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Software to avoid

November 30, 2004

There’s software out there that’s not worth the time it takes to install it, never mind what it costs. Learn from my mistakes.

I’ve been doing an awful lot of home IT work in recent weeks. Here’s some software that’s made my life more difficult.

Gripes about ABSPlus got deleted because it turns out the cause was (probably) a firmware problem in the firewire drive. CMS (software vendor) sold me the drive with the down-rev firmware, so they’re not completely off the hook. Turns out both pax and Retrospect also hung up, and sometimes it would hang on unmounting. In this case, the “old” firmware was version 3.6 in an Oxford 911 firewire bridge; this is not the same as the 922 that caused all the problems with Mac OS 10.3.whatever, but there was an updater tool, and all the problems vanished after I updated the firmware.

Update, such as it is. I upgraded to 10.3.7, the problem remains. I think it is the firewire drive, but I cannot tell for sure. A friend has recently bought a Powerbook, I am recommending against both this software, and against Firewire drives.

SimCity (4, Deluxe) from Electronic Arts (on a PC).

It installed once, but now, after hardware trouble and a from-scratch OS install, it doesn’t seem to install properly again. The install didn’t fail with any error that I saw, but when I wandered back to the computer to look at it, the installer had exited with none of the usual post-install chit-chat, and the program doesn’t run (I click on it, it puts up what looks like an intro screen for a few seconds, goes “ding”, and exits). I suspect that there’s something wrong with CD, but I’m not entirely sure. They have both an installation code on the CD case, AND the game wants the CD in the drive to run, and my kids play the game so there could be some wear-and-tear issues, but they’ve only had it a little while. And, of course, if you expect people to put the CD in the drive to run the program, there WILL be wear and tear.

I tried to figure out how to get information their web site, but it’s clear that once these guys have your money, they don’t really care to talk to you again. It’s a maze of twisty passages, none with an email address or a phone number. I got their phone number from long distance information (650-801-0520) but it was continuously busy. I had enough of an installation done on that machine (my kid’s machine) to run the “submit support request” program that they had, but before I knew it the stupid thing was trying to set up email for me on a machine where I don’t want to run email (the one virus-blocker that always works and is always up to date, is to not read email, and this is a kids’ game machine). If they’d just give me an address to write to, I could just do it from a grown-up’s machine, but no.

Worse yet, middle kid went out of his way to do extra chores to earn the money to buy this game. He wanted it rather badly, and now it is wedged and unplayable.

Turns out this is not a bad disk, it is bad software on the disk. The nice people at Microcenter did an exchange on my opinion that the disks were dead, but in fact, the replacement disks fail in exactly the same way — oddly ending install, followed by failure to run. So, don’t buy this game, because it might not work in your PC, and then you would waste lots of your time, too. My current plan is to find a way to get my money back, but that may mean that I need to find the original receipt (why, I am not so sure, since Microcenter has all my information on file already; I saw it. I bought it on November 6, along with some annoying Disney thing for my daughter and some velcro tape for wrapping cables).

Update: I tried installing on a different computer; the install gets further, the game play gets a little further, then quits suddenly in the tutorial. This game is basically a total loss, and I see no way to get my money back. My CD key, not necessarily useful for anything, is A7CU-2N2T-25WC-W7QH-KGSB. Don’t buy stuff from Electronic Arts, that’s my advice, because if you have any problems your money is gone.

Age Of Mythology from Ensemble Studios (Microsoft)

This made my list for the most boneheaded of reasons. Is it really necessary to BE administrator to play a game? Isn’t it a little unwise to have kids with administrator privileges, if you don’t want to find yourself continuously wiping the machine to get rid of worms, viruses, spyware, and adware? What the holy heck were they thinking?

And, as a bonus irritant, it both requires a license key, and the disk in the machine to play the game. The Titans expansion pack is also fragile on its installation, and gives confusing information if it doesn’t find things exactly as it expected (it helps to completely delete the directories after the uninstall; the leftover files confuse it later).

Better choices

As an alternative to these two messed-up games, consider Civilization III by Infogrames/Firaxis/Atari. It does require a disk in the drive to play it, but at least it doesn’t also require a license key. It doesn’t require administrator privilege to play it. It didn’t give me a hard time on the installation. Lux by Sillysoft is good simple-minded fun. Among “Glenn’s Games” for the Macintosh is a good one called “Flower Power” (not exactly a shoot-em-up, but fun).

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