We may all live in a great big global community, but in my Blog, it's my world.

Fun at work today - NOT.

I had to go back to work last night to restart a couple of servers in "off hours" so that we could use the "Shutdown and Install Updates" option on some Windows servers to apply some of the latest Windows Updates to those systems.  I really wish Microsoft would get with the program and find some way to apply the vast majority of updates/patches without the need to reboot, but that is a rant for another time or one that may have been gone over repeatedly in the past.  Yeah, yeah, I know there are technical issues for why they do what they do, but it doesn't mean I like it.

Anyway, to get back on track, well, let me sidetrack for one more rant for a sec -- Hey!! Microsoft!!! Why in the world is there no "Install updates and restart the system" option?  Whew! Got that rant done, we now return you to the regularly running topic/rant.  So, I was saying I had to restart the boxes and apply updates.  Yup, that was the case.  In off-hours.  No problem.  I'm OCD enough that I check, check and recheck that things are ok after doing such things, and yet I'm also flexible enough on my schedule that going back to work in the evening didn't bother me really.  So, I shutdown, apply updates, and restart.  And wait through all of that, and until the systems were back online.  After brining them back online I had the fun of logging in and restarting the license services for some key products and that's where the original point of my current rant really comes into play.

Software, which shall remain nameless, of a very specialized type that uses a license server scheme that involves multiple systems so there is supposed redundancy in the licensing of the product (if one server goes down it's not a problem provided a quorum still exists) is the most ill-behaved adaptation of the licensing service that I've ever had to even think of dealing with.  The same licensing service works incredibly well for another product that we use (of a different purpose), but the manufacturer of that software is far more lenient and generous when it comes to their product.  Rather than assuming that people are stealing their product they cooperate with customers to the largest extent possible and they allow customers and/or their technical points of contact (like me) to configure the licensing services in the ways that work best for them.

Like Starsoft, they don't make it easy to steal their product.  Instead they just make it easy to work with them to use the product that you've paid for.  Whatever flexible scheme you need, you can use it.  There's not even a hint that the company thinks you might steal that product and give copies to someone else, even though that software is useful -- in my mind, and that of many co-workers -- in many more situations than the other more specialized software is.

So, one vendor/manufacturer that uses the exact same licensing service backend is incredibly flexible while another stops just short of calling all of their users THIEVES such that they make the use of that same backend software a total p-i-t-a.  Ugh.

Anyway, I had restarted the servers, checked the licensing services after restarting them, confirmed not just once, but 3 times that things were working as intended, then went home after cleaning up e-mails and checking on a few more things.  Except, well, this a.m. I get a phone call telling me things aren't work right and it's an issue and they need the licenses working right away please.

Sadly some of the people that would otherwise have been able to resolve the issue weren't around, but even if they were, well, it wasn't that simple.  Another of the senior techs was on his way to the office when I got called and as expected he got there about 30 - 40 minutes before I could possibly have gotten there.  He brought things back online, confirmed that the license services were working only to get pulled back into the area within about 5 minutes because they were down again   Ooops!

It turns out that the implementation that the p-i-t-a vendor/manufacturer uses depends upon hardware addresses (MAC addresses) on the servers and we had somehow mixed up IP addresses and ports such that a disconnected network adapter was associated with the licenses on at least one server.  I had disabled that secondary NIC when I saw the message about the cable being disconnected.  Well, yeah, it's not connected and not needed so why have it try to start up?  Except that the darned license service was seeing its existence and using it to enable the licenses.  Uh, yeah, it was a blown configuration on the part of my team, but still a dumb implementation and one that wouldn't have been a problem at all if the software licenses were keyed to hostnames or IP addresses rather than to hardware addresses.

All I can say is that I'd like the people responsible at software manufacturer/vendor to choke on the donuts or other items they eat for breakfast.

I've read them the riot act before over their choosen implementation and it did no good but to raise my blood pressure.  They insist that they must protect their intellectual property even if it completely disrupts things for customers.  They insist on having blood oaths (signed contracts faxed to them) before they make any changes at all, and still only on their terms.  They basically tell you up front they consider you a thief of their products no matter how much money they collect from you in maintenance and licensing costs.

Someday, please, soon, but just be someday, please!  I hope they get kicked to the curb in favor of open-source software or other products that cost less and deliver a much better customer oriented experience.  When that happens I hope this vendor watches their market dry up completely as I will laugh long and hard at that point.


Comments
on Sep 16, 2010

Must have felt good to get that off your chest

on Sep 16, 2010

I strongly distrust these kinds of companies. Every company deserves their product be properly purchased, hwoever, the stuff you mentioned is pretty extreme. Though some of it was sort of confusing to me, it sounds like their a bunch of screwe balls.

As you work there, you are stuck with it, so i guess your outta luck, or else id say find another company to deal with. Consumers dont appear to have many rights if any against bad software comapnies that release shovel ware wrapped up in terms of services that read like a legal court document in a murder trial.

Best you can do is not buy their crap and tell everyone and the world how bad they are and how terrible their constomer support is, if they wont fix the problem. Bad news travel further than good, afterall.

on Sep 16, 2010


Hey!! Microsoft!!! Why in the world is there no "Install updates and restart the system" option?

I know this isn't the main point of your rant, but you can script that you know. I've done it before. The Update service can be accessed as an automation object that can be used to download and install updates and it will also tell you if a reboot is required so you can script the reboot action too.

on Sep 16, 2010

As you work there, you are stuck with it, so i guess your outta luck, or else id say find another company to deal with. Consumers dont appear to have many rights if any against bad software comapnies that release shovel ware wrapped up in terms of services that read like a legal court document in a murder trial.

I'd love to use another product and have made it clear to the company representative's that if offered a choice I would very highly recommend switching to *anything* other than their product because of their draconian licensing schemes.  Unfortunately their product is highly specialized and is pretty much a staple of my work place so I have no real choice until the break the product so badly that the users revolt and demand something else.

Ironically enough the company I work for (I am a contractor) also develops software and their product does a lot of the same things that this other companies product does.  Whether they would be similar enough to use "our" product instead of "their" product is something I really can't speak to since I don't use the products.  I'm only responsible for installing the products and keeping the licensing issues straight, etc.  And I'm not permitted (for various reasons) to push our customer into using our product instead of the other product.  If I did that, myself or my employer could get in trouble for conflicts of interests, so "our" product has to sell itself or be sold to the customer by sales people that are not involved in the day-to-day operations that I am, and thus far they've not been able to sell "our" product well enough to push the other product out of regular use.

To be clear, this issue isn't about selling "our" product instead of the competitor's product.  If there were *any* other products that were sufficient to the customer's needs, I'd recommend them and encourage their use where possible.  There is some in-house development (in other parts of our customer's organization) of products that do some of the things that the competitor's product does and I really hope that work continues strong so that eventually the commercial product is kicked to the curb.  Whatever the reason, I want that product gone asap so that the developer loses the steady income stream they had because of their stupidity and arrogance.

Realistically there are companies that treat their customers with respect.  I love to support those companies and I want anyone that develops software to be properly compensated for their work, but some companies just don't get it when it comes to copy protection and licensing issues and those companies just need to die, die, die!

on Sep 16, 2010

I know this isn't the main point of your rant, but you can script that you know. I've done it before. The Update service can be accessed as an automation object that can be used to download and install updates and it will also tell you if a reboot is required so you can script the reboot action too.

Yeah, I understand that but because of processes running on these systems (see license services discussed above), we can't have these systems reboot at just any time.  The must be carefully controlled and rebooted at times that don't impact operations.  Operations that could occur at any point on a 24x7x365 schedule.  No, we don't actually have activities every day, but we have many periods leading up to operations that we aren't permitted to make any changes and even during times when we can make changes we dodge every day operations that occur at just about any hour of the day.

A lot of the patches that do come out require reboots because of what is being fixed in the OS and I understand that, I just wish that we'd get to a point where most patches don't require reboots.  We could que up all of the patches that do require reboots and apply all of the other patches that don't, but we have to keep our systems as well patched as we can to meet mandates and requirements imposed upon us so it becomes a big balancing act to get patches applied in the small windows along the way while leaving everything available as much as possible (to meet that 99.99% up-time type requirement).

on Sep 16, 2010

I'd love to use another product and have made it clear to the company representative's that if offered a choice I would very highly recommend switching to *anything* other than their product because of their draconian licensing schemes. Unfortunately their product is highly specialized and is pretty much a staple of my work place so I have no real choice until the break the product so badly that the users revolt and demand something else.

f there were *any* other products that were sufficient to the customer's needs, I'd recommend them and encourage their use where possible.

2 things.

1. The "premiere" companies are usually very unresponsive to complaints as you have seen.  They do not want you to do things your way, but their way.  And they have the arrogance to basically make it so.

2. You are probably not talking to the decision people, but the techs and salespeople.  The techs are going to silently agree with you, while the sales people are just going to nod and say "ok", with no action taken.

We have all run into this stuff.  As I have been told on several occasions, it is why we earn the big bucks.  But it does suck.

on Sep 16, 2010

Licensing tied to server MAC addresses is a pain...  It's bad enough that they tie it to a physical MAC which makes disaster recovery of license servers a nightmare, but then many of them also explicitly prohibit the address range reserved by VMware so you cannot virtualize the servers and reduce your long term maintenance.  We use about 30 or so different software products that leverage this licensing scheme...ugh.

By the way, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) provides robust patch management capabilities for Windows-based computers.  It's a fairly complex infrastructure if you've never used it, but it is fantastically flexible and powerful.  In addition to all the other stuff we do with it, we use it to patch all of our servers (as well as all of our desktops and roaming laptops). 

There are other similar products out there that provide varying degrees of centralized, flexible, and targeted systems management of computers...depending on the size of the shop you work in, though, the ROI for implementation and ongoing maintenance/administration may be difficult to prove.

 

 

on Sep 16, 2010

I used to be a tech at a University that had MAC addressed software (some stats program).  Basically everyone just prayed daily that nothing would ever happen to the server or local machines that had it installed, as you would have to beg them and jump through fiery hoops to get it working again in the event of disaster.  The funny part is no one would ever need to use this software outside of the University, so the outrageous anti-piracy measures were totally pointless.

on Sep 16, 2010


Fun at work today - NOT.

I had to go back to work last night to restart a couple of servers in "off hours" so that we could use the "Shutdown and Install Updates" option on some Windows servers to apply some of the latest Windows Updates to those systems.  I really wish Microsoft would get with the program and find some way to apply the vast majority of updates/patches without the need to reboot, but that is a rant for another time or one that may have been gone over repeatedly in the past.  Yeah, yeah, I know there are technical issues for why they do what they do, but it doesn't mean I like it.


 

Might I suggest two things...

Channel some of that justifiable anger into preparing a cost-benefit analysis of the proprietary software. Wow them with how well you've accumulated and collated the data, what it means for them of reduced cost and increased productivity, and finish all this off with customer testimonials.... maybe suggest a very limited side-by-side trial, one that goes 60~90 days...?

Second, go to Office Depot and buy the best cross-cut shredder your company's budget will allow, and then just wait for the right time to put it to good use.

y/n?

on Sep 16, 2010

Also, I do not live in the same technosphere as you, but I do know a few things about how idiots are always ready to throw money into the fire... just as long they can keep their cockles roasty toasty...

on Sep 17, 2010

Well two ideas for you:

 

1. Linux now has Ksplice, a method of patching even the kernel without having to reboot. No such luck on Microsoft though...

2. When I have such PITA licencing services or almost rootkit like protection schemes I use virtual systems. Sure they are slower but I know that even if I change the whole computer, the virtual one will stay with the same hardware so the licensing stuff keeps working.

 

Otherwise I feel you, had to put an nvidia card into one of the PCs because the intel integrated one kept hogging the interrupts (a well known intel driver bug) so I plug in the nvidia card and find out the hard way that changing a videocard causes the accounting software to get unlicensed. From that day on, the software is running in a nice little virtual machine that will never ever change it's hardware.

on Sep 17, 2010

Let me guess: FlexNet (old FlexLM) license manager?

This thing is omnipresent on industrial and specialized software, however some vendors use it wisely in a customer-friendly manner, others will just bust your balls to get it running and maintained. I've experienced both of these over the years, so yeah it's not the license manager, it's the bloody software vendors with the whole "you're guilty until proven innocent" attitude. This attitude has infiltrated game developers in the last decade (as you already know), but it's much worse when the software is your work tool.

The main problem is lack of serious competition in this kind of software, a handful of companies that rule the game, so it's inevitable that some will act with arrogance and indifference towards their clientèle. And if they act like this on their industry clients, wait to see how they act towards universities.

Fortunately, the bad apples are a minority and i rarely have problems with licenses.

deimios666
Well two ideas for you:

2. When I have such PITA licencing services or almost rootkit like protection schemes I use virtual systems. Sure they are slower but I know that even if I change the whole computer, the virtual one will stay with the same hardware so the licensing stuff keeps working.
.
 

That's probably the best option, a trade-off between a speed penalty and your sanity.

on Sep 17, 2010

deimios666

2. When I have such PITA licencing services or almost rootkit like protection schemes I use virtual systems. Sure they are slower but I know that even if I change the whole computer, the virtual one will stay with the same hardware so the licensing stuff keeps working.

We run virtual license servers for most Flex-LM and other applications with host-based licensing.  However, be careful...the companies that handle the licensing for these small developers are catching on.  They are starting to block all MAC addresses that fall within the OUI range that VMware allows you to use for custom MAC's (00:50:56:...).  I don't know what virtual product you're using, though, and not sure what range Hyper-V and/or Citrix are using and if those are being similarly blocked.  Thus far, we've only had trouble with some of our engineering software products.  Most of the automated test stuff has been easily licensed on a virtual server.

As a result of the above, we still maintain a physical license server and also have leveraged USB Anywhere for dongle-based licenses that need to be attached to a virtual machine.  UCS blades from Cisco that leverage policy based MAC address assignment may be a good alternative for a physical license server since the policy can be transfered to another blade seamlessly, at least until such time as licensing companies start blocking that OUI as well...but, Cisco UCS is #$#!%%#$ expensive.

 

 

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