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Razer Gaming Mouse Requires Internet Connection to Set Up

By Wesley Fenlon

Razer's new mouse software requires an Internet connection and collects data, all in the name of cloud storage.

Gamers everywhere hate always-online DRM, which requires a constant Internet connection to play the games they "own." "License" may be a better word for software that can't be played without a constant connection a remote server. And when those servers go down and the games become unplayable, well, gamers get madder still. Mouse/keyboard/computer hardware maker Razer just found itself under fire for a similar issue: the company's latest driver software, Synapse 2.0, requires users to register through an online server to set up the mouse.

And then the activation server went down. Razer offers no offline setup option for Synapse 2.0. Razer also does not offer simple offline drivers for its newer mice. One user made a forum post detailing the issue, and it's since gone viral. So how big a deal is this, really?

In theory, Synapse 2.0 sounds just fine. It offers cloud-based storage for key bindings and settings, so users can store their preferences online, sit down at any computer with a Razer mouse, and load up their customized controls right away. Once you're through the initial setup process, the mouse works fine offline and preferences can be modified without an Internet connection. But if the activation server is down, the mouse only works plug-and-play. Basic functionality is intact, but Razer makes expensive mice, and not being able to customize DPI and other options is their main draw.

Razer claims mouse settings are getting too big to store in memory, or will in the near future--it sounds like a tenuous justification for Synapse 2.0, but that doesn't mean the concept of online storage is inherently bad.

The lack of an offline setup option does make it bad. Ironically, the mouse can be used in offline mode once it's been set up. And as long as you're connected to the Internet, Synapse will be uploading information to the cloud. Angry gamers have called this always-online data mining, which may be an overreaction--or maybe not, considering the ambiguity of what, exactly, the data is reading. Razer's privacy policy contains the following information:

By using Razer Synapse 2.0 (“Synapse”), the Subscriber agrees that Razer may collect aggregate information, individual information, and personally identifiable information. Razer may share aggregate information and individual information with other parties. Razer shall not share personally identifiable information with other parties, except as described in the policy below.

Even if Razer isn't doing anything malicious, which is likely, they're still baking unnecessary online requirements into a device that's worked just fine for years without. After the public backlash, they've announced plans to add a "manual offline" mode to Synapse 2.0 and to make their legacy drivers available. But those drivers are only for older mice.

Razer has addressed the concerns, but hasn't commented on what information they may collect and make available to third parties (see update below). Synapse 2.0 is here to stay, and even with the addition of a manual offline mode, the setup process will still require an Internet connection. And working activation servers.

Update: Here is what our contact at Razer had to say about the privacy concerns: "As far as “data collection” goes, we only require users to provide a name and email address so that we’re able to associate settings with each user. With our Privacy Policy, this is a standard boilerplate written by our legal team; most (if not every) software provider includes very similar language in their TOS."

Razer has issued a statement about users' concerns over Synapse 2.0, and clarifies that it is not DRM. Razer wants to make it clear that its products work just fine out of the box. The company's full statement is below.

SYNAPSE 1.0 => SYNAPSE 2.0

Razer was the first to recognize the need for gamers to save their mouse configurations and settings onboard their peripherals. To that end, we created Synapse 1.0, which utilized onboard memory to store settings inside Razer products. This ability has now become one of the de facto features used in gaming

mice worldwide.

Over time, we realized that as firmware, profiles, macros and other settings stored in onboard memory became more complex, more memory space was required. On top of that, other features that we wanted to include, such as inter‐device drivers and profile exchanging, were not possible with the

Synapse 1.0 architecture.

To give gamers the same benefits provided in Synapse 1.0 and more, we invented Synapse 2.0. Instead of having mouse settings limited by the space in onboard memory, Synapse 2.0 allows gamers to now have almost unlimited space for their profiles and macros. Moreover, other new functionalities such as

being able to interact with other peripherals on the same architecture (i.e. keymaps between mice and keyboards) are now possible. Now gamers are also able to easily import and export profiles with their friends.

Another benefit to Synapse 2.0 is that if you purchase an additional Synapse 2.0 mouse for another system, it will not have to set it up all over again; it will be instantaneously customized to one’s stored settings. Such features would not be possible with Synapse 1.0.

We also believe in continuing to support our earlier products with software updates. We believe in providing additional value to our customers as opposed to only providing such features for our new hardware. For example, the Razer Naga MMO gaming mouse created with the Synapse 1.0 architecture was recently updated through Synapse 2.0 to include keymapping, unlimited profiles, and import/export functions. These updates would have taxed memory beyond the original capacity of the mouse using just Synapse 1.0. With Synapse 2.0, every Naga user can have his or her mouse upgraded directly from the cloud without having to go out and purchase another mouse or recreate macros and user‐created content.

Synapse 2.0 offers these types of benefit and we’re happy to add features to our products for dedicated gamers looking for continued value after purchase.

However, we recognize that there may be some users of legacy Razer products who prefer to use Synapse 1.0 drivers. While we will still be making these available (see below), we do not want to penalize the vast majority of gamers who want to see our new products and legacy products upgraded to the Synapse 2.0 platform.

Synapse 2.0 vs. DRM

Our products work perfectly out of the box. Unlike DRM games or other media that require an always‐on connection, you can use any of our peripherals right out of the box, even if someone doesn’t install Synapse 2.0, and whether a user is offline or online.

Synapse 2.0 provides for additional functionality in the form of cloud storage for settings, inter‐device communications, etc. Once registered, Synapse 2.0 provides additional functionality of almost limitlessmemory in the cloud. It does the same with mapping physical functions, affording myriad options for an array of applications. The amount of information required to register the product is minimal. Again, we make a range of products that, to some degree or another, benefit from cloud‐based functionality, but it is not a requirement for our products to work. There are great gamers out there that don’t regularly use Synapse 2.0, which speaks to the inherent quality of our products.

Synapse 2.0 works OFFLINE

One of the biggest misunderstandings is the equation of Synapse 2.0 to always‐on DRM. It’s a popular notion that anything requiring a login has DRM included in it, and this misconception is one that easily gets the community fired up. In this case however, it’s incorrect.

Once registered, Synapse 2.0 works offline and never needs to be online again. So basically, a user creates an account, saves initial settings, and if there’s no internet connection, it doesn’t matter ‐ settings are saved on the client PC and are not synced to the cloud. Synapse 2.0 works offline.

We understand that this still might be confusing. We will continue to take steps to clarify and to ensure that our users have the correct information (see below).

Server Outages

Finally, as far as the Synapse 2.0 activation server goes, we realize that we have had intermittent issues with it due to server usage spikes and, most recently, because of Hurricane Sandy – not uncommon challenges with server‐based functions, especially given the severity of the storm – and we’re working

on increasing server reliability.

We had an issue for four hours recently when users were unable to register for new Synapse 2.0 accounts. Current users of Synapse 2.0 were unaffected. We are working on new ways to keep these types of issues from occurring.

Steps to clarify the situation

1. Legacy or Synapse 1.0 drivers (for applicable legacy products) will be made available shortly on the Razer Support Site. We will continue to develop applicable Synapse 2.0 drivers for our other legacy products, as the vast majority of users of our products have been asking for Synapse 2.0 features. Again, if those products are already Synapse 1.0 supported, we will make both Synapse 1.0 and Synapse 2.0 drivers available to them. All future Razer products will support Synapse 2.0 and other future platforms.

2. Manual Offline mode will be made available shortly. At this time, Synapse 2.0 works seamlessly between online and offline mode, and is unobtrusive to the user. If an internet connection goes down and if the user has enabled offline mode by checking the “stay logged in” box, Synapse 2.0 automatically goes into offline mode.

Through listening to our community we have added many new features to Synapse, and we have been working on putting in place a more robust manual offline mode for Synapse 2.0,letting users choose to go into offline mode with a click of a button. This functionality will be rolled into an upcoming update.

We value the feedback from the community and we hope the above statement helps to clarify any issues. Customers should feel free to write to us at support‐us@razersupport.com if they have additional questions or concerns.

‐Razer