After having made the transition to a completely "virtual" studio within the last year, I find myself spending a ridiculous amount of time dealing with software updates, upgrades, registrations, etc., and as a result it feels like I spend more time getting ready to make music than actually making music these days. There are two major areas in which software companies could make all of our lives a little easier: registration/copy protection and staying current (version updates).
Here's a real-life example. Among dozens of other products, I own Native Instruments' Komplete bundle and most of East West's line, all of which use Native Instruments playback engines. For every one of those plugins, I've had to go to their website before I even install anything to make sure I have the most recent version (install discs are rarely up to date). That's a given with any company. However, just try finding an obvious "Updates" link on their homepage; this should be one of the main tabs on any software site, yet it's a small text link halfway down the page. Then of course you have to log in, and then you get something about protected updates vs. unprotected updates, and so on. Why all the hassle - if you don't own the software, what good is a "protected" update going to do? I don't mean to pick on N.I., but this is just an obvious example of things being much more complicated than necessary.
In most cases, it's like jumping through hoops to find the most recent version of something; web sites are often poorly organized. It should be as simple as having one web page with a list of all current products, clearly showing the current version (and date posted!) of each.
Here's an even easier approach, yet it's rarely done: a plugin window should have its version number plainly visible somewhere - maybe in a corner. You shouldn't have to click on some "magic spot" or go digging for it. Then, there should be a button (or at least a menu item) that says "check for updates." Clicking on this should connect to the company's web site, look for a more recent version and download it automatically if available.
As of now I have to go to my computer's plugin folder and look for each plug's version number manually. Often it's not even listed there, so how am I supposed to know if it's current? Then it's off to the web site for each plugin, try to find the current version, log in with my password and serial number to download it (now where did I put that "passwords" database I created)... and so on.
Back to the example. I own several computers in my studio, and I also administer several computers for some of my clients. Now multiply the headache of staying up-to-date by each computer I have to deal with, and it becomes a full-time job. Then imagine I replace a machine with a newer model, or that I have to do an OS re-install. I have to jump through all those hoops again: install, register, check for updates, etc. - for every plugin on every computer! It could be so much simpler if companies simply adopt some common-sense ideas like the one I described above (everything should be done directly from the plugin itself).
As for copy protection, it's been addressed before, yet companies still punish legitimate users by using time-consuming, inconvenient or just plain bizarre methods while pirates still find ways to use the software for free. I know that companies need to protect their products, but for the sake of our time and sanity, try to find a balance between the need to protect and the need to be transparent. It really is a major hassle, not to mention unfair, for legitimate users to deal with some of the methods employed.
Here's hoping! In the meantime, I hope to be making music sometime soon...
Music Production & Programming
Thompsons Station, TN (USA)