Software licensing and forged upgrades

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Software licensing and forged upgrades

Investigator: A PCTA readers discovers that the software he bought is not what the developers want him to use.

Have you been caught using a version of a favourite application and found, when you needed some technical support, that your software was no longer supported or that you were pushed into an upgrade?

One of our readers, David, hit some of these issues recently. David is a retired specialist adult educator who still works with people who have acquired or congenital brain injury. He gives his programs to clients for free.

Installing an old version

David purchased a programming language called LiveCode some time. After some initial issues, he settled on version 5.5.5 which overcame the bugs he found in the original version he purchased.

When version 6 was introduced, he installed a trial version but as he didn’t need the new features he removed it only to find his version 5.5.5 installation had vanished. After some effort, the LiveCode developers provided him with a password that would allow him to reinstall the version he had already purchased. 

A few months Later, David’s hard drive failed and he needed to reinstall LiveCode but the password he had would not work. He emailed them and asked them for a new one explaining that he did not need the more recent version. Instead they sent him an email charging $500.00 for the latest version and offering to make it a lifelong offer. The full price for LiveCode which is now at version 9, to independent developers, is US$999 per year.

Requests to simply be allowed to install version 5.5.5 were ignored. However, versions going back as far as 4.5, through to developer previews of version 9 are available from LiveCode’s website. What makes this even more annoying is that since version 6, LiveCode is also available as free and open source software. So, an upgrade could be free and not require any payment for David as he gives his software away for free.

It would have been nice if LiveCode’s support people had made David aware of this option.
With critical applications, my advice is to make sure you have a robust backup and recovery process in place. In my view, that means taking system images at regular intervals so you can reinstate an entire system quickly or, in some cases, work from a bootable external drive.

My suspicion is a block-level image of the original hard drive, restored to the new disk when it was installed, would have overcome the poor service given by LiveCode’s support.

But that’s of little consolation to David.

It gets worse…

When David installed version 5.5.5 he had it on both his main computer and a laptop. Fortunately, he still had a working installation to fall back on. Or so he thought. “Some years ago, I gave them permission to enter my computer to help me set up a training course they were running. When I finished it I thought that they were now blocked out. So, I resorted to my laptop and the version there. It had worked well for years but now I found that programmes I had written and got working well, would no longer work,” said David. 

He says LiveCode’s developers have destroyed some of his work. He even saw some this happen before his eyes as variables were blocked and other features he’d developed changed right in front of him.

My advice regarding backups stands and I’d be very wary of granting anyone access to my computer remotely.

We all become attached to specific versions of software or applications. “Progress” marches on and developers cajole or thrust us onwards to newer versions so they aren’t caught supported legacy software.

The good news is virtualisation software is relatively inexpensive these days so it’s possible to create a virtual machine to run a specific program. Virtual machines can also be transferred from computer to computer easily so hardware upgrades can be less painful.

David’s closing words: “My advice to businesses, individuals, schools and universities is don’t have anything to do with LiveCode. I’m now looking around for another language to use”.

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