Author

I am Joannes Vermorel, founder at Lokad. I am also an engineer from the Corps des Mines who initially graduated from the ENS.

I have been passionate about computer science, software matters and data mining for almost two decades. (RSS - ATOM)

Meta

Friday
Mar302007

## The quest of the fail-proof hosted service

There isn't many 100% reliable hosting providers; yet when I buy an hosted subscription plan, I expect no less than a 100% uptime services.

So far, I have discovered only two fail-proof hosting services

• Squarespace.com: blog hosting, not a single issue for more than 3 months of service.

• Hosted-projects.com: Subversion hosting, not a single issue for almost 1 year of service.

Such a quality of services is truly worth to be mentioned and praised.

Tuesday
Mar132007

## Submit-Everywhere.com review: reducing the PAD pain

There are a lot of things that are simply wrong in PAD files. My previous experiences of PAD file submission for Resx Editor and Lokad ASP.Net Sales Forecasting were just terrible. I did end up submitting my PAD URLs at random for hours to hundreds of crappy directories (because most online directories do not even work) without knowing whether this work would actually lead anywhere.

Three weeks ago, it did bargain 80 euros or so and gave a shot to http://www.submit-everywhere.com and it saved me much more time that I would have even imagined.

S.E. is not lying about its massive submission, S.E. is really submitting your PAD file to hundreds of websites. Actually, many websites require some minimal human intervention to validate the submission; and S.E. is precisely taking care of that for you. In addition, once the submissions are done, you receive a summary that recaps the status of all submissions; and most importantly, the reasons why you software did end-up rejected from certain directories. The most common reason for being rejected is that your product does not match the scope of the directory (some directories are specialized on video games for example).

As a final note, I would add that outsourcing your submission work to S.E. is really painless. The process is e-mail driven, you get an automated e-mail containing some instructions (usually a suggested change on your PAD file), you follow the instructions and finally you reply in order to get the next instructions. Each e-mail is self-explanatory which makes the process really simple to follow.

Until a better PAD standard is devised, Submit-Everywhere is definitively a must-have if you do not want to be driven nuts by PAD submissions.

Monday
Feb122007

## What's wrong with PAD files

There are quite a lot of things that are just simply wrong in the IT industry nowadays, I have already discussed the case of the Google Adwords, let's move to the subject of PAD files.

PAD stands for Portable Application Description, it's an XML format designed by the shareware industry to facilitate the submission of software products to software directories. The idea is pretty simple and pretty nice. As a software manufacturer, you create a PAD file for each one of your products; then you publish this PAD file directly on your website. For example, when Lokad did release its first open source product named Lokad Sales Forecasting for ASP.Net, I have created (and submitted) a PAD file for this application.

### Submitting through cut-and-paste

Before PAD, you were just manually submitting your product description to every software directory of the web. Now with PAD, you're still submitting your product description to every single software directory on the web; but the submit operation is now (usually) restricted to a single operation: cut-and-pasting the URL of your PAD file. The support for PAD among the shareware/freeware distributor industry is really impressive. I would guess that over 95% of the freeware / shareware industry now supports PAD files.

But the only thing really impressive about PAD is its absolute lack of design.

### When the XML design makes no sense

As a software producer, you don't need to manually generate your PAD file, you got a free editor for that. Yet, I don't think I have ever seen an XML schema that is so massively adopted while being so poorly designed.

They are so many issues with PAD that it's actually hard to even summarize the topic. Following a quasi-random order, the main PAD issues would be

• You need to specify the size of your software in bytes, kilo-bytes AND mega-bytes (File_Size_Byte, File_Size_K AND File_Size_MB). Don't you think that this information is somehow redundant?

• The requirement description is restricted to OS version. What about required 3rd party software like DirectX or .Net?

• Open source (or source availability) is not part of the fields; furthermore it is not really possible to use PAD to describe open source software.

• Software components / library cannot be described. It does not really "fit" the PAD template.

• The software category field make no sense; a tag based system (think swik.net) would have been some much simpler AND so much more efficient.

• No (X)HTML support for your description fields. Your software description ends up plain text. As a result, big lump of texts (like the 2000 characters description) are almost totally unreadable.

• No consistence in XML tags naming
• some tags are UPPER_CASED

• some tags are Camel_Cased

• some tags are explicit Program_System_Requirements

• some tags are abbreviated Char_Desc_45
• The localization makes no sense (localizing a software ~ translating the software + adapting to the regional settings)
• only the Description tag can be localized.

• not possible to localize the other fields like contact or support emails, like the screenshot.

• no encoding specified upfront in the XML file.
• The company address fields makes no sense for non-US locations (State_Province only apply to USA/Canada).

• Why hard-coding the cost in US Dollars (Program_Cost_Dollars)? There are a lot of currency out-there. Then why not being able to support a price list? (list of currency/value).

• The Download URL section is just moronic. You can specify up to 4 download URLs (why 4?) and the each URL gets its own special tag with no naming consistency

• why not simply providing a URL lists?
• The screenshot section is restricted to a single image URL. Why not a list?

• No extensive mechanism for the affiliate programs (because the list of affiliate programs is hard-coded).

Note that all those suggestions would have made PAD easier to document, to produce and to consume.

Then some high-level criticisms could also be made

• no mechanism to link to other PAD files (especially useful to support software versions).

• no persistent mechanism using Global Identifiers (especially useful to detect replicated PADs).

• no mechanism to retrieve the PAD files by simply crawling the web (think XML feed links in HTML pages).

### Summary: PAD has been designed by junior high kids (probably)

• XML design: tag naming is random, data structures like lists are ignored.

• Web design text readability is not a concern, screenshots are unimportant.

• The world outside of the USA: utterly naive attempt to support internationalization.

• Software industry: operating systems are the only components worth to be mentioned.

Still, I think that a Portable Application Description is based on a good idea, but it would really need to be re-designed from scratch.

Sunday
Feb042007

## WetPaint is far too expensive, migrate or die

WetPaint is a hosted wiki solution. Although Wetpaint still lacks from "professional" wiki features like being able to insert custom HTML or scripts, it's a nice, simple wiki application with a great look&feel. I have triedWetPaint, I did even use it for while for Lokad.com; but looking back, it turned out to be a really BAD move. I have finally manually removed all the content from my wetpaint wiki (because there is no "Remove my wiki" feature available); and I have migrated all the content to community.lokad.com, a wiki powered by ScrewTurn.

It can be argued that moving to ScrewTurn may not be the optimal solution (they are tons of open source wiki software available out there, see the wiki matrix ); but moving away from Wetpaint is the only solution that can be considered if you fall into the WetPaint trap. Yes, to all the people using WetPaints, I strongly suggest to re-consider and start thinking about moving your wiki somewhere else.