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Why so much hate against USB security dongles (like iLok and Steinberg key)

lux

Senior Member
my issue with dongles is that I use two computers in two different places, it's always me but I use alternatively two setups, one for studio and one at home.

I'm such a disaster in keeping things in good shape and moving a dongle between two setups means loosing the dongle or destroying it in a breeze. I think a dongle license should work for two separate dongles, as long as it's me using it. Most software based authorization systems allow me to do that.

As a matter of fact, while I never use them concurrency, I have two separate licenses with two different dongles for the (very few) softwares who actually use a dongle. Namely Cubase and Refx Nexus. I had to spend twice while a more flexible license would have worked miracles in my case.

Then I simply stay away of any other product based on dongles, that's a fact.
 

TigerTheFrog

Amphibiousician
The dongles exist for one reason: to protect developers from piracy. Developers spend a lot of money and time creating libraries and they are pirated the next day. Friends of mine have had their companies go out of business at great personal and professional loss. I'm sympathetic to that and it is no sacrifice for me to use a dongle to help developers stay in business.

However, there are great differences in how each company handles things if there is a problem. If you own a Steinberg product, you still own it if anything happens to the dongle. You can phone them, get through immediately, and they will try to get you up and running at no extra charge, aside from buying a new dongle, if that is necessary. With the same dongle, VSL has a very different policy. My objection is not to the dongle, but to the way VSL handles it, which I think is unjust. I have VE Pro, which is one of a kind product, but I will never buy any instruments from them, until they reconsider.

For me it's not an issue of dongles or copy-protection schemes, it's an issue of what companies I choose to do business with, based on how they treat their customers.

At this point, I won't patronize any company that expects me to pay more after I have purchased their products, like Waves. I will never buy another Waves plugin. From what my ears are able to discern at my age, there's nothing they sell that isn't available in equal or better quality from other companies. If the day ever comes that all the Waves plugins I own will stop working unless I send them a few hundred bucks, I will live without those plugins.
 
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bigcat1969

Senior Member
If you want to be entertained and you know professional network guys ask them to do a bit of research about ilok and tell you what they think. A real pro can turn vermilion in the face and invent new expletives when discussing ilok. But you know they are obsessed with computer security and hate vulnerabilities.
 

Land of Missing Parts

flibbertigibbet
+1 for what @TigerTheFrog said above. I'm sympathetic to developers, many of whom are fellow members of this forum, and don't mind dongles. I've never had a problem in 10+ years of use, and while I understand a lot of the criticisms that people have mentioned, they work fine 98% of the time and aren't so bad.

...Except VSL. I think they should change their policy, because the 2% of the time something does go wrong, you should not have to repurchase their products. That alone is reason to think twice about investing in VSL.
 

WhiteNoiz

';...;'
I can certainly largely agree with the perspective that it's not maybe so much the dongle itself, but the policies that surround it. In essence you're still limited but it can be made palatable, especially considering many people make money from it and don't just toy around, so it can be a logical trade-off.

What would make it more bearable would probably be having companies obligated by law to offer trials, limited time refunds, resales, license recoveries etc. if they use heavy-handed DRM, since they can essentially brick the products (or they can be bricked by malfunctions) as it now very closely resembles a physical product and not just a copy-paste digital asset (which, confusingly, it still is, but pseudo-limited, and what's even weirder is that that replacement process is still vastly cheaper and easier compared to replacing a physical product, which is what they actually charge you extra for).

There are still advantages to how things are right now which have been mentioned.

Ultimately, it falls to the user to decide, but I think some legal steps can still be taken; or at least be discussed and tested.

Here's a recent example too (not direct comparison, but the reasoning is similar):
https://www.gamespot.com/articles/sony-is-being-sued-in-australia-for-not-offering-p/1100-6467209/
https://www.techradar.com/news/sony-faces-australian-government-lawsuit-for-illegal-playstation-store-refund-policy

Although this can also potentially be problematic, depending on how you define the use cases, the estimation of degrees of "misrepresented", "problematic" or "unusable" etc.
 
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David Chappell

Active Member
Oooh I've got some hate to pile on

Plugins using ilok will often corrupt on reopening a cubase project, crashing cubase unless I remove that plugin. The only solution has been to stop using ilok plugins on any project I ever need to reopen. I don't know - or care - if it's been fixed; that was a sufficient breach of trust for me to immediately disqualify any new plugin that uses ilok.

I won't go anywhere near VSL, as if the dongle gets lost/ broken, they won't just restore your licenses; no, you have to buy them again (at an, ahem, "generous" 50% discount, I believe). Reprehensible policy.

Ditto the ilok zero downtime con. Lumping extra, unnecessary costs on paying customers is quite the dick move.

There are more than enough developers that make fantastic products and don't require ilok - u-he, fabfilter, valhalla, spectrasonics, to name but a few - so I don't especially feel like I'm missing out now that I've stopped buying any new plugins that require ilok.
 

X-Bassist

Senior Member
I thought VSL had changed their policy a few months ago about having to rebuy instruments if the e-licenser died (can’t remember if it’s “insurance” you have to pay for now yearly- or if I dreamt all this ;) ). This old policy of rebuying instruments has kept me from buying any VSL instruments as well (although I keep upgrading VEPro and getting the free instruments with it. Can anyone confirm or deny this new policy?

I’m fine with it being a dream if that’s what it was. :D
 
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X-Bassist

Senior Member
Oooh I've got some hate to pile on

Plugins using ilok will often corrupt on reopening a cubase project, crashing cubase unless I remove that plugin. The only solution has been to stop using ilok plugins on any project I ever need to reopen. I don't know - or care - if it's been fixed; that was a sufficient breach of trust for me to immediately disqualify any new plugin that uses ilok.

I won't go anywhere near VSL, as if the dongle gets lost/ broken, they won't just restore your licenses; no, you have to buy them again (at an, ahem, "generous" 50% discount, I believe). Reprehensible policy.

Ditto the ilok zero downtime con. Lumping extra, unnecessary costs on paying customers is quite the dick move.

There are more than enough developers that make fantastic products and don't require ilok - u-he, fabfilter, valhalla, spectrasonics, to name but a few - so I don't especially feel like I'm missing out now that I've stopped buying any new plugins that require ilok.
I use Cubase and never had this problem. Are you sure it’s not the plugin itself? (which HAS happened to me, but they were not iLok plugins). The idea that ANY iLok plugin would do this is a pretty big deal. I think we would have heard this from the hundreds of Cubase users here. But that’s not to say it isn’t a reality in your case, just seems unusual.
 

X-Bassist

Senior Member
When think about it if we had a world with out dongle license there would be nothing to rant about,

I think forums need to have a vent about something, kind of mixes it up.
So... these dongles where actually all about keeping us from thinking about how the doubling of computer speeds every year or two has crashed and burned?!? (Since 2013?... I think?).

Brilliant!!! Yes, that’s my next complaint (Got to be something, huh?)
 

David Chappell

Active Member
I use Cubase and never had this problem. Are you sure it’s not the plugin itself? (which HAS happened to me, but they were not iLok plugins). The idea that ANY iLok plugin would do this is a pretty big deal. I think we would have heard this from the hundreds of Cubase users here. But that’s not to say it isn’t a reality in your case, just seems unusual.
I'm not sure how unusual it is, but it was confirmed by Steinberg support that it's an ilok issue, and they indicated that I wasn't the only one with the issue.

this is just bullshit. fix your computer.
Incorrect, it's very much an ilok issue confirmed by a Steinberg developer:

'The crash dump hints at an issue we think is related to Pace (the iLok) and the QL Spaces plug-in. But it seems that Pace is to blame here as their protection and multithreading code don't go along very well in this case.
This is the very technical explanation: "On Windows Pace installs a hook inside the CreateThread call to temporary code during the authorization. A call to CreateThread from another thread might run through that temporary code, when returning from CreateThread the temporary code might have already vanished, i.e. freed, the result is such a crash." '

also:

'There are other reports on similar issues with iLok protected plug-ins but it also seems to be depending on the plug-in itself whether it works or not.
At this point I can only hope that plug-in and iLok updates will help and that Pace can address the issue mentioned earlier on.'
 

Philip Vasta

New Member
First of all, I totally understand developers needing to protect themselves from people who take advantage of piracy - and there are many of those people. Second, a dongle can, in some circumstances, be a nice and easy, plug and play kind of thing.

That being said, I'm really averse to the hoops you have to jump through if this little dongle actually fails, or I misplace it or whatever. I prefer the way licensing is handled by Microsoft with Office 365 and by Bitwig: Quick online authorization for 3 computers (more for Office 365). If you need to activate the license on a new computer, it's as simple as logging into your account online and deactivating the old one. It protects the developer, and it's super easy for the customer.
 

Mornats

Senior Member
Having to buy an ilok is, to me, like a company saying "thanks for buying our product, now pay us $25 as we don't believe you bought it".
 

pk-1

New Member
iLok at least has the option of a computer only version of protection and it works just fine. There's no reason to use a hardware solution.
This is also a hardware solution, the license is just bound to the hardware of your computer rather than an external dongle. But it's good of course to have the choice, depending on your usage scenarios. I like companies that allow two activations per license, so I can have one on my computer and one on a dongle.
 

667

Senior Member
I'll give another reason: PACE is actively trying to prevent paying customers from contacting them.

If you want to ask a question you cannot. Their online troubleshooter is not just garbage, but actively so: it works very hard to prevent you from contacting them. If you have a question not on the troubleshooter? Too bad. You must go through our flow. Some just end with an answer, you have to work very hard to find one that has a 'create support ticket' option. And it may or may not apply to your case, but as a result of it being forced via code/forms, each is different and asks different questions.

In the industry this is known as 'dark patterns'.
https://www.darkpatterns.org/

For example you can get there saying you can't log in, but it asks for all your personal information (birthdate etc.) to verify your identity. But maybe you just want to email them to ask which vendors are supporting iLok Cloud, because the cloud icon is greyed out on all the 100+ plugins you own but are very curious about it. Which is my case.

But PACE says, no, we hate you, we hate all customers, so go pound sand.

I can't imagine having to deal with this company in any serious capacity but perhaps once you buy their protection money (zdt) you can get treated like a human being instead of a dog.

Seriously [email protected]#[email protected]! PACE. Garbage company.
 

X-Bassist

Senior Member
I'll give another reason: PACE is actively trying to prevent paying customers from contacting them.

If you want to ask a question you cannot. Their online troubleshooter is not just garbage, but actively so: it works very hard to prevent you from contacting them. If you have a question not on the troubleshooter? Too bad. You must go through our flow. Some just end with an answer, you have to work very hard to find one that has a 'create support ticket' option. And it may or may not apply to your case, but as a result of it being forced via code/forms, each is different and asks different questions.

In the industry this is known as 'dark patterns'.
https://www.darkpatterns.org/

For example you can get there saying you can't log in, but it asks for all your personal information (birthdate etc.) to verify your identity. But maybe you just want to email them to ask which vendors are supporting iLok Cloud, because the cloud icon is greyed out on all the 100+ plugins you own but are very curious about it. Which is my case.

But PACE says, no, we hate you, we hate all customers, so go pound sand.

I can't imagine having to deal with this company in any serious capacity but perhaps once you buy their protection money (zdt) you can get treated like a human being instead of a dog.

Seriously [email protected]#[email protected]! PACE. Garbage company.
Actually I found an iLok support phone number pretty easily, called it, got a support tech in a few minutes of waiting, who helped me resolve the issue. Crazy, huh?

Perhaps it was because I called and no one likes to use a telephone anymore. When everyone was on hold with tech support I was the first person to be emailing them with questions. But now that everyone wants an online answer or direct email (which was common years ago and now very rare), I just went back to calling them.

Surprisingly the phone lines are more open nowadays. ;)

Seriously, if I went through the hoops you did perhaps I would be saying the same things. If I wasn’t a customer I probably wouldn’t think of calling them either. I agree with you, they should be easier to get a hold of.
 
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