Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shopping for a CAT: You Have to be Insane or Stupid To Use Translation Software

One of the definitions of either stupidity or insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. If such is the case, to use software, you have to be either crazy or stupid. I try to install the SDL Trados Studio 2009 Starter pack. When I try to register the license online, I get the error "Could not contact activation server (Error code 50040)". (I mentioned the hassle of licensing procedures for CAT tools you own in a previous post.) I check again. The license number is correct. I look up the error code online and the uniform reply is to uninstall the program and reinstall. I do exactly that. Same result. Why shouldn't it be? What should make us expect to have a different result by deleting and re-installing a program? Is it that the computer will remember not to skip an important step in the second installation? Are they really that human?

Ok, reinstalling this turkey didn't work. So I take the long way home of actually looking up the error message on the KnowledgeBase. The instructions I get are as follows:

Error Message 50040:
If you are using the activation code on two computers already then please return one of the activation codes first to make it available for use. You will then be able to activate the new computer. Please follow these instructions on returning your activation code:
  1. Open License Manager. To do this, go to Start > All Programs > SDL International > SDL Trados 2007 > License Manager > License Manager. The SDL License Manager dialog box is displayed.
  2. Click View Activated Licenses. The Installed Licenses dialog box is displayed.
  3. Select the permanent license from the list and then click Return License. (Ignore the trial license.)
You should now see a message stating that the activation code has been returned.
You have now returned the activation code back to the SDL license fulfillment servers and are now able to use this activation code to activate SDL Trados on a different computer.

(Note that I am NOT using the license on two machines. So from the very start the help documentation is already off the mark.) This, however, does not work. When I click "View activated licenses" I see a license for a trial that either ended or expired on September 2. When I click on it, the option to return the license does not light up, meaning it isn't available.

Now, mind you, I am beginning this process out of pure inertia. The trial version of SDL Trados is there on my machine now. I don't like the product. But out of pure laziness (and because an upgrade of my old Trados license would be cheaper than most other CAT licenses), I am willing to give it a try. (Note that this is almost how monopolies work: even clients who hate your product are eventually compelled to use it.)

But the proof that our major industry players are completely divorced from any notion of customer satisfaction: do not forget that all this Sturm und Drang is to use a starter version of the program that I was given for free (!). I have to skip through technological hoops ringed with fire while pursued by starving ravenous wolves to install a license for a dinky little piece of software that is free. Pause for a moment and savor the imbecility of that situation. Yes, let it sink in...

So I follow the instructions: but there is no way to return any of my licenses, either old, new, provisional... The process and the troubleshooting guide were designed thinking of a situation that obviously doesn't include me.

After several attempts, it is still impossible to try out SDL Trados Studio because of the licensing issue. This is a measure of how crappy translation software is: the companies' own help documentation isn't capable of predicting the behavior of their own products.

However, after several attempts to get over the license issue (and reading the help documentation and watching the slide presentations about the relicensing process), I have come to the conclusion that my problem is not covered and probably cannot be resolved without the active participation of a technician from the company (good luck!). So I give up. I give up. If installing and licensing the software is this aggravating, can you imagine how infuriating it would actually be to use SDL Trados Studio for something as crucial as your translations, on which you depend to feed and clothe your family? Can you imagine buying a license for the full product, being unable to use the program and then being at the mercy of unresponsive and under-informed customer service representatives? Brrrrrr.

Conclusion: after building up a nearly complete domination of the CAT tool market, Trados's licensing procedures are so inane that they are letting get away even a nearly-captive customer like me.

So, without too much regret, goodbye to all that!

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