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Rant on Razer Synapse 2.0

ewhac
  • 52 months ago

This is a copy-paste of a post I wrote on The Book of Faces last night.


Screaming Into The Void (Chapter 18, Volume 108)

I'm starting to wonder if there is any longer any point in publicly calling out the perfidy of software companies as they seek to intrude on our privacy and personal information, with such intrusions predicated on the thinnest reasoning, if indeed any thought was given to the matter at all -- the only animating principle discernible in this pattern appears to be, "Because we can."

I have been a user of Razer mice since their very first product, the Razer Boomslang opto-mechanical mouse, over 15 years ago. (If I dig in my pigsty long enough, I may even be able to find the original cookie tin it came in.) I have gotten newer units over the years -- a Viper mouse, an Ouroboros Bluetooth mouse -- and despite the brand having acquired a reputation for being more flash than substance, the product line has served me well. But that may have changed last night.

Yesterday, my Razer Copperhead finally keeled over, and refused to enumerate on the USB bus (how a solid-state mouse could wear out and die is something of a puzzle -- the only one in my possession ever to do so -- but whatever, we'll run with it). On the strength of a review appearing on The Wirecutter, I ordered a Razer Deathadder Chroma, which arrived last night. I plugged it in to my desktop, which was booted into Linux at the time. The mouse enumerated immediately, lit up colorfully, and moved the pointer around. 10/10. Later that evening, I crashed the machine into Windows so that I could install the Razer configuration software, called Synapse 2.0, which lets you adjust the mouse settings. I ran the utility and was immediately confronted with...

...A login prompt.

Apparently some wizard at Razer felt that local hard disks or SSDs were far too reliable, and what the kids really wanted these days was for their mouse configuration to be stored in The Cloud(TM)(C)(R)(BFD). That means, in order to change the settings on the mouse, you need to create a login on Razer's Web site, using a valid email address, and agree to some mealy-mouthed Lack-Of-Privacy Policy which grants them leave to extract data from your machine. Once created, you then have to LOGIN TO YOUR MOUSE DRIVER to change the settings.

In the interests of complete disclosure, Razer will hastily point out that, once you've configured your mouse, you don't need to login again (unless you want to change something again). This bewildering and frankly self-serving response completely ignores the fact that the need for a login to an external site, or the need to store hardware configuration settings anywhere other than the local machine, is completely gratuitous, and confers no benefit whatsoever to the user.

If I had done my homework dilligently, I would have known about this and avoided the mess. And it's true that I could use 10minutemail.com to create an account under an ephemeral email address and get access to the settings. But what's throwing me, and leading me to think, "What's the fscking point in saying anything at all?" is that, upon closer reading, I discovered this controversy was mentioned in the very Wirecutter article that recommended the mouse, and dismissed it as No Big Deal.

So what is "wrong" with me that I happen to think that it is a big deal? What is "wrong" with me that I am considering sending the mouse back to Amazon for a refund? I have never been especially good at picking hills to die on but, as a software engineer, I know mouse drivers and configuration tools can run entirely locally. I know the Cloud component is entirely gratuitous and unnecessary. And even if the Cloud thing could be shown to be beneficial (it can't), I know that a working email address is also unnecessary, since they could just as easily key config data to the mouse's serial number. I am offended that an industry colleague actually wrote this, that a member of my profession actually inflicted this on his users.

But does it matter? Hell, millions of users of this misbegotten site happily furnish personal data and psych profiles (masquerading as quizzes) without a second thought, to people and computers they will never meet. Coughing up an email to use a mouse seems like peanuts in comparison.

Is it worth the time and expense to pack up this bit of plastic and ship it back to the manufacturer just to make a principled point?

When journalists, writing in the role of consumer advocacy, shrug off invasive, wholly gratuitous demands for personal information, is it worth the energy to care about this stuff anymore?

Comments

  • 52 months ago
  • 2 points

I have since decided that principles still matter -- the mouse is going back. Razer are hardly the only game in town.

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

As much as I love he marketing of Razer, all of their products that I've bought have broken down on me. About 5 mouse and 1 headset.

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

...and 1 headset.

Would that be a Razer Barracuda HP-1, their 5.1 "surround-sound" headset? I had one of those fall apart on me as well.

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

Yup exactly that one. Has a million wires and broke down in no time. I must admit when they did work they were awesome.

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

On top of that I think it was like 150$++

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

When it first came out, yes. I got mine for $90-something off Woot.com.

And yes, I remember the fine, tiny wires inside. As I recall, a screw holding the earcup to the bracket undid itself, allowing the earcup to fall away and hang free by the wires. For months afterward, I continued to use it -- the bracket still held things firmly on my head. Then one day, Something Happened -- the earcup fell away from the bracket in an especially pessimal way one time too many -- and in a fit of pique I ripped the thing to pieces and threw it in the trash.

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

I could see where this would be a plus for pro-gamers that use their own mice/keyboards but use supplied computers at whatever tournament/LAN they are at, you log in and upload your specific settings and done.

As far as any other excuse... to save settings on a more redundant system then what a normal user would have.

I think you have put on your tinfoil hat a little strong here, but do agree that the need for personal data to edit software settings on a mouse seems a little gratuitous but depending on what that personal information is (anything more than email & name seems unnecessary but I wouldn't be against giving a DOB too as that would help in their marketing campaigns).

Basically I'm not shrugging this off but it doesn't seem the massive invasion of privacy you are saying, but you are allowed to have these opinions and I do think any company should not be allowed to force the requirement of your data for any other reason than to run background checks or shipping/billing information.

  • 52 months ago
  • 2 points

I could see where this would be a plus for pro-gamers that use their own mice/keyboards but use supplied computers at whatever tournament/LAN they are at, you log in and upload your specific settings and done.

Three things come to mind:

  1. That presupposes that said machines already have the Synapse drivers installed. If that's not the case, and they don't let you install them (because all configs must be identical), then you're back to a plain-jane USB mouse.
  2. If I were running a pro LAN gaming tournament, the LAN on which they were playing would be private -- nothing would be talking to any external Web servers for any reason.
  3. Once upon a time, they used to store this config data in the mouse. Indeed, that was one of their big selling points -- push your profiles in to the mouse, then take it anywhere. How is taking the EEPROM out of the mouse and substituting a flaky Web server an improvement? (Yes, it makes the mouse infinitesimally cheaper...)

I think you have put on your tinfoil hat a little strong here, but do agree that the need for personal data to edit software settings on a mouse seems a little gratuitous but depending on what that personal information is (anything more than email & name seems unnecessary but I wouldn't be against giving a DOB too as that would help in their marketing campaigns).

I think there's a big difference between, "We'd really really really like it if you'd share your email address and usage patterns with us," and, "We will withhold all configuration controls until you cough up an email address and 'agree' to Yet Another So-Called Privacy Policy." It was the you-get-no-choice aspect of the thing that really frosted my cookies.

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

I'm not saying that this is the best choice for them, I do agree holding these settings on the mouse is obviously the better choice. I disagree when you say a flaky web server, Razer has the money to have proliferous redundancies on their web environment that it is rarely down or has issue, I think the more likely issue would be at the ISP level or even the consumer router level.

Either way to each his own. I just appreciate somebody can put "frosted my cookies" into a post

+1

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

I bet you trust Target with your social security and credit card numbers, too.

OP the short answer to your long winded post is: because idiots fill it out.

Period. People give it up for bright colors and "Gayman" peripherals. Return the terrible hardware and buy something worth owning, or, don't bother with their crap "Synapse 2.0" anyway.

  • 52 months ago
  • 1 point

Haha! of course I do, I write it on my car for everyone to see.... sigh.

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