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Tag: ilok

Plugin revision (again)

Every year I stop and look back, re-open older sessions to see what I’ve done and how I’ve done it. And also to see what tools I’ve been using, which are the ones I seldom use. To be honest my iLok is very valuable not for the obvious reason that it holds the licenses, but because I’ve spent huge amount of money to software in the last couple of years. But only spent money which was really worth, which I really needed for my job.

Test, demo, test

As you might know I’m very picky when it comes to plugins. I always, always thoroughly test before deciding if I really need or want something. I’m a true believer in that you don’t need 100 different EQs and 200 different compressors to mix. A few carefully selected ones will make your life easier, will help you to achieve the SOUND you’re after, but that’s it. No need to a mile long list of fetish emulation. Don’t get me wrong, there are superb emulations out there, but you certainly don’t need them all.


Plugin companies want you to believe that their new/old/emulation stuff will make your mix so much better, even they ask famous engineers to endorse/promote their plugins. In reality though, you need only a few to make a word class mix.

On my iLok I have 77 activated plugins. Including different Pro Tools licenses, EQs, Compressors, Reverbs and other miscellaneous stuff. I think it’s a bit too much, but going through the list I realise that I use almost all of it. Only 4 activated plugins sitting there mostly unused. Not because they’re bad, but whether I’ve found some better alternative, or I don’t really need it.

This yearly housekeeping always reminds me how important to choose our weapons wisely, and to not listen to promising advertising. Instead, if you feel the urge to buy something, I suggest to always, always make time to really test it. Do what you want to do with it, then do more, do crazy things with it to see-hear under all possible circumstances. After these first tests, try to recreate the behaviour with other plugins you already have in your arsenal. If, with some effort, it is possible to recreate that thing, you’ve got your answer, you don’t need the new plugin.

I take this very seriously. I could’ve spent many thousands on different emulations, but honestly many times they’re not that far apart from each other.

My very strict test process saved me huge amount of money over the years, so I stick with it. It takes more time and effort to always test the newcomers, but this way I really know that I have the best possible tools for my job.

Be your own judge, don’t let the marketing department fool you!

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iLok ZDT coverage

Few days ago I’ve received an email from iLok telling me that my Zero
Downtime Coverage was going to be renewed unless I opt out of it. Few
minutes after I read the mail, browsed to their site, logged in and
checked if my card details are right so they can charge me the 30

I know many hate iLok and even see this ZDT thing as just another
trick to get more money from us, the users. However I see this a bit
different. I wouldn’t say that this is the perfect protection system
ever invented, but as I do quite a few freelance job, I really
heavily rely on their service.
Usually I know what machine the other studio has, and the only thing
I need to bring with me is some installers (or I can download them
there) and my iLok and after a few minutes I’m ready to edit or mix
with my favourite plugins. Convenient, fast and in my experience,
it’s very, very reliable.


Because of these experiences I think the Zero Downtime Coverage is a
no-brainer for 30 dollars a year. Even if something bad happen,
you’ll receive temporary licenses so you’ll be able to continue to
work, and additionally this fee also includes the theft and loss
coverage, which means you’re safe even if someone steal your precious
iLok, or you just simply loose it.
Without any deep and overly serious explanation I recommend everyone
to purchase this protection. Thirty dollars a year is not a big price
for our own safety. I bet every mixer’s iLok hold plugins worth many
thousand dollars. Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with Pace, nor get
any money or discount for this post. I’m just a guy who have seen
nasty disasters in the past, and heard many sentences started with
“oh I should’ve…” Avoid this if you can. If you would like to know more about ZDT, click here.

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Notes on the iLok issues

From the date Pace announced that they have completely changed the way we interact with our protection dongle, myriad of issues hit the users badly. Some only had minor problems while others doomed into a license-less state temporarily. Obviously the reaction was anger and frustration.

license manager

As I heard that most of the nasty bugs and issues are solved I thought I give this a try, only with my personal iLok. Right now a downtime would be disastrous, so I wouldn’t be dare to jeopardise our work iLoks. So I headed to the iLok site and downloaded the new License Manager. Although the installation went smoothly, after the first launch and a few minutes waiting, it simply crashed on me while it was frozen in the quite vague “operation in progress” state. I don’t know what operation it was as at this point I didn’t even tried to sign in yet. On the 2nd attempt it was obvious that this software is really, I mean really slow. After multiple failed attempts at signing in, at last I was successful. I think this was the 5th or sixth attempt.

After this I experienced another crash, another sign in attempt failed, then it was successful again. At this point I was less than impressed… At least I am lucky as all my licenses were there not converted into temporary state. Tried to sync the Pro Tools 11HD demo license, but the sync process failed due to “no internet connection available” message. Maybe I don’t need to mention the fact that internet had been available. But after these failures the License Manager was synced perfectly, albeit very slowly.

I’ve read many articles and blog posts about these issues with ILO’s, and to be honest I can totally understand the anger towards Pace. I agree with the Pro Tools expert blog that shouting, blaming, attacking Pace won’t help, I am certain that the Pace support team try to make things happen as fast as they can, but still I think this is a more serious issue. Pace has enormous user base, most of the developers use iLok protection. They are there to protect the developers and us, legal users. They should have been more careful with this whole upgrade process. For many of us, not mention post houses and bigger studios, these downtimes are simply unacceptable.

Remember we (the users) did NOT choose Pace as our superior protector. The developers chose them in order to protect themselves against piracy. This big failure showed that software developers shall think of other viable protection methods, because, in my opinion this was not the first big failure in the history of iLok. I can clearly remember when iLok 1 was cracked and after that incident each and every iLok protected software was available on different torrent sites. So, this is the second big warning sign.

On a closing thought, It’s really getting so bad that we, legal users struggle with the problems of our protection device. I don’t have the monopoly of wisdom here obviously, and I also don’t know what could be a plausible solution for these things, but both the developers and Pace should seriously think about the future if they don’t want to loose customers. I’m absolutely against punishing the developers for these issues, but I know some, who really considering dropping every software which tied to iLok dongle. While I think it’s not a wise decision, it can be a threat on the long run.

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