Goldenseal Pro & Mac Catalina (Sep 26)

Apple plans to release the latest version of Mac OS (10.15 Catalina) in October. It will not support 32-bit apps like the current version of our Goldenseal estimating/accounting software. They just won’t run.

This is not a surprise. The change was on the roadmap more than 5 years ago, which is when we started work on Goldenseal Pro. Back then, 5 years seemed like plenty of time to get it done. Unfortunately, the project was much bigger than expected. Our resources to finish it have been smaller than expected.

I apologize for the delay.

Catalina is a big release. Apple has been updating their own system code and apps from 32-bit to 64-bit, and it is not an easy process. Many testers are reporting that the beta versions have been very buggy. Odds are good that the first 10.15 release will still have some of those bugs. It’s probably a good idea to wait for version 10.15.1 or 10.15.2. Maybe even later.

In the past, the problematic big releases have been followed by a small update a year later, with code that is much more stable and reliable. Back in the cat era, Leopard was buggy, while Snow Leopard was fantastic. Ditto for Lion and Mountain  Lion, then Sierra and High Sierra in the current California geography era. It’s a good guess that next year’s 10.16 will be similar. Will Apple follow the same naming system and call it Santa Catalina?

Some Macintosh apps will never be updated to 64-bit. The previous updates to PPC, OSX and Intel chips each killed off about half of the small-to-medium Macintosh apps, plus a few big ones. Most likely the same will happen with this transition.

Frankly, if TurtleSoft had a time machine, we would hop right in and set the dial for 2014. Then hit the Undo button, retire Goldenseal, and do something much more fun than learning Cocoa and rewriting 2/3 of the code.

However, in the present timeline Goldenseal Pro is far enough along that we will finish it.  It does have some big improvements that we are eager to start using.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director



Goldenseal Pro Pricing (Sept 12)

From 1987 until 2000, TurtleSoft sold Excel templates for construction estimating and accounting. They were very profitable for about a decade. Demand was huge, because many construction businesses were just starting to computerize. Each template took a year or less to develop, so startup costs were minimal.

Unfortunately, templates also had problems. For one thing, Excel just isn’t designed to create easy-to-use apps. Users required almost four hours of phone support, on average, to get things running. Excel itself had a bug that sometimes zapped our code. Even worse, some things were just not possible to do in a spreadsheet. So, in 1993 we started writing a C++ app that later became Goldenseal.

Building desktop apps is hard. It took more than 10 programmer-years (and 7 real years) before Goldenseal 1.0 was ready to release. Template sales paid for the first 2/3, but the rest was financially scary. Between 2000 and 2015 we invested another 10 programmer-years in new features, bug fixes, and system updates. That got it up to the current version 4.96.

The hardest updates were for the Mac: moving from OS 9 to OS X, then from CodeWarrior to Xcode, then from PPC to Intel. Each transition took a few programmer-months. We hoped that the 64-bit update would be similar, but that was not to be. So far we’ve spent 4 or 5 programmer-years on the conversion. It’s in the home stretch, but Goldenseal Pro is still not finished.

As we inch towards completion, it’s time to think about how to price and distribute the new product.

For the past 32 years, TurtleSoft has used the same pricing model. You pay one up-front payment, and get a perpetual license, a printed manual, plus free lifetime support. Updates are optional, and not very expensive.

That worked fine when many companies were just starting to computerize. Unfortunately, the software industry has grown mature.  New users are scarcer, so it’s harder to get a steady income from first-time sales. We found that out the hard way in 2007 to 2010, when construction collapsed.

These days, Microsoft, Adobe and Intuit have switched to online services as a way to keep income more steady. You pay them a monthly fee to use their software.  Apple is also moving in that direction. It’s called SAAS (Software As A Service).

SAAS probably is not a good fit for Goldenseal Pro. For one thing, it takes time to set up. It also requires an Internet connection for users to retrieve data and/or the app.  Our main audience is builders and remodelers. They often are mobile, or rural, or on jobsites without steady Internet.

SAAS also requires providers to run a server farm, and worry constantly about security. Based on past history, it seems almost guaranteed that there will be data breaches and/or outages. We would like to keep the free support going, because it provides good feedback for future product design. And we really don’t want hundreds or thousands of angry users to be calling. We are just not big enough to run a totally bulletproof set of servers. Nobody is.

I didn’t start this topic with a specific solution in mind. It’s a bit of a dilemma. Where should TurtleSoft go from here? Comments are welcome.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director