Thursday, 11 March 2010

A License to Frustrate

Regular readers of the Apple Harvest will have become aware that I try to be positive and maintain a glass half full attitude. Many of the previous posts have been about finding workarounds to frustrating problems that I've been unable to fix. You'll also be aware of how much I value good service. But I have to admit I'm currently being crushed by the lack of customer service by the makers of MacSpeech Dictate.

I've been toying around with the idea of purchasing MacSpeech Dictate for some time, but the asking price of £150-170 has been too much for my currently beleaguered bank account and budget. Years ago I played around with IBMs VoiceType Simply Speaking software for Windows 95. The novelty wore off very quickly as I felt like an idiot talking to my computer in my home office, and I seemed to spend an awful lot of time correcting the mistakes that the software was making.

A good few years later I'm old enough not to care about feeling like an idiot at home (or anywhere else for that matter), and I've been reading some amazing reviews of MacSpeech Dictate 1.5.x. I've also had some problems with bursitis in my elbows recently and the doctor has put this down to RSI. It doesn't stop me typing or using the mouse, but it can be a bit painful and uncomfortable at times. I'm also doing a considerable amount of writing at present, and I really like this way of getting my ideas onto paper.

So when I saw an advert on eBay for a genuine copy of the software, including the headset, in original packaging, with the original disks for a bargain price of £102 including delivery I jumped at the chance.

Two days later on February 23rd, the package arrived and I had the software loaded onto the iMac within minutes. I went through the voice training process, which only took a few additional minutes, and I was ready to "rock and roll" so to speak.

The reviews were spot on. In those early hours I was genuinely impressed. Everything I threw at the software was faithfully transcribed, regardless of the package I tried, Pages, Word, MarsEdit - I was gobsmacked (even that came out correctly). I started playing around with the command mode. It's very empowering having your computer obey your every spoken command, including going to sleep at night.

And then the problem started.

The MacSpeech registration process requires that you submit your registration code and it then generates a license key file as part of the process. I had my registration code but no license key file. I couldn't actually complete the registration process because the software was already registered to the previous owner. I got in touch with the seller via eBay and asked if they could send me the license key file or at least unregister the software. At this point, I'd like to mention that the seller has been very helpful throughout the process, but in order to protect ourselves we have only been able to communicate via eBay.

The software worked for four days without a license key. It no longer works. Every day I try to register it and every day it fails. The seller has been doing his best at his end. I have been in touch with the support staff at MacSpeech via email and Twitter DM. Initially it looked like they may be able to help, but they no longer respond to my direct messages, and my last email, which included copies of all communication with the eBay seller, simply invoked an automated response saying:

Thank you for contacting MacSpeech. You are a valued customer and we appreciate you taking the time to contact us. We are currently experiencing higher than normal volume. Your questions are important to us, and we do apologize for any delays you may experience. Thank you for being a MacSpeech customer.

I understand the company wanting to protect its revenue stream, but it must be one of the last businesses on the planet to use archaic DRM for a software product. Apparently the convoluted de-registration and re-registration process is to protect both me and the seller - from what? From either of us being able to use the software or so it would seem.

I genuinely hope that I can get this resolved, without having to return the software to the eBay seller, as it's something I want to use (and he clearly doesn't). I would love to be able to post an entry on the Apple Harvest in a few days written using MacSpeech Dictate and extolling its virtues. In the meantime I've spent a hundred quid on a box, a headset and some disks.

I am really disappointed in MacSpeech - so it's Customer Service Turkey of the Month Award for them.

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