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Buggy software

Entry 873 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

At the right side of the screen there is a link to the giveaway of the day website. The concept of this site is simple enough. For a day, and that day only, you can download a commercial software package and license it for free. The deal is: no upgrades, no support and in most cases no commercial utilisation of the program. What you get, so they promise, is a complete version with no trial version limitations.

Up till now I have only installed a couple of programs of the site, less than half a dozen in fact, as I only download programs when I need them. A minus of the system is that it is impossible to migrate the program from one pc to another or to re-install it after a crash (unless you have a mirror or if you have used an installation watchdog that can copy back all the hidden files and registry entries that were created during install). As others have remarked before on the forum: there is no point of downloading an all performing crash recovering program if the day that your pc really crashes you need to buy the software anyway in order to recuperate your data.

Another thing is that most software comes from dodgy companies, some of those can't even spell their menus right, who offer pretty useless utilities at exorbitant prices. Who needs a password generator at 29.95 bucks apiece anyway? The good thing however is that each giveaway of the day entry is largely commented by a horde of critical people who often point you towards freeware that does things better and has free updates.

A couple of weeks ago I was again tempted and I downloaded an English dictionary that would tremendously enhance my blogging skills. Alas, Typing Assistant only spelled in American English and not the Oxford variety of the language. And crazy enough it crashed several times in the most popular and widespread text editor around: Microsoft Word; switching once too often between programs resulted in a terrible messed up screen.

But to add insult to injury whenever I wanted to input an apostrophe - quite a commonly used sign in Shakespeare’s language I might add - the soft automatically replaced my typed letters with an unwanted entry from the dictionary:
here's was changed automatically into hereafter,
wont was distorted into wonderstruck; and
Ive miraculously transformed itself into interpretes.

I found out that the mistake was due to my exotic keyboard layout called azerty. The azerty keyboard, used in Belgium, France, Luxembourg and some parts of Switzerland has a top row that does not default to numbers. Top row numbers are only chosen with caps lock (or shift lock) on and when the caps lock is down the digits are not numbers but ampersand, hyphen, all those weird French letters with accents, brackets and so on. On my azerty keyboard (there are some different regional versions as well) the apostrophe is placed at position 4. To cut a long story short: although Typing Assistant rightly interpreted the 3 middle rows of my keyboard it failed to do so with the top row.

Because I still believed that the typing assistant had a valid function especially for non-native speakers I contacted the makers of the program. Although the giveaway number one rule says no support a reply came back sooner than I had expected.

It read.

We mainly target to English keyboard layout, because there are so many keyboard layout we can not research them each.

Free gift or not this answer does not entirely satisfy my soul.

In order to predict the right word this program needs to log the letter that has been triggered by a key and not the key itself (a mistake that was often made in dos days and that made games and programs quasi unusable for non qwerty users). In my opinion that is not a matter of a weird and exotic keyboard configuration but of bad programming. Period.

Some freeware typing assistants:
Let Me Type

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: GiveAway Of The Day 

Update (23rd of August 2008): The makers of Typing Assistant, Sumitsoft, have contacted me to test version 4.0 of their product. There were still a few bugs in that update but in two days time they came with a patch, taking care of all my Azerty-keyboard related problems and a free user license on top of it. Thanks guys.