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The Simple Mind

If you're familiar with the major vendors' install-builder programs, you know that they're practically application platforms in their own right, letting you script powerful programs to manage files, run logic, tweak the registry and more.

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Advanced Installer lets you install Windows programs on the cheap.

But for those who just want to get installed Windows programs, Caphyon has brought out Advanced Installer. Only Windows MSI is supported, and you probably won't be writing construct-a-Mars-rover scripts in it. But it uses Microsoft's Windows Installer technology, which buys self-repairing installs and rollbacks, registry entries and the usual installer goodies. With Advanced Installer, you don't have to compile your install until it works; it's more like incremental compilation in Eclipse or Visual Studio, where problems are detected with each change you make.

Prerequisites are the bane of installers: Do you install them regardless of what the user already has? Ask the user and accept broken installs if they're wrong? Advanced Installer not only detects the absence or prerequisites, it can download and install them automatically.

The Java version of Advanced Installer lets you bundle a Java runtime environment with your install, and creates an EXE launcher with an instant-on, customizable splash screen. Caphyon also points out that you can associate Windows file types with your specific executable; you don't want to do that with java.exe!

Recognizing that tools don't exist in isolation, Caphyon used XML for the installer project files, so that you can store them in your revision control system and manipulate them with your existing tools. And the Installer can be run from the command line, so you can incorporate it into your existing build process.

Advanced Installer Pro starts at $149, while the Java edition is $199; volume licensing is available for both products.

Caphyon LLC, 2017 California St., Ste. 1b, Mountain View, CA 94040,

-Rick Wayne

Nothing Draws Flies Like Success

As a software developer, your meals and house payments depend on one of two propositions. If, like me, you're paid to invent things and give them away, well and good. If, on the other hand, you're paid to invent things and sell them ... well, they're only salable if they're scarce, and they're only scarce if nobody else can make them. Which means that anyone who can reverse-engineer your code can help themselves, in effect, to your meals and your house.

If that prospect troubles you, have a look at SoftComplete's EXECryptor. Despite the name, it doesn't rely on encrypting the executable as such. A good thing, since code must first be decrypted when using that approach, leaving the savvy cracker with an avenue of vulnerability.

Instead, EXECryptor is more properly an obfuscator, ballooning the binary code into an undecipherable mess, several times as long as the original and bearing none of the usual landmarks like readable labels or subroutine names. Sure, the binary is bigger, but what of it-unless you're writing bloatware, disk space and memory are cheap enough. EXECryptor starts at $99.

SoftComplete Development, 101-1001 West Broadway, Dept. 381, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6H4E4,


Tome Tally: XML to Unit Tests

Were this 1996, Elliotte Rusty Harold would be a "leading XML advocate. Today, XML needs advocates like programmers need card-punch operators. But that's not to say that we can't do better with it, and Harold-who was a leading XML advocate, and is a leading expert on it-is just the fellow to tell us how. In Effective XML (Pearson Education, 2004), Harold presents 50 specific imperative rules for improving usage, and cogent reasons why, ranging from "Include an XML Declaration to the likes of "Build on Top of Structures, Not Syntax. Some of the rules will seem a bit esoteric to the front-line angle-bracket cruncher, but others, such as "Reuse XHTML for Narrative Content, ring with simple good sense. Effective XML lists for $44.99.

Test-driven development, with its emphasis on programmer-written unit tests, is an effective practice, as I can personally attest (sorry). But in the blitz of publicity on unit testing, it's important not to lose track of the big picture, and Software Testing Techniques (Charles River, 2004) supplies that perspective. Subtitled "Finding the Defects that Matter, it points out unit testing's niche in the larger ecosystem that includes function, system and performance verification testing, integration testing and service testing. Authors Loveland, Miller, Prewitt and Shannon discuss how to incorporate testing into various development models, and give real-world advice for setting up a good development/test culture and providing it the process necessary to find the bugs before your customers do. Software Testing Techniques is $49.95.


Stars in the Studio

If you live in Visual Studio, here are a couple of add-ins that remove some of the need to crabbily emerge from it.

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Advanced Installer lets you install Windows programs on the cheap.

Axosoft's PowerTrack is a defect-tracking system that lets developers keep their to-do list up to speed. Now, it integrates with Visual Studio, so that they don't have to leave the IDE to do it. The add-in sports workflow displays a folder view of projects and features so that you can navigate visually as well as by query. You can attach files or images so that people don't resort to file sharing or e-mail-everything slots neatly in one place. Individual users can download the PowerTrack add-in for free; multi-user packs start at $49 per user.

If your organization has adopted MKS, you're already reaping the benefits of its integrated change-management and workflow tools. Now, the Integrity Manager worktray plugs into Visual Studio to give you access to Integrity Manager without ever leaving your IDE. Integrity Manager licensees can download the add-in at

Axosoft LLC, 8600 E. Anderson, Ste. 212, Scottsdale, AZ 85255, Tel: (800) 653-0024,

MKS Inc., 410 Albert St., Waterloo, ON, N2L 3V3, Tel: (519) 884-2251, -RW

New & Noteworthy Editor Rick Wayne has way too much fun with Web-enabled ecosystem management software for the University of Wisconsin. E-mail him at [email protected].

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