Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


Open letter to Adobe

Dear Adobe:

Your activation system is a failure.

I have been a loyal customer for more than ten years. I’ve dutifully paid pretty much whatever you’ve asked for upgrades over the years, and I’ve always been happy with your product.

I understand that you don’t want people to steal your software. Never mind that Photoshop is largely the industry leader in image management because it was mercilessly copied by everyone. Your product is good, and I like it.

Let’s be clear about this. I’m not stealing your software.

But you’re treating me like a criminal. Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve had to talk to one of your activation support reps because your online activation system is broken. It has several times just decided that I’d activated enough, and was suspicious. Never mind that I was reinstalling on a brand new replacement computer. Never mind that on the first occasion this happened, there was no grace period, and the software simply would not run until I talked to a representative on the phone, who, by the way, are ONLY AVAILABLE DURING WEST COAST BUSINESS HOURS.

Thanks. You’ve given me reasons to think twice about giving you more money in the future and tarnished your spotless reputation.

Bravo. I hope it was worth it.

[Update: I've spoken to Adobe support after my fourth automated reactivation failure, and apparently, this is an issue with RAID devices, where the activation system sees it as a different computer configuration on subsequent checks. My previous comments stand. This is totally unacceptable. Worse than that. The system is not only broken, it's returning false positives for theft masquerading as valid and accepted disaster prevention techniques. So, my opinion is now this - Adobe has not only foisted misguided copy protection techniques on us, but, to add insult to injury, they're still beta. There is a patch available, so contact Adobe if you have this problem.]

[Update #2: I installed the patch, and activation failed yet again. Holding for support... ]

[Update #3: After activating again via phone, all seems to be working. For now. ]

8 Responses to “Open letter to Adobe”

  1. KM Says:


  2. Av4rice Says:

    If they’re going to spit in your face either way, you might as well just steal from them. You’ll get the same treatment as before plus you’ll save money. Adobe just made the decision easy for you.

  3. adam Says:

    Frankly, I’d settle for getting them to stop treating their customers like criminals.

  4. ElCapitanAmerica Says:

    Ironic. If you get one of the many illegal copies of the product out there in the web, you’ll have a better user experience (no activation). If you buy the product, they’re making it difficult for you to install it!

    In a way Adobe is making the case for piracy!

  5. albert Says:

    Shame to Adobe. Same goes to Norton. I’ve been using its antivirus suite for ages and this christmas I decided to move away when I was asked to call them to activate it after 2 installs. The second install was because it made ages I hadn’t formatted and after a harddisk failure, I wasn’t able to reinstall again… Should I ask the harddisk manufacturer to activate it for me? This kind of protection is really silly. You should try GIMP. Don’t even use adobe. I think the previous comments suggesting piracy are not the way to go. Use FREE software.

  6. adam Says:

    I support free software in MANY cases, but in this case, there are two important reasons why GIMP won’t cut it.

    1) For real photo editing, GIMP just can’t hold a candle to Photoshop. I’ve tried it, and it’s just not that powerful. Adobe actually has spent a lot of time perfecting their interface and making their tools useful, and I don’t mind paying for that.

    2) It’s not just Photoshop – we’re talking about the entire CS Suite. I use InDesign a lot for print publishing, and it’s miles ahead of even their closest commercial competitor. There’s NOTHING like it in free software. Same goes for the full version of Acrobat.

    As I said, I really really like the Adobe tools, which I think is why they should avoid making me feel like they don’t appreciate it. If I’m one of their supporters, and they’re turning me off, I can’t imagine that people who are less dedicated are going to stick around at all.

  7. stealth Says:

    my hat is off to adobe, their authorization process is very effective. it took me much longer to crack ps cs than previous versions.

  8. Peter da SIlva Says:

    Almost 25 years ago I found myself huddled in a corner of a computer lab at the University of Houston with one of the local pirate software geeks getting a pirated copy of the game “Wizardry” copied over the legal version on my original floppy, because the copy protection on the diskette was so aggressive that after saving a game on a slightly mistimed floppy drive, once, it would only ever allow me to play the game using that same drive… and of course a drive whose timing has started to drift is not long for this world.

    Wizardry was the last copy-protected game I bought. But, of course, that was no big deal, it was only a game. Copy protection, of course, is a form of digital rights management, so one bad experience has immunized me to the appeal of DRMed software.

    More recently, I’ve had to email Apple and get them to clear all my authorized computers from their database at the iTunes Music Store because a flakey hard drive and a series of system reinstalls had caused me to exceed my maximum allowed authorizations.

    I’ve since made sure I’ve backup copies of my music on audio CDs without DRM. No big deal, as long as I can do that. But I’m going to make sure that any DRMed content I buy in the future has a backdoor like that.

    I refused to upgrade to Windows XP, because an operating system with DRM in its heart scares me, and it was the prospect of having to do so that finally got me to pay the “Mac Tax” and buy a Macintosh instead of dual-booting between FreeBSD and Windows… and I guess I should thank Microsoft for giving me the necessary nudge to make the switch.

    The rumors I’ve heard about Apple using DRM to keep people from running Mac OS X for Intel on generic clones bother me: if the alternatives are a DRMed operating system from Microsoft or a DRMed operating system from Apple or giving up on popular commercial software completely, I guess I’ll ride the Power PC bus until the wheels fall off and see if the world’s come to its senses five years or so down the road.

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