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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:11 am   

Psychology of a Public Release
 
I know that some of you are facinated by looking inside Zugg Software sometimes to see what it takes to develop software.

Well, we are at public release time. Actually, we are about a week past the planned public release time. But that's pretty normal anywhere except maybe Microsoft. Microsoft has a wonderful ability to plan projects and deadlines and actually ship stuff mostly on time (the years of delay with Vista is more of an exception, and not unexpected for such a complex project).

But the industry norm is: delays. It's pretty hard to predict a software development schedule. There are lots of tools and lots of different techniques to improve scheduling. But what it comes down to is that software development is more of an art, and you just can't predict what kinds of problems will occur when you try to write something new.

Companies that force software to ship "on time" almost always ship software that is full of bugs. Now, all software has bugs, but there is a fine line between reasonable bugs, and critical issues that should have been fixed before a release.

We've all seen PC games shipped before they were finished. The ability to put an update onto the Internet gives many companies the false feeling that they can just ship whatever they have and fix the issues in a patch. Not a good way to develop a good community of loyal and trusting customers.

Here at Zuggsoft, I have always tried to take the approach of shipping something "when it's ready". Even though every software version has bugs, there is usually a point when a new version becomes stable enough and polished enough that it just feels more like a release version and less like a beta testing version.

Unfortunately, I'm in a new situation this year. I *must* release the CMUD Public Version before the Christmas break. There are several reasons for this. Part of it is financial. But part of it is momentum. CMUD has tremendous momentum right now. There are many people in the CMUD Beta Forum that are very actively using CMUD and reporting problems. If I just take a break for a month, I'll lose some of that momentum.

What made this worse was that I got sick at the end of November for over a week. That put me even more behind schedule. And my list of bugs for CMUD just keeps growing and growing. And some of the beta versions during the past month have been pretty ugly, making me wonder if releasing a public version was ever going to be possible.

My attempted solution to this problem was a common one. Just work myself to death. Over the past couple weeks (except for Sundays), I have been working more than 12 hours a day. I have released more new versions during that period than any other time in the history of either CMUD or zMUD. It's a pretty impressive amount of work. And it's nearly pushed me over the edge of sanity (and Chiara too).

For some companies, this is the norm. I won't mention names, but there are some pretty well-known PC gaming publishers that regularly force their programmers to work crazy hours before a release (and sometimes even when the release is months away). Most experts agree that this doesn't work very well. Burning out programmers just isn't a very cost effective way of doing business these days. You end up with more bugs, and a huge turnover of talent. It's a recipe for eventual disaster.

I hope to avoid that here. It's hard to have turnover when you are the only programmer, and at least I get all of the profits instead of just some minimum salary or bonus.

Hopefully I'll be able to release a public version later this week before I totally "lose it". The only thing keeping me going right now is looking forward to 4 weeks of time off for the holidays. Yep, I'm taking a *long* break this time.

But I didn't see much alternative. Many people put a lot of time into MUDs during the holiday, and I really want CMUD to get used during that time. I want all of those people who tried CMUD and gave up because it was soooo buggy to be able to try it again and actually use it seriously. That's one of the reasons I reset the 30-day trial again, even though it will cause a decrease in our income during the holidays.

We'll see how it goes. I'm crossing my fingers with the 1.23 RC3 release. But I'm just hanging on by a thread right now.
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Tech
GURU


Joined: 18 Oct 2000
Posts: 2733
Location: Atlanta, USA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 6:47 am   
 
Zugg,

It's been mentioned before but I wanted to reiterate that what you've accomplished in CMUD is nothing short of amazing. I'm truly awed by your dedication to you customers and your commitment to your work. You responsiveness and willingness to integrate customer feedback. First, congratulations on your success and your pending official launch of the public version of CMUD. I echo the sentiment of others when I say that zMUD, and now CMUD and other Zuggsoft software often holds more interest for me than the mudding experience itself. Oftentimes, it's the ability to use the client again is what draws me back to MUDding.

Second I truly hope you do take that long vacation and a well deserved break. (We don't want that last thread to unravel.)

Finally, I look forward to 10+ years of Zuggsoft software and you 2007 New Years later. Happy holidays, and thanks for the holiday gift of CMUD.

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Fang Xianfu
GURU


Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 5155
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 1:41 pm   
 
Truer words were never spoken, Tech. On more than one occasion we've had new betas released ONE DAY later. I think there was even a case of two betas in three days. That is absolutely astounding.

You say you were sick in November for over a week, Zugg. Discount that because it's out of your control and you're actually ahead of schedule. It's not the best attempt to make you feel better about being later than you'd hoped, but it has the advantage of being true :)

Finally, to echo something Tech touched on - you're so concerned about your customers and not wanting to give out a public release that's buggy that you worked 72-hour weeks or more. Just to give you an impression of how much that really is, it's twice what people are legally allowed to work in the EU. It's that dedication and hard work that honestly makes me feel bad about getting CMUD at such a low price.

Thankyou, Zugg, for such an amazing effort and creating what really is an amazing product.

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Rorso
Wizard


Joined: 14 Oct 2000
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 3:38 pm   Re: Psychology of a Public Release
 
Zugg wrote:
I know that some of you are facinated by looking inside Zugg Software sometimes to see what it takes to develop software.

It is quite interesting. A lot of companies seem to only show the "good parts" without mention that sometimes they get a lot of bugs to fix. There are a lot of interesting articles about software development and the mess it sometimes can become.

I remember that Gamespy interviewed Zugg Software some years ago. I hope there'll be some more interviews like that. It would be really interesting to see some photos of the Zugg Software office. I am curious about the setup you use :-).
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:18 pm   
 
Rorso, I hope you don't mind, but I edited your post to remove the map link. While I know it's relatively easy to find, I just didn't want to encourage people to drive by my house, or bad people to come rob me or anything. Links get grabbed by web crawlers and I didn't want to make it that easy for someone :)

But thanks for the Gamespy link...that was a real blast from the past. I had completely forgotten about it. Too bad they didn't pick some better screenshots (not that we had much in the way of graphics back then).

The "office" isn't very photogenic. It's a corner desk, with two flat-screen monitors (upgraded to a 19" widescreen for the main monitor last year). I have a nice ergonomic chair so that I don't kill myself when I sit for 10+ hours. Several bookshelves filled with programming books from the past few decades. Chiara has a desk behind me in the other corner that she does email support on. It's all pretty basic. Just a 12x12 ft "Den" in our home.
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Rorso
Wizard


Joined: 14 Oct 2000
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:55 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:
Rorso, I hope you don't mind, but I edited your post to remove the map link. While I know it's relatively easy to find, I just didn't want to encourage people to drive by my house, or bad people to come rob me or anything. Links get grabbed by web crawlers and I didn't want to make it that easy for someone :)

Oops didn't think that far, sorry Embarassed.

Quote:

But thanks for the Gamespy link...that was a real blast from the past. I had completely forgotten about it. Too bad they didn't pick some better screenshots (not that we had much in the way of graphics back then).

The "office" isn't very photogenic. It's a corner desk, with two flat-screen monitors (upgraded to a 19" widescreen for the main monitor last year). I have a nice ergonomic chair so that I don't kill myself when I sit for 10+ hours. Several bookshelves filled with programming books from the past few decades. Chiara has a desk behind me in the other corner that she does email support on. It's all pretty basic. Just a 12x12 ft "Den" in our home.

flat screen *drool*. I still use a CRT screen but I am considering to upgrade to some flat screen eventually. That bookshelf sounds interesting.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 7:40 am   
 
When you sit 6 inches from a monitor for 10+ hours a day, a *digital* (DVI connected) flat-screen monitor is a *must* in my opinion. Any company that forces programmers to use an analog monitor is just asking for a disability suit from messing up your eyesight. It's the same issue with ergonomics and chairs. Back problems, carpal-tunnel syndrome, eyesight issues...those are all serious health consequences for software engineers (and other office workers) and it's no different than industrial safety issues such as hard-hats and steel-toed boots.

Of course, if you are talking about your own home computer setup, then it's up to you. But since this is my full-time job, I have to take my health very seriously. And honestly, flat screen monitors have gotten pretty inexpensive over the past couple of years.

But the difference between a DVI connection and an analog VGA connection is tremendous...I could never go back. Of course, if your monitor is further away from your eyes, then it might not cause a big issue. But with my eye-sight: I already have two sets of glasses...one for closeup like reading and computer work, and one for far away like driving. So the monitor needs to be close to me so that I can read it, otherwise it's between the two pairs of glasses.
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Rainchild
Wizard


Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 1551
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 3:26 am   
 
First of all, grats on the public release! It must be like a huge weight just lifted from your shoulders! Definately looking foward to next year and all the new funky things like MXP forms and the automapper update etc.

I got the 24" widescreen monitor from Dell at home -- it's so clear and nice to view... my laptop sucks in comparison which I use at work every day, it's only a 15.4" widescreen but runs 1680x1050 so can be a struggle at times for my eyes, especially after using the 24" the night before... ah well, hehe.
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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 3:42 am   
 
Woohoo! Yes, it's a huge wieght off. Now I just need to see if I remember how to relax. Chiara and I went out for a nice dinner tonight to celebrate. I'll be watching the forums for a couple of days, and then Chiara will lock the office door for a couple of weeks.

And yes, next year should be fun. With the pressure of the first public release over, I can now spend the next several years continuing to improve CMUD. A *lot* of that improvement will happen in 2007, and I'll report more detailed plans in my New Year's Letter in a few weeks.

The SSH stuff will come first, and then the zApp/MXP forms. Then the Mapper and then the new Database module. And lots of bug fixes in-between, along with the other less-major stuff on the future plans list. Should be lots of fun!

Quote:
The Future is here, and the future IS CMUD!
Very Happy
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Fang Xianfu
GURU


Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 5155
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2006 6:28 am   
 
I have one TFT using DVI and another using VGA, and I honestly can't tell the difference. Why's it so important?

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Zugg
MASTER


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

PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2006 6:57 pm   
 
For me, the VGA connection made the image much fuzzier. It was probably the cables, but it just didn't look like the pixels were converged perfectly. Some stuff had a reddish edge to it. Keep in mind that this is with the screen about 5 inches from my eyes.

With the DVI, the pixels are all perfectly in focus. No convergence issues. My guess is that while it's *possible* to have a good image with regular VGA, the digital nature of DVI ensures that the image is perfect.

Also, of course, you need to make sure you are running at the native resolution of your LCD panel. Anything looks crappy at different resolutions.
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mr_kent
Enchanter


Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 698

PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 7:16 am   
 
One word. Lasik. Have a great day.
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Fang Xianfu
GURU


Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 5155
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 2:00 am   
 
Wow, Zugg, I thought I was bad. You need to be careful. I'm very hereditarily short-sighted and my natural reaction is to sit hunched forward to be closer to the screen. I don't need to, my prescription is fine, it's just a bad habit (which isn't helped if I forget to clean my glasses). About seven years of doing that has caused me quite a bit of back trouble - I have a super-comfy 90 executive's chair now that has a support all the way up to my neck to encourage me to sit back, and it's working pretty well. But seriously, if you can't see when you're sat back, you need new glasses. And if you can, find a way to make yourself sit back :)

EDIT: One other thing - I remember my dad being in a similar situation a short while ago. He's a civil engineer and spends all day every day using CAD - he hadn't had a checkup in years and went in to find that not only was his prescription totally wrong, but he actually needed three-level varifocals to get proper vision. Might be worth a checkup if you've been skiving off them - I know it's a temptation :P
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Chiara
Site Admin


Joined: 29 Sep 2000
Posts: 346
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 4:22 am   
 
Zugg is not permitted to skive off optomitrists appointments. Or other health care appointments.
The glasses are new, and specifically designed for the exact distance to the monitors. Which isn't actually 6 inches. Close, but not that close.

He has a great new chair and normally sits in proper position, but after a few bad days, posture gets worse and worse. That's when he starts to bump the monitor with his nose.
I've threatened to install a seat belt to keep him sitting properly more than once.

We looked into lasik, but decided it wasn't worth the risk. When it goes bad, it goes very, very bad.

Zugg says Hi. We're having a blizzard today!
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