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Friday, June 18, 2004


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Why don't you ask for an address to mail the newest version of FeedDemon and then send the police? I think that a couple of them might fall for this... :)

As this is a *deliberate* error message, how about the error message saying something like - "Pirated software cannot be upgraded."

Good for you! Considering how many free/light newsreaders there are out there (Sauce, Awasu, Abilon) there's no excuse to use a cracked version of FD. I tested a few of those out and while not too bad, they were not as nice as FD by any means. If you really wanted to have some fun - charge them $30 for "support" and then send them a FD registration key!

Sigh, $30 isn't that much to save if you really want something. I realize not everyone has large disposable incomes, but even most folks could save that within a month or so. Do with less of something to save! Heck, with the advent of eBay, it's even easier to scrape up a few bucks. The funniest part is I was just thinking about this as a subject for my blog. Guess it's time to fire it up.

Incredible! I work for a software company, and it's amazing to see how many people think that they're entitled to free software.

I am amazed at how cheap some people are. I agree with Ed about the specific message. It will at least let them know that you are on to them, but they probably wouldn't care.

$30 for FeedDemon is a bargain, even with all of the free readers out there it still worth the money for the quality.

Ed, letting crackers know I'm on to them helps them more than me - they'll simply look for another crack. By displaying a cryptic error message instead, I get to waste their time for a change :)

All your software is worth its weight in gold - oops, sorry, there's no weight to bits, right? :)

A thief is a thief, no matter how much they're stealing or from whom they are stealing. I'd like you to combine the first two comments and give a deliberate error message notifying them that their identify is being forwarded to law enforcement authorities (be good for these lazy loafers to get a strong heart workout!)

Or...you could pop up a fake moving status bar that tells them that their hard drive is now in the process of being reformatted :) - maybe that's an even better heart workout!!

I read in one of your earlier posts http://nick.typepad.com/blog/2004/01/on_piracy_part_.html that a common argument is that software isn't a physical product, so it has no real value...well, if it hasn't got any value, why would anyone make such a fuss over it not working or take the time to request your time in technical support?

Thanks for the great software - I feed my family with my work too, and I pay for what I use.

What I don't understand is people who spend hours cracking software when there's probably an open source solution out there they could get legally (and for the same price).

It's amazing to say the least, I did a similar thing in a tool I rewrote for another company, if the crack is detected it generates a seemingly standard error (read seemingly, the error as popped up does not exist), once that version was out 80% of all support questions where about that particular error, we responded with a standard message saying we are sorry bla bla, send us you address information and we will send you a free copy, I don't know if the collected information has ever been used to pursuit legal actions, but a large chunk of the people responded to it by sending their address info, which kinda shows how dumb the average crack/serial user is..

Nick, I'm with you 100% on this. It never ceases to amaze me how people who used pirated software expect to be treated like paying customers. As for making the message more obvious, all that does is make it easier for crackers to remove the error in their next crack. Another option might be to not show the message at all, just start a timer and and kill the app dead, ie Halt(0) after a few minutes use :)

Good for you, Nick, stand your ground!

I am interested to hear the process for your discovery of a crack, your estimation of legit versus non-legit FeedDemon versions installed on machines, and considerations you had to make when choosing a vendor for trial version to full software.

I like the terms of the license allowing me to install FeedDemon on multiple machines. My work computer and home computer can share the license and I can spend less.

Understood. If you search at groups.google.com with term "1714 group:macromedia.dreamweaver" you'll see a similar situation, where upgrade attempts on a purloined beta resulted in angry initial messages.

But one thing I learned is that not everyone realizes they're working with illegitimate software... I saw some Customer Service interactions where the person with the symptom had been fed a bad copy by their coworkers or IT staff. Usually these days I respond with something like "Hmm, the only time I've seen that symptom has been when it was a bad copy of the program. Could you tell me where you received this version so we could rule out that potential cause, please?" It's rare for a well-meaning person to see such a symptom, but there are definitely cases where it can occur.

John Dowdell
Macromedia Support

Funny post!

I just had to comment... That is awesome that you put that intentional error code in there. Truly entertaining! Keep 'em coming.

Don, if the problem was limited to people who spend hours cracking software just to get it for free, I wouldn't be too bothered. The problem, though, is that the cracked versions are then posted on various warez sites where thousands of people download for free.

Now, let me see here...thousands of people download executable code from sites run by people who brag about being criminals, warez sites earn money from installing spyware on your system, zombie systems launch large-scale DDoS attacks. Anyone wonder about the connection?

Dave would have been praised if he had taken the route you did and indicated far in advance that he was considering shuttering his free service, what did his constituents think, etc. Instad, what he did was the equivalent of you not only removing the free TopStyle download but somehow triggering every installed copy to stop working with no notice. And if that de-installation of TopStyle Lite caused authors to not be able to serve or retrieve their web sites.

Dave did none of the above and still hasn't even indicated a shred of contrition.

Hi all,
I will start to say that yes, I have used cracked software. Time have changed, now I buy all softwares and I can say that priority have softwares what I have used cracked.

This was be a short introduction. NOW, several years ago (in my young computer experience) I have tried all, is like when you are 16-20 years, you try drink, smoke all bad stuff. When you grow up you can decide if you want to continue in that way or not.
Also in my youngest days I talked with a lot of guys who cracked softwares. They do for fun and to learn. Not earn money. What was important to me to LEARN is what one of those guys said.
"If a software is not cracked, it means that is not worth to crack it."

Now I'm grooved up, after 10 years in this business and as a software developer I remember that words.
I look always if our softwares are cracked. I'm happy if yes.

Also in a way I encourage to crack it, not trying to protect fully. WHY? Simple, people will come for support.
I always ask for username and key (in my case domain) and I respond very nice, sorry I cannot help you, cause I did not find you in our database. Probably you have get our software from a reseller, contact them or another solution if someone installed for you and then I cannot help you, until you not become our client." 30% run away, will be back when they will grow up, 70% will ask how much cost the software.
I present software price and benefits to be client and I offer 20% OFF to become our customer. Guess what, half pay for software.
As a guy said here, is not always people try to steal money, they can be fooled by someone. Also if they become "dependent" from software what they use, will come time when will buy it. Cost too much to look always for a new cracked version.

Is my humble opinion, I say be happy that your software is cracked. Is a privilege for you.
Thank you.

Nick, I completely understand where you are coming from. I've built a similar method into my most recent releases to display a cryptic error message whenever it detects tampering. This works great for the casual cracker.

However, ever since moving to my own merchant account I have a new viewpoint on cracks for my software in relation to credit card fraud. First let me preface this by saying:
As a fulltime software developer and single business owner (like yourself), cracks without a doubt cost us time and money and I absolutely do not condone it.

However, every time there is an instance of fraud on my merchant account I not only have to refund the purchase price, but I am also charged a hefty fee. If chargebacks total something like 2% of my sales I will immediately become blacklisted among the credit card companies, lose my merchant account, and not be able to create one again under my current business entity. For this reason I would much rather have a potential fraudster use a crack of my software than potentially put me out of business.

It feels wrong to say it, but everytime a chargeback comes in the mail I find myself wishing the crook had just found a crack (after all, they're everywhere) instead of defrauding me. The crook was absolutely not going to pay anyways, and it sure would've saved me a ton of time, money and frustration.

Aaron, I definitely know what you mean about chargebacks - I also have to eat the cost of credit card fraud. Perhaps the thing that angers me the most is when someone uses a stolen credit card to purchase my software, then posts the purchased software on some warez site. So I basically pay a fee to have my software stolen by pretty much anyone who wants it.

I admit I have used illegal software. However since starting full time work I have tried to buy the software I use a lot (by a lot I mean software I use daily or I really am impressed by). Nick knows this as I purchased FeedDemon. I did think about cracking it, however I didn't because I felt bad. It is weird as I don't know Nick or his family and he doesn't know me but I still felt bad about illegally using his software. I guess I just appreciated the time and effort he had put into it. To be honest I don't know why I decided to buy it instead of pirating it.

Saying that there is still some software I need to buy however I can't afford it at the moment. I know it isn't an excuse but it is either I use it for a while illegally or find a [free] alternative!

Take this as the biggest compliment possible: FeedDemon is the first software I have purchased for personal use. Ever.

I've always had legit copies of any software for work, but at home I've always taken the free route, mainly because I don't consider my home software to get used enough to justify spending the $$. But FeedDemon "got me". I think I bought it a few days after I first installed it. That's how much I liked it. Well done.

Morgan, my hope is that by posting about warez here, more people like yourself will reconsider piracy. It's easy to steal from some faceless entity, but it's harder to justify when you can put a specific person's face or name behind the product.

Bryan, thank you - I do take that as a compliment. And a belated happy birthday to you, as well :)

I am in pretty much the same boat as Bryan. The software I use at the office is legit, but I do have some things at home that I use maybe once a month that are not.

As far as Nick's software goes, I know that it his personal attention to support and the way he listens to his users that made me feel he "deserved" to be paid for his work. I'm not saying that other developers don't deserve it, but the way I see it Nick goes above and beyond. That's why I have owned TopStyle 3 since the day it was released I think.

Just to clear the conscience, I did come across a cracked version of FD 1.10 and had it installed for 3 days. Honestly, it worked so well and I liked it so much that I uninstalled it until I can buy it. It's just that good and I felt guilty for enjoying it without giving Nick his due.

So, a very thought-provoking post and one that really hits right at the heart of some of the issues of software development today. I'd like to know how some of the larger projects on SourceForge do on the donation system they have in place now.

Valics, suggesting that I should be honored that my software is cracked is like saying I should be happy that I'm wealthy enough to be mugged. I will never take for granted the fact that I'm lucky enough to earn a living doing something I love, but I will likewise never agree with the notion that piracy is a compliment.

Way to go Nick. Piracy is the same as shoplifting. Wal-Mart won't let Winona get away with it, and nor should Bradbury Software.

Interesting sleight of hand that sneaky device error, Nick. But was that what you purposely planted in there, or was it just a coincidence that happened to pop up and betray those illegal users? Knowing those hackers out there, they will just find other ways to waste all their wee hours into the nights just to reverse engineer that section of machine code so that they can slip away again like slithering snakes. Jerks.

Perhaps you should include a picture of yourself with FeedDemon and TopStyle *g*

Like I said I try and buy what I can however I don't earn loads, I am 20 years old and have a 2 years old daughter, I have bought a house and have to run that, etc. So software becomes pretty low on my list of things to buy. I bought FeedDemon within a month of using it but I cannot afford to do that with all software I use.

This brings me to a question. If I had not bought FeedDemon would you have prefered I used your software (illegally) for a few months and then bought it or would you prefer I find another bit of software

Kiffin, the error message was deliberate. I detect the cracked version, then purposely display that cryptic error message for the sole purpose of "outing" crack users when they contact support.

I agree that this error message will be hacked around by some crackhole. But perhaps this little episode will cut down on my support costs, since I've now made it clear that I insert fake bugs just so I can publically embarass crack users. Future crack-specific "bugs" won't be as blatant as this one - they'll involve annoying changes to functionality, unexpected results, etc.

Morgan, I'd prefer that people used someone else's software rather than "temporarily" steal from me. I'll wager that 99% of those who lack the ethical courage to pay for my software in the first place aren't going to pay for it later on just because the guilt got the better of them.

Information wants to be free! Crack 4 lyfe.

I hope that by posting this and bringing attention to the fact that you are doing this, fewer people will decide to steal your software. It is great software and well worth the money.

I'm shocked that someone can use the excuse that they can't afford something to justify stealing it. If you can't afford a fancy new pair of shoes, do you steal those too? If you can't afford to buy something, you go without until you can! I sympathise, I really do, I can't afford everything I'd like to have either and I frequently have to put software that I'd like lower down on my list of priorities, Feed Demon is one of them but stealing it isn't an option. Nick, I hope your planted bug helps relieve the problem. I've been a user of Top Style (the free version that comes bundled with Homesite) for three years and I finally upgraded to Pro v3 a while back. It's awesome software and you deserve every penny you earn from it. Thank you!

There are free alternatives to everything (freeware not cracked-ware). I was looking for a freeware alternative to dreamweaver when I started coding html and found an app that has topstyle lite as its CSS handler. That is what hooked me. I have told all the IT guys I deal with about your software and I know sent a couple $$ your way. It doesn't take very long to work with one of your products Topstyle lite (or the trial of pro that I treasure) to see the amazing QUALITY they have. I have since looked for a program to do what topstyle pro does for free... There isn't one that does it PERIOD, much less for free. I haven't purchased software from you yet, but it is inevitable, as that much coveted trial version will eventually expire, leaving me with no other choice. When I come around with my $$ your software both FD, and TS will be duely paid for, honestly I would do it as a "donation" if it were freeware, the quality is just astonishing..

I think its wrong, but as an argument for open source, the cracker could've spent his time adding features instead of removing them.

While I could care less about people using pirated software becoming upset when they can't upgrade, you are not entirely blameless. I used FeedDemon during the beta test phase, provided a few comments, etc. Then, when you release 1.0 you turn around & charge for it with no relief, even a thank you to beta testers. My time is valuable too, Nick. Thankfully, there are many good RSS readers around (I chose Newsgator). So maybe what is good for the goose is good for the gander as well.

I am shocked they are asking you for support - its laughable!!

I cracked your software - I upgraded - I got problems - HELP ME!! *crys like a baby*

Its like DAH - wtf do you expect? If you can get the crack, I can get the crack and crack the crack itself to cause a problem.


Feeddemon isn't among my applications, but I have discovered that the cracked versions crack the EXE file itself, so in essense if you replace/upgrade that with a legit file, it would cause an error anyhow right?
Oh and good thinking. Not many people would have placed a fake error there to out crackers. well done.

I am shocked they are asking you for support - its laughable!!

I cracked your software - I upgraded - I got problems - HELP ME!! *crys like a baby*

Its like DAH - wtf do you expect? If you can get the crack, I can get the crack and crack the crack itself to cause a problem.


Feeddemon isn't among my applications, but I have discovered that the cracked versions crack the EXE file itself, so in essense if you replace/upgrade that with a legit file, it would cause an error anyhow right?
Oh and good thinking. Not many people would have placed a fake error there to out crackers. well done.

The company I used to work for had a freelance IT guy who would come in, set up programs and charge us for them.

When I began having problems and contacted software support, I found that most of these were pirated copies of the programs! We pursued this guy in an effort to get our money back, but to little avail.

Lesson learned!

I'd be tempted to hose their bios or rewrite their fat randomly.

Frankly, I SUPPORT people who cracked your software -- who are you to have this sense of entitlement over controlling who's able to use it? You can try to stop Digital Pirates like me, but you will FAIL - every time, brotha! Just keep on flailing away though, it's fun to watch! LOL

I enjoy obtaining software for free, and therefore, I'll download as much as I please!

Loosers like "Digital Pirate" in the previous post are the types that will ultimately kill the small coders.

Nick started out with Homesite, a OUTSTANDING free program that was swallowed up by a heartless/souless corporate giant, thus ending the inspiration, simplicity and overall useability of Homesite.

Leaving software design up to the giants will result in limited innovation. Hackers (aka loosers) will always find a way to hack the programs. It's a game, how many hacked programs do they have as compared to their little friends and showing off their "skillz" in breaking code. Fact is that most of these loosers only suceed in pushing the small legit coders out of business due to saturation by cracked versions of their wares. The remaining survivors become smart and only sell boxed versions, or truly crippled (not code crippled) versions as demos with the full version as a boxed version. Doesn't stop the loosers from breaking the code, just slows it down considerably.

Best bet is for the developer to make the program require a routine "update" from the website so that they can constantly change the code weeding out the loosers. With the 'net becoming a staple everywhere you turn the inconvienence of this over keeping the program up-to-date and protecting thier investment outweighs most concerns. Remember the uproar over the Microsoft Updates? Now it's common place and barely thought of anymore.

Good luck Nick... ignore the loosers!!

I'm torn here, because I'm all too aware that very large companies (I'm thinking of Adobe here) essentially tolerate piracy to some degree, in part by using relatively weak copy protection.

Why is that the case? Well, if you want to become a graphic designer, then you need to know how to use Illustrator and Photoshop. (Throw in Quark or PageMaker/InDesign for DTP or pre-press.) Putting 'Fluent in GIMP and Paint Shop Pro' on your resume isn't going to impress anyone: you need experience with the real thing. And while the price for these applications has dropped, it's still almost as expensive as a new PC.

So, Adobe prices its software, for the most part, to reflect the purchasing power of office environments or small businesses, in which software is: a) subject to audit; and b) more easily written off at the end of the tax year as a necessary business expense. Adobe knows this, of course; and it knows that one of the best ways to ensure a steady stream of people with experience and ability using its products is to tolerate some degree of piracy. Yes, it's theft. But in another sense, it's like the free hit from a drug dealer.

(And if you don't think so, ask the graphics/print people who use PageMaker/Freehand/Quark/Photoshop etc as part of their work whether they learned their skills by paying full price.)

But that's a very different paradigm: those who crack $30 shareware for 'fun' really are taking food from the table of developers.

A day in a program pirates life.
The pirate works for hours and weeks and is really proud when his swimmingpool finally is ready. When he wakes up next morning he can´t think of anything to take a dip in his new pool. Arriving in his newly bought swimshorts he found a bunch of strangers in his pool. Angry he shouts, what the heck do you do in MY pool. This I have built with my own sweat and I don´t wan´t any freeloaders here. A man in the pool answer him calmly that, Hey, this pool just lying here for everybody to see and we thought it could be nice with a dip. But it is my pool and I have spent weeks of hard working to finish it and btw how did you pass the gate it was locked. The man in the pool answered him that it was no problem to fix a key if you had the right connections. But you can’t expect me to let you use my pool with out my permission and not paying for it… the pirate said.

I don´t know if this is a relevant history but something like that if you wan´t to put it in perspective.

I don´t think these people who fix a cracked version of a program understand how much time, sweat, sometimes nights and how much effort it can be to write a program.
I have been working with programming and I know for sure, that often you have spend hours, weeks and months to write and test a program. So 30 bucks for a program seems to me cheap and I think the programmer is fully entitled to this money.

R Blair, I don't understand where you're coming from. The FeedDemon beta was open to anyone, and thousands of people downloaded it. It simply wasn't possible to give a discount to anyone who commented. I did, however, give free copies to the most active testers.

Your comment about me not even thanking beta testers is wrong. I thanked testers both in my release announcement in this blog, and also within the newsgroups.

"Digital Pirate," I'll take the bait. I have no misguided hopes of thinking I can stop piracy. But I do hope that I can cut down on the needless support costs caused by freeloading crack users such as yourself.

I have to add, of course, that you appear to be the one with a false sense of entitlement. I'm not trying to stop people from using my work - I'm just asking them to pay for it. You, on the other hand, think you're entitled to steal because you can do it without getting caught.

Most "kewl" kiddies such as yourself eventually get older and wiser and realize that ethics isn't about what you can get away with - it's about doing what you believe is right. A few years down the road when you accept this fact, I'll still be here writing software. So, feel free to send me an email apologizing for being such a blathering idiot when you were younger.

There's always the excellent "Bloglines" - http://www.bloglines.com/

Jumping back to the error message subject..

My first thought was to bring up a fake “now formatting drive C” prompt but
even more fun. Introduce a memory leak to a cracked version…

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