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September 2007 - Posts

Is it worth paying for an ASP.NET app these days?

I've spent some reasonable time on POP Forums v8 lately, after, what, talking about it for two years? I have a big old feature list that I'd like to tackle, but I've got it pretty close to feature equivalent at least. I've got a build here with lots-o-data to mess around with. It's nothing ground breaking in terms of features, though I've added quite a bit of stuff on the back end in terms of logging and security features. The interim goal was to get it to a place I could manage it, given a couple of years of experience in the world.

So as I get closer to a point where I may release it, I wonder again, is it worth trying to sell? I pondered this about two years ago but never made any solid conclusions. I tend to lean toward the, "give the source away, but license it for actual use on the honor system." A friend of mine even suggested writing up documentation or a companion book to sell, kind of as a case study.

I've thought about changing the name too, to use the CliqueSite® since I have a real trademark there. Still on the fence about that one (and it really doesn't matter if I don't give sell or give it away).

This begs the bigger question though... Is this kind of stuff even worth trying to sell? I know from trying to use stuff that other developers have built that it's almost never a good value. And I'm talking from enterprise CRM packages to special use class libraries. The documentation almost always sucks, the support is worse and it never really suits your real project goals. I don't wanna be that guy. :)

Has anyone put stuff out there and asked for money and had a good experience with it? 

PowerPoint ain't got nothin' on Keynote, the culture gap

That $100 store credit from Apple for my iPhone has been burning a hole in my pocket now for awhile, so I strolled into church, er, the Apple Store to play with Keynote, the presentation tool and approximate competitor to PowerPoint.

I've done a few PowerPoint presentations here and there. It's not hard, but like everything in Office, you get a little overwhelmed by all of the features. Keynote, on the other hand, has ridiculously refined UI, and I found it easy to pick up on stuff quickly.

What really sold me were two features. The first is that it seems to use the 3-D rendering of the OS to move stuff around. There's a nice advantage that it has. Every Mac has decent 3-D hardware that drives the UI in the first place, so you never get the jittery animation associated with PowerPoint.

The second thing that sold me is the export to Flash. That's pretty sweet, because it's pretty common that if you speak in front of people, you're like to make the presentation available on the Internet. That's very cool.

So naturally I left the store with it, and I've got about $15 left on my credit. A brief play with Pages, which is so much more responsive and snappy than Word for Mac, indicates it's more than adequate. I was sold when I could open a Word template. Didn't play with Numbers, but for as little spreadsheeting I do, that wasn't really a consideration.

As someone who develops software with Microsoft products, I had an interesting conversation with one of the guys in the store. I was telling him how the dev tools and Xbox folks are from a different planet in terms of Microsoft, and they really made great stuff compared to, say, the Windows and Office teams. We also pondered culture between the two companies as well.

That culture gap is pretty interesting. Microsoft gears a lot of its products to the corporate world and consumers, and it's an ugly mix. Heck, even the tech crowd doesn't get Apple products sometimes, failing to realize much of what Apple makes isn't really for them (the "iPhone doesn't [feature]" tech press is especially guilty of this).

There was a geeky 21-year-old young woman working there, training a retired guy, who really personified the culture difference to me. She was geeky, had some interesting ear piercings, kind of messy hair, no makeup, not a looker by traditional standards. But she was excited about the products, conveyed credibility and generally seemed to make the guy feel empowered. Can you imagine that scene in a Best Buy with an HP running Windows?

People accuse me all the time of drinking the apple juice, and that's fine. But for me at least, I have to spend a lot of my time with technology because it's my job. When I'm not able to be social and among the living connections, there's nothing wrong with feeling good about the tools in my digital life. I get value from that, and apparently a lot of other people do as well.

 

How do you get a true singleton in an ASP.NET app?

Something that has troubled me for awhile is that I can't quite figure out how to create a true singleton in an ASP.NET application. In other words, an object that lives in just once place, period. I thought that you could do this via an HttpModule, but when you debug you'll find that there is in fact more than one instance of the module.

I've also read that you can do it via global.asax in the Application_Start event, but that's less convenient because you can't configure it the same way you can an HttpModule by just commenting out the line in web.config.

I'm a little stumped.
 

Apple is not the new Microsoft

I noticed the PC World editorial proclaiming that Apple was the new Microsoft (via this blog), and I swear the mainstream press will print anything these days.

I've gone on record time and time again about how much I care about, and love using, Microsoft's development products. I can indirectly credit everything .NET with owning a hot tub, and ironically enough, at least $7k in Macs, iPods, software and an iPhone.

Aside from the Xbox division, which is unfortunately too focused in its reach, Microsoft has little to offer me. They become more irrelevant every day. It's unfortunate I think, because while they're doing great things for developers and hardcore gamers, they aren't doing much of anything useful for consumers at large. Having a guy at the top who dismisses everything that doesn't have a Microsoft logo on it doesn't help with the perception either.

The editorial is very nearly a steaming pile of link bait. It's barely worth linking to because it so fundamentally misses the reality of what the two companies do, or what they have in common. So, for giggles, here's why the piece is just plain wrong.

First off, there's no secret about the link between iTunes and iPods. It's not some unknown gotcha. Certainly Apple had to make some concessions to the record companies to sell music at all. But you know what? Their system works where every other one has mostly failed. If they were hell bent on keeping this "monopoly," as Elgan puts it, do you think they'd be pressuring the record companies to go DRM free? I'll refrain from citing the number of iPods sold to the number of iTunes songs sold, and how it results in a handful of songs average per iPod, but it's still a valid stat. And if consumers weren't OK with it, they wouldn't keep buying music.

And what kind of comment is this? "At least with Windows, you could reformat your PC and install Linux or any number of other PC-compatible operating systems." Who does that? And who would want to do that with an iPod? That's the most asinine "proof" of Apple being a monopolist I've ever seen. I'll say it again: Consumers just want stuff that works. Don't be a geeky moron.

There's a rant about FM tuners or something, but there's nothing to respond to there. FM was killed by Clear Channel years ago. Listen to the music you want, and download some podcasts.

He goes on to rant about pricing on all kinds of fronts, but yet he freely admits being an Apple addict. Is Apple scoring killer margins on its hardware? You bet. Of course, the analysts leave out the R&D costs for the products, but I'm sure they're still doing well. That's what I love about Apple as an investment, in that they're not trying to compete with commodity crap. Their "low end" is still a premium product for similar business lines (see MacBooks versus mid-level Dell laptops, for example).

More to the point, Apple charges what the market will bear. People pay it if they can, even when there are less expensive alternatives. Why do you suppose that is? Because Steve Jobs is charming? Perhaps, but I'm willing to bet it's more because people like the experience of using these products better than the cheaper alternative.

The "copycat" nonsense is laughable. Great, Microsoft has Surface. My ATM has a touch screen too. What does that have to do with the iPhone? A million phones sold, and Surface is, what, not even available, and not going to sell in any meaningful numbers? I especially love his mention of the Zune having Wi-Fi. Yeah, what is it good for again? That's what I thought.

Frankly, I'm thankful that Jobs is bullying people in Hollywood. That's the way it should be. Hollywood has been bullying tech with a fraction of tech's revenue for decades. That's entirely backward. Bullying the media companies to price their stuff at points consumers will stomach, that's a good thing for consumers. God knows they've been incapable of doing it themselves.

Now, the part where it all stinks like link bait: "You see, my point isn't that Apple's growing bad reputation is deserved, but that Microsoft's wasn't." So now he loves Apple. Whatever. Microsoft's reputation was well deserved for pushing years worth of crap on us. Even us developers, with years of COM+ and DLL hell and, the biggest atrocity, Visual Basic. We can overlook all of this now because in developer circles we have .NET, consumers have OS X, and geeks have Linux. Microsoft's sins are irrelevant.

Just don't for a moment tell me that Apple is getting a free pass when Microsoft was criticized. That's not comparing the same things.

 

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