August 24, 2007 10:35 AM PDT

Linux felon forced to install Windows

A Linux user who was jailed for uploading a film onto a peer-to-peer service has been told he will have to switch to Windows if he wants to use a computer again.

Scott McCausland, who used to be an administrator of the EliteTorrents BitTorrent server before it was shut down by the FBI, pleaded guilty in 2006 to two copyright-related charges over the uploading of Star Wars: Episode III to the Internet. As a result, he was sentenced to five months in jail and five months' home confinement.

McCausland--who also goes by the name "sk0t"--has since been released from jail, but on Tuesday he reported on his blog that the terms of his sentence meant he would have to install Windows if he wanted to use a computer during his probation. "I had a meeting with my probation officer today, and he told me that he has to install monitoring software onto my PC," wrote McCausland. "No big deal to me...that is part of my sentence."

"However, their software doesn't support GNU/Linux (which is what I use)," continued McCausland. "So, he told me that if I want to use a computer, I would have to use an OS that the software can be installed on. Which basically means: Microsoft and monitoring software or no computer. I use Ubuntu 7.04 now, and they are trying to force me to switch. First they give me two felonies, then they throw me in prison, and now this."

According to the Web site TorrentFreak, McCausland and his attorney will fight the situation. "It isn't the fact that I have to be monitored that bothers me, it is the fact that I have (to) restructure my life (different OS, different software on that OS) and that they would require (force) me to purchase software while I am currently unemployed and relatively unemployable with the two felonies that they gave me," McCausland said. "It is just a ridiculous situation."

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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A word of advice...
"First they give me two felonies, then they throw me in prison, and now this."

That's not going to earn him brownie points with his parole officer. He might want to start with coming to terms with the fact that he *earned* the felonies.
Posted by anseljh (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
No kidding... He should be happy that he can use a computer at all while on probation...
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Yes the Nazi soldiers that supposedly were involved in the "holocaust" and/or "war crimes" were put to death or sentenced to life in jail, however American soldiers who raped, tortured children and women, burned villages, and sprayed toxic chemicals over civilians and soldiers alike in Vietnam are innocent. Justice is blind hence; the statue of ?lady justice? but the law is also subjective. Apparently cutting into the massive profits of giant corporations is worthy of felony status by some stretch of broken subjective logic. I say he did not *earn* those felonies and as far as I am concerned he should take flight leave the country and write articles on how America is a corporatist fascist wasteland of ignorant naive cattle. So many elite are guilty of so many crimes that are never be punished by law due to its subjective nature it makes me sick. Then they come along with their powerful lobby, friends and money to get what they want from the ?law?. Political power flows from the barrel of a gun, buy many guns.
Posted by stygianumbra (2 comments )
Link Flag
Cruel and unusual!
How can such torture be allowed by forcing Windows onto
someone... Poor guy :(
Posted by MaLvaDo39 (365 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not so unsual
Cruel, yes, but not so unusual.

For example, you get the same punishment just for being a real
estate agent in Colorado.
Posted by steve4lee (174 comments )
Link Flag
Quick, alert the U N Human Rights Commission - err, no tehy are too busy defending that A** in Botiswana
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Link Flag
LOL, my first thought as well.

"Oh, the horrors! Oh, the shame! Forced to use Windows!"
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Link Flag
Any other OS options?
Can he run it under any other OS or just Windows? I would say try
Mac OS since its at least a form of *Nix, but something tells me this
software is probably Windows only.

Its funny that a "security" program dealing with not Data but real,
physical criminals would run on Windows, the least secure
operating system (particularly out of the box) available.
Posted by DaiMac (62 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not peculiar
A lot of that type of software runs under Windows. Back when
people were stealing e-mails from "carnivore" systems, that's what
they were hacking. A bunch of the wire-tap systems are unsecured
Windows machines too. There had been floating around for a while
some instructions on ho to locate and log-in to them to intercept
phone calls -- and one person noted that most of the people
logging into them seemed to be from eastern europe. I guess it's a
good time to be a corporate spy.
Posted by FellowConspirator (397 comments )
Link Flag
Jackbooted thugs...
Hey, here's an idea:

Maybe they should NOT LET YOU USE A COMPUTER while you're on parole.

Sheesh. People in this country REALLY need to learn to at least ACT like responsible adults.
Posted by ThatScienceGuy (132 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Poor guy
It is not like he killed anyone.

He should just set up a dual boot machine. Occasionally use Windows so they don't get suspicious, but mainly use Linux.

His PO is a windows user, so it is not like he knows much about computers.

But forcing anyone, even a very low level criminal should ever be forced to use Windows. That is a cruel punishment.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think even an idiot might notice a dual boot machine eventually
I mean come on. Who wouldn't notice a screen that asks you which system you want to boot into? Besides, there'll probably send a member of the IT staff to check up on this guy. Or the parole officer actually knows something about computers, because the article didn't specifically say he didn't.
Posted by aka_tripleB (2211 comments )
Link Flag
absolutely agree
Yeah, he's served his time, but forcing him to use Windows is way beyond fair.

Maybe if he knows someone with a Windows machine he could 'fudge' his use of windows.

I wouldn't trust the authorities not to send someone to check if he's dual booting. Might be too risky.

But it totally sucks that he should be made to use Windows. Maybe if that had been his punishment I could agree, but that he should serve his sentence and then have this put on him as parole conditions. Very wrong!!!!
Posted by peripo (15 comments )
Link Flag
Dear Scott, I think you should just say no and not use computer at all...
... since you do not want to "restructure" your life to a different OS.

I wonder how you managed in jail. Did they give you a uBuntu computer there?

Even if you have to use Windows, don't worry. Ubuntu 7.04 kinda looks and works like Windows 98 & MS-DOS.

"and that they would require (force) me to purchase software while I am currently unemployed and relatively unemployable"

Wait a second... so you have money to pay your attorney to fight in court for Linux, but you don't have money to buy software?....

anyways, when you start your Internet Explorer, do go to this article: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by cary1 (924 comments )
Reply Link Flag
As far as Linux distros
Ubuntu is not very good. It is however, far more advanced, stable, and secure then XP or Vista.

To say otherwise shows how clueless you are.

This would be the same as his PO saying he couldn't go to a 5 star restaurant(Linux) while on parole, he can only eat at McDonalds(Windows).
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
You?re a thief and a one cares about your terrible plight.

Second get creative, run the Windows OS in a VM and install the monitoring software and just let it run?..doing nothing.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So this guy uploads a movie to the internet...
and gets 5 months in prison, yet Paris Hilton gets behind the wheel intoxicated, and is out in a few days?

This is absolutely a fantastic example of how screwed up the legal system is.
Posted by polaris20 (80 comments )
Reply Link Flag
apples to oranges
legally, that's kind of like comparing apples to oranges. you might not like intellectual property law, but uploading a movie you don't own so others who don't own can download for free is a felony. he was convicted and frankly should be happy they are letting him use a computer at all. i guarantee if there was a firearm involved in the commission of this crime - instead of the internet - i doubt we'd be reading about him crying he wasn't able to purchase the handgun he needed to put his life back in order.
Posted by QuetzalcoatlUSA (120 comments )
Link Flag
NO! Get it straight...
Paris was convicted of drunk driving WHILE on probation for
drunk driving! That's what she did her hard time for, habitually
endangering the public!
Also see Lindsay L and Nicole R. as other gleaming examples of
American justice.
Posted by rhett121 (73 comments )
Link Flag
Law is not so simple
It's more of an example of how screwed up it is that so many people think law is so simple that they can determine a proper punishment based on a few paragraphs on CNET and sound bites on the evening news. No wonder people have a low opinion of lawyers -- the whole profession is unnecessary because it's obvious what the verdict and punishment in any case should be.

Some things to consider about the punishments here:

McCausland had plenty of warning that he was being specifically targetted and proceeded anyway.

McCausland showed no remorse. Even in an interview this week, he says he would probably have done the same if he knew of the 10 month sentence in advance and might even do it again.

Hilton cried and insisted she wasn't aware she was still on probation.

Revenge of the Sith cost about $100 million to make. If people could freely copy it, the people who paid that money wouldn't get back a tenth of it. They spent the $100M based on a promise from Society that they could have exclusive copy rights.

In the 6 hours before the FBI could react, 10,000 people downloaded the movie. If they hadn't been watching, there probably would have been 10 times that. Plenty of those people would save the price of theater admission. That's the same as McCausland printing up counterfeit movie tickets and dropping them from a plane.

Hilton didn't hit anyone, and on that one trip probably wouldn't have.

The main purpose of criminal sentences is to set an example. There is widespread theft of copyright that appears to be unregulated, whereas we're all inundated with stories of drunk driving arrests.
Posted by giraffedata (12 comments )
Link Flag
Grow up...judges drink too
And so do DAs and prosecutors. No one gives a rip about the drunk driver until he or she finally KILLS someone. However the MPAA and RIAA [i]do[/i] give a rip when they see someone doing something that [i]steals[/i] from them. They bend Congress' ear. They contribute to political warchests. They take and they won't let anyone try to destroy that.

Welcome to the world of the real.
Posted by make_or_break (3747 comments )
Link Flag
Do The Crime; Face The Ultimate Punishment
I think the guys who run Guantanamo Bay are listening.
Posted by jabailo (285 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So you committed two felonies by stealing clearly labeled (I think most of us that regularly watch movies can recite the FBI warning by heart)intellectual property from Lucas Films and giving it away free of charge and you think it's someone else's fault? I hope your attitude is not representative of the broader Linux community. Get a life man. You are an unremorseful double felon. That's not going to take you far in the real world. How could I consider hiring you with an attitude like that? Almost any white collar job involves some proprietary information that must be respected. Comply with the terms of your probabtion and err on the side of being extra humble and rspectful as you are trying to re-integrate into the community. Repeat offenders have it much harder than simply having to use Windows for 6 months.
Posted by robwill53 (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It may be illegal
But it is NOT theft.

Nothing was taken. Nothing was lost.

The fact that this guy got 5 months shows just how much corporations are in control of the country.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Why not Use Wine
Install wine on Ubuntu and run the windows app. If that doesn't work ..... suck it up you got caught.
Posted by deuce2001 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Wine is for userland code only.
Wine has a lot of limitations. Almost certainly, the policeware has kernel-mode code of some kind - the good kits do.

Wine won't cover such code, AFAIK. In fact, a lot of things won't work on it.
Posted by unigamer69 (75 comments )
Link Flag
real question is
the real question is, is the copy of windows pirated?
Posted by shane--2008 (343 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just deal with it for a while
Just deal with the fact that you have to follow the sentencing guidelines. You broke the law. If you are allowed to do so there are several companies who are willing to pay you to work at home as an independent contractor, such as customer service agents and so forth. Some of them won't even bother checking your resume
Posted by robert1275 (46 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Quit whining and install VMWare.
... you can have your cake and eat it too. It's not a fantastic
solution, but it should suffice. You can use your OS running on
top of the fed's spyware without any problem. It'll monitor all
your network traffic like the court wants, and you can use your
preferred environment.

Granted, you're not going to be able to make full or optimal use
of your hardware, but them's the brakes. Once you're off parole
you can simply copy the OS out of the VM image back onto the
machine (replacing Windows).

Darn, you'd think a Linux user would no better. No doubt the
government would be happy to compensate you for the software
licenses -- they're going to set it all up for you anyway.
Posted by FellowConspirator (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
or vice versa
Linux will run VMWare, then load Windows and let your PO load the monitoring stuff in the vmware copy of windows, then just shut the vmware box down and just don't get caught doing something stupid again. Every once in a while start the vmware box again and surf some self help sites or how to get a job as a convict, etc. and soforth. Once your probabtion is over you can just blow the vm away or keep it just in case.....
Posted by stlwest (72 comments )
Link Flag
This is probably the best idea so far!
This would stay within the bounds of the parole terms (depending on the policeware, of course).

It allows monitoring, by looking at the host OS - including the network connections and guest OS memory - while allowing him to use Linux.

It's certainly worth looking into...

Definitely the best solution, that doesn't break the law, put forth thusfar.
Posted by unigamer69 (75 comments )
Link Flag
honest your honor, this guy said bittorrent was for backing up DVD's
Yeah, loading Windows as a punishment, oh how harsh. Of course after going to jail for a non-violent crime you'd think you would just shut the xxxx up. Obviously your lawyer sucks, and why risk pissing off the judge who will probably just modify the terms of your probation to deny all Internet access.

Either sell the setup you got or just take that money you were gonna spend on an Internet feed and go buy a lawn mower, then start cutting lawns. At least then you'll have some cash and can quit whining.

Then you can go buy yourself a nice little laptop and visit your local Bread Co. (Panera)to use their free Internet.
Posted by stlwest (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ahead Windows Live
backup to the cloud...
Posted by Kenny Yeung (25 comments )
Link Flag
dont do the crime if you cant do the time
nuff said
Posted by gidieup (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree.
They didn't just give him the two felonies and make him unemployable. It was his fault, so he shouldn't blame the system. If he has to buy the new software, well then that's his punishment, especially since he can't. I do feel bad because I know that I could live without my computer, but he only has himself to blame.
Posted by mriffon (8 comments )
Link Flag
Equal Protection
Under U.S. federal law, I believe the concept of equal protection would preclude requiring a particular operating system, particularly if the individual has to pay for it.

Besides, it's not like Linux is new. They (gov't) should have a client for the big 4 OS's, or do their monitoring with a black box on the internet connection.
Posted by EnvoyPV (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
equal protection
Please explain the link between equal protection and operating system choice. You mised me on that one completely. Also remeber felons lose many rights.
Posted by tgrenier (256 comments )
Link Flag
Right. What if he wanted to use an AS/400?
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Link Flag
Read about the Equal Protection Clause
Before you post clearly wrong stuff. Just look at the wikipedia article on it.

The government MUST always discriminate-otherwise no law could ever exist. How the discrimination is judged depends on what basis the government is differentiating its citizens:
* Strict scrutiny (if the law categorizes on the basis of race or national origin): the law is unconstitutional unless it is "narrowly tailored" to serve a "compelling" government interest. In addition, there cannot be a "less restrictive" alternative available to achieve that compelling interest.
* Intermediate scrutiny (if the law categorizes on the basis of sex): the law is unconstitutional unless it is "substantially related" to an "important" government interest. Note that in past decisions "sex" generally has meant gender.
* Rational-basis test (if the law categorizes on some other basis): the law is constitutional so long as it is "reasonably related" to a "legitimate" government interest.
(directly from the Wikipedia article)

This case involves a government decision to support different OS's to varying degrees. It has "rational basis test" written all over it. Hmm...there's ALWAYS a rational basis for things like this - keeping costs down and choosing one good solution that everyone learns.

So the Equal Protection argument has about zero chance of making headway.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
No case
Others cover "equal protection".

Hardship because he cannot work in his profession would not cover it. He could not work with computers on line if he was in jail, which probation is instead of.

"Cruel or unusual" would be a slam dunk if the judge told him he had to go online with Windows. As it is, the judge just said he had to use Windows _if_ he went on line. A really good lawyer might win, but it would be a longshot.
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Link Flag
What a freakin' geek Give me a break!
Guy sounds like he's on death row or something. Get over yourself
man. Install windows and due your time! Quit being a jerk about it.
If you cannot accept the time, do not do the crime.
You will be lucky to find a decent job with a record like that.
Who wants someone who steals and distrbutes cpyrighted material.
Find a new hobby before you waste your life away.
Posted by jesmac418 (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't you have a drive to defrag or an antivirus to install or something?

But I do agree- he should have stuck to creative commons material with those torrents. Screw copyright. May it die a quick and entertaining death.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Link Flag
Download a pirate copy of Windows!!!
Tell tham that you will need to download a pirated copy of Windows to meet thier monitoring limitations. :)
Posted by philnye (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think the judge won't happy to see....
this on the "VLC" software

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by Kenny Yeung (25 comments )
Link Flag
Damn...Jail...House arrest..AND having to use Windows..
That must royally suck.

And this is coming from a government which is supposed to thwart
monopolies? Mmmhmm...
Posted by gsmiller88 (624 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...or building a live CD, or...?

Talk about tech-ignorance.

"oooh! only super-hackers use Linux!"

Whatever... if they want to be morons about it, let 'em.

Me, I'd ask to install Mac OSX instead, watch the idiot behind the desk say "sure", then happily bang away at the BSD/bash goodness in there.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interesting idea...
Cygwin is an idea - although I think I like the VMware idea earlier better.
Posted by unigamer69 (75 comments )
Link Flag
They're doing him a favor
Given that it's a federal case, they could have kept him in prison in lieu of house arrest. Further, it's not unusual for computer equipment to be permanently FORFEITED in cases of criminal piracy like this. He should be glad he has a computer, even if he can't use it since he run an unsupported OS on it. I'm pretty sure that previously even petty criminals found guilty of computer crime were banned from computers for YEARS.

So stop wasting court time on BS arguments and live with consequences of your actions. I hope pirating the movie and distributing it worldwide was worth it. To me it wouldn't have been, but I guess to each his own.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You have a point, but...
...I think as the world becomes more and more digital, the idea of banning folks from computers post-sentence, will have to be phased out.

When it's your primary job skill, they can't keep it up. This isn't the 80s.
Posted by unigamer69 (75 comments )
Link Flag
DUI..84 Minutes.. 2 DUIs..Slap on the wrist Uploading a Movie... 5 Months
im glad the priorities of america are firmly inline
Posted by as2319 (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Also an interesting argument
By forcing the use of a known unsecured OS, he could be hacked and moved back to jail, this because the monitoring software could show some illegal activities done by others. (Parole violation).

Maybe it's better to have him install a compromised version of Windows an blame everything done on his computer to it.

Interesting indeed.
Posted by JaquesLenoir (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's horrible! I dual boot both, and
I know that Ubuntu kicks Windows butt, from personal experience.

This is fascist, cruel and unusual. Just tell his ISP to spy on everything he does. I'm sure they'd be happy to oblige :(

Don't do it, man! It is -not- worth it. Move to sweden or something. I hope they didn't confiscate your personal data permanently.

And as a word of advice, whatever you did to get yourself here- please don't do it again.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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