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Symantec Hit by Product Activation Glitch 277

An anonymous reader writes "According to this article, Symantec has hit a snag in their product activation scheme. On a certain machine, the software machine would always ask for the activation when the computer is started or restarted, despite the fact that they have thoroughly tested the scheme." According to the article, Symantec has finally managed to replicate the problem, and those hit by the bug are asked to contact Symantec's support channels. However, there's no mention of a fix yet.
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Symantec Hit by Product Activation Glitch

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  • by Gavin Rogers ( 301715 ) <> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:14AM (#7366407) Homepage
    How many times do we need to see stuff like this?

    Product activation only irritates legitimate buyers of software and all it does to software piracy is encourage hacking or mass duplication of enterprise edition CDs.

    When you have legit customers using 'pirate' discs because the product activation features annoy them (or completely prevent them from using the software at all) you've just backed the slowest horse in the customer satisfaction race.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Precisely. I recommended PowerQuest Drive Image to a colleague, because I did not realize they added "product activation." That is the last sale they will get from either my colleague or me. I had previously purchased several versions of their products over the years.
      • by TheMidget ( 512188 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:38AM (#7366503)
        There is no point in buying PowerQuest Drive Image anyways, as there is plenty of free alternatives:

        And with these kinds of application, the OS which it uses is of no concern anyways: these tools usually come with their own bootdisk, and there is absolutely no problem to duplicate a Windows partition using a Unix based tool!

        • From the Partimage site:
          The NTFS (Windows NT File System) is currently not fully supported:
          I will not trust making images for any of my workstations if it adds another potential factor other than MS instability for crashes.

          Until then I have to stick with tried methods which now includes Symantec Ghost.

          Also unfortunately the security folks do not want any *nix machines (even though most of their IDS are based on some flavour *nix but I have to abide by their wishes)
          • by TheMidget ( 512188 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @01:32PM (#7366908)
            From the Partimage site:

            The NTFS (Windows NT File System) is currently not fully supported:

            I will not trust making images for any of my workstations if it adds another potential factor other than MS instability for crashes.

            The just use Udpcast [] which is completely file-system independant. It directly reads from the disk partition, and doesn't need to understand its structure. Compression is achieved using lzop or gzip, to keep transfer times manageable.

            Until then I have to stick with tried methods which now includes Symantec Ghost.

            You are sadly mistaken if you believe that this doesn't add to the MS instability ;-)

            Also unfortunately the security folks do not want any *nix machines (even though most of their IDS are based on some flavour *nix but I have to abide by their wishes)

            Just don't tell them ;-) It's just a self-contained boot CD. No need to know what OS is on it, especially since nothing of it is installed permanently on the PC.

      • Totally agree, I was about to upgrade my version of partition magic version 8 until i found out that it required product activation.

        Whats the point of tying a utility like that to one machine? The software is a utility not and operating system or a office suite! I have two PC's I am damned I am going to buy two licenses just in case I want to use it on the other machine.

        Fortunately there are alternatives(in fact i got one free off a magazine) So thats one less sale for power quest. Good work PQ.
    • I'm waiting for it to hit the fan over Adobe's product activation that's required on their new "Creative Suite" products (ie: Photoshop and Friends).

      Just like XP, you have to let your machine either contact Adobe over the internet, or phone their customer service number to get the activation code that's locked to your individual computer.

      Oh yes, and apparently you can only activate twice over the internet, then you HAVE to phone their CSRs to explain why you're not a pirate giving copies to your friends t
      • by diersing ( 679767 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @12:07PM (#7366582)
        I have a legit copy of Windows XP. Because of my work, I rebuild my home machine often to test and validate settings/configurations/builds. After doing MS online activation the first couple installs, all subsequent installs require me to call MS. I have to feed them a 42 digit string, answer a number of questions and explain to them why I've installed so many times, then have them give me another 42 digit string. The process adds 15-20 minutes of pain_in_the_ass to any install.

        • You need the corporate version of Windows XP Professional. It does not require activation. (Moderators, don't moderate this as a troll. It's true, there is a corporate version that does not require activation.)

          If things continue, think where they will go: 800 digits to do activation! If you make a mistake, the EULA says MS can come around with whips.

          It doesn't work to have proprietary software. It is becoming more of a way to deliver hostility to honest people than a way to deliver a useful product.

          Install Mandrake Linux. You boot from the CD. It asks you three questions (if you are connected to a network), and everything works. It's stable.

          Advantages of Free, Open Source Software:

          There are no tricks to get you to spend more. There's no one to be your enemy part of the time. When you try to get tech support, you can find people who are helpful, not arrogant, as in the case of Microsoft and Symantec. Open Office works very well and is less quirky than Microsoft Office. You don't need to worry about licenses and possible lawsuits if you install too many copies. There is no vulnerability of the week. There is no company representative lying about competing software. There are no closed file formats. There are no sneaky EULAs that change during security fixes, so that you must agree to a different contract after you have already made the decision to own the product. There are no security fixes that change the settings of your software, so that the new settings are less secure. (MS in case you haven't seen that one; it's Multiple Scuzziness.) With Open Source, you don't have to be business partners with people whom you would avoid if you saw them at a party.

          On the other hand, proprietary software can be character building if you survive. You can make a scientific sociological study of how some people, when they get power, torture other people. And, when you arrive at the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter will say, "Proprietary software user? You've already been to Hell. Go directly into Heaven."

        • Sounds to me like you should develop for another OS. If you find this onerous, it's the nature of the beast. Really--I'm not trying to troll. But in making a business decision for the OS you want to target, you have to realize that that may not be the best tool for the job.
        • Seems to me that this shouldn't be a problem for you. MS Activation only kicks in, what, two weeks after the initial installation? And you have a full working system until that time? In this world of license agreements and product activation, you don't need those machines going out with your work product key. Your users should be giving you their product keys for activation when they bring in their machine for the rebuild, or you should send their machine back out blank. Most of these people probably h
    • We went through all this crap in the 80's. The dishonest users still copied the software and the honest ones fell victim to stuff like this, and stopped buying copy protected software. A lot of companies went bankrupt and most of the rest stopped trying to put copy protection in their programs. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
    • FYI, one of my jobs at the voice mail company I work for is to design and write the Product Activation code. My stuff works consistently. Why? Because I don't examine the general computer hardware. I look for a piece of hardware (the voice board) that has a serial number in it that I can retrieve. Using that I can get a hard confirmation that I'm looking at the correct thing that enables my license file. It allows us to determine how many ports of voice mail are running, what sort of integration is en
    • The same thing happens with copy protection schemes on CDs - they just screw over the legit users. The pirates just use Daemon Tools to emulate them, and the only people who it stops from playing are people whose CD-ROMs don't like the copy protection - and from the complaints I hear, that's a fair amount of people.

    • Wrong. I have prooved to myself so many times how very worth it it is to have activation in my product. Unless you don't have an internet connection, mine never has any troubles. I don't know why symantec couldn't manage to make something that just works like mine. Simple public key/private key encryption and a single registry setting and a single hit to a website to encrypt your computer specifics.
      Almost nobody even realizes my program uses activation unless they don't have an internet connection and h
    • While I agree with you that this mostly just annoys legit customers.

      I do know of some people who finally went out and bought winXP because their cracked copy couldn't install the service pack which they needed for USB 2.0 support.
  • by Darth_Foo ( 608063 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:15AM (#7366413) Homepage
    It's not like M$ didn't have the same snags over two years ago with XP. Product activation schemes are just another flavor of compatibility problem that the software/hardware industries have been having since the first geek stuck the first expansion card into bus slot. Try as they might, coders always miss SOMETHING and no matter how many hardware and software configurations are tested prior to release, there will always be more combinations than they can test.
    • Try as they might, coders always miss SOMETHING and no matter how many hardware and software configurations are tested prior to release, there will always be more combinations than they can test.

      On a PC, sure. But not on a console. Or on tomorrow's all-in-one entertainment center appliances.
  • Problems! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hookedup ( 630460 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:19AM (#7366426)
    Product Activation on products as important as antivirus apps is bad IMO. When average users are confronted with this, its easy for them to get frustrated with, and what happenes when average users get frustrated with software? They dont use it.

    As with all stories about virri, here [] is the link to a FREE Antivirus app.
  • by Jameth ( 664111 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:21AM (#7366433)
    I have to assume that there are very many intelligent programmers at these companies. They have to know that everything they do can and will be cracked by pirates and that the cracks will be publicly available and easily accessible.

    Is this just another case of managerial idiocy--the programmer grunts can't explain to the bosses that it is a futile misguided effort?

    Or are the programmers just not really trying? Are they just going along with it because it's their job, rather than actually trying to make a quality product? (which, as it turns out, really isn't their job)
    • by i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) * on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:23AM (#7366445) Journal
      This reminds me of what Eric Raymond said in the Cathedral and the Bazaar. He pointed out that better code is generated when there's an actual love for it versus some boss just coming to you and saying "we need this, this, this and this put in".
    • by Jameth ( 664111 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:27AM (#7366459)
      Actually, I just read the article, and it answers my question just fine:

      "This really has been a top priority for our product activation development team."

      They have a 'product activation developement team.' So, there's one group of people working on this, and that's their job. the people with other jobs aren't in the loop about product activation, and those working on it need it for job security.

      I can't really see many people saying, "Excuse me, sir, my job doesn't matter."

      I wonder if they actually decided to implement product activation without asking the programmers? It seems insane, and there's no way to know, but anything is possible.
    • I suspect that it's the former. In the current corporate culture of lining someone's pockets and believing that every customer is a lying criminal who only wants to warez their products, I don't think the programmers really have much of a say anymore when the managers dream up schemes like this. I'm sure that there are exceptions where the manager is not a PHB and actually listens to his subordinates (I've experienced that), but these days, that attitude seems to be waning.

      I doubt the managers will get i
    • Are they just going along with it because it's their job, rather than actually trying to make a quality product?

      ding ding ding.
      Once a company gets to a certain size, big company mentality starts taking over. Benefits get reduced, frequent changes filter down from on high with no apparent reason other than cost cutting, etc. After a while, most people get ground down to where they just try to do what they're told as well as possible, rather than trying to innovate or argue.

      This is one reason why, for in
  • Yeah... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CFBMoo1 ( 157453 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:24AM (#7366452) Homepage
    This is exactly why I bought a copy of McAffee's. I didn't want to have to deal with product activation on windows with something that could protect my data. I think of product activation in this case as getting mugged in a street and having a cop stand by while your getting mugged cause you didn't give him the product key for the taxes you spent.

    Although I heard from a relative that they got billed by McAffee's even after they told them to cancel their subscription for virus updates. I was told they were basiclly ignored by the company. So if you have to run windows be very careful what you get when your dealing with anti-virus packages.

    It's sad really, all of this adds the the nightmare of maintaining a windows system. My linux box has none of these problems and was 10x easier to install then Windows XP. (Mandrake 9.1)
  • I've had to re-activate I don't know how many XP boxes. Office had a bought a while back and would always need activation.

    Heck, even my Linux and OS X boxes keep asking for activation!

  • by rs6krox ( 630570 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:28AM (#7366462) Homepage
    Remember back in the day, when copy protected 5 1/4" floppies were all the rage? The software would lock up and freak out. And within a couple of days somebody would post a program to copy the disk without the protection to your local BBS. Sometimes just copying the floppy would make the software more stable. Remember dongles (some companies STILL use them)?! Remember the dongle remover programs that tricked the program into thinking there was a dongle there when there wasn't?

    Copy protection rarely stops piracy, and usually screws with the customer. Online activation is just the newest wave. Even M$ can't get it right. Has anyone met somebody who really really likes online activation?

    IMHO, the best way to fight piracy is to have a great product that's reasonably priced. And the purchase price buys you support and updates. Each CD key can only register once for a support/update password, so those who pirate the software don't get support. And catching a pirated key/support p assword combination is as easy as running your HTTP logs through an analysis program.

    No vendor will ever completely stamp out piracy, the best they can hope to do is making purchasing the product as attractive as possible.

    • Copy protection rarely stops piracy, and usually screws with the customer.

      Duh. It's mostly to raise the bar for a sufficient amount of time so that money can be made. there are a lot of channels of piracy and copyright violations that aren't targeted because they are more expensive to go after and have smaller effects that going after the big fish.
    • This is one thing that will gradually push me towards looking for free (both versions) alternatives to commercial products.

      I don't like online activations, and now McAfee has an update system that won't just let you download a file, it needs their updater program and it only works with certain options and only works with IE.

      Even "repairing" an installation in W2k pro means entering the CD Key. BAD! I have to dig up a key from my docs every time I fix something that goes wrong?

      Then there's the Nero OEM
      • Even "repairing" an installation in W2k pro means entering the CD Key. BAD! I have to dig up a key from my docs every time I fix something that goes wrong?

        The solution to this is: when you get any software with a code, write the code on the CD. That way, they only way you can lose the code is if you lose the cd, and then it doesn't matter anyway.
    • "Remember dongles (some companies STILL use them)?! Remember the dongle remover programs that tricked the program into thinking there was a dongle there when there wasn't?"

      Dongles don't exist to stop Joe Sixpack pirating expensive software, they exist to stop corporate users pirating expensive software. Smart companies know that Joe 6P isn't going to hand over $2000 for their software that they use at home for non-profit work, but they do know that corporations will pay if it's worth buying.

      However, witho
    • by Chief Typist ( 110285 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @01:48PM (#7366971) Homepage
      I develop shareware applications. Getting people to register their software is how I make my living.

      I tried using a complicated scheme where the registration codes would expire after a period of time and the license key was written to the user's hard drive (along with a MAC address to prevent that file from being copied.) It took the pirates about 2 months longer to crack the scheme, but other than that, it had no effect other than to piss off customers.

      Of course I dumped that scheme and went back to a simpler name/code written to a preference file.

      But, at the same time, I've introduced a few "anomalies" that pop up only when a pirated serial number is used. This, in turn, causes the casual pirate to send me an e-mail saying "feature x isn't working". And then I politely explain why. I've actually gotten a few new customers because of this technique -- a twist on the "support" theme of the parent post.

      And it's fun to watch the confusion caused by the "anomalies" on the cracker discussion forums :-)
      • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @02:42PM (#7367185) Homepage
        I write shareware too... but have a very different view from you.

        The first few programs I released I simply had a "reminder" window pop up regularly to tell the user that it was a shareware program and that they should make a donation to support the development. One of these programs became relatively popular in a niche market, and I know for a fact that over 250 users are using it daily in BUSINESS production. Guess how many people registered? One. Guess how many people email for support, and get pissed off after I only answer their first 2-3 emails? LOTS.

        So, my new programs have an activation feature tied to the program after a 30-day trial. Sure, there's tons of pissed off people that get annoyed when the 30-day trial expires and they have to register to continue using it in their business. Do I care? No, because otherwise they wouldn't register and I would have $0 to show for my thousands of hours of work on the software.

        Now for commercial software where they pay money up front, that's a different issue. For shareware, it's the ONLY way to get compensated for the value you're giving people. I find the 30-day trial period lets them decide if its worth the money. If they get caught on day 30 in a pickle, that's their problem because I've warned them for 29 days that it would expire if they didn't register.


        • Guess how many people email for support, and get pissed off after I only answer their first 2-3 emails? LOTS.
          What about giving the program away for free, but selling support, ala an opensource model? "$10 for the program--no product activation. But, $45/year/user for support." That sounds like what the people want, would remove the product registration headache from you, and would provide a continual stream of revenue--even if they didn't purchase a newer version.

          Now, whether you make your program ne
        • I like that Safedisc scheme that was posted awhile back, where the software slowly begins malfunctioning. I think it has an excellent place in shareware. After the trial period is over, the product begins crashing. Support is only available for registered users.
      • 1. Legitimate customers have their serials stolen (happens to people that "install" backdoors) and don't understand why the program is shitty.
        2. Someone who has a legal copy, but can't find the serial just pops in one (I know I've done that) and don't realize that the program is shitty for that reason.
        3. You code mistakenly indentifies it as being pirated (ok if you do a manual addition of hacked serials you find, that's maybe not that likely.. but for automated schemes, CD checks, hardware config checks, i
  • A Fix (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:35AM (#7366492)
    Symantec could always ask the warez community for a 'fix'. *grin*
  • by Adrian De Leon ( 30979 ) <> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:41AM (#7366514) Homepage
    Here is my product activation story, I frist posted this on my blog but I wanted to contribute it here too.

    I had to reinstall one of the machines in the Web Cafe that I own. Since all the computers have the exact same hardware, the easiest way was to pull the hard drive from one of the PCs to the one that is acting as a file and print server.

    Because of several reasons that I really don't want to explain right now, all the machines are running Windows XP Pro (yes, I did try using Linux first, no, the clients didn't want to use it.)

    So I have all my licenses in order ( the BSA can come here and kiss my ass) and activated.

    I swapped the hard drives, and of course, I knew I would had to activate Windows again. No problem right?

    yeah, right

    A message came up saying that I had exceeded the number of installations valid for my CD Key or something like that.

    "Crap, now what? I paid for All these licenses!"

    So I called the 1-800 number on the screen and tried to navigate the voice menu (I hate those). The system hanged on me twice before I could speak to a real person.

    "What seems to be the problem"

    I described to her the problem and I had to dictate her a 30 digit number that was on screen. After a while, she gave me another 30 digit number to type.

    After we were finished I asked her If I would have to call every single time I needed to reinstall Windows. She said that she didn't knew.

    If I have to call Microsoft every single time I need to reinstall MY machines, I am going to be very, very pissed.

    With product activation, Microsoft is treating their customers, me in this case, like criminals. I could have downloaded a crack from the Net, but no, instead I spend 10,000 pesos (almost 1,000 dollars) in Microsoft software and I get treated like a criminal and waste my time calling them for permission to reinstall my machines.

    This sucks.

    As soon as I think my clients could start using a Linux desktop just by sitting in front of it and not needing any training, all Microsoft software is out from here.

    Product activation sucks. The people who want to use software illegaly with product activation will find a way (cracks, serials, etc) and the only ones getting the finger are the honest paying costumers.
    • I've seen the same problem with public access terminals in a library. About half were linux, and the users would only use them if they had to (i.e., all the windows machines were in use).

      Maybe, if you charge for use, you could try the following: start with a few linux machines, and charge less for using them -- and hang a little sign saying, "These machines use linux, they cost less because linux is free and windows is expensive". Make them as similar to windows as possible, with similar desktops and beh
      • Another trick that helps is to always keep the Linux machines in perfect working order, and "neglect" the Winders machines. Do you really have to re-image a Windows as soon as some doofus customers catches a virus on it? Escpecially given the phone ordeal that you have to go through after imaging it!

        So make it your policy that you only re-image those machines once every two weeks. If a customer complains, point him to the Linux machines (which do work fine, due to inexistance of viruses on that platform. A

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 01, 2003 @11:48AM (#7366536)
    Product activation doesn't faze the pirates, all it does is enrage legitimate buyers and drive them to competitors (or to pseudo-piracy themselves).

    Last week I started setting up two new G5s for a client. They use QuarkXPress, the 6.0 version of which has adopted product activation (I've been steering all my clients to Adobe InDesign, but this particular one was willing but unable to switch for some reason). Any Mac people reading this who historically know how bad Quark is can see where this is going. Three times, I retyped the two codes on the sheet that came with the upgrade CD to activate the software, and I'm punching the damn things in correctly-- what do I get? "Invalid serial number." So I have to call these fucktards to get this shit activated, which I'm not doing until I have the second machine running, so I won't have to call a second time if that one fails as well. And after I clone the build to the second G5, I'll have to uninstall the Macromedia shit they got and reinstall and activate it, because that has activation as well. What a colossal waste of time.

    And all of these companies make it such a fucking hassle to get a multi-user install code, that when I do a build destined for multiple machines I just have clients buy single-user licenses so they're covered, and I install the shit with warezed site-license codes. Why doesn't every company simply offer a web page where one can go, punch in all of their single-user codes for a given product, and in return get a single code good for that number of licenses? I don't have time to sit on hold with the Volume Licensing Department, I have work to do! And Quark, those fucking bastards CHARGE you to consolidate licenses, so I just used warezed multi-user codes for them, too, as long as my clients have enough single licenses to cover themselves. You can take my Office v.X Volume License Edition install CD when you pry it from my cold, dead hands-- no more typing in those stupid fucking codes from MS, either.

    Oh, and speaking of MS, last week I had to add 5 CALs to a client's Terminal Server. Microsoft e-mailed us two "proof of purchase" type codes, and we had to go to a web site and punch them in to get the actual install code. But did that work? Noooo, I ended up having to call them to get the fucking code. All this jumping through hoops, I ended up billing the client for an HOUR, just to punch in a fucking 25-character license code. It's ridiculous.

    As you can see, these anti-piracy features do nothing but waste my billable time (and ultimately my clients' money), and force legitmate users to turn to cracks and hacks and codez to get things done in an efficient manner.
    • by Johnny Mnemonic ( 176043 ) <mdinsmore&gmail,com> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:57PM (#7367519) Homepage Journal

      Friend, I sympathize, I really do. If the world didn't have serial numbers and passwords, I would be out of a job. I'm even a Mac pro, too. But, all that said, there's no way that I would use warez serial numbers anywhere that I was getting paid to do work. I'll sometimes take that chance on my own machines, when I'm demoing something--I'm not going to purchase a full version of Quark, say, just so I can learn how it operates, so I can learn how to support it. But at work--no way.

      If Quark wants to waste your time, pass on the cost to the client. When they challenge a 1/2hr charge, you can explain to them that that was for the 1/2hr you spent on the phone with Quark Volume Licensing--and, oh, btw, Adobe picks up their phone right away, so now do you see how ID would actually save you money? Passing on the costs of Product Activation is the only way to get these corps to change their practices and remember on which side their bread is buttered; enabling that customer-hostility is only going to wind up costing you grief.
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @12:02PM (#7366570) Journal
    "[the senior product engineer] also recommended that customers who encounter the problem not restart their computers."
    Uhmm.... this *IS* for Windows,right?

    You know... I'd really like to know just how they think a customer's gonna be able to pull that off.

  • Catch 16h (Score:5, Funny)

    by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @12:14PM (#7366602) Journal

    However, there's no mention of a fix yet.

    And when there is a fix it will only be available to users who have properly registered and activated their copy of the program.

    -- MarkusQ

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 01, 2003 @12:18PM (#7366618)
    got to be such a PITA!

    My company standardised on Office 2000 at a cost of > $300 per seat (10 seats). The original activation was sooo easy; we have an "always-on" Internet connection, the software connected to Microsoft's site and we were off to the races in about 30 seconds after installing.

    As computers will do, several went belly up and I had to replace them. One needed nothing more than a bigger hard disk, but required re-authorization. In the meantime (less than 6 mos), MS had released Office XP. Wouldn't you know that activation was no longer so easy! The software kept coming up with "server not responding" and I was forced to call to get an authorization code. This activity included an extra copy that we bought that had never been activated! So much for their promises of being easy to authorize.

    After a couple of 20 minute (mostly on hold) sessions to get authorization numbers, I tracked down a cracked copy of Office. I still keep the original licenses in a locked cabinet in case we are ever audited by the software gestapo, but I re-install off of the cracked copy to avoid the authorization. I personally think this is a forced upgrade policy.

    We can no longer buy Office 2000. What do you think I'm going to do when we need a new copy of Office? Microsoft has forced me to pirate their software!

    (posted as AC for obvious reasons)
    • Bullshit called. When you call MS for activation numbers, you use an automated system. It takes about 2-3 minutes per number if you've memorized the menu, and about 5 minutes if you wait for the voice the whole time.
      • I don't know what Microsoft line you're calling, but mine had a cranky Microsoft support lady on the other end of it. For once, I wish I were able to talk to a machine instead.

        My call (for MS-Visio) took about 15 minutes including hold time. I'm in Canada, which might explain it, but the woman on the other end had a distinctly American accent.

    • What do you think I'm going to do when we need a new copy of Office?

      Install Open Office, of course! Better that than to risk the BSA breaking down your door, no? And you're being naive if you think that they will accept your explanation of "stolen versions installed, paid versions in the safe."
  • Futile (Score:2, Insightful)

    by t_allardyce ( 48447 )
    Software copy-protection is like CD copy protection: its just not going to work: Anything you do to try and restrict software someone will find a way around it simply because every system out there is based on the same line of code:

    if(product activated){run product} else {don't}

    what ever method they use it all boils down to just running the program or not running it, at the most there will be afew extras that keep checking or individual modules activating, and the most complex might involve running some p
  • by henryhbk ( 645948 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @12:38PM (#7366712) Homepage
    The 2 kinds of products you don't want activations snags in(because they are really needed for emergencies by the consumer) are anti-virus software and disk-recovery software. I mean if your hard-disk is corrupt or you have a bad virus (please no debates on whether norton's has helped/hurt you, or whether you running some virus immune OS, I'm speaking conceptually here) and you can't activate your de-corrupting utility, then you a) wasted your money and b) are screwed!

    Symantec should realize their market, and for those who paid, expect to be able to use their product.

    Luckily they don't have this yet on the macintosh side...

  • by nsxdavid ( 254126 ) * <dw@pl[ ]net ['ay.' in gap]> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @12:44PM (#7366735) Homepage
    The interesting thing to me is that the big benefit of the current crop of antivirus programs, like NAV, is that they have this constant feed of updates to stay (nearly) up with the virus arms race. Symantec charges extra for that, and I think they should. I paid the fee gladly and they've keep viruses off my Winders machines purdy gewd.

    So the real business model, like the one I rely on at my company, is recuring revenue. That's where the gold is because its multiplicitive with SKU sales. Mmm Mmm good!

    End of the day, what Symantec should want people to pass around copies of NAV, but make it so it's only really effective if they keep it up to date through a subscription. I think in this case the subscription is warranted because NAV actually does have to do a substantial amount of work on a continuous basis. You are paying them to be your front lines in an ongoing battle and they, like many of the others, do a good job.

    AOL got the model right when they put threw AOL disks out of airplanes for all those years just to get the subs. That model would work for antiviral software and many other things as well.

  • Symantec has a LONG history of releasing buggy software. That's why I don't buy anything from Symantec.
  • People complain about Microsoft's flaws, but M$ is lightyears ahead of Symantec when it comes to testing.

    I've had two bad experiences with Symantec's "let the end-users test it!" policy. The first was when Win XP first came out. Norton Antivirus (certified for XP) caused chronic swap file corruption. It was particularly amusing because NAV was included with the computer (a Compaq laptop).

    A few months later, I (stupidly) tried to install NAV on another computer. It got stuck in an endless loop of deman
  • Symantec's stated reason to going to product activation is that NAV is one of the most pirated pieces of software out there.

    Many of the pirates advertise their warez via spam.

    Symantec is a member of the Business Software Alliance.

    Symantec has an email reporting address specifically to foward spam advertising their products to.

    Question: why doesn't Symantec have the BSA kick down the doors of these spammers, and haul them off to jail (the spammers are actually violating several laws, unlike most of the p
  • by Ridge ( 37884 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @01:01PM (#7366805)
    On Symantec's website under their Norton SystemWorks 2004 Pro feature list it mentions this:

    "NEW! Includes product activation procedure to ensure authenticity."

    Just what I've always wanted -- huzzah! This by the way makes it to spot 2 on their feature list. Less marketoid bullshit please... Thanks.
  • Dear Symantec, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by A_Non_Moose ( 413034 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @01:26PM (#7366884) Homepage Journal
    Here's a free clue, from the article:

    Some of the 1.2 million customers that have installed software maker Symantec's latest Norton PC security package have been unable to use the software because of new antipiracy technology, the company confirmed Thursday.

    Ok, so 1.2mil is decent install base.


    "We thoroughly tested the technology," Smith said. "We ran extensive tests worldwide. You had well over 250,000 customers complete activation, and we didn't have any complaints about this."

    So, 1/5'th of your install base did ok, and the rest did not?

    Ok, yes I've taken this out of context, but even a second reading *still* seems to imply that 4 out of 5 dentist^H^H^H^H^H^H customers think product activation sucks.
  • Free Software does not have to waste its resources writing futile mechanisms to prevent "unauthorized copying".

    Free Software does not require that programmers choose between hacking together half-usable components with their program, or paying a lot of money to buy binary-only components that probably suffer from the same problems. Instead, Free Software lets programmers share the work and use any piece of code from the entire set of existing Free Software.

    Non-Free software is a waste of resources that c
  • This is only one more proof that copy protection (a.k.a., digital rights management, a.k.a., product activation, a.k.a., anti-piracy, et cetera, ad nauseum) does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to stop people from making illegitimate copies of software or other information, while doing ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING to inconvenience legitimate users.
  • my experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mlong ( 160620 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @02:37PM (#7367166)
    I have Windows XP and recently upgraded on the symantec website. I hit this exact problem. After several reboots I decided to uninstall it, delete every file and mention in the registry, and reinstall it. Oops...too late. It said I exceeded my license. So here is what happened:

    1. Called 1-800-745-6055. They said to call the download dept. at 1-866-285-6460
    2. Called the download department. Their menu didn't sound anything like a download dept. After calling several times and figuring out the number to press to talk to a live human, I was told to call their subscription key dept. at 1-800-441-7234.
    3. Called the subscription key department. Had to again figure out how to talk to a human. Finally I did and they forwarded me to an "activation support specialist".
    4. Specialist tells me to call the download dept. as specialist only has access to physical CD keys, not the downloaded keys.
    5. Called the Download Department. They told me to call the subscription key department. I told them I already did and I'm getting sick of the run around. They put me on hold. Finally said there is no way they can reset my key but they will either ship me a new CD out or let me download a new copy. They tell me it will take 10 days.

    I have not received the new CD yet but I did get an email saying it was shipped out. So we will see if this fixes the problem.

  • I love reading this on the day the cracked versions of the mentioned products are released...
  • ...which included a flaky PITA "activation" system in TurboTax last year. They got bad reviews from the likes of Walter Mossberg, lost a significant chunk of business to H&R Block's TaxCut, pulled it from the product, and went to the expense of running full page ads in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today in which product manager Tom Allanson "personally apologized" for doing it.

    I hope Symantec will find out that company that actually has competition can get away with treating their customers poorly.
    • Let's try that again...

      Symantec should talk to Intuit, which included a flaky PITA "activation" system in TurboTax last year. They got bad reviews from the likes of Walter Mossberg. They lost a significant chunk of business to H&R Block's TaxCut. They are dropping product activation from next year's product, and went to the expense of running full page ads in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today in which product manager Tom Allanson "personally apologized" for the debacle.

      I hope Symantec will find ou
  • by nvrrobx ( 71970 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:06PM (#7367575) Homepage
    Look, Symantec does product activation to try and combat the estimated $500+ million in piracy of the Norton product line every year.

    You can use the other open source alternatives if you want, but you won't get the immediate response that Symantec provides when large worms and virus outbreaks take place, nor will you get the other customer support provided by Symantec.

    Software bugs happen, and it's impossible to test for every possibility (hardware configuration, etc). Just bear with them and let them fix it.
  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:24PM (#7367656)

    I do not purchase software that requires activation.
  • I suspect so. It's such a PITA to deal with product activations, especially if you're setting up a brand new network of a few PC's and the internet connection has not been installed yet!!! ARGH. Really, does this reduce piracy? Even if it did, would it serve the long term interests of the software firm? The folks who pirate, probably aren't going to be buying the software if (mythical) unpiratable software is released.

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.