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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:33 pm   

New Year's Letter for 2009
 
A look back at 2008 and a roadmap for 2009
---
Happy New Year! ...well, a bit late this year.

It's traditional for me to review the past year at Zugg Software and give you a preview of what's coming for the next year. So, let's first look back on 2008:

Zugg Software in 2008 - CMUD and the Mapper

Last year (2008) was all about improving CMUD and making it more stable, and then improving the mapper. During the first half of the year, I focused on fixing bugs in CMUD to make it more stable. Everything from MXP, to Telnet/SSH issues, to basic problems with copy/paste were improved last year. New features like HTML logging were added, and the Package Editor was rewritten to use a new TreeView component that fixed many of the problems and crashes in older versions.

A lot of attention was given to the SSH support in CMUDPro, and a new product called TeSSH (Telnet/SSH client) was released in beta form. Targeted at business and sys-admin customers, TeSSH is a scriptable telnet/SSH client without some of the MUD-specific features, such as the mapper and MUD listing. Many improvements to the Telnet/SSH emulation were added with the release of TeSSH, which shares the same code base as CMUD.

During the last half of the year, my focus moved to the Mapper in CMUD. The mapper in CMUD v1.x and v2.x was a direct port of the mapper code from zMUD. It was not rewritten like the rest of CMUD was. This causes some problems in the mapper, especially in how it worked (or didn't) with the new docking system in CMUD and with multiple CMUD sessions. The mapper also used the Microsoft ADO/MDAC database format (MS Access 2000), which was causing more and more problems. New versions of Windows were not properly installing the Jet database engine that was needed for the mapper, and the mess of ADO/MDAC DLL versions and the problems with the Microsoft installers/repair utilities was causing more and more mapper crashes because of database library issues. This was also causing issues when trying to use CMUD via emulators or via Wine on Linux and Mac systems.

So, during the last part of the year, the mapper in CMUD was rewritten, replacing the MDAC/ADO database with the SQLite 3.x database used by the rest of CMUD. The entire architecture of the mapper was also changed to make it more modular. The concept of a "Location" on the map was separated from the map database itself, allowing multiple locations to be tracked on the same map in the new v3.x versions of CMUD. The new architecture allows for shared maps between sessions, or multiple maps with different locations in the same session. The Room Properties was also redesigned to be dockable and adds a new graphical compass for moving around the map. Room Scripts were rewritten to better integrate into existing script packages, instead of storing the scripts in the map itself. The new scripting architecture also improved the speed of walking between rooms that used scripts.

The mapper rewrite has been a huge project, and only the first phase is completed (the database conversion). In Phase 2, the mapper "configuration" will be improved to better handle tagging and MXP/ATCP map data, and also to allow the map configuration to be stored in packages and shared via the Package Library. In Phase 3, many graphical enhancements to the mapper are planned. Ultimately, graphical tile-based maps will be supported.

What I didn't do in 2008 was work on any of the MyMuds.com project, or many of the other future projects that are still planned. That's pretty normal...I always have a lot more projects and ideas that I have time to implement.

The Future of Zugg Software in 2009

I have three main projects for the start of this year that I really want to focus on. Then, the rest of the year looks a lot like past years with many other projects that I hope to get to eventually.
Continue work on the new Mapper
As mentioned above, only the first phase of the mapper rewrite has been completed. Phase 2 will focus on improvements to the mapper configuration, and Phase 3 will focus on graphical improvements. Completing these improvements to the mapper will be a primary focus during 2009.
TeSSH
While TeSSH *was* released as a Beta project last year, it has languished a bit. With some potential companies interested in the TeSSH client, I need to finish it and get it released as a Public product that people can actually buy. Part of this work involves adding the SFTP support to TeSSH/CMUDPro, along with the normal FTP support for CMUD. I also need to work on the help system to remove references to MUDs from the TeSSH help files. I hope to release a public version of TeSSH this Spring, and to make site licenses available for companies that want to use TeSSH.
New Zuggsoft.com web site
Our current web site is written using PHP4, which is now at the end of it's life. While it still works fine as far as I'm concerned, sites that handle ecommerce (like our online store) need to be converted to PHP5 for compliance issues. During this conversion, I plan to make many improvements to the web site that have been requested over the years. You'll see better integration between different parts of the site, such as the Forum and the online store, with a single user account login instead of two separate logins. You'll also see the return of the online bug tracking system, and integration between the bug tracking system and the forums.

Those are the three major projects for the first half of 2009. I'm sure they will all take longer than I expect, and I'm still not exactly sure which project will get the top priority at any given time, so you will probably see me rotate between these three projects for a while. During the rest of the year, there are still many other projects I want to work on:
Chat Module
Chatting between players is a big part of MUD playing. And while zChat was useful to some people, there are a lot of improvements that can be made in it. These chat features will be built directly into CMUD. I currently plan to support the Jabber protocol and the GoogleTalk system.
Scriptable Window "Forms"
When I wrote zApp, I developed my own Microsoft Scripting Host component that allowed for better multi-language scripting support. I will be adding this component to CMUD. This will allow better mixing of multiple scripting languages, and will also allow new scriptable "forms", which will be like the ZML forms used in zApp. These scriptable forms will be integrated with MXP to provide the capabilities for better customized integration with MUD servers.
New Database module for CMUD
As with the mapper, the database module in CMUD was simply ported from zMUD. The Database module from zMUD is not a "real" database. I want to completely rewrite the Database module to use actual SQL database code. At the same time, I'll be releasing a new standalone database program (name to be determined). This will work a lot like the zMapper plugin. The normal database module will work with normal SQL databases, but if CMUD detects that you have the standalone database program installed, then it will expand the database capabilities within CMUD. With this enhanced database module you will be able to access almost *any* type of database from your scripts.


Once again in 2009 I'm going to *try* and relax a bit and get back to the "monthly" releases that I used to do with zMUD. But I'm not going to stress about release dates. I'm just going to release something when it's ready. There will still be Beta versions and Beta Testing, but I'm not going to kill myself trying to meet specific dates.

As I said last year, I still have a *lot* of ideas for CMUD, and I know that many customers have lots of ideas. And that's a good thing. I want to keep CMUD focused on what MUD players want, and that's my focus for Zugg Software this year and for many years in the future. The fact that I'm playing MUDs again myself should help CMUD get even better.

Conclusion

Thanks to everyone who supported CMUD last year. My most important focus has always been, and will continue to be, our customers. I'm sure I can keep myself busy for years programming all sorts of obscure new features for CMUD. But I'd rather spend my time implementing the features that *you* want. So be sure to participate in the CMUD Discussion Forum, or send me email telling me what you want to see improved in CMUD. While I can't promise to implement everything that I receive, the more feedback that I get, the better chance I have to focus my resources on the features and problems that matter the most to the largest group of customers.

Our web motto at the top of the page says "Customer-driven Internet solutions" and I really mean that. zMUD was driven by customer feedback for many years. With the more sustainable business model and modern code in CMUD, I should be able to do even better in the future.

Thanks to all of the Gurus and beta testers. CMUD is a very complex program: over 1.5 million lines of code. Computers are very complicated and each computer is a bit different. So testing CMUD on all of these different systems is a huge job. The Gurus volunteer their time to answer questions in the forums, which is a huge benefit for everyone. The more time I can spend on programming vs answering email/forum questions, the quicker I can fix bugs and implement new features. The Gurus are a huge part of this and they deserve *everyone's* thanks and support.

Finally, huge thanks to my wife Chiara for all of her support and inspiration. Chiara put up with a lot this past year. But without her support, CMUD would have never happened. This year we will continue our low-carb lifestyle, exercise even more, and reduce our stress so that we can keep providing quality MUD software for many years to come. Yes, that's the same thing I said last year (and the year before), but it's still very true.

Happy MUDding!

Zugg
20-January-2009

Links:

New Year's letter from 2008
New Year's letter from 2007
New Year's letter from 2006
New Year's letter from 2005
New Year's letter from 2004
New Year's letter from 2003
New Year's letter from 2002
New Year's letter from 2001
New Year's letter from 1999
New Year's letter from 1998
Survey results from 1999
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