Coffeehouse Thread

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Reflector, we knew you well

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  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Red-Gate just announced their descision to figureably poo in the dinner of .NET developers worldwide by charging $35 for Reflector coming from this March.

    I'll remind everyone that this is something we predicted back in 2008.

    Has anyone ever been annoyed by Reflector's polling of the update servers and refusing to run if an update is available? Well, no-doubt they'll use that pissy tactic to force everyone to "upgrade".

    Ever since Red-Gate took over I haven't seen any improvements in the product, and in-fact it started crashing for the first time (just from playing around with the Call Analyser tool).

    So the speculation is that Red-Gate is shooting themselves in the foot over this; all they'll do is spark the development of a fully open-source CIL disassembler. CIL isn't too dissimilar to Java's bytecode, and open-source disassemblers exist for those too. I'd volunteer myself, but I have other commitments.

    Of course, now that the .NET Framework's source code is readily available from Microsoft themselves the only thing I'll be prevented from doing is laughing at the horribly bad code I see in today's boring LoB applications and the occasional attempt of dissecting half-arsed attempts at DRM (one recent 'Product Key' generation assembly I saw simply took the CPU's CPUID and did a ROT-1 on it).

    Discuss.

    EDIT: Heh, RG's getting flamed to a cinder on their own forums.

  • User profile image
    magicalclick

    After years of doing free work, they finally realized they need to feed their kids with real income. But, don't worry, I am sure some guys who still live under their parents basement and no need for real income will gladly make another free one for us.

    Leaving WM on 5/2018 if no apps, no dedicated billboards where I drive, no Store name.
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  • User profile image
    Charles

    What's wrong with paying for software, anyway? I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Reflector is not rocket science. Roll your own! .NET makes it easy to do so.

    C

  • User profile image
    ESgarbi

    What happened with Anakrino? Does anyone know?

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    , Charles wrote

    What's wrong with paying for software, anyway? I don't understand what all the fuss is about.

    If Red-Gate just came out of nowhere with Reflector and decided to start charging $35 for it, there'd be no problem. I don't have any ideological objections to actually paying for something.

    ...but because Reflector was originally available for free (thanks to the hard work of Lutz Roeder) and because Red-Gate's initial announcement in 2008 implied they would always maintain a freeware version we now feel severely miffed that they've decided to not only charge money for it (which they've been doing for a while now, actually) but to now actively prevent people from continuing to use the free version of Reflector as the "push" updates will be forced upon all users without hacked Hosts files.

    That is why we're annoyed. It's the same thing as Microsoft forcing Windows 8 on everyone through Windows Update without giving anyone an opt-out, but also charging them for the pleasure.

    I'm uncertain about the legality of this, TBH. Of course cracking the update/"DRM" scheme in Reflector is now legal in the USA thanks to recent DMCA court cases, I'd like to see if it's legal for RedGate to actively deny people the use of software they legally obtained under license, I don't believe Reflector's EULA says anything about a license renewal every 90 days.

    , Charles wrote

    Reflector is not rocket science. Roll your own! .NET makes it easy to do so

    Hah.

    To extract any meaningful amount of information from an assembly would require that you write your own reflection code (as opposed to using System.Reflection). After you've parsed all the metadata in a CIL assembly you then need to intelligently disassemble the CIL back to a semantically meaningful syntax tree. Any CS undergrad can tell you that's no trivial task, and  there are PhD theses on the subject being published all the time. I disagree that ".NET makes it easy" - this problem would be just as hard in C as it would in C#. Speaking of which, I note CSC is still a native executable, how about that, huh?

  • User profile image
    Richard.Hein

    @Charles:  Nothing wrong with paying for software, but I personally feel it's pretty uncool because of the spirit in which Reflector was made and originally released to the community.  Lutz Roeder made it and never asked for a cent.  IIRC, he was the first .NET MVP because of it (correct me if I'm wrong). 

    If he had of charged for it later on, I would have no problem with it, because it's useful and he deserves to be paid; but he didn't, probably because he thought it would be taking advantage of the community who became dependent on it.  It feels like one of the "conditions" of transfer of ownership, implied or otherwise (I'm not saying it was) was that there would always be the base, free edition.  When RedGate took it over and just asked for payment for the pro version (and the pro edition does have many nice features ... I should have bought a copy long ago, to support the development and I didn't ... my bad), while maintaining the original for free, I felt that was good for everyone. 

    I guess it's just not enough money, but I still feel like they'd be better off continuing to add to the pro edition and keeping the base product free because all .NET developers use it.  Although, $35 isn't too much to ask from my perspective, for a perpetual license, some devs will balk at it, and it will just be a pain point in the working environment, simply because I can't just say to anyone, "crack open that assembly with Reflector and find out", instead many people will complain that they have to pay for it and are less likely to just use it.  It's something that should be in VS.  I wish MS would have picked it up from Lutz instead of RedGate.

    Anyhow, it's not that I won't pay for it; I probably will, I just hope RedGate includes all the professional features for that price too.  Eventually I will get over it.

  • User profile image
    Richard.Hein

    , ESgarbi wrote

    What happened with Anakrino? Does anyone know?

    IIRC, it was dropped because Reflector did everything that the dev (Sauron??) was trying to do with Anakrino.  (EDIT:  Once Lutz got the decompiler working, Saurik decided there wasn't much point in continuing to compete with Reflector.)

    EDIT:  Saurik, not Sauron. Smiley  AKA Jay Freeman.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    , Richard.Hein wrote

    *snip*

    IIRC, it was dropped because Reflector did everything that the dev (Sauron??) was trying to do with Anakrino.  (EDIT:  Once Lutz got the decompiler working, Saurik decided there wasn't much point in continuing to compete with Reflector.)

    EDIT:  Saurik, not Sauron. Smiley  AKA Jay Freeman.

    Mono also has a disassembler framework of their own, but they don't make their own GUI for it though. It's called Cecil.

  • User profile image
    dahat

    @Charles:I agree fully.

    In fact... how often have we heard about stories like this? A company that produces two versions of a peice of software... free and paid. Given most users like to pay nothing, they opt to do just that, but a small fraction may choose to... but never enough to keep the lights on.

    Rather hard for any business to stay in business doing this.

    Given I've never paid a single penny for the use of Reflector over the years (but have gotten a great deal of value out of it)... I will happily pay $35 (of my own money)the day v7 comes out to support the previous (and future) work.

  • User profile image
    rhm

    Of course it's fine to pay for software, but this leaves a bad taste in the mouth because it's a program that was freeware - Lutz Roeder's personal project - and was bought and turned into commercial software. Usually when that happens there's an option to carry on using the old free version, but Reflector has always been in the habbit of not working if there's a newer version available, even before RedGate took it over. And people aren't going to be annoyed at Lutz because he gave the software away for all those years, so the annoyance of course falls at the feet of RedGate.

    There is actually an open source Reflector based on Mono.Cecil that has been in the works for a while now. I'm guessing the only reason one didn't emerge years back is that there was no point in writing an open source clone of something that was already free, but now the motivation is surely there.

    FWIW, I'm not personally bothered by RedGate's move, but I think they want to review their strategy of buying up independently developed projects and turning them into products. They're apparently not making much money and meanwhile their brand is taking a hammering.

  • User profile image
    figuerres

    , Charles wrote

    What's wrong with paying for software, anyway? I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Reflector is not rocket science. Roll your own! .NET makes it easy to do so.

    C

    like other are saying it's a PR mess they  have created.

    IMHO when they first were given the rights to it they should have never made the promise to keep it as a free offering. they should have had the vision that this day would come and done it at the start with some thing like:  the next 2 versions will be free and then we will charge a small fee.

    imho if they said on day one - we can't work for free but we will make this a cheap as we can. then they would have been ok and today no bad pr that they failed to do what they said.

     

    Same kind of thing for what MS did with Virtual PC but in reverse.... by not selling it and failing to update it in many areas MS has lost good will - I am now using VMware on my desktop when i need to run a virtual instance of server 2008 R2 and other 64 bit stuff.  VPC can't do it.

    IMHO offering it for free was a nail in the coffin, it's dead.  VMware is making money from developers who can't use the MS tool.

    and it's bad PR for MS.

     

  • User profile image
    longzheng

    @Charles and dahat: I don't think anyone is disputing the value (or worth) of Reflector, but just the merits of retroactively changing the licencing of all the previous releases. It's almost like bait and switch.

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    All I can say is that if I had developed a plug-in for reflector I would be feel that my work was being taken advantage of.  I found most value from reflector using some of the plug-ins that people had contributed.  I expect they did a lot to promote the popularity of Reflector, a popularity which is now being cashed-in by Red Gate.

    I'll go further than longzheng and say that this is a bait and switch.  Bad form, Red Gate, when you could have Open Sourced the free version.  Mad

    Herbie

  • User profile image
    BitFlipper

    The least they could do is remove the forced "upgrade". Basically, the version you are happily using right now without any problems will soon expire and there will be no way to use it anymore. Now that is evil.

    I really hope an alternative comes along soon...

  • User profile image
    Chadk

    , Charles wrote

    What's wrong with paying for software, anyway? I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Reflector is not rocket science. Roll your own! .NET makes it easy to do so.

    C

    By that logic: When are you gonna make Visual Studio Express editions paid? You know, 30 bucks. What's wrong with paying for software? An editor is easy to roll on your own Smiley

    I'd pay 35$. But the way they force everybody to upgrade is disgusting frankly

  • User profile image
    dahat

    @longzheng:If your perception that they are retroactively changing the license… then you probably haven’t been paying much attention or reading the license I’d wager... unless you can point to something in the EULA that guarantees a perpetual right to use the software for free.

    Reflector has required forced updates for quite some time, well before Red Gate took it over in fact. The mechanism to move it to a paid version has been there for years... you just got used to being able to use it for free.

    This was bound to happen at some point, it was just a matter of when.

  • User profile image
    vesuvius

    I would not be surprised if there is a new head of department that has just walked in and is wanting to impress by taking a hard decision that no-one lese in the company would care or dare to take, whilst making their stamp.

    This is a complicated one, with litigation central. Maybe the weekly show or Ping could hop across to Lutz's offiice (he works on the WPF team) and get all the details. Now that would be journalism!

    All these scoops being wasted.

  • User profile image
    magicalclick

    @dahat:

    Give up, freeloaders will always whine. If they don't like it, find another free provider to leech on. I know it is disappointing that it is no longer free, but, we need to be realistic here. They are not like MS who has tons of business paying for VS Pro and these leecher should cut RedGate some slacks. RedGate is forced to this point because not enough people buying pro versions.

    Recently we are talking about my schools are getting more expensive, simply because they don't want cheap people whos loyalty is as cheap as the pricing. It is like Apple's crazy loyal fans instead of cheapy Reflector fans.

    I guess they brought it on themselves, cheapy service brought cheapy fans.

    I am mad because I am free app provider as well. And seeing people showed no respect to free app providers makes me feel very offended. We are not obligated to continue our free service forever, we are not slaves. A lot of us make it free because it wasn't worth the money at begining. But, we keep improving it and hope one day our hard work returns enough incentives. Otherwise we would just quit in the middle of it. And those leechers who have a good paying job and good lives telling us that we should be their slaves forever? NOOOO!!!.

    Leaving WM on 5/2018 if no apps, no dedicated billboards where I drive, no Store name.
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