Programming professionally

There are some mainly children’s programs about which I just have to blog. The examples I have seen have been programmed in Finland and apparently sold as real commercial products.

The reason why I’m blogging about these certain programs is that they are very, very badly made and I can’t see the companies (or the single person making the program) really thinking about what they were doing.

The first example is a Moomin game which came on a cd. The game was published in I think 2002, and on the front was a claim that the game was compatible with both Windows and Mac. We bought the game in I think 2005 or 2006.

First I tried to install the game on my Windows XP. It did install but didn’t work properly, I don’t remember anymore what was wrong, but we still decided to try it out on my work Mac laptop. It didn’t work, and after checking the box and the system requirements, I realized that the program was meant for Mac OS 9, which had been discontinued years ago. I tried to use the OS 9 compability mode for the game but it still didn’t want to work, so we ditched the game.

But the program which made me write this was an educational software for kids, again made in Finland. The name of the software is “Matematiikan Linna” and it’s apparently published in 2004. This one says as its operating system requirements “Win 9x, Win2000, WinXP”, so it probably should work fine on my Windows 7, then.

It is apparently a math education program for preschoolers and school starters.

The first thing which caught my attention on and in the box is the apparent paranoia of the publisher: I see five different places where the copyright is stated, with either a simple “all rights reserved” or a longer text which tells that one can’t copy the program or apparently anything else as it is copyrighted. Always a good sign.

I then inserted the cd into my computer and looked at which installation script I should run. There was a batch file called ‘asenna.bat’, that is, install in Finnish, and one directory, apparently containing the program. I, being the paranoid I am, looked at what the batch file really did.

I laughed out loud, because the installation batch basically just copies everything on the disc, the install batch file and the directory, to the root of the c: drive. This might work well in earlier Windows but even XP should not be used in administrator mode, so this might fail for regular users.

This doesn’t of course address the fact that Windows has had proper places to install software since the beginning, and even I know that the root of the c: drive is not┬áthe place to install new programs. Granted, many programs need administrator rights to be installed but that is just ridiculous.

I then used some directory I had access to and which was meant for programs and copied the software there. I tried to run it next. Did it work?

Of course not. I could see the splash screen (which again told me not to copy the software, or else!) and got to the main menu, but after I tried to do some of the exercises, I only got an error for a missing DLL and a crashed program. I tried it a couple of times but after seeing the same thing again and again I just deleted the program.

I admit that I saw the DLL in question in the directory, and as I don’t know Windows that well, there probably is a way to get the program to see the DLL and use it properly. I just don’t want to spend my time to do it as the program makers should’ve made a proper installer to the software – I think in 2004 software developers could well assume that Win 9x is not used anymore and maybe, just maybe, they could assume that people want to install the programs to Program Files. Maybe.

I just don’t know how these did get published. If I got the math program as an exercise program in a university, I’d just grade it as a failure, because it just doesn’t do what it should and doesn’t display any knowledge of the platform conventions. At work that just wouldn’t do at all.

I think these companies are small, probably just one or two people and they don’t really know that much. What I don’t get is how they did manage to publish something, because that needs at least some capital. It might have been their own money because I really can’t see anybody putting any money in this.

Also the marketing angle is somehow lost on me. Moomin games of course sell easily, but for the math software there’s really nothing to recommend. It’s badly made, from what I could see and it even doesn’t work. I don’t want to boot up my XP to see if it works better there, but if it was done correctly it’d run in W7.

Of course I had enough energy to write this rant, but bad programs make me angry and that gives me energy.