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Update News for September 2014
Here is a quick run-down on what you will find in this bulletin:
These topics will be dealt with in more detail throughout this bulletin.
In this section of the bulletin we begin by talking about the problem that we had with anti-virus software in August. That DID NOT happen in Canada as we did not release the new program files in Canada; we did so in the U.S. When problems occurred there, we pulled that version back and did not release it in Canada.
Having noted that, you will need to read this bulletin carefully as we will be also releasing the new versions of the program in Canada, sometime in the not too distant future. It will not be released as quickly as we do in the U.S., simply as it will help us manage the flow of support calls that we get. But everything we have to say about anti-virus products applies equally on both sides of the border, and it is a worthwhile read.
It is also important to note that the same programs are used in the U.S. and Canada. What distinguishes those programs is the data that is coupled with them.
Depending on WHICH anti-virus product you have put on your computer, you can expect more troubles with Compulife during September. The worst offender is Norton, for which we have dedicated a web page which you will find here:
If you have Norton, you better read that page. And if you have Norton, you need to understand how to use Norton (most Norton users DO NOT know how to use the software). And if you don't know how to use Norton it's like putting a lock on your fire extinguisher and throwing away the key. Needless to say, it's not much good for protection after that.
Other anti-virus offenders that routinely drive us nuts are AVG and Bit Defender.
I used to really like PC Tools, and still have it on a couple of computers. Unfortunately that company was bought out by Norton, who is terminating the service and inviting all the PC Tools customers to flip over to Norton. THAT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN IN OUR OFFICE.
For the past year we have begun using AVAST, and we have been using their FREE version of their software. Here are some reviews on that product:
NOTE: These reviews are for the FREE version of the product. Of course they would like you to upgrade, which is where they make their money. Based upon my own personal use, and the reviews of the product, I'd say the FREE version is just fine.
Avast also works with Windows XP. Yes, I STILL have some computers running XP. As I told you in a previous bulletin, I am in NO RUSH to run out and replace ALL the computers that we use. About half our machines have been upgraded, and are now running Windows 8.1. But some will continue to run Windows XP until next year, when I expect prices for equipment to fall. And yes, rumors are that Microsoft will announce the roll out of their next version of Windows this fall. Here's one article:
Back to anti-virus troubles. It is worth noting that the reason Microsoft claims that we all need their latest and newest operating systems is because those newer OS's are more secure. That means that they come with a lot of internal security features. This begs the question, if you have the newest Windows 8.1, why does anyone needs a supplementary anti-virus program? But having said that, most people are used to putting 3rd party anti-virus programs on their computers. In the case of Microsoft, they themselves offer a free anti-virus product called:
I suspect it is not bundled into their OS due to the concern that they will be accused of having a monopoly, an accusation that stuck with their browser when it was bundled with their operating system. Regardless, it makes complete sense to add an anti-virus product to your computer.
NOTE: Microsoft Security Essentials no longer works with Windows XP.
The problem with anti-virus products is that Compulife is a small, niche company in the software world. The number of our installations is TINY compared to most generic software offered in the market. Many anti-virus products rely upon feedback information from users of software, to determine if those software products have a virus or not. So anytime we roll out a changed program file, we set off the anti-virus products.
During September we will be introducing new versions of our two key program files:
If either of these programs is likely to set off your anti-virus software it is CQSDOWN.EXE. CQSDOWN is the program in Compulife that is responsible for obtaining update files from the Internet. As soon as something on your computer reaches out to the internet, your anti-virus software will be paying attention. If it warns you about "suspicious activity" when CQSDOWN.EXE is doing that, and you tell the anti-virus software to "block" or "quarantine" the software, then you will have have plenty of trouble running Compulife.
After your anti-virus product becomes happy with CQSDOWN.EXE there is usually no problem until we replace it with a newer version, which we will be doing in September. Your anti-virus software may see that the file has been changed and start all over. You can expect a warning when that happens. Once again, if you "block" or "quarantine" the software then you will have trouble running Compulife.
Incidentally, this is where Norton really, and I mean really, ticks us off. It will block/quarantine our software without even asking you. Bang, Compulife just disappears. Sorry, but that's NOT anti-virus software, that's a virus you paid to put on your computer. We recommend, if that happens, that you get Norton off your computer. You can replace Norton with the FREE version of AVAST.
The next article will talk about WHY we are replacing CQSDOWN.EXE and GOWIN.EXE.
The on-line payment system is not yet available in Canada. The banking software we use for credit cards in the U.S. is NOT the same as the software we use in Canada. Having said that, we know that our bank (the TD) offers that option, and will pursue that once we are satisfied that everything is working well with the payment procedures we have implemented in the U.S. How the banking software works is only half the issue. The other half is to make sure that when our staff are notified by the bank of the payment being received, that our in-house subscriber records are updated to reflect receipt of the payment, and the issuance of the proper subscription files to the server.
Jeremiah has been hard at working this summer, designing a new invoicing/payment system that is more automated. A number of our subscribers have indicated that they would like to be able to pay by credit cards on-line, and we have been moving slowly on that for a couple of reasons.
First, we do NOT want you to transmit credit card information to Compulife by Internet. There are LOTS of horror stories about people having their credit card information stolen from on-line sources, and some major retailers have been hammered over it. We do not want your credit card information transmitted to us by computer, and we don't want your credit card information stored ANYWHERE on our computers.
Currently, if you call us with your credit card, we input that information into the banking company's software, then destroy/shred our paper copy of the information we took from you.
I have said, when we can develop a way to have you input your credit card DIRECTLY into that same banking company's software, then we will offer that option. We are now on the verge of rolling that out.
Of course we needed to know who was paying for what, and so the new system will be invoice based and that's where GOWIN.EXE is being modified. Your invoices for subscription renewal will now be shipped using the same mechanism that we have for updating the software. CQSDOWN will download your invoice from the web. GOWIN.EXE, when it detects your invoice, will let you display it on your computer screen.
There will be a "pay now" button on the invoice. If you click that button your browser will take you to the credit card company's secure site, passing to that site the details of who you are and what invoice you are paying. At that point, if you put your credit card information in, your payment will be taken by the bank and confirmation of the payment will be sent to us by email. We will that process that payment information into our system which will let your system be updated with the new subscription. Obviously if you pay an invoice on a Saturday, it won't be processed on our end until the next business day: Monday.
But this should save you and us a lot of time in that you don't have to track us down to make a payment. It will also help us save some money where we don't have to input the information for you into the banking site, and where most renewal invoices will no longer need to be mailed.
If you prefer to pay by check you can simply display the invoice, print it out on your computer, and cut a check as you always have. Incidentally, we prefer checks simply as we get all the money without the credit card company taking a scrape.
If you decide the invoice will need to be changed, then we will have to credit out the invoice and issue a new one. A common reason for this is someone elected to renew for 2 or 3 years to take advantage of discounts. If you decide you want to do that, then you can contact us by email at:
Once the new invoice is issued, you can pay that as described.
And finally, if you still want to pay by credit card by calling us, you can do that also.
Term4Sale Canadian postal code prices will NOT be changing for any subscribers in 2014. Postal Code listings will continue to be $1 per month, payable to the end of the calendar year ($12 pear year). However, there are new limits that will come into play, and subscribers with more than 20 paid postal codes will need to upgrade from a personal use edition of Compulife to a standard license.
NOTE: If you are buying more than 20 postal codes you can put off the impact of the price increase for the software by extending your personal use subscription. If you are affected you can call us to discuss it further.
In the June 2014 U.S. bulletin we talked about changes to Term4Sale listings and prices for 2015 and a number of our U.S. subscribers expressed their unhappiness with the way we were making that change and the new limits that we were imposing on total listings.
I would underline that our main concern is that Term4Sale listings benefit each subscriber to Compulife, not just a small minority who are doing quite well with them. That is why we will be increasing the number of FREE listings from 2 to 3 for every subscriber. Those listings will be one "Home" listing, and two "Free" listings. You can read more about those distinctions here:
Our U.S. statistics for 2013 showed that for every 3 zip codes a subscriber had, they received on average of one email contact. With three free zip codes, Americans can expect one email contact per year (on average). We have no way of knowing if a consumer calls you at your listed phone number, although we know that happens because sometimes consumer call us. In Canada we have not completed the same analysis, but our sense is that the numbers are less, which is why prices will remain "as is".
Prices for additional listings, which agents pay to obtain, are $12 per year (pro-rated to the end of the calendar year). That means that the value of FREE listings is now $36.
As background, we have a small group of subscribers who buy a significant number of additional paid listings and we are happy to have their business. However, this diminishes the opportunity for others to be contacted and we would like more subscribers to have a chance at making a sale.
As a result we have been looking for a way to increase prices for those buying more than 20 postal codes, with the expected outcome that some of those who are buying more, will simply buy less. While we have introduced higher prices for some buying zip codes in the U.S., postal code prices will remain unchanged in Canada.
Therefore, personal use subscribers can still buy 20 postal codes, in addition to the 3 that they received FREE with their subscription. However, personal use subscribers can no longer buy more than 20 as a personal use subscriber.
If you wish to buy more than 20 postal codes you will need to upgrade to a standard license ($299 per year versus $149 per year). A subscriber with a standard license will have a limit of 80 postal codes
If you want more than 20 postal codes, we will waive the requirement to upgrade your software license until your next actual renewal of Compulife. If you have paid ahead for your personal use edition, and have purchased multiple years, you will stay at the personal use level to the end of that current subscription renewal date.
As of the invoicing for postal codes renewals in mid-November, you cannot add time to your personal use subscription to extend this provision. You have until then to do so.
This section affects U.S. subscribers ONLY. We have no plans to make changes to the Canadian offering in 2016. Our sense is that Canadians trail Americans in their use of the internet to buy life insurance, and while we think Canadians will eventually catch up, changes such as those we are proposing in the U.S. will not impact Canadians subscribers as soon. Having said that, this will give you a sense of where we would like to take things in the future.
In 2016, after changes that we will need to make to our subscriber database, zip codes will be priced differently for different zip codes, based upon zip code income. For some zip codes prices will go up, while for others zip codes prices will go down.
If you visit our zip code analyzer and enter in a zip code, the system provides a report which shows, among other things the income of a zip code (equal to the number of households times average household income). Zip code prices for 2016 will be based upon a scale of prices based upon "zip code income" (number of households times income per household). Here is what we have tentatively come up with:
Those prices will apply to the first 100 zip codes. Subscribers who buy more than 100 zip codes will be subject to the additional surcharge of .25 cents per month on zip codes over 100 zip codes.
We debated a way to offer a discount on low income zip codes for 2015 but we simply do not (yet) have a systematic way to generate individual zip code pricing within our client database. That will be something we will be working on for 2016.
With the online payment option completed, we can turn our attention back to the next step in our data conversion work. We will be focusing on those products which have Return of Premiums and which use factors to calculate the total premium. In Canada, ROP factors only impact some Critical Illness products.
For example, some companies apply a percentage calculation to a premium, in order to convert the non-ROP version of the product to the ROP version. It typically goes something like this:
But the current ROP storage system, which is different from the basic premium storage system, is also different from the new data storage system that we are moving to. Rather than add a third data storage tool for basic premiums, and then convert ROP factors after, we are doing the ROP factor conversion first. That way, once we introduce the new data retrieval system for the new ROP factors, we can remove the old system. That will also give us a chance to debug the new rate storage system with some numbers, and isolate those numbers to a small group of products; those with ROP. If bugs show up, they won't affect non-ROP products.
Currently ROP factors are stored in files called ROPF.D0? (that's D zero ?) where the ? is the category for the rates. For example, 30 year ROP term is stored in the "M" category and so the ROPF factors for the "M" category are stored in ROPF.D0M. Those factor tables will be replaced with one new file: ROPFT.000. All the ROP factors, for the different categories of ROP products, will be contained in ONE file.
Anyway, after the new ROPFT.000 file has been built and introduced into a newer GOWIN.EXE, we will continue to deliver both ROPF.d0? and ROPFT.000 files. We will maintain both for an interim period of time. That means that those with older copies of our internet engine will still have some time to upgrade the engine that they are using to the new version which will work with the new ROP data file. While there will be a time overlap, no one will want to be too tardy doing the upgrade because once we terminate service for the old ROPF factor files, future changes to that data will not be provided and ROP quotes will be wrong should changes to ROP factors occur.
We think this will also be a great trial run of how the new rate storage and retrieval system works. It means that when we begin to replace basic rate files, we will have already gotten our feet good and wet with that mechanism.