thanks for the info, IainB. i do wonder what is the purpose of phoning home to check the validity of a free version.
Abbyy is not generally free, although it always has been an excellent deal.
So the phone-home has at least the purpose to see that the registration is not used on too many puters. They either did not want to change that for the freebie, and/or they did not want one free serial number to be on a boatload of puters. And I did get that msg for the first time in years about two weeks ago (probably two puters were involved at the same time, although generally that had not been a problem, maybe they called home in close time proximity, hard to say. This was right before seeing the notice above about bonus Abbyy.)
Overall, if you want quick, light, reasonably accurate OCR, and with multiple language support, it is hard to overstate how excellent is this program. I would wink at the occasional puzzlement about services. Once years ago I had some services problem and Abbyy had very good support to explain and fix.