Archived blog from the developer, Mike Towle . . . . . . . . . . .
Looks like the recession is really starting to bite. 2009 could be very difficult, with many businesses large and small closing down. If like most other business owners/managers you're trying to cut costs, at least you now know where to get a FREE accounting system!
It's interesting that while the cost of hardware has plummeted over the years, the cost of software has remained stubbornly high. Many people would say it's far too high, and I'd agree with them. Twenty years ago, when you bought a computer system, the hardware generally cost far more than the software. Unless you were having the software specially developed (which was much more common then). When you buy a new computer system today, you can end up spending far more money on software that has come straight off the shelf, than on the hardware. Not only is hardware a lot cheaper than it was twenty years ago, but it's massively more powerful. The speed and memory capacity of the average PC today is staggering when compared to the hardware available then. Twenty years ago your PC would probably have 512K of RAM, and a CPU that ran at 8mhz, today it will have maybe 2,147,483K and run at 2,500mhz (in other words, 2gb and 2.5ghz). The reason of course is that huge technological advances have been made in electronics, with chips containing more and more components.
So what happened to software? Well of course users expectations are a lot higher now than they were twenty years ago. So the software has to do more stuff, look prettier, and be easier to use. And software is a bit cheaper than it was then, but not much cheaper. The problem is, it isn't any faster developing software now than it was twenty years ago! It's still just as time consuming. The way software development is done hasn't really changed much in the twenty five years I've personally spent as a professional software developer! I use Microsoft VisualFoxPro for Windows, this product has it's roots in FoxPro that ran under MS-DOS back in the early 90's, which was based on dBase III+ of the mid 80's, which was based on dBase II from the early 80's, which was based on Vulcan from 1980. You could take a Vulcan or dBase II program, and with probably only a little modification, run it with Microsoft Visual FoxPro. Yet the products are twenty five years apart! Vulcan was developed by Wayne Ratliffe, dBase was developed by a company called Ashton Tate, who were bought by Borland in 1991. FoxPro for MS-DOS was developed by Fox Software, the product was purchased by Microsoft in the mid 90's. Many other development languages have a similar pedigree. I don't know why software development hasn't moved forward at the same pace as hardware development. But the end result is that developing software is HUGELY time consuming. It's amazing that anyone gives it away at all!
Finally, Adminsoft Accounts Version 3.149 is now released, and being downloaded by eager users as you read this blog!
OK, It's been FOUR MONTHS since my last blog! Where does the time go? I had expected to release the latest version of the software in July, I'm three months behind schedule! The payroll took a lot longer to complete than I anticipated. The good news it's done, and works well. Again though, I must apologize to users outside of the United Kigdom, of which there are a great many, for developing a payroll that only works within the United Kingdom. I would have loved to have an international payroll, but it's just not practical. Please see my previous blog below.
Of great importance to everyone is the change made to the Freeware version of Adminsoft Accounts. After being installed for around 60 days or so, if the user did not purchase a Software Registration Key, many of the menu options and functions would disappear. Well no more! Now the Freeware version runs as Freeware, with ALL the options and functionality, for ever! No time out, and no forms popping up asking if you want to buy the software. I decided to do this because 99% of all users were using the software as Freeware. Little cash was being made from software sales. So I'm now giving away what is effectively the FULL product..
So, if the software is not being sold, how can I afford to keep developing and supporting it? This is a problem. I'm attempting to solve it in two ways. One is by advertising, you'll have seen the Google adverts all over the Adminsoft web site. When the Freeware version of the software closes down, it will now fire up the users default browser and display a web page containing Google adverts, as well as my latest blog, and other information. The second way to try and raise funds is by donation. The 'Purchase' page on the web site now just encourages users to make a donation. Whether users will be encouraged to part with their cash remains to be seen!
The good news is: the next version of Adminsoft Accounts will include payroll !! The bad news is....
When not trying to sort out Vista problems, I have been doing more debugging and developing on Adminsoft Accounts. A new version will be released, probably in July sometime. One major development is the addition of a payroll. But at this point, I have to apologize to a lot of people. The payroll will only work in the United Kingdom. To avoid confusion, only users in the UK will even see the payroll option. I would love to have developed a payroll that would cater for other countries, the USA in particular. But it would have been just too much work, too big a project. It's taken quite a while to develop the payroll for the UK, and even now it is quite a simple system. It does not calculate SMP or SSP, or have a facility for electronic filing of payroll information. It's really designed for organizations with less than 50 people. As 99% of the users of Adminsoft Accounts are in organizations of less than 50 people, it's not an issue. But, probably around 80% of users are not based in the United Kingdom, and that is an issue. One, that regrettably, is unlikely to be addressed. As every country has it's own way of handling payroll, I just don't have the time to develop one for every country. I did think about developing a payroll that would be so flexible, it could be configured to work in most countries. But it would have taken a very long time to develop, and would have ended up so complicated, few people would figure out how to use it! So I decided to keep things simple and limit it to just the UK. Sorry folks.
If anyone out there has developed a payroll for any other country, and are looking for a way to distribute it, please get in touch. I am especially interested if it can be integrated into Adminsoft Accounts. Either at source code level, or as an external .exe that recognizes Adminsoft Accounts data files (for Nominal Ledger postings). I may set up a page on this web site for third party payroll products.
It can not possibly be three months since my last blog? But it is. Where does all the time go? Well, a good deal of it goes into trying to get Vista to work! Without a lot of success. I'll continue to run Vista on my home computer, but mainly for testing purposes. This means I have to put up with complaints from my family who would much rather I reinstalled Windows XP. But I don't want Vista on my development machine, or I really would never get any work done!
Anyway, I'm not going to turn this blog into another rant about Vista. And this time I won't leave it so long until the next blog. But then I always say that......
Windows Vista, are we going forwards? As a software developer, to me the operating system is a means to an end. It handles all the mundane stuff, sending output to the screen, printers, across the LAN and/or internet, and so on. It is NOT an end in itself, just something we can use that makes it easy to run programs, copy files, etc. Windows 95 was riddled with bugs, but when working it made things a LOT easier. Windows 98 Second Edition, now there's a venerable old operating system. Not overly complicated, and (compared to Windows 95) pretty stable. Since then, the look of Windows has changed a little, a few extra bells and whistles have been added, but there's been no drastic changes. The good news for developers, is that most software that runs under Windows 95 also runs under Windows XP.
So along comes Windows Vista. Five years in the making. Is it easier to use? Does it make things easier for the developer? Perhaps even reduce the cost of software development? No, NO, and NO
. Due to the 'security' features built into it, whenever you want to do something it feels like you have to click 20 buttons (you don't, it just feels that way). I know computer security is a big issue these days, and rightly so. But does it have to get in the way of using the computer so much? Vista might look pretty, but it doesn't seem to be any faster, and it doesn't seem to actually do anything that Windows XP couldn't do? I'm sure lots of Vista experts will cough at this point, and email me a huge list of stuff Vista can do that XP can't. But from the point of view of the average user I bet 99% of the stuff on that list could be deleted. I may be a developer, but I consider myself an average user. All I want to do is email, browse the web, move files around, and run accounts and other software. Vista makes these simple operations feel so cumbersome. I've had a computer at home running Vista for a couple of months now. At first everything was fine. But then things, bad things, started to happen. As of now, it will no longer print, or even attempt to put anything in the print que. Internet Explorer keeps crashing, thanks goodness for Firefox, that works great. I can't start Control Panel, it just flickers and then closes down. Vista will close itself down and restart at random intervals. My favorite game that used to work fine now takes literally about two minutes to start up, and it may or may not run, depending on what mood Vista is in. This is a genuine copy of Microsoft Vista Ultimate. Yet messages keep appearing telling me I am a victim of software counterfeiting? I think my Vista machine is very sick. Whether it's picked up an undetected virus or what I don't know. But I'm going to have to take it to someone who knows a lot more about it than I do to sort it out, hopefully without having to reinstall everything.
Just when you thought my rant was over, there's more.....
I thought my Vista experience was bad as a user. But as a developer, things have just gotten worse. Due to the 'security' in Vista, Adminsoft Accounts can not be installed into the C:\Program Files folder. Instead it has to be installed off the root folder (ie. C:\). What's the point of that? I have been playing around with Adminsoft's help system, to try and improve it. I thought I'd start using RTF (Rich Text Files) for the help text. Then I could have text underlined, or in bold, or italics, different colors, even change the size & font. After implementing this enhancement, I discover that Microsoft have removed the ability to display Rich Text in Windows Vista! So users of old versions of Windows can see my help text in pretty colors etc. (OK, when I get around to it.....), but users of Vista can not. Vista supporters will say 'yes, but you should be using HTML....'. No, I should not. Using HTML requires Internet Explorer to be started up to display it, which is a large, resource hungry bit of software. From the user clicking on the Help button, it would take several seconds to display the help text. As if that wasn't bad enough, Internet Explorer will only display the content of files, so far I have not been able to find a way of directly feeding it the text I need displaying. Which would not speed things up much, but would have made it easier to integrate into Adminsoft Accounts. I've looked through numerous software developer bulletin boards, where all us sad developer people meet to discuss stuff. I've seen lots of developers complaining, and the standard response from Vista supporters is that we should all redevelop our software for Vista.
I don't know how much money Microsoft spent developing Vista. A wild guess might put it at $5 billion? Maybe on the high side. It's a LOT of money. But, how much money has been invested all over the World by third party developers in producing Windows application software? Another wild guess, it would probably run into TRILLIONS of $ Microsoft spend $5n on Vista and expect the World to rewrite their trillions of dollars worth of software to accommodate it? Tail wagging the dog, anyone?
OK, now my rant is over!
Have finally released the latest version, v3.129 It doesn't contain anything radical over the previous version v3.120. A few more bug fixes and various minor changes. I keep wanting to add to the functionality of the program. But when I do, it makes it a little bit more complicated to use each time. More user options means more complexity. Which is why in the previous version, I actually created two systems in one. The accounts software can run in basic mode, which as the name suggests, just offers the basic accounting functions. Many small businesses will find this works fine for them. But if your requirements are more sophisticated, you can tell the software not to run in basic mode, but to offer it's full functionality. So complex or simple, it's the users choice.
However, I have a sneaky feeling that having an accounts system that can run in complex mode or basic mode, does in itself confuse users? I mean, just to complicate matters, it can also run as full software (if you have a Software Registration Key) or Freeware. I suppose it's trying to be all things to all people. The danger in making a product so flexible is that by trying to satisfy the requirements of everyone, it ends up satisfying the requirements of no one! For that reason, future development effort will concentrate on making it easier to use, for both the novice and experienced user. Rather than simply adding on lots of extra functions. The software already has all the functionality it needs for most businesses, with the possible exception of user defined invoice/statement formats.
The next changes are likely to focus on the help system. Making this more informative, and easier to use. Perhaps HTML based? I find a lot of the questions emailed over to me are accounting type questions, rather than to do with the operation or installation of the software. In a way, thats good, people must be finding the software easy to install and use. But it also means there are a lot of people using the system who are not just new to Adminsoft Accounts, but are new to accounting. They need more help than the current help system offers. So, improvements are on the way.
Happy new year! OK, maybe I'm a little late, but I'm busy readying the next release of Adminsoft Accounts. It won't have any big new features, just lots of little things made a bit better, and a few bugs routed.
One thing I will do is to make it even easier to setup. At the moment, when you run it for the first time, you have to say whether you have a Software Registration Key and so want to run the full version, whether you want to run it in Demo mode, or whether you just want to run it as Freeware. In the future, it will either run as full version if you enter a Software Registration Key, or it will run in Demo mode for a month or so. If you don't buy a Software Registration Key within that time, it will automatically change to Freeware mode. Of course even when it's running in Freeware mode, you can still buy a Software Registration Key at any time and change it to full version.