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June 24, 2009

DRM Activation Question

ShadowWolf recently commented:

Activation ( and reactivation ) are pretty par for the course in the business tool world from what I've seen. I don't know that anyone really "likes" it, but it definitely serves a legitimate purpose.

This comment made me wonder, is this true? I work in an environment with airgaps around our network connections for security purposes and I can't think of a single tool that we use besides InstallShield that requires activation and/or reactivation.

Sure, Windows does (once) but they also offer a volume license key that doesn't require activation. Microsoft Office works the same way. Visual Studio, TFS and so on. Even our IBM/Rational products don't give us this problem and trust me, those are some pretty darn expensive tools. The only product that we use that I can think of is Robohelp.

So I'm curious, what are some of the products my readers use that require activation?


Bryan A. said...

We have an environment where the internet is locked down and closely monitored. I actually have to get IT to put me on another subnet temporarily whenever I need to activate or search for updates for InstallShield. This is user-hostile design.

This DRM Activation stuff seems to be a solution looking for a problem, and causes new problems in the process.

Aaron Shurts said...

See my comment in the previous article. Whether it's par for the course or not. The only people who have to deal with it are honest users.

Software activation is useless and a waste of money. How much did the MPAA spend on CSS for DVDs only to have it hacked by a 7-line Perl script?

Stefan Krueger said...

I don't like activation, and I think it's an annoyance and could be a risk (if Acresso gets out of business for instance). Also I think that Acresso's license terms are very strict, compared to Microsoft's for instance. That said...

You can host the activation server in your own LAN (if you opt for the floating license model).

I don't think Acresso uses activation to fight crackers. But they want to make sure that legitimate users comply with the license terms. Before they introduced activation, some companies installed a node-locked license on multiple computers.

Christopher Painter said...

What rubs me is this whole per-user per machine.

Hypothetical situation based on real world situation:

Imagine a shop that has several networks that have no physical connections to each other or the internet. There are 4 install engineers and 4 build engineers.

All 8 developers have their own workstation on one network and they occasionally (very rare )use a common machine on two more networks.

In a fair world this would require 10 licenses. In an Acresso world they say that we need 24 licenses.

I'm adding 2 more build engineers and 2 more install engineers in the near future and so now we should go to 14 licenses but according to Acresso it should be 36.

They then suggest a floating license server as a "savings". Well it's a savings over 24 seats but it costs way more then 10 seats.

So my solution to all this is go to WiX. I'm sorry, but I'm just done with Acreso.

Dan said...

To answer your question Chris, we have programs that require activation but none that require any type of reactivation.

I cannot say that I particularly like Acresso's activation / pricing model however, right now they are the only package that offers the combination of features that we need - especially since we still have Windows CE delivery.

Every year the DRM requirements seem to become increasingly more burdensome when they should be transparent. Eventually, as I have stated earlier, we will reach a point where you have Chris and Acresso will no longer receive the tens of thousands of dollars per year in maintenance renewal contracts just to maintain the few seats that we want to keep at the professional level and the number of build machine with standalone build running.

ShadowWolf said...

Granted, reactivation is kind of the next step in a process, but keep in mind that it is only once a year I believe. I know Adobe products require reactivation and several other graphics/3D related softwares are similarly designed. The software development space has been slow to acquire DRM and such hasn't moved in to the reactivation space as quickly as InstallShield has - there is no doubt. Other development tool spaces have progressed more quickly, especially as tool development slows down.

Chris: I'm not sure why such venom toward IS in your comment here. Visual Studio, IBM Rational, and TFS are all per-user licensing schemes. Those applications may be more lax in compliance, which is another story. That said, I could be misunderstanding because I don't know what the difference between a build engineer and an install engineer is, which could be material to your concern.

Christopher Painter said...

No venom is intended, and the discussion at hand is activation not licensing. The activation issues I face have become a huge administrative burden and I'm sick of it.

Fortunatly I've found someone else who is willing to manage the process so my hands are now clean. :-)

Stefan Krueger said...

@ShadowWolf: I think that Acresso's licensing terms are stricter than others. If I recall correctly Visual Studio is only per-user which means this onne user may install it on multiple machines. InstallShield is per-user-per-machine so if one user is using tow machines he needs two licenses. But like Chris wrote, this discussion is about activation (i.e. how they enforce the terms) not about licensing (the terms themselves). That has been mixed up in previous comments.

Re-activation will happen automatically and transparently if the machine is online. But it's an annoyance if your development and build machines are not connected to the internet. I know some companies where this is the case, and if they are annoyed enough they will start looking for alternatives...