Softwares in the world of piracy : A Perspective Rambling from Indonesia

I remember my first operating system: Windows 98. Now it seems that it has been a decade ago (and yes it has). It happened when I was in college, on the phone I told my parent about all the college assignment while my eyes feasting on the newest 3D game that my new PC can handle. One important note is that the operating system was a pirated version, the office applications were pirated version, the image editors were pirated version, the games I played were pirated, just about any softwares that me and my friends used that day were pirated version. No, it’s unlike any version you know on Adobe Photoshop (CS, CS2 etc) or Windows XP (Business, Home etc), it’s pirated. No, we wouldn’t in any circumstance bought original softwares.

To give you the clue, most of the middle class family in Indonesia would earn an average 1.5 to 3 million rupiah per month, that is roughly 160 to 330 US dollar at its best concerning the times when rupiah would reach more than 10.000 per US dollar. College students in Jogjakarta, Indonesia would only have several choices where they can work for additional income: Internet cafes (pirated Windows, pirated browser), game center (pirated Windows, pirated games), movie, music and softwares rentals (pirated, pirated, pirated) and fast food counters (err, pirated chicken?). There are always some other legitimate businesses like bookstores, cellphones and cellphone vouchers, but in this case something shady shines the brighter.

But there was nothing shiny about the income, around IDR 300.000,- to IDR 600.000,- per month, roughly USD 30,- to USD 60,- per month. If you were on a scholarship then you can have days picking food, not the other way around. My PC: Pentium III 800 MHz, 128 MB of RAM, graphic card with 32 MB of video memory and 20 Gigabyte of store room, was something to brag about in the year 2000, IDR 5.000.000,- were the ransom.

That was beside the point. Some of us in Indonesia were and are still acutely lack on information and knowledge about computer, softwares and licenses. Some of us thought that by paying prices for an assembled PC than it would include all the softwares installed. Merchants installed all the pirated softwares that they can think off to attract more customers, there were times when customers would rate merchant by the amount, variations and version of softwares they installed, the fact that those softwares were created by companies that have employees to pay was somewhere beyond our imagination.

Indeed the prices of softwares are also beyond imagination for some of us. Paying millions of rupiah for a set of softwares to boost productivity has never been inside anyone’s consideration, there were also false pride of becoming the enemy of the corporate world. And the profiteers strife.

The open source movements, though there’s a sense of militancy in the way it is called, were rather slow to move on and took advantage of this moment, and the air of conformity in Indonesia gave no space to the development of free software. Virtually every government institutions employed computer technicians recruited with shady methods, from these technicians they got their hardwares suppliers, these suppliers gotten used to the habit of cutting the operational budget to the impossibly minimum level, employed pirated softwares. Since these mainstream softwares are the ones that are required by the institutions they have it pre-installed for the customers’ convenience. These customers would never need technical support and updates, they usually are not connected to the Internet, never know what it is, and the added knowledge of it would jeopardized the existence of the technicians and the suppliers.

Since most institutions required employees with knowledge on mainstream softwares, Microsoft Windows operating systems and their Office Applications being on top of the list (and was the only point on the lists so to speak), so sprouted around the country courses and schools meant to teach people using these softwares. Only fractions of these educational enterprises using licensed softwares, and they charge higher tuition fee and more for the certificate. The result was that courses using pirated softwares would last longer. In the nineties people were just migrated from typewriter to computer, it took some time to differentiate courses on typewriting and courses on computer. When you buy a typewriter, you close your transaction and your done, doesn’t really matter what you would do with it (save for throwing your neighbor’s dog). When you buy a computer, there are terms of service to read depending on the amount of commercial softwares you buy and it would last as long as the whole resources are profitable to any party concerned.

Vista Home Premium
I bought my laptop sometimes ago, a decent one. It had basic Linux operating system pre-installed. This was the specification: AMD Turion 64×2 1.8 GHz, 2×512 KB L2 cache, 512 MB DDR 2. It came with a disc containing all the driver necessary for it to run accordingly… under Vista. When I bought it I’ve heard about Vista for some time, and the news was about it being a hog for system resource. I sampled some operating system before, Linux and Windows alike, and I know 512 MB of any type of memory wouldn’t help you much against new softwares. So it hit me that the laptop’s producer designed it for Vista with such limited resources.

I need to use the laptop as soon as possible, so I reformatted the disc, and began installing all the operating system in my collection (yes, collection), whether it was copied pirated discs or the ones with free license. None to be called smooth, I even failed to install some newest Linux distribution with newest kernel. Windows XP was successfully installed, but problems with driver posed even more problems.

I was quite tired, and all the advertisement about the comfort due to an original software purchaser was really got in to me. So I thought why not? I’ve heard about all of this campaign against Vista, read the so called manifesto in some web pages, and how Vista has been a bad corporate scheme. But this was my situation: I tried installing Linux for the sake of the open source spirit, and failed. I posted questions to forums, chat rooms, sent e-mails to pros, but there were no meaningful respond, or even none at all. I learned from some on-line friends that it was quite hard to find laptops compatible to open source operating systems, and mine was just one of them.

So I needed a solution and I needed it fast, it was quite tragic buying a hardware but forced to stare on a blank screen for days. I began contacting some software resellers, trying to count my options, until I finally brought home a sealed box of Vista Home Premium, installed it on the evening, and found a hot-spot late at night to complete all the on-line prerequisites as well as the process that I have never thought of appreciating: the activation process. I’ve been detoxed, so to keep my self clean I used free licensed software to work, that would include office applications, image editor and anti virus.

I have been using my laptop for about a year now, experiencing all the facility that a consumer should have. Problems arose once in a while, but they are manageable. My assumption about the resource was right, so I installed more memory modules, learning that Vista would run better with at least 1 Gigabyte of dedicated system memory.

I am not in any way endorsing any kind of war between the so called monopolistic corporate giant and the free software movement, as a consumer I will chose the one that would benefit me most, convenience is the magic word that anyone should consider. Here in Indonesia even the word convenience is not enough, people would need more information, more power to buy, more options to choose from. It is possible to sell legitimate softwares in this region, it is possible to make average Indonesian to buy commercial software and use legitimate softwares, but they have to understand what its worth and how it will benefit them. All of the issues of piracy are part of a chain reactions, and it will take some times to do anything about it, the broader scheme of wealth and education will provide the necessary cure.


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