February 10, 2008

New Filter Forge Freepack for Photoshop

The guys behind Filter Forge, the visual node-based filter creation tool, have released "Filter Forge Freepack 2 – Photo Effects," meanwhile announcing a 20% discount for their flagship product.  According to the folks at PhotoshopSupport.com, "The theme of the second Filter Forge freepack is photo effects and enhancements. The free plugin comes with seven filters, each capable of giving any photo a unique look and feel."

Filter Forge is presently Windows-only (Mac version promised), so I haven’t yet given it a spin.  I’d fire up my copy of Vista via VMWare, but now it’s telling me that because I haven’t run it in a while, "You may be the victim of software counterfeiting!”–and thus refusing to function. Ah, good ol’ copy protection…

Posted by John Nack at 8:54 AM on February 10, 2008

Comments

  • Adam Twardoch — 1:42 PM on February 10, 2008

    Reminds me of my experience with Adobe Acrobat 7. I installed it on a Windows laptop. Whenever I connected an external Firewire drive, Acrobat prompted me to activate, because “substantial hardware components have changed”. Same happened when I disconnected the drive.
    I once packed my laptop and flew to a meeting in the UK (I live in Germany), of course having disconnected the drive. I was supposed to make a presentation around 9 am, so I got up at 5 am to polish my presentation, make some last changes and rehearse. The presentation was in PDF format, and I edited it in InDesign.
    I generated a new PDF and opened it in Acrobat in order to merge the PDF with some older content, add slide transitions etc.
    Acrobat started and… told me that my system hardware has changed and I need to re-activate. Cheap hotel room, no internet connection. 5 am, so the phone activation in the UK was not working yet. I tried the U.S. phone activation number, also did not work, but I managed to call the Adobe phone activation office in Australia. An international call from my German mobile phone on international roaming rates in the UK.
    I managed to activate the product and continued working. Soon after that, I filed a bug report. Weeks later, Adobe contacted me and I worked with a developer to locate and fix the problem. Indeed, the next minor update release of Acrobat corrected the problem.
    But I was still left with all the stress, and the international mobile phone charges on my bill.
    Ah, good ol’ copy protection…
    A.

  • Bryn — 3:38 PM on February 10, 2008

    Filter forge looks cool, It reminds me of a old fractal landscape program mojoworld that was great for building complex “programs” visually using nodes.
    Re: vista activation, Keep in mind that some of us feel that way about activating photoshop (limits ability to upgrade machines regularly, or in a virtual machine not that I do, or after a laptop gets stolen and you have to reinstall on a new one, etc. etc.)
    [I know. My point was kind of that activation/DRM are inherently a pain. I don’t know anyone who’s particularly excited about putting product development & testing resources into this stuff. On the other hand, those of us who log thousands of hours creating intellectual property aren’t real excited about having it ripped off, either. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer. –J.]

  • imajes — 3:26 AM on February 11, 2008

    John seeing as you don’t want your intectual property ripped off which costs you money, surely that’s a huge imperative to get it sorted.
    And in a way that the customer doesn’t have to buy software and then use a cracked version to avoid issues like those mentioned above. Which I seem to recall was suggested as a ‘solution’ to a deactivated laptop on location on a weekend. And come to think of it, if that solution worked, it also meant your protection had failed and you’d annoyed a paying customer for no good reason. Though allowing cracked software on machine with other possible nasties is a pretty desperate measure.
    DXO is currently losing customers through it’s current cackhanded software protection. I was thinking of trying it until I discovered this problem.
    Is there such a thing as a lock that can’t be picked?

  • Adam Twardoch — 8:32 AM on February 11, 2008

    The TV film “Fail Safe” (http://imdb.com/title/tt0235376/ ) depicted a situation where a reportedly fail-safe system of launching a nuclear attack fails, and the biggest problem in fixing it is… the “fail-safety”. I think that software activation schemes that immediately restrict the software’s functionality down to a non-usable level are just beyond reasonable. A sensible combination of nag screens and grace periods (like in the old shareware days) usually will fulfill the purpose of embarrassing the illegitimate users, while they will not cause damage to an innocent paying user in case of some glitch or a bug. Workflow stability and trust in basic operations such as “if I hit Save, it will save” are assets for which clients are paying for — often far more important than gimmicks and new features. An unreliable DRM scheme that tends to go wrong every now and then is more damaging to potential sales than piracy, simply because with pirates, you “lose” potential sales from people who often would not even think of buying the software if they had to, while annoyed customers who walk away are REAL lost sales, because those people have the money and were ready to hand it over.
    [If software vendors were experiencing a downturn in sales due to software activation, they’d stop using it. Really. They aren’t, though. That doesn’t mean anyone has to *like* activation, but I don’t like unsubstantiated arguments about lost sales, either. –J.]

  • Ted — 9:08 AM on February 11, 2008

    I have to admit to enjoying a bit of Schadenfreude when I see a complaint about copy protection from a manager at a company whose own products feature a particularly elaborate “activation” system.
    The unfortunate reality is that any copy protection system will impose its burdens solely on legitimate licensed users. Judging by the proliferation of spam offering “OEM” versions of Adobe and other products, once the thieves meet the challenge of breaking the “protection,” their “customers” don’t have those hassles. It isn’t just the low price of their “goods” that keeps the pirates in business! That’s also the way the TSA seems to work– by all accounts “airport security” is consistently ineffective against auditors who bring simulated contraband through the checkpoints, but it’s consistently effective at causing maximum inconvenience for every one of untold millions of innocent passengers. Both reflect the practical reality that it’s much easier to make everyone pay for the sins of a few than to find and punish just the sinners.
    Developers of expensive software understandably want to protect their products from theft. They have the real challenge of devising increasingly complicated copy protection systems that can keep up with increasingly sophisticated thieves, while limiting the inherent inconvenience to legitimate users. By and large, the “activation” systems Adobe and Microsoft use are usually transparent most of the time. But they’re still capable of “alarming” inappropriately, sometimes at the most inconvenient and difficult times for the legitimate user. That’s why it’s amusing to see that it can even bite people who develop copy-protected software. I don’t think there will ever be an ideal solution to the very real problem of piracy.

  • imajes — 10:59 AM on February 11, 2008

    I was just looking to buy some software and came across this, er bargain site
    http://www.softwarecentral.co.uk/graphic.html [maybe you want to censor the addess].
    The FAQs make for interesting reading, for example
    “It is not on an original holographic disc and does not include a certificate, box or manual. You get the full version software including serial code or activation instructions. The software can be used as a backup copy of the original disc, a replacement disc or for evaluation purposes.”
    I wonder how many people are daft enough to buy from these sorts of sites.

  • Scott Valentine — 11:10 AM on February 11, 2008

    I was on an early beta for Filter Forge, and have been quite impressed by it since then. Having spent some time in recording studios wiring up processors in different configurations, and also using virtual tools that do similar things, I love the idea and execution of this filter. I just wish I had more of a need for it right now, cause I’d snap this up.
    On the tangent of DRM, well… it’s a necessary evil, unfortunately. I’m with John in that there’s no perfect answer, but I do hope the industry keeps moving towards better solutions (remember serial dongles??).
    Of course, we wouldn’t need any laws or protections at all if everyone were respectful, honest and objective… so saith Ayn Rand. =D

  • Rick Popham — 2:47 PM on February 11, 2008

    FWIW, Adobe lost my upgrade to Photoshop CS because of its (then) newly implemented activation policy. (I know — big deal.)
    The activation scheme improved with CS2, but just because Adobe hasn’t lost sales, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be improved further. An activation failure should enter the program into an “activation grace period” that would enable your customers to continue working — instead of locking them out of their software. Since Adobe still hasn’t implemented any type of 24/7 activation support, a grace period would be very reassuring.
    Please note that even Microsoft, which DOES have 24/7 support, has announced that with Service Pack 1, Vista will no longer lock out customers with WGA failures.

  • Andrew Smith — 12:02 AM on February 12, 2008

    If anything, software sales should have risen if everyone now has to purchase and activate legit copies. John, did sales rise noticably in conjunction with the addition of product activation?
    [It’s very hard to attribute changes in sales to just one variable (after all, in the time since activation was added to Photoshop, we’ve seen the introduction of Suites, the acquisition of Macromedia, the Intel transition on the Mac, and explosion of digital SLRs and raw processing, and more). That said, Photoshop has been experiencing growth (usually in the double digits) over the last five years, during which activation has been in place. –J.]

  • Adam Twardoch — 4:32 AM on February 12, 2008

    John,
    1. Adobe lost at least one sale, mine.
    2. I work as marketing manager at a software company which tried activation. Some problems with it resulted in quite a few software returns.
    In general, I’m not claiming that activation per se causes lost sales. I’m saying that faulty activation procedures do. I have experienced this both as a customer and as a software vendor, but of course you’re free to consider my feedback “unsubstantiated arguments”.
    [There certainly have been blow-ups around activation that have burned the vendors involved. Intuit, I think, made some early missteps. Adobe has watched those examples very carefully and has tried to steer clear of repeating others’ mistakes. –J.]

  • Ted — 9:31 AM on February 13, 2008

    On the subject of FilterForge, I downloaded and tried the freepack. There’s no indication that it’s crippled and won’t work with images larger than 3000 pixels in either dimension until you try to start the plug-in with such an image. I uninstalled it immediately.

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