The police have charged six Vigo’s for using pirated computer programs in the city’s chat rooms and internet cafes, following a complaint filed by Microsoft. The police operation has also been carried out in the cities of Malaga, Almería, Burgos and Talavera de la Reina, and was intended to prevent the theft of personal data or the interception of communications.
According to spokespersons for the National Police, a total of 45 cybers have been registered and 23 persons have been arrested and 22 accused in total and two other arrests have been made for crimes against workers ‘ rights. None of the arrests have been made in Galicia. The investigation was initiated following a number of allegations made by the Bill Gates company against such establishments.
When we think about the passage of time in computer science, we automatically focus on hardware. Over the years, computers become obsolete, because they are too slow, have little memory or little disk space. Either one of its components is damaged and the cost of repair (if spare parts are still possible) is higher than the cost of changing it to a new one.
However, even if it seems to be a lie, the years also pass for the software. Applications also age and need continuous care to remain useful: errors need to be corrected, their safety improved, adapted to new devices, functionalities added and even monitored to comply with new laws (for example, the European Data Protection Directive, GDPR, which comes into force in 2018 and will require a review of all websites and applications that deal with user data).
If the application is critical and difficult to replace with a new one, such as a bank database, it is often maintained while technology allows… or while there is someone with enough knowledge of that technology (this explains why COBOL experts, one of the oldest programming languages, are still paid so well!). But in general, when an application is created, the developer usually plans a limited and short period of active maintenance. At the end of this period the end-of-life occurs, that is, the end of the product life, a concept closely related to the concept of programmed obsolescence that affects our appliances.
This software death is not quick and painless, but rather degenerative. Gradually the application is no longer improved and only serious errors and security holes are corrected. Later on, the product is removed from the usual distribution channels (web download, app stores, etc.) and, at Best, more modern alternatives are suggested if any. Finally, the company behind the product finishes it by stopping any type of support or update of the application. From this moment on users are “alone in the face of danger”. At best, you can continue using the software but at your own risk. However, most of the time, compatibility problems between the application and the external hardware or libraries on which it relies are going to make it quickly completely unusable. At that time, the only hope is projects such as Archive (which attempt to preserve software for generations to come) or emulation (the software simulation of a hardware platform) and virtual machines, which enable older programs to be run on more modern computers (such as console emulators or recreational machines).
How long does it take to move from one stage to another? That depends on user demand and the interest of developers. For certain products such as operating systems, developers often mark well-defined and easy-to-predict life cycles so customers can plan their purchase and use. But for other applications, such as a mobile app or a web service, the developer can leave it at any time. We have recently had two famous cases of end-of-life applications: Microsoft Paint (2017) and Adobe Flash (2020). In the case of Microsoft Paint, the anger of users managed to save this application from its digital death.
But not all are bad news: the misfortune of some is usually an opportunity for others. The aging of software opens up many business opportunities, especially in a context where many applications are completely released as free software. In this way, anyone has the opportunity to continue to maintain an application that their original creator has abandoned and stay with their customers, who will be happy to avoid the headache of selecting, migrating and learning to use a new application. And there are solutions even when the source code of the application is not available. It is not easy (or sometimes quite legal, to consult in each case) but by studying the executable file of the application you can get a more or less understandable version of the source code.
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