SoftStar News

November 2005



The Best Choice of Astrological Software

As my readers know, I have a real passion for astrology and for astrology software, and have helped most of the major astrological software companies design, improve, and debug their programs, for free, because I want astrologers to have the best tools possible.

I also provide free guidance for anyone who wants expert advice in choosing the right programs for them, on the proviso that they purchase their programs through me, at a reduced price. Surprisingly few people actually work with me, so that providing software for people represents a tiny fraction of my income. This is actually fine, because most of my income comes from psychic readings, astrology readings, and transformational therapy sessions with clients.

Because I don't depend upon software sales for income, when someone writes to me who has very basic needs, I can point them to free programs that will work for them. At one point, I wasn't distributing one program that had specialized features, but I still happily directed astrologers who needed those features to that software.

The problem that other purveyors of software have is that none of them carry a full line of top programs. Sadly, these companies feel compelled to advertise that they have the widest selection of software, when they are missing crucial programs. Since their businesses do depend upon sales to survive, they direct customers to programs that don't meet their needs adequately or even to programs that are buggy.

It is my wish that everyone interested in astrology software finds the best choice for their needs.



Horizons

Matrix Software is about to release a new astro-mapping program called Horizons. I have just completed my review of the program for The Mountain Astrologer.

Horizons breaks new ground in many ways. It can display theme maps, which show where specific life themes (such as love, work, etc.) are emphasized. The built-in Theme Editor allows you to control which astrological factors are used for each theme, and to create new themes.

The program also displays graphs of scores for cities (or sets of cities) for many different themes at the same time, to see a sample graph click here so that you can see what life themes are emphasized, and to what degree, in each place. You can even create new scorings and customize existing ones. Horizons can map aspect lines for any number of aspects, and even for new aspects that you create.

Dynamic mapping is included, too. You can view, and animate, maps for Cyclo*Cartography, progressed, Solar Arc, and transits.

It pioneers two methods of compatibility astromapping (for couples); it creates maps, scorings, and even interpretive reports for composite and relationship charts.

Horizons also shines by interpreting aspect lines, midpoint lines, parans, local space lines, and Astro*Carto*Graphy lines for natal maps; as well as aspect lines and Astro*Carto*Graphy lines for composite, relationship, Cyclo*Cartography, progressed, Solar Arc, and transit maps. You can edit any of the interpretations and add your own.

The program has more features than I can mention in this column, and many more to come.

Horizons will come out in December 2005, contact me by clicking here for a special introductory price.



Maitreya's Dream

Maitreya's Dream is a free program for Vedic and western astrology that runs under Windows 32, Linux and UNIX. You can get it by clicking here.

Maitreya's Dream has quite a lot of features for an East/West program. The program is more Vedic than Western in its feature set, and more Cosmobiological than strictly Western in its "Western" style of operation. Since I have no expertise in Cosmobiology, I can mention but not evaluate those features.

Its Vedic features include divisional charts, planetary hours table, 18+ dasa systems, sarvatobhadra diagram, an expandable planetary table with the option to include columns for each planets position by navamsa, naksatra + pada, jaimini karaka, shastiamsa, dasa varga, bhava, and ashtakavarga points, and krishnamurti lords. You can include special lagnas, upagrahas, and show arudhas. Display options include Northern, Southern, and East Indian square wheels.

The program allows you select the ayanamsa, type of lunar node, house system, year length, number of naksatras, method of calculating arudhas, ashtakavarga, naksatra dasas, kalachakra, and Sunrise. It even does a Kuta compatibility analysis for couples. Its Vedic ephemeris shows the positions of the planets by sign and naksatra each day for a month.

Its Western features include natal, transit, and compatibility midpoint pages, complete with midpoint trees, a planetary positions page, and a monochrome graphic chart wheel with aspect lines. You can see the positions of the outer planets, and optionally the Uranian points, in charts and tables.

On the transit screen, you can select Solar Arc positions, Directed positions, transiting positions, year-for-a-degree, or Lunar arc.
Maitreya's Dream also includes an Eclipse table for any date range you specify, indicating the type of eclipse, date and time, and Sun and Moon positions.

The program additionally has an animate function, that animates charts and tables forward in real time.

Maitreya's Dream is the first program I've seen to specifically address the needs of both Vedic astrologers and Cosmobiologists, and I look forward to its continuing evolution.



Astronomy Program on the Internet

In "surfing the 'net" I stumbled upon a website that gives a comprehensive listing of astronomy software: free programs, shareware, and commercial programs for the PC, Mac, Linux, Java, OS/2, Palm, and Pocket PCs.

This is a very valuable resource.

To go to the website, click here.



Animations of Astronomical Events

Another website I found allows you to view cool flash demonstrations of astronomical events, such as Mars' 2005 opposition and closest to the Earth dates

It's really neat.

To visit the site, click here.



Why you shouldn't buy a used computer or one by mail-order

If someone approached you and said, "I can get you a great deal on a 30 year old car", would you want it? Of course not. That is comparable to someone offering you a four year old computer. Computers double in speed every year-and-a-half, and computer hardware (especially moving parts like hard drives) tend to break down after two years. Add to all of this the fact that computers, and now particularly laptops, keep getting less expensive; and you have a situation where used ones just aren't worth the cost; you won't get a good deal.

This is not a new situation. Since 1978, when I got my first PC, it was obvious that they depreciated very rapidly, and that new, better, and cheaper models kept coming out, year after year.

Similarly, people often ask me, "Should I buy my computer via mail-order?". The answer is a loud "NO" for several reasons:

1. A significant proportion of computers are dead-on-arrival when you receive them. Mailing one back to the supplier can be a major hassle.

2. One of my friends leased thousands of dollars of computers per year from the most famous mail-order computer maker, and got such poor customer service that he cancelled all of his leases.

3. If you have a local store that you can get your computer from, you have a place to take the PC (or preferably even a person who will make a house call) when you encounter problems. This means faster and better service.

4. You may not realize this, but when a big company builds computers, an assortment of other companies usually supply the hard drives, video cards, dvd players, etc. These internal parts vary greatly in quality (e.g. you might end up with a noisy hard drive or a flakey dvd burner). If you purchase your system from someone who chooses the parts they use, you will get a better machine.



My process in reviewing an astrology program

Sometimes companies send me software to review, other times one of my readers alerts me to a new program (thank you!) and I contact the company, or I may find programs on the Internet or through magazine ads. Surprisingly, some companies never respond to my request for a review copy. They don't realize that their software will "languish in obscurity" if it doesn't get reviewed.

When I receive a program from a company, the first step is installing it. If there are problems with the installation, I then report the issues and the company works to resolve them.

Next, I test the software for accuracy. If the program has inaccurate calculations, the review process immediately halts. That's because it is rare that a company that uses shoddy astrological calculations can or will fix them right away. Usually, such companies have taken "short cuts" by using old planetary algorithms, etc. and some don't even care that their programs are way off. E.g. there was a program called Expert Astrologer that badly miscalculated the rising sign and all of the house positions. Years after the company was alerted to the problem, they were still selling the faulty software.

After these steps, I explore the software's features, to see if the program is worth reviewing. Does it have any innovations in functions, graphics, or information? One company was angry with me because I wouldn't review their program. It had no unique features, replicated just some the features of all of the other programs in its genre, had a primitive interface, and it cost twice as much!

Next, I try to find bugs, to crash it, to see if it is "seaworthy". It is surprising how many programs are seriously buggy when I receive them. If a program has major bugs, I report them and see if the company can address them in a timely fashion, and if not, I table the review. One time, I reviewed a powerful new program that had many unique and wonderful features. I discovered some very serious programming errors that resulted in miscalculated charts under certain circumstances. The company promised to fix them, so I completed the review and awaited the fixes. They never came, because the company had hidden from me the fact that they had lost their original programmer and could not fix the bugs. (This did not stop them -- unfortunately -- from selling the program.) So, the review was never published.

If a program passes all of these hurdles, I continue the review process. By this time, I have learned quite a bit about the program, and often have insights on how to improve the program, what important features are missing, and what new features could be added that would be a perfect fit. (My 27 years of experience with astrological software enables me to see programs from a very large perspective.)

Usually, companies are delighted to hear and to implement my ideas. Almost every program I have reviewed has been significantly enhanced by my feedback. This delights me, because if I can serve both practicing astrologers and the companies themselves, everyone wins.

Finally, when my review is completed, I send it to the company for fact checking and fix any errors. Then I submit it to my publisher, and work with my editor to make to as readable as possible.



Discounts on Software

Software discounts starting November 2005: 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.




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Telling others about our website.

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Alerting us to new programs and astrological resources,

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and by purchasing your astrological software through this site.



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Copyright © 2003 Hank Friedman