The Biggest Boon-Dongle in the World

« Return to Article
  • IMadeUAngry 2013-01-31 08:10
    This comment has no value but "dongle" is a funny word.
  • toon 2013-01-31 08:11
    Another good one, snoofle. Of course, this sort of thing is why product manuals are often freely available for download these days.
  • Swedish tard 2013-01-31 08:15
    At first, my reaction was "oh really, that's telco?!" ... Then it said 1990, and that first paragraph suddenly could be true, because it was in no way the state of affairs in telco when I worked in it. Then every telco company in existance were dragging it's feet ~5 years after IT had done something coolsome or useful...
    Telco might have been decent in 1990, I cant really tell, but they havent been this millenia at least. It's a cesspool of managers fighting some fucked up potitical game over who gets the last crumbs before IT steals Telcos cake.
  • Former Avaya User 2013-01-31 08:28
    This is a easy one... Avaya IPOffice,

    I inherited one of these, and I was shocked by the dongle to unlock features... like $1500 for a extra voicemail channel license running on an XP box for Voicemail Pro. (Too many callers at once and they couldn't get IVR, and people would get fast busy at VM boxes.

    Despite the "IP" in the name, the phones were digital, so $1000s of worthless cat3 wiring.

    As I understood it, Avaya got the technology from eastern Europe. My favorite was Compact Call Center (CCC), the call reporting software that required a mixture of IIS, prayer, and an unpatched Win 2000.

    They were trying to compete with Asterisk, which could run circles around them. (Avaya quoted $15,000 for confirmation calls, something done for free with a PHP script querying SQL and Cepstral Text to Speech for $500.)

    My condolences to anyone who worked on that POS.
  • erfin durfin 2013-01-31 08:42
    I used to work for a company that made software for Telcos (think big phone switches, voicemail systems, etc). We received an RFQ on a sort of "omnibus bid" to consolidate a whole crapload of servers from a corporate acquisition to VMware. The telco in question gave us a spreadsheet full of one-line descriptions of the applications, which ranged in size from "CVS and FTP services" to "multi million line Java application which sets billing rates for various service regions". They also gave us a spreadsheet identifying the servers to be migrated and their current OS level - many of them are not supported by VMware, but meh, whatevs.

    The punchline to this story is that when we asked which applications were on which servers, we were told that information wasn't necessary to complete the bid.
  • Steve The Cynic 2013-01-31 09:12
    Dongles. Bah.

    There are two principal problems with dongles. First, they, like all solid-state digital electronics, are prone to assorted warning-free failure modes. When the dongle dies, you lose access to the software.

    Second, they are prone to accidental (or deliberate) disconnection, at which point you are stuffed, especially if it gets accidentally knocked into a bin and taken away by the cleaners. Dead dongles can usually be exchanged (leaving you without service for a period) without having to buy a new license. Stolen / accidentally thrown away dongles do not offer this flexibility.

    As Duncan says, from a simple "can we run it" point of view, the PBX ("Private Branch Exchange") could act as a dongle, but only if the PBX cannot be used at all without the software. If the PBX is capable of completely autonomous normal operation, then the (optional) software, if it is to be a chargeable option, cannot use the "PBX-as-dongle" option.[1]

    "Former Avaya User" correctly points out the other flaw in the PBX-as-dongle plan: optional software modules. If the software is license-controlled by the dongle, then you can switch modules on or off by manipulation of the dongle. You either swap out the dongle for a more permissive one or you use the method used at the end of the 1980s by USData's FactoryLink SCADA package (well, it belonged to USData at that time). Their dongle had sockets in the side where you could connect sub-dongles containing additional permissions.

    [1] Of course it can use the PBX as a dongle. The permissions to use the software (and which modules to enable if they are separately chargeable) can be stored in the PBX somewhere. Modifying the permissions can be done in various ways with various resistance to hacking. A PBX with access to the Internet can even phone home to verify its permissions. (Access *from* the Internet is not a good idea, unless the PBX also handles incoming VoIP calls.)
  • Cyclops 2013-01-31 09:28
    <grammarnazi>
    snoofle, good story, but I detest the phrase "so as to". It is clumsy and means nothing:
    "so as to be best equipped" = "to be best equipped"
    "so as to make it harder" = "to make it harder"
    </grammarnazi>

    And now, having demonstrated my superior grammar skills, I am harder.
  • Roby McAndrew 2013-01-31 09:34
    I have had exactly this conversation at least twice. "This software controls a multi-thousand pound instrument; exactly what does someone get if they copy it?" Once I won.
  • caffiend 2013-01-31 09:41
    Our company (also a hardware manufacturer, who's software is totally useless without the hardware) has similar executive level paranoia of software piracy.

    I've done my fair share of pointless copy-prevention coding, working with dongles, their goofy APIs and buggy drivers, all produced by fear-mongering outfits who serve to perpetuate the myth that enterprise software is actually subject to piracy.

    I just can't see how any organization large enough to own a PBX would even consider piracy of the management software (even to get some licensed feature). It involves running untrusted software (cracks), attracts legal risks and disqualifies you for support.

    In my company's case, our products are freaking complicated, and generally require assistance to correctly configure. If someone can actually figure out how to install our product without support, whilst also circumventing the copy-protection, and they've bought the correct assortment of equipment. Then power to them. They've just spent hundreds of man-hours avoiding the purchase of a license that costs a few thousand dollars.
  • WhiskeyJack 2013-01-31 09:46
    I've read that this is one of the reasons why Mac OS X software was sold relatively inexpensively and without any copy protection, serial numbers, etc. Apart from hackintoshes, you pretty much needed to have purchased a Mac if you were going to make use of the software.
  • DaveK 2013-01-31 10:01
    snoofle:
    private telephone exchange (DBX)
    Don't you mean PABX here, if you're using it in the generic sense? Or are you specifically referring to the Stromberg-Carlson product that goes by those initials?

  • Anon 2013-01-31 10:15
    Dog and Bone Corporation


    I see what you did there my ol' china ;)
  • snoofle 2013-01-31 10:15
    DaveK:
    snoofle:
    private telephone exchange (DBX)
    Don't you mean PABX here, if you're using it in the generic sense? Or are you specifically referring to the Stromberg-Carlson product that goes by those initials?

    I was quoting the submission verbatim there.
  • Anon 2013-01-31 10:18
    Cyclops:
    <grammarnazi>
    snoofle, good story, but I detest the phrase "so as to". It is clumsy and means nothing:
    "so as to be best equipped" = "to be best equipped"
    "so as to make it harder" = "to make it harder"
    </grammarnazi>

    And now, having demonstrated my superior grammar skills, I am harder.


    You commented so as to be harder?
  • Adrian 2013-01-31 10:21
    I'll try it another way. What use is our cutting edge Java B2B software without the hardware to run it on?

    The answer from management was the software is worth nothing so lets give it away. That so did not work.
  • Chelloveck 2013-01-31 10:26
    I don't know why having the dongle-present check as a macro instead of a function would slow any pirate down at all. It's almost, but not quite, as effective as the FBI anti-piracy warnings at the beginning of a DVD.

    I once worked at a company which made printers. We had two models which were 100% identical hardware except for (1) the color of the case, and (2) the print head itself. We sold the low-end model nearly at-cost. The high-end model had a slightly better print head but a *much* better profit margin. The marketroids were afraid the difference in print quality alone wouldn't be enough of an incentive to buy the higher model, so they wanted us to artificially cripple the cheap one in software. We ended up using the print head itself as a dongle. Got the cheap one? Then we program the DRAM controller to add a few unnecessary wait states into every memory access. Bingo! Instant 30% speed reduction across the board! (We didn't care if someone wanted to buy the cheap printer and swap in an expensive head; the margin was even better on replacement heads.)

    To this day I get cold sweats when I hear a marketeer talk about needing more "product differentiation" in the line.

  • OzPeter 2013-01-31 10:30
    Steve The Cynic:
    There are two principal problems with dongles. First, they, like all solid-state digital electronics, are prone to assorted warning-free failure modes. When the dongle dies, you lose access to the software.


    In the late 80's I worked for a university that used some PCB routing software that was protected by a dongle. They discovered that the software sent out a challenge string of (random) numbers to the dongle and the dongle responded with a single number response - which was the same result every time. They then went on to build their own dongles that ignored the challenge and just returned a hardcoded number.

    Steve The Cynic:
    ... You either swap out the dongle for a more permissive one or you use the method used at the end of the 1980s by USData's FactoryLink SCADA package (well, it belonged to USData at that time). Their dongle had sockets in the side where you could connect sub-dongles containing additional permissions.
    I had totally forgotten that I also worked on Factory Link projects until you mentioned it. Perhaps I need to add it to the skills list in my resume???
  • peppermoe 2013-01-31 10:34
    I started just as they phased out a USB dongle. Can't count the number of times that thing was sticking out the front of our VMP server and I bumped it. We wound up finding the USB headers on the MB and zip-tied the dongle inside the case.
  • ConC 2013-01-31 10:39
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC
  • Anon 2013-01-31 10:44
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Damn Nazi Nazis.
  • Anon 2013-01-31 10:46
    peppermoe:
    I started just as they phased out a USB dongle. Can't count the number of times that thing was sticking out the front of our VMP server and I bumped it. We wound up finding the USB headers on the MB and zip-tied the dongle inside the case.


    That's a creative solution. I've wondered why nobody has built some kind of locking USB port attachment to prevent accidental disconnections. I know the USB spec is supposed to allow hot swaps, but in practice, there is a lot of hardware and software that will throw a wobbly if you suddenly disconnect them.
  • Mr X 2013-01-31 11:02
    I once had some software that was tied to the computer's MAC address - you had to register the address with the vendor to get a license file. Total pain, as we wanted to move the license around several PCs depending on who needed the software that day.

    We opted for an easier option - USB network adapters (20 bucks each), registered those, then used them as dongles. License conformance with much lower headaches.
  • Valued Service 2013-01-31 11:33
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Yes, it's time we update it.

    grammarhamas

  • Efpophis 2013-01-31 11:34

    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Y'all ain't from 'round here, are ya?
  • Steve The Cynic 2013-01-31 11:44
    ConC:
    Thank you for reading.

    People who use this phrase at the end of self-righteous whining make me want to get the GAU-8 out of my back pocket.
  • ssewk2x 2013-01-31 11:45

    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    I dunno, I find it somewhat fitting that their party's name has been relegated to being nothing more than a by-word for "irritating, anal-retentive douche."
  • Cloy McTrure 2013-01-31 11:50
    Anon:
    Cyclops:
    <grammarnazi>
    snoofle, good story, but I detest the phrase "so as to". It is clumsy and means nothing:
    "so as to be best equipped" = "to be best equipped"
    "so as to make it harder" = "to make it harder"
    </grammarnazi>

    And now, having demonstrated my superior grammar skills, I am harder.


    You commented so as to be harder?


    I think he means his dongle got a little harder from the excitements of anonymously exercised pedantry.
  • DaveK 2013-01-31 12:06
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


  • emurphy 2013-01-31 12:06
    But where are the SSDS comments?
  • herby 2013-01-31 12:28
    Ah, PBX's and telco stuff. Brings back memories of the early 80's. I worked for a company that made answering service (remember those?) computers. Before US, the standard practice was to write down messages on slips of paper, and use a timestamp to mark them. Then file said slips with paperclip to the "info card" in a cubbyhole. Our equipment took the messages on a terminal and stored them on a disk. Wow! computers! The problem was that the droids the answering services hired were just barely minimum wage people, and could barely type (keyboard?). We had to convince the owners that it was possible to take messages on a keyboard. It wasn't easy. It was an interesting time, and I got 8 bit micros to do lots of things in the day, but in the end, the sales people had a hard time getting answering service people to buy in to the concept. Found out a bunch on how to (not) run businesses with that company, being one its first employees, and one of its (chapter 7!) last. Let the good times roll!
  • Calli Arcale 2013-01-31 12:53
    Anon:
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Damn Nazi Nazis.


    This may be the most unusual Godwinning of a thread that I have ever seen.
  • Calli Arcale 2013-01-31 12:57
    caffiend:
    Our company (also a hardware manufacturer, who's software is totally useless without the hardware) has similar executive level paranoia of software piracy.


    While I'm not a big fan of dongles (I'm not convinced they really offer any greater security, and they are a royal nuisance to deal with, compromising the value of the product they secure), I don't think that at the enterprise level they're really worried primarily about customers ripping them off. Avaya, for instance, may be less concerned about theft by customers than theft by rival PBX providers, who might modify and obfuscate the product and then sell it to customers for a lower price.

    Which, of course, still could be done in a dongle-protected situation; no copyright protection is absolute. But it's at least a more realistic concern. (Not that I'm saying CEO paranoia is always about realistic concerns.)
  • Ivan Godard 2013-01-31 13:01
    Longstanding practice. At Burroughs circa 1970, the difference between a B2500 and a B3500 (COBOL-oriented commercial computers) was one wire strapping the clock on the B2500.

    And around $250,000 1970 dollars.
  • foxyshadis 2013-01-31 13:26
    Calli Arcale:
    caffiend:
    Our company (also a hardware manufacturer, who's software is totally useless without the hardware) has similar executive level paranoia of software piracy.


    While I'm not a big fan of dongles (I'm not convinced they really offer any greater security, and they are a royal nuisance to deal with, compromising the value of the product they secure), I don't think that at the enterprise level they're really worried primarily about customers ripping them off. Avaya, for instance, may be less concerned about theft by customers than theft by rival PBX providers, who might modify and obfuscate the product and then sell it to customers for a lower price.

    Which, of course, still could be done in a dongle-protected situation; no copyright protection is absolute. But it's at least a more realistic concern. (Not that I'm saying CEO paranoia is always about realistic concerns.)

    Also, they're not worried about companies not paying at all, they're worried about companies not paying enough. Big enterprise software is licensed by the seat and damned if most of them don't go to any measure to record and extract blood from every turnip they can. At my old company, we got hosed because we had one piece of software installed on Citrix, and it recorded the names and IP addresses of every machine that connected to it, rather than what it ran on, despite the fact that only one person ever used it - but might be sitting in different offices on different days. They sued and won for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Similarly, big telco was probably worried that sloppy companies would go with a 1-seat instead of 5-seat license when 3 people needed access.
  • shake 2013-01-31 13:27
    Mr X:
    I once had some software that was tied to the computer's MAC address - you had to register the address with the vendor to get a license file. Total pain, as we wanted to move the license around several PCs depending on who needed the software that day.

    We opted for an easier option - USB network adapters (20 bucks each), registered those, then used them as dongles. License conformance with much lower headaches.


    I've had to use software like that - with the added bonus that when running it will only recognize the MAC of a currently connected interface. So if you register it on the eth0 MAC because you normally use a wired network, as soon as you go mobile and are using the wlan0 interface instead, you can no longer run the program. Or if you anticipate that and register it with the wifi MAC, when you go back to wired to transfer things faster over the local network, it stops working. Thanks, AGI!
  • jay 2013-01-31 13:28
    Valued Service:
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Yes, it's time we update it.

    grammarhamas



    Good point. I'm going to start using "grammar democrats". When they pass laws saying what kind of light bulb I can use and how large a cola I can order, can laws about split infinitives be far behind?
  • chubertdev 2013-01-31 13:34
    Anon:
    peppermoe:
    I started just as they phased out a USB dongle. Can't count the number of times that thing was sticking out the front of our VMP server and I bumped it. We wound up finding the USB headers on the MB and zip-tied the dongle inside the case.


    That's a creative solution. I've wondered why nobody has built some kind of locking USB port attachment to prevent accidental disconnections. I know the USB spec is supposed to allow hot swaps, but in practice, there is a lot of hardware and software that will throw a wobbly if you suddenly disconnect them.


    I'm just surprised that there aren't more options. You would think that you would definitely see more of these.
    http://www.sealevel.com/support/article/AA-00149/0/SeaLATCH-Locking-USB-Cable-Solution.html
  • jay 2013-01-31 13:42
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Also, please stop using phrases like "killing a process" and "stealing some time", as these also trivialize serious crimes. And calling an operating system "Unix" makes light of the suffering inflicted on harem guards. And referring to an unprofitable year by saying "the budget is in the red" is clearly anti-Native American slander. And the C programming language should be renamed, as that name no doubt brings up painful memories for people who failed to get A's and B's when they were in school. And as a Norwegian-American, I am deeply offended by the use of the name "Vikings" for sports teams, especially when accompanied by cartoon depictions of my ancestors that mock my heritage.
  • jay 2013-01-31 13:46
    Steve The Cynic:
    As Duncan says, from a simple "can we run it" point of view, the PBX ("Private Branch Exchange") could act as a dongle, but only if the PBX cannot be used at all without the software. If the PBX is capable of completely autonomous normal operation, then the (optional) software, if it is to be a chargeable option, cannot use the "PBX-as-dongle" option.


    Well, that's backwards. When he says that the PBX is the dongle, he doesn't mean that the PBX can't be run without the software, but that the software can't be run without the PBX.

    It's like why updated printer drivers are often available for free download from the manufacturer's web site. Sure, you could download the printer driver without ever buying the printer. So what? What are you going to do with it?
  • Anon 2013-01-31 13:52
    chubertdev:
    Anon:
    peppermoe:
    I started just as they phased out a USB dongle. Can't count the number of times that thing was sticking out the front of our VMP server and I bumped it. We wound up finding the USB headers on the MB and zip-tied the dongle inside the case.


    That's a creative solution. I've wondered why nobody has built some kind of locking USB port attachment to prevent accidental disconnections. I know the USB spec is supposed to allow hot swaps, but in practice, there is a lot of hardware and software that will throw a wobbly if you suddenly disconnect them.


    I'm just surprised that there aren't more options. You would think that you would definitely see more of these.
    http://www.sealevel.com/support/article/AA-00149/0/SeaLATCH-Locking-USB-Cable-Solution.html


    Interesting, but I was looking more for something that doesn't require you drill a hole in the case of your computer for the screw. Something that will fit a regular laptop or desktop.
  • jay 2013-01-31 14:00
    Steve The Cynic:
    ConC:
    Thank you for reading.

    People who use this phrase at the end of self-righteous whining make me want to get the GAU-8 out of my back pocket.


    I've worked on several web sites for organizations pushing some social or political issue, so we get lots of emails from people who disagree, telling us how wrong we are. That's cool, I'm all for open debate. But there have now been several occasions where I've gotten an email saying that some controversial statement we have made is false, and the writer then concludes by saying, "I'll check back in a couple of days to see if your site has been updated to correct this." Like, right, we've created an organization dedicated to advocating this particular side of a controversial, highly-debated issue. People in this organization have come to conclusions about these issues based on a lifetime of experience, and are so firmly convinced of their position that they have joined an organization dedicated to advancing this cause. And you just take it for granted that the entire organization is going to completely reverse its position because YOU wrote an email telling us we were wrong? Sure.
  • Calli Arcale 2013-01-31 14:04
    foxyshadis:
    Similarly, big telco was probably worried that sloppy companies would go with a 1-seat instead of 5-seat license when 3 people needed access.


    Yeah, that's also a big part of it. And damn, they can get nickle-and-dimey about stuff! After enjoying the luxury of floating licenses for most of the compilers I use at work, I've found myself with one that uses a dongle, one where the company only sprang for node-locked licenses, and now one where it's not just node-locked, it's also user-locked. You can only have it on PC, and only installed for just one user. Bleah.
  • Nagesh 2013-01-31 14:14
    1960

    - The company's name, which was Tata Locomotive & Engineering Company Ltd.was changed to Tata Engineering & Locomotive Company Ltd.

    What TELCO mean to us people from India.
  • chubertdev 2013-01-31 14:42
    jay:
    Also, please stop using phrases like "killing a process" and "stealing some time", as these also trivialize serious crimes. And calling an operating system "Unix" makes light of the suffering inflicted on harem guards. And referring to an unprofitable year by saying "the budget is in the red" is clearly anti-Native American slander. And the C programming language should be renamed, as that name no doubt brings up painful memories for people who failed to get A's and B's when they were in school. And as a Norwegian-American, I am deeply offended by the use of the name "Vikings" for sports teams, especially when accompanied by cartoon depictions of my ancestors that mock my heritage.


    Don't forget master and slave drives...

    Anon:
    Interesting, but I was looking more for something that doesn't require you drill a hole in the case of your computer for the screw. Something that will fit a regular laptop or desktop.


    Ok, I was thinking more of like a server rack solution. Not sure of the use case for a locking drive on something smaller, but yeah, I definitely wouldn't want to drill something into my laptop. Desktop should be too bad, though.

    jay:
    I've worked on several web sites for organizations pushing some social or political issue, so we get lots of emails from people who disagree, telling us how wrong we are. That's cool, I'm all for open debate. But there have now been several occasions where I've gotten an email saying that some controversial statement we have made is false, and the writer then concludes by saying, "I'll check back in a couple of days to see if your site has been updated to correct this." Like, right, we've created an organization dedicated to advocating this particular side of a controversial, highly-debated issue. People in this organization have come to conclusions about these issues based on a lifetime of experience, and are so firmly convinced of their position that they have joined an organization dedicated to advancing this cause. And you just take it for granted that the entire organization is going to completely reverse its position because YOU wrote an email telling us we were wrong? Sure.


    Have you worked for the InfoWars and/or Westboro Baptist Church sites? :)
  • RichP 2013-01-31 14:50
    Mr X:
    I once had some software that was tied to the computer's MAC address - you had to register the address with the vendor to get a license file. Total pain, as we wanted to move the license around several PCs depending on who needed the software that day.

    We opted for an easier option - USB network adapters (20 bucks each), registered those, then used them as dongles. License conformance with much lower headaches.


    Even better option:
    * License one machine in a cabinet/server rack/closet/unused cubicle with a "do not shut this PC off" sign on the monitor.
    * Remote Desktop into the machine (or VNC for applications that think Remote Desktop = Terminal Server = license workaround).
  • Anon 2013-01-31 14:52
    jay:
    Steve The Cynic:
    ConC:
    Thank you for reading.

    People who use this phrase at the end of self-righteous whining make me want to get the GAU-8 out of my back pocket.


    I've worked on several web sites for organizations pushing some social or political issue, so we get lots of emails from people who disagree, telling us how wrong we are. That's cool, I'm all for open debate. But there have now been several occasions where I've gotten an email saying that some controversial statement we have made is false, and the writer then concludes by saying, "I'll check back in a couple of days to see if your site has been updated to correct this." Like, right, we've created an organization dedicated to advocating this particular side of a controversial, highly-debated issue. People in this organization have come to conclusions about these issues based on a lifetime of experience, and are so firmly convinced of their position that they have joined an organization dedicated to advancing this cause. And you just take it for granted that the entire organization is going to completely reverse its position because YOU wrote an email telling us we were wrong? Sure.


    I disagree and expect you to change your opinion. I'll check back in a couple of days to see if you have corrected your comment.
  • Anon 2013-01-31 14:55
    chubertdev:

    Anon:
    Interesting, but I was looking more for something that doesn't require you drill a hole in the case of your computer for the screw. Something that will fit a regular laptop or desktop.


    Ok, I was thinking more of like a server rack solution. Not sure of the use case for a locking drive on something smaller, but yeah, I definitely wouldn't want to drill something into my laptop. Desktop should be too bad, though.


    Use case for a locking device on something smaller: Using a USB/serial adapter. They all suck and until recently (or perhaps even today) the .NET runtime has a nasty bug that means if you yank a USB/serial adapter you can no longer close the fucking stream and all kinds of bad things happen (well, ok, it just crashes when you try and close the port).
  • chubertdev 2013-01-31 15:00
    Anon:
    Use case for a locking device on something smaller: Using a USB/serial adapter. They all suck and until recently (or perhaps even today) the .NET runtime has a nasty bug that means if you yank a USB/serial adapter you can no longer close the fucking stream and all kinds of bad things happen (well, ok, it just crashes when you try and close the port).


    Yeah, definitely nasty, but if you have graceful exception handling and properly implement the IDisposable interface, it's not the end of the world.
  • Coyne 2013-01-31 15:22
    This mentality exists in so many places.

    Take printers: Printer manufacturers really aren't in business to make printers. Printer business is really competitive and a printer can't be sold to make a lot of money.

    No, printer manufacturers are in business to sell cartridges. Those astronomically expensive disposables without which the printer won't print anything; that are sold to print "1000 pages" and actually print 600 because you can only suck out 2/3's of the ink.

    So it is in the printer manufacturer's best interest for you to print things. Lots of things. Things from your Windows PC. Things from your Mac. Things from your Linux PC. Things from your smart phone. Things from your *bleep*ing toaster, if they can figure out how to hook it up.

    So what do we see? Copy protection on the print drivers. No Linux drivers because some software pirate might steal them and Linux has no DRM. CD's with license codes.

    Taken all in all, it is clear that the printer manufacturers have no idea what is in their best interest...
  • Anon 2013-01-31 15:45
    chubertdev:
    Anon:
    Use case for a locking device on something smaller: Using a USB/serial adapter. They all suck and until recently (or perhaps even today) the .NET runtime has a nasty bug that means if you yank a USB/serial adapter you can no longer close the fucking stream and all kinds of bad things happen (well, ok, it just crashes when you try and close the port).


    Yeah, definitely nasty, but if you have graceful exception handling and properly implement the IDisposable interface, it's not the end of the world.


    In principle yeah, in practice, not so much:

    http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/netfxbcl/thread/2821b798-76a7-454e-9e96-946c6468ec65

    The exception was uncatchable. I ended up isolating the process that did the serial communication completely from the rest of the application so I could restart it when it died.
  • chubertdev 2013-01-31 15:48
    Anon:
    In principle yeah, in practice, not so much:

    http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/netfxbcl/thread/2821b798-76a7-454e-9e96-946c6468ec65

    The exception was uncatchable. I ended up isolating the process that did the serial communication completely from the rest of the application so I could restart it when it died.


    Oh, in older versions of the .NET framework.
  • herby 2013-01-31 15:56
    Coyne:
    This mentality exists in so many places.

    Take printers: Printer manufacturers really aren't in business to make printers. Printer business is really competitive and a printer can't be sold to make a lot of money.

    No, printer manufacturers are in business to sell cartridges. Those astronomically expensive disposables without which the printer won't print anything; that are sold to print "1000 pages" and actually print 600 because you can only suck out 2/3's of the ink.



    And desktop/laptop/tablet makers are in the business of selling software. In particular Microsoft Software. That is why we get silly things like UFEI (or whatever it is called) boot procedures. When vendors of systems finally wake up and realize that their business is selling OTHER PEOPLES PRODUCT they might tell them to go punt. It is a shame, actually. The margins on the hardware are very thin, but the margins for the software (quite large) end up in somebody elses pocket.

    Sad, very sad!
  • Manni_reloaded 2013-01-31 16:37
    My company relies on USB dongles for licensing of its software.

    We routinely get calls about damaged and lost dongles which result in a $50,000 software package no longer functioning. Seems like something so expensive shouldn't rely on something so tiny and fragile.

    The best is when a customer decides to increase their system security by disabling USB devices on their servers, then can't figure out why the software stopped working. And all we can do is shrug our shoulders and say "Well that's how the software works, sorry".
  • urza9814 2013-01-31 17:01
    jay:
    Steve The Cynic:
    As Duncan says, from a simple "can we run it" point of view, the PBX ("Private Branch Exchange") could act as a dongle, but only if the PBX cannot be used at all without the software. If the PBX is capable of completely autonomous normal operation, then the (optional) software, if it is to be a chargeable option, cannot use the "PBX-as-dongle" option.


    Well, that's backwards. When he says that the PBX is the dongle, he doesn't mean that the PBX can't be run without the software, but that the software can't be run without the PBX.

    It's like why updated printer drivers are often available for free download from the manufacturer's web site. Sure, you could download the printer driver without ever buying the printer. So what? What are you going to do with it?


    The point Steve The Cynic was making is that you cannot use the PBX as a dongle for the software if they sell the software as an optional upgrade. So if the PBX alone is $X (I have _no idea_ how much these things cost) and the PBX plus the software is $X+Y, then if you use the PBX itself as a dongle, customers could theoretically save $Y by buying the PBX alone and then pirating the software.
  • Kiwi 2013-01-31 17:21
    peppermoe:
    I started just as they phased out a USB dongle. Can't count the number of times that thing was sticking out the front of our VMP server and I bumped it. We wound up finding the USB headers on the MB and zip-tied the dongle inside the case.

    I worked at a university which taught various CAD systems in the 80/90s, and our PCs had 3 packages which required parallel-port dongles (and one with an inline-keyboard dongle). Luckily all 3 would co-exist on one port but the order had to be correct and they stuck WAY out the back of the (clone) PCs. We actually used old D25 case plates and mounted the dongles inside the cases, pointing forward over an unused ISA slot and with an external ribbon cable to the parallel port. I think these were the PCs where the non-squareness of the metalwork was so bad that the front half of the 16-bit ISA VGA cards would unplug themselves from the sockets after a month or 2 of levering from the back plates. We had to dismantle the cases and put packing pieces between the rear panel and the slot mounting sub-chassis.
    I think the earliest PCB package we had (pre-Windows) had mouse support with a specific brand of serial mouse, and had a dongle bay (with its own wall wart) which went between the mouse and the PC that you plugged 'feature keys' into for each software module you'd bought.
    The CAD software for Apple IIs (in UCSD Pascal, 3 or 4 FDDs per machine) had a stackable dongle which sat in the game port socket (DIP-14) under the joystick or dual-pot paddle controller with a registered PAL on it wired as a pseudo-random state machine controlled by the auxiliary output pins and feeding a bit-stream back into an unused button input.
    The get back to the original post, we also had an in-circuit emulator for the Z80 CPU. It was the size of a large briefcase, cost an unimaginable number of kiwi$ at the time and was controlled from an RS-232 terminal (a real one, not a PC emulator). However, it did come with a DOS PC terminal interface program to help you to load symbols and code into the beast. This was, of course, supplied on a copy-protected floppy - I don't know that the usefulness of the software ever outweighed the hassle of having to have the floppy in the drive.
  • Simon 2013-01-31 17:34
    Coyne:
    So what do we see? Copy protection on the print drivers. No Linux drivers because some software pirate might steal them and Linux has no DRM. CD's with license codes.

    Taken all in all, it is clear that the printer manufacturers have no idea what is in their best interest...


    On the contrary, it's not in their interests for people to print things - it's for people to use (and thus purchase more of) *their* ink/toner cartridges. And maintaining close control over the drivers is one of the elements that allows them to discourage the use of cheaper third-party cartridges. They know what they're doing.
  • Worf 2013-01-31 18:30
    herby:
    Coyne:
    This mentality exists in so many places.

    Take printers: Printer manufacturers really aren't in business to make printers. Printer business is really competitive and a printer can't be sold to make a lot of money.

    No, printer manufacturers are in business to sell cartridges. Those astronomically expensive disposables without which the printer won't print anything; that are sold to print "1000 pages" and actually print 600 because you can only suck out 2/3's of the ink.



    And desktop/laptop/tablet makers are in the business of selling software. In particular Microsoft Software. That is why we get silly things like UFEI (or whatever it is called) boot procedures. When vendors of systems finally wake up and realize that their business is selling OTHER PEOPLES PRODUCT they might tell them to go punt. It is a shame, actually. The margins on the hardware are very thin, but the margins for the software (quite large) end up in somebody elses pocket.

    Sad, very sad!


    Actually, the cost of the software license is almost entirely borne by the crapware that gets installed. Symantec, etc., pay OEMs to preinstall their software, and basically increase profits because this marketing payment offsets some of the BOM cost.

    Of course, if you're talking about something immune to this, like a Windows 8 RT tablet, you'd be correct as there's no crapware for them yet. For Android tablets, well, many manufacturers "customize" Android and provide "helpful apps" preinstalled that require ROM replacement in order to get rid of.

    Could do it the Apple way - where the software is the thing that's used to sell hardware...
  • Matt Westwood 2013-01-31 19:05
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Please show some consideration. My son was a grammarnazi, and let me assure you, it's no laughing matter.
  • Joe 2013-01-31 19:13
    I can't believe how so many shitquipment manufacturers are selling you a big house, locking up two bedrooms and a bathroom, and charging $1500 extra for the key to each room.
    Or you could just pick the lock.
    Or disable the dongle check.
    Pirates FTW.
  • Uncle Al 2013-01-31 21:53
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    No soup for you!
  • Cheong 2013-01-31 22:09
    Steve The Cynic:
    Dongles. Bah.

    As Duncan says, from a simple "can we run it" point of view, the PBX ("Private Branch Exchange") could act as a dongle, but only if the PBX cannot be used at all without the software. If the PBX is capable of completely autonomous normal operation, then the (optional) software, if it is to be a chargeable option, cannot use the "PBX-as-dongle" option.[1]

    I think he means "their new shiny software won't run without the DBX itself, so no need to use dongle to protect the software.
  • Dave 2013-01-31 23:18
    A friend of mine worked at an engineering company that had, among other things, a $15,000 flatbed plotter that did up to 2A0 size paper. This plotter required some fairly serious, totally custom software to drive it. In their wisdom, the vendors required a $2 dongle to, uh, "protect" the software, completely ignoring the fact that it already required a $15,000 dongle in order to function.

    (The $2 dongle also had all the usual problems that dongles have. Luckily the plotter manufacturers may have known a bit about building plotters but knew nothing about working with dongles, so a 1-byte patch was enough to disable it).
  • Vlad Patryshev 2013-01-31 23:39
    Nice. So US was that behind in those days. When in the USSR they were buying digital phone stations, with, yes, computer control. Buying it from Finland, most probably from Nokia.
  • Norman Diamond 2013-02-01 02:28
    Vlad Patryshev:
    Nice. So US was that behind in those days.
    The article has hints that the company was Canadian. Canadian telcos had particularly suicidal managements in those days.
  • wernsey 2013-02-01 03:02
    jay:
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Also, please stop using phrases like "killing a process" and "stealing some time", as these also trivialize serious crimes. And calling an operating system "Unix" makes light of the suffering inflicted on harem guards. And referring to an unprofitable year by saying "the budget is in the red" is clearly anti-Native American slander. And the C programming language should be renamed, as that name no doubt brings up painful memories for people who failed to get A's and B's when they were in school. And as a Norwegian-American, I am deeply offended by the use of the name "Vikings" for sports teams, especially when accompanied by cartoon depictions of my ancestors that mock my heritage.


    This comment thread certainly took a turn for the bizarre.

    Alex, Remy, can we please get upvote buttons in the comments section now?

    I would augue that I come for the articles, but I stay for the comments.
  • Mr X 2013-02-01 04:22
    RichP:
    Mr X:
    I once had some software that was tied to the computer's MAC address - you had to register the address with the vendor to get a license file. Total pain, as we wanted to move the license around several PCs depending on who needed the software that day.

    We opted for an easier option - USB network adapters (20 bucks each), registered those, then used them as dongles. License conformance with much lower headaches.


    Even better option:
    * License one machine in a cabinet/server rack/closet/unused cubicle with a "do not shut this PC off" sign on the monitor.
    * Remote Desktop into the machine (or VNC for applications that think Remote Desktop = Terminal Server = license workaround).


    Would be a great idea normally - but for our use case, the software had to run on computers which weren't network-connected. And it would have been near impossible to crack the protection on this software, trust me.
  • Steve The Cynic 2013-02-01 07:50
    Cheong:
    Steve The Cynic:
    Dongles. Bah.

    As Duncan says, from a simple "can we run it" point of view, the PBX ("Private Branch Exchange") could act as a dongle, but only if the PBX cannot be used at all without the software. If the PBX is capable of completely autonomous normal operation, then the (optional) software, if it is to be a chargeable option, cannot use the "PBX-as-dongle" option.[1]

    I think he means "their new shiny software won't run without the DBX itself, so no need to use dongle to protect the software.

    I'm well aware of that. The PBX doesn't protect the software if you can trivially use the PBX without the software, and the software merely requires *a* PBX in order to function.

    Either the software is free[1] and ships with every PBX, in which case the question of piracy is moot because all people who *could* use the software (i.e. all owners of the particular PBX) will already have a copy, OR it is a chargeable option[2], in which case the mere presence of the PBX is not sufficient. The PBX must have some sort of permission bits (the active part of the dongle) in order to enable or disable relevant parts of the software, or I just grab a copy of your CD and install it in my network to control my PBX.

    Summary: if you wish to "protect" the software, you need a dongle somewhere. If you don't want a "pure" dongle, you must embed the dongleness of the dongle in the PBX, i.e. the PBX must really *be* a dongle.

    [1] Free as in beer, not free as in speech, and of course that really means "included in the price of the PBX".

    [2] Other posts suggest that this is frequently the case, and the price is usually eyewateringly large.
  • Anon 2013-02-01 09:41
    wernsey:
    jay:
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Also, please stop using phrases like "killing a process" and "stealing some time", as these also trivialize serious crimes. And calling an operating system "Unix" makes light of the suffering inflicted on harem guards. And referring to an unprofitable year by saying "the budget is in the red" is clearly anti-Native American slander. And the C programming language should be renamed, as that name no doubt brings up painful memories for people who failed to get A's and B's when they were in school. And as a Norwegian-American, I am deeply offended by the use of the name "Vikings" for sports teams, especially when accompanied by cartoon depictions of my ancestors that mock my heritage.


    This comment thread certainly took a turn for the bizarre.

    Alex, Remy, can we please get upvote buttons in the comments section now?

    I would augue that I come for the articles, but I stay for the comments.


    +1 - and this is why I miss MFD so much. The comments where the best thing about this site.
  • Steve The Cynic 2013-02-01 11:20
    Anon:
    wernsey:
    jay:
    ConC:
    Hello Cyclops,

    I know the term grammarnazi has found its way into internet jargon, but I just feel this term is wrong in a way.

    Nazis where not just strikt to whomever they opposed. The murder of millions und the unmeasurable suffering that was caused by the nazis should not be forgotten. Using the term nazi for something not even closely as horrible, really could hurt peoples feelings, as it may look like downplaying the huge crime that was commited.

    It would be thoughtful, if you could forgo from using this term in this way.

    Thank you for reading.

    ConC


    Also, please stop using phrases like "killing a process" and "stealing some time", as these also trivialize serious crimes. And calling an operating system "Unix" makes light of the suffering inflicted on harem guards. And referring to an unprofitable year by saying "the budget is in the red" is clearly anti-Native American slander. And the C programming language should be renamed, as that name no doubt brings up painful memories for people who failed to get A's and B's when they were in school. And as a Norwegian-American, I am deeply offended by the use of the name "Vikings" for sports teams, especially when accompanied by cartoon depictions of my ancestors that mock my heritage.


    This comment thread certainly took a turn for the bizarre.

    Alex, Remy, can we please get upvote buttons in the comments section now?

    I would augue that I come for the articles, but I stay for the comments.


    +1 - and this is why I miss MFD so much. The comments where the best thing about this site.

    I'm going to put on my grammarnazi hat (with a big "See Figure One" to ConC) and point out that you mean "were", not "where"... ;)
  • jay 2013-02-01 12:52
    urza9814:
    jay:
    Steve The Cynic:
    As Duncan says, from a simple "can we run it" point of view, the PBX ("Private Branch Exchange") could act as a dongle, but only if the PBX cannot be used at all without the software. If the PBX is capable of completely autonomous normal operation, then the (optional) software, if it is to be a chargeable option, cannot use the "PBX-as-dongle" option.


    Well, that's backwards. When he says that the PBX is the dongle, he doesn't mean that the PBX can't be run without the software, but that the software can't be run without the PBX.

    It's like why updated printer drivers are often available for free download from the manufacturer's web site. Sure, you could download the printer driver without ever buying the printer. So what? What are you going to do with it?


    The point Steve The Cynic was making is that you cannot use the PBX as a dongle for the software if they sell the software as an optional upgrade. So if the PBX alone is $X (I have _no idea_ how much these things cost) and the PBX plus the software is $X+Y, then if you use the PBX itself as a dongle, customers could theoretically save $Y by buying the PBX alone and then pirating the software.


    Okay, I'll concede that one.
  • Cheong 2013-02-01 21:41
    PBX use proprietary signal/command for programming. Software specifically made for one brand of PBX usually won't run for the others (unless the software specially made to support multiple kinds of PBX).
  • Gibbon1 2013-02-02 04:51
    shake:
    I've had to use software like that - with the added bonus that when running it will only recognize the MAC of a currently connected interface. So if you register it on the eth0 MAC because you normally use a wired network, as soon as you go mobile and are using the wlan0 interface instead, you can no longer run the program. Or if you anticipate that and register it with the wifi MAC, when you go back to wired to transfer things faster over the local network, it stops working. Thanks, AGI!


    This is all very strange to me, I've never had any trouble changing the MAC address of an interface. One the other hand long ago some programs tried to identify the computer by looking at installed hardware. So if you changed anything, or say the floppy controller on the MB died, you were SOL.

    Ten years ago I was using a ICE (two of them actually), the hardware and software were sold together, but was keyed to the hardware. All well and good except to get a license code to unlock the ICE required you call the distributor, who would fax the info to Germany, who would then fax the number back a day later, etc. And the emulator would lost it's mind and forget who it was every couple of months.
  • lesle 2013-02-04 09:22
    "D o n g l e n e s s"

    +1
  • WhiskeyJack 2013-02-04 10:24
    Norman Diamond:
    Vlad Patryshev:
    Nice. So US was that behind in those days.
    The article has hints that the company was Canadian. Canadian telcos had particularly suicidal managements in those days.


    Ooooooh, Fido!
  • Hatshepsut 2013-02-08 10:48
    Ivan Godard:
    Longstanding practice. At Burroughs circa 1970, the difference between a B2500 and a B3500 (COBOL-oriented commercial computers) was one wire strapping the clock on the B2500.

    And around $250,000 1970 dollars.

    But is that really the whole story?

    Isn't it just possible that the B2500 was the same design populated with lower-spec devices?

    (Anyway, according to Wikipedia the B3500 had a lot more memory.)
  • Claus 2013-03-09 03:43
    Macro popacro.
  • Coyne 2013-12-27 14:49
    Simon:
    Coyne:
    So what do we see? Copy protection on the print drivers. No Linux drivers because some software pirate might steal them and Linux has no DRM. CD's with license codes.

    Taken all in all, it is clear that the printer manufacturers have no idea what is in their best interest...


    On the contrary, it's not in their interests for people to print things - it's for people to use (and thus purchase more of) *their* ink/toner cartridges. And maintaining close control over the drivers is one of the elements that allows them to discourage the use of cheaper third-party cartridges. They know what they're doing.


    You misunderstand. I'm not talking about the software that runs on the printer: I'm talking about the O/S-specific driver that runs on the PC/tablet/smartphone/etc; the driver that allows text to be sent to the printer from your word processing program.

    (Those drivers don't actually have anything to do with the cartridge. If you want users to buy your brand of cartridge for sure, you fix the in-printer software so it will only work with your cartridge; like Lexmark does.)

    The more devices the user can hook to the printer, the more likely they are to print things; the more they print, the more cartridges you sell. So telling the user, "The only thing you can hook to our printer is one (1) Windows machine," is counterproductive, because you're actually preventing them from printing from their other devices. Why would you do that?

    Yet printer manufacturers impose restrictions like that because they seem to have the mistaken impression they are selling O/S print drivers.