back to article 'Non-commercial use only'? Oopsie. You can't get much more commercial than a huge digital billboard over Piccadilly

Welcome to a special edition of The Register's occasional look at sickly screens with some historical hijinks in today's Bork to the Future. 2012 was a good time, although we probably didn't appreciate it back then. If we'd known what was coming down the pipe, we might have tried to enjoy it a bit more. Not enjoying 2012, …

  1. NightFox

    Went to watch Thomas Dolby at a packed La Scala in London back in 2006 - the set was very hi-tech with a big screen showing, amongst other things, a mirror of the sequencer screen (Cubase IIRC). The gig was just a few minutes in when a "Your 30 day trial has expired" pop-up appeared over the screen.

    1. Craig 2

      Aliens Ate My Buick - Loved that album! Total madness.

    2. Tom 38

      (super annoying pedantry warning) La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Scala is a nightclub near Kings Cross.

      1. NightFox

        That would explain why I was the only one there in top hat and tails

    3. JohnG

      Even worse was Kanye West, tweeting a photo of his browser with tabs that showed he had searched for "50 best VST/AU plugins" and downloaded Serum (costs $200) with the help of PirateBay.

      1. AIBailey

        You could have stopped after the first 5 words in that sentence.

        1. OssianScotland

          could <==> should

  2. Craig 2

    "I used to enjoy taking photos of other companies' failures," Ben told us, "and sending [them] to my colleagues in the office to make ourselves feel better about our own."

    Now there's someone who's honest with themselves! I'm sure we've all felt that little glow as we hear of competitor's tales of woe :)

    1. BebopWeBop

      I think a smug, if guilty (in secret) schadenfreude is something we have all indulged in

      1. short a sandwich

        Schadenfreude. . .

        ist die beste Freude

  3. BebopWeBop
    Thumb Up

    That was a good spot!

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Free for non-commercial use?

    You see this all the time, nobody wants to pay for things these days which has driven companies to making money by capturing your data and selling that instead. All the users complaining about this are busy making money by using "free for non-commercial use" - I'm not complaining, it's just the way that we have driven technology.

    1. Pen-y-gors

      Re: Free for non-commercial use?

      Teamviewer have an odd pricing model. It's either free for non-commercial use, or it costs an arm and a leg for even minimal commercial use. Starting price is £30+ per month, which if you're a small business, who may only need it once or twice a month, is a lot, and seriously encourages dishonesty. If they had a 'Light-use' option of say £20-30 p.a. I think they might get a few more people giving them money.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Free for non-commercial use?

        'costing an arm and a leg' for business use is SOP for companies like MS.

        They are really only interested in BIG BIG and BIGGER companies. The small guy is just not impotrtant to them hence the pricing.

        I like the idea of a small business license. Remember back to the good old day when they had this thing called 'Small Business Server'... Did pretty well what it was intended to do and was at an almost bearable cost. Then they got rid of it.

        1. LarryY

          Re: Free for non-commercial use?

          We are a small company that develops and hosts an order processing system. We occasionally must remote control a customer's screen because many of our customers don't have an IT department or anyone knowledgeable in technology, so we help them out. TeamViewer is easy for them to install, but our license technically doesn't allow them to use TeamViewer. We only do this once or twice ever for a customer but there is no way to "legally" do this without them buying a license for a full year. So, $529 with current discounts for 1 or 2 sessions.

          We pay a lot of money to be able to do this and it is worth it for us, but since TeamViewer only sells subscriptions by the year, none of our customers would ever pay them.

          But to expand on how bad their policies are, we asked them if we could add a few channels at a discount for a few months so we could allow our employees to work from home, they said no. They wouldn't even allow us to go month by month for payment. They really are an awful company that doesn't care about small businesses and develop licensing that makes sense.

          (BTW, TeamViewer allows us access to the full screen UAC prompt without an administrator install of TV. There are no alternatives we have found that customers, universally, will trust to install)

          1. BillGatesOfHell

            Re: Free for non-commercial use?

            Teamviewer is the go-to product for scammers and it is very plausable a client employee could give the quicksupport 10 digit code and password to anybody calling them thinking it was IT support. This is why most use alternative products like splashtop and connectwise to avoid this scenario not to mention the cost. Personally I had a 5 year dyndns subscription, and with some client side router port forwarding, I access my clent PCs via RDP. A bit more fiddly to implement than teamviewer but infinately less expensive and far more secure. I was quite surprised though when it came to renewal since dyndns has since been gobbled up by oracle. Initially my 5 year sub cost $67.50 but now they were demanding $55/year despite the competition being at leat 50% cheaper. It turned out however I could get a VPS, and with a bit of docker magic, create my own dynamic dns server for less than the dyndns annual renewal.

            1. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: Free for non-commercial use?

              OVH provide a similar service as part of their regular DNS hosting. You pay something like £6 per year for the domain name depending on what sort of domain you have, and the dynamic DNS is included.

              I know a lot of El-Reg comentards don’t like OVH, but I’ve never had any problems with them.

              1. BillGatesOfHell

                Re: Free for non-commercial use?

                Agree 100%, OVH are great and provide alot more options than most as standard with no hidden extras. Yes they jack up the prices a bit on domain renewals but who doesn't. Went the VPS route purely for fun and greater flexibility and portability. As far as people slating OVH, try comapring to Crazy Domains who are still charging extra for SSL certs and spam filters in their hosting plans so baiscally you end up paying double the advertised cost once you realise your http site is blocked by most modern ISP supplied routers, not to mention their shared hosting bandwidth is slower than hosting from home despite what they claim.

              2. Danny 14

                Re: Free for non-commercial use?

                We use dnsmadeeasy. They are great for dns failover too.

            2. Microchip

              Re: Free for non-commercial use?

              DigitalOcean and Namecheap both do free DNS, I assume you have to have a VPS running with DO to get it, but Namecheap's FreeDNS has done me well, and doesn't seem to come with any strings. I assume IP update clients for it are easily available, as the functionality to update it was built-in to my pfSense box.

            3. ChrisBedford

              Re: Free for non-commercial use?

              RDP is an option as you described but "far more secure"?? What are you smoking?? Teamviewer's encryption is as good as your password, and you can make that as complex as you like, while RDP requires, as you pointed out, opening and forwarding ports on your router (not great for security).

              Also if you want to have access to more than a handful of machines inside a router (like a small business, for example) you have to (a) use fixed IP addresses (b) set up different ports for each PC, which IIRC involves registry editing on the client side and some really tedious messing about on your own; AND (c) most user-grade routers only allow for a limited number of port forward rules. Sooo... Teamviewer wins hands down. Oh and also (d) RDP is not implemented on Windows Home, and (e) when you connect to the PC the user's screen goes blank so you can't use it as a remote coaching or teaching tool, only to do things *for* the user.

          2. Down not across

            Re: Free for non-commercial use?

            Not quite equivalent, but VNC (there are quite a few implementations both free and commercial) is not bad alternative forremote support if you can live with its limitations compared to TeamViewer.

            TightVNC tunneled via SSH has saved me from a long trip on occasions,

          3. Colin Critch

            Re: Free for non-commercial use?

            Try zoho assist it's only 200 a year for 25 unattended.

          4. steviebuk Silver badge

            Re: Free for non-commercial use?

            Bit confused. You pay for your license so you install the business version on yours and login. Everyone, your clients, are free to install the free version and you, under your license, are entitled to then connect to theirs. Its how we use it at work. We have 2 channels. 3 of us are signed in as the admin on our laptops. All other laptops have the free version installed with unattended remote access on. 2 of us can connect at a time. This setup is how TeamViewer themselves say to roll it out.

            So not sure why your license doesn't allow them to install the free version for you to then be able to use your corporate version to connect.

            1. G2

              Re: Free for non-commercial use?

              @steviebuk: "[...]your clients, are free to install the free[...]"

              wrong... unfortunately that's just a dream, but not how TeamViewer licensing is working. Their actual licensing mechanism is more like a virus infection / worm.

              If a commercial licensed user, or a free user that's flagged in their system as an unlicensed commercial user connects to a free non-commercial user (or they connect to such a commercial user), then (after 2...3+ sessions from any such users) that free user is also "infected" and their system starts to flag their connections as "unlicensed commercial use".

              What happens next is that the former free user that's now infected/flagged as "commercial user", if it uses TeamViewer to connect to other systems, it will now be spreading their "commercial use" virus/worm flag to other TeamViewer free systems.

              Ans here's the shitty part: TeamViewer IDs are permanent. You can wipe, reinstall or change your storage drives all you want, your system's ID remains the same, and the "commercial use" infection too. I think they might be using the motherboard serial number or NIC hardware address to build that ID. If you want to change your ID you have to literally beg via a support ticket and pray & hope that they even decide to reply.

              All of the above happened to me in February on my home PC that i mainly use to play World of Warcraft on... i dumped TeamViewer and switched to a much better system which supports 2FA with U2F hardware security keys.

              1. io91

                Re: Free for non-commercial use?

                OH!!! that explains it!

                I just wish that they would have a reasonable cost licence model for hobby use rather than this rediculous model that works fine for a while and then decides that you are commercial and attempts to up the fees to an extortionate price.

                Also I guess that the detection system will work badly if a hobbyist buys a second hand business computer and then tries to use TV.

                I use their s/w for operating my amateur radio station remotely when I am travelling on business, but I imagine that I will not have that to worry about for a while.

            2. G2

              Re: Free for non-commercial use?

              P.S. direct-connections via IP address or LAN only connections (if in same VPN, they are considered as "same LAN") are not subject to their licensing checks which might be why your other laptops have not been infected yet by their "commercial use" flag.

              1. ChrisBedford

                Re: Free for non-commercial use?

                No - you are confused, based on a single incident where you got caught trying to circumvent their licencing. If a machine only ever *receives* connections it can run under a non-commercial licence forever.

                *ONLY* the computer that you use *to remote control other computers* requires the commercial licence.

                Also, and I'm not saying this is a solution, only that the serialisation is not bullet-proof, the TeamViewer ID doesn't survive an OS reinstall. And sometimes it doesn't even survive a reboot (I have one machine in my network that picks one of two different IDs on startup, and I've seen it before on a client machine. No reason I can find).

          5. SWCD

            Re: Free for non-commercial use?

            Try RealVNC's offering.

            For one person, £150 (pretty sure that's inc VAT) to be able to connect to remote machines on demand.. The usual ask remote party to download client, supply them a 9 digit number... Up to three concurrent sessions allowed... You can "elevate" the session when required to which the user must confirm the other end, but I'm just in the habit of doing it immediately after connection just in case.

            Device access for unattended dial-in to to server or whatever is about £30 a year.

      2. Dwarf

        Re: Free for non-commercial use?

        This is perhaps one area where pay-per-use would be appropriate.

        I use TeamViewer to support some friends and yep, it kicks in every so often boldly claiming corporate use when its not and its a right pain in the arse when you are trying to fix something and it bins the connection half way through something like an install or fighting a stability issue.

        I wouldn't mind if there was a pay-per-use, ideally paid for by the party being called (i.e. the person being supported) on say a per hour or per day basis. Assuming the £30/month rate then it should be around 4p per full hour. They could even do it with a PayPal type topup on your own account that gives "remote control credits" where remote control time is added up across a month, so there is no impact for being disconnected and reconnecting during all those remote reboots and forced TeamViewer client upgrades etc.

        One thing is clear, I'm not going to be paying to help someone for free nor would I pay £30 a month for something that I'll barely use for 95% of the time, but I would like a way to get rid of the stupid commercial use false positives and lack of SLA for how long it takes them to fix those.

      3. jason 7

        Re: Free for non-commercial use?

        It's why I went with Zoho.

      4. Tomato Krill

        Re: Free for non-commercial use?

        It's a pound a day, it truly isnt all that much.

        And you might only use it twice a month but what difference does that make? Teamviewer don't get advanced warning of when those times are and get to wind down their operations the rest of the month - you expect it to be up and available all month round no?

        1. Oneman2Many

          Re: Free for non-commercial use?

          Each usage has saved probably at least £100 of call out charge. Yet people moan.

          If you want free then use VNC or other free alternatives,

      5. shade82000

        Re: Free for non-commercial use?

        I stopped using TV because the only options they give are either seeing the nag dialog on every disconnect, or paying corporate prices. If they had a more suitable paid option for personal use that was in line with what other companies charge (I'm thinking £7 / month like cloud storage) then I would have snapped it up.

        Anecdotal of course but in my view it's a bad business decision because I know 15+ others who won't use it for the same reason but claim they would pay for it if there was a suitably priced option.

        1. steviebuk Silver badge

          Re: Free for non-commercial use?

          The nag screen with randomly pop up on a disconnect even with the paid version. We get it sometimes at work.

    2. Danny 14

      Re: Free for non-commercial use?

      I remember my handover week. The day i was asking about licenses started along the lines of "so where are is license documentation, you know Adobe and MS renewals? What CALS are you using?

      The answer was along the lines of " CALS? What are those? We just used the same key and cloned the drives".

      The firm basically had zero licensing. That was a fun first week budget meeting "sign this for licensing or give me written license budget refusal."

    3. P. Lee

      Re: Free for non-commercial use?

      Is being hacked, "non-commercial" use?

      I assume that's why its installed....

    4. jelabarre59

      Re: Free for non-commercial use?

      The thing is, TV's licence tracking is such crap, the machine in question might actually *be* licensed, but that TeamViewer forgot it was licensed.

  5. Chris Hills

    Reminds me

    I was once in a meeting where a paid consultant was presenting some rubbish Excel spreadsheet they made and was later ditched, and at the top of their screen - "Non-Commercial User".

  6. elDog

    I hope that the bloke running the screen finalley clicked the "Like" button when closing TeamViewer

    In my hundreds (thousands?) of times of using TeamViewer (personal use only, natch) I've been asked at the end to show my thanks by clicking "Like" when closing. Not sure what would happen if I happened to do so.

  7. Nunyabiznes

    licensed software

    Ah, reminds me of having to work on a vendor's system (because our purchaser insisted that getting the slightly cheaper out of state vendor was the better deal) and realizing that the kiosk for adding money to a user's cafeteria account was using the free home version of MS Security Essentials.

    Bonus! It was hanging its dirty laundry out on an unrestricted internet connection. Win7 Home also. AND - we still use said vendor.

    Documented my long list of objections, fixed the issue (can't even remember what it was now) and wiped off my fingerprints.

  8. Paul Cooper

    What is non-commercial

    When I worked for a government research organization, doing strictly non-commercial work (it's difficult to do anything commercial in Antarctica!) I found that software companies varied enormously in what they thought non-commercial meant. A lot would say, that yes, you are wholly funded by public money, and are therefore non-commercial. Some would look at the fact that a few of our products were sold, albeit at rates that only covered the cost of printing, not the cost of the work that went into the products, and said we had to pay a commercial rate. In some cases where the software was nice to have rather than must-have, I did try and persuade the latter category to change their mind - without a great deal of success!

    I should mention that as a high-profile organization, we had to be squeaky clean in our software licensing.

    It won't surprise you to hear that the latter category were mostly house-hold (well, ones that read El Reg) names that wouldn't have missed the money, and the former were usually small companies that could probably have used our money, but chose to recognize our status.

    1. Matt_payne666

      Re: What is non-commercial

      surely though... being used on a giant commercial, is commercial use!

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: What is non-commercial

      Wouldn't that count as educational, so you'd get edu-prices from MS?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm more surprised

    That this setup is on the internet.

  10. adnim

    if ya make money from it

    Pay gratitude to those who have assisted you in reaching that earning capacity.

  11. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

    Can I just take a moment to say F*CK TeamViewer

    I was a TV user for many years... but these last few have seen a insidious demand to try and force non commercial users to pay hundreds of pounds for a license they don't need.

    I use it to manage the few computers on my home network, to support my mum's PC as well as help with a couple of people occasionally who are part of the local parkinsons support group.

    But like clockwork... every few months... one of them will get flagged as 'commercial use' and it's impossible to know which one, TV refuse to respond and trying to get them to remove the block is pointless. It's supposed to restrict you to 5-10 mins connection.. the reality is perhaps a few seconds... 20-30 at most... then it kicks you off.

    You try helping the vulnerable, the disabled and the elderly when being treated like some kind of scumbag criminal defrauding them.

    the reddit group is overflowing with exactly the same stories... and it's nothing more than an attempt at extortion from a company that has turned into a shitty, greedy, insidious bunch of wankers.

    So f*ck em... every response on reddit is the same... switch to anydesk... because that's been smooth sailing for everyone so far.

    1. WereWoof

      Re: Can I just take a moment to say F*CK TeamViewer

      The same thing happened to me, now i just use AnyDesk.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can I just take a moment to say F*CK TeamViewer

      I agree, as a freelancer I can't see any appropriate licensing model that makes financial sense.

      I need 1 seat and several simultaneous connections. Sometimes up to 8 servers at a time. The only way to do this is buy one of their very expensive multiseat licenses or "call for a quote".

      As a result I use SSH tunnels instead, which is fine if I am geographically close to where I'm connecting to, but I'm often on the opposite side of the planet as I travel quite a performance is less than ideal.

      The main draw for me to TV is that it works on even the shittiest of internet connections.

  12. justincormack


    Once (and only once) I let the Linux boot console (with penguins) run up through Piccadilly Circus on the Coke screen after a power cut. And AFAIK there are no pictures of it, sadly.

  13. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    Solution: Anydesk

    at least for me.

  14. ChrisBedford

    Can't believe no-one has pointed this out. Under TeamViewer's licencing model, it's perfectly fine to have Personal/Non-commercial selected on the client-side computer. In fact it's what they tell you to do. It's the machine that you use to access the clients that has to have a business licence.

    And incidentally, TeamViewer monitors your usage (connection is managed via their servers, remember) so if you don't can a commercial licence and you remote control too many client PCs (no idea what their definition of 'too many' is) they start cutting you off. At first it's for a minute at a time, then they allow you to reconnect for five minutes and cut you off again, but if you persist the breaks get longer and the intervals shorter until you can't get any work done at all.

  15. Hazmoid

    Teamviewer was great when I was managing IT on Ocean going tugs moving up and down the Western Australian coast. We only ever used the remote assistance module when building the machines for the vessels, and used the licensed version on the 2 technicians machines. That way we could talk to them to get their TV id and password ( and in fact we set the pw when installing the client) and could get in to see what they had mucked up.

    Totally enjoy using Connectwise now, however I regularly use the free Spiceworks Zoho install if all I need to do is view the remote machine enough to download the connectwise client :).

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