Bootlegs and Pirates

Something strange is going on here. Since I bought new leads with local plugs and charged everything back up I have noticed that every time I walk back into my hotel room the iPad beeps and as I approach my laptop, which is always left on, it goes into screen-saver mode.

I have been out for ten minutes and for three hours, so it cannot possibly be a timed screen saver setting. Are they fitted with movement sensors? I have never noticed this before but that is possibly because I lived in a big house in Cape Town and perhaps didn’t hear it, or see it.

Or are the communist Vietnam government watching, or listening to me? Have they been into my room and done something too technical for me to understand? That wouldn’t be difficult.

After all, a ten year old could do something too technical for me to understand. What’s happening here, am I going mad?

Something else technical baffled me recently too. I treated myself to a new laptop a few months ago which came equipped with Windows 8. I am not going to get into the Windows XP, 7 or 8 debate because it doesn’t interest me. And I don’t understand it either. B

ut, having now got used to Windows 8, I have to say that it is very good. And that, coming from me, means it is easy to use. And you won’t hear me say that very often. I even managed to link it to my printer, wirelessly.

I have had that printer for 4 years and never been able to figure that out before, but windows 8 detected it and asked me if I wanted to connect them together. Selecting ‘yes’ then immediately solved that particular four-year old problem for me.

However, when I tried to load on all my old software programs I found that none of them worked. I must have spent three days trying to get them installed but found that none of them are compatible with Windows 8. And that’s American Corporations for you.

If you upgrade your hardware, then you have to spend another couple of thousand dollars upgrading all the software too. And that annoys me. Luckily, I couldn’t get the new versions of what I need in Cape Town because it is still 1998 down there.

But when I asked the manager of the hotel I am currently staying in he directed me to Software Street, Hanoi City and assured me somebody down there would have what I needed.

Armed with a map I made my way through the alleyways and narrow streets and amazed myself by actually finding it. Mind you all I had to do was keep the little blue dot (my position) on my navigator on the blue line that threaded its way between my hotel and the row of shops under the railway arches and I couldn’t really go wrong, could I.

I was then further amazed that the first person I asked understood what I wanted, gave me two disks, a page of password key codes and asked me for forty-thousand dong. I had to sit down. ‘Let me get this right’ I stammered. ‘You are giving me software that will work on Windows 8, that would cost me a couple of thousand US dollars online, for under $2 in your shop.

She smiled, laughed, looked at me as if I were an idiot, didn’t have a clue what I had just said and held out her hand. Even as I passed over a fifty thousand dong note (roughly $2) I was sure she would shake her head and add another zero, or two, but instead she gave me change.

Outside, in what can only be described as a dirty little back street on the wrong side of the tracks, folk were sitting around with brand new looking laptops loading on software they had obviously bought from either the same shop or one of the others along the way. It’s just a different way of life to the one I have been used to.

In South Africa I wouldn’t be in that street in the first place, let alone openly displaying a brand new laptop. You would be relieved of it in two minutes by somebody with a sharp object, or worse. Not here though, that sort of thing simply doesn’t seem to happen.

In Cape Town I wouldn’t even be wandering the streets following the map on my smart phone because some little bastard, who can run faster than me, would grab it from my hand and be around the corner and down the road in no time.

Another example of this was when I was sitting on a little plastic seat, (the kind of which I last encountered at a parent/teacher evening when my son was three-years old,) eating a bowl of Bun Cha when I realised I had left my iPad and phone on the seat next to me, which was actually behind me as I was looking the other way.

I span around so quickly to grab for them that some of my vital organs took a while to catch up and I felt faint.The lady serving the Bun Cha started laughing. She then pointed to my valuables, pointed to her eyes and gave a thumbs up.

I read this in sign language that she had been keeping an eye on them for me. Not that she needed to. I’m not in Cape Town anymore. I am in a country where they hunt thieves down and send them to jail forever, not simply give you a reference number and tell you to call your insurance company.

The last time I left my phone and iPad unattended in Cape Town the owner of the restaurant told me not to come running to him after someone has made off down the road with them. And he is one of my closest friends. I really do need to find some new friends.

Anyway, back to the software. I waited until I reached the safety of my hotel room before installing it and was, once again, staggered that it actually all loaded. I confidently tapped in one of the six serial codes that came with the disks and.. well, of course it didn’t work. Neither did the other five. What can you expect for two-dollars, blood?

But, I am learning how Hanoi moves and shakes and so, undeterred, I took the laptop and disks back to the little shop this morning to show them the problem. It wasn’t a problem. Some gangly schoolboy appeared from nowhere, uninstalled everything, changed the date on my laptop back to 2010, re-installed it all again, re-set the date and it all now works, perfectly.

And another thing, they wouldn’t charge me any more money. I tried insisting but they were having none of it. Nobody tips in restaurants either. It’s all so different to what I am used to and I have found out why.

It’s because Vietnamese people have so much respect for money, and those who work hard for it, that when they see a person simply giving it away then that person loses their credibility. They don’t think, ‘what a nice guy for giving me extra money for simply doing what I am already paid to do’ instead they think, ‘what a tosser.’ I quite like that.

What I don’t like are bootlegs and rip offs. And even with my limited understanding of all things technical it still seemed to me that something along those lines was going on with this two-dollar software. It’s morally wrong kids, ok. It’s piracy and it is all wrong so don’t do it.

‘ll tell you something else that is morally wrong and should be a criminal offence too. And that is selling me a new fifteen-hundred dollar laptop with Windows 8 that will not recognize any of the software I have legally obtained, at great expense, over the last ten years and instead expects me to pay for it all over again.

So, Captain America, I am doing things in the Vietnamese fashion whilst I am here and if you don’t like it then come and insist they change their ways. I would love to see you try. But, just remember what happened the last time.

I am starting to really like this place. By the way, it has now been two weeks since I plugged all my appliances into the sockets of the hotel room and that weird stuff started happening that I told you about earlier. For an entire fortnight it has puzzled me and I even asked the hotel manager this morning.

He was just as baffled as me but did explain they were making some electrical upgrades in the area and some of the hotels were without power, although this one has its own generator. ‘That has nothing to do with it’ I told him. His next best suggestion was that it must have something to do with my equipment, but had no other clues on offer.

Although he did reassure me that the authorities had not been asking about me or been allowed into my room. (Yes, I really did ask him)

But, whilst writing this I have finally worked it out and you can be the first to know. Just now the electricity in my room went off, completely. I assume the main power to the street has come back on and the generator turned off but, for a brief three seconds, I sat here in darkness.

Then, when it all came on again my iPad gave a little bleep and the screen saver closed my page down, just as the pair of them have been tormenting me by doing every time I walk into the room.

So now I have realised what it is. Each time I go out I take the key card out of the slot on the wall, put it in my pocket and close the door. Then, when I come back I open the door, put it back into the slot which, and this is the important part, turns the power to the room back on and puts both laptop and iPad into charging mode, which accounts for the bleep and screen saver each time I come in.

I finally got there. I wondered why, when I went out the other day and left my phone on charge, I returned to find the battery completely drained.

See, I told you I’m not very technically minded. And that is now another thing you can add to my list of reasons I don’t like living in hotels (see Hotel Blues) You can’t go out and leave anything to charge up. Instead the batteries drain down.

Or ask for two key cards.

Part six next weekend

by Albert Jack in Hanoi