like the programs state. They are illegal copies and downloading them is theft. Whether or not you believe in intellectual property, it is still theft as defined in the law.

Another form of popular piracy today is software piracy. Instead of buying a product such as Microsoft Office, a pirate might just download the software instead. The pirate isn’t licensed to use the software, and is committing theft.

Theft is theft. There is no way around it. Even if you are stealing for a good purpose like Robin Hood did in the old stories, it is still theft. Pirates cut the potential profits companies can make. These companies then raise prices to help increase revenue to offset the burden of pirates. No matter how you look at it, piracy is bad. Engineers and coders work long, hard hours to make a great product. Taking this product without paying for it makes their job less profitable and may put their jobs at risk. Next time you think about downloading that song or software without paying for it, please remember that theft is theft, no matter how you look at it. Don’t be a pirate. They’re smelly.

Official logo for the Open Source Initiative.

Free As In “Free”

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There are a great many pieces of software we use everyday. Software from giants like Microsoft and Apple, to smaller, less known players in the game. All of these are made under a few different kinds of agreements. The three main types are open source, closed source, and shared source. All three of these have different ideas, meanings, and legal implications.

Closed source is the most popular form of distribution, mainly because it is what giants like Microsoft and Apple use. What this means is the source code (the building blocks) of their programs are not available for view or editing. This is good for them because that means they can charge for their programs and not worry about someone editing the code and releasing a better version of their software. In a way, it safeguards all the work they did so they are the only ones who can benefit monetarily is the company that originally released the software.

If Microsoft Office, for instance, was open source, we at Courika could compile our own version and release it to our customers. We would pocket the money, not Microsoft. But, Microsoft Office is closed source. We have to go through Microsoft to sell Office.

Open source, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. The people making the software are not doing it to make a profit. Companies like the Mozilla Foundation (makers of Firefox) and Canonical (makers of the Ubuntu operating system) are a couple open source giants. Their programs are all open source. We at Courika could compile our own version of Firefox and sell it. We wouldn’t have to go through Mozilla because the source is open. The same with Ubuntu. We could theoretically compile our own operating system based on Ubuntu and sell it.

There is an officiating force in open source software. The Open Source Initiative (the owners of the logo at the top of this article) have certain guidelines that must be followed for them to endorse your product with an Open Source Initiative License. With the license, the owner of the software can really show their customers that their software is completely open source. Not just because they say so, but because a tangible third-party says so. Among the companies licensed by the Open Source Initiative are Mozilla and NASA (OSI Licenses By Name).

Closed source programs have a few pros and cons. These programs are usually wildly expensive (read: Windows 7, Microsoft Office, etc). Also, they are sometimes less secure because the owning companies are the only ones seeing the building blocks. Open source software allows you to have a few more pairs of eyes. Closed source programs, however, usually look a lot nicer because they are built to make a profit (read: Apple computers).

Open source programs also have their own pros and cons. They are sometimes more secure because they have multiple eyes looking for holes. But, since anyone can edit the code, someone could theoretically put in their own holes for exploitation. Open source programs sometimes don’t look as nice as their closed source competitors (OpenOffice vs Microsoft Office). But, open source programs are usually a lot cheaper than closed source, or completely free. Firefox, OpenOffice, and Ubuntu are just a few examples of completely free software.

Don’t think that just because a program is free it is open source. There are plenty of free closed source programs. Generally speaking, free refers to freedom when speaking of source codes. Not free as in no charge. Windows Live Writer is a free blog editing software, put out by Microsoft, but it is not open source.

Also, not all open source programs are just free, ugly versions of a closed source program. Ubuntu, the free linux-based operating system, is a very beautiful system. It is powerful, secure, and completely free. By free, I mean that the cost is nothing and the source code is readily available.

There is one other kind of program. It is refered to as mixed source. It means that the source code is available, but it is illegal to edit it or redistribute it. Basically, it is just there so you can see how the program is made and let the owner know of any holes in the software. This is confusing because many people think that if you can view the source, then it must be open source. That level of thinking is wrong. To qualify as open source, you must be able to freely edit and redistribute the source code with no payment to the company.

At Courika Solutions, we usually recommend open source software to our customers, as long as it is good for the customer. Many of the servers we deploy run a open source, linux variant. By default, we install OpenOffice and Mozilla Firefox on the computers we ship out the door.

Sources:

http://www.opensource.org

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But, I Have An Anti-Virus!

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There is a huge number of anti-virus software out there for consumers and businesses alike. Of course, some are better than others. But, I won’t get into that arguement now. The biggest misconception is that an anti-virus is the silver bullet for all viruses, which is completely wrong. Anti-viruses are like a bullet-proof vest. You can still get hurt wearing a bullet-proof vest. Just the same, you can still get a virus with an anti-virus.

Anti-viruses rely on things called definitions. These definitions basically tell the anti-virus software what programs or files are viruses and what aren’t. If a virus reaches your computer before the new definitions are downloaded by your anti-virus, your computer will be infected. This is why keeping your anti-virus up to date is so important.

Also, the different anti-viruses have different definitions. Some anti-viruses have larger definitions, some are updated more frequently, and some have even more variations. As a company, we recommend Norton Anti-Virus to our customers. In our professional oppinion, it is the best value. Daily definition updates, competitive price, and ease of use all contribute to the amazing customer satisfaction we recieve with Norton Anti-Virus. To top it all off, we see less computers with Norton in the shop because of viruses than any other anti-virus.

As a word of advice, always make sure your anti-virus is updated. Most anti-viruses nowadays have auto updates included. Be sure to set it to update daily, preferably at a time when you aren’t using it so it doesn’t slow down the computer while you are using it.

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Home Theater, Not Home Theater

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People usually have the wrong idea about home theater systems. People believe it automatically means your own theater in your basement. It can mean that, but for the most part it just means a computer hooked up to your television and used for watching television, movies, and recording your shows you missed. You don’t need the fancy chairs to enjoy it. I have a system I built myself and I use it almost every night.

Home theater systems can be as small or as large as you want. Usually you need an LCD television, usually with HDMI if you want high definition video. The computer doesn’t need to be a big powerhouse. As long as it can handle HDMI, it will be fine. But, it needs a lot of storage space to hold all your HD shows and movies.

Most home theater systems also have a TV tuner in the back so you can record shows, sports games, the new, and anything else you deem necessary. So you can even cancel the monthly payment for a DVR through your cable company!

All in all, a home theater system can be a great addition to your home. They are great for parties, family nights, or a great way to spend an evening. Call Courika today to get a quote for your own home theater system.