Dr. Michael Carper, Co-Owner, HRD Software, LLC
Open Letter to Our Customers
I’ve received many questions from our customers and dealers about what recent events here at HRD Software. Most want to know, “What really happened and what did I know about it?” In this letter, I will address those questions and clear up some misinformation.
First and foremost, we wish to apologize to any and all of our customers or prospective customers who have been treated poorly. For the events that happened, I find them deplorable. I will not defend them. I will make no excuses. We’re sorry.
Strong steps have been taken to ensure that our customers will not have these experiences in the future:
· Co-founder, Rick Ruhl has resigned his ownership in the company as of 31-DEC-2016 and retired from the ham radio market. A transition is underway. While we were not involved in day-to-day operations in the past, Randy Gawtry and I will be providing more over-sight in the future.
· The capabilities to disable software upgrades based on call-sign were removed from the software.
· Customers were given refunds and free software license keys.
· Policies have been communicated to the staff to protect the interests of our customers and prospective customers.
· The End User License Agreement (EULA) is being revised retroactively to ensure that it’s clear that the licensee owns a perpetual right-to-use the software purchased.
I believe these things are strong actions that were necessary to correct what has happened, prevent it from happening again, and establish a position where we can rebuild trust with our customers.
As I said, I make no attempts to defend what happened or make excuses. No matter what happened, it was wrong. But it’s useful to understand the facts surrounding this event. Here’s the full story about what really happened:
· Sometime prior to September 2016, capabilities were created within the software that prevented customers – by call-sign – from running future versions of software. It had no ability to disable software that was already installed.
o It seems that the rationale for creating this capability was to prevent customers from using software upgrades when they were abusive to the staff. Similar to when someone goes into a place of business and harasses or threatens employees, we had cases where people sexual harassed women on our team, physically threatened our staff, or called our staff by racial slurs. We had language in the EULA that was designed to protect our staff from such abuse.
o Neither Randy or I knew that this capability existed. What we did know is that we have industry standard digital rights management (DRM) or license management capabilities to protect our intellectual property from software piracy. This provides the ability to disable license keys, but used at the request of a customer when requesting a refund.
· On September 2, 2016, our customer wrote a negative review of our product on a ham radio website.
· In the second week of September, the managing partner of our company placed that customer’s call-sign into the software to prevent him from installing and running any versions of software released beyond that point.
· The customer continued to use the version of software that they purchased, without incident, until after the following events happened in early December.
· The customer created an online trouble ticket on December 4, 2016, described a problem he was having with the software that was running on his system, and very cordially asked for support.
· [Twelve months of free Software Maintenance and Support is included with the original purchase of software. Optional twelve month extensions are offered at 50% of the product’s purchase price. The standard procedure is that our technician would lookup the customer’s call-sign in our customer database to verify that the customer is covered by current Software Maintenance and Support. The technician would offer support options based on this information.]
· The technician responded to the ticket on December 5th without looking up the status of the customer’s Software Maintenance and Support period.
· Because about 50% of our releases are for fixing software defects and 50% is the introduction of new features, a common trouble-shooting procedure among software makers is to have the customer install the most recent version of the software to determine whether or not the reported problem can be resolved by installing the most recent version. Therefore, with good intentions, the technician asked the customer to install the latest release.
· The customer did as requested. But because their call-sign had been added to the list of call-signs that were prevented from using software versions released after September, the software would not run.
· The customer responded back and told the technician that the software would not run.
· By then, the technician had looked up the call-sign and found that the customer was beyond their Software Maintenance and Support period. Thus, the technician told the customer that they were beyond their support period, that they could not further assist the customer, and that their call had been “blacklisted". This would require that the customer revert back to the software version he had installed previously.
· What followed was an interaction that escalated on December 6th and 7th. Along the way, the customer was told that he was “blacklisted” – in the software – for writing a negative product review in the previous September.
· On December 15, the customer posted a thread on a popular ham radio website titled, “Ham Radio Deluxe Support hacked my computer.” I can fully understand why the customer could have gotten that impression. But with all due respect, it’s not what happened.
· This thread continued for over 100 pages and received considerable attention around the world. Various bloggers picked up this story and published quite a bit of invalid assumptions and misinformation.
ABOUT HRD SOFTWARE, LLC.:
HRD Software, LLC. was created in early 2012 after the acquisition of software intellectual property from a European software developer who was giving the software away for free and had about 100,000 users world-wide. Dr. Michael Carper negotiated the deal with the European developer. But (a) he is not a software developer and (b) did not have the time or desire to run this business on a daily basis. So Carper brought in Rick Ruhl, and he brought in Randy Gawtry. The three equally contributed to the initial investment. As such, they were equal owners, with Ruhl managing the business on a day-to-day basis as managing partner.
As a company, we employ 2 tech support folks, 1 part-time developer, and 2 sales/business support staff. Financially, we break-even each year. Neither Randy or I have received regular income from this company or dividends. What we take in, we invest back into development, support, and product marketing.
We sell two things.
One - we sell a perpetual license for Ham Radio Deluxe. That license is a “right to use” the software and is valid for a lifetime. During that period of time, you're welcome to upgrades that include fixes. Included in your initial purchase is 12 months of Software Maintenance and Support. During that first 12 months, you are entitled to all feature enhancements added to the software during that period. Additionally, you have access to our tech support team directly and may obtain support from them at no additional charge. Most of the time, 12 months is sufficient in order to ensure that the software is installed and is working with no major problems.
Beyond that first 12 months... two - we sell optional 12 month renewals for Software Maintenance and Support for customers who need our direct assistance beyond the first 12 months that were included with the initial purchase. We also offer support on a per-incident basis for those who do not wish to renew Software Maintenance and Support at a cost of $20 per incident.
Effective on December 31, 2016, Ruhl resigned and forfeited his ownership in the company to retire from the amateur radio industry.