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  • Is It Unethical To Pirate Windows?

    October 7, 2023

    For my software engineering class this semester, I was put into a group and instructed to develop a piece of software.The goal is to go through the process of software engineering, not necessarily to create the best project. So, our focus is more on documentation, the development process, testing, and shipping software than it is actually writing the software.

    Of course, since this is a group project, I have very little say in how we go about actually writing the software. Even though we are using Python, unfortunately my group has decided to go with a library that doesn't support OpenBSD. This means that I need to—at least temporarily—change out my operating system for something that will work for this project. Installing Linux in an OpenBSD VM isn't practical, because it would be fragile and may not allow me to use graphics. Using the Linux lab at my university isn't practical because I do some of my development at home, where I cannot access the lab because I am not on campus. And finally, running Linux in a Proxmox VM at home isn't practical because I so some of my development on campus where I cannot access my home network because I am not at home. You may argue that the latter is solved by setting up a VPN. Indeed, it is on my list to do this some day, but for now I do not have time.

    For the sake of simplicity and velocity, my only practical option was to swap out the NVME in my laptop—which is very easy because I use a Framework—and then install a different OS. The library we are using for my group project will probably work on Linux, but I didn't have the time to chance it, and I really didn't want to mess with it if it didn't just work out of the box, because I need to spend my time actually producing code, not debugging my obscure setup. Unfortunately, this means my only option is Windows 11.

    I chose Windows 11 because, as much as I dislike it for political reasons, I can trust that it will just work, at least for now. I know that it will run the software I need to run for this project, and it should have decent hardware support. I really hate to admit it, but Windows 11 at the time of writing works very well and runs very smoothly on the Framework laptop. This is thanks to Framework and its handy driver package, but I also have to hand it to Microsoft that so far, Windows 11 runs with fewer quirks than OpenBSD + GNOME, especially as far as multiple monitors are concerned, and switching WiFi networks, the two biggest problems I have currently. It also has yet to panic or otherwise fail to awake from suspend, which OpenBSD does on occasion. So, it looks like I will be running Windows for this season of my life. At the very least, it will be until the end of the semester when this project will be completed. Or it might be until the end of the school year. Or it may be longer, I'm not sure.

    Either way, I must use Windows for now, which means I must endure the pain that comes along with it. As smooth and reliable as Windows 11 seems to be for now, it is still painful to use. There are a number of reasons for this, but my main problems are these:

    Fortunately, I am able to uninstall most of the built-in apps, although not all of them.

    I have also discovered a very reliable way to bypass the Microsoft Account sign-in on the set up screen, and I just figured out a reliable way to bypass the activation problem as well, thus freeing me from the watermark. I am not going to disclose my methods at this time, for fear that Microsoft will break them, but in this post, I want to discuss whether or not it is ethical to bypass these operating system features so that I can use Windows 11 Pro without paying for it and without logging in with a Microsoft account. That is, can I, in good conscious, use a technically “pirated” version of Windows 11?

    To answer the question in the title, I do not believe it is unethical to bypass Windows security features and thus scam Microsoft out of a Windows license. My reasoning for this is relatively simple: Windows is adware and spyware. If it were a genuinely nice commercial operating system that respected my privacy and didn't shove ads in my face, then I would have no problem whatsoever paying for it because it would be a quality product worth supporting. However, it is simply unacceptable for a paid product to spy on its users and serve ads to them. If Microsoft is charging the user, then Windows is the product, and it is unethical to make the user the product as well by harvesting data at the operating system level and doing whatever it is that Microsoft does with it.

    Microsoft is actively engaging in anti-consumer tactics. It is not wrong to charge for a proprietary operating system. I understand that operating systems take extensive time and money to develop. But it is wrong to charge for an operating system that serves the user ads, because typically you purchase things to avoid ads. Additionally, it is wrong for an operating system to spy on users. If you can't trust your operating system to keep your data safe, particularly an operating system you've paid for, then that is a real problem and speaks to the unethical behavior of Microsoft here.

    So, I have no problem using a pirated copy of Windows. I admit that it is a nice system in many ways that OpenBSD is not. It is usable. It allows me to go about my day-to-day life with minimal fuss, although admittedly my requirements are not high for that, and I think it is user-friendly as far as actual UI is concerned. However, Microsoft's active exploitation of users that pay for Windows is extremely unethical. For that reason, I see no reason why I should pay for Windows, particularly if it is only a temporary install of Windows, although it is likely that I will continue to install Windows for my friends and family just for the sake of convenience.

    © 2019-2024 Jordan Bancino.