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Update News for February 2012
Here is a quick run-down on what you will find in this bulletin:
These topics will be dealt with in more detail throughout this bulletin.
It is worth nothing that Canadian subscribers have had some of these changes for the last couple of month as we released the newer Windows program earlier in Canada than we did in the U.S. Having said that, the following is a nice summary of what has been going on.
The newest version of the Windows program, which we released in January, represented some pretty serious underlying changes to the software. We were hoping that no one noticed anything and they didn't. Mission accomplished.
The software was produced by the newest language compiler provided by our language supplier. Every time that we update a language compiler there are always things that a new compiler doesn't like about the old source code, and so we inevitably have to make changes to accommodate the new compiler. Sometimes that can create bugs where there were none before and so we try to be cautious. Fortunately the new version we released in January worked fine and no problems were reported.
There was one change that we think made a handful of people happy. The flashing red choice for "Compulife Mobile Quotes" is no longer flashing. Certain versions of the Windows operating system made that flashing pretty wild, and it was driving some customers crazy. That's over with and we will avoid the flashing red in the future.
The reason we had the Mobile Quotes option flashing was that it was a new option/feature in our software. The flashing was intended to highlight the new menu choice.
The new Mobile Quotes selection allows you to find a link to your Mobile version of Compulife (assuming that we have activated it; if you need it activated it's a free option) and also allows you to link to your Mobile Control panel where you select which companies you want to include in your mobile quotes.
Compulife's Mobile Quotes allows you to run Compulife on any of the new smart phones or smart pads. Because you use your browser and it is web based, we are not stuck having to provide software for a variety of operating systems that run on these competing devices.
The problem with a browser version of Compulife is it is much more difficult to create the functionality of the Windows program, meaning that the mobile version must be simpler. What really complicates development for browsers is the fact that different browsers handle exotic programming code and functions differently. Even worse, a new version of a browser may not run something the old version of the browser handled fine.
This is why we end up having to change our source code when our Windows language supplier gives us a new version. Inevitably some new feature was added, or some old feature changed, that alters the way the code that we wrote functions. Of course our Windows language compiler takes our source code and compiles it, meaning that it will work the same on all windows systems. Web based code written for browsers is different.
Browsers are much more like the old days when computers ran interpretive languages, such as basic. The source code was supplied in raw form, and the language interpreter actually worked through the code as you ran the software. This is why compiled code is much faster than a browser based system. The problem was that different basic interpreters handled basic code differently. A basic program written for one didn't work or worked different than another. The same problem now exists for different browsers.
As long as the source code is pretty generic, most browsers will display the same web pages the same way. However, the minute you try to make it more exotic, problems of incompatibility begin to emerge. That's why we keep our mobile version simple, and why every time that we attempt to add a new feature, it can take a long time to try and make it function with everyone's browser. And we certainly don't want a situation where we have tell some people that their particular browser is not supported. That sort of response drives people nuts. So far, our mobile version works fine on every device out there.
The reason the quotes for the mobile version are fast, is because the hard work or looking up companies and rates, and producing premiums, is done by our internet engine. This is a C++ program, compiled for use on a Linux web server. So the hard work is being done by a compiled program, while only the user interface is handled by your device's browser. All in all, it's a nice solution.
The newest version of our software also separates out the Compulife Mobile Quotes option into a separate program. Our problems with the Norton anti-virus software seemed to begin after we introduced the Mobile Quotes option. I was suspicious that Norton was reacting to something in that new code. Our programmer insisted there was nothing to react to, but I remained suspicious that the very fact that we had a feature that let you copy Compulife to a flash/thumb/memory drive, and then be able to copy from that drive back to another computer, may be interpreted by Norton as an attempt to copy a virus from one computer to another.
IMPORTANT: There are NO viruses in the Compulife programs and there never have been viruses in our software. The same programs that were setting off Norton did not set off a host of other virus software products which are superior to Norton. For those interested, we explained the problem in our special bulletin: www.compulife.com/nortoniscrap
There are other software vendors, much larger than us, who have encountered the same issues with Norton. AVG is another software product that gives us trouble from time to time. If you want to read what we recommend for virus software, read the above referenced article.
Having moved the Compulife Mobile functions to a new, separate program, we discovered that Norton stopped complaining when we updated the Windows program. Whether it was them finally getting their act together, or the new separated programs, we can't be certain. But the problem seems to have settled down.
NOTE: Copying Compulife to a flash drive is not an automatic function. In order to do it you must select Compulife Mobile Quotes from the Red Master Menu, and then select and execute the function yourself.
On another note we have also decided to try out a new user interface with the Compulife Mobile Quotes Option. If you select that option you will notice a new menu that looks and works differently. It does so because the software used to create the menu is different from the main program. We think that this will be the user interface that we will use for the new version of our Windows software, which we are now working on.
When it is ready, near the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013, the new edition of Complife will be called CQS.EXE (short for Compulife Quotation System). Eventually CQS.EXE will take the place of GOWIN.EXE. CQS.EXE will interface with the new data structure that we are currently working on, and which must be finished first.
CQS.EXE will have a new look and feel, although functionally it will be the same as GOWIN.EXE which is our current program file. Having said that, it will be a new program to go with the new data structure.
The benefit of the strategy is that once we roll it out, we will continue to service old and new editions of the software. You will get the new CQS.EXE with its new data files, and you will also get GOWIN.EXE with its old style data files. Both editions of Compulife will continue to be updated with the latest rates and changes. Both will be offered for a period of time to ensure that the new version is working perfectly and is bug free. Only after we are certain that the new system is doing everything the old system did, will we stop supporting the old version.
This is the same strategy that we employed when we went from DOS to Windows, and it made the transition seamless. It's more work on our end, but it ensures that subscribers have access to software that is bug free through the transition.
I have been meaning to talk about this for a long time, and there always seems to be other things that are more important that require attention. so here are some tips (not meant to be taken too seriously) that will help you have a better technical support experience when you need assistance.
Essentially there are two people at Compulife who do technical support: Jeremiah and Bob (who is writing this).
Now everyone loves talking to Jeremiah because Jeremiah is much more patient than Bob, much younger, and just a really nice guy. Bob on the other hand, seems to make some people unhappy. So the point of this discussion is to help you to better understand Bob, and to help make your technical support call go better if you get Bob.
NOTE: Once Jeremiah reaches age 58 and has been doing telephone support work like this for nearly 40 years, he may become more like Bob. Therefore, the following tips will also make your life with Jeremiah better and will help him be a nice guy for many years to come.
Further Note: Before he started Compulife 30 years ago, and before he sold life insurance, Bob was a parts man for automobile and tractor implement dealers. Answering the phone, and helping customers solve problems, was no different than now. Bob is used to juggling 3 telephone lines at a time.
You will note, by comparison to Jeremiah, that Bob is much more in a rush to fix your problem. Bob's goal is to get through the call, solve your problem, and get back to other work quickly. It's not because Bob does not like you. Bob knows it's only a matter of seconds before a second phone line is going to ring, with someone else wanting their problem solved. Bob wants to make sure that the next person does not have to sit on hold waiting for service (everyone wants service RIGHT NOW; yesterday would be better).
Therefore, if Bob tries to get to your problem quickly, don't take it the wrong way. The other benefit of getting you fixed quickly it that you will also get back to work more quickly, which for most agents is important. We do realize there are some folks who would would rather do something other than work, but we are not really here for them.
When it comes to actually discovering your problem, the first tip is that Bob generally does not want to hear a long story about how your computer and Compulife were working just fine yesterday, but today it's not working, and he certainly doesn't want to hear all the things that you tried to do to fix it. Remember, there is a 99.2% chance that Bob (and Jeremiah) have heard about this kind of problem before, and we already know how to fix it. How you tried to fix the problem yourself is most likely irrelevant to actually fixing it.
Note: This is why we don't want you to struggle with a problem too long yourself. If you need help, call us toll free. It's part of what you pay for and you should take advantage of it when you need it.
Just tell Bob what the Compulife is doing or not doing it. Once he hears it, he will start to ask you questions.
Bob's questions can sometimes sound like interrogation and this can be very disconcerting to some people who do not like answering pointed question. Don't take it personally. Bob has learned, after years of doing this, how to ask short, simple questions intended to zero in on the problem. He may sound like Joe Friday of Dragnet and he may not sound very diplomatic. You may be tempted to wonder why he is asking the question, but really, that's not important. When Bob asks a simple question, he just wants a simple answer to THAT question. If you give him an answer to a question he didn't ask, he is likely to ask the original question again. That can sound like nagging, but it's not. Bob can't fix your problem until he has the answer and Bob just wants to fix your problem.
Once you have answered the question, and once Bob is certain what it will take to fix the problem, Bob will then ask you to do something in the Compulife program or on your computer. Bob is really not interested in your suggestions about alternatives to what he is asking you to do. In fact, if you suggest too many alternatives, Bob may ask something like "You never served in the Marines, did you? This is code for you don't do what you're told very well. It means Bob is becoming impatient. (Note: Bob was not in the Marines but loves all Marines).
This can cause some subscribers to be very offended. We apologize in advance for Bob, he is not trying to offend you. It's important to remember that you called Bob because he's the expert, and he knows how to fix your problem. All Bob wants to do is fix your problem so please help him do that.
It's also important to remember that Bob is the President of the company, and you are not talking to some guy in India, who doesn't know much about the product that you need fixed. Like you, Bob hates talking to third party people who have been hired by companies to deal with product problems. Actually those companies don't really care if your problem is solved, they just want someone to "handle you". Compulife is not interested in handling anyone. We want customers to be happy, and able to function problem free. Bob believes that it is important to Compulife's customers to have their problems fixed by competent staff who actually know how to get the job done quickly. Bob doesn't want you to get a run around, he just wants to fix the problem.
It's also important to remember that Compulife has thousands of customers and generally we never hear from our customers unless they have a problem. So all Bob hears, during the day, hour after hour, are people with problems who think that there should not have been a problem in the first place. There's nothing wrong with that, it's the nature of technical support. But it's just one more reason Bob wants to focus in on what the problem is and fix it. If he seems in a rush, it's because he would rather have the problem fixed already.
I share all this to underline that Bob really, really appreciates your business and wants ALL subscribers to be completely happy. If you end a technical support call with Bob wondering if Bob is having a bad day, or is just a jerk, please remember that his objective was and is simple: Bob wants to fix your problem. If the technical support process was not a happy one, we are sorry. Please don't take it personally and we value your business highly.
And just one more thought: At least we are not the IRS.
We have finally turned our attention to some important maintenance work that is needed to the data entry systems. Those programs have not been updated for quite some time, and some need to be converted to take advantage of the newer programming compilers that we have been using for the Windows software that we already distribute to you. Our goal is to make it easier to program future software, which will ensure that we can roll out changes and improvements more efficiently.
Further, having reviewed where we are heading over the next few years, and the changes that we would like to be able to make in the future, we have decided to stop and do a much more extensive overhaul than simply changing our data entry software. We have determined that we would also like to implement a better data storage structure that will make maintenance easier on both a data entry basis, as well as a programming basis.
To achieve our goals in this regard, we will be spending a fair bit of time reviewing our new data storage needs, and then building conversion software that will convert our existing data files into our new data file structure. Once we have done that, we will then introducing new comparison software that does exactly what it does now, but which derives its results from the new data structure. In other words, you will end up with a new program that does exactly what the old program did/does.
Once this first stage is completed, we will have both old program and old data, with new program and new data. Moving forward we will use the old data entry systems to maintain the old version, then converting old data to the new data forms for general distribution.
The next stage is to create the new data entry systems that talk to the new data format. Once we are satisfied that the new data entry system give us everything that we have now, we will then switch to the new data structure alone. We will only do this once we have thoroughly tested the new software to ensure it gives us no problems in maintaining the date. This may take several months. As far as the part you use, by the time we make that transition, you will have been using the new software for several months.
To summarize, the current Compulife program is called "GOWIN.EXE". The new program, when it is ready for you to use, will be called "CQS.EXE". The objective is to have CQS.EXE do exactly what GOWIN.EXE does, and only after that has been thoroughly test, and we are certain we can maintain the new data structure directly, without the need for data conversion, will we move over to the new system. Until that happens, you will have both programs in your system. This is no different a transition strategy than when we took our DOS software to Windows. Those who have been subscribers for years, will remember that transition and how relatively smooth it was.
The point of sharing this with you is that the process will be quite lengthy and so from this spring throughout most of 2011, you will not be seeing many changes and improvements to the software that you use, even though the underlying foundation will be going through a massive change. Once the foundation has been reconstructed, and all the tools to work on the foundation have been built, the program will be in a position to make some substantial moves forward.
Think of it as transplant surgery, where you need to keep the patient alive and well, at the same time as you are swapping out the organs.