View from the Classroom

Adobe Isn't Making Many Friends

- March 20, 2000

Last week Adobe created a furor among InDesign users by attempting to charge $99 for the InDesign 1.5 upgrade just a few months after the initial release of the product. InDesign is Adobe's new $699 professional layout product. Folks who had just paid handsomely for a product that MacWeek described as "more unstable than you'd expect" and containing "quite a few bugs," were justifiably outraged that Adobe would attempt to milk an extra $99 for the 1.5 upgrade just six months after the initial release. Even so, Adobe at first tried to justify the pricing, before waking up and offering the 1.5 update/upgrade to some InDesign 1.0 users for free. Adobe is still holding the line and requiring those who were able to take advantage of the $299 early purchase price to pay for the upgrade.

This recent outcry over Adobe's upgrade policy on InDesign made me think about the similar outcry last year from Acrobat users. If you remember, Acrobat 4 for Macintosh shipped without many of the new features that were included in the Windows version. Adobe then attempted to charge $14.95 plus shipping for the 4.0.5 upgrade that only included bug fixes and the features we Mac users should have gotten with the original Acrobat 4 package. Adobe reversed itself under a hail of bad PR by saying the updates were being mailed out to all registered users, both Mac and Windows.

"If you registered your copy of Acrobat 4.0 on or before December 1, 1999, you will automatically receive the Acrobat 4.05 Update in the mail between late December 1999 and late January 2000."

Since I was a registered user on both the Mac and Windows platforms, I let the issue go and waited for my updates to arrive. It was a long wait, and I found this week that Adobe never shipped my updates! Apparently, Adobe has changed its mind and now wants registered users to call and order the same update that, again, should have been part of the original version-- and should have been shipped months ago.

"Acrobat 4.0 customers in the U.S. and Canada who did not register before January 26th, or who have not received their Acrobat 4.05 update by the beginning of March may request a free update CD by calling Adobe Customer Service at 1-800-272-3623. You'll need a valid Acrobat 4.0 serial number to place your order and to install the update."

When I called Adobe, I found that "John," the customer service representative, was unwilling to ship the update as advertised. He repeatedly told me I could download the promised update from the web, even after I explained that the web update didn't work on my machine. After asking three times about the CDs being mailed out, I was still being referred to a web download - until I identified myself as a web columnist and insisted that Adobe meet its prior commitment. John then told me that it would take four to six weeks for the updates to reach me and that there was no faster way without an extra charge to receive the updates on CD.

Games such as Adobe is currently playing do little to engender customer loyalty. I'd had a burr under my saddle about Acrobat 4 from the day I received it. Adobe nearly doubled the ed price of Acrobat 4, moved several features I use to less accessible locations, and apparently dispensed with the "Create Thumbnails" menu item. Although shown in the documentation as being present, the feature is totally absent in the Macintosh version, other than in the "batch" menu option. At times, I'd considered taking the creation of the MATH DITTOS 2 series to a true page layout program, such as InDesign, PageMaker, or Quark, due to some instabilities in AppleWorks. At other times, I'd contemplated taking my sharewares back to the ClarisWorks/AppleWorks format in which they were originally produced instead of the currently used Adobe PDF format. Apple's lackluster AppleWorks 6 "up-downgrade" has pretty much taken care of any such hopes. Lack of access to beta versions of AppleWorks doesn't help much in this area as well. But then, if I were producing as lackluster an upgrade as Apple did with AppleWorks 6, I guess I'd try and keep its limitations secret for as long as possible as well.

From where I now sit, Adobe shipped an incomplete product at an increased price from the previous version. They tried to charge me to make the original product whole and then promised to mail a free update. They welched on that promise and posted an update that doesn't work for me, but also said in print that the mailed update could be ordered. When I called, they gave me the run-around and finally said they'd ship what they sold me last year in 4 to 6 more weeks!

I wish I could offer some words of encouragement to InDesign users, but I'm still waiting for Adobe to ship the compete Acrobat 4 I purchased last March.

Odd Thoughts While Shaving Between Paragraphs

One of the nice things about writing a weekly column is the acquaintances you make along the way. Joe Taylor and I often write, as our tastes in computers parallel, as well as having similar experiences in teaching. Joe had about as crummy a week education-wise as I did last week, so it was good to hear about his success in setting up a low-cost computer system for word processing, email, and light web surfing for his mother.

Joe ran down a number of leads on used machines, finally settling on a Quadra 650, with a 230 MB hard drive, 52 MB of RAM, and a 33.6 Global Village external modem. He installed Mac OS 8.1, Netscape 3.0.1, RAM Doubler, Speed Doubler, and AppleWorks. While he had to compromise by leaving out a CD-ROM drive, Joe stayed within his original target of around $200. He says his mom loves the setup and is doing well with it.

Scott Atkinson and I traded a few emails this week. A simple question on his part got us both thinking about the subject of software received on machines one inherits.

If you get an old machine loaded with outdated software, do you consider it fair game?

The machines I wrote about last week were indeed loaded with lots of goodies in the software area. While I haven't used any of the programs that came with the machines, other than a quick shakedown of each, I also haven't thrown them away. They're archived on Zips.

I usually avoid such software because it does fall into at least a gray area. Before I come off as sounding terribly honorable, I have hung on to a few apps I've run across on donated machines; they were programs no longer available on the commercial or shareware market.

Scott's question brings to the fore the issue of software becoming nontransferable. The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act recently passed in Virginia and being pushed in other states would indeed make software nontransferable. Some software licenses already carry such a provision. It would appear this act does little to protect consumer interests while going a long way to further the interests of big software concerns.

The unusual NuBus cards I mentioned in A Mac IIcx for a Friend did indeed turn out to be an old 286 coprocessor. I posted a message to the Vintage Macs email list and had an answer within five or six hours! James S. Jones wrote:

The cards are, together, a 286 PC card for the Mac. AST sold this technology to Orange Micro and [a similar] product was also released with their name on it. I have one, though I've never tried it out.

Both James and Stephen Dauphin were kind enough to include a link to John Ruschmeyer 's The Other Mac286 Page on the Web that contains lots of information on the coprocessor and download links for the required software! Thanks, James, Stephen, and John! 

Is there something about the numbers? Remember the ill-fated upgrade from Microsoft Word 5 to Word 6? I'd indicating last week that I wanted to work with AppleWorks 6 a bit more before doing a review of the product. Like most of the Mac community, I find that I'm content to continue using ClarisWorks/AppleWorks 5 for the time being, as the new version is wanting in many, many areas. (That's my review!) If you're contemplating purchasing AppleWorks, I'd recommend waiting until Apple issues some patches or upgrades or buying ClarisWorks 5 from one of the many used Mac resellers who offer it for around $30 and upgrading it to AppleWorks 5 (5497K). I've concluded that AppleWorks 5 serves my needs much better than the new version.

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View From the Classroom columns copyright 1999-2000 by Steve Wood.

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