By Dr David Smith
Building a new computer is exciting. I stuck with my Core i7 computer running Windows 7 for one simple reason: it worked. It was fast, had plenty of RAM and most importantly it was reliable.
But the world moves on, and with a Mavic Pro drone and a Sony VX3000 action cam both pumping out 4K video I decided to bite the bullet and build a new computer. This time I switched to a Ryzen 7 2700X 8-core CPU running at 3.7 GHz and an nVidia GTX 1660 Super graphics card with 6GB DDR6 RAM. System memory is 32GB.
With Flight Simulator Steam Edition and all visual settings maxed out I can get anywhere from 50 to more than 100 frames per second which makes for beautifully smooth flying. Editing 4K video in Vegas Pro 17 was also beautifully smooth, with preview playback at Best quality running at a rock steady 25 frames per second.
So the computer itself is a great success and not that expensive, coming at about $1,300 all up. And of course the Ryzen 7 – which I bought on eBay for AUD $400 – also features a psychedelic coloured LED cooling fan which appeals to my inner teenager.
So what about all the software? I decided that, with a clean install of Windows 10 (and with all the bloatware and horribly distracting animated buttons disabled) I would install all my software from scratch.
The Software Headache
One of the joys of writing software reviews is that I get to tinker with a wide range of apps but that is also the bane of my life. So many passwords, serial numbers and activation codes to keep track of. And this is the point of this article: having spent weeks tracking down the installers, serial numbers and activation codes for all of my apps, I gained a clear impression that most manufacturers actually don’t like me. Their serial numbers no longer work, or else they’ve been activated too many times, or else the company has closed down the servers so that my $600 ‘Perpetual License’ no longer works (are you listening Adobe?).
The activation process can be a multi-step nightmare and in the case of Corel Video Studio 2020 I’ve just given up and won’t even bother trying to follow the complex instructions provided from their customer support team. If you go to their customer hub you can find all of your downloaded products, complete with the serial numbers and download links. But the links expire after a few weeks so you can no longer download the software unless you contact customer support and wait for them to send you a new link that will only be active for another two weeks.
Is there a better way?
The great news is YES. Despite the way many, if not most companies handle installation/activation, I have found a number of companies who have made this process incredibly simple and effective. The best two of these companies are iZotope, who make top quality audio plugins, and Orbx, who make stunning scenery makeovers for Flight Simulator X and Prepar3D. Let me show you how these two companies handle software installation and activation.
Installation and updating of iZotope software is beautifully simple, thanks to their product Portal. The portal shows all of your purchases and all of your products, including serial numbers and active downloaders that don’t expire. It also shows your product status, including updates to the software that are available for download. You only have to enter your email and password once, then everything is available. This Portal is well designed and makes the registration process really straightforward which is should be, given that there may be thousands of dollars’ worth of software in its care. Well done iZotope!
Melbourne-based Orbx is the brainchild of John Venema. John recognised years ago that the default Flight Simulator scenery just wasn’t right for Australia. The colour palette was all wrong, the trees were wrong, and the road, river and city details were wrong. John and his talented team of designers set about fixing this and they have done a truly magnificent job. The detail and accuracy of their latest offerings is stunning and scenery is now available for the US West Coast from Tijuana to Alaska, for Western Europe including Great Britain and, of course, for the whole of Australia and New Zealand.
John is a very clever programmer and has always aimed to make the Orbx experience pleasant and unobtrusive for the user. In this he has exceeded expectations. Enter Orbx Central, their one-stop shop for all of their ever-expanding range of localities.
Once installed, Orbx Central lets you browse of of the scenery packs that are available, see the ones you’ve purchased and install any of the new ones incredibly easily. No passwords required. To purchase a scenery pack you simply select it, then click on Add to Cart and you’re done. Within minutes you’ll see the new scenery with a blue INSTALL button, press that and sit back and wait while the installation proceeds. Multiple packs will be queued and a green tick on the list at the left will show all of your installed scenery locations.
Both iZotope and Orbx are to be congratulated on having put some thoughtful work into making the purchase, installation and authorisation of their software as painless as possible. Of course it is in their business interests to make purchasing painless as well. That’s smart. But from my perspective the streamlined process allows me to get on with using the software rather than messing around with cumbersome, poorly designed activation processes that almost make you feel guilty about trying to use their expensive products. If only other companies would put in that extra work and treat their customers with similar respect.
The final step? Use your backup software – Acronis True Image, Ghost or similar – to make a clone of your fully populated and activated C-drive. With that in hand you can rebuild your computer with a completely clean install and have all of your software up and running in one go. And with not a password in sight.
Editor Note: Othert companies that also have this portal system include MAGIX, Red Giant and BorisFX. As an aside, in the latest edition we review the Loupedeck CT and there is a Custom Profile for Izotope7 available for this package.