Monthly Archives: December 2017

Crystal Reports 2016: Worst Installer. Ever.

It takes a lot to get worked up about a program’s installer for goodness sake, but Crystal Reports 2016 has one that’s so problem-ridden and buggy that it could drive a Zen monk to acts of random mayhem.

As ordered directly from the company, the program comes without apparent documentation, merely a big “click me to install” executable download of some 800 MB. After the giant download, you see a single a clickable installer .exe file. Double-clicking this in turn kicks off a giant-self-decompressing archive…which after several minutes, presents you with… an incomprehensible error message saying: “Fatal Error: At least one port in the range 4520-4539 must be open for the installation to proceed. Please ensure that no application or firewall is blocking this range.”

“Wow! I had no idea my firewall was blocking those ports, but let’s check…” and then an hour or more of checking security software, network settings, and firewalls commenced across both my own computer, my wireless router, and even my cable modem. All in vain. Because the error message had nothing to do with the actual problem.

What was the problem? Apparently something path-related, because it turns out that the (impossible-to-guess) solution was that the installer had to be located at the top level of the C: drive in order to work.

And even this is problematic: remember how launching the installer kicks off a self-decompressing archive? It turns out that there’s no user control over where those files decompress to (presumably someplace in the %TEMP% directory). It’s not even sufficient to copy the installer.exe file to your C: directory–you need to hunt down the decompressed files and copy them there. The easiest way I’ve found to accomplish this is to use 7-Zip, right-click on the installer.exe file, and tell it Extract the contents of the .exe file to your C: drive. After that, the program will actually install.

“Oh my goodness” you might be saying. “That sounds like some hacky installer implementation that must have caused all manner of tech support calls, and surely was the first thing SAP (the maker of Crystal Reports) fixed after release!”. If so, you’d be wrong. Indeed the exact same force-compress and moving of the installer files is necessary for the Crystal Reports 2016 Service Packs (Currently on Service Pack #4!).

Unbelievable. Did SAP actually intend to sell any copies of this $495 program? Or were they trying to kill off its user base in the most passive-aggressive way possible by making it nigh-impossible to install?