Shareware Beach

Sunday, 28 August 2005

Back in Action

Filed under: Personal — Jan @ 18:35

The past four months, my wife and I have been busy looking for, buying and moving into a new house. We moved from my wife’s hometown Ubon Ratchathani, near the border with Laos and Cambodia, to Nonthaburi, a suburb of Thailand’s capital Bangkok.

I’ve had to make do without my desktop PC and ADSL connection for most of that time. Working on a laptop with a dial-up connection is just not as comfortable, no matter how nice the Acer Travelmate 4603 laptop I bought earlier this year really is. So I cut my computer-related leisure activities such as blogging to a minimum until I got new gear. Both my wife’s and my PC had actually broken down in early April, one during a lightning storm, and the other when the UPS made some weird noises.

This week I finally made it to Pantip plaza to buy two new PCs. More about that later. Suffice to say, I can again work comfortably.

I’m still waiting for the ADSL connection, though. Apparently, the housing project we now live in sits right between the two nearest telco exchanges, which means it’s too far from either for ADSL. The project is scheduled to get its own “ADSL box” (some sort of repeater, I guess), but that’ll take a few months.

Monday, 8 August 2005

CHM Files No Longer Work Across The Network

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 11:01

I’ve been getting a lot of complaints from HelpScribble users that their CHM files don’t work. It’s not a problem with HelpScribble, but with CHM files in general.

On Windows systems with the latest security patches installed, CHM files (compiled HTML Help files) can no longer be viewed across the network. If you open a CHM file that is stored on a network drive, you will see the table of contents and the index, but you won’t see the page content.

If you’re a shareware author, the story basically ends here. Make sure your application installs its CHM files on the local PC instead of the network by default. If you get a complaint that your CHM file shows up without content, the far most likely cause is that it was installed on the network.

WinHelp (HLP) files suffer no such problems. If you use a help authoring tool like HelpScribble, you can switch between the CHM and HLP formats at the click of a button. If your software is primarily used in a networked environment, switching to HLP is probably a good idea.

The reason for this mess is that a CHM file basically consists of a bunch of HTML files that are rendered using Internet Explorer. This means that any kind of malware that works on a web page can also be put into a CHM file. It seems Microsoft has decided that CHM files are no longer to be trusted.

It is possible to change the Windows security settings to make it possible to view CHM files across the network. That’s something you can do on your own network. You can’t ask users of your shareware to do this, however, since the changes affects the security of the whole network, not just the limitations on CHM files.

Sunday, 7 August 2005

Rafting on the Poudre

Filed under: Conferences — Jan @ 9:46

I didn’t take any pictures at this year’s Shareware Industry Conference, but I would like to share the pictures of the rafting trip. The trip was organized by David Trump. Twelve shareware industry bigwigs hit the water, while David followed us by car to take pictures.

The trip was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for those who participated. Hopefully, more people will organize such extra-curricular activities around the shareware conference in the future. It makes the long flight all the more worthwhile!

Thursday, 21 July 2005

Vector Capital Acquires WinZip

Filed under: Shareware Industry — Jan @ 11:11

One of the worlds best-known shareware products, WinZip, has been acquired by a venture capital company. I hope Nico Mak & Co. got a lot of money for their baby.

However, like Tom Warfield, I’m not so sure that Vector Capital’s plans will go smoothly. WinZip has been true shareware since it was first released, relying entirely on the honor system to collect money. As most shareware authors know, that system doesn’t work very well in a world where most users have no idea about the effort takes to produce even a relatively simple tool like WinZip.

Tom points out that this acquisition is an opportunity for WinZip’s competitors. It’s indeed quite likely that people who have been using WinZip beyond the trial period will look at alternatives if they suddenly find themselves forced to pay.

However, there’s another risk. File compression is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Most software these days is distributed in self-extracting setups. No zip tool needed. Hard disks get larger by the minute, and can easily hold a lifetime of data. DVD writers are becoming standard issue, and the discs are very cheap. And for really large stuff, like movies, you need tailored algorithms like mpeg rather than zip for compression.

Email is probably the only reason to use a zip tool, particularly for people with slow connections. However, if there’s suddenly no popular free zip tool, it won’t be long before most email clients have built-in zip and unzip capabilities.

Still, WinZip’s biggest competitor is WinZip itself. The version I’m using dates from the previous millenium. It’s unlikely I’ll ever upgrade to anything else, since it does all I need. It’ll be hard for WinZip’s new owners to convince the people using an older version beyond its trial period to download a newer version that expires.

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