You can name your own salary here - I like to call mine Fred.

Alchemy Mindworks' software uses registration codes to disable its shareware functions. This system allows users of our software to download upgrades for it without having to obtain — and pay for — updated CD-ROMs. The down side of this arrangement is that some of our users have been known to lose their codes.

Back in the early 1990s — at a time when the world was a simpler place and the volume of lost code requests we received was of a manageable degree of hugeness — we had someone on staff who trolled the user database by hand and provided registration code requests. The last time we kept track of this function, it occupied an aggregate of about twenty minutes a week.

In the new millennium, when people seem to reformat their hard drives on a weekly basis and change computers more often than the moon changes phases, we receive innumerable lost registration code requests — far more than could be handled by a staff member in their spare time.

Hiring someone to process these requests by hand would invariably involve paying someone to process these requests by hand — an arrangement we feel would be entirely justified for the employee in question, but perhaps not in the best interest of our users. The wages for such a staff member would have to come from somewhere, and the only 'somewhere' we have available is the price of our products.

Raising the price of our software for all our users to provide a service which only a tiny fraction of our users will ever need strikes us as at least as ill-advised as what our various governments do with the bulk of our tax dollars.

Charging those users who lose their codes a fee for recovering them didn't look like a wildly favorable prospect either — we envisioned virtual lynching parties thundering across the verdant plains of northern Ontario looking for our offices. We do offer an optional fee-based code search.

All of the foregoing being the reality of the situation, we created the Lost Registration Code Robot. The robot will search our user database for user information, and dispense replacement codes. Because it costs us nothing to operate, we need charge nothing for its use. Thus far, the robot's been largely successful.

There are a few minor catches inherent in the operation of the Lost Registration Code Robot, and these are in fact what all of the preamble you've just waded hip-deep through has been setting you up for:

  • The robot is actually a fairly clever piece of software, but it's not clairvoyant. You need only get your personal information reasonably close to have it find you — but you do have to be in the same galaxy.

  • Our user database is somewhat immense, and to make it workable, it's organized by year. You'll have to tell the robot the correct year in which you registered for it to find you.

  • The database does not keep track of book orders, and as such it will be unable to provide replacement bookware codes. If you registered an Alchemy Mindworks application as bookware and subsequently ignored our recommendation that you hang onto the book in question, you're sunk.

  • The robot has been structured to discourage cybercretins from fishing for codes to register software they never paid for. It will permit one search per user in each 24 hour period, and no more than three searches per month. This shouldn't be a problem if you actually registered the software in question and you can remember where you live.

  • The robot processes its requests in batches during periods when it thinks that the demands on our network have ebbed somewhat. It also likes to have recourse to our staff, for those occasions when it gets really, really confused by a request. As such, it can take up to one business day to receive a reply from it. Business days do not include weekends or Canadian holidays.

  • We only issue registration codes to people with real names, and as such you should only search for them using your real name.

  • You have to be in the database for the robot to find you. You will not be in the database if you:

    • Ordered the software in question through a reseller or an overseas distributor. In this case, you need to contact the reseller or distributor in question and have them search their records.
    • Obtained the software in question as a review copy or corporate evaluation copy.
    • Disputed the charge for the software in question, or paid with a check which was subsequently dishonored by your bank.

The majority of people who petition the robot for a replacement code receive one on their first try — it was over 95 percent the last time we looked. Now and again, we receive e-mail from dissatisfied users of the Lost Registration Code Robot, who have been unable to recover their codes.

If you're reading this, you're probably one of them.

We'd like to take this opportunity to point out the following:

  • Your registration code, like your car keys, your television set and your toaster, is yours. This means that you have the sole responsibility to safeguard it. When you ordered the software in question, you explicitly agreed to this. Please consult the Alchemy Mindworks Terms and Conditions document for the details. See section 5.

  • One of the considerations in creating inexpensive software such as ours is that there isn't a lot of margin for things like substituting a lost registration code human being for the Lost Registration Code Robot.

  • Phoning our support desk won't get you any further than e-mailing us — their instructions are to refer lost registration code issues to the robot.

  • Sending us nasty e-mail when the robot turns you down will not get you your code back. These messages usually take the following forms:

    • We're utter bastards, unprofessional swine and we kiss poodles on a regular basis. Name calling is a poor substitute for a well-reasoned argument.

    • You're going to tell your countless thousands of friends, co-workers, colleagues and his holiness the arch-bishop of Cleveland bad things about us. While it's admittedly based on somewhat vague calculations, we estimate that the average user of our software has a one in 675 chance of affecting a single additional sale of our products if they do this. We'll take the risk.

    • You're going to hack our software and disable the beg notice. Don't make us laugh. While we're laughing, however, we'd like to point out that doing so would be a violation of section four of the license to which you agreed when you installed the software, and an act of software piracy. We regard software pirates as being somewhat lower in the food chain than life forms we routinely scrape from the soles of our shoes, and we want nothing to do with them. If you issued such a threat, your e-mail address has been added to the permanent kill list for our mail server.

    • You're going to contact the president or CEO of Alchemy Mindworks and give him a piece of your mind. Considering that the president of Alchemy Mindworks put this policy in place, you might not find this wholly productive.

    • You're going to contact the Better Business Bureau, our local chamber of commerce, the government of Canada or your local Masonic lodge and report us. To save you some time, respectively, we aren't a member, we aren't a member, they won't give a damn unless it's an election year and we don't know any secret handshakes.

    • You have some advice about how to run our business. The issue in question is not how we run our business — it's how you keep track of your possessions.

We don't enjoy disappointing our users. We enjoy even less, however, the prospect of raising our prices or providing less than timely support for all our users in order to accommodate a tiny fraction of them who lose their codes. The Lost Registration Code Robot is the best compromise we've come up with to date.

We genuinely regret your having been unsuccessful at recovering your code with it, and we urge you to verify your information and try again.

We'd also like to take this opportunity to remind you that we didn't lose your code.