Marc Hughes

I am a developer from a bit west of Boston.

First AIR app to ship?

20 Aug 2008

This week, one of the projects I've been working on for the past year and a half ships.

Now, I have no idea if this next statement is actually true since I haven't done extensive research.  But TimeLiner XE may be the first AIR app to ship.  And by "ship" I mean the more traditional meaning of the word, from a warehouse, on a CD, in a box.

This is a product that I'm really proud of.  We had a really rocky start in the development process, but I ended up taking the lead of most of the project and we were able to deliver something that I hope will really help kids out in school pretty close to the originally planned ship date.  It's probably the most complex product I've ever worked on, and is definitely the biggest project I've managed.

For a little background, I work at an educational software company that sells directly to schools.  Because of the market, we generally need to produce our products on a CD, in a box, and with a (gasp) printed manual.  Sounds old fasion, doesn't it?

It's worth reflecting on the physical manifestation of software... It's amazing how much satisfaction you can get from actually holding that beautifully designed box that is meant to contain your work.  Just to know that it was someone else's job to go through iteration after iteration of design, and then someone else's job to put ink on a piece of cardboard, and someone else's job to assemble that cardboard.  All so the piece of software YOU worked on can be delivered to the customer in style.

The box is also great for those times when relatives ask what you do, and you can just point to that on your shelf and say "I made that."  Then they can look at the pretty pictures on the box, or even crack the manual to see more pretty pictures.  It's a lot easier to explain than giving out a URL to an AIR install badge or even giving a quick demo.

Unfortunately, there's also an impending feeling of doom when you realize that you don't get to update that software for a long time.  What if you missed some critical bug?  You lie awake at night wondering if you remembered to take out that September 1st expiration date that the Beta's had and you wonder if QA ever tested that.   Those CD's will last a long time and you can't just throw up a new version of a web page and make all of the old versions disappear.  Sure we can do downloadble patches, and sure we'll have a 1.1 version someday. But there is a certain feeling of permanency to the whole process.  I mean a major screwup means pressing new CD's and packing them, and paying for postage.  That could be thousands of dollars.

I'm not sure if I dare to go check that expiration thing now...