Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet

EOL - End of Life

June 2008

By Mike Gould

Everything has a lifespan: people (wetware), hardware and software. Focusing on computers here, the lifespan of a piece of hardware is easy to determine. One day you hit the on button and nothing happens. Game Over. Sometimes a heart transplant (new power supply) or brain transplant (new logic board) can bring things back to life, but sometimes not and then it's time to buy a new box with wires attached to it.

But how do you know when a piece of software has died? Usually you can just re-install it or tweak its preferences or properties and it comes back to life, right? Well, sometimes even that won't forestall the inevitable. Software dies when it is no longer supported.

Thank You for Your Support
Supported means that someone is available to fix things as new situations arise, usually the manufacturer of the software. But what if the manufacturer goes out of business or simply stops providing support for the product? EOL.

One constant of modern technology is change. New stuff is created and has to be integrated into the current stuff. When the current stuff is old enough, it will start having issues with the new stuff and the conflicts will have to be resolved by you, your technical support person, or both of the above working with the maker of the stuff in question. Here "stuff" can mean either hardware or software, but we're talking software for the moment.

I talked about dead hardware back in 2002: see "A Trip to the Boneyard" below. And mondo thanks to the fine folks who ran the dead computer drop-off at Pioneer High School last month. It is great that people and businesses in the Ann Arbor area have an opportunity to recycle hardware that way.

Night of the Email Dead
Back to dead software. I am currently in the throes of this, as I am an avid user of Eudora email, and Eudora is dead. It still works, but its maker has stopped supporting it and it is beginning to show its age. Little things are failing, like filtering and spam detection. My problem is that I have a major investment in this: I have to keep track of email from 50 or 60 clients (in my web, photography and consulting businesses) so I have separate folders for each client. These folders are held in various other folders, separate from personal folders, which contain yet more folders for friends, family, and the like. The advantage is that I can instantly find messages from anyone, and track the threads of the various online conversations. The disadvantage is that the system is so complex, it doesn't translate easily into any other email application.

To make life even more interesting, my day job at the UM requires I use Entourage, the Mac version of Outlook, for job-related email. The problem there is that the Microsoft Exchange server that handle this doesn't play well with others (no surprise there - it's a Microsoft monopoly.). Most non-Microsoft email runs on servers that handle email in POP or IMAP flavors (which I could explain, but then your mailbox would explode) which are open to any of the various client email readers out there. Yeah, I could access the Exchange server via the web, but that is tacky beyond words (although I have expended words on this - see "Flavors of Email" below).

So I am gradually weaning myself away from Eudora at work, using Entourage for Exchange-based email and Apple Mail for everything else. I could go on and on about my little email problem, but the point is that Eudora is dead and I have to pick up the shattered pieces of my life and move on. I think my strategy will be to start over with Apple Mail and use Eudora only when I need to look up some old piece of email. This I will do RSN (Geekspeak: Real Soon Now).

Ceased and Deceased
Another bit of software that recently ate dust is Adobe GoLive. This is a web development application that has been on life support since Adobe bought Macromedia back in 2005. Macromedia had its own web builder, Dreamweaver, which has been pretty much the standard web tool for those amateurs too lazy to learn XHTML and CSS (a bit of snidery there from a grumpy old hand-coder with an attitude).

Dreamweaver CS3 has been edging out GoLive steadily in market share and general respect, so it is no surprise that Adobe finally pulled the plug. Adobe will continue to support GoLive for a while, but users of that program should read the writing on the wall and start planning to switch to Dreamweaver (or grow a pair and learn XHTML - harrumph). There is also an upgrade option for GoLive users to migrate to Dreamweaver for $200, and tutorials to ease the transition. For more info, see the Adobe page below.

This is not the only fallout from the Adobe purchase of Macromedia: Adobe retired Macromedia's drawing app Freehand in favor of their own Illustrator CS3. This was another pain for me, as I have a few Freehand drawings I can't open any more. Ditto the technical drawings I did in Canvas, as Mac support for that has ceased (although I did find a devious work-around for opening those, but that's another story).

Bottom line for bizfolk: stuff dies and this includes the software you use. You need to be aware of changes in the computer landscape and prepare for such transitions. It may be a matter of backing up your files in universal formats (such as .jpg or the various formats used by CAD systems) instead of proprietary formats that may die along with the software that created them. "Save as" can save your behind later on down the road of software obsolescence.

More info:

"A Trip to the Boneyard":
http://www.mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.57.shtml

"Flavors of Email":
http://www.mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.100.shtml.

Adobe Dreamweaver migration:
http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver/switch/.

Mike Gould, is a part-time mouse wrangler for the U of M, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Consulting/Digital Photography mega-mall, is a member of Factotem.com, and welcomes comments addressed to mgould@mondodyne.com.

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