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johnhattan

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All this talk about Steam and Half Life 2 and ownership reminds me of an amusing conversation my wife had just yesterday.

When working on land development projects, you work with lots of different pieces of software. The primary one is Autodesk Land Development Desktop (i.e. AutoCAD with a buncha land development extensions), but we use several others. The big one is SiteModel 3D, which is a $9,000 3D modeling package that builds 3D models of proposed vs. existing land grades and calculates your grading for you.

We also use several packages from Haestad Methods, namely CulvertMaster (drainage-ditch size calculation), FlowMaster (water-flow calculation), StormCAD (storm-sewer calculation), and PondPack (detention pond calculation). Haestad's a bit of an interesting company, and when I say "interesting", it's a euphamism for "annoying". Their software is a confusing tangle of licenses and floppy keydisks and unlock codes for "how much" of each particular package you'd like to use. They're also without-a-doubt the most prolific spammers in the engineering industry, being more than happy to keep your email and physical mailbox packed with ads begging you to upgrade your package or buy another package or renew your "bronze level client care" subscription.

Anyway, they are capable products and they do prevent us from having to do the pile of differential equations required to calculate any of the aforementioned items that are required for land development. Shelly even attended a recent Haestad conference in Austin where she had a good laugh with the instructors on how they've got a good product but a more-than-mildly-annoying way of selling it. The instructors told her that yeah, it's a bit annoying, but it's just part of the owner's quirky "vision" for the company.

Well, things got a bit more than "mildly annoying" yesterday. Shelly got a call from a Haestad rep stating that the company had just merged with Bentley Systems (makers of AutoCAD competitor, MicroStation). Because of this new business arrangement, it would be required that Shelly upgrade her support subscription immediately and for a higher price. If she didn't do so, she would have to "surrender the licenses for all of your Haestad Methods products".

No, really. They wanted her to buy a few grand worth of support contracts immediately or else surrender her licenses to the products and uninstall them immediately.

Shelly, in a move that made me immensely proud, suddenly became amused at Haestad's newfound hubris. She made it clear to the salesman that she would not be uninstalling anything and she would certainly not be sending another penny to a company with support policies that more resemble extortion than technical help.

I actually recall her saying something akin to "if you guys think I'm going to buy support from a threat, then you can pound sand". That's my girl.
She told the support-guy that their new policy will undoubtedly cause every small business (which am us) to abandon them. She then advised him to depart from her forever and be sure to go to his little weekly support meeting and try to impress upon his supervisors that their new policy is gonna make 'em even more poorly thought of than they already are.

Anyway, they lost us as a customer. If we ever need another one of their products or it's time to upgrade, you can bet we'll be moving to one of their competitors. And when you're talking about multi-thousand-dollar products like they sell, it doesn't take many annoyed customers to have a visible effect on the bottom line.
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Well look at the bright side. When Microsoft's "Trustworthy Computing" is place they'll be able to turn off the software until she pays them their extort^h^h^h^h^h^h rightfully earned fee.

You guys are so unreasonable. How else are they going to pay for this buy-out?

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