Buzz’s Blog: On Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web

Nov 20 2010   5:54AM GMT

Deactivating on a dead machine: Thank you, ZBrush

Roger King Roger King Profile: Roger King

Dead machines.

I had a Windows machine die recently, and there was no way to bring it back to life.  I bought a new machine.  That meant I had to reinstall a number of applications.

Node-locked licenses.

It is becoming more and more common for expensive media applications to be node-locked to a particular machine.  Some of them allow 2 activations on 2 specific machines.  (At least dongles are on their way out.)

I understand that software “borrowing” is a serious problem and I don’t mind an application being tied to a specific machine.  I run a lot of graphics, image editing, drawing, painting, video, audio, and animation applications.  As a professor who uses them for teaching purposes, I often pay far less than the retail price for applications, and I appreciate this a lot.

Using the Web.

But there is one thing that I wish more software venders would turn to: allowing deactivation to be done on any browser on any machine.

The problem is that when a machine dies and there is no way to resurrect it long enough to deactivate applications, it can be extremely time consuming to get them running on the replacement machine.  Adobe applications are like this, and so are Autodesk products.  Don’t get me wrong, both companies answer the phone, and I have never been on hold for anything more than a fraction of a minute.  They’re polite, too, and listen to my explanation, grill me only very gently, and then reset my activation count.

But there are a few products, like Pixologic’s ZBrush, that allow you to give each machine a name so that you can deactivate an application without having to bring a dead machine to life or call someone up on the phone.  ZBrush lets you activate their product on two machines, and at any time, you can fill in a brief form asking them to deactivate one or both of them.  Now, it’s not done automatically.  You have to wait for them to manually read your online form and do the deactivation.  But they always seem to do it the same day and I have never had to send a second request.  It’s just so much less of a hassle.

I hope that more venders start using this mechanism.  For me, it would remove what is perhaps the most stressful aspect of having to hand a machine over to the hardware gods: knowing that there is a pile of applications that are going to be annoyingly time-consuming to reactivate.

It makes sense, today.

There’s another reason for doing this.  More people use multiple machines today, and not just a single desktop and a single notebook.  Also, machines have been undergoing major generational changes lately, with multi-core processors and 64 bit operating systems and powerful graphics boards becoming commonplace.  And we are also for the most part on the Internet 24/7.  We need to be able to move quickly and gracefully between machines, and web-based activation protocols make a lot of sense.

Maybe Pixologic will find a way to automate theirs, so that machines can be deactivated instantly without a human having to get into the loop.  It’s difficult for me to know if this would expose them to more risk.

Thanks, ZBrush.


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