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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2005 1:00 am   

What's Zugg working on?
 
Thought it was time for an update. This is only somewhat related to zApp, but still something interesting.

What I'm doing is working on the replacement for eLicense. This has involved quite a bit more effort than I expected, but will save me a lot of money in the long term and make customers happier about the copy protection in all of our products.

eLicense also handles our ecommerce and shopping cart systems. So it's more work that just the copy protection part.

For the copy protection, the Armadillo product is looking very nice. I've already got it generating new reg codes and already have zApp wrapped with it. It has the compression issue that I've already mentioned in this forum, but I'm just going to live with that.

For ecommerce, I've had a Cybercash account for 8 years, along with a merchant account. When Verisign bought Cybercash, they started migrating customers to their own PayFlow Pro system. But in order to maintain our existing system and not lose money with existing purchases coming through eLicense, I've purchased a brand new merchant account with a better credit card rate, and purchased the upgrade from Cybercash to PayFlow Pro.

Next is finding the shopping cart software that will allow people to buy stuff. In the past I had written my own ASP scripts. But that was on the old Windows server. Now zuggsoft.com is on a linux box. So PHP comes to mind as a choice.

I decided to evaluate various commercial shopping cart solutions rather than writing one myself. I'm looking for something that supports Verisign PayFlow Pro and PayPal. Also, it needs to support downloadable products (softgoods) and the ability to send registration codes generated from an external program (Armadillo). Ideally the system would allow customers to create accounts to see their past orders and a way to get their reg codes in the future.

I've spent all week on this so far. I started with SquirrelCart and became very disappointed with the way they handle their template system. They invented their own system instead of using something like SMARTY and end up with still a lot of hardcoded HTML in files that shouldn't need to be edited (mixing HTML output with script logic). Also, they don't handle downloadable products. Their customer support is fairly responsive, and at least they had a decent refund policy.

Next I tried PDG Shopping Cart system. This is a compiled binary CGI that runs on linux. Because of this, it is less customizeable. It supports downloadable products, but after working with it for several days, it just doesn't have the customization needed for what I want to do. It is also very expensive ($999 for the version that handles customer accounts). Fortunately they had a 30-day trial.

I got very depressed when it became clear that the PDG stuff wasn't going to work. I did one more final check of cart systems and found X-Cart. I had seen this in my initial search but missed the fact that they support downloadable products. It is PHP based, and uses SMARTY templates, so that seems good. I've emailed them some support questions and I'll see what I get back from them. They are also fairly inexpensive and have all of the customer order history stuff that I'm looking for.

It will probably take me most of next week to finish evaluating X-Cart and get something working on the site.

But in the end, it should all be worth it. The exciting goal of this project is that I'll be able to completely replace eLicense in *ALL* zuggsoft products. Yep, that's right, you heard it here first...once this system is working, I'll be releasing new versions of every Zuggsoft product *without elicense*!! That includes zMUD, zApp, zMapper, etc. This will be a FREE UPGRADE for all existing users. And the system will then be set up to handle new products such as the new MUD client I'm planning.

This should be exciting for everyone. I'm sure the zMUD people will go crazy when this is announced in the main forum. But for now I'm using zApp as my test case. Hopefully sometime next week I'll have something for people to test.

As a side note, it's been amazing to me to find so few shopping cart systems that support downloadable products such as software. These companies have to sell their *own* products and therefore they can't even use their own shopping cart to sell their own software! That just seems amazingly stupid. You'd think that software download products would be one of the first things they would add support for. And the general quality of what is being sold for very high prices is pretty poor. I've looked at dozens of generic products this week, and many more that are hosted solutions rather than software solutions that install on your own server.

Once this is all done, I should be saving about $900 a month in combined eLicense and ecommerce fees. That will help a lot in keeping us going even longer while I work on zApp and the new MUD client. Not to mention how happy lots of people will be to see eLicense no longer used.
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darmir
Sorcerer


Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 706
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 5:14 pm   
 
Zugg,
Take a look at www.oscommerce.com. It maybe what you are looking for.
This is a Open Source product and it looks like it supports PayPal and PayFlow.
There is also a slew of contributions also for other features.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 8:47 pm   
 
I didn't see PayFlow Pro in the supported payment systems, but maybe I missed it. In this case, however, I'm not sure I want an open-source solution. It's fine for something like the forums, but for shopping cart and secure order processing I'd prefer paying for a commercial product knowing that I'm going to get support. Also, I tend to think that using an open-source ecommerce solution makes a company look less "professional", but that's just my own opinion.

X-cart is looking really good so far. I was able to customize it more quickly than the others (of course, it's the 3rd time I've customized a cart, so I'm sure I'm getting better at it). It just seems to have better (more intuitive) filenames for the templates, and a great system for seeing what templates are used to generate the current store page.

It has all of the featues I need, including a very nice customer order database for looking up past order history. The only thing I'm going to have to put some more serious effort into is their "softgoods" support for electronic downloads. They try to do something fancy with making a order-specific download link that seems to break for large files and isn't viewable in the past orders section. Also no built-in support for license keys. But there seem to be several "mods" for it to add this stuff that I will be looking at.

Anyway, things are looking better today. I've probably still got several days of work here just tweaking everything to work the way I want it (something I'd have to do with *any* cart system). Their support has been nice and fast and they have a large helpful user community in their forums. I had to go ahead and buy it since their trial has several things disabled that I needed and used some annoying encryption. But they also have a 30-day refund, so I still feel safe with it.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 12:35 am   
 
Well, the new cart system is mostly functional now. I've got it set up to generate the new reg codes using the Armadillo copy protection and including them in the email sent to the customer. A store account is automatically generated based upon the customers email address, so they can go to the store and enter their email address and login password (also given in the email) and log in and see their order history. When they view the details of an order, there is a button to send them another reg code. That button has a limit on how often you can request a new reg code, so people can't just sit there and generate new reg codes for all of their friends.

Seems to work well. I've got most of the shopping cart customized to look and feel like the rest of the site, and have done a lot of work to streamline the checkout process (xcart checkout asks for too much information by default).

Next week I'll be doing *heavy* testing of this cart. Basically I need to go through every possible link and make sure it works, and also try entering some bad data and see how it responds to common errors.

After the cart is ready, I'll then be doing some work on the customized trial and registration screens in Armadillo. I'm setting it up so that you can just copy the contents of the email message with your reg code into the clipboard, and when you run the software, it will look for a valid reg code in the clipboard and automatically register itself.

Then, the final step is to create an application for upgrading existing software. This application will take your current eLicense reg code and upgrade it to a new Armadillo reg code. I'm trying to set it up to be as automatted as possible. It will be protected itself so that you can only run it 3 times, allowing you to upgrade your 3 computers running the current eLicense product.

Hopefully I can finish all of these tasks by the end of next week. Then I'll be releasing all new products using the new licensing and will put the new Zuggsoft Store online. It's all looking *very* good and *much* better than our existing shopping, licensing, and customer support systems.
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Castaway
GURU


Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 793
Location: Swindon, England

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 4:38 am   
 
Hooray! Go Zugg Go!

Lady C.

(Hopefully I'll get to try it out soon.. :)
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 3:53 pm   
 
Time for another update. Work is going really well on the new ecommerce system. I've done a lot of testing and tweaks to the shopping cart and user-order tracking system this week. I've got all of the custom registration screens using Armadillo up and running, along with the automatic-upgrade features that will handle converting old registration codes into the new system.

Last night I took my first attempt at uploading our huge customer database into the MySQL database on the server. It got up to order 47,000 (out of about 60,000) before it died. So I've still got a bit more work to do on the order importing.

So I'm getting close, but I don't think I'll release anything before the weekend. I think it's better to think about it over the weekend and then release it early next week when I can stay on top of any potential problems. I know that there will be such a rush to download and use the new zMUD version without eLicense that I need to be prepared to handle the increased support email that will probably be generated.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2005 7:00 pm   
 
Importing is going really slow. It took about 30 hours to import all 60,000 zMUD orders into the system. I'm working on AC Explorer orders right now (about 9,000). Seems to be getting slower and slower as more records are added to the MySQL database. I probably should have removed the indexes before adding the orders and then recreated the indexes when I was done, but I didn't think about that until it was too late.

After the orders have all been imported, then I have a bit of testing left to see how the system works with a fully populated database. Hopefully the performance is all ok.

Stay tuned.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2005 3:18 am   
 
Wow this is taking forever.

zApp is mostly done with the copy protection replacement. Today I tried to get stuff working with zMUD. I had forgotten what a pain it was to work on zMUD in Delphi 5. A lot of the stuff I had done in the new registration screens didn't work in Delphi 5, so I had to rewrite a lot of it.

Converting code from Delphi 5 to Delphi 7 is relatively easy, so I really should have started with Delphi 5 in the first place.

Also turned out to be a minor issue with Delphi 5 and Armadillo that I had to find a workaround for.

Finally got it working. The automatic upgrade procedure is really cool and works smoothly.

Tomorrow I tackle adding the new registration screens to zMapper and AC Explorer/zExplorer. I'm a bit worried that I haven't recompiled zMapper in a long time. I also have to play some tricks to get the new zMUD to recognize the new zMapper as a plugin. zMUD needs to be able to determine if zMapper is registered or in trial mode, and that gets tricky. Doing this from within your own program is easy, but determing the registration status of a different program is hard. But I've got a trick that should work (cross fingers).

Getting down near the end. The only thing left on the web-store is the Return Product button in the order system, and then doing the PayPal stuff. I've left PayPal to the end because adding it to the new shopping cart will mess up the current PayPal page, so I'll have to take it down. And I didn't want the PayPal ordering to be down for very long.

Then I'll do some final testing before going live.

I'm shooting for having everything released late tomorrow night.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2005 9:38 pm   
 
As I feared, zMapper is a mess. As I posted over in the zMapper forum, I uncovered some major problems in zMapper that seem related to Windows XP (probably the SP2 update). I wanted to fix any major bugs in various products (including some bugs in zMUD) at the same time that I replaced the eLicense copy protection. Looks like zMapper is going to take a day or so to fix. It's really hard to work on this old code that I haven't messed with in over a year. But the problems I found were really making zMapper totally un-usable on WinXP systems, so I really need to fix it.

I guess maybe I'll stop trying to make time estimates and just worry about getting this stuff all working right. I think people will be happier that it all works smoothly regardless of when it's all released.

Unfortunately, I can't release anything until it is *all* done. There is no way to "partially" switch to the new copy protection system. All products need to use it. I can't have some products using eLicense and some not since there is only one shopping cart, and the new cart only handles the new copy protection and not eLicense.

It should all be worth the time and effort once it's done. It sure is getting frustrating with each new problem that crops up. I wasn't really planning on spending all day dealing with zMapper problems. Oh well.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 12:32 am   
 
Well this is bad. I discovered that some of the really wierd errors and crashes I was getting was due to some corrupted Delphi binary files. I restored the Delphi 5 binaries from my backup system and the errors went away.

None of the files were marked as modified and none had their dates changed. But somehow there were bits changed in the files. Almost like a disk corruption kind of problem.

The thing is, this system has a RAID array with 2 drives mirroring each other. That is supposed to fix any data corruption problems, right? I really don't like the idea that random files on my computer are getting damaged somehow. Makes me REALLY nervous.
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Xymog
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Joined: 16 Oct 2000
Posts: 43
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 12:45 am   
 
RAID 1, mirroring, only means you have two drives with identical images on them. One drive fails, you can break the mirror and run off the surviving drive. If individual binaries got hosed somehow, the binaries on both drives are hosed. RAID in general isn't designed to reduce data corruption but reduce loss from drive failure.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 1:03 am   
 
OK, so that would mean that the corruption wasn't caused by a disk problem, but by some software actually modifying the data?

In other words, if there is a bad block on one of the RAID disks, it should flag that and have the 2nd disk take over, right? But if the system changes the data, then the data gets changed on both disks? Is that right?

Still not sure what could cause bits to get flipped in disk files like that, unless I've got some sort of wierd virus hiding on this system. The system itself is stable, so I don't think it's a memory problem. I suppose it's possible that Delphi 5 is doing this itself if it gets a fatal corruption error and gets it's own memory corrupted after a software error.

And I certainly haven't seen any wierd data corruption in any other files or programs, so maybe it's just something I can blame on Delphi 5. Sure will be nice to start working on the new client in Delphi 7.
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Taz
GURU


Joined: 28 Sep 2000
Posts: 1395
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 8:26 am   
 
Zugg wrote:
In other words, if there is a bad block on one of the RAID disks, it should flag that and have the 2nd disk take over, right? But if the system changes the data, then the data gets changed on both disks? Is that right?

Spot on!!

So now you have to worry about how the hell the system has changed those binaries :(
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 4:42 pm   
 
Right now, I'm blaming everying on Delphi 5 Twisted Evil It's always been a good scapegoat.

This weekend is a long 3-day holiday weekend here in the States. It is also our 6th wedding anniversay (wow, how time flies!!). So, I won't be doing any work this weekend. So look for the new shopping system and new copy protection next week.
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Kiasyn
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Joined: 05 Dec 2004
Posts: 196
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 2:01 am   
 
happy anniversary Exclamation
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Kiasyn
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Xymog
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Joined: 16 Oct 2000
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Location: USA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 3:57 pm   
 
Happy 6th! Time does fly, especially when you're sharing it with someone special.
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Taz
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Joined: 28 Sep 2000
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Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2005 6:57 am   
 
Yes, congratulations, I've just had my 5th, go us! :)
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2005 6:45 pm   
 
OK, I'm down to the last bit of tweaking on this store. Looks like the new copy protection in zMUD is working pretty well, along with the upgrade procedure. I just finished doing all of the automatted returns, and getting all of the affiliate stuff working so I can track where downloads and sales come from. Also finished the gift certificate system and the "bundles" special offer code. The system also now handles money orders for postal mail orders. Lots of cool stuff in this sytem.

All that's left is doing the new installers for some of the old products like AC Explorer, zExplorer, and zMapper. Then, the very last thing I will be doing is taking down the current PayPal page so that I can integrate PayPal with the new store.

I should have all of that done today or tomorrow. I'll probably wait until Monday to release everything so that I have a couple days to think about anything else I might have forgotten. As I've lamented about before, this has taken a lot longer than I expected, but the final results will be well worth it, despite the annoying people already complaining over in the zMUD forum.
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slicertool
Magician


Joined: 09 Oct 2003
Posts: 459
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2005 5:03 pm   
 
One issue with the NSIS installer scripts that I've noticed. I have zmud set to install in a subdirectory in my start menu and the installer asks for that and newer versions remember that option, but the installer disregards that when it is actually copying the files and simply tosses it into the start menu root.

Everything when it asks me is fine... it just doesn't do it.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
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Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2005 8:48 pm   
 
Thanks for reporting that! I was able to fix this, and it was just in time as I was in the middle of creating the new installers for all the old products :)
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
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Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 1:45 am   
 
Man, what a pain today was. Trying to get PayPal working in the new shopping cart. Wasted 4 hours dealing with the fact that the PayPal "SandBox" system doesn't seem to send out IPN notifications for the backend. Have no idea why...nobody else seems to be having this problem.

Finally decided to just test it with the live PayPal system and did a bunch of payment and the refunds with our second PayPal account. The IPN notification callbacks seem to be flaky. Sometimes they don't come through and the order never gets processed automatically, and sometimes the refunds don't come through and get processed. What a pain of a system. And I can't really use the new PayPalPro stuff since it's meant to replace credit card processors, and I don't want to replace Verisign with Paypal.

Anyway, I think I *finally* got it working.

Back to zApp stuff...I tried to get some time to look into zApp problems today before the new non-eLicense version is released, but really didn't get time for it. I want to add some stuff to zAppPro to make it easy to debug stuff. Got some of the work started, but I can't keep delaying the new shopping system for this. So I'm going to release the shopping system tomorrow, and then work on zApp problems next week.

In between releasing the shopping cart and working on zApp I need to take some days off. I'm *really* brain-fried right now. The constant switching between Delphi coding and PHP coding has left me with a brain of mush.
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OmegaDeus
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Joined: 14 Sep 2005
Posts: 121

PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 8:23 am   
 
I've got a question. Am I to understand that you are going to build from scratch a completely new mud program, or will it just be an all redesigned zMUD in the end. I don't know about everyone else, but after all this time having zMUD I will be highly ticked off if the new MUD client is a different program entirely so I'd have to pay for a license to that for all the cool stuff that it's going to have packaged inside. Either which way, I'd still buy it, I just wouldn't be too happy about it.
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bortaS
Magician


Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 320
Location: Springville, UT

PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:21 pm   
 
Dude, get a grip! If it is a new program, then by all rights, Zugg should charge for it. How in the hell is he supposed to keep in business if he gives everything for free? Mad Zugg runs a business, in order for him to stay in business, he needs money. If he goes out of business, there will be no more zMUD, zMapper, and any other new software he might have built.

His products are reasonably priced. For me, his products are equivalent to one meal with my wife at Sizzler's. If you can't afford it even at this prices right away, what's wrong with saving money out of your paycheck or allowence until you have the amount? If you want it bad enough, just save until you have the cash to pay for it.
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OmegaDeus
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Joined: 14 Sep 2005
Posts: 121

PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 1:03 pm   
 
bortaS wrote:
Dude, get a grip! If it is a new program, then by all rights, Zugg should charge for it. How in the hell is he supposed to keep in business if he gives everything for free? Mad Zugg runs a business, in order for him to stay in business, he needs money. If he goes out of business, there will be no more zMUD, zMapper, and any other new software he might have built.

His products are reasonably priced. For me, his products are equivalent to one meal with my wife at Sizzler's. If you can't afford it even at this prices right away, what's wrong with saving money out of your paycheck or allowence until you have the amount? If you want it bad enough, just save until you have the cash to pay for it.


You're failing to see the point of my rant. The point of my rant is not paying for a new Zugg product. The point of my rant is having to pay for another MUD Client when I've purchased a perfectly good one already. Though as I said before. when that times I will indeed be one of the first to run to the computer and drop them duckets on it.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 2:30 pm   
 
Please go read the "zMUDXP Poll" topic over in the zMUD Discussion Forum. This has all been discussed already. There are *lots* of things I can't do with the existing zMUD code that I'll be able to do in a rewritten version that uses zApp. The benefits will be worth it for more people.
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