Mint: Why I like hosted software

I’m playing around with Mint, just because it looks so cool, but I’ve been having some trouble.

For some reason, I thought it was a hosted app. It looked so, you know, web 2.0, that I thought I’d just have to install some javascript on my server, and that would be it. That seems to be at least one way WebTrends works. But Mint requires installing on the same server that’s hosting your site, and it has to do PHP and MySQL, something that caused me some grief, because I’m on a non-standard server (AOLserver with OpenACS—let me know if you need help configuring this.)

The source code contains this nugget:

That’s right, I didn’t even try to obfuscate the activation code. I figure this way, if you do decide to remove or modify this bit then there can be no confusion—you’re not being clever, you’re just taking food off this honest, hardworking developer’s table.

This all makes sense, of course, except the activation code is precisely what was causing me problems. So after paying the $30, going through a lot of sysadmin pain, then I keep getting bounced back to the screen where I have to enter the activation code, and that is a little frustrating. In the end I did remove the verification, and everything worked just fine, but I felt really, really guilty doing it. And I’m a little scared of saying it out loud here, too.

But hey, I’m the honest, paying customer, and I’m pretty hard-working, too, and those were my hard-earned money I just handed you. And then you come and say I can’t fix your software so it actually works? Why do I need to be treated to this?

Shaun, how about just removing the activation code altogether? I think the way it currently is, you’re still insulting our intelligence. You have to spend time coding this, and it’s costing us time and grief when it doesn’t work, and we both know that. There’s got to be another way—just leave the notice, but not the code? Have an easy way to check if you remembered to purchase a license for this domain from the mint UI, for honest but forgetful types? Right now, it’s still the honest guys who get punished.

All in all, this does clearly illustrate some of the downsides to the non-hosted software model – the pain of install, the related support cost to the software maker, and the copy protection ritual.

PS! There was one other problem, which I also fixed, with the cookies being set for the wrong domain, so they didn’t work. It’s probably related in some path stuff it can’t figure out because of my non-standard setup. Oh, and once running it does look quite slick.


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