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Archive for January, 2007

What's New at LandlordMax?

I’ve just noticed that since we released the latest version 3.11a of LandlordMax Property Management Software I haven’t really written much about the company, at least not much from behind the scenes. I did write a few articles, but nothing much about what coming up for the future.

Well, along with our current ongoing development, we’re currently pushing two major initiatives for the near future. We’re currently doing a complete redesign of our purchase pages as well as trying to get a version LandlordMax for the Mac OS.

We’re redesigning the purchase page for several reasons, most of them forward looking. Firstly, we came to the conclusion that our current purchase page is not entirely clear in conveying its purchase options. For example, we’ve noticed an upward trend in the number of questions related to what the purchase options are. This could possibly be due to the increasing traffic we’re getting, but either way we’re receiving more and more support requests from people asking about the different purchasing options. For example, we get questions about the difference between the downloadable and shipped version, as well as what’s the difference with the “upgrade” version. For us it seems simple, but that’s very likely because we’re biased from working with it everyday. At the end of the day, if people are asking the question, we’re probably not clearly explaining things (The Design of Everyday Things).

Although this is still in development (and hence still subject to change), one thing we’ll that will definitely be modified is how you enter the shopping cart. Rather than show the initial six options from our current purchase page, which is probably too many options to start with anyways, we’re going to show only two options: “Are you a new customer?” (default) and “Are you a returning customer?” (which you will be able to validate by entering one or two fields directly below).

Then once you move past this screen, you will be presented with your shopping cart (containing only your license for LandlordMax at this time). Directly below there will be an “Options” section with items you can optionally add to your shopping cart. The first option will of course be the option to have a retail CD shipped to your mailing address. We’re expecting that this simple layout and conceptual change will better convey that this is an option and not a different version of the same software. Again, another great snippet of advice from the book “The Design of Everyday Things

Looking forward, this also gives us the option to pursue some of our other future objectives. I’ve been considering for some time now of offering a multi-year license as part of the purchase options. So for example, if you want to save money now and lock in your price for future upgrades at today’s price, we could offer you an additional upgrade license for 1-5 years right now with 50% discount. Just imagine if you had that option with Windows! What about 10-20 years? I don’t know if we’ll ever offer this far into the future, but I have to admit I’m very tempted to try a 1-5 year extended upgrade license option. If this interests you please feel free to comment below. As well, if you own an ISV, or if you work for a company that’s tried this, please comment on your experiences. Actually I’d love to hear any and all comments on this option!

We also looked at another extra purchasing option for the last version that we unfortunately had to push back for now. Part of the reason was the implementation time of the feature itself, but part of it was also that the purchase pages weren’t ready to support it. With this new revamp we’d be more than ready. For those of you who are curious, I’d say more but I don’t want to give our competitors an edge. As far as I can tell we’re the only ones who would offer this service in our market!

The other big objective I mentioned is that we’re looking at offering a Mac version of LandlordMax Property Management Software. I don’t know if we’re going to, but we’ve already started to take the steps towards this goal. For example, we’re in the process of purchasing the necessary hardware to test and tweak the current version for the Mac OS. The good news is that LandlordMax is written in Java, which is platform independent. The bad news is that we use some third party tools and frameworks, and not all of them are platform independent. So it all comes down to how much effort is it going to take. We won’t really know until we’re right in the midst of it but I think it’s worth the time and money to investigate.

Why are we trying to hit the Mac market? For several reasons. First and foremost, we get a lot of requests by Mac users for a Mac version of LandlordMax. I don’t know the exact numbers, but not a week goes by without requests as to whether or not we support the Mac OS.

Secondly, if my “guesstimate” is right, it shouldn’t take an inordinate amount of time to offer a Mac version. Again it all comes down to how well the third party tools and frameworks work in a multi-platform environment. We won’t know until the hardware gets here for us to really test. As well, will our screens look good on a Mac? That is how many GUI (user interface) tweaks will we have to do? We have some unknowns but we’re going to really take a crack at it to see if it’s worth the effort to expand into this market.
Thirdly, it will give us an additional revenue stream. I don’t know what the percentage will be in terms of total sales, but from what I’ve seen there are few if any competitors in the Mac market for this space. That’s a good thing!

Fourthly, it will increase our web presence. What we might not make in terms of sales, at least compared to the Windows market, we’ll make up for in terms of extra web exposure and presence. By offering a Mac version, we’ll be mention on many new websites that we don’t have a presence on right now. And if we’re lucky, we’ll become the de facto standard for property management software in the Mac world!

So there you have it. We’re always extremely busy here at LandlordMax. Not only are we working on the next version of LandlordMax but we’re also trying to expand the company in new directions. These aren’t our only initiatives, these are just the most advanced and active right now. We have many other venues we want to pursue but we unfortunately we can’t be everywhere. I’ve already alluded to one other future object, and I can also tell you that we have at least three other major objectives we’d like to hit by 2008! This year should prove to be an exciting year once again!






School Versus the Real World

Back To SchoolMany years ago when the movie Back To School originally came out I remember laughing quite hard when Rodney Dangerfield’s character Thornton got NASA to do his Astronomy homework for him. If memory serves me correct, he also got the a famous author write an essay about his own book for his English class as well. Of course this was funny, how could it not be.

Although funny, according to the academic world this is wrong. This is what’s called cheating! Having someone else do your work for you. It’s a simple black and white case, he didn’t do his own work, someone else did it for him, therefore he cheated on his assignments. This is looked down upon, and it’s easy to see why. If you don’t do the work you’ll never learn the material. Very simple.

Now in real life the opposite is true. You need to do some of the work, but those that get ahead generally have teams do many of their work for them. For example, if you buy real estate, you often get your real estate agent to process the paperwork for purchase of the property, you don’t do it yourself. You get a mortgage broker to prepare the financing for you. You might also get a lawyer to do some of the work. Maybe you also have a property manager to manage your property. In the academic world, this would be considered cheating because someone else is doing the work for you.

In business the same is true, otherwise you’re really a self employed person (or employee)! If you’re employed right now, what are you doing? Someone is paying you to do their work for them. Think about it! Every employee is doing work for someone else. In the academic circle, this would also technically be considered cheating.

The reality is that the academic world teaches us to do everything ourselves, to learn how to do everything ourselves. To balance our check books ourselves, to run our finances ourselves. In the real world, and especially in business world, the opposite is true. In business we’re often thought to get a team to help us. And I can attest that starting a business without an initial team in place is much more difficult. A team can make a big difference. Getting a good accountant, a good lawyer, and so on really does helps. But what’s more, you generally need members on your team that have specific skills that you might be lacking such as a graphics design, sales, marketing, software development, team management, accounting, etc.. Getting a software product like LandlordMax out the door requires more knowledge and skill than any one person can have.

The other week when the movie Back To School played as a rerun on TV, which by the way was the inspiration for this article, it really made me think about this. I realized that since I’ve starting my company LandlordMax over four years ago that my reality has changed. Yes the movie was still good, but what really caught me off guard is that I no longer found this joke as funny. Actually quite the opposite, I think it was a great move by Rodney’s Dangerfield’s character Thornton. It really showed his business acumen! He couldn’t be successful in business without assembling at least one good team, which is why he quickly went ahead and got NASA to do his Astronomy homework.

In some way, it really made me appreciate the difference in realities different people have. Why we don’t all think the same. Successful business people often look at assembling a good team first whereas the average person tries to do everything themselves because this is what they’ve always been thought. There’s nothing wrong with this, but without leveraging other people’s skills and time, you can’t get further ahead than the number of hours you have in the day. It’s a simple reality, a simple difference in the way we perceive our worlds, but it has a large implication in how we’ll go about living our lives.






Two Great Books Every Software Shop Should Own

I was going to just recommend the latest book I picked up this week, but I figured if I mentioned it, I also really should mention another book I’ve been meaning to suggest for several months now but haven’t had the time to write about.

For those who are curious and can’t wait, the two books are The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman and Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister. Both are phenomenal books that every software shop should own and read.

Peopleware

Peopleware is all about how to run a software shop, about how to deal with people, how to create an environment that fosters to software development. It’s an excellent read that will really make you yearn for companies like those illustrated in his book. Probably the best description I’ve heard is how to be an anti-Dilbert company.

The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Every Things is about a completely different topic that not only applies to software, but to every single piece of technology, even things as simple as doors. The authors explains how people perceive and use the things you design, which really helps in identifying weak spots. But more than that, he really helps give you a better path on how you can design anything to give your users a better experience.

All in all two great books that should be on the shelves of every software shop. If you haven’t already read these books, I strongly recommend you do!






LandlordMax Customer Testimonial

We very recently received the following great compliment about LandlordMax:

“We have just started w/ your program in the last 6 weeks and are really liking it – and your tech support has been great.”

Pat Young

Thank you Pat for the great compliment on both the software and the technical support!






Weekly 7

After this week I’ll change the “Weekly 7” to something else as I’m finding it hard to keep discovering 7 new interesting articles each week. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that I can, I just don’t have nearly as much time these days. Therefore, expect these regular postings to be spread out a little more, and be titled a little differently.

The Big RewriteĀ 
Chad has a good series explaining why rewrites aren’t nearly as easy as they first appear. Anyone looking to do a software rewrite should take heed of his comments.

The Iceberg Secret, Revealed
Joel has some good corollaries on how business and technical folks should try to communicate.

Amazon mystery: pricing of books
Amazon has been receiving some slack for its pricing policies, but the reality is that they’re a smart business. It’s no different than the airlines, gas prices, etc.

A Hunt for Energy Hogs
An interesting article on how to find where you’re consuming energy in your home. I’m personally in the process of converting from incandescent to those highly efficient spiral bulbs. Every bulb goes from 60 watts to 13 watts!

A Plan for Getting a Poor Man Back on His Feet
I might not completely agree with this persons statements, but he makes some very compelling points

Compiler Optimization Of MechAssault 2
Some things in life are actually free. The game MechAssault 2 was able to substantially increase their performance with compiler optimization.

Text Appearance
The presentation of your text will greatly affect how well it’s read (please note this is a pdf link)

Whitespace
Most people don’t think much about it, but whitespace is very important when writing any kind of document. Mark has some great examples of the power of whitespace.






LandlordMax SSL Certificate is Fully Operational Again

I just wanted to take a minute to let everyone know that our (LandlordMax) SSL certificate is now back up and we’re again a “trusted” website. I again apologize for this inconvenient, and you should no longer see any types of warning messages from any web browser.

For those of you who read this and own a business, or are in charge of the SSL certificate for your business, don’t let it lapse. Our sales definitely had a noticeable dip in the interim. The good news is that we’ve already sprung right back up and everything has returned to normal.






It Takes a Big Person To Admit When They Made a Mistake

Yesterday was the start of one of my biggest mistakes in a long time. The SSL certificate for my company LandlordMax Property Management Software expired yesterday, without my noticing ahead of time. Apparently I was suppose to receive a notification email beforehand, which I assume I received but was missed somehow. In any case, the SSL certificate did expire last night.

Now this might not seem so bad at first glance, it’s just a matter of getting another certificate. Yes it’s still completely safe to purchase LandlordMax from our purchase page, nothing has changed in that respect. What’s happened though is that now we’re not a “trusted” site. We still have the old certificate running (if you look at it, it’s still active, it’s just that it’s expired), all the transactions are still completely encrypted, and so on.

And this is bad news, especially since Internet Explorer 7 has been released. On the older IE 6, and with FireFox, you simply just get a popup message saying the certificate has expired and would you like to continue. Nothing too crazy. But with the latest IE 7, it’s a whole other story. You now get a very negative and scary message rather than a simple popup. Not only that, but the only way to proceed to the purchase page is to click on the option with the red marker that also adds “not recommened” beside it. This is very bad for business, even though we’re still very much just as secure as before!

SSL warning page

So as you can imagine, I quickly pushed the order through last night for a new SSL certificate, but it takes 24 hours to process. Then after that it can take another 24 hours for the certificate to be installed. That means that for up to 2 days our site will be displaying this message to all IE 7 users! This is very bad for business, which will significantly slow down sales. I’ve already noticed a difference today.

So for all of you who are seeing this message on our purchase right now, I sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, it’s entirely our fault, I will admit it. We’re working as fast as we can to get this resolved. In the meantime, please rest assured that all your purchases are as safe as they’ve always been, it’s just that we’re waiting to be put back on the “trusted” list to get rid of this nasty message.






 
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