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Ask Slashdot: Which Software/Devices Are Unusable Without Connecting to the Internet? (techdirt.com) 200

New submitter AlejandroTejadaC writes: Currently, most commercial software and hardware manufactures rely on an internet connection for registering or activating their products and providing additional functionality. In an ideal world this works fine, but in our real world the buyer could lose access to internet for months -- such as in emergency situations like the aftermath of hurricane Maria -- and their products will refuse to work because they need an internet connection. Which companies are using their internet servers as replacements for hardware dongles? I want to see a complete list of software and devices that become completely unusable without a live internet connection. Just remember the infamous case of the Razer Synapse.

Ask Slashdot: Which Software/Devices Are Unusable Without Connecting to the Internet?

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  • Oh wait, they went bankrupt. Never mind!

    Tasty juice tho.

  • This is no problem at all for devices whose function is to communicate over the internet. And inexcusable for anything else. Period. Get your money back.
    • You prefered the days of USB dongles, license servers and an inability to rent per-minute licenses? I for one didn't I ask companies to add internet connection based licensing, I'm so sick and tired of managing FlexLM servers, replacement dongles and paying $1,000 a year when we desparately need it for 60 minutes.

      • by cas2000 ( 148703 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:19PM (#55544483)

        have you ever heard the term "false dichotomy"?

        because, you know, internet spyware and $1000 dongles are not the only alternatives.

      • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:36PM (#55544569)

        You prefered the days of USB dongles, license servers and an inability to rent per-minute licenses? I for one didn't I ask companies to add internet connection based licensing, I'm so sick and tired of managing FlexLM servers, replacement dongles and paying $1,000 a year when we desparately need it for 60 minutes.

        I'll take a local license file and FlexLM manager any day over internet-dependent services.

        I can handle one license server having issues, impeding work. I sure as hell don't want to deal with all of my license managers going down if I lose internet service.

        And 60 minutes a year define your usage requirement? I'd outsource that shit.

        • by lucm ( 889690 )

          60 minutes a year define your usage requirement? I'd outsource that shit.

          That's about my usage for printers, and for a long time I was relying on print services like ups store, and it was a huge pain in the ass. I ended up buying a wifi printer and it's also a pain in the ass so unfortunately there's no happy conclusion to my story.

        • And 60 minutes a year define your usage requirement? I'd outsource that shit.

          I recognised the UserID im_thatoneguy from other post-production forums as Gavin Greenwalt [imdb.com], so am guessing '60 minutes' refers to post-production on the television show '60 minutes' rather than a unit of time-usage.

      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

        I like my dongle. I have the software installed on every computer I use - two work laptops and home laptop and a home desktop, and just have my dongle with me. Yes, it's costly if I lose it (a lot more than $1000), but I like the flexibility. My VPN connection to work servers is normally just fine... but there are days it seems it just doesn't want to work; I'd hate to have to go into work when I normally wouldn't have to because Comcast is out, or our VPN portal is being DDOS attacked or something.

        When

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          MUST.......RESIST........DONGLE.............JOKE!

          But seriously, as terrible as local licence managers and dongles can be, at least when something goes wrong, you aren't left sitting in the dark hoping someone a thousand miles away will do the right thing to get things running again eventually. That and in some environments, a connection to the outside world is forbidden or just unavailable.

      • You prefered the days of USB dongles, license servers and an inability to rent per-minute licenses?

        I prefer software that doesn't have any of that garbage.

    • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

      Personally, I'm quite happy with a piece of software needing to talk over the Internet once to get activated, but software that phones home periodically and stops working if there no connection is the spawn of Satan as far as I am concerned. I used to have a big problem with Steam in this regard. It always seemed to want to phone home exactly at the time I was on a plane or a train without the Internet.

      It doesn't seem so bad these days. Or perhaps that is a reflection of the ever more ubiquitous Internet co

  • I like it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:09PM (#55544439)

    The tradeoff is between the bad old days of hardware locked licenses or just as bad managing a license server. We have quite a bit of software that was a huge pain in the ass to move between computers or else had to connect to our vpn just to function. Connecting to the internet every few days is a small price to pay to simplify licensing and offer more flexibility in deployment.

    • Or you could go back to just owning what you paid for, you know, like the older not so bad days...But human nature and "theft" of "IP" and greed mean we can't have nice things anymore. Well, I write my own nice software, but...
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I don't mind the occasional licence check, what I mind is changing from a one-off payment to a subscription model.

  • by dfsmith ( 960400 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:18PM (#55544471) Homepage Journal
    One of the reasons I picked Tradfri over other other "smart"/IoT lights and switches is because it's all local---no cloudy stuff supported except for the things I've explicitly connected. However, there are a number of silly bugs and missing features that make it practically unusable. So, I'm still searching for lights and buttons that work, and my X10 system is still being used....
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      However, there are a number of silly bugs and missing features that make it practically unusable.

      Which is why non-cloud products don't sell. Consumers like cloud based stuff, they like being able to download a phone app that does all the set-up for them, and lets them control their lightbulb from the office. Promising more features via firmware update is also a good marketing strategy, even if you don't delivery them *cough* Tesla *cough*

      Sadly, security does not sell.

    • by lobotomy ( 26260 )
      I, too, am sticking with my X10 controllers and modules. I would love to switch to something more reliable but two things are holding me back: (1) Requiring an internet connection to work. It is one thing to offer extra features if internet-connected, but being a requirement is ridiculous. (2) The cost of the modules. $50 to $75 for most of them is outrageous.
  • Nothing! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:21PM (#55544489) Homepage

    There is nothing on this planet that I need so badly, that I have to sacrifice it's ability to function if it cannot get on the Internet. If it cannot work on it's own, then it is of no use to me.

  • TiVo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:22PM (#55544491)

    You have a two week grace period, but once it runs out of data and is no longer able to verify your paid account status... you've got an oddly shaped brick on your hands.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      Sure, with no guide data, it won't know about what's on and be able to record it. But it will continue to work as a tuner, so you can still watch channels. Course, if Internet is down, cable probably is, too. You can also playback already recorded shows. It doesn't turn into a brick.
      • Though I thought the topic also was about *initially setting up* the device. It needs the Internet to initially set up/set up your channel lineup/get the first set of guide data. (Obviously it needs to keep connecting to keep updating the guide data.)

        Worse though, and I'm a HUGE tivo fan, is the reliance on the net for some things where data _does_ exist on your local Tivo.. e.g. View Upcoming. If you have a net glitch, you can't View Upcoming, even though that data is already on your Tivo. I do use som

      • I’ve heard conflicting reports on this. Some people said that as of the Series 3, the tuners wouldn’t change channels - you could only play back already recorded shows (admittedly that’s still not a brick).

        I have lifetime on my current box, so I can’t really test it.

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      someone uses a TiVo? wow is it 2002 again

  • I have several older Nooks by Barnes and Noble. Out of the box they are bricks until you activate them online.

  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:32PM (#55544557)

    ...no longer include on-disk help files any more. Click on "About->Help" (or whatever) and you wind up directed to an external web page. I suppose it saved some disk space when the application was installed but pretty annoying if you hit a snag while using the software, need to access a reference, and internet access isn't available.

    • Allows them to always give you the latest workarounds for bugs and links to ads like no local patching could!
    • It especially sucks if you're trying to look up how to access the internet.

    • The fact that it is saving diskspace is not important. You will have more updated help available. The times you need it when th network is down should be limited.
      Just bought bew hardware and I got 2 cds with it. I do not have CD player. Why not include a cheap USB 2 key. 1gb would be enough.

  • The only devices that I have that die quickly are over-the-top settop boxes for streaming TV.

    However, since the OP specifically refers to events that can cause very long outages, I have some more:

    • Cable TV DVR. After 2 weeks, no more guide data. That assumes that cable TV is up but internet isn't. Recorded shows are always available.
    • Microsoft Office 365, even if installed and run locally ahead of time. It phones home every so often (39 days?) to verify your license. Think Puerto Rico.
    • Any documents or email
  • Adobe, et al (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:47PM (#55544639)
    One of the biggest problems with software is that the data created with it may only be usable with that piece of software. Adobe software is a prime example: you'll never be able to reuse an After Effects project without a copy of After Effects the same version or later to use it with, and today your only option is a subscription that can run out. When that subscription runs out, the countless hours you invested in using that software are rendered inaccessible. Sure, you can pull up that MP4 you rendered for YouTube that time, but if you want to revisit the project or reuse it in another? Nope, your subscription's out so your data has dropped to a value of zero.

    I pay Adobe for a software subscription every month. I also keep the latest installers, AMT Painter, cracked amtlib.dll files, etc. lying around in case something goes wrong. The last thing I need is to be broke and unable to pay for my subscription and lose access to my countless hours of work as a result. Regardless of your position within the ethical arguments surrounding software piracy and cracking, it is good practice to keep a known working cracked copy of any "online required" software lying around just in case the vendor cuts you off for some reason.

    Oh, and Adobe refuses to activate old (i.e. CS1) versions of their software, so anyone that "bought" such software and has a computer problem will soon find out that they didn't "own" jack shit. I see no ethical dilemma with using a cracked copy in such cases. Fuck software activation.
    • Re:Adobe, et al (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @02:40AM (#55545673)

      it is good practice to keep a known working cracked copy of any "online required" software lying around just in case the vendor cuts you off for some reason.

      Congratulations AC, you have offered the only useful and practical idea I've seen so far in this thread. Virtue signalling self-policing comments like, I tolerate Internet reliance because I'm a good person and I know there are bad people out there... people (laughably) listing things that are pointless without the Internet... uggh.

      It is good to have cracked [frozen,current,standalone installable] versions even if the software is not strictly 'online required' today, but you have committed to follow an automatic patch-in update path where your operating version begins to diverge seriously from your purchased installable media past a major version. And especially if any step renders your oldest files to become un-usable (or even worse!) subject to some possibly-buggy "conversion step". The gist of it is, I have typically found software to be adept at converting from the previous major versions, but as I discovered on the long and tortuous Aldus Pagemaker 2 (came bundled with 'new' Microsoft Windows version 1.0.3!) thru Pagemaker 3,4,5 Adobe Indesign now Creative Suite path, converting your documents from versions beyond previous can be a shitshow.

      I cite Pagemaker only to illustrate, for it was firmly grounded on the principle that you purchase software for life and are entitled to a functional offline installer. Since Adobe arrived on the scene that idea has been challenged somewhat, and because of that I never fully committed to the Indesign path. When you have stuff that works you should start to ignore new features, especially if they are Internet-bound and just work anyhow.

      But I've been caught at times, and my reaction would seem direct and 'extreme' to the silly anti-pirates that hang out here. THE FIRST TIME I'm sent a document that triggers the message "It looks like this document was saved using a previous version of [x]. Would you like to download a [special lens,filter pack,wonder-tool] so we can convert/open the document?" I sound the general bullshit alarm. This alarm triggers the following actions,
      1. acquire cracked 'previous' version that installs without Internet.
      2. acquire cracked current version that installs without Internet.

      Every week someone at Microsoft asks someone else, "Why are so many people still using XP?" and they receive a direct honest answer. Which they forget because it is uncomfortable. Then they ask again next week, as those people continue to run XP.

      If your hardware or software does not work with Windows 7 you'll never sell any to me. Life gets boring around here sometimes but hey, I own books too. And IF (some say WHEN) the Internet becomes strictly a local affair and the connected world dissolves into enclaves, bunkers and redoubts, I'll be able to assemble working systems off the shelf. What will some of you be doing?

      Reading books, that's what! HA HA HA HA HA...! I'll rent them to you.

    • AutoCAD and other AutoDesk products can not even be purchased anymore. You have to rent them. Just like Adobe stuff. I still have a purchased license installed, that you can upgrade through a subscription service, but if anything happens to this PC, or disk, or whatever I will need to reinstall and it will have to connect to the internet for activation. So still not ideal condition.
      Nowadays a recent version of [rented] AutoCAD (and other AutoDesk products) will check licensing server periodically and will c

  • Linux (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 13, 2017 @08:53PM (#55544675)

    Basically unusable without a constant connection to Stack Overflow.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Troll or incompetent? I can't tell. I've known a few people incompetent enough to feel that way, but they feel the same way every time they get a MSWind upgrade.

  • I stopped buying or using Android apps from the Amazon store because they stopped working after a while without an internet connection. If they couldn't call home, they died.

  • Chumby (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sarusa ( 104047 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @09:30PM (#55544833)

    Sadly, while I really like the Chumby alarm clock form factor (it's a little padded beanbag you can pound to snooze, very satisfying), it's completely dead without an internet connection at boot.

    At one point the company basically went under, but a benevolent soul has kept the servers running for another 5+ years - all of them would stop working without it.

    It doesn't have to be continually connected, but periodically. And when it can't connect, you've got a worthless alarm clock, which is very bad for an alarm clock I really should replace it, but I'm not all that reliant on it (set my phone as backup when I have to make a plane), and I REALLY like hitting the soft top to snooze it.

  • Some years ago I stopped using Family Tree Maker genealogy software because it wouldn't work unless my computer was connected to the Internet. There are lots of other genealogy programs out there that don't require a constant Internet connection and I quickly settled on Roots Magic for most of my record keeping. I also now use Legacy for some chores. Good-bye FTM.
  • Chrome consistently fails to work for me when I have no internet connection
    Firefox isn't any better either.
    I even tried Internet Explorer and Edge.

    None of the web browsers I tried worked without an internet connection! I think there's some collusion going on in the industry. Maybe I should start an antitrust lawsuit.

    • by JustOK ( 667959 )
      Browsers still work, but only for local files.
  • by Torin Darkflight ( 851576 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @10:06PM (#55544947)
    Yes, you can download maps for offline use in a small area, but if you go outside that pre-defined area OR you didn't download maps for offline use and happen to drive through an extended area with poor or no 4G/3G service, it becomes useless. This is perhaps the most bothersome "no internet connection means it won't work" experience I personally have encountered, and it is the primary reason I still carry a standalone GPS device in my car.

    There's also VoIP phone services, including a lot of the phone services provided by cable ISPs. Lose that connection, and you lose "landline" phone service...and yes, there are still lots of people who use landline phones either by choice or necessity.
  • PC games (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Misagon ( 1135 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @10:39PM (#55545045)

    DRM servers have killed the used games market on PCs.
    There are lots and lots of games out there that are over a decade old even that you can't buy used because they have been "activated" on an old DRM server and can't be reactivated on another machine.

    In several cases, legitimate copies of a game can't be played at all on any PC because the game had demanded to contact a now discontinued DRM server even to start.

    • Re:PC games (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @08:10AM (#55546429)

      DRM servers have killed the used games market on PCs.
      There are lots and lots of games out there that are over a decade old even that you can't buy used because they have been "activated" on an old DRM server and can't be reactivated on another machine.

      In several cases, legitimate copies of a game can't be played at all on any PC because the game had demanded to contact a now discontinued DRM server even to start.

      Actually sales killed the used game market on the PC, not that it had a huge one to begin with. When I can buy a year old game on Steam for £10 or 2 year old game on Steam or GOG for £5 new, why would I pay £15 for it used?

      The reason Consoles have a used game market is that Console owners have less money and fewer sales, 12+ months after release you're still paying near release prices for old games.

      As for DRM... there's yet to be one that has remained uncracked. Also I don't reward companies that pull this kind of bollocks, hence EA and Ubisoft has not seen a single one of my currency units (I have cards in multiple countries) since they tried to force me into their own platforms.

  • I've been using Windows for a very long time. Had a number of issues activating in the past, even when XP first came out. Activation has only got more complex and reliant on an internet connection since.

    Activating Windows has always been a headache. I remember those "dongles" that we'd have to use on some software we had, that was a bit inconvenient but at least I didn't need to make a phone call or need internet to get a licensed program to work.

    When in an offline network, for security reasons, this bec

  • Earth can get pummeled by asteroids, ravaged by plagues, by fires, by global warming. It's not going anywhere. We are. Fuck the Earth, let's save humanity?
    • Ah shit this wasn't even the right article I commented on. Thanks for not having an edit button Slashdot. Making websites like it's 1992.
  • Just bought surveillance camera and it only works with its "cloud" connected app.
  • Since Razer Synapse v2.0, they started to store devices profiles over the web. You can still use the mice and keyboards, but gain access device settings such as changing DPI steppings and surface configuration will require customers to create a razer account and log into Synapse.
  • Since Razer Synapse v2.0, they have started to store devices profiles over the web. You can still use the mice and keyboards out of the box, but gaining access to device settings such as changing DPI steppings and surface configuration will require customers to create a razer account and log into Synapse. They even stopped putting onboard memory inside most of their newer mice
  • Calling home (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Cynical Critic ( 1294574 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @04:25AM (#55545851)
    One of the professors at my old university once went to a conference and tried to demo an application he had recently written only to find that it would hang immediately upon launch. It had worked flawlessly when he had been debugging it a few days earlier and run the exact same build the day before. Turns out one of the APIs the application used would "call home" as part of the setup function even when none of the network functions in the API were used.

    Needless to say he ended up with some proverbial egg on his face on top of what you usually get when you're called "Jerker" (Swedish male surname) and try to present something in an English speaking country.
  • Most Smart home hubs want to bounce everything off of their server. Not sure why I need to tell a server in Timbuktu that it's 6:PM, please turn on my porch light.
  • The trend seems to be towards more cloud-based apps than platform-specific, local apps. It illustrates a huge disconnect between developers living in Silicon Valley or other major urban centers where blazing fast and totally reliable internet access is practically guaranteed and the rest of the world. Take, for example, mapping apps. Sure, they work great and you can get satellite imagery as long as your internet connection doesn't suck. But when you need to use it for matters of public safety e.g. sear

  • "I want to see a complete list of software and devices that become completely unusable without a live internet connection."

    And I want a pony. The entire list of this would be longer than the OP ever imagined or cared to know. The internet runs on a hierarchy of interrelated software platforms and applications we never even see.

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