One Giant Step for Me

You’ll recall this recent entry in which in wondered how I should go about protecting my TextStyleM source code so that I could consider distributing it more widely. Well, I was working on my “calling home” idea last week, and even though I got it to work, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it — not because of the basic idea (i.e., calling home) but for other technical reasons. So, on the spur of the moment, I thought I’d ask Damian his thoughts on how he would handle those concerns I had.

Good thing I did!

I didn’t want or expect him to hand me over a solution, although if he happened to have one sitting on his desk, next to some file folder and the leftovers of yesterday’s ham and cheese sandwich, that would be fantastic. He responded just minutes after I fired off my message, not only answering my question but also pointing me to Zend’s Small Business Program. I didn’t know such a beast existed, let alone that it’s affordable for someone like me.

To make a long story short, I downloaded the evaluation version and tested a few things out, and once I was pretty sure it would work for me, I reworked my entire local license file scheme. It’s much better than it used to be, not only because the file itself is no longer human-readable but also because it pushed me to think about a per-site license within a single installation of TextStyleM. The documentation states that the encoding should not hinder a script’s performance; having uploaded an encoded version of TextStyleM on my own site, I’m convinced the resulting smaller files are in fact making my script run faster — not that speed was an issue to begin with. So it looks as though my work of the last two weeks has yielded (1) a faster script, (2) a stronger licensing scheme, and (3) encoding that will open the possibility of distributing my script without fear of it being tampered with.

Damian’s kind help reminded me of a conversation I had with my sister back in late October, en route to Moncton. My sister does and does not quite understand what I do for a living. That’s in part because computers don’t do much for her. When I showed her an earlier incarnation of TextStyleM nearly two years ago, she didn’t feign interest, but what she kept saying is that she couldn’t believe that everything I was showing her, I had put together line by line. But add to that the fact I work at home, and to her it seems like a lonely existence devoid of interactions with colleagues. In the course of our conversation, I assured her that’s not exactly the case — that others like me “meet and discuss,” although most often online. My note to Damian and his reply are just one of many examples of this, as are my chats with Kevin whenever one of us need a sounding board to think through an idea.

Another prong of that October conversation with my sister was her suggestion that I find either a way of getting my product more out there (despite the fact I have to do everything myself since I’m alone), or a part-time job to relieve some of the financial stress — an option I’m reticent to consider just yet. And a while later, BeeGoddessM also tried to get me thinking about wider distribution. So if you think about it, you could say that what I’ve accomplished in the last two weeks is the result of taking their advice seriously. The biggest professional goal I’ve set for myself for 2005 is expanding my market in ways I shied away from until now, and only 20 days into the new year, I’ve already accomplished a lot towards that goal.