Ask Leo! #538 – Pirating Software, Dropbox, CHKDSK, DNS and more…

Leo's Blog

Why can't the poor just pirate software?

We all admire your moral stance regarding finding subscriber's passwords etc. and for your belief that we should pay for software and not use pirated versions. But how do you feel about folks who are desperately poor with no chance in their lifetime of ever reaching even American poverty level income?

A reader posed this question some time ago.

As you may know, I do take a fairly hard line against piracy and theft, but this reader wants to know if poverty might qualify for an "exemption" of sorts.

His note continues…

Continue Reading: Why can't the poor just pirate software?


Dropbox - Share files across machines, with friends, and publicly, for free

I've been using Dropbox for a quite some time now, and was recently reminded of a compelling reason to finally recommend it to you.

One of the common questions I get is "how do I share [files, photos, documents, whatever] with my [friends, business associates, contacts] without using email, and without having them show up on the public internet?"

Dropbox solves that, and a lot more.

Continue Reading: Dropbox - Share files across machines, with friends, and publicly, for free

How do I see the results of a CHKDSK that ran on boot?

OK, so CHKDSK ran when my machine rebooted, and displayed some stuff. Problem is I have no idea what it displayed, since it then proceeded to reboot the machine when it was done. How do I get it to stop, pause or otherwise let me see what it did?

It's not obvious, I can tell you that.

For a recent article on CHKDSK, I carefully timed taking a few screen shots of CHKDSK as it was running in a virtual machine so I could capture the results.

Besides not being useful to the average user, it turns out that was overkill. You don't need to go to those lengths to get CHKDSK's output. In fact, you can almost ignore what it displays on boot.

You can get the results later, much more easily.

Continue Reading: How do I see the results of a CHKDSK that ran on boot?

How does flushing a DNS cache help resolve some issues, and while you're at it what's DNS?

I suddenly started to encounter ‘time-out' error messages with certain sites – yours being one of them! On looking further, I could not find any logic to the dozen or so sites I regularly visit being unavailable. I tried accessing these sites through an online proxy – the sites loaded. I re-booted and ran all the adware / spyware / virus programs – all to no avail. I managed to Google the problem and found some obscure forum with the response ‘go to command line prompt and type "ipconfig /flushdns" ‘ which I duly did. Perfect – problem solved – but why did I need to do this, what is a DNS cache flush and how can I avoid this problem in the future?

Well, I can't really say why that fixed your problem, since a reboot is also another way of flushing your DNS. In fact, it's one of the many reasons tech support folks insist you reboot as the first step when investigating just about anything.

But you seem to indicate that a reboot actually didn't help.

However, flushing the DNS cache can sometimes help, and it's much faster than a reboot.

Continue Reading: How does flushing a DNS cache help resolve some issues, and while you're at it what's DNS?


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Glossary Term


NAS is an acronym for Network Attached Storage.

A NAS device is nothing more than a computer connected to a network that has hard disks "shared" in such a way that they are made available to other computers on that network.

Strictly speaking, a NAS is a device that is dedicated to the task of housing and sharing disk storage with a network.

In looser terms, any computer sharing out disk space could be considered a NAS of sorts.

In many cases, even dedicated NAS devices are actually stripped-down PCs "under the hood," often running a version of the Linux operating system configured to simple act as only a NAS.

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

Why can't the poor just pirate software?

Greg Bulmash writes:

Looking back at the arguments, people get hung up on the economic harm of piracy. We can talk about "right and wrong," but people come back to whether or not the pirates would have bought the software/music otherwise. This doesn't impact the moral argument, but when the BSA, MPAA, and RIAA go to Capitol Hill with 9-and-10-figure estimates of their losses due to piracy, it actually blunts their argument. Rather than focusing on the wrongness of theft, they go for big, impressive numbers on the impact of theft. And then the argument devolves into how overinflated those numbers are.

I'll make the argument in a way people can understand.

When you go to work, I live in your house. I don't need to: I've got enough money for my own place or I can live with friends/family, but I like *your* house better and want to live there. So after you go to work, I pick the lock and live there for a few hours each day.

I clean up after myself so you never know I was there, and you never notice the negligible amount I add to your utility bills. In no way am I depriving you of the use of your house, but I'm using your house too and I'm doing it without your permission and without paying you.

Now, imagine you came home from work early because you weren't feeling well and found me sitting on your couch, reading a book. Would you call the police? Would you, despite the fact that I'm not actually homeless or in need, let me keep living in your house when you're not using it?

If you wouldn't call the cops and would allow me to stay, then you're logically consistent with your defense of piracy... and a bit of a putz. If you would be upset that I was using your house without permission, and without payment, despite the fact that my use of it in no way deprived you of its use, then you're against piracy.

Mark Jacobs writes:

Visiting S America and seeing some of the ancient computers people are using, I can see first hand how many people use computers. They all use pirate versions as they really can't afford a legitimate version. Most of them got the computers used with the OS already installed. I did some clean up for them. One only has 2 - 10 GB drives. These systems are precarious with warnings that the OS might not be legit etc. These are people who would be perfect candidates for Linux (which would run more stably on their machines) versions. They only use a browser, basic photo viewing and editing, Skype, DropBox (that's the backup solution I installed for them) the basic components of MS Office and some might use an email program. All of these are included in a Linux distributions with no need to even download more. None of them have or can afford the peripherals which might break Linux for more affluent users.

Are my Skype calls recorded?

Lucy writes:

Interesting article!

Whilst I am so boring I cannot imagine anyone wanting to listen to my calls, I did wonder if Skype calls via a special Skype phone, via the "router' and not using a computer, with the other party on a regular land line, are safe from snooping.

Leo writes:

I'd expect that to be pretty much exactly the same with exactly the same risks and unknowns.

A Different Approach to a Book About Backing Up

Michael Armstrong writes:

While researching backup strategies for my mixed Windows/UNIX stable, I stumbled across a sort-of-DIY network NAS system that looks very promising as a backup target. "FreeNAS" seems to offer everything I've been looking for, can be built at reasonable cost using OTS hardware and their free software, or purchased ready-made as an appliance also at reasonable cost. Worth a look. I'm not associated with the vendor.

Leo writes:

FreeNAS is a fine solution - I used it myself some years ago. It's somewhat geeky, but quite servicable. What I decided is that if I had a PC that could run Linux (which is, effectively, what FreeNAS is based on), then I might as well install Linux and get both NAS functionality as well as whatever else I might choose to do on that box.

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