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Update News for May 2015
Here is a quick run-down on what you will find in this bulletin:
To Help Us Stop Software Piracy
These topics will be dealt with in more detail throughout this bulletin.
We have talked about this in the past, and have already made some changes not yet implemented, but the incident described above convinces us that we need to stop our current work and incorporate important security measures into our software and into our internet engine to make it easier to catch software pirates. Most important, we need to be able to identify the source of pirated software. While each subscriber to Compulife has a unique name and serial number in their system, which brands that user's copy of the software, there has been no way for us to identify that information when we hit a user's web site. That will be changing in the next update to the internet software.
We promise that the changes will not mean that we will be able to gain access to your servers, or to "tap" your engine use where the engine is forced to periodically "phone home". We discussed such counter measures and I have rejected those at this point because it is my belief that those who wish to use the engine should be able to do so and keep it within a secure environment, that allows no one access including Compulife. That policy will remain intact for now. We promise that we will announce otherwise, if we change our minds.
If I discover, after employing the new measures, that we have additional software piracy, and our counter measures for detecting it have been defeated or circumvented, we may need to make changes that do allow the software to "periodically phone home" so that we know where and who is using it. Once again, no such changes are being made and we will not do so unless we advise you first. Of course you can help us avoid such things if you can also be pro-active in reporting suspicious activity and helping us catch pirates.
The following information is important for any internet engine user.
This only applies to those subscribers buying the internet engine, not the hundreds of subscribers who use the web quote option which runs from our server (the $120 web quoting service - $99 in Canada). Once again, this has nothing to do with those subscriber who pay $99 per year for web quoting through Compulife. The changes that we are making will actually be made to our own sites before we ship the internet engines to others. Therefore, those not using the $960 per year engine have absolutely nothing to do, we take care of it for you. The $99 per year web quote services will continue and work just as they do now and you are not impacted. We are sharing what we are sharing in this bulletin to ensure that no one misunderstands what is going to be happening and the reasons why.
The first Compulife midmonth update in July (August in Canada) will include radical changes to our data files, making those new data files completely incompatible with our old internet engine. This means that you will not be able to run the new data files from that update, unless you replace the old engine on your site.
At the same time as you place that new engine on your site, you must have the new data files as the old data files will NOT run with the new engine.
VERY IMPORTANT: Both updates (data and engine) MUST occur at the EXACT same time or the software will not work properly. If you do not update the internet engine, at the same time that you use the first midmonth update in July, and attempt to use the new data files with your old engine, you will have a catastrophic mess in your quote results.
We apologize for the pain of a sudden change like this but please remember that Compulife has uncovered the worst software piracy scheme, employing and distributing our software to unlicensed parties, that we have ever faced or encountered before.
The worst case scenario will occur if you ignore this email and further emails and bulletins to come, and are not ready with the new engine when you place the new data on your server. You will likely call in a panic to find out why your web site software has gone off the rails. We will tell you to get the August monthly update again, and NOT get the midmonth update. Once you update the old data files from the August 1st monthly update, you will be back to running.
But you will not be able to use ANY update thereafter, until you place the new engine on your site.
This scenario ensures that you, and the software pirates, have software that ceases to be updated and which will steadily and quickly become out-of-date. At that point, we will rely upon the life insurance companies, who won't appreciate people quoting wrong or old premiums, to bring further pressure and possible legal action to bear on the perpetrators of the software piracy.
The new engine is not ready for shipment, and probably will not be ready until the end of June. We will test and incorporate it on our own quoting sites and services before it is shipped to you.
When it is shipped to you, the new engine will have the word "NEW" added to the name of the engine. You will place that file "as is" on your server. You will not rename the file, and remove the word "NEW", until you have been advised that you have been given the new data. You will be advised of that in the midmonth update bulletin which pops up when you install the update to your Windows version of Compulife. That new data will require the "NEW" engine. We are targeting the first midmonth update AFTER the July 4th holiday.
After putting the new data on your server (we recommend doing so early in the morning or late in the evening) you will need to rename the old engine by adding the word "OLD" to that file name, and then rename the new engine by removing the word "NEW" from the file name. You will then need to immediately test the resulting changes. If there are problems (like attributes not set properly), and you cannot resolve those problems quickly, then you will need to undo the changes that you have made, get the July monthly update with your Windows program, and upload those files to your site. You will be up and running, but will need to act as soon as possible to resolve your issues with the new engine.
We apologize for this situation, but we must defeat the software pirates who are undermining our ability to profit from the hard work and investment that we have made, and continue to make, in our software. Lawsuits take a long time, and we are prepared to take the time necessary to ensure that we receive the damages we are entitled to under the law. In the meantime, we need to add measures that will let us shut down the activity. We trust you understand the dilemma created by the people behind this activity, and that we have no other means to deal with the problem.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to email us with your questions:
Once again, internet engine users will need the new internet engine to run the new data files that will be introduced with that software just after the first of August. If you try to run new data with an old engine, IT WILL NOT WORK. If you try to run old data with the new engine, IT WILL NOT WORK. This will force everyone to use the new internet engine.
Those who may still be bootlegging our internet engine software, who want to avoid the new counter measures, could elect to use the old engine with the old data and that would work. However, the information in that software will become quickly stale. That will be subverted the first time a major life company, who deals with brokers and has competitive rates, changes those rates. That will leave any pirate having to use an old engine with old rates, and if they persist in quoting those, I suspect the life company might want to step in and correct that. Life companies have bigger budgets for lawyers than we do and tend to be rightly temperamental when someone is quoting their premiums incorrectly.
In that regard another change will be made to the new engine. The new engine will no longer run if the monthly update being used by the engine is too stale.
The way it works now, if you have the windows software on your computer, and you get to the next month without doing the monthly update, the windows software begins to complain, every time you run it. Most never see the message because Compulife has always delivered our monthly updates on time (that's 33 year of delivering monthly updates on time).
We have not put that same logic into the internet engine, but something like that logic will be put into the new engine.
By way of explanation, it is the internet engine user which is responsible for transferring monthly updates to their servers. We don't do it because that would undermine the assurance that we give that we will not touch the user's server. And we don't want software that we created, on their server, doing updates. That would open us up to blame for just about anything that went wrong on that server, regardless of whether we had anything to do with it. Goodness knows that we are occasionally blamed for problems on some computers regardless of whether our software was the problem or not. Under no circumstances can anyone blame us for something that went wrong on someone else's server because we never touch other people's servers, unless we have been asked to do so.
The new version of the engine will be changed to cease functioning if the monthly update on the server becomes more than 60 days old. If you are an internet engine customer, you will need to keep your data files current and up-to-date. While we realize that some may be tardy about getting those updates transferred to their servers, or may not feel they need an update because none of the companies they quote have changed, we have decided to utilize a 60 day period following the introduction of a new monthly update, as the time to turn off the internet engine quotes. That should not be considered a hardship and it is just good practice to keep the data files on the server up to date, at least monthly. And we would think that an internet engine user, who is trying to provide up-to-date and accurate information for their users, would want to know if the data that they were relying upon had become out-of-date.
To reiterate, if you are an internet engine user (paying the $960 per year) and get 60 days past the current month's update period, the internet engine software will cease quoting and instead put up a message saying that the software needs to be updated with the current rates from Compulife.
And finally, those using the $99 web quote option have nothing to worry about, Compulife takes care of all that for you.
This entire incident, and the time it has already taken from Compulife, and the time that will now need to be taken from Compulife to introduce all these changes, is really sad. Personally, I would prefer to devote our energies to improving our software and making it a better product. None of what we have described here makes Compulife a better product. These changes will only help us to stop those who are not authorized to use the product or who are not using the product according to the terms, conditions, and rules that we have set out. What a waste!
And let me say to those who think our terms and conditions are unreasonable, or our prices unfair, DON'T BUY OUR SOFTWARE. We are fortunate enough to have thousands of customer who do think our prices are reasonable and fair. Our existing, paying subscribers would like it if there were fewer agents and agencies using a software tool that has proved to be very profitable for themselves. There is a sense that when someone has something that gives them an edge, they want to keep the edge to themselves.
And of course the work that we will be doing means it is going to take just that much longer to deliver the changes that we have been talking about in our previous bulletins. This is yet one more delay and I find that frustrating. But these important changes must be completed first, before we can introduce some of the new features and improvements that are stacked up in our to-do box. And we don't like talking about those too far in advance because all that does is gets our subscriber's expectations elevated and unhappy realizing that something they want is coming, but we don't have it yet.
One of the frustrations that we have had to date is our limited ability to address the smart phone and tablet (pads) market the way we would like to. Our first step in dealing with this was to come up with a "mobile" edition of Compulife which is FREE to all subscribers (as in those who pay). The first problem with that is that you must be on the internet to use it. The second problem is that the web quoting system has limited functionality by comparison to our Windows product which is a full featured quoting solution.
We have previously explained why we have not created "aps" for some of the more popular phones. The problem is that if we stop to re-develop and re-compile our software for those devices, it takes time away from the backlog of improvements that we are trying to make to the software. And having been burned on Palm OS devices and the first Windows Mobile devices, which are now obsolete (no one is using them) we don't want to get trapped into creating software versions that will quickly be made obsolete by new hardware offerings. The mobile version of Compulife, providing that you have a device that will connect to the web, is a "one size fits all solution" has been a temporary patch to hold us until we get where we are heading. And in the end, that mobile edition is still pretty good, and still pretty useful.
Of course all of that was true until some recent changes in the hardware that is now available in the market.
During March we became aware of this little device:
As of the time of writing this bulletin, Amazon was selling this HP tablet for $149. $149!
But here's the best news. The full and current windows version of Compulife runs on that tiny tablet. The additional good news is that while this is a tablet that falls in size between a smart phone and a full size tablet, the screen is big enough, and the resolution good enough, that you can run Compulife on it just the same as you run Compulife on your regular Windows computer.
Did I mention you can get this brand new "HP" tablet for only $149. $149!
Do I think everyone should buy one. Not necessarily, but there are two things I like about what I am seeing.
First, for those who want a compact solution, this is about as compact as you can get, and still use Compulife as you normally do, and still read the screen. One of the problems with smart phones is that you trade compact size for ease of being able to read, or the volume of information that you can see at one time. This tablet is certainly a much bigger display than the biggest phone out there. We purchased one for Jeremiah to use and to make an initial evaluation. It is worth noting that we have purchased earlier tablet offerings that we don't talk about because they didn't work to our satisfaction. After Jeremiah loaded Compulife and began working with it, he liked what he saw. I asked him to bring it to my birthday dinner on April 2nd and I got to play with it for the first time. It does/did everything you would expect it to. We like it.
Second, did I mention the price of only $149? That's the total cost for a compact device that runs the full version of Windows 8.1, not a subset like Windows RT, which does not allow Compulife to run. I had been waiting for something that broke the $200 price barrie, and this shatters it. And this tablet, at this price, is a harbinger of more things to come. It is only a matter of months before we see some of the larger tablet variations, breaking the $200 price barrier. Those offerings, at those prices, may be a better time to jump in. Either way, we are now talking about prices that make buying one of these devices a no brainer, and not a huge mistake if you decided you like a later model better. Can you imagine the number of phones that have been bought and thrown away, and the money spent on all that?
But tablets aren't really tablets if they have a traditional keyboard attached, they are just laptops with a touch screen. And using the HP without a keyboard turned up an obvious "fly in the ointment". The biggest challenge and annoyance we encountered was doing a right click. The ability to use the "right click" is vital to Compulife when you are filing products into Pick 12.
On a tablet or on a touch screen monitor, such as a laptop with a touch screen, the single touch is a left click and that's pretty intuitive. It took us a while to figure out how you do a "right click", which we discovered was a "touch and hold". After about 1/2 a second a little box surrounds the spot you are touching, and when you lift you finger off the screen, it does a right click. That allowed us to file products into Pick 12 but it was a painful process.
So we turned our attention to how to program specifically for touch screens, and our programmer discovered a bunch of goodies in the programming language that we have. So we bought him one of these:
Yes, the price in this advertisement is higher but look carefully, that's the price "in Canada" in "Canadian dollars". As of the time of the writing of this bulletin the Canadian dollars was trading at .7956 making this the equivalent of $150.36.
Did I mention you could buy this table for $150.36! As a Canadian I would say, "that's friggin cheap!"
Once our programmer got the tablet he was in a position to start to play with the software and as a result we have introduced 2 significant improvements for touch screen users.
First, you can now use a "touch and swipe" motion to activate and file products into pick 12. Simply touch a product and swipe your finger to the right. This will do what a right click does with the mouse when filing products to Pick 12. Of course you must actually have a touch pad to benefit from that, but the software now "auto-detects" the present of a touch screen. If you have one, you can swipe. If you don't have a touch pad or touch screen, you can't swipe. If you don't have a touch pad or touch screen, please don't call to ask why it doesn't work.
Second, there are certain fields on the client entry screen that require numeric or alpha/numeric input and that requires a touch keyboard if you don't have a regular keyboard. Of course those with pad know that there is a generic way to pop a keyboard on the device at any time, but it requires touching the keyboard icon. Unfortunately, if you are entering numbers, such as the face amount, you have to choose the keyboard and then choose the numeric pad, which is two steps/choices. Not as nice as we would like, but some folks are practiced at that and can do it in their sleep.
To address this there is a new option in the "Options" menu which appears at the top of the Red Menu. When you click on "Options", the new option is the fourth on the list and it is called:
Clicking on that option will place a check mark on it, and enable the option. If the option is enabled, a keyboard from within Compulife is automatically displayed when you touch on certain fields on the client entry screen. And if you are entering the face amount, a numeric pad pops up directly.
NOTE: We can and will will enable these keyboards on additional fields throughout the program, as we get feedback from subscribers who actually use the option and who want the option added elsewhere.
Two things in regard to the new option, where you might not want this option even though you have a touch screen device.
First, if your device already has a mouse pad and keyboard, that's the way to go. You won't want to have a second keyboard popping up automatically when you touch choices on the client screen. The touch keyboards that pop up always cover up otehr things that you want to read on the screen, and to see those you have to close the keyboard, something of a pain.
Second, you may prefer to use the device's default keyboard. If you are already using that, and it works to your satisfaction, our view is to not fix something that is not broken.
To summarize, if you are using Compulife on a touch screen device, you can now click and swipe products into Pick 12. Second, there is an optional keyboard system that will pop when you touch certain field on the client entry screen, but that does not work unless you click on, and enable that option under "Options" on the red menu.
And one final thought on the new:
The device is small enough that we found our fingers obscured the screen when we were touching on certain options, and the text is small enough so that it is sometimes difficult to hit/touch the thing that you want the first time. Personally, smart phones drive me nuts because I have short fat fingers. When I start to touch something, I'm covering up with my finger what I am touching. Our programmer wasn't too excited about it a first, but the more he used it during development, the more he began to get used to it.
With that in mind we suggest obtaining a stylus. Now you can't simply take any old stylus, such as the one you are no longer using on your old Palm Pilot, and use that with this device. Like many of the newest devices, the HP has a hard "capacitive" touch screen, which means you are not actually pressing and slightly indenting the screen. Instead the screen detects the electrical energy in your finger. The stylus you choose must be compatible with the capacitive nature of your finger and such a stylus can be obtained for very little money. That stylus will make using the smaller 8" device much easier if you are running Compulife. It will no doubt make many things much easier on that smaller pad.
NOTE: Compulife may be able to buy those stylus in bulk, and provide them at VERY, VERY low cost. Let us know if you are interested in that by emailing us here:
If there is sufficient interest, we may bulk buy a bunch of these, putting our name and phone number on them, and give them to our customers for free. That would be like the old days, when folks gave away pens to promote their business.