Brad Feld

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Authorization Code Scheme

Mar 31, 2009
Category Technology


Ever type that into a pop up box on your computer when installing software?  If not, you’ve never installed anything from Microsoft (or many other companies) – at least not legally. 

This morning I was copied on an email from my partner Ryan McIntyre to a company we are talking to about funding that said:

“I use Pro Tools and other pro audio software regularly and since the SW is quite expensive, the SW vendors go to great lengths to use copy-protection, and most audio plugins and applications (and there are dozens) have some sort of authorization code scheme, ranging from friendly to downright byzantine.  It drives me nuts, but my constant exposure to it means I’ve formed some opinions about what is “easy” when it comes to entering authorization codes.  The easiest plug-ins (authorization-wise) in the audio world use alphabetical codes broken up into strings of words, so instead of the longs strings of numbers, you get long strings of words, which are much easier for a human to enter without a mistake.  A couple code examples might be:


You get the idea.  I’m assuming third-part auth-gen packages must exist to generate codes like these that give you a big enough address space yet also make guessing authorizations relatively difficult.  And that you could relatively easily change your process at the manufacturer for associating MAC addresses with device IDs.”

I prefer auth-codes that are haikus.  I wonder if there’s a patent on this?