Tag Archives: cd

Farewell to software on CD?

I currently offer a CD as an optional extra when customers buy my wedding table plan software. I have put stamps on so many CD envelopes that I might instinctively lick the Queen’s face if I ever met her. The graph below shows the % of sales that have included a CD over time.

% CD sales

The overall trend is hard to miss. Some factors have varied over that time:

  • I have stopped CD sales for periods of a few weeks at a time, e.g. near a new release.
  • I have emphasized CDs less over time on my purchase page.

But I don’t think these have had much effect on the general trend. Download speeds are always increasing and customers are getting used to buying downloads instead of physical media. Anyone with a broadband connection can now download PerfectTablePlan in a minute or two. The demise of CDs is hardly ground breaking  news, but I thought it might be worthwhile to show some real data.

I won’t really miss CDs. They are an extra hassle to organize and the profit margins are slim and decreasing. I didn’t want to use the ugly looking CDs in a cardboard mailer that print-on-demand CD companies offer. I didn’t really feel it reflected well on the quality of my software. Particularly in the wedding market, where aesthetics are important. Instead I send a full colour silk screen printed CD, in a DVD box with a professionally designed, full colour wrap and insert.

I order the CDs and packaging in batches of a thousand and burn and post them as required. I have managed to delegate quite a bit of this to a family member. But it is still a fair amount of hassle. CDs go missing in the post or get eaten by dogs. Also the UK post office recently hiked the cost of sending a CD + DVD case in a Jiffy bag by airmail from £2.10 to £3.86. A monstrous overnight price increase of 84%. But I don’t feel I can increase the CD price much above the current £7/$10 when you can buy game and film DVDs for less in the supermarket. The only plus side of CDs is that my data shows that customers that order a CD are 3 times less likely to ask for a refund (my terms stipulate that they have to return the CD). Given that refund requests are low, this isn’t a huge advantage. Also (repeat after me) correlation does not imply causation.

I might run an A/B test to see if removing CDs from the purchase page makes any difference. But, given that only around 3% of customers are now buying a CD, I can’t see it making much difference. If I was starting a new product now, I don’t think I would even bother to offer a CD option, unless the download size was huge.

Am I the only one still sending out CDs?

Sometimes the best way to recover Windows data is Linux

knoppixMy Windows laptop refused to boot into Windows. The ominous error message was:

Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:

\windows\system32\config\system

A quick Google suggested that the registry had been corrupted. I tried various things to recover the OS, including using the XP recovery console to manually restore a backup of the registry. It didn’t work.

No problem. I have a fairly paranoid back-up regime. All the important information on my laptop is also stored on my subversion server. I could just reformat the laptop, reinstall the applications (including subversion) and check out all the files again. Except that I hadn’t thought to include my wife’s files on the laptop in my back-up plans. Oops. After hours of making no progress recovering the data. I tried Knoppix. I got access to the data in not much longer than it took to download Knoppix.

Knoppix is a Linux distribution that can run from a CD (i.e. it doesn’t require installation on your harddisk). It is also capable of understanding Windows file systems. To use it:

  1. Download the latest Knoppix CD .iso file (approx 700MB). Note – The DVD version is much larger.
  2. Burn the .iso to a CD, for example using the free Active ISO Burner.
  3. Boot the stricken machine from the Knoppix CD. You may need to change your system to BIOS to boot from the CD first. How you access the BIOS varies between machines. On my Toshiba laptop you press F2 as the system boots.
  4. Drag and drop data from the stricken machine to a USB harddisk or memory stick. Or copy to another machine using FTP from Knoppix. The Knoppix user interface is easy enough to use, even if you haven’t used Linux before.

Note that you don’t have to enter your Windows password to recover the files. This brings homw how easy it is to get data off a password protected Windows machine, if you have physical access to the machine. Another good reason to encrypt sensitive data on your laptop, for example using the free Truecrypt.

Thanks Knoppix! I’ve added you to my mental list of worthy software causes to make a small donation to one day. Obviously you need access to a functioning machine to do the above. So why not make a Knoppix CD now, while everything is fine? You never know when you might need it.

Further reading:

Life hacker: Rescue files with a boot CD