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Downloading the software now requires a login. What is the point?


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I just got an email that a new official release of Waveforms is available. The message says: "Should you have any questions or feedback, please don't hesitate to reach out via our User Forum." Well, here is my feedback.

It seems that you guys have further tightened the requirements for downloading the Waveforms software. You now require a login which appears to be different from the forum login.

If I were to make a new account, I need to indicate acceptance of Terms and Conditions, which include a rather worrying Privacy Statement. I'd rather not give you all kinds of permissions to distribute my personally identifiable data to your "trusted business partners" (whatever that may mean) to download software that used to be freely available, and that I need to use a device I already paid for.

I think you need to explain to the community why you think this change is a good idea for you. Because for us (the users) it is certainly a step in the wrong direction (and please, don't insult our intelligence by pretending otherwise).

Also, I am not a lawyer, but as an EU citizen my digital rights are protected under the GDPR legislation, and I doubt if your data collection policy is compliant with that. In particular, the GDPR puts limits on the reasons why you are allowed to even keep and process personal data. Given that the software was downloadable before without making a login, it will be hard to argue for you that personal data collection in this case serves a necessary purpose.

Since the acquisition by NI, Digilent is quickly changing from a sympathetic engineering-centric company into NI-lite, and that's not a compliment. As a long-time customer, it sucks to see this happen in real-time. Also, I emphasize with your engineering team who have to suffer through these changes. It is all too predictable how this will end, and it's not pretty.

Edited by reddish
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Hey Reddish,

The Digilent team’s goal is to enable and empower engineers, researchers, and scientists to discover and build amazing things.  We strive to achieve this with our hardware, our software, and our customer experiences.  All three require trade-offs, but, in my opinion, managing trade-offs is an area in which Digilent excels.

When developing hardware and software we are constantly trying to integrate the latest technology, add features, and improve performance, but we make trade-offs to balance this against cost and ensure we are providing the best value possible for the most customers possible.

Our customer experience is no different.  We’re constantly trying to improve all aspects of our customer experience from pre-purchase research, through purchase and unboxing, to getting started, and day-to-day use.  We’re excited about the recent updates to Digilent accounts and the introduction of My Products and we think they provide the best value possible for the most customers possible.  If it’s not your thing, that’s fine.  Most of our software downloads are available (without login) at https://files.digilent.com/ and WaveForms is available without login here.

I don’t think it’s fair to assume that just because you don’t value something, no one else does.  It sounds like you’re very familiar with Digilent products and you know what software you need, where to get it, and how to get started.  That’s great, and honestly, I’m not as worried about people with your expertise – I want you to have a good experience, but I know you’ll figure it out even if it takes a couple extra hops.  I’m more concerned with helping the new guy, that is new to Digilent, maybe even new to oscilloscopes or FPGA, and a in a bit over his head.  The Digilent My Products experience is designed to combine everything you need to register your device, get highly relevant getting started material, and find compatible software.  It’s also a great place to return when you need help since the content is customized based on your specific hardware and software.  We think it’s a great option for new users and seasoned pros alike.

To answer your ‘question’ this is also good for Digilent because we get more insight into what products people are using, what support material and documents they find helpful (or not), and what software versions people are downloading.  This data is incredibly valuable input when making trade-offs.  It also means that if you opt-in to marketing communications from Digilent we can tailor our communications to match your interests rather than sending a one-size-fits-all newsletter.

Digilent and NI have strict data processing and retention policies designed to comply with worldwide regulations including GDPR.  Details can be found here.  


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> Most of our software downloads are available (without login) at https://files.digilent.com/ and WaveForms is available without login here.

That latter link is very interesting.

From the Internet Archive, I see that the direct link to the current version (which is what all the hubhub is about) has been added quite recently to that page. The page is reachable from the main Waveforms download page via the "Previous versions" link, which is quite the misnomer if it also contains the current version.


So the actual situation for people who want to download Waveforms is this: they will at some point end up on the main Waveforms download page. There, they will see:

  • An obvious link called "Latest installers for all operating systems" which is behind and account wall, requiring agreement to a questionable T&C;
  • A rather less enticing "previous versions" link, that despite its name leads to a page with a direct link also to the current version.

I do appreciate that there is still a direct link to the current version. That is important.

However, I think it is not very user-friendly that the route towards the direct download link is somewhat obfuscated (either deliberately or by accident). The most important distinction between the former and latter link is that the former requires an account, whereas the latter doesn't.

Fortunately there is an easy fix: the "Previous versions" link text on the main Waveforms download page could be changed to "Current and previous versions", or perhaps "Direct Downloads". Then the mythical users that prefer to do the former can do that with all the unsung benefits it brings to them, while the rest of us click the latter link.

Do you agree that the link text should be changed?

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Nope, as I said, just because you prefer things one way, does not make that opinion universal.  What your describing is intentional and designed to provide the best user experience for most of our cusotmers.

We spend a lot of time getting to know our customers, through the forums, at trade shows, working with lead users, partnering with universities, doing surveys, etc.  We've been doing this for years and feel like we're pretty close to our customers.

Most of our customers prefer a more modern getting started experience that is account based, with the ablity to sign in with Google/Facebook/Github, customized to their hardware and software products.  We've put a lot of time and effort into this new approach both reasearching our customers, our competitors, other great getting started experiences, and desiging the user experience and writing tons of code.  What you're describing is intentional and we are confident it is the best user experience for most of our customers.  Those that prefer to bypass this flow can do so.



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> Nope

So let me get this straight: you prefer to keep a factually incorrect description of a link?

This is not a matter of preference, this is a matter of fact. The page we're talking about contains both the current and previous versions of the software, while the link to it suggests that it only has the previous versions.

> just because you prefer things one way, does not make that opinion universal.

So your claim is that your research shows that most people actually prefer to make an account, accept ten pages of legalese in Terms and Conditions, volunteer personally identifiable information that according to the T&C may be shared with third parties, and need to login prior to downloading software of the device they already paid for, rather than just click a download link?


You do realize that straight-out fibbing is a really bad look, yes? I would respect it more if you said something like "we're rolling out NI's policy, we don't really care about what you think" over this.

> Those that prefer to bypass this flow can do so.

Not if you actively work to hide the option.

Edited by reddish
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Hey Reddish,

I understand that you're not thrilled with our new getting started experience and I'm more than happy to continue a productive discussion, however I feel like you're just unfairly accusing Digilent and me personally based on incorrect assumptions and I expect nothing I say will change your mind.  

I have the privilege of working with an awesome and diverse team at Digilent.  We often disagree but in a tactfully way that makes us stronger as a whole.  




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Okay. But you make it really hard for me if you say things that are so, to use the most diplomatic words I can muster, obviously counterintuitive. I'm an engineer by training, which biases me towards calling out things that I think are just nonsense -- like the idea that people would prefer a login and commitment to T&C over a direct download. That's pretty much like arguing the sky is not blue to me. This is not helped by the fact that I am dutch, which makes me culturally predisposed to be rather direct about things: I call things as I see them.

You say you have a lot of research that supports this idea which is so counterintuitive to me, including research where you asked your customers. The weird thing is: I have seen (and answered) questionaires in the past here on the forum about different questions posted by Digilent staff. About new product ideas, or about the added value of the possibility to boot Linux on the ADPro 3x50. But I have not once seen a poll about whether users would prefer an account-based download experience vs a direct link. Now what would really tie up this discussion very nicely is if you would put up such a poll on the forum presenting both options, and if the option to have downloads-via-login would garner more than 20% of the vote I would actually be floored. But here's the thing: I don't think you will do that. And that raises the question: why is that?

Let's try to keep the discussion going, and I'll try better to swallow my misgivings.

My two main questions from my previous post remain:

  • Changing the description from "previous versions" to "current and previous versions" is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of fixing something that is incorrect. I'd like to hear your response to that.
  • If you're confident that your users prefer a login option: fine; keep it. But why not offer both? In fact you're already doing that, except that the page is less clear than it can be in this respect; the incorrect "previous versions" link strongly suggests that that page leads only to, well, previous versions, rather than a login-less download link to the current version, which at least some users will prefer. Why don't you present both choices honestly to your customers and let them decide? Everybody wins.
Edited by reddish
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I would just like to chime in for @reddish as an FYI, and anyone else wondering about "3rd parties": this is referring to NI and its subsidiaries as a whole, and most just our e-commerce platforms so we can alert of relevant sales or products. Those connections are simple QoL items that, as I mentioned in another thread, have no nefarious intentions and are normal language to include in privacy statements to let you know that we do in fact share information within our business systems as most (if not all) functioning companies do. 


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Be that as it may @David Digilent, I'd prefer not to have to wade through 10 pages of T&C to download the software for a box I already paid for. This is how software distribution was done by Digilent up to about a year ago, and you were a functioning company back then. Why did you change something that was not broken?

Interestingly, here's a forum discussion from the past that show ZERO feedback from users in support of these types of changes -- rather to the contrary. People are remarking that they don't like the changes; and that they see download links being flagged with all kinds of tracking machinery that they don't care for:

To his credit, your very own @JColvin indicates that this change is forced upon Digilent by NI's management who want to see "metrics". Also, that customer-facing people inside Digilent have apparently tried to raise the flag about customer discontent w.r.t. these changes. That really calls into doubt the idea that these changes are done because users prefer it, as is claimed by your colleague @Kristoff.

At this point I'd like to ask @zygot @Eric Moyer, @corestar, to share their views on this issue once again. Because I truly believe I am speaking for the vast majority of the users here, but so far nobody chimed in --- so I'm starting to feel a bit like Don Quichote here.

I'd also would like to see users who actually think mandatory accounts are a good idea of course; different perspectives are always great.

Edited by reddish
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Changing the description from "previous versions" to "current and previous versions" is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of fixing something that is incorrect. I'd like to hear your response to that.

Your argument assumes that the text of a link must describe the content of the target page 'completely'.   In this case, the text of the link matches the users intent.  If you are looking for 'Previous versions' this is the best path we've designed for you.  If you are looking for the 'Latest Versions' this other path is what we've designed for you.

It makes it easy for users to find the path we've designed with their specific use case in mind.  This is intentional.  I understand that for you, a different label may be preferable, but calling it 'incorrect' seems harsh.  When someone says 'click here to visit our store' is that 'incorrect' because the link doesn't take you to a page that says 'here'?

It seems odd to me, to have to defend a choice like this. This isn't a scheme, and we're not trying to con anyone.  We're all just trying to do the best we can for our customers and our employees.  If you don't like the way we do business you're not obligated to buy our products or post on our forums.


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I had to read this thread 3 times to figure out if I want to add to it. It's truly been an 'Alice in Wonderland' experience, and I know that I haven't been ingesting psycho-active drugs.

Basically, we have one customer complaining about his user experience and all of the Wonderland characters telling him that no one else in Wonderland shares his dismay at how the Wonderland experience is changing. On top of that the Wonderland characters are telling said customer that if he doesn't like Wonderland he can throw out all of his Wonderland toys and go home.. because, well not only is Wonderland wonderful but it's always getting better even if one grumpy resident is unhappy. According to Wonderland residents more complicated, poorer internet hygiene, less access to important product information, and more hoops to jump through is what all visitors to Wonderland want. Is this about right? That's a rhetorical question as clearly said grumpy customer and no Wonderland managerial representative is going to change their tune.

It's not what's in the thread that's interesting so much as what's being avoided.

Personally, I don't like having all of my on-line activity monetized by companies that I've never heard of who amass and sell information about me, accurate or not , especially when the end result ends up costing me in ways that I have no way of knowing about. But, I admit that perhaps there are people who feel differently. But really, this thread is all about the sordid personal dossier industry that Google created... printing money and merchandising the customer.

Having read this thread, I just tried using the link from the email telling me that I can update my ADxxx software. Unless I have Scripting enabled the link doesn't work. When I try this link https://files.digilent.com/ as provide above, I get the same experience. When I try the next link that follows, I get a download. As I write this, script blocking is enabled, because I've made the decision that I won't be using Digilent's website without script blocking in my browser, just like I do for 90% of the other websites that I use on a normal basis. Now, I realize that a lot of people, and a few companies, don't think about security, protecting personal information, or the dark universe run by legitimate and illegitimate entities for profit an my expense, but I seriously doubt that I'm an oddball. What people do when given no other choices is not a measure of what they would prefer to do.

Since becoming an NI property, my Digilent experience has not been better. I might be the longest running Digilent customer posting to the forums, so I have a long time frame to measure this by. Finding the information that I need about products and supporting code bases have gotten harder and more time-consuming, and while Wonderland management can write about the great experience that this is for all of the other customers, this isn't going to make me feel better or change my mind.

Personally, I can tell you that I won't be buying an AD3 because of Digilent's 'new and improved user experience'. It's not just the confusing and inconsistent path to getting software updates ( better than the hoops that I had to jump through a few months ago.. as long as the one link in this thread works... ), it's not just how Digilent tries to hide information about how the software and hardware works by putting the information in a place where you have to download and run the software in order to find it, it's not just that the current WaveForms software isn't what I generally download ( it's the ***latest*** having a brand new feature for one of the WaveForms supported platforms, so I generally need to go through this multiple times ( that is if I can get someone from Digilent to post a link to it) , it's all of this plus a growing sense that Digilent isn't the kind of company that I want to deal with.

I've got it, if I don't like the new regimen then I shouldn't buy Digilent stuff; so OK I won't and you could care less. But tell me Wonderland Management, how sure are you that the new and improved Wonderland is going to keep most of their other customers? Are you willing to bet the company on it? Perhaps NI couldn't care less.

My personal opinion is that NI didn't buy Digilent in order to increase their product portfolio so much as to protect an aging business model, which might explain a lot. Digilent certainly hasn't been integrated into the main NI public presence and the FPGA side of the business is pretty much a thing of the past.

[edit] BTW the external clocking feature of the AD3 might be useful enough to get me to want one if it's supported properly; it's that noteworthy in my opinion. I visit the forums daily and it seems that recently each month brings new undesirable features. So, for instance, I can still compose posts with scripting blocked in my browser once I've logged on, but now I get logged out before saving the post if it takes too long and everything that I wrote is lost. For this post, I had to copy/past the text to a local editor. hit the save button, lose the text because that's when I learn that I've been logged out, log back in copy/past the text back into the forum editor and save... pretty much sums up my experience in the improving Wonderland.. oh, and I notice that when logged in without scripting I'm not listed as logged in unless I post something. No doubt a feature that will be improved by preventing me from logging in without scripting sometime soon... Edited by zygot
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> Your argument assumes that the text of a link must describe the content of the target page 'completely'

The word is "correctly". Or perhaps: "without the intent to mislead".

> When someone says 'click here to visit our store' is that 'incorrect' because the link doesn't take you to a page that says 'here'?

Seriously now, this is the kind of argument an eight-year-old would make. Perhaps you can get someone in your awesome and diverse team to explain to you what is wrong with it. I don't have the patience.

> This isn't a scheme, and we're not trying to con anyone.

Perhaps not. Hanlon's Razor suggests an alternative explanation that may well apply.

> If you don't like the way we do business you're not obligated to buy our products or post on our forums.

I know, and I will do both. I have also decided to cease further work pydwf, which provides proper Python support for accessing the Discovery devices, and I will advise users and my own customers to steer clear from your products from now on. Good job.


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It turns out that the Digilent has decided to force customers who've purchased an ADxx product to have a user account in the cloud with a profile, if they want to download the latest official Waveforms release for their hardware. That's why, even with my browser script blocker disabled the link provided by the email sent to me doesn't work. I checked because I was curious about what the 'terms and conditions' of the hidden contract that was alluded to by the unhappy customer who started this thead. Couldn't get that far. What else should Alice expect from the Wonderland experience. Yes, it's too much to hope that anyone at Digilent would go to the trouble of trying to see what Alice sees. In Wonderland the only problems are the visitors who complain about the experience.

Can anyone point me to where I can view the 'terms and conditions' of being an ADxxx customer without having to travel the maze that is the wonderful Digilent Customer Experience?

Coda: When posting to the Digilent website with scripting blocked in your browser, don't compose posts in the HTML editor because everything will be lost... Edited by zygot
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I looked at the link in the email that certainly looked like something official. In part the link goes to ...ac.digilent.com/Prod/link-tracker?redirectURL= 'a large string'.

Could be the usual Digilent screw-up, or could be something less benign. This is why I don't mindlessly allow my browser to execute rafts of untraceable code. A problem with the way that Digilent has always operated is have a minimum staff with limited technical skills and farm out 90% of the technical work to the lowest bidder. Seems like a bad business model in this day and age, especially when no one bothers to check the quality of the work... not that any of the Wonderland inhabitants would care.

Unlike the poor bloke who decided to take Wonderland staff's advice and pack up his now worthless toys and go home, I'm quite used to being ignored, so complain I will, at least as long as it's possible. Edited by zygot
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  • 1 month later...

@reddish, I feel your disappointment.  I fear the main problem is that, in general, corporations have trained their customers over time, and consumer complacency is what has allowed this sort of stuff, and much worse, to happen.  Not nearly enough people have stood up and refused to go along with the incredibly pervasive corporate perversions of decency.  Huge masses of consumers have been conditioned and fattened for the slaughter.  And these corporations are the forces that will control AI.  Oh joy!  (Not necessarily speaking of Digilent or NI in this paragraph, or am I?  I guess that's up to NI management.)

All I wanted to do was to finally purchase an AD, which I've wanted for a few years now.  It's one of the relatively few devices that apparently uses software that fully supports Linux.  If that were not the case, there's no way I would have purchased or recommended it.  So, just because I wanted to purchase a good product from a good company, I fell into the trap of agreeing to legal terms that do NOTHING to help me, but only increase my legal jeopardy.  Who knows how many hours it will now take to purge my information from Digilent/NI's systems.  And what proof will I ever have that they actually delete the data anyway?  Trust is so hard to gain and so easy to destroy in an instant.

Anyway, you may never return here, but just in case you do, I wanted let you know there ARE others out there (probably WAY more than NI can imagine), that are also alarmed, disappointed, and even angry at how our time and money has been needlessly wasted -- for what?  And, thanks for your amazing contribution of pydwf.  It's a good example of how loyal people can be to trustworthy companies that truly put their customer's needs at the top, rather than trying to squeeze every last drop of blood from them for the mistaken sake of profit.

It seems NI's takeover may have sealed the fate of the once admired Digilent, but I still hope that somehow Digilent can figure out how to put customers first again, and truly think about how they would want to be treated.  It seems to me it would be so simple for them to do so, with just a few minor changes. 

At least you can't say we haven't tried to help guide them towards the right path, largely at our own expense!


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  • 4 months later...

I pretty much have to agree with the first post in this thread, the need to have an account to install and keep up your installed software is Extremely anti consumer.   It is unfortunate that Digilent has gone this way.

In fact I'm going to suggest going in the opposite direction and make life even easier for your users.    In this regard use Home Brew for Mac Software support.   For Linux setup an RPM repository for Fedora and possibly some of the lesser distros.   Why?   Simply because it makes keeping a computer up to date and your customers will love you for it.

I suspect that what Digilent and their marketing people, don't realize is that too much non sense drives people to other companies.   This includes excessive marketing crap but also things that just get in the way like diving through hoops to update a piece of software.   Keeping your software up to date on a computer should be effortless using accepted methods.

Please realize I'm a new customer of Digilents, I'd like to be a long term customer but I'm left with the impression that the ownership by National Instruments has infected the company with BS that educated engineers and technicians don't want to deal with.   Effectively the markets NI and Digilent server are not the same and what is good in one domain really sucks in another.

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