A History of KeyStore Explorer – Part Three

KeyStore Explorer (KSE) has existed, in one form or another, since 2002. These days it is a freeware offering but it has not always been that way. KSE started as an open source project before morphing into a commercial project. It is only relatively recently that it was re-licensed to be free for all to use once again. As the utility is now almost ten years old I feel it is a good time to write a potted history of KSE.

This post continues from Part Two and concludes the history.

KSE Freeware

This history continues in late 2009. At the time version 3.4 of the commercial KeyStore Explorer (KSE) was under development but I was growing bored with it. Managing a business was losing its appeal and I was running out of ideas for new features.

First of all I resolved to close Lazgo Software as an enterprise so that I could reclaim the time it was taking to run it. However, before I could do that I would have to cease selling KSE. I was reluctant to go back to an open source model so decided to try something different again by making KSE freeware. This would allow me to keep the utility available to those who had paid for it and make it available to a larger audience without giving away my IP. After putting so much effort into the code I was reluctant to give it away again.

To differentiate the freeware version from the commercial versions I gave it a new major version number of 4.0. Despite the version jump the only difference between 4.0 and 3.3 was the inclusion of the minor features I had already developed for 3.4 and an absence of any licensing code. KSE 4.0 was released in April 2010. I started the process of killing Lazgo Software Ltd immediately after that.

With version 4.0 released I started development of 4.1. I wanted to see if I retained any interest in KSE now that I was free of the shackles of the business. The focus of 4.1 was to expand the selection of signature algorithms to include the various extended length SHA variations. This would be tricky as it would require an upgrade of the Bouncy Castle libraries and therefore the provision of a mechanism for users to upgrade their JRE’s crypto strength. I got some way through the implementation but it took many months to get there. Finally I simply ran out of steam. It was time to park KSE and come back to a decision on its future at a later date.

I took a break and dabbled in a few other pet projects instead. The most enjoyable was my time spent writing a turn-based zombie strategy game, inspired by the classic game Laser Squad, using Microsoft C# and XNA. That was great fun although I have never finished it. I did a lot of studying and dabbled in mathematics and meteorology. It was also during this time that I started blogging on topics including my experiences with scrum, agile and amateur meteorology. It was great having so much free time again. Nine months passed pleasantly without my touching KSE or deciding what to do with it.

Blogtastic

In September 2011 I picked KSE development back up again. I can’t remember why but I just had an urge one morning to start hacking away at it again. It was tough getting back into it after so long away. Nonetheless I quickly found I was enjoying it again. My enthusiasm for KSE was back and I resolved to get 4.1 out the door as soon as possible.

In the 18 months since 4.0 had been released I had noticed a marked increase in the number of downloads KSE was enjoying. It was a no-brainer working out why that was happening. An application will be more popular if it is free as opposed to paid-for. I reckoned that I may be able to leverage the application’s growing user base by combining it with my new-found interest in blogging.

The idea was to start telling users exactly what I had planned for KSE and to publicly invite suggestions for enhancements. Even if I ran out of ideas to progress KSE’s feature set a motivated user-base never would. In addition I could offer a beta test programme for 4.0 and get extra testing from real users. This would be a massive help to me if it worked out.

Using this blog I posted the development updates, invited users to submit enhancements and got a beta test program up and running. The reaction from users was pretty awesome. Many people gave up their time to test and submit bug reports and many more provided their own ideas to improve KSE. I have no doubt that the first beta test programme for 4.1 led to a better finished product. In addition the backlog of user submitted enhancements I am even now working through will continue this process of improvement.

Buoyed by the feedback I hammered through the remaining features of 4.1 making a final release available in March 2012. The expanded signature algorithm support was the main feature but many smaller enhancements were also included.

It is now May 2012 so that pretty much brings the history up to date. Work on 4.2 has started and is progressing well. Of the enhancements that will feature in 4.2 every single one is based on a user suggestion. I’m now confident that running out of ideas is no longer going to be an issue so I’ll be continuing development of KSE for the foreseeable future.

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