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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Don't do objects - do types!

I've been faithless the last couple of months, doing lot's of code in C# for ASP.NET instead of using a real programming language, i.e. C++. Actually, C# is pretty nice and ASP.NET is a very productive environment for Web Application programming.

During this time I've come across a usage pattern that I really want to discourage. C# is a beautifully typed language, especially with the introduction of Generics (not to be confused with Templates in C++, they are two very different things) - so why do so many people insist on stuffing things into strings and objects?

A typical example is the Guid structure in C#. It's essentially byte-array holding the 16 bytes of a GUID, a Globally Unique Identifier. Very useful, and very common. But very frequently stored and passed as a string, or even worse, as an object.

I use a code policy that states that an object that has a specific type should always be stored, referenced and passed as that type. Even if it does come into the code in the form of a string, you should still convert it at the first opportunity and then keep it in it's natural typed form.

The rationale for this is that you can get some very nasty and hard-to-find runtime bugs with late effects, causing errors, instability and exceptions long after the initial problem occurred. Consider for example a Guid entering the system as a string, being stored as a string and then used. It might not be in the correct format, but that will not be discovered until way too late. If you follow a code policy to convert it into the appropriate type from the start, you'll automatically catch such things very early.

Work is also progressing on Xecrets, the safety-deposit box on the net that will launch in the summer time frame. I've given notice to my "day job", and will start working full-time on AxCrypt, AxCrypt2Go and Xecrets in June.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Quitting my day job

Finally! It's decided. I'm going to start spending serious time with AxCrypt and related services. AxCrypt and AxCrypt2Go will remain free and open source, and to finance it I'll also be developing and provide Internet-based services. These will be available for trial, to all registred AxCrypt-users, and later as subscription services. I've spent some time preparing for this, including developing the new site which looks fairly similar to the old one, but in fact is a full-fledged application whilst the old one was basically static HTML.

So, the good news is that in the summer time-frame, I'll be working more or less full-time with AxCrypt and AxCrypt2Go. The even better news is that I'll make Xecrets, the new Internet-based subscription service that complements the free software available. There'll never be a requirement to register or pay anything to use AxCrypt or AxCrypt2Go.

I am hoping to provide such great value for money that many of you actually will find the subscription service so useful that you'll be glad to pay a small amount for that, while at the same time providing financing for AxCrypt-development.

The philosophical view here is that encryption software is good to have open source, and software licensing is a slight evil, that unfortunately often is necessary to finance the product. I'll be trying for the best of both worlds here, providing free software (after all, there's absolutely no additional cost for me to provide a second copy of AxCrypt once the first is produced) but also providing services on the Internet, where a reasonable fee for the server and bandwidth cost feels fair and hopefully generating enough additional revenue to also support AxCrypt development.

The Xecrets subscription service will start as a safety-deposit for your secrets, such as logons, PIN-codes etc. Always available, and always protected. When you need them, you can logon to the Xecrets-site and search your secrets in a standard free-text search way. Your data is never stored decrypted on the server disk, nor is your decryption key.

Most, if not all, of us have a multitude of logon-codes and PIN-codes to keep track of. With Xecrets you have the possibility to have them available, protected and backed-up for a very low cost - $1/€1 per month.
There are endless possibilities and variations, but all things have to start somewhere, and this is what I'm planning right now.

These are the plans - please let me know your thoughts! I'm open for all suggestions that will help me keep providing the community with free software, while also being able to afford to spend sufficient time doing so. Mail me now!