The Klingon Pirates

When I released uBar 2 last year, it wasn’t long before cracked copies started appearing on the internet. uBar costs $20, which is more than reasonable for the amount of work put into it and what it does. But there’s always people who feel entitled to your work, and proclaim “it should be $X”,  where X is the amount they arbitrarily have decided to be acceptable. That’s fair enough – nobody is forcing them to use uBar – but some people think that justifies pirating it. The “I’m pirating it because I don’t know if I like it enough to buy it” routine doesn’t work given the generous 4 week trial period. This is merely a case of people feeling entitled to other people’s work.

So a year ago, I decided to do something about it. Rather than change the protection mechanism and play cat and mouse with people that have nothing to do all day but crack software, I decided to play the long game, and have some fun while I was at it.

I made it so that if uBar detected that the registration mechanism was circumvented, after 10-15 hours it would begin substituting any app or window title with… Klingon.

I searched Google for “Klingon Dictionary”, and found a list of several hundred Klingon words. I then created a mechanism that would substitute the words of any sentence into a sentence with an equal number of random Klingon words. So “This is the title of a window” would become “Qus tay ngaS qlm lom wlv Qu'”, whatever that means.

After several hours, new app and window titles would begin being replaced by random Klingon words
After several hours, new app and window titles would begin being replaced by random Klingon words

So I implemented this system, and decided to wait and see what would happen. I figured the pirates wouldn’t suspect it had anything to do with a counter-piracy measure, but rather would assume it was a bug. They could solve it with a relaunch, but that would be annoying.

I was right. In fact, support emails began coming in from people who had the gall to actually request support when using a pirated copy of uBar.

It wasn’t who you would normally expect, and frankly, forgive, such as teens without any income. Many people have pirated high-end software in their youth, so I can empathize. The difference is that people with a conscience tend to do the right thing once they enter adulthood and earn a living. They understand that other people also earn their living writing the software they use, and that paying for what they use is what makes it work.

Instead, we got emails from grown adults using their corporate email addresses, replete with management job titles. These people actually pirated a $20 piece of software, and then had, again, the gall to email the uBar team for support. Example, with identifying information mercifully redacted:

Just reporting a bug. Every now and then the bar writes gibberish for the titles.

Lotus Notes, Adium, and Rdio replaced with random Klingon words

These are Lotus Notes, Adium, Rdio. A re-launch of the application fixes the issue.

Kind regards,

[Redacted full name]
Development Manager
[Redacted company name]

[Redacted company address]
[Redacted company phone and fax]

I don’t know what “Mismoh pon” means in Klingon, but we can rest assured that Mr. Development Manager knows it’s Lotus Notes, which he may or may not have decided he didn’t have to pay for.

He got the boiler-plate response:

Dear [redacted],

As you are using a pirated copy of uBar, it is unavoidable that you must begin learning Klingon. It is the life you have chosen. Dujeychugh jagh nIv yItuHQo’!


The uBar team

It’s been a year since this little experiment started, and it’s been interesting to say the least. uBar is used by thousands of Mac users every day, and I’m glad to conclude that the overwhelming majority are legitimate, paying customers who appreciate the effort put into it.


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