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AppForge: a product activation nightmare

Nobody likes product activation, but it is used increasingly by software vendors in search of more effective anti-piracy measures. Microsoft is the most prominent example, but many smaller vendors do the same. Codegear, for instance, use activation for Delphi. Even if you have a valid registration key, you cannot use the product until it has checked in with Codegear’s license server.

Last month Appforge went bust. The company made a development tool called CrossFire, which lets you code in Visual Basic or C# but cross-compile for numerous platforms including Palm, Nokia’s Series 60 and Series 80, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. A useful tool, but AppForge has an activation system that applies both to the development tool and in many cases to the client runtimes.

The AppForge license server is now offline. Result: developers with CrossFire applications and fully paid-up licenses can no longer deploy their products.

AppForge has been acquired by Oracle, but apparently Oracle has no interest in continuing the CrossFire product. Here’s what Oracle says:

Please note that Oracle’s acquisition of AppForge’s intellectual property did not include the purchase of the company as a whole, or the purchase of other AppForge assets including its customer contracts. Accordingly, Oracle does not plan to sell or provide support for former AppForge products going forward.

Former customers are fighting back. There is talk of a competition to crack AppForge activation: money for the prize is being put on the table.

What about Oracle? Is it really so difficult to resurrect the AppForge license server? Ending all support and development for a product is bad enough; robbing existing users of the right to use it seems extreme.

There may yet be a happy ending. But for now, this really is the nightmare scenario that opponents of the product activation concept feared. No, I don’t think something similar could happen to Windows and Office; but clearly there are real risks when using products from smaller vendors.

A solution is to use some form of escrow where unlocked versions of the software are guaranteed to be made available in the event that the original company can no longer offer activation services. The AppForge saga suggests that customers should insist on this or some alternative protection before committing to activation-protected software.

 

Related posts:

  1. Windows activation annoyances – not one but two
  2. Opera Unite: another way to share, another nightmare for digital rights
  3. Microsoft releases Visual Studio LightSwitch: a fascinating product with an uncertain future
  4. Hands On with Microsoft Security Essentials – terrible name, but product looks good
  5. RunRev renames product to LiveCode, supports iPad and iPhone but not Windows Phone 7

7 comments to AppForge: a product activation nightmare

  • FDMILNER

    I’m one of those lucky system admins looking for a solution to CrossFire client activation. Please post any updates to this issue as I am sure that there are many other admins searching for a solution.

  • Ed Bischoff

    I think what the CEO of appforge did is FRAUD. He should be prosecuted and sent to the Federal Pen. All he had to do was make a simple provision for all his customers, place the BOOSTER on line for download. And the same for his development software CROSSFIRE of which I never was able to get it activated after purchase. Its not the price of the software that is the issue, it is all the man hours already spent preparing applications that run on that platform.

    And what a bad P/R move by Oricle, instead of Micro-soft being public enemy no. 1, their pampas ass actions and response “BOOSTER” them to the top of my list.

  • Mitch

    We too are cursed by the Appforge/Crossfire bankruptcy. We are in a slightly better situation in that we were originally able to deploy our application to about 25 Palms. They are out there in the field being used everyday. Unfortunately, the issue we have now, is that every time one goes down, we have no way of reloading our application to a replacement Palm. We are down to about 20 with a working application. Until a crack is figred out, Does anyone have an equal alternative to Appforge?

  • I developed a mobile version of a special calculator, which we sell online. Now that we can’t activate new orders I want to revert to our version 4 Appforge (which I kept on one computer). This vesion had the boosters free, inluded with the Appforge application. Of course, I can’t develop apps for Blackberry, or any of the others that came with Crossfire.
    My problem is this: how do I completely clean Appforge from my mobile devices so I can install the older booster? I need to do this so I can test upgrades to the software I develop. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • An additional comment. I think Appforge went broke because they got greedy! When the boosters (clients) were free Appforge was a beautiful means of developing software for mobiles. Activating our buyer’s products under the crossfire system became a nightmare for us. I think prospective buyers could see that, and just went somewhere else.

  • John M

    We originally deployed 10 licenses. When units go down, I install the evaluation option. Unfortunately it needs to be re-installed every 15 days.

  • Max Cool

    I have the Serial for the Activation of Mobilevb 3.5
    USER : AppForge
    EMAIL: no_more@money.jp
    LICENSE: VldXf1eIUV/hUDbN2LjW6m1V

    But it doesn’t work with version 4.0

    If anybody have it, pls share