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Adobe Flex Builder 3 installation continued February 26, 2008

Posted by spikew in Flex.

So the Flex team has fixed the problem with Flex Builder Pro serial numbers that I wrote about yesterday. While I still haven’t heard back about the support ticket I opened yesterday, I was able to login to my Adobe account to retrieve the serial number for my purchase of Flex Builder Pro. So let the installation continue.  Be warned its still ugly…

Now that I have a serial number, I choose to download the installer from Adobe’s site.  Given that the download size is a tiny 385 MB, Adobe provides a separate download manager program that you need to use.  While I’m not a fan of download managers (I don’t like installing one-time junk on my machine), I buy that this should improve the download success rate.

The download manager launches and defaults to my Documents folder (I hate that), so I change it to save to my Downloads folder.  I then get this security message stating that my file was instead saved to my Temporary Internet Files folder.


Weird, I never see that when I download other programs.  Adobe has a technote about this on their site where they blame in on IE, but again, I don’t see this when I download other stuff, so this seems like an artifact of something out of the ordinary Adobe is doing (like using an ActiveX control to do the download??), so I still blame this confusing experience on the Flex Builder installer.

OK download is complete, let’s roll…

I run the downloaded FB3_WWEJ.exe file.  I get the standard Windows Vista security dialog asking me if I want to run this file, so I click run again.  Now the installer is up and running.  So I accept the defaults.

The first thing I notice is that the installer defaults to AdobeFlex Builder 3.0.


I hate it when programs try to install in to the root folder, but I think this might be some kind of Eclipse thing since Aptana does the same thing.

I click Next.


Oh boy, this is going nowhere good.  Why do I foresee a lot of pain in my future?

So the installer is unable to install into the default location.  This isn’t surprising since the install would need to at least elevate to admin privileges to write files there.  I wonder why I didn’t get the elevation prompt.

So I try to change the path to c:UsersspikeAdobeFlex Builder 3.0 where the installer will definitely have permission to write.



OK, my next guess its that the installer needs to be installed as an Administrator, so I exit the installer and re-launch the EXE by right clicking and choosing Run as Administrator.


Well, this time the installer chose a better default location. Looking better…


Alright, now we’re getting somewhere…


Crap.  I knew it was too good to be true. I’ve got plenty of disk space, and am running as admin so I can write.  So now I spend a half hour trying various techniques to get this puppy installed without erroring out.  No luck.

Let’s search for installation issues on Adobe’s forums.  None reported. 

Dead end. Let’s try re-downloading, and reinstalling.

I encounter the same problems when running as a non-elevated User, however this time it works when I run as Administrator.


Woo-hoo!  Bummer it’s installed into my Desktop folder now.  What a silly default for an installer, but there’s no way I’m changing it right now, as I need to get some actual work done today.


What! That wasn’t the actual installation?  Now its running the “real” installation.  Why on earth did that last dialog say to “Launch Adobe Flex Builder 3.0” as if it was done with the installation?



Well, that’s a much better installation location.


Arg, the Flex Builder 3 Beta was installed into the same location, and this installer doesn’t seem to support upgrading.  (Note to Adobe, if you’re not going to build upgrade support into the installer, please install the betas into their own folders that won’t be the same as the final version).

Given my experience with this install so far, I’m very nervous about uninstalling a version that I know works.  Luckily, my experience moving from Beta2 to Beta3 was good enough to give me some faith that I won’t get totally hosed, so I uninstall.


Hmm, not sure what that’s about. Process Explorer reports the files aren’t in use, and I’m able to manually delete them after the uninstaller exits.

Oh well, moving on.  Now I tell the Flex Builder 3 installer to try again.


Now we’re actually installing.  Approximately 8 minutes of installation later, the installer completes.

Woo Hoo! for real this time??


Ugh, that message gives me great confidence.  I quickly look for the install log.

Delete Folder:            Source:com.adobe.flexbuilder.update.site
                          Status: WARNING
                          Additional Notes: WARNING – There was a problem deleting C:Program FilesAdobeFlex Builder 3com.adobe.flexbuilder.update.site

Not sure if that’s a real problem, but I’ll just assume I’m all set.

I launch Flex Builder 3 and it works!  For some reason the new version doesn’t seem to recognize the existing projects in my workspace from the beta, but that’s something I’ll look into later.


After 3 solid hours of installation-related work and a total of 24 hours later, I think we can finally call my installation of Flex Builder painful, but successful.  Separate from the serial number glitch, there’s a lot of room for improvement in this installation experience:

  • The download manager shouldn’t do weird things that cause files to get downloaded into unexpected locations
  • The first EXE unzip experience was very painful.  It failed multiple times and finally worked after re-downloading, and running as an Administrator.
  • If the installer needs to elevate to administrative privileges, it should prompt to elevate.
  • The first unzip experience seems like it installed the product, but it didn’t, there was yet another “real” installation after that one completed
  • The installer should deal better with installing over previous versions. Either add real upgrade support, or use an installation location that won’t conflict with previous versions you have shipped.
  • This installation experience is way too long long and takes way too many clicks.  Aptana is comparable in its general architecture (an Eclipse-based standalone IDE) and that installation experience feels extremely light comparatively. (Disclosure: I used to work at Aptana)

Why did I spend the time to write this blog post?  I hate, hate, hate needlessly frustrating product experiences, especially for products that I generally think are great.  Installation experiences can be surprisingly bad because product teams often consider them a secondary priority to the core product.  This can be disastrous since frustration during a user’s first experience will at least lead to a bad first impression, and can quite often lead to aborted installations and lost customers. This goes back to a belief that I’ve always had:

Product Engineers who like to do quality installation work are well worth their weight in gold.

In software it’s always necessary to weigh the cost/benefit for all issues. It’s quite possible that the worst parts of my experience occur very infrequently in the overall number of installs. If so, then I accept that the pain I incurred may not be worth the cost of making sure this never happens again.  But, if it turns out this happens a lot, it implies a software quality issue that either wasn’t caught during testing, or one that was caught, but was mis-prioritized.

Here’s hoping the experience everyone else has installing Flex Builder 3 is much better!


Adobe Flex Builder purchase debacle February 25, 2008

Posted by spikew in Flex.

Wow. Adobe Flex Builder 3 went final today.  I’ve been on the beta for many months now and have liked it.  I immediately went to upgrade my copy Flex Builder 2, and what a disaster their online purchase experience is.  This is the first time I’ve purchased anything through the online store since Macromedia became Adobe.  Let me say the store merger hasn’t been kind.  Adobe creates great products, and having worked for Macromedia in the past, I know many of the engineering teams are top-notch.  But Adobe please, the let’s optimize the  purchasing system to let great products be exchanged for $$ more efficiently.

Here’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back…

Follow the link to upgrade my copy of Flex Builder.  99 bucks, what a deal!

Here’s my credit card… Purchased, downloaded serial numbers sent via email. Awesome. 

…Wait, now I see there’s a pro edition that wasn’t an option during my purchase.  I got standard. Crap I need pro for the charting. 

Let’s see how to call customer service to change.  The customer service links take me to a website.  Many of the links on the site are broken.


Lot’s of searching later, I have no luck finding a phone number, but their general FAQ says I can use their online system to return the product and buy the right one.

I try the return system, but it says I don’t have any products to return.  Jeez, well, maybe the system takes a while to see my purchase. 

I’ll just buy the right version anyway and work out returning the wrong version later.

Here’s my credit card… Purchased, downloaded serial numbers sent via email. Awesome.

Wait, my email doesn’t include the serial number, it says call customer service, but of course doesn’t include an number to call.  It does give me a link to contact customer service. Let’s try that.



Awesome, thanks for that.  Now I’m hosed. I already know you can’t find a phone number to call on their website. Let’s try some of the other links from the email.  Well the FAQ isn’t broken.  Ah, sweet, there’s a link to the customer service contact area. It even has a phone number!

Calling. Waiting.  Writing this blog post to focus my griping…

Waiting, Writing. Waiting, Writing.

Got a rep.  I explain the situation.  She gets it surprising well.  Needs to transfer me to the real customer service department. Gives me a direct phone# in case we’re disconnected (thank you!)

Waiting, writing.

Re-explain to everything to customer service.

“Sir, you have to wait 24 hours to cancel an order, you’ll need to call back to cancel”. Fine.  Let’s move onto the serial number for the pro edition I purchased.

“Sir, You should have received an email with your serial number”.

I got the email, but it said to contact customer service for the phone number.

“I need to create a case and may have to transfer you to the correct department.  Please wait 2-3 mins while I check on the Pro serial number.”

Waiting, writing.

“Sir, What browser are you using?” IE. What kind of Internet connection do you have? (what does that have to do with anything?)

“Sir did you get an error when checking out” No.

“Did you get an email with the serial number?” I as explained, the purchase completed, I got the serial number email, but the email says to contact customer service to get the serial number.

“Sir I need to create a case, please hold for 2-3 mins”

Waiting, Writing.

“Sir here is your case number.  You will be contacted within 48 hours about your issue.”. What the…I just need my serial number.

“Sir we don’t issue serial numbers, we are just customer service”.

OK fine whatever. Thanks.

To be continued…

Publish blog post.