Cracked software is any proprietary software program (like CAD/CAM or Shop Control) in which the copyright protection has been removed or defeated, allowing someone to use the software "for free."
The consequences for using "cracked software" are obvious. First, it's against the law, and both you and your shop could be in big trouble if caught. Next, "cracking" can alter the code of the product so that it may not be as dependable or as safe (virus-free) as the "authentic" product.
Above all else, it is bad for our industry. "When ideas and hard work are easily stolen," writes Tom Beard in the CAD/CAM Forum of MMS Online, "there's less incentive for honest people to think and work hard. We need more of that—not less."
You know, I could go on and on about this predicament of ours, but why bother? Heck, we've been counterfeiting and forging since the beginning of time.
But this column is about the Internet, and you might be surprised at what impact it is having on the "crack industry." To wit:
This past summer, on the CAD/CAM Forum of MMS Online (www.mmsonline.com/forum), an "enterprising soul" posted a message announcing the availability of a plethora of CAD/CAM cracks. Our first reaction was to pull the perpetrator from our forums immediately. However, after thinking about it, we decided to leave the message there (after removing his e-mail address) as an education tool. This thread has grown, and will remain on our site for as long as we host forums.
There is a newsgroup on the Internet specifically for machine tool professionals (alt.machines.cnc) and it is active, interesting, informative and, believe it or not, sometimes entertaining. Many "crackers" will post on this newsgroup to sell their "wares." The responses they get from the machine tool community are absolutely priceless. Some are crass, and some, well, crack us up. You owe it to yourself to visit this newsgroup at least once (to access newsgroups, contact your Internet Service Provider).
In this column, I've tried to present the Internet as part education tool, part spokesperson, and part self-policing community. It can inform, instruct and influence in more efficient ways, if we let it.
But don't forget that paving cracks—even on the Infobahn—takes thought, planning and patience.