Xpress-It and Vista

Tao,

I know your new life leaves virtually no time for further involvement in the Xpress-It project. That is a little bit of a pity, but you can still offer ideas and suggestions to move the project along. So can George, for that matter. George Bullock is a software developer loosely connected with Microsoft, and sort of moderates an online developer community. That gives him a good vantage point for identifying what options are available. George is also the guy who ‘magically” found a MSDN subscription for me so  he is aware of my limited financial resources.

Thanks to George, I now know that Xpress-It runs under Vista. It does, but there are three annoying issues that we (meaning me) need to address. The biggest is that our neat copy protection doesn’t work in Vista. To recap for George’s benefit, our current copy protection is based on accessing Window’s product ID, hashing it using a public domain public key encryption routine, and compared that to a previous encryption of the ID with our private key. I don’t remember if you found or wrote the little applet we use to expose Window’s product ID so it can be emailed to us for encryption, but I never got the source code for that applet. I did get the headers and library for the PD stuff. Nothing on the applets though. Of course, re-creating the two little encrypt/decrypt applets won’t be any problem for me. It does, however, open up an opportunity (and quite possibly a real need) to  replace the encryption. (Does anything come to mind, George?)

A second issue stems from a decision by Microsoft. We use the venerable .hlp format for our help files, and “Gatesville” has decided to retire that format with XP. Vista doesn’t intrinsically support it at all. Microsoft has reluctantly agreed to release a version of Winhlp32.exe for download. Yet, the message is clearly out to switch to HTML, compressed or not. I have found a free utility called HelpExplorer that should buy us some time. I don’t see any real problem to adding that package to our installation. However, the only real long-term answer is to find a good, free utility to convert our help files. Any ideas? A quick look didn’t turn up anything that caught my eye.

The third issue is an old nemesis. We’re still using the version of InstallShield that shipped with VS 6. That’s Windows 98-era tech that is becoming more and more difficult to use and support. Finding a replacement that even VS.NET 2003 will play nicely with would be a real step forward. The problem, as you well know, is that our installation requires just about every installation step you can think of. We go from copying files, to inserting registry keys, to adding an ODBC link. Yes, that last step is the toughest, and I don’t see any good answers on MSDN. Again, I’m looking for ideas.

Scott

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