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Shawn B.Subject: Product Activation Question
Author: Shawn B.
Date: 20 Jul 2006 01:04 AM

What type of product activation does Stylus Studio professional use? My hardware changes frequently enough that I've grown tired of dealing with some vendors that use hardware tie-ins (unless a dongle or a special file that be present will work whenever I upgrade hardware or new machine) and ultimately end up in me having to call software vendors to tell them when my hardware changes just enough to prompt an activation problem.

As well, I get new workstations every 4-8 months and do away with the old. I also make heavy use of VMWare/Virtual PC for some things including debugging different system configurations. Except for Microsoft, I've stopped using all software that ties me to my hardware configuration. Period. I pay for this out of my pocket to further my career, but I have no business money behind me so I have to be careful not to put it in places that will cause me grief down the road.

What this leads to is my question: does SS just activate once to verify I'm not pirating (or sharing my license with millions of my Internet friends) or will it require me to notify the vendor everytime I significantly update hardware? A coworker has an older (version 4 I believe) version of Stylus Studio and it just wants a serial number I think (so he says) so I'm hopeful the most recent version is not much different.

Further more, my main development box and virtual machines does not and will never have an active connection to the Internet. I use a diferent virtual machine as a sandbox for all my Internet needs.


Ivan PedruzziSubject: Product Activation Question
Author: Ivan Pedruzzi
Date: 20 Jul 2006 07:04 PM

Hi Shawn,

The activation process is designed to prevent multiple activations; after you are activated you can work offline.

What you are not allow to do is re-installing on new system using the same key without our intervention.

Ivan Pedruzzi
Stylus Studio Team

Shawn B.Subject: Product Activation Question
Author: Shawn B.
Date: 20 Jul 2006 08:21 PM
Originally Posted: 20 Jul 2006 08:12 PM
Thanks for the reply.

Its sad to see the software industry going this way. Its none of the software vendors business whether I purchase a new computer to replace the old or whether I switch from Virtual PC to VMWare. Further, my development machine is never online (and my virtual machines alternate OS configurations) and will not go online just to communicate with a vendor. I shouldn't need vendor intervention. There are other (less intrusive and more effective) ways to figure out whether multiple installations exist.

I'm a bit dissappointed but I realize this is how the industry is becoming. There are those that have pushed vendors to this extreme but it is still never a treatment I will pay for.

Your product doesn't suit my needs or ideals of how I wish to *pay* to be treated. I'll keep looking for one that does.


Ivan PedruzziSubject: Product Activation Question
Author: Ivan Pedruzzi
Date: 20 Jul 2006 09:20 PM

Shawn, we are always open to suggestions,

If you have an alternative in mind we are more the willing to listen.

It wasn't easy taking the decision to lock the activation phase, but the number of abuses was unbelievable.

At some point we thought to use a license server that customers had to run on their network but we abandoned the idea because was too overwhelming for our user community.

Hope this helps
Ivan Pedruzzi
Stylus Studio Team

Shawn B.Subject: Product Activation Question
Author: Shawn B.
Date: 21 Jul 2006 01:35 AM
I'll offer ideas on some things I've seen in the past that work (for me) in such ways that I will pay anyway rather than decide against purchasing. I was ready to fork up $495 for this yesterday, also, but not for the current protection schemes.

1) I really like Libronix (www.libronix.com). It is a digital ebook software for which I have hundreds (if not at least a thousand books) for. What happens, when you "activate", it uses your personal information (email, name, address, phone number [I think]) and creates some sort of an encrypted certificate. Each book you purchase is unlocked by your license and tied to that license only. Each time I need to rebuild my machine, upgrade to a new box, or install in a virtual machine, I use that license file it creates (and keeps updating each time I add books to it) but does not lock me out. If the file ends up on the Internet, they simply disable the key and I have to purchase my books all over again (for the $1k+ I spent you can rest assured I won't be "sharing" my license file).

Obviously, your software isn't ebooks (and I hate DRM with a passion so I normally avoid EBooks at all costs) but the scheme might be similar. Something like FLEX that some software comes to mind (but I'm sure macrovision charges an arm-and-a-leg for their "royalty".

2) Which brings me to my favorite UML tool: www.visual-paradigm.com . The way it works, they issue you a license file that is very much tied to your personal information, as well. My dev box/vms aren't on the Internet but they key always works. They enforce that multiple simultaneous instances aren't active at the same time (on the same network) (and my vm/dev box isn't isolated from the network, just the Internet). So far, I've been able to install it on two machines (my old dev box, my new one that replace it, many hardware changes, and a couple VM's). I actually respect that approach very much. Each update the software, however, requires a new license file I have to request but so far I've never thought twice about it or thought to myself being annoyed. Because it allows me to fullfil whatever needs I have, without getting in the way.

3) An earlier version of RoboHelp (2000). When multiple instances were concurrently executed on the same network, the second/subsequent instance would not execute. It was a simple network check (perhaps a named/anonymous pipe). This works for me because at home (where I use the software I pay for) I'm only ever going to be one user and never a second, despite how many workstations/servers/vm's I have. My wife isn't a programmer in the slightest stretch of the imagination.

4) Hardware dongle/key might be okay but does have drawbacks. First, they can become lost/obsolete/damaged and require replacement. Second, it might make the software more expensive because of your costs being passed on to the customer.

Basically, if I want to use the software for the next 10 years (I do still use 15 year old software in some rare cases) that is my perogative. I should not be at the mercy of the vendor to stop supporting the software/change activation IP addresses, go out of business.

I purchased a $300 EBook a while back (I really needed the material) and in order to print or view the images (it was a very technical computer science book on relational database theory/aplication at the internal algorithm level). The activation company had long been out of business so I can never activate the book or get a refund. That is why I'm so vehemately against this kind of stuff.

You might think you'll never go out of business, but what if you get acquired by a competitor and they decide to stop supporting your product but I want to keep using my old version but get a new PC and have no place to call to get activated? Then I've flushed $495 or $x down the drain and that doesn't sound smart to me. I'm just looking ahead at possibilities, and from experience.

5) Make multiple licenses affordable enough. I really like AVG. I hate Norton because of their activation and switched to AVG. For $170 I got 5 licenses of their Enterprise edition for 2 years and really, I only have two machines on my network that have it installed: my server and my workstation. 5 works because I'll never have more than three in use at any one time.

I really like my VirtualDrive product (www.farstone.com). I can spend $69 for one license, or I've always gone the $129 route for 5 licenses even though in 5 years time, I've only ever used 1 concurrent license.

I pay about $2k each year for my MSDN subscription (for personal use) but the MS activations give me 10 activations even though as much as I change hardware, I've yet to use a second activation. My most recent MSDN is a volume license so I don't have to worry about activation anymore.

I can give more examples but you get my point by now (hopefully).

However... it all depends on your licensing. All the schemes I've listed above work on a "per user" license. It seems that your license is a "per machine" license. In which case, none of the above ideas will work. But, I can never do "per machine/mac address/cpu id" scheme because I change hardware too much and have too many needs and require flexibility.

So you charge $495? Why not enforce it at a per-user basis rather than a per-machine basis? Or for $150 more, offer a 5 (home-user) license pack. Don't assume everyone that purchase the professional (or enterprise) level are businesses. I often purchase the "enterprise" level stricktly for home/hobby use simply because it has features that I require.

Anyway, those are just my immediate thoughts. sorry for the long read. Change your protection scheme and I'll purchase a license unless I've found a suitable alternative by then.


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