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Most obfuscated software purchase & licencing ever

Question asked by FridgeFreezer on Jan 10, 2011
Latest reply on Jan 13, 2011 by FridgeFreezer

Sorry but this is going to be a bit of a rant - hopefully someone can pass this to the relevant department to slap a few people around as this is one of the worst customer experiences I have ever had and is giving us serious consideration to move to a different device manufacturer in future to avoid this hassle.

 

We have been developing for a while on the eval version of CW7.2, having hit the code size limit we decided to buy the full version to continue development. Simple you would think - possibly even just a few clicks on a website & enter an unlock code and away we go, as with a lot of software.

 

Oh how wrong we were.

 

First off was trying to identify which version of CW to buy, which is obfuscated heavily as most of Freescale's website refers to the old, device-specific versions of CW. Then there's the whole licencing thing, which I have already posted about due to my foolish hesitancy to blow $1000 of the Boss's money on the wrong software:

https://community.freescale.com/message/73564#73564

 

So, at least two firm slaps and a kick in the behind for the marketing department so far.

 

Still, with the correct product identified and the Boss's credit card dented, a dongle and physical copy were winging their way to us before Christmas.

 

However, because we are a registered company and the purchase is over some arbitrary price limit set by the EU we had a call from FedEx saying they can't actually deliver our product until we give them an EORI number. After they explained WTF an EORI number actually is, and determined that we don't have one, we offered to just pay the import duty for the sake of getting the **bleep** software here quickly. No dice - can't do that, that's the sort of thing terrorists might do, not allowed. Presumanly the sort of terrorists who have a sufficiently organised accounting system to be VAT-registered. So we have to get in touch with UK Customs & Excise, fill in a PDF form, sign it (type name in box) and e-mail it back to them (all very secure, those terrorists would never be able to get past that) at which point UK Customs & Excise will at some point give us an EORI number - which is just our VAT number reformatted to be EU friendly. But you can't just make it up yourself because it has to be in their computer, and it's only in their computer when they've made it up themselves.

 

In the meantime, the USB Dongle arrives. Since it's only $99, it is not expensive enough to be useful for terrorists and so doesn't need an EORI number.

 

Anyway, some days later an EORI number is obtained, and FedEx cheerfully agree to deliver the package ASAP.

 

Time passes, and the FedEx tracking information shows the package has mysteriously had a ride in the van but not been delivered. A phone call to FedEx reveals that Freescale's order processing system has scraped off some of the more significant portions of our address, leaving the driver with a blank delivery schedule and insufficient information on the package (we don't have the company name in big lights outside). The FedEx rep duly updates the delivery notes and this afternoon we get a phone call from a disorientated FedEx driver who has a box with no less than 14 bar-codes (yes I counted) on it but still no building number (despite the rep being told this, and being told it was important that this be written on the box, and promising to do so).

 

After seemingly pushing his van single-handed from the end of the road, some time later a man appeared at the door with a box. Huzzah! At least we can get on with development after only two weeks of having to work around the code size limit.

 

Upon tearing open the box to find our physical copy of CodeWarrior, we find a plastic box with a USB pendrive and a 5-page leaflet. Ho hum, I suppose a pendrive is the modern way. So, in goes the pendrive (which is not write-protected, it turns out), I open the "start_here.html" page to be confronted with a a list of codewarrior products, one of which might be the one we purchased, except for the fact they're all called something different to what we ordered (CWP-BASIC-NL). So, we're developing for ColdFire V2, do we install "ColdFire® Architectures (V2, V3, V4)" (which seems to be an EVAL version), or perhaps "CodeWarrior for Microcontrollers v10 Eclipse" (does "microcontrollers" encompass "coldfire" or is it exclusive? there is no clue).

 

Oh well, I decide to try the Eclipse version as it's 2.8 higher than the ColdFire version. Clicking on "install" simply prompts me to download a link from the web page on the USB drive - so rather than just run it from the drive I "download" a 574Mb file from the depths of the USB stick to my desktop.

 

After installing the CW suite, I follow the instructions in the "quick start" booklets, one for CW, one for the dongle, both of which seem to say the same thing but differently and both of which seem to be written for older versions of the software (eg "insert your CW CD", "look in folder X on your CD" which isn't on the USB stick). Eventually, after downloading dongle drivers from the website (which are in a slightly different place now to when the leaflet was written), unzipping and installing them, then downloading FlexIM manager from the website (again not where the booklet says it is), finding the FlexIM manager doesn't read the dongle, going back and downloading the updated drivers from the website (again, not where the leaflet says they are) I can finnaly read the dongle ID.

 

So, armed with the dongle ID and my CodeWarrior "entitlement" number, I go to the registration page on "My Freescale" (which has also changed from what both leaflets say) and manually enter both entitlement ID and Dongle ID, expecting that this will result in being able to finally get on and use the $1000 of software we have been waiting two weeks for.

 

The leaflet now says "Follow the on-screen instructions to register your product and get the USB dongle licence"... what actually happens goes something like this:

- Enter various numbers

- Tick various boxes

- Have the website DEMAND you tell Freescale what you are using the product for (presumably another anti-terrorist thing, I didn't select "making weapons" just in case it caused an error).

- When you finally get to the end, a cheerful message appears saying "thank you, your registration has been submitted for consideration and you will be contacted shortly".

 

WHAT?

 

WHAT THE FFFFFFFFF?

 

What is to consider - if we're allowed to use the product we have just bought and paid for? What are they doing, looking to see if our code is nice enough to run on their devices? Looking us up on facebook to check we're beautiful enough to be allowed a CW licence? Throwing a die to decide if we can pass go?

 

Although we're still waiting for the approval of those on high, the next step in the chain makes no more sense than the preceeding ones - obtain the licence.dat file and save it in the root of the CW directory.

Not "enter the registration code in the Help->register" dialogue box as with normal software, no. Download a file and stick it in a folder.

 

For the love of god, what is the point of all this automated online crap if the end result is that some guy in a cubicle has to manually review our licence request before we can use the product? You're supposed to be a high-tech company, you should be good at this sort of thing.

 

We've bought all sorts of software from cheap-and-handy shareware to eye-wateringly expensive CAD systems, and none of them have been this much hassle to get a working version of. This is bad enough that I am probably going to go looking for a hacked version of the software just for the hell of it, and so we're not dependent on passing a dongle round, or running a licence server, or being hardware locked just to develop code on software that we have legally bought.

 

Some would go so far as to suggest that charging money for the dev tools when you're trying to sell micros is a bit of a flawed strategy in the first place.

 

As I said at the top, this plus various other issues (poor documentation, hardware bugs) is also making us think hard about the choice of platform for future products.

 

Sorry for the rant but this whole thing feels like no-one at Freescale has ever actually tried to buy & use their own software from the user perspective. Compare how slick and painless the experience is buying & registering products from other companies (Apple or Amazon are two examples) and it really does show up how shoddy the whole thing is.

 

Right, I'm off to see if we're allowed to use our software yet or if we've got to wait for the carrier pigeon to cross the Freescale office...

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