As several of you already know, we’ve been working extremely hard, harder than usual anyways, to get LandlordMax up and fully running on Windows Vista The reality is that Vista has been a harder than usual update for us. The good news is that we’re getting very close to releasing an update of LandlordMax to version 3.11b. If everything goes according to plan, you should anticipate the release of version 3.11b by the end of this weekend. I believe we’ve now got all of the major issues resolved, we’re just finishing with the details and doing some final testing.
Having said that, I thought I would take the time today to write what we’ve been through to get LandlordMax fully Windows Vista compatible. What we’ve been doing behind the scenes, what challenges we’ve been facing, and so on. So without further ado:
Unlike previous Windows upgrades (98 to Me, NT, 2000, XP), this Windows Vista upgrade has been a real challenge. You would think we wouldn’t even need to upgrade LandlordMax to support Vista, especially since it’s Java based, but the reality is that it’s been a major update. With the prior Windows systems, the LandlordMax updates were minor if at all (for example we didn’t have to do anything special to move from Windows 2000 to Windows XP). But as I just said, Windows Vista has turned out to be a very different story.
For our customers who tried to run LandlordMax on Vista, the first thing you saw was an “Error loading Look and Feel” message. In most cases you could just ignore this message and proceed. However by doing so, because the expected Look and Feel wasn’t available, many of the screens became useless. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see that a portion of the Scheduled Accounting entries form is missing. This is because the visual components (text fields, combo boxes, etc.) didn’t display as expected (actually even the font style, combo box styles, etc. are all off). The software worked as expected, but the screens didn’t. Well actually that’s not fully true, we had to resolve a few very minor coding compatibility issues with Vista.
In any case, this quickly lead us down a very slippery slope. What started off as one small change quickly grew. And not only that, along the way we found some new bugs in the Java language that are Windows Vista specific (for example Bug 6434444).
Before getting too far ahead here, let’s get back to the fact that the Look and Feel didn’t work in Windows Vista only. What does this mean? Without being too technical, it basically means that the Look and Feel definition we’re using in LandlordMax wasn’t supported for Windows Vista and it therefore automatically changed to its first available Vista Look and Feel. For our Look and Feel, we use JGoodies Looks library which is an amazing open source library. In tandem with this, we use JGoodies Forms library. Great libraries, I can’t say enough about them! In any case, after a little bit of investigation, we found that we had to upgrade the JGoodies libraries to the latest version to get full Vista support. Since we’d last upgraded LandlordMax, the Looks library had itself upgraded a full version which ended up meaning that we also had to do some code changes in LandlordMax to support the Looks upgrade to version 2. As we were already in the midst of this, we decided to upgrade the Forms library which turned out to be a very simple upgrade.
After we finished coding for this upgrade, we then realized that we also needed to do a Java upgrade to the latest version. The current Java version LandlordMax uses is the 1.5.0_09 JVM and the current version available is now the 1.5.0_11 JVM. Not a major upgrade, but as we bundle it with the installer, this meant that we not only needed to upgrade our development environments (and test for any issues) but also our installer.
Once we were done with these upgrades we found we were still experiencing other issues on Windows Vista only. One of the less obvious ones that took a long time to track down is that Java Swing will sometimes increase the size of the table column headers to something that’s really awful (especially when screen space is limited) only on Windows Vista (again Bug 6434444). Why did this take so long to track down? Firstly because it only happens on Vista, and secondly because this is a newly documented bug within the Java language and therefore there is no real documentation on it other than the Java language bug reports.
Knowing this doesn’t help resolve the issue though. And if you look at the Bug report, you’ll find that there is no known workaround at this time. People are asking for it to be resolved ASAP (I personally found several other related Bug reports open under different numbers). We can’t wait for a Java language update for LandlordMax to be Vista compatible, so we had to discover a workaround that solved the issue in Vista but yet didn’t break it in the other Windows versions. As you can see from the screenshots below, we’ve been able to do that. All I can say is that it wasn’t my favorite solution, but it’s one we’ll have to live with until there’s a update to the Java language.
As you can already see, we’ve had a few bumps on our road to releasing a LandlordMax Vista version. The good news is that the major hurdles are pretty much done, we’re now just tweaking the last details. On top of the Vista issues, we’re also including some minor bug fixes which will all be included in the release notes when it’s released.
All in all, what we thought, well at least what I thought, would be a simple Windows update turned out to be our large update. I can now appreciate why many software companies will not update their current/past software versions and only offer Windows Vista compatibility at an additional charge (for example Quickbooks 2006 will not support Windows Vista, you’ll need to upgrade to Quickbooks 2007 for that). I don’t necesarily think that’s fair, but I can appreciate it having gone through the pain and expense of making LandlordMax Vista compatible. We definitely won’t support Vista on prior versions either, but the current version of LandlordMax (version 3.11) will support Windows Vista at no additional cost to legible customers.
Because of the time it’s taken us to get Windows Vista support for LandlordMax due to all the above difficulties (and others not mentioned), I’d like to thank all of our customers for your patience in letting us get this LandlordMax Windows Vista update out to you as fast as we can. Thank you.