All posts by Jerry Stern

How to start a software company?

Another software developer question:

I have a good product in my mind and want to invest more time and money in it.
So far whatever small software I have created are for few people and with only me developing that software. Now I have some software in mind that will be for more users and big enough to include other people, and I will be the first customer of it (manufacturing is my prime business). How & where should I start ? ( people, office, location, software developing, release, sales ) ?
Any first hand experience is also welcome.

First, understand the difference between a program and a product. A program works for you. A product makes sense to other people. So you have to add error trapping, fix all possible input errors automatically and give a non-techie error message on anything else. That requires testers who don’t know anything about your product, and the best type are the ones who you can watch trying out the product. (While you don’t help, but do take notes.)

You have to make it look good. It has to be visually striking, while immediately understandable. You have to write documentation, and that, depending on the product, could be an old-fashioned instruction manual, or a video demo, or a set of slideshow tutorials.

People, office, location? There’s no short answer. Like any other business, your staff will have to be able to communicate skillfully with your potential customers. Being near those customers, or some of them, will give them a big advantage in learning what’s needed, and in beta testing, and perhaps give you leads for hiring sales staff.

Sales used to be all web downloads, and before that, mail order. Now, unless this product will be highly specialized within the manufacturing industry, your choices are web sales of a downloadable and installable product, or SAAS/software as a service/cloud. The difference will be the answer to this question: Where will it be used? On the manufacturing floor, where network access is likely to be internal only? Or in the manufacturer’s offices, which will have outside access? IOW, there’s a big difference in how you sell manufacturing control software, versus purchasing department software, because one needs tight security and the other needs access to outside product specifications and availability in real time.

Jerry Stern
Chief Technology Officer, PC410.com

Creators Update

A reprint from the PC410 Security Newsletter:

Creators Update arrival popup, Windows 10

The big “Creators Update” for Windows 10 is no longer optional. It’s showing up now, asking for an update to privacy settings, as shown above, and then offering to install it now, or install it later. Both answers mean “yes.” As usual, there is no “I don’t wanna!” option, but there is an option to remove the update later if you don’t like it, or it breaks the internet, or it’s just not working on your hardware.

Yes, it can break the internet, although not often. So far, I’ve seen it once, but that was on a 12-year-old notebook, and it was amazing that any version of Windows 10 ran at all on such old hardware. The option to remove Creators Update worked well there, and set that notebook back to last Summer’s Anniversary Update level of Windows 10, where it will stay until security patches end, which will generally be 1 year after the following feature update. So that’s 12 months from Spring of this year, probably May 2018.

According to Microsoft, “Each Windows 10 feature update will be serviced with quality updates for 18 months from the date of the feature update release.” That’s 6 months to the next feature update, and 1 year more, and then patches end. If your office is subject to legal restrictions for security, those old versions of Windows will have to be retired at that point in order to remain in compliance. As those end-of-service dates are confirmed by Microsoft, I will update them on the “Windows End of Support Calendar” at my PC410.com site:
https://www.pc410.com/calendar/

The other issue widely reported, but also rare, is that Bluetooth doesn’t work; that will mostly apply to wireless mice on notebooks that use the built-in bluetooth radio instead of a tiny USB adapter. Most application software seems to be OK with Creators Update. I’ve now seen a few minor networking issues, but the fixes have all been minor setting changes.

What to Expect While Installing Creators Update

Before Creators Update arrives on your Windows 10 computer, the message above will pop up. When you choose ‘Review settings’, another screen will appear, below. Setting those privacy settings will allow the upgrade to be completed in one step, in around 90 minutes. Without those settings, Creators Update will still install, but will ask the same questions on restart, and then continue the setup. Answer in advance, and save time. At the end of the process, the infamous series of lengthy “Hi!” messages will appear, and they’re for every user, unfortunately.

Creators Update privacy choices, Windows 10

My general recommendations for these features are all to choose performance and privacy:

  • Location: On for notebooks that travel. On is OK for office computers as well, and web sites will use this to provide local content, like suggesting the nearest branch of a grocery store.
  • Speech recognition: Off if there is no microphone, On if you want to use Cortana (similar to Siri, Alexa, or ‘Hey, Google’).
  • Diagnostics: Off. It does nothing but phone home, with no results.
  • Tailored experiences…: Off. It does nothing but sell more Microsoft products.
  • Relevant Ads: Off. It does nothing but track your web visits.

There are a lot of new features, but they’re mostly minor, or related to 3D graphics creation. There is a writeup of the new features in Creators Update here:
https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2017/04/11/whats-new-in-the-windows-10-creators-update/

Jerry Stern
Chief Technology Officer, PC410.com

I assigned copyright to a client, can I develop a new similar app?

A software developer’s question arrived:

I assigned copyright to a client for an mobile app, can I develop a new similar app to sell?

That question comes down to what’s in your original agreement, and in particular whether (and how) ‘derivative works’ were included or excluded. You might want a lawyer to look it over.

Here’s my non-lawyer view: In the most restrictive case, where you sold everything as a “work for hire” and agreed not to create derivative works, you still have the right to create a new similar app to sell, but only if you use none of the code and images and development work used for the original app. Start entirely from scratch. That’s basically how the Compaq computer was created as a clone for the IBM PC, but Compaq took an extra step: One team created a set of requirements for a clone of the IBM BIOS software, and another team, with no overlap, wrote the new BIOS.

Put another way, if i write an article for a magazine (remember those?), on any given topic, and I’m paid for it, I can still write another article on a similar topic for some other magazine, and get paid for it. And I’ve done exactly that. The results changed dramatically because the audience changed, but the initial topic was the same. Your knowledge gained during the first project is yours. You’ve only sold the product of that knowledge.

Jerry Stern
Chief Technology Officer, PC410.com