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Gavin Greig [userpic]

Made a Second Impression

December 7th, 2006 (12:15 pm)
current location: DD4 9FF

Back in the dim and distant past of 2004, I posted that Insights Impressions 1.0 for Pocket PC had gained the Designed for Windows Mobile logo. I'm happy to say that Impressions 2.0 has just gained the same logo.

Impressions 1.0 was a team effort, and in fact it was our first serious foray into .NET development. Impressions is not a strategic product for Insights (in fact Impressions 1.0 has never really had an official release although it is used by a few clients) but it was chosen as a small, achievable project that included a limited version of our core functionality; so we would have a real deliverable early, and could start to build more serious functionality from there.

Impressions 2.0 was a less significant project - a relatively minor upgrade from Impressions 1.0 - but of interest to me because I developed it myself at home (for a suitable reward). The main change is that the user interface forms have been redesigned to adjust for landscape or square screens as well as portrait, and they'll work on high DPI displays. There were also some minor bug-fixes and cosmetic improvements. From the user's point of view, the differences are not great.

From the developer's point of view, they're a bit more significant. We've moved to .NET Compact Framework 2.0 instead of 1.1, which means (given the platform versions we're targetting) that I had to modify our installer to include the Compact Framework. We've upgraded to the Dotfuscator Build Machine Edition, so the way obfuscation was included in the build process changed. I also migrated our installation process from Visual Studio installation projects to Macrovision InstallShield 12.

In theory, at least, the number of manual interventions required to produce a gold build of any of our applications is now reduced to making sure that our Authenticode code signing certificate is available locally. In practice, I spent a few days after Release To Logo Testing in reporting to PreEmptive and Macrovision the problems we'd had with their products, some of which prevented us reaching that low-touch scenario that we wanted. The issues with Dotfuscator were only annoyances, and PreEmptive put their hands up and said "good points" when I gave them a demo solution that illustrated them. The issues with InstallShield were more serious, and of three reports I made, two have now been confirmed as bugs; the third incident is still open until I can find time to slot in re-creating our core Visual Studio solution.

We are really not happy with InstallShield, especially since they were bought by Macrovision. They've pumped up their prices very significantly over the last few years (doubling year on year in some cases) and I'm coming to dread having to write an installer; every installation project I've undertaken over the last few years has turned up serious bugs or flaws in the tools, followed by a very poor technical support experience. There are talented people working at InstallShield, but it's very hard to get a serious issue through the system to have them look at it. As a customer, I feel as if our buy-in to InstallShield in earlier years is now being used to extort more money from us, while giving us a shoddy product and poor service in return. We will be looking seriously at alternative tools in 2007; we'd like to look at InstallAware and WiX (and WiXAware looks like it might be an interesting combination, although it's currently still in beta).

The Palm OS version of Impressions was officially released in 2002, and can be downloaded here. The Palm OS version is all my own work. Sorry, scottymcleod, still no SmartPhone version.

Comments

Posted by: Scotty (scottymcleod)
Posted at: December 7th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)

Ah you know me so well.

Very sorry to hear about the experience with InstallShield not uncommon sadly from talking to others since the take over.

Do you mind me repeating your comments to a friend and director of the company who has just moved to London when we both get our act in gear and actually arrange dinner hopefully soon?

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: December 7th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
Blockhead

Nope, I have no objection to you doing that.

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