ConstantCommentary® Vol. XIII, No. 193, January 18, 2012

So Sue Me . . .

by Mike Jasper



I'm too egotistical to actually black out my website, so I'll just write something seriously unfunny to show my solidarity against SOPA and PIPA.

For those who don't know, Congress is trying to pass two bills to curtail piracy. One is a House bill called Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the second is the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.

Critics believe both pieces of legislation tend to throw out the baby with the bath water and limit freedom of information on the Internet.

I would agree.

Further, I don't think the legislation is necessary. Piracy, in my opinion, is so 2002. Take it from an ex-pirate.

I took to the high seas back in the late '90s when one of my readers turned me on to an app called Hotline. Hotline separated into two groups—users like me and servers that provided stuff to download.

Most of the server's sported colorful names such as Rob's Software, Barcode, Macinhacker—you get the picture. These servers stored software on their huge hard drives (some as big a 1GB) where people could connect and download for free.

The catch? You usually had to upload something of value to become a member of someone's Hotline server. It also had to be something of value the server didn't already have.

That created a Catch 22—to get the good software you had to have some good software. The good servers already owned the usual suspects—Photoshop, Word, Illustrator and other mainstream products—so most servers were after rare audio software, such as Cubase, Digital Performer, Logic and Pro Tools.

I had none of these things. What to do, what to do? Then it struck me—I'm dealing with a bunch of teenage nerds. I'll pretend to be a girl.

I got into it and wrote up a bio for my girl. She lived in Houston. She joined Hotline when she was 17. She was going to major in computer science in college, but really wanted to be a recording engineer. She lost her virginity at 15.

Her name was LOIS, which stood for Lots Of Illegal Software. See? I’m colorful too.

I kept that bio close at hand so I'd always have my story straight. It worked. One server let me in, then another, then another, then a dozen.

I was such a little whore.

Man, those were the days. Download speeds averaged 3k to 5k depending on the connection, and it would take hours sometimes days to download those huge 300 MB files on my dial-up.
Hotline worked great for software, but we soon learned that Napster was the place for MP3s. Then after Napster got shut down we went to Limewire to download music.

With the invention of BitTorrent at the turn of the century, everything changed. No more schmoozing, and no more solo servers where evil admins could fuck with you.

Instead, everybody became their own little server.

Here's how torrent sites work. Say a guy wants to download the latest version of Photoshop. First, he downloads a free torrent client such as Vuse, Azureus or Transmission. Then he goes to a BitTorrent site—let's say Pirate Bay.

At Pirate Bay he downloads something called a torrent for Photoshop. It's not really Photoshop, it's more like a voucher to get Photoshop later. Once the small 2k or so torrent is downloaded, our boy opens it up in Vuse or whatever client he uses and the Photoshop download commences.

But instead of being downloaded from one server, it’s being downloaded from all the connected computers of those who previously downloaded the software and kept it active in their BitTorrent clients.

So our boy could be downloading from 20 to 50 sites now. Then again, maybe only two or three sites, it depends on the demand. If the software is new and popular, 100 or more sites could be in play.

You can do the same thing with movies, too. I wasn’t into movies as much, but I downloaded enough to know that downloading movies isn't worth it.

First, you never really know what quality you'll get. Second, even if it is good quality, it's not as good as what you get on NetFlix.

And NetFlix isn't as good as what you'll get on the big screen.

Look. The heyday of illegal downloads has come and gone. Who has time to wait? Waiting for a digital download is as uncool as it gets.

Streaming is where it’s at, baby.

As to software, there’s really not all that much I need. I use my computer to write, record, save photos, surf the web and send email. Everything else just gets in the way.

For example, I'm writing this column on TextEdit, the Mac version of Notepad. When I'm finished, I'll transfer it to a legal version of Word where I'll check my grammar and spelling. Finally, I'll slap it into Netscape Composer (old school), and then upload the html file you're reading now to my website.

As to recording software, I like Pro Tools. But to use Pro Tools, you need to buy Pro Tools hardware, and then they give you the software along with it. Done.

Photoshop? I prefer the free program called GraphicConverter. I've got Mac Mail for email, Firefox for browsing, Adobe Reader for PDFs, and Fetch for uploading and downloading to my website—all free software programs.

Besides, I’m still running a 2002 PowerMac G4, so I’m not going to install a bunch of bloated applications and use up precious hard drive space and CPU power.

That's what porn's for.

Which reminds me—if you would like to continue to see porn on the Internet, please let your Congressman know you oppose SOPA and PIPA.

Convinced you now, didn't I.
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STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This column aims to be funny. If you can read anything else into it, you're on your own.

© 2012 by Mike Jasper, All Rights Reserved. ConstantCommentary® is published whenever Mike Jasper feels like it. All material is the responsibility of the author.