Home Control Assistant Newsletter for June 12 2022

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.
A bit of philosophy and a cautionary tale

A few days back I heard a report on the increasing number of individuals starting small businesses. One of the stories was about an independent software publisher – a bit like me. While they were selling into a web-based market, several of the points in the story made me think about all the “hidden” costs even for an individual working alone and out of their home – I have an office separate from my home but still similar.

First, one must invest in software tools. Up until recently the Microsoft development environment was a heavy yearly purchase. Now it is free for the non-teams version so that’s fine. But InstallShield which creates the installers for Windows is remarkably expensive and one must keep that updated because Windows changes. Go look at the cost of code signing certificates or SSL certificates. Not only a PITA to jump though all the hoops to get, but expensive and a yearly renewal as well.

There are also lots of tools to get, and to support others as you wish to be supported, you actually pay for them and not use bootleg copies.  You need a good FTP program (I use SmartFTP), WinZip, and Port Forwarding Utilities to name a few that I have.

On the support side, TeamViewer is free for individuals but not free for businesses and TeamViewer gets used a lot to support users in the field. Another hefty yearly fee.

Next, unless you are an artist – and I really am not – one must get help from a graphic artist for in-app graphics and for a website. Graphic artists don’t come cheap. And, while they can create all that you want, it is a good idea to have your own software tools available – more cost – so that small changes can be made without going back to the artist and incurring more hourly charges.

The “must have” website is another area where help is needed. Sure there are lots of creation/hosting companies that endlessly advertise and say it is all so easy, but they can only do so much, and if one wants to stand-out and have a maintainable site, that’s another contractor to get. And there are hosting costs and domain registration to keep up with. And on that website: Videos of course. More software to help make those – screen record and edit.

Speaking of contractors: While I do my own documentation, most people use a professional writer, and it is almost always worthwhile. Add more contract work for areas that you can’t do yourself. I use a contractor for the mobile applications as that is an area I just don’t want to become a developer for.

Of course there is test hardware. Since I support Windows, I need to maintain several Windows machines each with a supported version of Windows so that I can test on each. Because HCA is an application that runs 24/7, I need to test 24/7 and on several machines. In my office I have 3 machines for development – Windows 8, 10, and 11 – and 4 machines running HCA for longevity tests. Hardware has gotten cheaper but still an expense. And let’s not forget the actual hardware to test with if your app interfaces with hardware. I have shelves of “stuff” to test with. And no, manufacturers rarely give hardware away even to developers.

Finally, there is the Cloud that almost all software uses. While I appreciate all that AWS and Google-Cloud does, each month the bills from them arrive.

Come up with a nice idea. Write some software. Sell an app. Income arrives, but it really isn’t that easy.

Life goes on. 

If you are using HCA with UPB devices and also use Google Assistant or Alexa for voice control of them, please drop me a note as there are some developments you may be interested in.
If you are using a version of HCA prior to version 17, you may have questions about the wisdom of upgrading to version 17 given the future of HCA. Here is something to consider:

The support policy for older HCA versions has been changed
 as I can no longer devote time to past version users. Support will only be available for HCA 17 users.

If you are on version 16 or earlier and want to continue using the cloud features and want to be assured that if you have a question that it gets answered, it is indeed time to upgrade.

HCA is fully operational for several more years so the update cost, spread out over that time, is very little. Knowing support is available when you need it is worth it.
Upgrade to HCA 17
Anyone who is using Hubitat with HCA – not SmartThings – please drop me a note as I would like to add you to a discussion list for those users. I have some Hubitat ideas that I would like to “kick around” and it would help to have a group of users who have experience with Hubitat. Please just send a note to the regular support address saying you would like to be added to that discussion list.
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