back to article Beware the techie who takes things literally

Time bombs and shareware feature in today's edition of Who, Me? as a boss's big spendy vehicle leaves a coder out of pocket. We start the week with a story from a reader Regomised as "Frank", and a confession from his second job following a disastrous first foray into the IT world. Frank and a freelancing friend were working …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did Frank tell his boss about the terms ? Specifically that the software would stop working after a year ?

    If so, Frank had a CYA.

    The way I see it, the boss was aware of the shareware code, and should have been aware of the T&Cs of the usage of that piece of code.

    As long as Frank had documented the behavior ...

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Yeah, CYA is important. Get stuff in writing. Though if you are no longer employed at a place, where do you archive this kind of stuff? Is it business-related? Is it property of the company? Can you keep it? I actually do wonder about that.

      Deleting the whole program? Nah, that's probably a dumb thing to do, satisfacting as it might be. Those were simpler times, though. Today it would land you in deep trouble (and rightly so).

      1. ShadowSystems

        At Joe W, re: Shareware.

        At a previous employer of mine I purchased out of my own pocket a bit of software to help me create macros so I could automate various overly-repetetive tasks to reduce the budding RSI I'd warned HR about.

        Because I wasn't using it for commercial purposes, the program's author said it was ok for me to use it, but if I ever left the company then I needed to wipe it from their control. If they wanted to use it, they needed to pay for it.

        When I was let go the company did not allow me to remove the software, even when I explained the fact that it wasn't theirs to use any longer. After a month of me constantly harping on them to delete it, but an ex-coworker whom sat in the cubical across from my old station reported to me that they were, in fact, still using it, I finally called the program author to inform him of the company's refusal to do the right thing nor to let me verify that the software was no longer on their servers.

        The author thanked me; about a month later said ex-coworker informed me that the company was being taken to court for their stupidity.

        In some cases causing your software to time-bomb-delete-itself is a bad thing, I agree, but there _are_ cases where "your" software is only yours by right of contract, a contract which the company you work for at the time is not a member of & thus has no legal right to use it after you & the company part ways.

      2. teknopaul

        If you have a contractual obligation to delete a file on a certain date, I don't think that automating the process to ensure it happens should be a problem.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      As long as Frank had documented the behavior ...

      Such as by having the demo clearly display a "this is a time-limited demo, valid until dd/mm/yy" on startup.

      1. Ignazio

        It was all fully documented in the code, includes the self destruct, as visible in the code.

        What do you mean backup day is next week, boss?

      2. Plest Silver badge

        No different to an SSL cert to my mind, they're time limited and expire more for security of course ( yeah, right! ) but it's plain to see if you open one up and check the meta data "you got until XYZ date to replace me!".

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      We're not told what steps had been taken, either verbally or in writing, to document the situation therefore we have insufficient information to decide if he was right or not. We don't even have any information as to whether the agreement with the shareware vendor including the deletion.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        I remember using a smart grid object that was great, with a lot more function than the standard Visual Studio grid object had at the time (I was coding Visual C++ 6.0...)

        But it was shareware and had a yearly renewable licence.

        My company paid for the first year, but our boss must have forgot to tell the client about it.

        Imagine the wonderful conversations I, being the lead developer and responsible for ongoing support, had with surprised and pretty pissed off users one year later...

    4. Adrian 4

      It seems the boss had taken a backup, which rightly refused to run. So the deletion or not of the running code is pretty moot - they still had it, and it refused to run the unlicensed shareware.

      TBH, in this case I'd have probably paid the £10 myself. Not something I'd usually do, but for £10 ...

      1. Captain Scarlet

        Yes but is this £10 per installed instance, £10 for unlimited devices doesn't sound right.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "£10 for unlimited devices doesn't sound right."

          Wasn't there an apocryphal story that someone bought such a licence for an OS - then sold unlimited use to a big IT company?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "TBH, in this case I'd have probably paid the £10 myself. Not something I'd usually do, but for £10 ..."

        It was £10 in 1980's money, which is ~£55 in today's money, which makes that a bit less palatable ...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the software was the IP of the company, then Frank is (well, was, water on the bridge now) on questionable ground. Should they have paid the £10 for the shareware? Yes. Was it right to disable the software after the agreed year if a license hadn't been bought? Yes. But to delete all the code is taking it too far. Although it sounds like the boss was rather dodgy himself, that's not an excuse.

    1. Down not across

      I'd have the program show a big popup about the license violation (of the shareware library) and perhaps delete just the shareware library, and if feeling particularly helpful, include a pointer as to where to reobtain the library in the popup.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge

        From how it's described in the article, I think the shareware was the only thing that got deleted. That's why the demo didn't disappear, it just stopped working.

        1. Down not across

          Perhaps. Not how I interpreted it tho.

          So that's exactly what Frank did. After one year his app would stop working. To be absolutely sure of staying compliant, he also ensured his app would delete itself and remove all its source code.

          I took that to mean his application deleted itself (not just the shareware library) and all its source code as well.

          1. ArrZarr Silver badge

            Oh. Yeah. My bad.

    2. GrizzleeAdams

      Assembly Routine != Shared Library

      From the sounds of it, the code provided was an assembly routine compiled in to the program binary, not a shared library. That makes the program in all it's forms a derivative work. Poison fruit as it were.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He protected his boss from legal problems IMHO..

    .. with two caveats:

    - it should have been made clear in a way that was provable that the boss had been informed of this approach. It's guaranteed the boss would have forgotten that in weeks, but it's a good bit of evidence to waive around.

    - deleting in full, however, is something I can't see as defendable as it's not his decision - he's not the legal owner. You could make it show a massive popup box that shows the license expiry issue, but zapping the code - nope. If that plan and approach was included in the boss briefing, then maybe, but I wouldn't. Too hairy.

    All IMHO, of course. I can see the entertainment/BOFH value, but in RL I'd have major reservations..

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: He protected his boss from legal problems IMHO..

      "it should have been made clear in a way that was provable that the boss had been informed of this approach."

      It takes two to be informed. The boss might well have been told. He seems to have been the type who wouldn't have listened.

      1. zuckzuckgo

        Re: He protected his boss from legal problems IMHO..

        >He seems to have been the type who wouldn't have listened.

        Or just chose not to understand.

    2. jason_derp

      Re: He protected his boss from legal problems IMHO..

      Honestly, it hardly seems like it matters. All legal speculation aside, a company will take you to court out of pettiness should they feel like it, and facts hardly win a case in most situations.

      1. PC Paul

        Re: He protected his boss from legal problems IMHO..

        They can take you to court, and they will often rely on you being scared off by that or just plain not being able to afford it (yay justice!) but if you get them in front of a judge AND you have solid documented facts on your side then you will win in all but the oddball cases.

        1. jason_derp

          Re: He protected his boss from legal problems IMHO..

          Citation, please.

  4. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    My $10's worth

    Boss c\wouldnt spend $10, shareware guy said OK you can use it for a year, Frank complied with the self destruct condition.

    He probably told the boss, but boss being boss was just yayayayayaya OK (I'm not listening).

    My responsibility to you ends the moment I am no longer employed by you - No I didn't keep backups of your IP & no I don't want to come back, to rewrite it all & get fired again!

  5. pmb00cs

    My Grandparents had a term for a boss like that. Penny wise, pound foolish. He "saved" £10 for the shareware, at the cost of having to shut down a demo during a trade fair. I bet that was good advertising.

    That said I don't think the Techie is necessarily completely in the clear, unless he explained to the boss the self destruct, and the scope of the destruction. If he did do that though, fair play to him.

    I find it a bit uncomfortable working for people I know are ripping off software, after all if they're willing to rip off software (especially affordable software) what else are they willing to rip off?

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Yeah, that last point sums up the concerns I would have (look at the remark about the tax office wanting some back payments). Will only the boss be punished if stuff comes out? Likely he would blame it all on a rogue engineer / accountant / whatever, and come out smelling of roses...

    2. Jonathon Green

      “I find it a bit uncomfortable working for people I know are ripping off software, after all if they're willing to rip off software (especially affordable software) what else are they willing to rip off?”

      You. They’re willing to rip you off, exactly as happened in this case…

      1. pmb00cs

        Yes, that may have been my point.

        I did work for a guy doing support for small businesses. One of his clients did not like having to pay for windows licences, as evidenced by all the warnings and black desktops around the office he ran. He found an excuse for not paying for my first visit. He refused to pay for my second visit until the "issue" from the first visit was resolved. I was not surprised to discover he didn't pay for my third visit, or that he eventually went out of business due to the amount of people chasing him for money owed.

        I warned my boss after the first visit about the dodgy windows installs. I refused to implement a workaround for the constantly rebooting windows file server on my third visit on the grounds it would make me complicit in software piracy. I was a Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (for windows xp, and this was in the days of windows vista and windows 7 but even so) and used that as part of my justification. I don't think the client bought it, but I don't care.

        I still don't know why my boss sent me back the second and third time, it's not like we were short of work at the time. That said I left that job because of cash flow issues.

    3. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Not even £10. £10 tax deductible for the company.

    4. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      > if they're willing to rip off software what else are they willing to rip off?

      Well, in this case, we know the company tried to ripoff "Frank" by trying to force him to become freelance for their own self-serving reasons and firing him when he refused.

      So, yeah.

    5. Ex IBMer

      The last bit is the bottom line.

      Employers who penny pinch are likely to be behind in their superannuation payments. They are also likely to be the kind that gets their employees to use a 'corporate' AMEX card.

      Ask me about who is financially liable for the $6000 network switches that you put onto the card when the company goes bust because the employer was the kind that doesn't pay a $10 shareware fee....

      I will give you a clue - It wasn't the company......

      So I have a clear and simple approach to any financial disintegrity now - Just walk.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me see if I understand this. This shareware software which sounds like an all eggs in one basket type of scenario was only installed on one machine with no backup? That's madness.

    1. John Riddoch

      "it mysteriously disappeared from the disk and its backup did not work either." - so they had a backup, presumably on a second floppy; these are the days when code could fit on a single floppy after all. My guess is the first copy nuked itself, so they loaded the 2nd copy into the PC and ran it with the same result.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        I'm assuming these were just a couple of "install floppys" , they had with them on the day at this trade show

        No way a company , even as small and dodgy as this one keeps its entire source code , and backups , for their own application on a couple of floppys. (in the "late 80s" )

        I'm sure the boss's new minions could get to the bottom of it later , find the time bomb and , unfortunately, probly reprogram it to keep stealing the shareware.

  7. cantankerous swineherd

    more of this sort of thing would make the world a better place.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

      I still see instances of unlicenced WinRAR running. Uninstall these and install either ZipGenius or 7-zip.

      Coders of such tools can do well to allow full functionality during the evaluation period, but after the evaluation period, you can only unzip/decompress archives, and not be able to create any new archives unless you purchase a licence.

      1. Dwarf


        Anyone else remember PKZIP version 2.04g * ?

        Or am I just getting old ?

        * Why can I still remember the version number ?

        1. Irony Deficient

          Re: PKZIP

          Yes and yes — your first two questions aren’t mutually exclusive.

          My guess is that you (and I) can still remember that version number because it didn’t change for a long time. (At a certain age, old memories are more easily recalled than memories of what happened yesterday.). In my case, it was the last version of PKZIP that I’d used regularly before switching to Info-Zip’s zip and unzip.

          1. ZootCadillac

            Re: PKZIP

            This is how old i am. It's not even for PC!


            copy RAM:lha_68k TO C:lha

            copy Installer#? To RAM:


            lha x Installer#?

            cd Installer#?

            copy Installer TO C:


            1. Terje

              Re: PKZIP

              Ahh, was just about to mention LHA the premium amiga compression of choice for the discerning bbs user :)

            2. Old Used Programmer

              Re: PKZIP

              <Instant Stop> <Insert> 4900796 <release/start>

              1. Herby

                Re: PKZIP

                Well that goes back a FEW years!!

                1. Herby

                  Re: PKZIP

                  I just remembered, the sequence is:

                  <Instant Stop><Reset><Insert>4900796<R/S>

                  Where <R/S> is the release-start key on the keyboard.

        2. Little Mouse

          Re: PKZIP

          You can remember the exact version number so clearly because for many years, whenever you stumbled across a copy of PKZip on a disk or PC (and it was everywhere) you would check that the version was the "right" one and not some crappy older copy.

          It was just so much more useful & effective & reliable than previous versions.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: PKZIP

          I can even remember PKARC, and I recall the surprise I got from the authors when I registered from Europe - the world of bulletin boards was also not very good at coughing up. Of course they were ripped off gloriously by the phone companies, but that's no excuse.

          PKARC extended the time that I could use my 10MB MFM harddisk before I finally had to give in and buy a 20MB one. Given that I now carry a phone which holds 256GB and could fill the aformentioned harddisk with just three pictures I think we progressed a bit :)

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            bah humbug

            fill the aformentioned harddisk with just three pictures

            Thats not progress in my book!

            Sure drives are bigger and processors are orders of magnitude faster

            and what are we doing with all this processing power?

            Making sure every blade of grass waves around realistically when playing Farcry ,

            and mining for imaginary monopoly money.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: bah humbug

              Oh, I'm with you on the topic that the whole image megapixel race is a tad stupid, at least for me as I have to scale everything back to 1280 x whatever and then covert it to webp anyway - it's been a while since I printed a picture..

            2. Curtis

              Re: bah humbug

              "I possess in my hand a device capable of accessing the accumulated knowledge of the human race. And I use it for arguing with strangers and looking at pictures of cats."

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: bah humbug

                capable of accessing the accumulated knowledge of the human race

                Or rather, what Google/Microsoft(Bing) want to show you. Which is usually 300+ adverts for products that are dimly related to what you wanted to find out about and little or nothing about the actual subject you did want to learn about other then where it's sold.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: PKZIP

          Remember it?

          I've still got my original floppies, and licence paperwork.

          Yes, you are getting old.

      2. ZootCadillac

        this got me thinking.

        About WinRar, which like most other people I have been using since the baby jebus was well, a baby. I thought I should check that I have a license. Turns out I do. Which is great. Also turns out that I'm running V5.00 Beta 8. How is it even possible that's still running and working perfectly on a daily basis? I think it came out in 2013. I should probably fix that.

        1. juice

          Re: this got me thinking.

          > Also turns out that I'm running V5.00 Beta 8. How is it even possible that's still running and working perfectly on a daily basis? I think it came out in 2013. I should probably fix that

          I've had my licence.rar (or whatever it's called) for WinRAR for at least a decade, and all credit to the company for still letting me use it to upgrade to the latest version.

          ... and that's probably worth doing, since there was that fuss a while ago about (IIRC) a major security hole in the ACE library they were using. OTOH, the odds of anyone throwing around ACE-compressed files is pretty low, these days ;)

  8. ColinPa

    Not for production use: means what it say on the cover.

    I was periphery involved with a new product. The first beta code drop produced messages like "EARLY CODE: NOT FOR PRODUCTION USE. VALID UNTIL xx/yy/zz".

    The customers signed the terms and conditions saying this. 6 months later we shipped the proper product. Customers had to order the product, pay for it and install it.

    Two months later on xx/yyy/zz we had a panic call saying "production is down. It will not start. It is producing a message 'EARLY CODE: NOT FOR PRODUCTION USE. THIS CODE HAS EXPIRED'. What can we do?"

    The answer was "you need to order, and pay for the GA product. These checks are only done at startup. If you have another instance running. Do not shut it down."

    The customer paid his money, and the tape (this was pre internet days) was sent by motor bike courier. Normally tapes were meant to acclimatise in the tape library for 24 hours. This was skipped, and the tape rushed to the machine room. By mid afternoon they had it up and working.

  9. Povl H. Pedersen

    You get what you pay for

    See subject

  10. Joe Gurman

    In the manner of the BOFH....

    .... "Frank" should have torched the boss's new car.

    1. zuckzuckgo

      Re: In the manner of the BOFH....

      Maybe that explains all those the GM Bolt EV car fires. It wasn't the batteries, just strict enforcement of an expiring trialware licence?

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: In the manner of the BOFH....

      Or he would have found a use for that old carpet and the store of quicklime

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the manner of the BOFH....

      A TRUE BOFH does't torch The Boss's car; he makes The Boss torch the car himself, while The Boss is sitting in it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ah good stuff...

    not just once have i seen in operating manuals, or post-it notes stuck to relevant kit "do not allow system clock to pass <whatever> time" on system/business critical kit.

    or on patching day, update clock to allow patching, roll clock back.

    has lead to some install dates amusingly showing as "<FUTURE>" ....i guess a past tense reference to the current time from the future time understood by previous updates is correct...

  12. aerogems Silver badge

    No sympathy

    While it would definitely be the professional thing for "Frank" to make sure his boss knew the house of cards that software was, given the details of the story I wouldn't have any sympathy at all for the boss even if "Frank" never mentioned the time bomb at all. Sounds like a right prick who was likely going to wind up in a similar situation eventually regardless of what "Frank" did.

    1. John Doe 12

      Re: No sympathy

      I agree with this post 100%. Seems like I am in the minority in thinking "well done Frank" - most people here apparently have more of a conscience than I do in this situation :-D

  13. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    no sympathy

    No sympathy, not paying like $10 or $20 is ridiculous.

    1. ibmalone

      Re: no sympathy

      Betting the old car remained unsold because he refused to acknowledge he was asking too much.

      A former landlord, while selling the flat I was living in, told me the market was "low-balling". No, that's the market, whatever wonderful number the estate agents told you they'd get. It eventually sold a year after I moved out (and he'd had to re-let it) for the valuation rightmove had given all along, less than the estate agents had said, but still about twice what he'd paid for it ten years before.


    RS232 and DOS

    DOS and PC BIOS Support for RS232 was almost non-existent. Being a single threaded OS The BIOS interrupt you were supposed to use would hang the whole computer, also it could only support sending and receiving 1 character at a time. It didn't matter if you were C, Pascal or Basic you had to do it in assembly if you wanted to do it properly and you had to dig out the technical manual out and write your own interrupts. No stackoverflow in those days so most people wrote and suffered the BIOS call. Also a reason lots of old industrial programs would not work properly under windows.

    1. bigtreeman

      Re: RS232 and DOS

      Forth could comfortable handle rs-232 on an old 8088 pc with dos up to 56k baud. That's why I quickly stopped using basic.

      1. Donn Bly

        Re: RS232 and DOS

        But it couldn't handle the FIFO buffer of the 16550 UART unless you used a FOSSIL driver, and if you used a FOSSIL driver you could use BASIC, or Pascal, or C, or whatever you wanted.... Ah the amount of things that we went through in the old days - back then I ran a FidoNet Node, and I still shudder on how much I spent on hardware.

  15. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    While there is part of me that says the company was tight in not buying the software, and there is a certain poetic justice in him writing something that destroys itself, he needs to be careful. His company might have something in his contract that says they own the copyright in anything he writes as part of his job.

    All in the past now. If they were able or going to do anything, they likely would have by now.:

    1. Francis Boyle


      That would involve paying a lawyer.

    2. Ozchemist

      Hard to enforce copyright if you can't find a copy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, the guy might have been in trouble if they'd known what was going on, but since they didn't he was wise to keep his mouth shut.

      That was lucky though, and to be honest, probably would have been better- as much for his own legal sake (more so today)- to have just added a warning making clear the expiral-of-license situation rather than have the code delete itself.

      Either it wouldn't have run (and been clear why) or could have been overridden. In the latter case the company would have faced the consequences and nor could they have pleaded ignorance if/when they got sued for distributing the library without a license.

  16. bigtreeman

    commercial compiler

    I had made a small application for a production programmer using LMI Forth.

    It wasn't interpreted, but turnkey native code running on a very tired, slightly modified IBM PC-XT.

    I informed them they would have to purchase their own copy of LMI forth.

    Before leaving their employ my supervisor had surreptitiously made backups.

    Payback was no-one else there could program Forth if it required maintenance, so sad.

    security by obscurity

    1. james99

      Re: commercial compiler

      1 + (Forth upvote)

  17. AbeSapian

    Bad, Bad, Very Bad, Not Good

    I'm not sure how it works in the UK but Frank would be in the Bog of Eternal Stench in the US. Retribution and restitution would be the order of the day. If I got the story right, Frank deleted everything. But the parts that Frank wrote belonged to the company. Frank might have been right to delete the shareware portion since the company didn't own that. But the portion that Frank wrote belonged to the company. Deleting that portion was a crime punishable both civilly and criminally.

    Frank overstepped his authority.

    1. deadlockvictim

      Re: Bad, Bad, Very Bad, Not Good

      My understanding is that the shareware code deleted itself only.

      Bogs don't stink btw.

      1. GreyNerd

        Re: Bad, Bad, Very Bad, Not Good

        "Bog of Eternal stench" referencing the film Labyrinth.

      2. Glenturret Single Malt

        Re: Bad, Bad, Very Bad, Not Good

        In my part of the world, bogs is a slang term for toilets which often do stink.

    2. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Bad, Bad, Very Bad, Not Good

      Except the shareware the software that made the software work wasn't owned or properly licensed by the company and it was done at the explicit request of the owner of that shareware.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Bad, Bad, Very Bad, Not Good

        And the ultimate user, the company owner, had made a deliberate choice to direct the commission of software theft.

    3. Old Used Programmer

      Re: Bad, Bad, Very Bad, Not Good

      The parts Frank wrote belonged to the company only if he'd signed a "work done for hire" agreement. If not, what he wrote belonged to h8m.

  18. arachnoid2


    Surely a time locked piece of software is essentially the same as self deleting software, in that both have voided and are unusable?

  19. Sabot

    The world would be a better place if WinRAR had done that.

  20. weirdbeardmt

    Doomsday device

    Is not the modern parlance for this sort of unstoppable action “smart contracts”…

  21. Robert Grant

    > His boss's take: "Works already, why pay?"

    > A refrain familiar to all too many open-source authors today.

    And to anyone who chooses to make their work available for absolutely nothing. It's not an honour system.

  22. Dinosaurus_Techs


    He should have taken the BOFH approach and not only have the program and it's backup delete itself, but also have his new car explode

  23. rajp

    Cloud / SaaS Apps take this to another level

    Before Cloud, dubious. Now it's lawless.

    Don't many services evaporate if payment isn't received on time?

    Lackspace will kill you over a £13 disputed payment (even if you've previously given them £30k).

    Minusnet will kill your landline and broadband if your payment didn't arrive after 6 mins (yes, 6 minutes past might night - before office hours).

    Did you forget to (or were unable to) renew your .com on time? Just buy it back for $4k + 'VAT ...'

    Trying to make a bank payment? We've blocked it for your safety. It's 17.01pm Friday. Just call us Monday so that you can pay for that hotel. We've blocked all your cards for your safety.

  24. Plest Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good on you Frank!

    Anyone who has ever spent time creating something useful and then tried to make money, be that music, art, photos or even software, will know that getting money out of punters is like extracting it from a stone! At with software you can time limited to kill itself, music and art don't get that option.

    I'm right behind anyone protecting their work and the hard work of others from being ripped off. You might not want to pay but all those skills the creator earned costs thousands in training and countless hours of practice to code, paint, whatever. Pay up or push off!

    Good on you on Frank!

  25. Bruce Ordway

    Delete vs. ceasing to function

    I've experienced straightforward software expiration and offer no complaints (even though it can be irritating when it happens).

    On the other hand I have never had anything delete itself & my feelings are mixed.

    Personally I use a lot of "stuff" and try to keep legal and compensate authors but... I know I'm nowhere near 100% on this.

    Even if someone were clearly in violation of terms and deletion was a known consequence... automatic deletion seems a little extreme to me.

    One thing I'm sure of, I'd avoid software if I knew ahead of time it had the ability to delete itself.

    Maybe not in this specific instance but... I can imagine scenarios where deletions would result in unforeseen, collateral damage.

    Wonder how term and conditions would hold up in such cases?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    perfectly reasonable

    with all the log4j malarky and other Open Source software embedded in VERY expensive proprietary sofyware, I'd like to see a LOT more of this.

    I'm genuinely amazed that anyone does Open Source anymore. The big IT vendors don't pay the licences and as far as I'm concerned not ONE vendor should have had a log4j problem, it's because they're cheap and lazy and didn't test or study the Open Source.

    Lets see more OS software deleting itself or stopping working if people don't pay for it.

  27. Marty McFly Silver badge

    I'm going contrary!

    Back in the late 80's the world was a different place. Things like license controls and unique serial numbers registering with an Internet server didn't exist. Yes, the company should have paid for the license. However, it was not our hero's place to enforce the company's agreement to the license terms, especially with a hidden time bomb. He took the money to do the job, and enforcement of ethics was not part of the job scope.

    My gut check says.... Our hero has felt a smidge of guilt for the scorched earth. He shared the story here to assuage his guilt and be re-judged by today's standards.

  28. Spamolot

    Fond memories of Adobe Fonts on copy-controlled floppies

    The very earliest Adobe Fonts were distributed on special floppy disks - you could only install said font family (Times New Roman, Helvetica, etc.) on five Macs or PCs. When you installed them, they were locked to the serial number of that particular computer to prevent piracy. Thankfully that particular sales model only lasted a year or so, and later floppy disk releases could be installed without restriction. The early releases were exchanged by Adobe for the free-to-copy versions at no charge.

  29. TerjeMathisen

    BT, DT, more or less

    During this exact time period I was also writing Turbo Pascal code that communicated over serial ports, but since I had also written all the asm driver code needed for this to work, I didn't need any third-party licensing.

    However, at the same time I had also written several smaller utility programs for sale, one of them was a replacement for IBM/MS's KEYB program which remapped the keyboard and ega/vga screen fonts so that it worked with a Norwegian keyboard layout and our 3 extra vowels.

    The key difference was that my program needed 712 bytes total runtime memory when loaded as a TSR, while KEYB needed 60 kB, making it impossible to load large spreadsheets developed in the US.

    Salespeople from a major PC vendor (who merged with another major vendor, their names started with H and C) ripped off my program and gave it to customers who got into out of memory issues, when we caught them red-handed they refused to pay up for a license but promised to never do it again.

    Half a year later it turned out they were still stealing it, but now they told the customers to keep mum.

  30. irrelevant

    Email from me to my ISP, 1997.

    Dear Sales,

    Received: from ([]) by

    ( MTA v1.9.3b **** trial license expired ****)

    with SMTP id AAA162 for <>;

    Sun, 2 Mar 1997 00:22:56 +0000

    Are you ever going to get a proper registered version of ?

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