Dragons vs. Pirates

The Internet is occasionally an excellent resource for secondhand assistive technology. In the past year I have seen a bunch of SmartNAV 3 EGs and a few Maltron keyboards — one mouthstick and two right handed models — on eBay. If the hardware is stated to be in good condition and you can verify it from the pictures, by all means snipe away. Anything to avoid paying through the nose. (Depending on your plan and circumstances, it’s possible that insurance will not cover spit, besides the fact that many professionals have not heard of half the stuff.) I’ve found several of my things this way, and they work just fine. Hardware, in summary, is usually a pretty safe item to buy used via eBay — though very scarce.

However, the one abundant assistive technology item on eBay is the one I’m going to tell you NOT TO BUY: any auction for Dragon NaturallySpeaking, 9.5 Preferred in particular. Almost all of these are “disk only” auctions, sold in quantities too large to be believable. You can bet that they’re pirated. The pirated software is a truly bad thing to buy, not only for legal reasons but also functional reasons. One disk means one serial number, a unique way of identifying that particular installation disk. No two disks should share a serial number. Because the eBay software is a copy, however, it is “borrowing” an activation/serial number from a legit disk. That serial number has probably been assigned to five or more copies.

For obvious reasons, this is not good. It doesn’t matter what copy that serial number is on, it just matters that it’s being entered into different computers, and more than once. Nuance has a limit on how many times you can activate their software. They figure this out by making a note of how many times that number has been entered, regardless of which disk it was entered from. They see one serial number and think one disk: yours. If you exceed that limit, the software will either not install or disable itself. Even if you just get the disk, and only install it once on your own machine, somebody else who bought a pirated copy from eBay might have already entered it into theirs, and so on and so forth, because their copy had the same serial number. If you physically depend on speech recognition, for Pete’s sake go to Circuit City or Best Buy. They actually do sell it.

You can tell counterfeits by the following:
no retail box (or a “non-retail box”)
no paper manual
no headset, or a generic headset

PLEASE NOTE: if somebody claims to be the “copywrite owner with serial numbers” [sic], that is a bunch of bull. NUANCE is the copyright holder, not the eBay seller; Nuance owns the invention. And having serial numbers, as I’ve just explained, doesn’t necessarily mean a thing. Of course the pirate has serial numbers — stolen ones! So, for your peace of mind — “Arrr, matey! Hie yerself to yer nearest computer store, and hang these scalliwags!”

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