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Author Topic: Thoughts on software activation schemes?  (Read 2445 times)
walter.sk
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« on: February 11, 2011, 09:19:40 AM »
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Over the years I have reached the point where I back up all of my pictures, and keep a 2nd hard drive in the computer which serves as an exact clone of my C drive.  In the past couple of years, the clone has saved my neck several times.  I have also had several computers with quality control issues, requiring major hardware changes including motherboard replacements.

I am a person who, despite a shoestring budget for computers and photo stuff, buys legitimate copies of all of my expensive software. I also resent those who steal the software, making for higher prices for me and everyone else.

Several software publishers have resorted to the "Activate" paradigm.  To name some, there is Adobe, Vertus (Fluid Mask), and NIK (Viveza 2, and plans to expand the activation system to their new software.)

Every time I have had hard drive failures requiring going to the cloned C drive, or have had mo bo replacements, "Activations" have been used up and I had to contact the publishers.  As many of you probably know, this entails entering very long serial code numbers multiple times:  in the emails to the publishers, or on line, and then in the Activation window after the publisher benevolently grants me the permission to use another activation.

Not only is this very tedious but the amount of time it takes is huge, and it always occurs after downtime following one or another sort of computer failure.

I know the activation system is set up to curtail pirating of software, but it is never the pirates who are inconvenienced by this.  The publishers have the list of years of my software purchases yet I have had the experience of the person I reached on the phone having to put me on hold while he conferred with his supervisor over whether they could "allow me" one more activation.

I believe there must be better ways than the current activation schemes that would make it easier for those of us who are legitimate users with computer problems to get back the use of our programs.  The publishers warn us to deactivate the software first, but they don't tell us how to divine the future crash of a computer.

I remember years ago when "copy protection" schemes were used and finally dropped so that people could make legitimate backups of their own software.  I hope the "activation" models in use now go the same way as the copy protection of the past.

Again, it is the honest users who end up being put through hoops.  those who crack the software and use illegal copies never worry about it.

Sorry for the rant.

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RSL
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2011, 10:46:22 AM »
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Walter, Hear hear! I just went through the same damned problem with Adobe, Nik and Microsoft (over Streets and Trips). The most asinine thing I've seen in a long time is Nik and Microsoft with "activation" but no "deactivation." At least with Adobe I can deactivate Photoshop and DreamWeaver on my desktop when I leave Colorado for Florida, activate on my Florida machine, and reverse the process when I return to Colorado in the spring. Nik tells me that uninstalling their plugins has the same effect as deactivation, but you won't find that information anywhere in their documentation.

But when you have a crash, things get dicey. Since Photoshop CS5 doesn't run happily on Windows XP, I recently got rid of all three of my XP machines -- two desktops and a laptop -- and switched to 64 bit Windows 7. The Florida Desktop started crashing immediately. Microsoft sent out a contractor who replaced the motherboard and the C drive. The machine was crashing again before he got back on the road. So Microsoft sent him back a second time to replace the motherboard, all the memory, and the video card. Again, the machine was crashing before he got out the gate. Finally, Microsoft sent me a complete new machine, which has been running flawlessly.

But in the meantime something screwed up my Photoshop activation and I had to convince Adobe I wasn't trying to rip them off -- even though for about twelve years I've been upgrading Photoshop immediately every time an upgrade comes out, and upgrading Lightroom and DreamWeaver the same way.

The way I found out about Nik's ridiculous method of deactivation through uninstallation was when I discovered that I couldn't activate my copy of Viveza. All in all I spent about two hours on the phone to solve the problem. I discovered that Nik doesn't actually answer your email support requests, by the way. Since this is a family-oriented forum I won't even talk about getting Streets and Trips activated through Microsoft. (And Microsoft wonders why Apple now exceeds Microsoft capitalization.)

It's way past time for all of us to complain, but simply complaining to the companies themselves isn't going to cut it. What we need to do is get the word out all over the web, make them look as stupid and ridiculous as they actually are, and see how they respond. But I haven't a clue where to start, and I'm too busy to look for a venue where we can get the word out. Anybody out there have an idea?
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walter.sk
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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2011, 10:58:37 AM »
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So you know exactly what my objections to the activation schemes are, first hand.  I think these LuLa forums could help the publishers arrive at a better solution if sufficient numbers of users who feel the same way contribute to the thread.

There are people working with some of the publishers who check LuLa forums from time to time.  Also, if a lengthy thread, minus the cursing and flaming, was forwarded to the publishers, or at least a link sent to them, it might get some results.

If not, I could even foresee a time when you have to send a DNA swab in to match with the sample on file.
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Gary Brown
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« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2011, 11:21:36 AM »
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FWIW, Thom Hogan has a couple of items about that issue (specifically for Nikon software) on this page. Search the page for “Nikon Illegal Product Key Messages” for one of them, then search for “But the real controversy” for the other.
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Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2011, 11:40:24 AM »
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Well, I don't see it the same way as Walter. I think it is precisely because of PS prices up there in the thin air that people resort to the pirates. Yes, it costs money to develop; nobody doubts that, but once you have it going, it's just pressing more cds or even just making internet connections. As with music, keep it reasonable - which I believe is what the average amateur is able/willing to pay - and you can sell all you want to sell.

I do not think PS is priced that way, and its practice of different values in different countries is so transparently piratical, that they deserve all the counter-attacks and freebooter interfaces they get.

Anyway, PS should not bundle so many things in the programme. I want to buy a chair, not a complete sitting room and dining room confection.

Greed is almost as ugly an emotion as envy.

Rob C
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digitaldog
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« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2011, 12:12:35 PM »
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Anything is better than a Dongle!
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Andrew Rodney
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RSL
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« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2011, 01:10:38 PM »
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I probably should have added that for 30 years I did software engineering with a small company I started after I retired from the Air Force. Most of what we did was one-of-a-kind specialized stuff for individual clients, but I also did shareware. I'm thoroughly familiar with the problem of software theft. It's a problem, and I can sympathize with Adobe and Nik (though never again with Microsoft). But there's got to be a better solution than the kind of "activation" they're using now. I got by with a well-organized database of licensees through which I'm sure some thieves slipped, but someone needs to find a better way.
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walter.sk
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2011, 01:21:07 PM »
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I'm thoroughly familiar with the problem of software theft. It's a problem, and I can sympathize with Adobe and Nik (though never again with Microsoft). But there's got to be a better solution than the kind of "activation" they're using now. I got by with a well-organized database of licensees through which I'm sure some thieves slipped, but someone needs to find a better way.
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RSL
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2011, 02:03:39 PM »
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Anyway, PS should not bundle so many things in the programme. I want to buy a chair, not a complete sitting room and dining room confection.
Rob C

Rob, They did unbundle. The unbundled package is called "Lightroom." Unless you're doing prepress it's really all you need. I hang with PS because I've used it for such a long time and I've gone over the learning curve, but I realize that Lightroom really can do everything I need to do with my photographs.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2011, 03:09:23 PM by RSL » Logged

fredjeang
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2011, 06:43:48 PM »
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Rob, They did unbundle. The unbundled package is called "Lightroom." Unless you're doing prepress it's really all you need. I hang with PS because I've used it for such a long time and I've gone over the learning curve, but I realize that Lightroom really can do everything I need to do with my photographs.
Yes, Lightroom is really the most complete "all-in-one" package for most photographers needs.
I had to learn C1 because it's the standart in the studios (with Phocus) but it doesn't mean that Lightroom is behind. In fact it's much more complete that C1.

It just depends each needs.

In terms of PP, Lightroom would be more than enough if the output is not commercial for campaigns wich needs bigger artillery and (it's not a mistake) less integrated software in one, the heavier tasks require a specialised software for each step.
Personaly I have a sweet eye for Phocus (from Hassy), I really like the simplicity and the philosophy. But it's rather primitive compared to Lightroom.

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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2011, 03:39:44 AM »
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I looked at Lightroom's presence on the web after Russ posted - I'm not sure if it does anything more (or better) than does PS6, which I have, but as I have Nikon's latest NX2 I do have a mix of possibilities. To be frank, I'm not even sure if NX2 does CA correction for manual (or any) lenses and maybe all I need beyond PS6 would be some mild vertical correction, though were I to find a reasonable commercial thread/outlet for that sort of work, I'd invest in PCT lenses by preference.

I wasn't aware that Lightroom was an Adobe product connected with PS; I am just not that into the digi world, using it as little as I find I am able to in order to make what I want happen. The greatest digi discovery I have made recently was that the D700 allowed auto ISO which turned out to be damned useful when I shot those jazz musos recently. Guess its a case of RTFM!

Rob C
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feppe
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« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2011, 03:46:32 AM »
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(One of the) unfortunate side-effects of activation and dongles is that pirates get the uncrippled version, while legitimate users have to go through the extra effort required by the copy "protection" scheme. I know people who have paid for software but still get the crack because they find the copy protection such a hassle.

So in effect copy protection does very little to limit piracy, while hurting paying customers.
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RSL
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« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2011, 07:42:08 AM »
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I looked at Lightroom's presence on the web after Russ posted - I'm not sure if it does anything more (or better) than does PS6, which I have...

Rob, Spring for a third-party Lightroom book so you can see what's in the package. Probably the best book out there is Martin Evening's, but it's published by Adobe, so it's way, way overpriced. Scott Kelby's book does a reasonably good job of showing what's in the package if you can stand his "I'm five and I'm here to entertain our guests by showing how cute I am" writing style.

I use Lightroom for its fabulous cataloging functions, and sometimes to make some direct changes in metadata, but I really ought to use it for everything, and stop spending a couple hundred bucks every 18 months to upgrade Photoshop. It uses the same ACR plugin that Photoshop uses, and even has the same lens correction capability, using metadata information to bring up an automatic correction for, say, my Nikon 28-300, which is a beautiful, sharp lens, but which has some serious distortion problems at the short and long ends, and sometimes decides to do a bit of CA. Lightroom also hosts all the Nik plugins, which I use constantly in PS.

I don't remember what CS6's capabilities were, but I'd be willing to bet that the current version of Lightroom can blow it out of the water.
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RSL
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« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2011, 07:52:47 AM »
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(One of the) unfortunate side-effects of activation and dongles is that pirates get the uncrippled version, while legitimate users have to go through the extra effort required by the copy "protection" scheme. I know people who have paid for software but still get the crack because they find the copy protection such a hassle.

So in effect copy protection does very little to limit piracy, while hurting paying customers.

Absolutely right, Harri. You always can buy a cheap "oem" (read pirated) version of Photoshop. There's no software lock in the world that can't be penetrated and "fixed," and that includes "activation." The hook begins with the request for activation that has to come from the software on your machine. All you have to do to beat the system is shut down the activation request and automatically make the changes that show the package as activated. There's always some geek out there who does that kind of thing for fun and profit. I'll never forget the absolutely un-crackable encryption system the U.S. government undertook to create and the taxpayers paid about 8 million for. If I remember correctly, it took a couple guys in a dorm room about four days to crack it.
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Justinr
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« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2011, 08:26:04 AM »
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One feature of the computerised world that will remain forever constant is that one man's uncrackable code is another man's challenge and that is what all software developers are up against. Rob is quite right in suggesting that the sky high prices charged by some is the reason for much of the piracy, do the alternatives to PS suffer anything like the same problem? Picture Window for instance ships at a fraction of the price of Adobe products and I doubt, although I don't know, that piracy of its software is anything like as great. I know I know, it's not as capable but that doesn't detract from the point of the argument.

If Adobe are really arguing that piracy is a major factor in pushing up the price of their products then perhaps they could tell us what they would be charging if the product was 100% secure, would their price come tumbling down if the product was uncopyable? I for one wouldn't be holding my breath.

FWIW I was offered a full copy of Adobe's creative suite the other week for free, openly pirated in fact and offered on a general basis to all and sundry. I resisted the temptation but will be updating the alternative MS software for a fraction of the price of a legal edition of Adobe's offering. Sure it doesn't have PS, but the manipulation of images is becoming a smaller part of what I do so the Return on Investment would be pretty much non existent if purchased.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2011, 08:28:11 AM by Justinr » Logged

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