For reference sake, RTools is the third program I have personally made and done any form of distribution on. (the first two being an issue tracker for a customer service group, and a flashcard program I gave to classmates that saw me using it before Japanese tests) So, RTools is really the first program which I have had to worry about something like a distribution system.
Version 0.5.1 added my implementation of a licensing system; an encoded string containing the start and end dates the license was valid, with checksum and date validation added. It was simple, and did what I wanted it to do. I also decided with this to do licensing as a yearly system, as it balanced potential for unauthorized use exactly where I wanted it: it’s not a big deal in abstract, but at some point they might email me asking why the program isn’t working all-of-a-sudden due to a now-unusable key.
The interesting thing with this program is, I built it because I had the time; finding a job post-college hasn’t been very fruitful, and this program was solving some future problems that would be coming up around where I judge. Initially, I was hopeful that I would get plenty of program feedback and be able to use this program as a good experience-building exercise. However, as I should’ve expected, the worst part of this has been the work related to the distribution, rather than just doing what I want to do.
The greatest concern to me, actually, was in charging for this program at all. From a perspective as a judge, the criticism that has bothered me the most has revolved around being told that I don’t do enough for the community. My personality isn’t one that takes initiative on something like this, and while that criticism (at the time) was more surprising than anything, this program could is a bit of a showing of the kind of things that I can do well beyond just being a judge, while still doing something to help the community. (more of the TO community, but anything that makes the scorekeeper’s life easier is a plus for a judge 🙂 ) From this perspective, I feel that forcing licensing isn’t helping this.
The other part to this was an opinion that I somewhat have through programs that was described quite well in an article I read recently, simply saying that a programmer should have only two price points for their time: what it’s worth, and free. I can’t gauge just how much time I spent on programming of this since starting in February, because there was so much research and time spent learning new techniques that I can’t really separate the two. At the same time, though, I feel that I’ve earned some things already. I have said a couple times with this program, the amount of things I’ve learned would have been worth almost a year of Java-specific Programming courses. At the same time, this has all been applicable real-world experience I’ve been able to use in the few interviews I’ve been able to get, mainly helping in showing that I have stayed active in past months and working to make a stronger knowledge base.
So, there’s a lot of text in here, but what does it all mean. Put frankly, given my two options and given the amount of feedback/income I have received in past weeks from people interested, I’m left feeling like I have two options:
– Continue as is: charge $50/year with updates. Have a very small install base, and little feedback.
– Remove charging (but still open to donations). Have an install base willing to use the program for certain features (such as just having the condensed results sheet, or the round timer) and more feedback, including more ideas for new features.
Between those two, I’d rather have people use this that just want to, and because of that I will be making program adjustments with v.1.1 that will remove the licensing system. The program will no longer be sold like it is now. RTools is planned to have a full release in the beginning of August.
Also note that with the release of v.1.1, RTools Lite will no longer be part of the RTools distribution.