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Poco Forums • View topic - Why does Pocomail 4.1 "phone home"

Why does Pocomail 4.1 "phone home"

Discussion not related specifically to one of the topics below

Moderators: Eric, Tomas, robin

Why does Pocomail 4.1 "phone home"

Postby wallybass » Thu Mar 08, 2007 12:54 pm

I just bought pocomail 4.1, and received a registration code in an email.

At that point, I went to Help->License Info, got the license screen, and I pasted in my name and the new license number.

At that point, the program announced that it was going to communicate with home (pocomail) to see if my license code was "valid." Hello. Since when can't a program simply inspect a license code to see if it is valid? Why the "phone home"?

My firewall blocked the attempt to phone home. Pocomail then said that the phone home attempt had failed, and that it would try later. My firewall will, of course, block that also.

So, about four questions:

1. Why is it phoning home? It is not necessary to validate that my license code is valid, if the people at pocomail are the least bit competent. What information about me is being transmitted/collected at pocomail, and why hasn't the disclosure of such information been revealed to me? This is an issue of my privacy, among other things.

2. Having failed to phone home, what is the status of my copy of pocomail? Is it still "evaluation", is it "validated," or is it somewhere inbetween? Since my firewall will continue to block pocomail's phone home attempt, how long is this phone home attempt cycle going to continue?

3. Does all of this mean that, three (or whatever) years from now when Pocomail is no longer in business, my current machine is destined for the trash, and I'm installing this version of Pocomail on my replacement machine, that I will invariably get the same nonsense, which, at that time may be unstopable, because there is no pocomail to respond?

4. If this is, as it seems, an "activation" scheme of the Windows XP variety, why was I not warned of it at purchase time. Even Microsoft is honest enough to warn users about activation. "Activation" schemes invariably prematurely terminate the life of software, if for no other reason than the fact that businesses die, and activation of installs on replacement machines then becomes inpossible. Software with an expiration mechanism of this kind is of, if not NO value, at least less value, and I should be warned of such a possible expiration mechanism before I purchase. Why was I not so notified?
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Re: Why does Pocomail 4.1 "phone home"

Postby Eric » Thu Mar 08, 2007 6:38 pm

Hi wallybass & welcome to Poco Forums, :D
wallybass wrote:I just bought pocomail 4.1, and received a registration code in an email.

At that point, I went to Help->License Info, got the license screen, and I pasted in my name and the new license number.

At that point, the program announced that it was going to communicate with home (pocomail) to see if my license code was "valid." Hello. Since when can't a program simply inspect a license code to see if it is valid? Why the "phone home"?

I do know a lot of software who phones home once to validate the license key. Poco or Barca are no different.
Since that registration may not be discussed here, I'll leave it to that.

Rest assured, no confidential information is transmitted. Only your license key is registered. :)
1. Why is it phoning home? It is not necessary to validate that my license code is valid, if the people at pocomail are the least bit competent. What information about me is being transmitted/collected at pocomail, and why hasn't the disclosure of such information been revealed to me? This is an issue of my privacy, among other things.
What information is not the issue. If you don't allow to make this one time connection, your version won't be registered.
Same with a lot of other software, including MS-programs.
2. Having failed to phone home, what is the status of my copy of pocomail? Is it still "evaluation", is it "validated," or is it somewhere inbetween? Since my firewall will continue to block pocomail's phone home attempt, how long is this phone home attempt cycle going to continue?
Unregistered is your status for now, until you allow it to connect. How long depends on your willingness to open the connection.
3. Does all of this mean that, three (or whatever) years from now when Pocomail is no longer in business, my current machine is destined for the trash, and I'm installing this version of Pocomail on my replacement machine, that I will invariably get the same nonsense, which, at that time may be unstopable, because there is no pocomail to respond?
:!: Can't comment on that, but if that happens, PSI will communicate it to its users.
4. If this is, as it seems, an "activation" scheme of the Windows XP variety, why was I not warned of it at purchase time. Even Microsoft is honest enough to warn users about activation. "Activation" schemes invariably prematurely terminate the life of software, if for no other reason than the fact that businesses die, and activation of installs on replacement machines then becomes inpossible. Software with an expiration mechanism of this kind is of, if not NO value, at least less value, and I should be warned of such a possible expiration mechanism before I purchase. Why was I not so notified?
There's a lot of software where you're not warned about the activation. All use different methods to protect their software, including MS with its WGA, which is a bit more intrusive and invades privacy by phoning home regularly. :?
AFAIK there's no expiration, only that you're allowed to install it on two computers. This is what's being verified, nothing else, I guess.

Hope that helps a bit more & do enjoy Poco. :wink:
Eric
 

Postby Slaven » Fri Mar 09, 2007 5:57 am

Eric summed it up nicely, here's my two cents:

1. Why is it phoning home? It is not necessary to validate that my license code is valid, if the people at pocomail are the least bit competent. What information about me is being transmitted/collected at pocomail, and why hasn't the disclosure of such information been revealed to me? This is an issue of my privacy, among other things.


We have been using this method for the past few years and it is certainly necessary - the piracy of our software has fallen substantially. We chose not to use Microsoft's model for activations so that we can provide you with better software, even though it most certainly cost us sales.

Transmitting information at the time of purchase is now accepted business practice. The reasoning to us is very sound: you have already chose to do business with Poco Systems, so you have already shared your name and email with us, there is no further information disclosure that happens with activation.

2. Having failed to phone home, what is the status of my copy of pocomail? Is it still "evaluation", is it "validated," or is it somewhere inbetween? Since my firewall will continue to block pocomail's phone home attempt, how long is this phone home attempt cycle going to continue?


It is somewhere in between. I cannot tell you more than that as it will help those who try to circumvent it. Maybe we can help you by seeing why activation is a problem for you and how we can resolve it? As I said above, we already have the information that activation would verify with our server so there is no disclosure beyond what you already disclosed to us.

3. Does all of this mean that, three (or whatever) years from now when Pocomail is no longer in business, my current machine is destined for the trash, and I'm installing this version of Pocomail on my replacement machine, that I will invariably get the same nonsense, which, at that time may be unstopable, because there is no pocomail to respond?


Definitely not, that's a common misconception about software activation - with some vendors that may be the case, with us it is not.

4. If this is, as it seems, an "activation" scheme of the Windows XP variety, why was I not warned of it at purchase time. Even Microsoft is honest enough to warn users about activation. "Activation" schemes invariably prematurely terminate the life of software, if for no other reason than the fact that businesses die, and activation of installs on replacement machines then becomes inpossible. Software with an expiration mechanism of this kind is of, if not NO value, at least less value, and I should be warned of such a possible expiration mechanism before I purchase. Why was I not so notified?


Our activation is a completely different beast from Windows XP activation. We do not hide it, you were warned by the software before it happened, after all. But we took great care in engineering it so that none of the issues you brought up in your last question are a problem. I'd love to share all the details but for obvious reasons we cannot - but rest assured, if there were even hints of problems with activations you would see a lot more posts on this forum about it and people being affected by it during their interaction with our software.
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Postby alfredthegreat » Fri Mar 09, 2007 7:02 am

Since when can't a program simply inspect a license code to see if it is valid? Why the "phone home"?

Because the program can't know if you've purchased that code or simply been "lent" it by someone else. The money that people pay for the software is the income for the developers - it's not like they do this for fun and they have a right to protect what is after all their property.

Which aspect of the "phone home" policy is it exactly that you have a problem with?
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Postby wallybass » Sun Mar 11, 2007 4:35 am

It looks like I have three messages to respond to. This is getting rather long, and both Eric's and Slaven's answers seem deliberately evasive, so I have pretty much already concluded that this exchange is a waste of my time. So, I will only touch on major points.

Let me start with Alfred's (alfredthegreat's) message:
(wallybass): ... Why the "phone home"?

(Alfred): Because the program can't know if you've purchased that code or simply been "lent" it by someone else.

Alfred, if PocoMail's license statement is truthful, the "phone home" doesn't solve the problem for PocoMail that you suggest it does. Even with "phone home," nothing prevents, say, Joe from "lending" his registration code to his friend Fred. Of course, Fred also has to "lend" his "identifying information" (e.g., name, address, and whatever else is requested when one "registers" the program) to Fred for purposes of the registration.

Recall (or observe, if you haven't already) that the PocoMail 4.1 license says that Joe can legitimately install PocoMail on multiple machines, so long as he is the only user of the program. So, as long as Fred uses Joe's registration name, address, and such, in addition to using Fred's registration code, PocoMail has no way of knowing that Fred's machine is anything other than Joe's 2nd (or 3rd or 4th or ...) machine, as long as Fred enters Joe's identifying information as he enters the registration code for the product.

Also, note that it is an easy matter to tie (via computation and hashing/encryption algorithms) a registration code to a purchaser's name, address, and such, at the time of an on-line purchase, without introducing a phone home requirement. Almost all software that I have purchased on-line does so. So, "phone home" serves no purpose in terms of tying a registration code to specific user identification information.

So, you have not yet shown me where anything at all is accomplished by PocoMail's "phone home" mechanism, in terms of preventing the "lending" of registration codes, unless restrictions exist which are contrary to what is stated by the PocoMail license agreement.
(Alfred): The money that people pay for the software is the income for the developers - it's not like they do this for fun and they have a right to protect what is after all their property.

Although I sympathize with your sentiment (I am also a software developer, among other reasons), it seems to me that the developer's first obligation is to give his paying customers what they have bargained and paid for. There can be no excuse for intentionally doing otherwise.

There are perhaps conflicting goals here, but those conflicts don't make it all right for the developer to give paying customers less than they have been promised. And, I submit, that is what has happened here (see the discussion associated with your next question).
(Alfred): Which aspect of the "phone home" policy is it exactly that you have a problem with?

My direct requirement is that I do not want to have a dependency on PocoMail (the company) even being in existence 5 years from now, when I am, say, reinstalling PocoMail on the system that replaces the one that I have now. This is particularly important for a program like PocoMail, which eventually will be in charge of a good deal of my data (emails) and where I am dependent on PocoMail for access to that data. (The value of that data to me dwarfs the cost of PocoMail, and continued accessibility to that data is near the top of my priority list.)

When a registration process does NOT involve a "phone home," I have every reason to believe that the process can be repeated on my next machine, five years from now. When it involves a "phone home" (and fails when the phone home fails, as was my experience here), I have every reason to believe that the process won't be repeatable in 5 years, on my next machine, in the event that PocoMail no longer exists at that time (so as to be able to "answer the phone" when the registration process "phones home"). (The "no longer exists" phrase above should really includes a bunch of other possibilities which could cause a future phone-home to fail -- PocoMail could be under different management at that time, company policies could change, etc. You don't have to look very far to conclude that SW companies rarely worry about people with 5 year old versions of their products. PocoMail itself, for example, doesn't even provide continued download availability for 2 year old versions of PocoMail for people with 3.x licenses, who have somehow lost their 3.x executable. That, in itself, is a much worse record than many other companies.)

You may be incapable of thinking or planning a few years ahead, but I have gone though these experiences far more than once. I am, in fact, drafting this response using a program (XyWrite 3+) with a 7/9/91 .EXE file date. I still find this to be my favorite program for writing, and I am able to (and do) continue using it more than 10 years after the company that produced it went out of business.

I bought various other programs in that same ('85 to '95) period that were encumbered with various forms of "copy protection," and without exception, those programs have ceased to be usable because the various "copy protection" mechanisms involved eventually were no longer supported for some reason. Failure of the company has occurred for most of those products (and is generally a pretty frequent event on the software landscape).

So, by direct experience, I consider programs which use "copy protection" to have much less value than those that do not. Virtually every form of "copy protection" which has been produced to date does, in fact, introduce some mechanism that guarantees eventual failure of the software, as time passes and "things change."

Whether or not there is such a dependency on PocoMail's (the company) continued existence in the case of PocoMail 4.1 isn't 100% clear, since Eric and Slaven don't seem to want to give straight answers as to what PocoMail's "phone home" mechanism actually does. But, Eric says flatly that under such circumstances, PocoMail 4.1 at that time will remain "unregistered" "until [I] allow it to connect" to the PocoMail activation server (which of course I cannot do if PocoMail no longer exists at the time). Slaven denies that ("definitely not, that's a common misconception about software activation - with some vendors that may be the case, with us it is not"), but what he says is totally non-specific, amounts to no more than "arm waving," and he presents no believable hypothesis as to what PocoMail's "phone home" "activation" could possibly accomplish that would reduce "piracy," unless PocoMail's phone-home activation failures do indeed render the product mostly useless.

Because "activation" normally results in a product that, at a minimum, can no longer be reinstalled if the vendor goes out of business, I consider products that use activation to be of much less value (virtually no value, in fact) than ones that don't. Since value is reduced by adding activation, and the vendors fully understand that, I consider it dishonest for vendors not to disclose that activation is being used BEFORE a customer pays for a product.

Do you contend or have some coherent argument to the contrary?
============
Now, let me respond to Eric:
(Eric): "AFAIK there's no expiration, only that you're allowed to install it on two computers. This is what's being verified, nothing else, I guess."

Firstly, I don't understand your status as a responder here. It says you're a "moderator." Do you in some way "represent" PocoMail, or do you not? Endless "AFAIK" and "I guess" disclaimers certainly (they seem to pop up frequently in other posts by you as well) doesn't give me the impression of a representative who is responsibly representing a responsible company. Are you supposed to be such a representative?

Secondly, "install on two computers" is not what the drop down license that comes with the product says. Specifically the license says:
(from the license): PocoMail may either be used by a single person who uses the software personally on one or more computers, or installed on a single workstation used non-simultaneously by multiple people, but not both.

Neither the number of machines, in the first provision, nor the number of users, in the second provision, is limited to two, as you suggest. What, precisely, is this "two computers" allowance that you refer to?

As it turns out, I have no need or desire to install PocoMail on more than one machine *AT A TIME*, or to use it for more than one person. But I do reorganize my computer setups from time to time, and, if past experience is any indicator, I would expect that I will use it on at least a half dozen machines over the course of time (but never installed on two, much less used on two, machines at the same time).

Since, according to you, PocoMail phones home only once (per installation), PocoMail's activation server can not detect my uninstalls, and hence my six (or whatever) eventual installs will "look like" six concurrent (still active) installs to PocoMail's "activation" mechanism. So, your post has only introduced a further concern that the activation mechanism is likely to start whining at me in some way on the third of the eventual installs that I would be likely to do if I stuck with this product.

Is there some reason for me to feel otherwise? Do my anticipated six eventual installs violate the "two machine" limit that you speak of?
============
Now, let me respond to Slaven:

Firstly, Slaven, please read all of my response. Many of my points were made in the portion of this response which responded to Alfred.
(wallybass, original point 4): If this is, as it seems, an "activation" scheme of the Windows XP variety, why was I not warned of it at purchase time. ...

(Slaven): Our activation is a completely different beast from Windows XP activation. We do not hide it, you were warned by the software before it happened, after all.

That seems to me to just be an incredibly silly and non-responsive statement. The issue isn't whether I was warned "before it happened," it is whether I was warned before I paid my money. And, I wasn't.
But we took great care in engineering it so that none of the issues you brought up in your last question are a problem. I'd love to share all the details but for obvious reasons we cannot - but rest assured, if there were even hints of problems with activations you would see a lot more posts on this forum about it and people being affected by it during their interaction with our software.

Why should I "rest assured"? The reasons that you cannot "share" are most certaily not "obvious" -- if your implication is that you are achieving some sort of "security through obscurity," I can assure you that "security thought obscurity" has invariably been shown to be extremely bad practice. All you've done is to be evasive.

And, I think, you really aren't listening. The primary area in which I have expressed concern is the somewhat distant future, when the product containing activation is no longer actively supported for whatever reason (whether it be because PocoMail dies, or some other reason). Of course I haven't seen "a lot more posts" -- the situation that I am concerned about is the future situation which HASN'T OCCURRED YET because we are still in the front end and active part of the PocoMail 4.x development and sales cycle. (PocoMail 3.x exhibited no such "phone home" behavior, according to my firewall, so PocoMail 3.x's "end of life" cannot be used to provide evidence as to a lack of the problem that I'm speaking of.)

I don't know whether it is entirely deliberate, but, with a little thought, it should be pretty obvious to you that you that you folks are in fact being very non-responsive to the concerns that I raised.

Finally, because this product has an intentional failure mechanism (failure to activate after the PocoMail company disappears or withdraws support) that was not disclosed to me before purchase, I think I would really rather return the product, get my money back, and go elsewhere. Can you explain to me how I can accomplish that?

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Postby Tomas » Sun Mar 11, 2007 7:26 am

Hi Wally, from how I know Slaven and James from the forums, current licensing model wasn't a light decision, but one made after long thinking. Poco Systems takes all user feedback seriously, but you just can't suppose someone to change their core business strategy (and result of years of experience, and months of decisionmaking) because of one post on the forum from a user who doesn't know the specifics of it's implementation (which to me is the presupposition behind your words "you are not listening", instead more appropriate would have been "you don't want to do it my way").

Now I of course understand your worries. Just very shortly, I have almost ceased using certain software just because developers wanted to move to very aggressive licensing strategy (they changed their minds later on).

To me PocoSystems licensing scheme is very acceptable for end users.

If you don't share that opinion, and despite the arguments given by Slaven you still think that it prevents you using the product, just contact support http://www.pocosystems.com/support/
I'm sure your case will be handled to your satisfaction.
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Postby alfredthegreat » Sun Mar 11, 2007 7:41 am

WallyBass - you make your point very well and I have nothing to add except to look at this thread. For me, PocoMail activation is not a problem. You take a different view as is your right.

I can't add anything else, I'm simply a satisfied user of PocoMail. Eric is much the same, he is a moderator on the forums but not an employee of PocoSystems so cannot speak for the company.

I wish you well with whatever you end up with.
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Postby alfredthegreat » Sun Mar 11, 2007 7:55 am

wallybass wrote:Although I sympathize with your sentiment (I am also a software developer, among other reasons)

So what do you develop?
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Postby Eric » Sun Mar 11, 2007 8:16 am

wallybass wrote:It looks like I have three messages to respond to. This is getting rather long, and both Eric's and Slaven's answers seem deliberately evasive, so I have pretty much already concluded that this exchange is a waste of my time. So, I will only touch on major points.
I'm not being evasive, just stating the fact I know of. Slaven already responded that he can't get into much detail about it and I for sure don't know how it works.
It's also not my business to know about it. :)
Almost all software that I have purchased on-line does so. So, "phone home" serves no purpose in terms of tying a registration code to specific user identification information.
Sorry to contradict you, but there's a lot of software which uses this principle to verify your license.
Even Paint Shop Pro needs an online activation, same for SUPERAntispyware for example.
Like I said, all use different methods to protect their software.
So, by direct experience, I consider programs which use "copy protection" to have much less value than those that do not. Virtually every form of "copy protection" which has been produced to date does, in fact, introduce some mechanism that guarantees eventual failure of the software, as time passes and "things change."
A developer has the right to protect his software. A lot of cracks exist, so each developer uses its own technique to protect it. Look at MS with its WGA and all the trouble it did bring to its users who bought a machine with a copied OS. :?
But, Eric says flatly that under such circumstances, PocoMail 4.1 at that time will remain "unregistered" "until [I] allow it to connect" to the PocoMail activation server (which of course I cannot do if PocoMail no longer exists at the time).
That's only my guess, there we go again :lol:.
I'm not from PSI, I'm only a moderator doing this voluntarily.
I do have close connections with PSI, but I'm not part of it.

Firstly, I don't understand your status as a responder here. It says you're a "moderator." Do you in some way "represent" PocoMail, or do you not? Endless "AFAIK" and "I guess" disclaimers certainly (they seem to pop up frequently in other posts by you as well) doesn't give me the impression of a representative who is responsibly representing a responsible company. Are you supposed to be such a representative?
No, as stated above I'm not PSI's representative. I don't speak for them, but I like their software a lot.
I do defend PSI, when what's been written down is untrue or false information.

Let's not forget that English isn't my language, so I do make mistakes in expressing myself. Also I use AFAIK and I guess sometimes, because I'm really not sure about it. Just speculation on my part.
Neither the number of machines, in the first provision, nor the number of users, in the second provision, is limited to two, as you suggest. What, precisely, is this "two computers" allowance that you refer to?
As I know, you may install Poco on your PC and your laptop for example.
I don't understand the license, the way you do. That's also not my job to examine that license.
Since, according to you, PocoMail phones home only once (per installation), PocoMail's activation server can not detect my uninstalls, and hence my six (or whatever) eventual installs will "look like" six concurrent (still active) installs to PocoMail's "activation" mechanism. So, your post has only introduced a further concern that the activation mechanism is likely to start whining at me in some way on the third of the eventual installs that I would be likely to do if I stuck with this product.
I think you're being much too paranoid to think it will cause you trouble by simply allowing that connection.
I would understand if it was some unknown program, but not Poco.

As far as the registration goes, I don't have a clue how it works. Nor will PSI let you know about it, because Slaven already explained why he can't. :?

For the rest, Wally, I can't put too much time in responding to such requests. There are more urgent matters then simply responding to these posts.

If you like Poco, you allow the connection.
If you've problems with activation, then drop a note to Support.

That's all. :wink:
Eric
 

Postby Slaven » Mon Mar 12, 2007 9:24 am

Wallybass, it seems you didn't really read my response (or if you did you did not believe it). You keep referring to PocoMail not working 5 years from now if we go out of business: the fact is that PocoMail WILL</super_extreme_emphasis> work indefinitely, with or without our servers responding to its requests. Security through obscurity? You betcha (says Slaven, arms waving madly)! We try to secure it any way we can, as long as it doesn't affect our customer. And the truth is it doesn't - as I mentioned before, any information PocoMail shares with us was already shared by you when you purchased PocoMail. So I really don't see a problem:

a) PocoMail will keep working indefinitely, with our without Poco Systems.

b) We don't send any information that you didn't already volunteer to us.

Is there a functional or privacy-related problem that maybe I'm missing?

I sympathize with your cause, and I was with you circa 1999 but the world has changed and an independent commercial application like PocoMail simply cannot afford to not have activation.
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Postby tribble » Mon Mar 12, 2007 3:20 pm

Wallybase, one thing from me after an interesting read; I have installed Poco on two different machines 7 times. The same copy, same version, just had reason to reinstall. All 7 times, no problem.

Even if there were some facts behind the conspiracy concerns, Poco will run fine without a legitimate license. I wouldn't have noticed except for the www.pocosystems.com URL it stuck in every email I sent, turns out I simply entered the code wrong... But it never stopped working.

I respect the fact that you don't care for software registration, I loathe it. But on the other side of the coin (the side where I also work), we need to have a means to protect our intellectual property. Poco/Barca is hardly intrusive and provides at least a modest protection of those rights.

I've been playing with pocosystems products for a number of years; been a member of the forums and beta tests; exchanged a number of private messages with two of the front faces of PSI, Jim and Slaven, and have found them to be VERY customer oriented. It may be asking you to set aside experience, but I think you're safe here. For now. Until the next beta release. It's evil. :twisted:
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Postby Slaven » Mon Mar 12, 2007 4:47 pm

tribble wrote:Until the next beta release. It's evil. :twisted:


If you're referring to the embedded trojan, it's only evil after midnight! :)
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followup

Postby wallybass » Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:24 pm

Well, there are too many posts to respond to in detail. I'll try to indicate where I am, and then let the matter drop.

Responding to Slaven's Mar 12, 2007 9:24 am post:
... it seems you didn't really read my response (or if you did you did not believe it).

I read it, and I did not believe it at the time. But I do believe it at this point. Obscurity does perhaps have it's virtues. I think I now understand your approach. It isn't what one expects.

I've changed my opinion for a number of reasons. Firstly, I've looked a little at what actually happens. Secondly, the many happy customers defending your company and its attitude in these fora makes a big difference. And, thirdly, I have noted some things like your "many machines if only one user" provision in your license agreement, which I consider to be a very thoughtful and customer-aware provision, which I very much appreciate, and which I think reflects very well on your company's respect for the customer. (Most licenses, these days, seem to be little more than sock-it-to-the-customer exercises. I've experienced thoughtful and fair licenses agreements like yours only few times before -- early Borland, Quaid Software in Toronto, and one other company -- but they are rare, and I don't know that I've seen another one since about 1995. Some of us really do notice such things.)

I still think that you should probably be more up front (before purchase) about the fact that a phone-home is going to occur. Had I known that, I probably would not have purchased the upgrade, but my take is that most of the other folks here and most purchasers in general aren't (yet) all that negative about activation, and still would have purchased. So I don't think that the up front disclosure would hurt you all that much. And, I think honesty demands it.

A phone-home "surprise" (i.e., not disclosed before PURCHASE) has occurred to me several times with other products, and the schemes involved are generally not anywhere near as customer friendly as your scheme. Based on experience, I think that such a surprise activity is going to trigger pretty strong reactions in a substantial number of folks like myself, who are paying attention to this issue, because they will assume the worst (because most phone-home activities really do represent the worst).

I can assure you that in most of the other cases where this has happened to me, the software would for sure die when the company goes defunct, and, in many cases, far earlier than that (e.g., with my "next" machine, or even sooner, with the next juggling and software rebuild/reinstall of the machines I already have). In most cases where a phone home occurred, I've just written off the purchase, uninstalled the software immediately, made a mental note to never do business with the vendor again, and, on any occasion where the topic arises, advised everyone I know not to do business with the folks involved. Even though that is NOT going to happen in PocoMail's case, I think you should understand that such reactions are a risk of any activation-like scheme.
Is there a functional or privacy-related problem that maybe I'm missing?

No
I sympathize with your cause, and I was with you circa 1999 but the world has changed and an independent commercial application like PocoMail simply cannot afford to not have activation.

Okay. I can feel your pain, also, I think. The main point I would make is that one can easily make the error of thinking that an illegal copy of a program translates into a lost sale, and I think that is actually false much more often than it is true -- the would-be copier merely does without in most cases, IMO. I've run across quite a number of people who "pirate" nearly everything that they can, feeling that "they got away with something," and then they never end up using any of if. For folks like these, blocking the illegal copying has virtually no effect on sales. So, in terms of what activation is actually buying for you, I would guess that my belief system would estimate far less real gain that you are estimating. (OTOH, my belief system is based on experiences in the US, and maybe it would change if I understood and considered the world stage carefully.)

In the final analysis, I think it is extremely important not to damage the experience of the paying customer merely to thwart a bunch of people who aren't going to pay for the program in ANY case. IMO, harassing the paying customer is very much what Microsoft is doing now, with WGA in XP, WGA-on-steroids in Vista, and with new policies like deactivating XP keys for XP installs used in Vista upgrades. I would advise you to be VERY, VERY careful to make sure that your company cannot be construed as being in the Microsoft activation camp, because I think it is likely that there will be a substantial backlash resulting from MS's current approach. A lot of people are really getting pretty angry about Microsoft's behavior -- Vista is already banned, for example, at the US Department of Transportation, the US Federal Aviation Administration, and now at the US Department of Standards/Department of Commerce, and people are (finally) starting to question the ever-ongoing software update merry-go-round now that many software packages have matured about as much as their going to. I don't think the "activation" story is over by a long shot, and companies that are not careful in differentiating whatever they are doing from what MS is doing could end up with a pretty serious black eye.

But, you have convinced me that you haven't damaged and aren't damaging the experience of the paying customer in the case of PocoMail, except for the initial reaction problem of some folks like me. I'm installing Poco, I will be depending on it, and I'm hoping for not too many more surprises.

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Postby Tomas » Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:41 pm

Hi Wally, glad to hear you decided to continue using Pocomail.
I agree with you that it probably shall have been stated that online activation is necessary - "phoning home" is nowadays a sensitive issue.

About the crackers, it's true that many are people that would never have ended buying the product anyway. Still, there are many people who try search for the crack, but end up buying if they can't find one. Or who ask their friend for their registration code, which is one of the situations current registration scheme fights relatively well.

I know how that works - I had a (charitable=all income to charity) software out there, extremely cheap, but still I found the reg code was publically displayed on semi-official pages of big US university, for all students to copy and use. If Pocomail had similar registration scheme (btw. it had, back in the time), it would end up the same.

And coincidentally I was thinking about purchasing some software today. They have online activation, their code will only work on 1 PC, and is hardware-bound, so if I change configuration substantially, I would have to reactivate.
Pocomail products are rather generous in that respect (as you already noted).

Most people don't read software licenses, so it's a question often brought up to the helpdesk, and the clients are usually very happy when I tell them they don't have to purchase new license for their second PC.
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Postby Slaven » Thu Mar 15, 2007 5:23 am

Thanks Wally for your thoughtful comments! I do agree with you that piracy doesn't necessarily translate into lost sales, our goal was to stop the type of piracy that Tomas mentioned (i.e. searching for a license code online would be all it took to pirate). When the only option is to search and download an EXE crack most people will remain honest and buy the software if they need it, rather than risk running unknown software from who-knows-where. :)

*) For this reason PocoMail doesn't use any advanced anti-cracking tools as they tend to impact software performance, memory footprint, etc.
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