I hate licensed software

Speaking as the “IT guy” for my workplace, I hate obtaining/installing/upgrading licensed software. This hatred has little to do with the monetary cost or purchasing process; it’s the backbreaking overhead that one incurs when dealing with licensing. The pain is even more acute when you compare it with the ease of open source software:

zypper in OpenOffice_org

The above command installs a fully-functioning office productivity suite on an openSUSE system. Of course you could do the equivalent through a GUI if you aren’t comfortable with the command line. You can probably guess that obtaining and installing Microsoft Office takes quite a few more steps than that.

Back to the subject of licensing overhead, I can slot my complaints into a few categories:

Hiccups

I’m defining “hiccups” as all the little stumbling blocks toward obtaining licensed software even after you’ve gone through the purchasing process. Example:

  1. Purchase a volume license for MS Office.
  2. HICCUP! I need an eOpen account.
  3. HICCUP! I have to use Internet Explorer.
  4. HICCUP! The eOpen account that I created months ago, and even have a confirmation email for, does not seem to work.
  5. HICCUP! Create a new eOpen account and associate my volume license with said account.
  6. HICCUP! No product keys found.
  7. HICCUP! Call the original vendor; they suggest problem is due to <NONSENSICAL REASON>; they email me the product key.

Can you see how much time this wastes? I have so much stuff to do – I just want to toss MS Office on this person’s computer and move on, but I’ve got to grind through all these obnoxious problems.

Another example:

  1. Purchase downloadable copy of some chemistry software.
  2. HICCUP! I don’t get the email containing the download link until over two hours later.
  3. HICCUP! The link doesn’t work; yes, I’m very carefully copying the URL.
  4. HICCUP! Call customer service; am told to forward the email to them.
  5. HICCUP! After one hour, still waiting on a reply.

And there are plenty of other examples. Maybe the problem is that vendors are still struggling to streamline their digital distribution procedures. All I know is that their efforts to protect their product are burning my time into ash.

License tracking becomes my responsibility

Yeah, this is probably part of any IT guy’s job, but I have to make sure that I keep track of all software versions, product keys, and installations. Some licensing sites will do that for you, but then you just have more places you need to look.

My gripe is that because the software happens to have a license associated with it, I have to do extra work. For whatever reason, this is far more annoying to me than the work I do to track a physical item, like an LCD monitor. Perhaps the reason is that I can move the monitor anywhere and use it for any purpose – without worrying about entering a product key or thinking about previous installations.

User education/enforcement

No, just because we have a copy of Photoshop doesn’t mean that we have an infinite volume license. The license agreement is for a single user. Yes, it allows you to install multiple places because 1) a single user often has a desktop, a laptop, and maybe a home computer, 2) that single user may need to reinstall the software, and 3) trying to limit installs with some sort of copy protection is probably more trouble than it’s worth.

In my small workplace with many computer-savvy, independent thinkers, I’ve had to work to pull the reins in on licensed software. Example:

CONVERSATION BEFORE ME:

Person A: Where are the install disks for software X?
Person B: Here.

CONVERSATION AFTER ME:

Person A: Where are the install disks for software X?
Me: We have a single license for software X that is currently in use. If you need software X, then I can purchase a license for you.

Conclusion

This is a rant so maybe not everything I’ve said is entirely rational. Or maybe I’m just venting over the nature of the beast. Certainly I’ve had some good experiences with licensing; for example, AVG has consistently been trouble free. My hope is that we begin to see a greater adoption of open source software, and perhaps a homogenization of the way licensing is done. Perhaps software vendors, especially the smaller ones, could outsource their licensing needs to external companies, much like they do with digital distribution (I see lots of companies using DigitalRiver). They’d simply add the “E-Z License” module to their code or something. I don’t know… just blowing some steam while I wait to hear back about that broken download link.

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1 Response to I hate licensed software

  1. f korda says:

    Purchase a volume license for MS Office.
    HICCUP! I need an eOpen account. Create a profile the first time you visit with that Win Live ID
    HICCUP! I have to use Internet Explorer. MS actually are in competition with the other flavours
    HICCUP! The eOpen account that I created months ago, and even have a confirmation email for, does not seem to work. Always helps to accept the T&C straight away (always? okay sometimesa I give)
    HICCUP! Create a new eOpen account and associate my volume license with said account.Actually you are associateing your windows live ID to the Auth & License numbers
    HICCUP! No product keys found. QFT Sometimes takes 48hrs dor VLK & D/L to become available
    HICCUP! Call the original vendor; they suggest problem is due to ; they email me the product key. Where did they get it if not eopen(vlsc)? Product Activation maybe?

    Love the bit about “Independant thinkers”, I’m assuming that it is a euphamisim for “Lovable, hardowking,m not averse to corner cutting, Rogue”

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