10 Years!

One whole decade in the ASP.

On this date back in 1999, I joined the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals), so this is the 10th anniversary of my membership in this important trade organization.  (As a side note, through some game playing, it is also the 5th anniversary of the second company membership for Sherry.)  I was the last member to join in the 1900s, having taken almost ten years to join in the first place, and I immediately regretted not joining earlier.

In the past 10 years, I spent nearly half of that time in a volunteer position, mostly the 4.5 years during which I was a Director, including two stints as ASP Chairman of the Board.  I do not currently hold any official job, concentrating on developing our company and products, but I still strongly believe in the value of membership for access to the private newsgroups alone, nevermind other benefits.  In fact, I am now a Lifetime Member to be sure to always have this wealth of information and experience available to me.  (Anybody who fails to join just because of the “shareware” word in the organization name is making a very poor business decision.)

Clearly, one of the biggest benefits of ASP membership to me was to network with successful shareware publishers, which led directly to our association with Goodsol Development, which involvement has now lasted more than 8 years and could easily have paid for annual ASP membership dues into the next millennium.  That is only one contact I have made, but I have both learned and profited from many of the other members of the ASP.  Join Now!

Speaking of Goodsol, in wrapping up the year, I had a chance to review the products we shipped during 2009:

That is not too bad a list for year, but I bet that we can beat that in 2010!  (We already have three products on the publishing schedule, and 5 more big projects in the immediate pipeline.)

[Note to self:  Press the ‘Publish’ button when the article is finished and proofread.]

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.10

A major update to our best-selling Mac solitaire game is published.

Last week, Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.10 was released by Goodsol Development, capping a very successful period of development.

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.10 adds 99 new games since the previous version (2.0), bringing the total to 200 games, nearly double the previous count.  The full (purchased) version includes a few more bonus games, so our Mac users now have access to 245 solitaire games, and this is a free upgrade to all previous PGSME customers.

What makes this particular release special is that, for the first time, Mac users have access to game features that are not (yet) available to Windows users.  In particular, PGSME includes climb mode for all of the 200 (+45) supported games, which gives users of this title access to 99 (+11) climb mode online high score listings that are not yet accessible from any of our products for Windows.  (Goodsol Solitaire 101 supports climb mode for all its games, though.)

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.10 is available for only $24.95 and can be ordered via secure server, and you can get the (optional) CD for only $7.50 more.  A 30% discount is available for registered Pretty Good Solitaire [Windows] users.  Of course, as with all of our game products, a trial version is available for download.

But wait!  There’s more!! PGSME 2.20, with 300 games, has already been announced for release in 2010, and it will be a free upgrade for everybody who purchases the current version.  Buy now!

Guilt by [non-]Association

There goes the “neighborhood”.

Going into the past weekend, one of our product sites had a problem in which accessing the page caused a very scary (and completely incorrect) “Reported Attack Site!” message in Firefox browsers, and a similar message in Safari (and Chrome as well, reportedly).  Of the major browsers, only Internet Explorer was allowing direct traffic to two specific pages, because it was the only one that does not (by default, anyway) subscribe to the StopBadware.org database.  To access our site, a user would have to click to ignore a message that said, more or less, “Run away from here and never come back.”

The problem began last Thursday, when FileKicker, a Digital River company that provides download bandwidth for many independent software publishers (including Goodsol Development, until recently), got blacklisted on the aforementioned database.  This meant that downloads from FileKicker generated the scary message, presumably because they delivered some “badware” somewhere, although I have no evidence (nor much doubt) that this happened.  The report was filed by Google.

On Friday, two of our pages that linked to downloads there were blacklisted as well because, I guess, Google assumed that if FileKicker was bad, anybody who linked there must be bad, too.  This is the “bad neighborhood” idea: we never linked to anything classified as badware or even any third-party software, but if we linked to a “bad” site, we must be bad ourselves.  Of course, the fact that FileKicker provided services for thousands of clients does not seem to matter.  This was bad on Windows, but devastating on Mac OS X, where Safari has the vast majority of the market.

By very early Sunday morning, due to quick action from Goodsol to remove all FileKicker links, and a subsequent retraction from Google, our pages were no longer banned, but all our direct links to FileKicker downloads (such as those stored at Apple Downloads) were still a major problem.  It took until yesterday [Wednesday] evening (i.e., six days) before FileKicker got this problem resolved for their downloads, with precious little information provided to customers in the interim.

This was a ridiculous episode, which produced many insights:

  1. The problem was first reported in the newsgroups of the Association of Shareware Professionals (by Dexter Bell of The Utility Factory, developer of FileBoss, an excellent file manager).  This is one of those situations in which ASP membership (and participation) was invaluable for rapid response.
  2. Digital River claims to be “the global leader in e-commerce”, a public company with close to $3 Billion in annual transactions, yet it took DR three times as long to fix the problem as Goodsol Development, a MicroISV, and never informed its clients until well after ASP members informed them.
  3. SWMirror, an independently operated download service run by Mitchell Vincent, was able to provide (better) services to affected publishers and have many downloads restored before FileKicker, part of a conglomerate with more than 1000 employees, even acknowledged the problem.
  4. The pattern of Digital River buying successful companies serving the shareware industry and turning them into garbage is intact; in fact, that record may now be unblemished.  Dealing with DR companies should only be done with due deliberation.  (read: “Do not touch them with a bargepole.”)
  5. The concept that Google can, with a simple electronic “report”, essentially shut down an internet business overnight, is more than a little scary.  Imagine launching a product that could compete with Google (or a blog being critical of them) and having most of your traffic cut off by a similar unsubstantiated report.
  6. The whole internet is a “bad neighborhood”. In fact, Google itself would be the worst culprit of all, since it provides links to nearly every crack site, domain squatter, malware distributor, and internet fraud out there.

Really, I am definitely in favor of a system to eliminate (or castrate) true spammers and distributors of malware, but when an honest company that has been doing business online safely almost since the inception of the web is economically impacted, things have gone too far.

Here endeth the rant.

Most Popular Solitaire 2.01

A maintenance release of our popular Windows and Mac game is released.

Last week, Goodsol Development published Most Popular Solitaire 2.01, an update to this title available for both Windows and Mac OS X.  This update fixes a couple of bugs that were uncovered since the release of MPS version 2.00 back in May.

Most Popular Solitaire is a collection of 30 of the most popular solitaire games, including Klondike (a.k.a., Solitaire), FreeCell (same deals as Windows FreeCell), and Spider (plus the One Suit and Two Suits variants), as well as some more unusual games, such as Crazy Quilt.  There are 13 more bonus game variants for registered users, for whom this is a free (and recommended) update.

If you are looking for a fun collection of solitaire games, but feel overwhelmed when confronted with hundreds of different games, try Most Popular Solitaire.  You can download and try either the Windows 98/Me/XP/Vista/7 version or the Mac OS X 10.4+ version, or you can simply and safely purchase online for only $16.95 (with an optional CD for $7.50).

Note that the Windows and Mac OS X are compatible, such that all initial deals are identical, saved games can be exchanged between platforms, and they both use the same online high score tables.  This allows for result comparisons and discussion of games in the (active) Goodsol discussion forum.

(Yes, we have been very busy on the development side lately, and an even bigger release is scheduled for next week…)