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Anyone used Remote Linker?

Someone mentioned this on another JoS thread. It takes a .net app and links it so that you can run it without installing the whole .net framework app.

Has anyone used this?
On (roughly) how many customer installations?
Experienced any problems?

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

More info: this looks like it was done by a very very small company:

a. They only accept PayPal payment.
b.  Incomplete testing:
"The linker does not support Windows 95. It was not tested on Windows 98, Windows Me. "

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Their worst 'mistake' IMO is the lack of a free trial.

On the face of it, this is a great idea. It gets round the major drawback of .NET for retail apps - the need to have the framework installed. 30MB is a big download.

Writing a .NET application that can be deployed without the full framework seems like such a major benefit that I'm suprised Microsoft didn't include this feature to help the takeup of .NET. Is there an obvious reason that I'm missing ?

So, like TrE, I'd be very interested to hear if anyone has used it. Their website doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Count Almasy
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I'm also curious about any first-hand reports on this.  It looks like a neat hack, but I'd be very cautious about using it for a commercial app.

Also, is the size of the .Net Framework really that big of a deal?  The Framework adds 20MB to the size of your distribution.  If your customers are downloading your app over a 56K modems, it's an anonyance.  If your customers are using broadband, or you're distributing on CD, it's trivial.

Robert Jacobson
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Time for some sweeping generalisations.

1) CD distribution is an order of magnitude harder/more expensive for a small ISV than internet download. Especially  if your markets are international.

2) Most users don't have broadband. OK, this is very dependent on your target market, BUT even if only 10% of your target market are excluded by your distibution channel  (and 30 MB over dial-up is a major hurdle, I think, not just an annoyance) then that's 10% of sales lost. As someone pointed out on another thread, the 10%s soon add up :-).

I think that any download over 5MB starts eating into sales significantly.

Anyone have data to contradict ?

(is the full framework not 28MB ? hence my rounding to 30 - poetic license)

Count Almasy
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Good points, Count Almasy.  Instead of "annoyance," I should have said "pain in the ass" -- a 25 or 30 MB download over modem can certainly be enough to scare away potential sales.

Hopefully, this will gradually become less of an issue over time, as more and more users will have the Framework installed.  (You can have one distribution that includes the Framework, and one without.)

And yes, it definitely depends on the target audience.  My own grossly generalized assumptions are that .Net is being used primarily for business applications, and that most businesses have broadband.  But there are certainly many situations where those assumptions don't hold.

It turns out that the actual size of the current .Net Framework redistributable is 23.6 MB.  Guess we were both wrong, or both halfway right.  <g>

Robert Jacobson
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Robert wrote:
"(You can have one distribution that includes the Framework, and one without.)"

My customer is your grandmother (and her ilk).

Can you IMAGINE asking her if she has the ".net framework" installed??

I looked and couldn't find a way to TELL if the .net framework were installed.

Yes, over 5 MB download eats into trials, which eats into sales.

IMHO, if it were EASY to do what RL has done, then MS would be MORONS for not including that capability in .net, unless (and this is my conspiracy theory side) they are using ISVs to help spread .net like little business virus.

IME, a CD install really isn't a lot harder to create than a download. My concern is the complexity of the install, the potential for causing the user problems (pissed customers don't buy) and the download size.

I'm staying away from .net like the plague until this issue is resolved.

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, January 14, 2004


Yes, it's not practical to expect end users to know whether they have the .Net Framework installed.  However, you have other options:

1.  Just publish the "lite" version of your software online(without the Framework Redistributable.)  The MS installer can check whether the machine has the Framework installed, and if not, prompt the user to download it via Windows Update.

2.  Have a script on the server that detects whether the client has the Framework installed, and then recommends the appropriate version ("lite" or "full".)  According to one newsgroup post, the "http refer" will include details about what version, if any, of the CLR is installed on the client.  If not, there are other hacks you could use by checking the registry or WMI settings, although you might have to use an ActiveX component to get around security permissions.

Various discussions of these techniques can be found here:

Robert Jacobson
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Yup, I just confirmed that the refer string indicates whether the CLR is installed (for my machine, at least.)  You'd need a regex to extract that information, but that's trivial.

Robert Jacobson
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

You can check for existance of the correct CLR version using the browser's User Agent string, which should be sent with each request.

On my system, I can use:

Response.Write Request.ServerVariables["HTTP_USER_AGENT"];

to yield:

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)

I guess you need to ensure you have at least version 1.1 if you're using the latest version of VS.NET.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, January 15, 2004

"Their worst 'mistake' IMO is the lack of a free trial"


Thursday, January 15, 2004

OK,  I should have been clearer. What I was trying to say was that before deciding to use this tool and .NET as a development/deployment strategy I'd want to be very sure it worked. *Really* sure.

IMO sending code samples and examining results doesn't come close to the level of testing required.

It also sends entirely the wrong message - to me, anyway. They can't be bothered to set up a time-limited trial download ? How serious are they about selling/supporting/updating this ?

I had a look to see if Microsoft are addressing this in Whidbey; found this:

so they are fixing some deployment issues, but not this one. Looks like the framework is still monolithic.

Count Almasy
Thursday, January 15, 2004

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