Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Weekend full of Stress

Chicken farmers were very enthousiastic about my EggBoxer and I was making quite a lot of sales, when suddenly a disaster hit us all: The EggBoxer stopped to work! Immediately it started raining IMs from disappointed customers. And I rushed to find out what was wrong.

Well, that did not take very long: It soon became clear that Sion, the creator of all these eggs and chickens and the "proteggtors", had decided to change the password that was used to encrypt the details that are displayed when an egg is put into a proteggtor.

The EggBoxer, of course, NEEDS this encoded data to be able to store all the information. There is no other way to get it, because the eggs have a lot of cool features, but an API (Application Programmers Interface) is not one of them. For some reason, Sion does not seem inclined to make it easy for other developers to create accessories for his products. (I don't see a reason for that, an open interface would in my view only ADD to the success of his products...)

Of course I immediately decoded the new password and found out it was a sentence in plain English text, that was a direct threat to sue anyone decoding it! Amazing! Sion's non-co-operative attitude to other developers was clearly not by mistake, it was a company policy.

Meanwhile the farmer's group discussions were of course fizzing with activity about the EggBoxer and speculations of what had happened and why and how. And this was not just a technical debate, the legal and ethical implications were part of the discussion as well. Some people considered it wrong to decode the encrypted messages, but the majority of the farmers just wanted the convenience of boxing their eggs without the tedious and error-prone hand-copying the color codes on their screen into a more usuable form.

I soon had a new version (1.45) of my system ready to be released, but I was hesitating: There was the threat Sion had hidden into the new password and there was of course the possibility for him to keep changing his password every day, making the development of accessories into an arms race instead of a normal business.

Of course I IMmed Sion to have a talk with him, but he did not reply.

Then, towards the end of the weekend, an official announcement appeared. Not from Sion himself, but sent to the chicken groups via other people: Sion had come to the decision to make the password public, so that everybody would be able to use it for building accessories.

The password he published, was the original password, that was already built into my system. And the proteggtors that were sold from that moment on, were all using the old password again. No need to release version 1.45, no arms race, and an end to a stressful weekend.

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