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I hate Adobe Activation

COW Blogs : walter biscardi's Blog : I hate Adobe Activation

There, I said it. I hate Adobe's Activation procedure. Yes, I understand you have to protect your software from all the complete morons and low-lifes who can't pony up the money to purchase software legitimately, but geez, do you have to make this procedure so asinine that it affects legitimate purchases?

Three weeks ago I installed Apple OS 10.5 on a fresh hard drive on my editing workstation. A day later I installed my copy of the Production Premium Package CS3 to do some After Effects work. The Activation screen obviously pops up, I tell it to go ahead, but it fails. Fine, I'll Activate it later.

Two weeks ago I use After Effects and the Activation warning pops up again, again it fails to automatically activate on the internet. So I go ahead and do the Phone Activation. No problem, it gives me the activation code and I get the "Thank you for Activating the software" and I move on.

Yesterday, I launch Photoshop for the first time and I get the Activation request AGAIN. Ok, now I'm confused. Activiation only has to happen once across the entire suite, just like the last time I did it on my OS 10.4 (Tiger) drive. But what the heck, if it wants to activate again, what the hell.

Again, the automated activation fails. This time the phone activation also fails and instructs me to call an 800 number. I call that 800 number. This is where the fun really starts.

After 30 minutes of getting my serial number, putting me on hold multiple times, asking me a bunch of questions, putting me on hold again, asking a few more questions, putting me on hold again, I'm told that my serial number is invalid.

"Excuse me?"

"Your serial number is invalid."

I'm looking at the serial number on the screen and the serial number on the box of Adobe Premium Production Bundle CS3. They match. It's the serial number that Adobe put on the sticker and it's the serial number I've been using since July of 2007. But now it's invalid.

"Um, could you tell me how that number is suddenly invalid because it has been a valid number for almost a year and it's the number that's printed on the sticker on the box."

"You have activated it twice, now the serial number is invalid."

For those of you following along so far, you'll recall that I successfully activated the software last week, there was no reason for Photoshop to ask for a third activation. But I digress.

"Well, I have the box right here and I have my receipt, this is a valid copy of CS3, what do we do now?"

"Please hold while I make a phone call."

10 minutes later (yep, I'm watching the clock like a hawk now because my blood pressure has started to rise.)

"Do you have the proof of purchase?"

"Yes, it's right here in my hands."

"Well then, you'll have to fax that to us so we can issue you a new serial number, you can only activate your copy of the software 2 times."

What?!? I paid $1,200 for software and I'm only allowed to activate it two times and then my serial number will magically become invalid?

"Ok, once I fax it to you, what happens?" "We will issue you a new serial number in 48 hours after we verify the purchase."

48 hours AFTER they verify my purchase which should be quite easy to do considering I have the original discs sitting right here in my hands. Now the Adobe grace period will run out in a few days so if they can't verify my purchase right away, After Effects will stop working right in the middle of a project. You know, that same After Effects I purchased in July 2007 that Activated perfectly fine two weeks ago on this very same computer in this very same operating system? The one that had a valid serial number two weeks ago but now that serial number has suddenly poofed into a pumpkin never to be used again.

I send the fax. "Busy / No Response" I send the fax again. "Busy / No Response" I send the fax 20 more times over the past two days. "Busy / No Response."

I call Adobe Tech Support again today. "I can't get your fax machine to pick up. Is it working?" "Please hold while I make a phone call."

5 minute later "Just keep trying the fax it will pick up eventually."

Well gee, Thanks Adobe! I'll just keep trying to fax a proof of purchase that I should not have to fax to you at all. It's because of a failure in your Activation procedure that I'm sending anything and wondering if I'll get that new magical Serial Number that will make the world right again. Because if not, well than After Effects just stops working right in the middle of that new show open I'll be creating this week, but what the heck, it's only a deadline.

And by the way, make sure there is absolutely NOTHING your Tech Support guys can do on the phone, make sure I have to fax something in to prove that I own the copy of CS3 that I activated AND registered giving you all the information about me and the company just so you could verify that information in the future.  Make sure I have to do something like fax information to a fax machine that only picks up between 1:30 and 1:45 in the morning and only on a Tuesday. 

So I repeat. I hate Adobe's Activation procedure. There is absolutely no reason that legitimate owners should ever be stopped from activating their software for any reason whatsoever. Particularly since Apple's OS can get so good at corrupting itself that a complete erase and install is sometimes in order.

Speaking of Apple, Adobe could learn a lot from Apple's Tech support personnel. For one thing, Adobe, for the folks calling from the U.S., please please please get Tech Support Agents who can speak English fluently. I honestly don't care what country they are in, I just don't want to spend half of the 1 hour conversation asking "What was that again?" "Excuse me?" "I don't understand, can you repeat that?"  

When I call Apple, I usually getting incredibly friendly folks from Canada and we have very pleasant conversations. I love the way the say "aboot" instead of "about." But at least I can understand them and they are extremely friendly and cordial on the phone.

Both times I called Adobe, I had a very hard time understanding what these folks were saying and that just adds to the level of frustration.  Trust me, there's a lot of people here in the U.S. I would NOT want answering the phones either because I can't understand them.  But when you're in the position of talking to people, especially about technical issues, we need to be able to clearly understand them.

Adobe needs to protect their software, but they need to do it in such a way that does not hinder legitimate owners. And they need to better train their Tech Support phone personnel to speak clearly and fluently in the native language of whomever is calling.

If nothing else, this escapade has shown me that I really do need to dig deeper into the Apple Motion manuals to figure out how I can move more of my workflow to that software. I've never had any sort of serial number issue there no matter how many times I've had to reinstall the software.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 12, 2008 at 3:23:22 pmComments (18) photoshop, after effects, premiere pro, adobe


and i thought my experience was annoying...
by adam taylor
jeez Walter, thats a really crappy story. Wonder if theres any legal way of claiming damages from their incompetence? Probably not...mores the pity.

My own tale is much less urgent but further proof that Adobe (whichever side of the pond) has a genuine contempt for its customers.

After realising my copy of Photoshop CS4 wasn't capable of working with video ( need photoshop extended for that!) i contacted Adobe to ask what i would cost to update Photoshop CS4 to Extended.

Can't be done - what? why not?

Because I bought a bundle three years ago, then updated the bundle to CS2 and recently to CS4 when my new mac refused to work with the earlier versions.

Back then PS did not do video, and so i never considered it a neccesity to update to a different bundle.

I can only do it if i update the entire bundle....totally ridiculous!! I don't want all the fancy web packages and other assorted nonsense that ships with the REALLY EXPENSIVE bundles. Heck, all i want to do is export vanishing point data every now and again.

Adobe seem to be trying there hardest to force legitimate users (with money waiting to be spent) to say "what the heck...i'll look for a crack instead".

I've decided i won't be updating any Adobe software in future. If i need to use a specific effect, then i will just have to find another method to create it. They don't deserve our hard earned cash.

Speaking of Accents
by Jacki Schklar

I'm sorry, getting off-topic, or is that ocasionally allowed?

The first point I wanted to make is that I've had experiences where Indian MAC tech support tried harder and knew their stuff better than previous native English speaking techs. It's sort of clarity vs. a culture that often supplies better customer service.

Second point, where I really get off topic, is that now I'm encountering hiring managers/supervisors I can't understand. In interviews here. And I told a career consultant about this and she says it's getting common. I'm just sayin...

Adobe Comes Through
by walter biscardi

Well, yesterday at 1pm Eastern Time I got a phone call from an Executive Level Customer Care representative out of Canada who pledged to solve the Serial Number issue on the spot. 10 short minutes later, I had a new serial number issued and the software re-activated. What caused the entire issue is a long and convoluted story and I have all the details a little further down if you want to read the entire story.

But on the positive side of all of this, I have heard from no less than three top level Adobe product managers who have admitted they have some issues in customer service and software activation. My situation was a "perfect storm" of all the failings coming together very badly to really highlight the worst of what can happen.

I have been assured that issues like the fax machine and how the Customer Service representatives assist the pro users are being addressed. I hope the entire Activation process is going to be re-evaluated to find a better way to both protect Adobe from the complete losers who feel it's ok to steal software while giving legal owners full access to the software at all time. I hope they are true to their word and will definitely do my best to stay in touch with them and follow up to see what they are doing to improve the process.

Now for the rest of my story....

In November of last year, we were requested to create a BluRay title for one of our clients. In fact they needed four BluRay titles created. Quick research showed that Adobe Encore CS3 was what we needed and that software was bundled with Adobe Premiere CS3. Our VAR made us aware that Adobe has a very generous upgrade policy whereby I could upgrade the Adobe suites in both of our suites at a very reasonable price. So I ordered two copies of Adobe Premium Production CS3 Bundles.

What the VAR did not know, consequently did not inform us, is that Premiere and Encore CS3 do not work on Apple PowerMac G5 machines. In fact, the documentation on Adobe's site was rather vague about this. It didn't say "Encore and Premeire do not work on a G5," it was a bit more like these are the softwares that work on G5 and these are the ones that work on an Intel." If you didn't read that carefully it was easy to miss that and assume that all of CS3 worked on all Macs.

When we discovered this as we tried to install the bundle on the G5 Quad machine , we informed the VAR immediately that it didn't work. By the next day the VAR had all this new information and I told him I was returning one of the packages. The idea had been to use Encore on both machines to create the BluRay titles. Since we couldn't do that, I just needed the one copy of the production package.

Adobe credited us for one of the packages and issued a refund check for that package. I should note that the refund check is no good because for whatever reason Adobe made the check out to me, not my company, but I digress.

Apparently, someone at Adobe noted that I returned BOTH Premium packages and cancelled BOTH sets of serial numbers. So now my serial number was invalid.

So that clerical error set the wheels in motion for the debacle that happened this past week. I now have a brand new serial number and hopefully this entire episode will not have to happen again to anyone else.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.

Allelujah Amen!
by walter biscardi

Just got a note from a Product Manager at Adobe.  Fresh back from NAB and agrees the situation is unacceptable.  I should have a new serial number by tomorrow afternoon.

This system is definitely broken as there is absolutely no reason that an end user should have to contact a CS3 Product Manager to solve an Activation Issue. Adobe has to protect their software but they also need a reasonable solution for end users who have not only legally purchased their software, but have also taken the time to register their software.    What's the point of registering if it can't even be used to show that I'm the legal owner of the software.

Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion of "As the Screw Turns......"

Walter Biscardi, Jr.

Day 6 and the end is still not near.
by walter biscardi

I thought I was getting a new serial number via email tonight. Nope, just another request to keep faxing my proof of purchase. Even contacing the Adobe product manager hasn't been much help so far, though truth be told, he was a little tied up with that small gather in Vegas this week. For your reading pleasure.

Hello Walter,

Thank you for contacting Adobe Customer Service.

Regarding your recent request for a new serial number, we have not
received the required documentation. In order to finish processing your
request, please provide proof of purchase, such as a sales receipt from
an Authorized Adobe reseller.

What Qualifies as Valid Proof of Purchase?
·A copy of the sales receipt from an Authorized Adobe reseller that
shows the product and version purchased, purchase price and the order
date. Purchase orders do not qualify as proof of purchase.

·A copy of the shipping invoice from an Authorized Adobe reseller that
lists the end-user information, the product and version purchased,
purchase price and the order date.

Customer ID Number:

Customer Service Case:

Please fax your proof of purchase to 1-800-955-1610. Please include
your case number. Once the required documentation has been received,
your case will be re-opened.

For more information on Adobe® products or services please visit us at:
or contact Adobe customer services at 1 (800) 833-6687. Customer Service
Representatives are available 6:00am-8:00pm PT, 7 days a week. Please
reference your Customer ID for quicker service.

Best Regards,

Ruby A.
Adobe Customer Service

Walter Biscardi, Jr.

by Mike Cohen
call the ceo
And the beat goes on
by walter biscardi

Day 5 in the quest to re-activate my adobe software and CS3 no longer works on Leopard on this system.  No clue if the fax machine still works because i've given up on that and adobe customer service seems to only have one piece of advice.  Fax in the numbers.

 Walter Biscardi, Jr.

Contact from Adobe
by walter biscardi

Well, now that this issue has reached Ludicrious Stage, I went ahead and contacted one of the Adobe Product Managers last night and he graciously replied with a request for the serial number and case number to see if he can get the software reset.

This is completely crazy that I have to contact a product manager just for a serial number issue. Especially last night, the day before NAB begins and he should be getting ready for whatever product launches they will be announcing today.

There HAS to be a better way for Adobe to protect their software while not blocking legitimate users from using the software. I'll let you know if we're able to get the software working again.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.

30 Fax Attempts today and I'm done
by walter biscardi

Tomorrow (Monday) I shall call Customer Service again and inform them I have made 30 Fax attempts today alone and probably 50 - 60 over three days.   I'm done, I can't WAIT to talk to someone tomorrow.  I promise you it won't be pretty.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.

Still faxing....
by walter biscardi

I guess Adobe still hasn't bought another machine yet.   Even on a Sunday that one fax machine they own is quite busy.....

Walter Biscardi, Jr.

Thanks, Aanarav.
by Ron Lindeboom

Thanks for the reminder. I had it turned off for quite some time due to all the issues. But then when I updated to CS3, it turned it back on and I was so busy and stressed that I forgot how I got it turned off. It's been pretty annoying, especially since I bought the Master Collection and not even all the programs will work. I still can't get Encore DVD to load because of some stupid glitch in the installer. It tells me my license has expired. I bought the thing fer crimanny sakes. I just wish that Adobe would learn to respect their users and the settings that you make in your preferences and fix the freakin' installers and give us access to some REAL customer support instead of the new and unimproved version.

Ron Lindeboom

open source anyone?
by Mike Cohen

In some musty basement somewhere, a 16 year old kid is working on an open source production suite that one day will become popular and free to use. The same thing that happened to the music industry will happen to the software industry. For example, I prefer the Open Office version of Powerpoint over the actual Powerpoint. This may take years, if ever to happen, but companies like Adobe have to learn to respect their customers.

Now speaking of non-english speaking phone operators - certainly there are more non-English speaking people in the world than there are English speaking people, but the phone numbers used in America and Canada should certainly go to Americans or Canadians with little or no accent. That is good customer service. It puzzles me that companies like Adobe and Dell who make generally robust products think they can save a few million dollars by pissing off their customers.

Imagine if car companies decided to use a foreign accented voice for their voice activated emergency systems, just to save a few bucks. Imagine the recorded conversations:

"Hello, this is the emergency system operator, how being of service may we be?"

"I've been hit by a cement mixer, my car is filling up with cement - please help."

"What is the meaning of cement mixer? Do you have your serial number?"

"I can barely move - my lower body is already set - I can't move from the waist down."

"You need to speak slower, i cannot understand the words you are speaking with me using. Without your serial number I will be unable to assist you."

"Ok, I found my serial number, it is 123456789"

"Sorry to inform you sir, you have used the system 3 times before, that serial number is no longer valid. May I interest you in a new service package - please hold while I connect you to our Nashville call center."

"You know what forget it, this cement is warm and comforting, it will soon be up to my neck."

This is an extreme scenario, but the Adobe products often are the lifeblood of a company's ability to earn money - think about that Adobe.

Phone Operators
by walter biscardi

It puzzles me that companies like Adobe and Dell who make generally robust products think they can save a few million dollars by pissing off their customers.

Apple actually had moved their phone operations to some far off land at some point, but then switched back to Canada (thankfully.)  Always great people.


This is an extreme scenario, but the Adobe products often are the lifeblood of a company's ability to earn money - think about that Adobe.

I'm DEFINITELY thinking about this now.  From the poor tech support for Encore on the Mac to this incredibly asinine procedure, I've just about had it with Adobe.  I've been using After Effects since Adobe purchased what was then CoSA.  But if I can't depend on that software being available to me at all times, then it's time to get serious about Motion and whatever is going to replace Shake. 

Walter Biscardi, Jr.

Turning off activation
by Aanarav Sareen


I hear you on the Adobe Activation process. It certainly is annoying and not very reliable.


To turn off Adobe Updater, navigate to:

/Applications/Utilities/Adobe Utilities / Adobe Updater X / Adobe

Go to Preferences and disable automatic updates.



Since you're on the PC, check this out: 


Aanarav Sareen
Dynamic Media Specialist

Now my laptop
by walter biscardi

What the heck? Now my laptop came up and said my Activation Registration was corrupted and it needed to activate again. Abobe Updater going nuts? It did work on my laptop, thankfully, but geez, this is completely asinine.

Oh and I'm still waiting for the fax machine to pick up at Adobe. I guess they need more than one, you would think a company that size could afford more than one fax machine. FYI, they have some nice ones at Costco for under $200. With the money I spent on my legal copy of CS3 you guys could afford 6 of them allowing 6 people at any one time to get a fax through.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.

And if your Mac crashes, nearly always...
by Ron Lindeboom

...if you can do diagnostics and see what caused it -- "sooprize!," as Gomer Pyle said -- the Adobe Updater has seized control of the machine, locked up on some utterly bizarre and arcane piece of code somewhere and crashed an otherwise rock-stable system.

This has happened many times to me and when it has, without exception, it is the Adobe Updater. What an absolute pile of crap bunch of code. It's invasive, it is seemingly stoopid as rock, and it can't seem to get through its processes without becoming "mentally mummified" and crash when it is running as part of the background processes.

Did I mention that I HATE the Adobe Updater.

If I knew how to rip its guts out of my system without screwing up my Adobe installs, I'd do it in a minute.

Ron Lindeboom 

And this too
by Scott Simmons
Not to mention that an Adobe installer puts tons of crap all over your system that you neither ask for or want. They are getting like Microsoft in this respect.
Also maddening....
by Tim Wilson

I've been meaning to write about this, but the Adobe Updater is the most invasive, annoying application on my computer. I was able to turn off the freaking MICROSOFT updater in Windows Vista, but I can't turn off the Adobe update on EITHER platform.

My connection speed is decent -- a solid 10 MBps. Every now and again my system grinds down to nothing, and surprise! Well, NO surprise -- it's the Adobe Updater.

When that thing comes up, and I say Cancel All, I had always assumed that I was cancelling the order, so to speak. But no, the same choices keep popping up and popping up, as often as not for things like Device Central that I don't expect to ever use.

Did I mention that I was able to turn off MSFT's warnings about critical security updates or whatever? Never get 'em anymore. I update when I'm ready -- which means NOT when I'm in the middle of something.

Even if I could flat-out swap Motion for After Effects (and I doubt I'll ever be able to), I can't even think about replacing Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Acrobat -- all irreplacable components in creating The Cow Experience. I throw Illustrator into the mix because I like it so much.

The fact is that I'm an idiot. I may be missing a simple, obvious switch that I can throw to make the Adobe updater leave me alone. Until then...


Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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