SoftStar News

May 2004

The Latest New and Exciting Updates!

You can now read the full text of my latest Mountain Astrologer review of the forthcoming Kepler 7.0 by clicking here.

Kepler 7 is due to be released in mid-July, with even more features than I originally reviewed. Ease of use, in particular, has been significantly enhanced.

I will be offering it for a special introductory price of $245 including free U.S. shipping through November 2004. To learn how to order, click here.

A Bug in Software Design and The Times of Planetary Stations

I was in the process of writing a review of the new DayWatch calendar software for The Mountain Astrologer when something funny happened. I was looking at the date and time for Mercury's retrograde on April 6th and discovered that most software programs did not take into account the switch to Daylight Savings time on April 4th. As a result, the times were an hour off.

The reason this problem occurred was that I began the one-month search for planetary stations at the beginning of April 2004. before DST had started. Almost none of the programs had the ability to switch to DST in the middle of a search. That is why it is so important not to trust software blindly, but instead to use one's common sense.

As I've mentioned in previous articles, it is very difficult and requires much precision to find the exact time of a planetary station. With the outer planets (even Jupiter), software will often differ by hours!

With Mercury on April 6, 2004 for Pacific Daylight Time (i.e. 7 hours West of Greenwich), the correct time of station is 1:27 pm. Check the software you use to see how precise it is. One major program is 2 hours and 22 minutes off, while most programs are correct within a minute or two, or at most within 10 minutes.

A Restaurant Metaphor on Astrology Software Companies

Just like there are 5 star restaurants, there are 5 star astrology software companies that "do everything right".

But like most human endeavors, most restaurants and astrology software companies have their failings as well as their successes.

Some restaurants rush in the preparation of their food, and it comes to the table undercooked. (Software released before enough polishing and bug-fixing.)

Others think that as long as the food (software) is good enough, it doesn't matter what service they offer. They may ignore customer requests, not address problems that arise, and even take offence if criticism is offered.

Still others completely ignore presentation, and offer tasty food (functional software) in a jarring arrangement (poor user interface).

Pricing can also be an issue, with some places offering bargains, and others meals (programs) clearly overpriced.

Finally, some restaurants offer menus that stay the same forever, while others keep creating new dishes. (Software companies that don't change their programs vs. others that keep innovating.)

The success of an astrological program or the food at a restaurant depends upon much more than just the quality of the offering.

The Free Harmogram Program

The Harmogram is a new tool for astrologers. It measures the strength of a celestial aspect and depicts the flow of a harmonic through time. For example, the 'third harmonic' measures the strength of trine aspects, the fifth harmonic measures quintile aspects and so forth. Thus, the strength of opposition aspects would be measured by the 'second harmonic'.
As their website says, "For thousands of years astrologers have been limited to a single moment of time - when the chart is cast. Now, at last, the Harmogram can show the strength of a celestial aspect varying over any chosen period. It takes astrology into the third millenium. Use it, and be one of the avant-garde."

Click here to go to their website.

Why Astrology Software Users Benefit From My Many Roles

Recently, I was attacked on an astrological newsgroup for both reviewing and selling software. Most of those criticizing me had no idea of my impact on the quality and pricing of astrology software, and still don't.

In point of fact, I have been the foremost "field tester" and reviewer of astrology software for many years (since 1978!). If you use any major astrology program, then you have benefitted greatly from my influence in making software better. As examples:

1. One major program miscalculated all birth times entered as PM until I got them to fix it.

2. Another major program calculated all ancient charts incorrectly until I pointed out the error.

3. Two other major programs had inaccurate calculations for some of the outer planets, and my feedback was instrumental in their implementing more accurate routines.

4. One of the most popular programs miscalculated all birth times for noon to 1 pm until I found and reported the bug.

5. A major Vedic program was using calculations for the Moon that were too imprecise. I "hooked them up" with more precise algorithms, greatly improving their accuracy.

6. Two mainstream programs had inaccurate astro-mapping calculations. I got one company to drop their inaccurate methods, and helped the other solve their programming problems.

7. I have alerted many, many minor companies of the complete inaccuracy of their planetary calculations, and pointed them to sources of accurate algorithms.

The list goes on and on. I have helped astrology software companies find and fix hundreds upon hundreds of calculation errors, program bugs, and design flaws, and have never been paid for this service. I do it because I love astrology, astrologers, and astrology software, and want everyone to have the best "tools" for our craft as possible.

These flaws would not have been found, nor fixed as quickly, if I hadn't been testing and reviewing software. I have also been a major force in getting companies to implement many new calculations and functions into their programs. I have often felt like a "closet software designer" who gets to have others implement my visions. This has been a great joy, to see other astrologers able to use programs that are incredibly powerful and easy to use, and to know that I have played a part in this.

Being a software provider has also helped the astrological community, because I hear the needs of the astrologers who contact me, and pass them along to the software firms. I have also been able to help companies make pricing decisions (my advice: astrologers need lower prices). Finally, since customers call and write to me about each company's customer service, I have often been able to take the role of the astrologer's advocate and get companies to respond to their customer's needs and complaints.

About Inkjet Printers and Why not to get Extended Warranties on Them

Although I have received phenomenal customer service from Hewlett Packard, and my LaserJet IV printer is an excellent and enduring workhorse, I have had nothing but headaches with my color inkjets from HP. I understand that their technology has improved, and their latest offerings are ok, but when it was finally time to buy a new inkjet, I went with a Canon i860.

In the process of wrestling with my HP Inkjets, I discovered several things:

1. You can swap your present old HP inkjet for a newer model -- if your old one was a high-end model -- but even with the "discount" you get for swapping in the old printer, you will pay double or triple the price you'd pay online for the new model! In other words, the swapping program will cost you money, not save you money.

2. I got extended warrranties on my last inkjet, and would never do it again. That's because a new inkjet printer will cost you about the same amount as a one year extended warranty, and will greatly outperform your old inkjet in both speed and resolution. Inkjet printers are constantly improving, so there is no value hanging on the the old one.

3. With extended warranties, they replace your printer with a refurbished model of the same printer. This happened twice for me, and both times the replacement printer only lasted a year before it gave out!

In exploring where to get inkjet cartridges, my nephew found the best prices at a website he and my sister have subsequently used for years, with only excellent results:

Discounts on Software

Software discounts starting May 2004: When you purchase astrology software through me, you will get:

1. My free expert guidance in choosing the right program.

2. The best pricing distributors are allowed to offer.

3. Free U.S. shipping, unless prohibited by the manufacturer, and for some programs, free Priority shipping Worldwide.

4. Additional benefits. E.g. I offer a very inexpensive excellent transit report for purchasers of Kepler & Sirius, over 60 free beautiful extra artistic wheels for Solar Fire Gold, etc.

5. You are supporting my website, allowing me to continue posting astrology tutorials, software reviews, and much more.

6. Your software is fully registered to you and shipped to you directly from the manufacturer, with their full customer support as well as mine.

To go to my secure astrology software order form, click here.

You can support SoftStar News by:

Telling others about our website.

Sending us your insights and feedback on astrology software,

Alerting us to new programs and astrological resources,

Linking your website to ours,

and by purchasing your astrological software through this site.

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Copyright © 2003 Hank Friedman