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Update News for July 2012
Here is a quick run-down on what you will find in this bulletin:
In Data Entry Conversion
These topics will be dealt with in more detail throughout this bulletin.
One phone conversation stood out in my mind during June. A young lady called on behalf of one of our subscribers. She indicated that she had received an invoice for $199 and wondered if her employer, who had been with us for several years, wasn't entitled to some kind of price consideration given how difficult things are economically, and how long he had been a subscriber.
I indicated that her call was very timely in that we had just announced, in the June Bulletin, our 30th anniversary specials. I explained that if her employer was enterprising, he could probably get 4 to 5 years of Compulife completely free.
She asked me to explain and I told her that if she could find two of his colleagues who were not Compulife subscribers, to each pay 50% of his cost for Compulife, they would each get their own copy of Compulife and his Compulife would be completely free - for up to 4 or 5 years.
At that point she indicated that she doubted he would be interested in finding a couple of friends interested in buying Compulife, and seemed annoyed that I would suggest such a thing. I was left to wonder why I was supposed to help her when she was not willing to help me.
I share that with you to underline that the 30th anniversary specials can help you significantly lower costs. I would encourage you to read this bulletin carefully, if you did not read June carefully.
Overall, we would love to drop the price for Compulife, we really would. We would much prefer getting $99 pear year from 6,000 people, than $199 from 2,000 people. While we think the profit levels would be quite similar (much more work to service 3 times as many customers), we much prefer having a product that depends less on any one customer. If you have a handful of big customers, and you lose one, it's a blow. If you have thousands of customers, and you lose one, the impact is far less.
But we have no illusions about the total number of agents who might buy this kind of comparison software. It's a smaller group than the total agent population - at any price. We got our hands on a huge phone list of agents once, and we started phone prospecting them. Most of them, it turned out, were State Farm and Allstate agents. Do we need to tell you how little interest those folks have buying life insurance comparison software?
And even among independent agents, it's not an easy sell. The reason is simple. You do not have to be a good business person to be successful selling life insurance. In fact you can be an absolutely horrible business person and still succeed in selling life insurance. What do I mean?
Most business people understand that you have to invest money to make money. The same is true for life insurance comparison software. It's an investment. What you pay for the software will return a profit in two ways.
First, it reduces the time you would otherwise spend shopping and comparing alternatives for your client. The problem is that most life agents don't think their time is worth anything, between applications. They think they work for nothing right up until they close a deal, then have a big windfall payday, then work for nothing until the next deal. Time is money. Optimizing your time will increase your profit.
The second way Compulife makes you money is that it helps you create presentations that motivate people to want to buy life insurance from you. An agent who claims to shop and compare, is always at a disadvantage by comparison to an agent who demonstrates he shops and compares. Multi-company quotes prove you are comparing alternatives, and consumers like that. Imagine how popular Consumers Reports would be, if someone opened the magazine and in the riding lawn mower reviews, the company only gave their opinion of one product from one company. That would be the end of "Consumer Reports".
But I have known agents who make many times back the cost of Compulife in sales, who will argue that the price should be less. Back in the early 1980's, when I was a GA, I remember agents who would visit the office, and take an hour of my time to try and convince me to pay an additional 5% in bonus. Some were relentless. I often ended the conversation by saying that if they would put as much time and effort into prospecting for new business, as they were doing grinding me for another 5%, then we'd both make a lot more money.
So the 30th year anniversary specials offer you the chance, the serious chance, to significantly lower your cost for Compulife. You can do that by splitting and re-selling your subscription to others. And who knows, if by some chance we have a serious increase in the number of customers as a result of your help, then maybe, just maybe, prices will come down.
But I'm not holding my breath.
The one area where we are seriously thinking about increasing prices is the paid listings at www.term4sale.com. In addition to every subscriber's free listing(s), we currently charge $1 per month for additional zip code listings (paid in advance to the end of the calendar year).
Some subscribers do not buy any additional listings while a small number of subscribers have purchased the maximum (5% of the total). Those who buy the maximum know what they are doing. One subscriber told us that during 2011 he spent $4,000 on listings with us, and believes it represented about $40,000 in additional commissions. Say no more.
Others don't even know/remember that they are listed. Imagine their surprise when their free listings hits (longer odds than roulette) and they suddenly make a significant sale from their free listing(s). The phone rings at Compulife and the subscriber wants to know what the heck just happened. We then explain the listing service and right away they want to buy more listings.
This year we have been pushing google adwords much more than in the past and we think it is paying off. We have been seeing a steady (not huge) volume of agent request traffic (consumers emailing agents) and we believe that if we can invest more in the campaigns, then we can increase the traffic. Google adword volume is all about what you are willing to bid in competition with others, for placing your ad. Success is also dependent on how clever your ad is but we think we are in pretty good shape there.
Anyway, how do we increase Term4Sale revenue? While we still want to eventually analyze individual zip code results more closely, to weigh out those that produce more than others, we think that we will introduce a price increase for 2012 that will be based upon "in-state" and "out-of-state" zip code listings.
Each person who subscribes to Compulife is located in some state, somewhere. In that state we will continue to allow you to buy additional zip codes, in your state, for $1 per month. However, if you wish to buy zip codes in a state where you are not located, then the cost of those zip codes will be $1.50 ($18 per year).
Before anyone panics, two things:
First, if you are doing a lot of business in a state where you are not physically located, nothing stops you from buying a second license to Compulife (at our bulk license discounts) and making a second state a home state. Not only does that second license give you free zip codes in that second state (2 for personal use, 3 for agency), it will then let you buy additional zip codes in that state for $1 per month.
And as a side note, you will recall that until October 31st you can split your existing subscription twice - for free. Agencies can split to 3 personal use subscriptions.
So if you buy a lot of zip codes in other states, obviously it would make a lost of sense for you to split your subscription to take advantage of additional free zip codes, and the in-state pricing for additional paid zip codes.
TIP: Don't forget you can extend your existing subscription for multiple years, at discounts prices. And remember, when you do that for your main subscription, you also do that for your splits. This means extending your right with respect to buying additional zip codes at the $1 level.
While increasing the price of out-of-state zip codes means you will have to pay more for less, it gives us more revenue to spend on advertising. More advertising should translate into more consumer contacts for everyone, a return on the investment.
But it also supports something else we have tried to do with www.term4sale.com. We use the site to emphasize to consumers that it makes sense to deal with a local agent - and we still believe that consumers are best served by a local agent who shops and compares life insurance. The change in listing prices will give local agents more clout in their own states, and those who list from outside will have to spend more or drop listings.
The result should be that everyone puts a bigger emphasis on listings in their own states. And those who spend $4,000 to make $40,000, will now have to spend a little more to continue making that return on investment.
As always, we welcome your feedback and we are happy to discuss it with you. You can call Bob Barney at (888) 798-3488 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We have been systematically providing the latest versions of our Windows software to our Canadian subscribers, and they received this latest feature in a midmonth update in June. By contrast we have been holding back on the U.S. side as we seem to have a rash of support issues each time we update our program files. A handful of virus software programs seem to interpret any change in a program file as "suspicious" behavior and some will even quarantine such files without asking. For that reason we try to avoid updating the Windows program unless forced to do it. In Canada this is more prevalent due to the fact that we quote joint life and changes to joint life calculation schemes often require us to modify key components in the program file.
This month we have added a new feature which we think many will like. The feature allows you to change the default face amounts (drop down list) that appear on your client screen. This will not be that big a deal for most subscribers, who have learned that you can click in the face amount field and enter any value you want. However, we think there are some agents who work routinely in smaller or larger face amounts, who may want to expand the defaults that appear.
This can now be done by going to the fourth button on the Red Master Menu "Manage Product Database". When you click on that button, a list of options is displayed. About 3/4 of the way down there is a new option titled, "Modify Face Amount Selection Values". Clicking on that option will display a list of the current default face amount values, which can now be modified or expanded as you wish. There is a total number of 30 different default face values allowed.
Once again, this is not being provide in the U.S. monthly update. Having said that, you can download it manually from this web page:
During June we sent our U.S. subscribers an email announcement about GI4Sale and a link to an evaluation web page. We invited feedback and we got some.
The most interesting feedback was from a distributor of the guaranteed issue product for Vantis Life Insurance. This fellow was quite eager for us to add his company's rates and provided us with sufficient information to get it done. He then went on to explain that his company/product was one of the few that was actually guaranteed issue, with no restrictions. He complained that there were other companies, who said they had guaranteed issue, but then wouldn't issue in all cases. He used nursing home residents as one excluded group for one of the carriers.
Needless to say, that was all news to us as we don't claim to be experts on the subject. But before we could get into the subject further, the H/O of Vantis called to complain that we were quoting their product and wondering how we came to obtain it. We advised that we do not require a company to provide us with information, and would publish company/products in our system as long as we could do so accurately. The company then pointed out that we were missing some state based restrictions on their product, and for that reason we were not quoting them accurately. We then pulled the product and invited the company to consider providing us the correct information. They are considering it.
In the meantime, we think we are in good shape for the 4 companies that we have at this point and so have made the system live. You are welcome to use it at:
Our standing offer still stands. If you are the first to provide us with rates we do not have, we will give you a 10% coupon which can be used against you next annual renewal of the Windows version of Compulife.
The www.gi4sale.com web site is for both agent and public use. Subscribers listed at www.term4sale.com are also provided FREE listings at www.gi4sale.com. If you have 20 listings at www.term4sale.com then you also have the same 20 listings at www.gi4sale.com.
We have been asked if these internet quotes of Guaranteed Issue products will be made available to customers of our internet engine. The answer is no and yes. We have no plans to provide this to our $99 per year customers (at this time). Those subscribers who actually buy the internet engine ($995 per year) will be allowed to obtain the guaranteed issue database of products in a couple of months (no charge). We first want to ensure that we have as many companies and products as possible, before providing it. The database will need to be run from a different data source on your server, and it will not be routinely updated with our Windows software. We will have more about that in future bulletins. In the meantime, everyone is welcome to use the free quotes at www.gi4sale.com.
We believe, for most subscribers, graded benefit products (Guaranteed Issue) should be a very rare sale. These products are over priced and have significant flaws in coverage for 2 or 3 years. They should be products of last resort, and we shudder to think that anyone is routinely selling them.
October will mark Compulife's 30th year in business. We started the Canadian Compulife in October 1982 and the U.S. Compulife in October 1987.
To celebrate the anniversaries we will be repeating two of the most popular "deals" that we have offered in the past. You will have until the end of October to participate, so there is no hurry.
We are calling the anniversary specials: "splits and top ups".
Keep in mind that you will be able to combine these deals but you will need to do your topping up before you do your split. After a split has been made, the split version cannot be topped up, should you elect to top up your own version.
The opportunities for you to save are BIG. Some will see the deal and capitalize on it. Many won't know what happened because they routinely don't read bulletins. Those who take the time to understand the opportunity will find a significant reward for a little bit of effort. And should you earn that reward, we want to say with all sincerity, we appreciate your business. You are the reason that we are celebrating a 30 year anniversary.
And for those who do not take advantage of the offers, we also appreciate your business and you too have made this anniversary possible. We just wish you knew how much we appreciate it.
The Compulife Subscription split, available between now and the end of October, permits you to split your existing subscription twice.
For example, let's assume that you have a personal use subscription for which you have paid $199. We will also assume that your subscription is paid to the end of February 2013. As far as Compulife is concerned, you now own two additional subscriptions, paid to the end of February 2013, and they are FREE. Those two FREE subscriptions are sitting here on the shelf at Compulife. You can assign those two subscriptions to someone else, but it must be done by the end of October.
To be clear, while you can't add those subscriptions to the end of your existing subscription, you can either give those two subscriptions away or you can SELL those subscription splits to other agents (who are NOT existing Compulife subscribers).
CAUTION: Before you do anything with your splits you should "top up" your subscription to make the splits more valuable. While we will allow you to combine top ups and splits, we will NOT let you top up subscription splits AFTER you have assigned the splits to someone else. Once you split, the split you assign is no longer your's, it belongs to the person you gave it o. Therefore, if you want to add time to your subscription and to your splits, you will need to top up before or at the same time as you split.
Back to our example. We are assuming that you currently have a personal use subscription to the end of February 2013 (9 months to go). With the split you now have 3 subscriptions to the end of February 2013, and you can sell or give away the other two.
Normally a subscription to February 2013 would mean you have 9/12's of your current subscription left. That means that it has a relative value of 75% of $199, or $149.
Suppose you went to two of your colleagues and said you could get them 9 months of Compulife at half price, and you collect $75 from each of them. You can then pocket the $150 and call in the two subscription splits for your two friends. We deliver the software for FREE and you pocket the money.
And your friends get everything a subscription comes with. They get the Windows software, the FREE mobile software, the 2 free listings at www.term4sale.com and the right to add Compulife quotes to their web site. They get it all.
Agencies who have a "standard" license to Compulife have two split options. They can either split that into two standard licenses, or if they prefer, 3 personal use licenses. Once again, a GA subscriber can give those 3 personal use subscription splits for FREE (nice bonus for your best brokers) or can sell them for whatever they like.
Agencies who have bulk copies of Compulife can still split their bulk copies, but the splits are 2 for 1. That means for every two sub-licenses that you now have, you can issue a free split. If you have 20 sub-licenses, you now have 10 that you can give away. Make sure you send us the list.
As there are no discounts for multi-year payments for bulk purchases, the splits will last until the end of the current paid year. Having said that, the basic standard license can be split as we discussed earlier.
We will allow subscribers, between now and the end of October, to "top-up" their subscription to Compulife. As you may, or may not know, the longer the subscription to Compulife, the more you save. Here is our normal retail pricing by the year:
Personal Use Subscription
The subscription top up lets you take advantage of the multi-year discount NOW, even though you may have only paid one year at your last renewal.
Let's go back to our February 2013 example. In that situation you have 9 months left to go. You now decide you would like to top up your subscription to three years. What will it cost?
First you have to top up to the one year period (add 3 months) at the $199 price.
$199 X 3/12 = $49.75. $49.75 will add 3 more months to your subscription and move your subscription renewal to the end of May 2013. Having paid the $49.75, you can now add the $150 for the second year. This means that you are now paying $199.75 ($49.75 and $150) and getting 15 months added to your subscription.
Now you can add another 12 months for only another $100. For $299.75 you can now add 27 months to your subscription giving you a paid-up subscription to the end of May 2015.
Will Compulife be around to take care of you until May 2015? Did we mention that this is our 30th year anniversary?
Occasionally we hear from a subscriber who complains that they can't buy a subscription for longer than 3 years. In the good old days we would let folks add a 4th or 5th year at the 3 year add-on price, but have not done that for some time.
But for the purposes of this deal, we are going to allow any subscriber, who has been with Compulife for 10 years or more, to add a 4th year at the 3 year add-on price.
Further, any subscriber who has been with us for 20 years or more, can add a 5th year at that same price.
Those going that long on a subscription sometimes ask what happens if they can no longer function in the business, due to disability or death.
While there are NO REFUNDS for Compulife subscriptions, subscriptions are transferable. If you or your estate sell your subscription on to a new party, Compulife will allow transfer of the license at no charge. We lost one of our subscribers this spring, and we permitted his widow to find a new user. Further we bonused the subscription back to when our subscriber passed away, and gave her ample time to find a new buyer.
Let's stay with the example that we have just been looking at.
Remember, a 3 year subscription to Compulife normally retails for $449. In the above example our subscriber topped up their subscription to a full 3 years by paying $299.75.
That subscriber now has two more 3 year Compulife subscriptions, paid to May 2015, and they are effectively sitting on the shelf here at Compulife. That subscriber can now give or sell those subscription to another two agents (NOT another existing Compulife subscriber), and the subscriber can charge the new subscribers whatever they want.
For example, let's assume the subscriber goes to two colleagues they know fairly well, tells them about how great Compulife has been, talks about how great the software works, the FREE mobile version for the Apple, Droid or Blackberry, and the two free listings at www.term4sale.com (remember, all that comes in the splits). The subscriber then points out that a normal 3 year subscription to Compulife is $449 but right now they can get that same deal for $300 each.
Our subscriber sells both splits and collects $300 from each agent, putting the $600 in their own pocket. Compulife now issues two new 3 year subscriptions for FREE.
To sum it up, in this example the subscriber paid Compulife $299.75 to top up the subscription to 36 months, and then pocketed $600 when they sold their splits.
Is it just me, or is there some money to be made here?
Yep, we are always running into agents who don't know why they should pay anything to get comparison/quotes. Agents wonder why they should pay Compulife $199 per year for a multi-company comparison/quote system when their GA will give them quotes for free. We also get routine calls from agents asking some question about Term4Sale, wanting us to know that they have been using it for years and how much they appreciate it.
For those taking the free ride on term4sale, we explain that term4sale ONLY quotes term, while the Compulife program made for agents also quotes ROP Term and no lapse UL. Consider it, one decent no lapse UL sale, about once every 5 years, would easily pay for the Compulife during that period.
Even so, many prefer to free load and we benefit from the traffic. If you want to rank decently in search engines, you need traffic. When that additional traffic creates better rankings, the ranking create more traffic. All of this slowly but steadily increases volume. The big beneficiaries are the subscribers who are listed on term4sale.com, who can then sell the consumers who end up there. Remember, if an agent wants to be listed, they have to buy the software.
As for the agent's free ride at their GA (no offense to GA's) there is just no way the agent is going to see all the companies. If I was a GA, and giving free quotes to my brokers, I wouldn't give them quote products I don't distribute. Where's the money in that? So if an agent wants a complete overview of the market, then it's going to cost some money. Of course many don't really care, until they hit that one big sale, and get blind sided by an agent with a quote with a company that beat their quote. But that's water down the drain, or spilt milk under a bridge; you get my drift. Woulda, coulda, shoulda...
Then there's the term4sale free zip code listings (2 of them). Now anyone who has only the 2 free listings is not going to be overrun with consumer contacts, but every so often they are going to get a hit and make a sale. And it's always funny when we get the call from a subscriber who has not been paying attention, who suddenly, magically gets that contact and makes that sale. They're like a deer caught in the head lights (only in a good way). What just happened? Why did that consumer call me? What's going on?
We had one of those this month. The subscriber called to say he had just made a sale, and for the first time realized it was from Compulife because they got an email from term4sale. The subscriber didn't connect a previous sale because that time the consumer had phoned him. The whole thing is a sudden revelation and the subscribers has lots of questions. How did he get listed? He didn't know he had listings? Is there some way for him to get more calls? Some guys go nuts, they want to corner a whole state. We are always having to slow folks down.
At that point we start explaining all the stuff we've written in bulletins (they didn't read), about how listings are an additional $12 per year (a buck a month) and how the whole thing works. We then send them off to www.term4sale.com/zipcode to do some analysis and let us know if they want to add listings. After all, the more zip codes you have, the greater the likelihood that you will be contacted.
So as I say, we run into this "too cheap" problem all the time. Actually, we've been dealing with it for almost 30 years. And during that time we have come up with the perfect solution: give them the software for FREE. Bait the hook for 30 days, and let them earn another 3 months by doing some homework. At the the end of 4 months let's see if they can function without it. And if at the end of 4 months they don't think it's going to make them any money, we really don't want them as a customer.
So if you are talking to a prospective agent/buyer for your split, and they are moaning about how they don't think it makes any sense to pay money for comparison software, tell them you'll order them a 30 day free trial so they can evaluate it. Once they agree to that, emphasize that if they do the tutorial that comes in the 30 day FREE trial email, that they will get 4 FREE months of service.
Now this is the important part. Tell them to make sure that they get back to you before the end of October, because you can get them a super-duper 30th year Compulife anniversary special deal that will save them big money versus paying retail (wink, wink; nod, nod).
And last, but not least, not everyone who gets a trial buys. You should expect that you will need about 5 to 6 trials to make one sale.
Think we are kidding? Here's just how cheap they can be. We have actually had agents make a sale from term4sale.com during a 4 month FREE subscription, and then not buy the software. How do I know that? Because that same agent will call and tell me about it. They want to buy term4sale listings, but they don't want to pay for the software.
With that in mind, it would make sense for you to work with more than 2 prospects for your split. Why don't you pick 5 to 10 colleagues, send them each an email, and tell them you would like to order them a FREE trial. Tell them you have 2 Compulife's for sale, and the first 2 to jump on board will get the subscription at a discount; first come, first served.
We realize that most agencies probably do not have other agencies they want to split with, but many have brokers who would appreciate their own copy.
With that in mind, and in lieu of taking 2 standard license splits, you can have 3 personal use splits. That means you have 3 brokers you can give Compulife to for free, until the end of your current subscription (don't forget to top up).
Wouldn't that make a nice summer contest for your brokers?
You could give away one each during July, August and September, based upon production volume.
First the bad news. You cannot split a web version of Compulife. For example, many subscribers pay Compulife $99 per year which lets them have quotes on their web site. That option cannot be split to another broker. If you split your basic subscription to another agent, and that agent wants to put quotes on their web site, then they will have to pay the $99 per year.
Now the good news. Normally, when Compulife accepts payment for a multi-year discount, we also require that the subscriber pay for their internet option for the same period (for which there is no discount). We are going to wave that requirement for those who take advantage of the top up.
If you elect not to top up the Internet version, then a separate invoice will be sent to you when your Internet option comes due. At the end of the topped-up period, we will adjust the subscriptions so the anniversaries are once again aligned.
While there are no discounts for multi-year web quoting options, the reason for that is pretty simple. We reserve the right to increase the web quote option prices in the future and there is some likelihood this will happen.
We have introduced the web quoting software at $99 to get it out there in volume, and that has certainly worked. However, we think the price for the web quotes is probably a bit lower than it should be, and we are considering an increase in the price of that option in the not too distant future.
But you can lock in the $99 price for as long as your extended subscription, by simply paying the $99 per year for as much time as your basic subscription goes. On the flip side, if you have only a one year basic subscription, you cannot pay longer than that for the web quotes.
Work continues on the following, which we published last month.
This month, before beginning step two in our data conversion process (see last month's discussion which follows) we took some time out to review some of the new user interface tools that have been more recently introduced into the market. We felt it was important, before investing a lot of time and effort into this big new project, to see what other products language vendors are offering for creating user interfaces.
Our basic quote engine is written in C++, which is a very common, very power development tool for computer software. All our various and current product offerings, Windows, Linux, Windows Server, Palm and Windows Mobile, rely upon the same fundamental C++ language code in order to do the lookups and calculations in our software. C++ language compilers, for different operating system, are widespread. The C++ language is the most generic way for us to provide software for these different hardware systems.
The C++ part of the software is what we refer to as the Compulife "engine". When someone purchases our internet "engine" for use on either a Linux or Windows based server, they are for the most part getting the engine. The only thing that is added and compiled into the code is a thin layer of additional code that lets it interface with the html pages that talk to it. The engine can be called from a web based user interface (html) which passes to the engine the client variables. The engine then returns the results formatted by another user interface file called the template (more html).
The user interface that talks to the internet engine is written in html code, which is the same code that is displaying this bulletin. That code can either be plain and simple, or it can be a lot more exotic, all determined by the developer who is designing and manipulating the pages that talk to the internet engine. We developed our internet engine so that the most basic html code will work. While there is more exotic web development software than html, such software all respects and can talk in html, which makes our internet software super flexible and something that will work with just about anything a web developer wants to program with.
When we develop our own applications, that rely upon the internet engine, such as Term4Sale or the mobile or web quote options that we provide, the interface is always html based. For more sophisticated work we use PHP which is a more interactive, stepped up version of html. We keep it as simple as we can to ensure that the web based software will work well on all browsers in the market.
The problem with folks who develop with more exotic web based tools, and who create much more complicated web pages, is that all browsers may not run the pages the same way, or in some cases may not run them properly. The simpler the code, the better your chance of not having problems with different browers.
The html code is essentially what is used to create the "user interface", the part the user sees and works with. When someone clicks a "submit" or "compare now" button, the code calls our interet engine and passes to the engine the information it needs to calculate results. None of that is visible to the user, and because it is not visible, the user interface is external to our software. The part you don't see is what we call the engine.
All that to say that we are completely devoted to doing our engine work in C++; that is not changing. What we have been studying are tools for creating user interfaces.
In that regard the Compulife Windows software actually is a combination of both the engine and the user interface which is also developed by us. The Windows based user interface is compiled and combined with the engine into a single program file. That program file (GOWIN.EXE) will only work on the computer operating system that it was built for, in this case Windows XP or a newer version of Windows such as Windows 7. That same software cannot and will not work on another operating system, such as Apple or Linux. The only exception is for the user of an Apple or Linux computer who has installed a Windows run-time emulator that permits Windows software to be run on that computer.
When we build the Palm and Windows Mobile versions of our software, we had to stop and create user interfaces for those operating systems. Those programs do not work on anything but those operating systems and devices that use those operating systems. Of course no new devices being sold in the market use those operating systems, making that software defunct. We still support it (for now) because some customers still have those devices, but we will not be making any changes or improvements to that software.
And while Palm and Windows Mobile operating systems still exist in the market for new devices, those new devices are using new operating systems that do not work with the old software.
Which brings us to Apple. If we wanted to program for an Apple, the problem is that we would have to develop a completely different user interface than the one that we now use for Windows. But if we did all that work, and got a product for Apple, we would be in trouble is Apple changed their operating system and it no longer ran the old program. We would have some customers who have the old Apple computers, still wanting to run that software, and other customers wanting new software for the new Apple computers. And Apple, unlike Windows, doesn't feel it needs to have old software run on their new computers.
The only alternative to having to do all that, would be to use a language tool for the user interface that could take the same user interface code that we wrote for Windows, and allow it to be re-compiled for an Apple. Our current tools do not allow that.
So the question we have asked ourselves is whether or not some other language vendor has created such a development tool that we could upgrade to. The answer is that there are several which purport to offer such tools. The next question is how good are those tools and how well do they work. Of course the sales folks will all say that their tools are great and work perfectly, but you really don't know until you actually spend some time messing with them and testing to see if they perform according to advertising. From our experience few ever live up to the advertising promises which is not surprising. Why do people buy Consumer Reports magazine? They buy it to find out which coffee makers actually make good coffee. Unfortunately Consumer Reports is not reviewing language tools.
And so that is what we spent some time doing in March. Our conclusion is that none of the most promising tools really do a better job than those that we are currently using. While some show promise for the future, at this point we have decided to stick with what we have.
This bulletin, and the next few monthly bulletins, may be of little importance for many subscribers. We are currently focussed on making changes to the software that we use to maintain the data in our system. If all goes well you should not notice anything for the next few months, perhaps a year.
So why bother you with any this? The reason is that we don't want you to think that we have slipped into a coma or gone on an extended vacation. We remain quite busy advancing and improving the software. The problem is that the work that we are doing now is not something that you will see any benefits from for a longer time, perhaps a year. So for those who are curious, we will try to let you know how it's going. For those who don't care; please carry on. If we do make a change to the software you use, it will be at the front of future bulletins.
In that regard the first small step of the data entry overhaul has been completed. We have taken our old DOS rate entry tool, and have now re-compiled it and have it running in a Windows 32 / Windows 64 environment.
That's right, I said our old "DOS" rate entry tool.
As we have tried to explain previously, most of our work over the past 15 years has been to enhance and modernize the quotation program(s) that our subscribers use. The main program is Windows based (GOWIN.EXE) and already runs quite nicely on Windows 32 (Windows XP and Windows 7) and Windows 64 systems (Windows 7 only). We also support Windows and Linux servers for the Internet version of Compulife.
By contrast, the tools that we ourselves use to enter and maintain the data files have largely remain DOS based. There was no pressing need to upgrade those because they have been working quite well. The old rule, "If it isn't broke don't fix it", applied quite nicely. However, it only makes sense to upgrade those old data entry tools at the same time as we are doing a major overhaul to the data structure. The overhaul necessitates major changes to the software, and requiring our programmer to make those changes using old development systems and tools is just the wrong way to go. No one wants to go back to a manual tools after getting used to working with power tools.
So the first objective was to get those old data entry programs re-compiled and operating under Windows 32 so that they will run on both Windows 32 and Windows 64. In that regard our old DOS software will not run in Windows 64, and because our programmer's development system works best in Windows 64, we needed to do an intermediate step. Conversely, the new Windows 32 version of the DOS software, which now runs in Windows 64, will not run in DOS. Therefore, the change that we are making means the new software will require us to say goodbye to running anything on a DOS based system.
No doubt you will think "it's about time" but for those who are familiar with the historical versions of Compulife, we still need/want to have the ability to work and function in DOS.
The reason is that all our oldest historical programs are DOS based. If we were to move everything to Windows 64 systems internally, we would not be able to do anything with those historical files.
You have the same problem if you were to order our historical CD for $99, which gives you monthly copies of Compulife back to the early 1990's. If you are running Windows 64, you cannot use/run those old DOS programs on a Windows 64 machine. Why? Because Windows 64 will not run DOS software which is why I personally still run Windows 32. Windows 64 can run Windows 32 software, but Windows 64 software will not run on a Windows 32 computer.
Our programmer runs Windows 64 because the latest development tools work better in that environment. And there is no doubt that all equipment will someday be Windows 64, so the time is right to move our data entry software to Windows 32, so that it will work in Windows 64. It is also easy to move Windows 32 software, to Windows 64 software, if or when that day ever comes.
Knowing that all this was coming, I had personally moved from a DOS based machine for basic data entry, to a Windows based machine, over 2 years ago. That Windows machine is a Windows 32 machine which happily runs the old DOS software. That system will remain Windows 32 until it has to be pried it from my cold dead fingers. That will let me work and operate in both the old and new world. Once everything is Windows 64, the old DOS stuff will be dead. We will have to keep some old computers around to run it.
On another side note, you should also know that our data entry system is isolated from the web. That is to ensure that nothing can get at it. Apart from protecting ourselves from theft of software, we are anxious to ensure that there are NO viruses in Compulife. Virtually all computer viruses today are web based and web transmitted. By isolating that machine from the web it means nothing can get to it.
The process of re-compiling software for a different operating system is always a pain in the butt simply because the code that was written for one OS (operating system such as DOS) always ends up being somewhat different for another OS (such as Windows 32). What we try to do with the various products that we support is to refine our code so that we make it as "generic" or "vanilla" as possible. That way, whether we are compiling for Windows, Linux or whatever, it requires few if any changes. It also ensures that the next operating system we choose to move on to is as pain free a transition as possible.
Of course that kind of refining has not been going on with the DOS based data entry program that we use in-house. In-house we control the operating system environment and don't have to worry about having multiple variations for multiple OS. Even so, now that we are going to convert from one data structure to another, it is important to upgrade our data entry program so that we can now use the latest language tools and compilers that we are now using for the Windows program that you receive. It also means less tools our programmer is forced to use, making his job much easier and resulting in higher productivity.
So the first step we decided to take was to convert the existing DOS tools to Windows 32. That is now done. But the new program really looks like the old program because it uses the same old-style DOS interface (the stuff that you see on the screen).
This takes us to the second step, where we replace the DOS interface with a new Windows interface (what we will see on the screen). This will take much longer, as menus and screens have to be re-constructed from scratch in a completely different environment. And this is the part where we slow down and take our time because the new Windows interface will let us reorganize the way that we work with the data on the computer screen. That will make the addition or change of companies and products much easier.
This re-organization is also important to get right as it will be the bridge between the old and new data structure (from the human point of view). When we do the third and final step in conversion of the data entry tools, the look and feel will remain the same. We will have the new look talking to the old data structure, and the same new look talking to the new data structure. The third step will change the way that the numbers are stored and managed internally.
We will also have a conversion system, letting us convert old files to new. But we can't trust one time conversions to include everything or be bug free out of the can. So, we will continue to maintain the old data, convert it, then make sure it works properly with the new program. Then, we have to test and ensure the new data tools, talk to the new data, and ensure there are no bugs there. Only after a few months of that process can we be comfortable in abandoning the old system.
Incidentally, the current (old) software is called GOWIN.EXE. The new software will be called CQS.EXE. CQS will do everything GOWIN does now but it will do it talking to completely different data files. For a period of time you will actually have both systems on your computer and we will maintain both, until we are completely certain that CQS is working flawlessly, and that the new data entry tools work perfectly.
As we have tried to explain, none of this will produce any change in what you currently have or see. The goal, in converting from old to new, is to ensure the integrity of everything that we have now, and to ensure that none of that is disrupted or lost when we move to the new system.
Once the changeover has occurred, our job of maintaining the data will be much easier. The new structure will then serve as the foundation for adding a lot of new feature and capabilities that will make the software better for you.
Some of the early benefits will seem subtle but you will find them helpful. For example, sometimes we have to duplicate a product entry to deal with state specific variations. With the new system such redundancy will be eliminated. State variations will be something that we can better control internally within a single product entry. Currently we can only manage maximum ages on a state by state basis, whereas the new system will eventually allow us to handle all sorts of variations by state. The benefit for you will be shorter/tighter lists of products without cryptic notes indicating the differences between the multiples of products stored.
Preferred plus product entries will be completely joined to preferred and regular product entries, cutting down the number of product entries in the system. While we have partially disguised this with our "product family" concept, there are still multiple product entries when reviewing lists of products and/or working with state/province approvals. That will be streamlined with the new software program.
The new data structure will also focus on eliminating rate duplication. In the U.S. YRT renewal tables are currently stored for each and every term product, even though many of those renewal premiums may be the same YRT tables for 10, 15, 20 and 30 year versions of term policies. Those YRT tables will eventually have their own storage system, and will be co-shared by multiple products, thereby cutting down duplication and storage. This means our rate tables will shrink significantly, making premium lookups much quicker.
We realize that some of this talk about "faster" may sound silly, given how well our software already performs, but as more and more of our software is used on internet servers, with multiple requests for quotes happening at the same time, the tighter and faster that we can make our data, the faster the software will run and perform, even under high demand situations. At the end of the day, no one likes to wait for something to be calculated and we intend to keep our software super fast.
Of course if anything needs to be addressed in the current Windows program, during this infrastructure transition period, we will see that it gets our immediate attention. But you can appreciate that right now we are not looking to make significant changes or enhancements to the software until the data has been fully converted.