From the April 2000 issue of Startups

eeling naughty today? We are. We're going to lead you to the edge of technology temptation and then ponder all those little things that you're not really supposed to do. Overclocking, pirated software, unplugging your peripherals while they're on. Get your scales ready--let's weigh the risks and rewards!

No-no No. 1: Overclocking. Overclocking your computer processor won't cost you your wings, but it may give your computer a bad case of techburn. At first glance, it sounds magically delicious: By popping the hood and tweaking a few settings, for instance, you can make your 300 MHz Celeron processor run as high as 466 MHz. That's a lot more processor for the money. Web sites like the CPU Overclocking Guide (http://www.sysopt.com/overc.html) and Sharky Extreme (http://www.sharkyextreme.com/hardware/guides.shtml) tell you how to do the deed. Tempting . . . Of course, manufacturers don't approve of this. A hop over to Intel (http://www.intel.com) finds a Pentium III overclocking posting to their message forums deleted with the terse note from Intel's tech support department that reads, "Off-topic post removed. Intel does not support overclocking." But there's more than a profit motive behind this. Overclocking is a sure way to immediately void your warranty. And pushing for faster speeds than a CPU is built for means more heat and strain. All sorts of fun things can happen: component failure, system crashes and data loss, to name a few.

If you gotta have the extra oomph and feel you have the tech know-how to handle an overclocking project, be our guest. But don't practice on the computer where you have your big presentation or Web site stored. You may get a fast business machine, or you may get a lot of smoke and a burning smell.

No-no No. 2: Bootlegging software. Wow, it sure would be nice to get that $600 Adobe Photoshop for free. Maybe we'll just mosey over to Bobby Sue's office and get her to burn a CD-R. Or if she's too scrupulous, we'll just hop online to Hotline Communications (http://www.hotlinesw.com) and download it from somebody's fly-by-night server. Great, we get free software. But whereas overclocking is merely dangerous, bootleg software (also known as "warez," "crackz" and "hacks") is just plain illegal (drat!). And just like you wouldn't (at least we hope you wouldn't) run around a restaurant eating other people's food while they're in the powder room, you wouldn't download hacked software that can give you more than you bargained for. Mmm, viruses. And no tech support. If you want to take your ethical dilemma online, visit Microsoft's anti-piracy page (http://www.microsoft.com/Piracy) for some saddening statistics. More and more software companies are helping law enforcement crack down on illegal software. It ain't pretty. You decide whether the savings are worth the risks. It's boring, but reading software licensing agreements can save you a headache later. Visualize fines up to $250,000 and/or up to five years in jail. Scary. The Software and Information Industry Association (http://www.siia.net) offers programs and support to help you keep your software practices clean. They also accept reports online of suspected illegal activity. Big Brother is watching.

No-no No. 3: Unplugging peripherals. We all know Windows takes forever to shut down and forever to start back up again. Macs aren't much faster. Here's a rule of thumb from Jennifer Herbert, a volunteer tech support professional with NoWonder.com: "I wouldn't recommend plugging in or unplugging anything but USB." Bite the time bullet and turn that sucker off. Still tempted? Herbert fills us in: "With monitors, you could very easily ruin the video card or monitor. If you generate any static around a computer, it's all over." And your software isn't safe either. "An operating system is always looking to see what is plugged into it, and when [a peripheral] disappears, it gets confused and generally locks up. I always shut down and unplug the computer before adding or removing anything from it." Many laptops have hot-swappable drives. If the manufacturer says it's okay, then don't listen to us.

The Booty

Forget the Caribbean. North America's piracy rate is sky-high. According to the Software and Information Industry Association's 1999 Global Piracy Report, 27 percent of all business software used in the United States is a pirate of the original. Canada's piracy rate is 40 percent, and the average piracy rate for all of North America is 28 percent. North America as a percentage of worldwide piracy tops out at 29 percent.