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Future of ToDoList Portable: Drop It or Mild Fork (Now Discontinued)

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John T. Haller
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Future of ToDoList Portable: Drop It or Mild Fork (Now Discontinued)

I wanted to let folks know that, at the publisher's request, ToDoList Portable is temporarily unavailable. The author has indicated a dislike of the PAF package as some users have apparently been turning to him for support despite downloading it from us, seeing our splash screen, and having our help file next to the launcher. He is also upset by the dataloss issue that occurred with a handful of users who saved their data within the App directory and lost it on upgrade. The base app saves to its own directory by default and the PAF package did not take that into account. I wasn't aware of this when we began speaking as I didn't write the original package, I simply helped keep it updated. I pushed a revision to ToDoList Portable this morning that takes into account users saving to App and preserves their data on upgrades.

As we have around 500k downloads of ToDoList Portable (it's more popular than the base app itself), I'd wager there are maybe 100k active users of the app. Leaving them stranded isn't really an option. Technically, we could simply continue to package it over the author's objections, as it is open source under an Eclipse license and the name is not trademarked, but I'd prefer not to. We have a couple options that are more appealing.

1) We can write a custom installer to convert existing users' installs to a standard ToDoList zip install and have a custom message show as they upgrade that the app is no longer in PAF format, will not be upgraded by the platform, will be incompatible with the platform's app data backup function, and will no longer be supported by PortableApps.com. We can then point the existing users to AbstractSpoon for any future updates to be applied by the user. Most users will be unable to use the app's built-in update checker as it requires admin rights. For users wanting a supported task app from us, we'd point them to Task Coach, whose developers ship a PAF package directly. We could even investigate writing a converter to help users transition from ToDoList to Task Coach.

2) The other option is to do a mild fork of the app, renaming and rebranding it lightly to avoid the issues the original author is worried about (our work reflecting on his). This mild update would rebrand it as TDLister Portable and would only add about 10 minutes to packaging time. It would have a new icon and remove the links pointing to the original author's support pages and email. The author's original copyrights will remain, of course, and we'd be distributing the source under the Eclipse license as required. I'd like to maintain a link to the original author's donation page, but am unsure if he'd even want us to do that. The app would continue to function exactly as it does today and all users will be automatically upgraded with all data intact. We did something simlar when CoolPlayer Portable became CoolPlayer+ Portable and we added some functionality and fixed some security issues. We kept the name similarity since CoolPlayer was abandoned.

I have TDLister just about prepped and can push it out to our users tomorrow if I decide to go that route. But I'd like to get some thoughts from the community before I make the final decision. Though not required, I've let the publisher know that we may be making the TDLister fork to continue supporting our users.

UPDATE (Mar 16, 2014) - After additional interactions with the author, we have decided to remove ToDoList completely. Though he has released his code under the Eclipse license, it's become clear he doesn't want anyone to utilize the rights given under the license. Based on this and additional behavior like Facebook spamming, this seemed the best option. This whole incident is especially odd considering that it was the author who requested we add ToDoList originally. Existing users who wish to continue using the app can run the ToDoList Portable to ToDoList zip converter to switch to non-PAF TodoList.

Gord Caswell
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Users use PAF package intentionally

My thoughts on the matter are that as many of the users of any apps available from us use our packages over those of the publishers purposely, due to the benefits we provide, I feel we would be best off continuing support of the app, albeit as TDLister.

John T. Haller
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True

I agree. It's just annoying to have to do just to ensure our users can keep easily using it. Not to mention the confusion of having a different name.

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John T. Haller
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Test Version Released

I've packaged and released the first Dev Test of TDLister Portable over here: https://portableapps.com/node/39439

Though not required, the author has been notified for his comments.

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I like the sound of #1 a lot

I like the sound of #1 a lot more. Forking it would require continued maintenance on our part.

John T. Haller
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Not Really

It's not a fork so much as a rebrand to ensure users know that it's not the original. I already wrote the scripts that alter the source from ToDoList to TDLister. Then I just have it recompiled in my VC++ 6 VM that we use for a few NSIS plugins. It adds about 10 minutes of work to the packaging time going forward.

I have been reconsidering #1 as well, though, so we can just wash our hands of it and recommend Task Coach to users.

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Gord Caswell
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Agreed

After thinking about it a bit more, I'm now leaning more towards #1, particularly if we can manage to transition users to a supported product, either TDL direct from the publisher, or to Task Coach, if we can manage it.

As gluxon says, it's a fair bit of work to maintain on our part, even if all we do is strip the base app every release.

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Either Way

If we take that route, we'd want to make it clear to users that it's the ToDoList publisher responsible for the change and end of the product. And, as we convert it to standard ToDoList zip portable, that they'll lose the ability to automatically upgrade, backup data, etc. From the ToDoList Portable homepage we can mention the end of life of the product and recommend Task Coach to users looking for a task manager.

I'm fine with either direction myself as I've never used ToDoList and the Task Coach developers are active PAF builders and have been supportive of the format for years. Interacting with them has never been an issue.

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The choice seems pretty clear to me

"the Task Coach developers are active PAF builders and have been supportive of the format for years."

The choice seems pretty clear to me.

Ed

John T. Haller
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Also True

I suppose the question 'Why should we spend time and effort supporting and promoting a publisher who isn't supportive of us?' is a valid one. I think Task Coach does everything ToDoList does, anyway. Or does it not?

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Gord Caswell
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Seems to

NB: I haven't used either app more than to get a feel for them.

From what I've been able to determine, Task Coach has equal capabilities to ToDoList (aside from the previously-mentioned import limitations), albeit in a slightly different way. Any differences appear to be minor and don't impact functionality.

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Publisher Responses and Facebook Spamming

It should be noted that the publisher is attempting to spam our Facebook page regarding this now for some reason with multiple random comments posts like the note about my recovering from surgery. His email responses have become increasingly... unnerving as well. I don't think he fully grasps the license that ToDoList is released under and how open source software works.

At this point, based on the behavior and responses of the developer, I'm unsure if I'd be comfortable continuing to trust the base software. So, perhaps we should simply take option #1 and wash our hands of it.

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gluxon
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And given Gord's comment

And given Gord's comment about the feature comparison to Task Coach Portable (which has been around on this site for a long time), it's like Ed_P said. The choice is pretty clear.

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I think that makes the

I think that makes the decision for us. As well as Task Coach some of the note taking apps have ToDo lists of varying functionality plus there is Mozilla Lighting and Moz addons like ReminderFox (I use both).

--
Wm

Wm

John T. Haller
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Removing

Based on additional interactions with the author, I've decided to remove ToDoList completely. Though he has released his code under the Eclipse license, it's become clear he doesn't want anyone to utilize the rights given under the license, claiming it is 'his' code and anyone else using it is 'stealing'. Based on the Facebook spamming, erratic and numerous email messages, and his public statement about this on his site[1], I'm disinclined to trust the base code enough to maintain the mild fork mentioned above. We would have to review every change in the code of every release to ensure he didn't add anything that would negatively impact our users or users of any forked version of the app. I wish I were making any of the above up. And it's especially odd considering that it was the author who requested we add it in 2011: https://portableapps.com/node/20408

[1] - He added the following note to his support site in bold letters at the top of every page: "** Important Announcement ** If you are using TDLister from Portable Apps, please know that it is a complete rip-off of my original work that adds a totally pointless binary wrapper around my software that can and has caused people to lose all their work. You are strongly advised to boycott this version in favour of the original."

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From a long-time ToDoList user

This is the perspective of someone who has been using this software for over a decade. The perception is that this FOSS was wrapped in an unnecessary installer. We "get" that this is your thing, and it's FOSS so you're entitled to do what you wish. However, when an objection was raised to How this was done, the name was changed. We're all software people and you have to admit that all just "smells" bad, no matter what the original intent. And after continued objection, now another app is being recommended. That just seems childish.

This software has been around since about 2002. The developer updates it frequently and is highly responsive. There is a huge and happy user base. The software is already "portable" and self-updating, admittedly not the best updater and soon to be replaced, but each new release updates fairly transparently. And the latest source is always available in proper FOSS tradition. Really, there was no problem to be fixed here.

And you didn't know how the software worked before you packaged and distributed it? That's not much of a vetting process. Anyone who has used the software for more than a day has an idea of where it installs and how it updates.

Adding a wrapper around this, in the current scenario, is doing a huge dis-service to a lot of people. The package with the wrapper will need to be republished whenever an update to the core is available - or as can be expected, people will need to deal with issues until PA gets around to re-integrating an update into your "distro".

Referring people to another package is fine but the way it was done reminds me of young child pettiness. If you support fine FOSS, why not just refer people to all qualified packages even if that doesn't further your purposes? Or rather than deprecating a developer that doesn't play when you enter his sandbox (and accusing him of possibly bombing his own software against you in the future ... seriously!?), just ignore him like you have for the last decade - no one loses. You came in as an aggressor and people who were happy with the platform have expressed concern about How it was done, not necessarily What was done. Then you label objections on Facebook as "spam" and try to redirect new users to another package? Just take a different approach or drop the initiative. You don't need to try to destroy what you can't "have" according to your own terms. You don't need to burn the village as you walk through and find nothing of use to you. What's with all of the drama?

If this perspective is incorrect, please help me and others to understand why. And given this, perhaps we can work out a mechanism that allows everyone to move forward more amicably. This could have been a great thing for everyone involved if only the approach were different. Thanks for your time.

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From a long-time PAc user

Seriously!? All I have to say is: "Spooner alert!"

(And, Tony, just to let you know... Dan is a psycho lyin' PoS [as his "Internet trail" clearly shows], and you're clueless as to what PAc actually does. So, spend more time in the real world.)

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FOSS, Spamming, And Working Together

I appreciate you adding your thoughts. There are a few things to keep in mind here that may affect your perspective. The reason ToDoList was included in our list of apps is that Daniel Godsen, the author, requested we add it back in 2009. In that thread we even helped him settle on a proper open source license (Eclipse) as opposed to the Creative Commons License he was using (CC is not designed for software which complicates things from a legal perspective and it isn't compatible with other open source licenses). ToDoList was also requested by multiple users over the years. One of our volunteer devs then began working on it and it was tested over a period of a year or two and then added to our directory as an official release in 2011.

There are quite a few reasons for releasing software in PortableApps.com Format. With ToDoList being packaged, it allows: automatic updating on every PC without admin rights with the PA.c Platform, automatic language switching with the platform (thanks to a decent amount of code by a couple devs), automated backups of data and settings from the app, etc. Remember, PAF packages of apps are primarily intended for users of our software platform and app store/updater. Some users also prefer them to standard Zip packages for the other reasons in the aforementioned link.

When Dan raised his objections and pointed out the bug with the package, I published a patch that same day to fix the bug. I didn't personally know how ToDoList works by default as I was not the one who developed the package. Two other volunteer developers did the original test and then final packages and no issues were found in public beta testing. Myself and a few other developers traded off handling the regular updates as new versions were released, but it was not tested further as we had no indications of a problem.

I also asked Dan what we could do to continue working together. I suggested having him package the PAF himself, or us doing it and him publishing it in conjunction with his standard release, etc. All of which we do with other publishers at their direction. Or removing or adjusting the support links in the app for the PAF version. He refused all of those and said it was his app and demanded we remove it. He did not like it reflecting on his work, which was his only objection.

At that point, I offered up the possibility of renaming and rebranding the app to avoid confusion. The app itself would maintain his and the contributors copyrights. The app homepage would recommend that users not using the PA.c Platform get the original ToDoList from him. The homepage would still link to him as the original author. We'd even keep the donation links on the page and in the app if he'd like to ensure he keeps getting funding for his work. This way, Dan wouldn't get support requests from PA.c users, his users wouldn't be confused into mistaking the PA.c release as supported by him, he'd still get full credit and donations for the app, and PA.c users could continue getting updates of an app they enjoy the way they update their hundreds of other apps. I posted a Dev Test with the accompanying source under the same Eclipse license demonstrating how it would work and sent Dan a link so he could examine it himself.

At this point, Dan threatened various actions to get us to remove the software and to attempt to generate negative press for us. He made various demands regarding not linking to his site and removing the software as well as the fork. He also began spamming multiple comments to the post on our Facebook page about my surgical recovery, and added a defamatory header to his site about us 'ripping him off' and our portable launcher causing data loss (neither of which are true). Based on this behavior, we have to consider the possibility that a future release of the code could have similar defamatory messages or other behavior intended to target our users, as remote as that possibility may be.

As for the recommendations for existing users, I'm still settling on the final language. Users are entitled to an honest answer as to why the software is no longer available in the format they chose to use it in. I'm also working on a final update to push out to existing platform users to convert them from ToDoList Portable (PAF) to ToDoList (zip) automatically so they're not left in a lurch. We won't be linking to ToDoList itself from anywhere on PortableApps.com any longer at Dan's request, so users will need to search Google or one of the links in the update package to find the download page for ToDoList (zip).

Honestly, I'm surprised and saddened at how this all turned out and have never had an interaction with an open source developer like this in the 10 years I've been working on open source software. Each email I sent I tried to politely suggest ways of working together or at least parting amicably. Dan rebuffed each suggestion with the above actions.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

John T. Haller
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Converter Posted

As discussed, a converter allowing existing ToDoList Portable users who wish to continue using the app to convert it to ToDoList zip format has been posted: https://portableapps.com/apps/office/todolist_portable

As described on the page:

This installer allows you to convert an existing ToDoList Portable installation to a standard ToDoList zip download so you can continue using the app. Please note that ToDoList zip will not be automatically updated by the PortableApps.com Platform, change languages with the platform, or work with the platform's app data backup option. ToDoList zip has an update checker included, but it currently requires admin rights and, thus, will not function in most portable situations. A backup of your current install will be made and your data should be automatically copied to the new install as well. No existing files will be deleted.

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doesnt convert

i have tried this converter, and it doesnt seem to actually convert anything, it just brought an installer to install a new copy of todolist.
Could you please provide the exact steps t convert my existing portable config.

John T. Haller
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Install It

You install it over your existing copy of ToDoList Portable just like usual. Except instead of installing it moves everything around. It backs up your ToDoListPortable directory contents to ToDoListPortable\_Archive-ToDoListPortable, installs a regular unzipped copy of ToDoList within the ToDoListPortable directory, and copies your ToDoList.ini and xml todo lists to the ToDoListPortable directory. That's it. Nothing more complicated than that. As for what to do after that, you're on your own. We no longer support nor recommend ToDoList.

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Managed to eventually get it

Managed to eventually get it working. I think my main issue is while it archived and transferred back my ini and tasks, the new app wasn't loading those tasks, and just showed sample data, which looked like everything was lost.

I think maybe cause the TaskList ini property wasn't updated to the new filepath.

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My thoughts

My feeling is that it is a real shame this situation has arisen. On discovering this app was discontinued it got me curious as to what the program did, as I had always installed it but never actually used it and I think the program is amazing and I wish I had used it sooner to organize my projects.

What I can't understand is despite the incidents of data loss which are most unfortunate, PortableApps which is used Worldwide has arguably done great things in terms of publicity for lesser known applications. LibreOffice or VLC hardly needed a hand, but they have grown to become essentials on any computer. However, with ToDoList I sadly had not discovered this program until I saw it was part of the PortableApps collection and from just checking it out it should definitely be on a par with Sunbird for certain.

I will continue to use ToDoList portable anyway, it is just the software I have been looking for, which I unknowingly had on my computer all along!!

John T. Haller
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Sunbird

While Sunbird is discontinued, Lightning is part of the same codebase and is still being developed. I use it in conjunction with Thunderbird daily and have for years, syncing it with Google calendars.

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ToDoList is still actively developed

The impression seems to be that ToDoList is no longer available, but there's a new update almost every week, a new API soon to be released, and a constant stream of new features and fixes. Google for "todolist codeproject" without quotes to get to the page and just peruse the active discussions to verify. There isn't a single negative comment there on the software itself, nor about the author or the active support. People can still use TDL outside of the PA wrapper if they choose to do so, just like everyone who doesn't know PA even exists.

From comments here, I can see the heart that goes into PA. It's just unfortunate that this one situation didn't work out.

Duplicate comments removed by mod JTH

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Available

Of course it's still available. We made a point to convert users to it and let them know to contact the publisher from then on instead of leaving them abandoned. But the publisher didn't want us linking to him for reasons he did not disclose, which is why there are no links from here.

Many of our users likely stopped using ToDoList after it was de-listed from here, which is a shame as it is good software, but the behavior of the developer was a complete turn-off. Many of our users prefer to use software they can automatically update and easily backup the data of with just a click. Other apps like Task Coach Portable are much more convenient in that respect for our Platform users.

In the end, there's no reason to bring up this old topic. Our users are already aware they can go get ToDoList as a zipped app from the publisher and manually get it into the platform and updated. They either read it here or were automatically prompted by the platform letting them know about it by the custom converter I wrote to move the files into the ToDoList zip arrangement.

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My 2 cents...

As a software developer with 2 apps here, I just want to say, 'WOW!'. To think that John took as much time and effort as he did to try to help the user community is just amazing. He could so easily just have removed it, but to have tried to make it work, and then to even offer a way for existing users to easily move to the new 'correct' version is completely astounding.

As a user of ToDoList because of the features I need, I don't really have a choice but continue using it. I'm just glad I didn't have a big surprise with the change.

Again, thanks for looking out for us little guys!!

Michael D. Shook

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Welcome

You're welcome. Even with everything that went on, I wanted to make sure regular users who may use the platform to update and not visit the site or only visit occasionally to manually update weren't stuck having to figure out how to move things around. Especially since many folks use PA.c so they don't have to know how to manually move things around or manually update zip-based portables. Now they have an easy transition to the standard at least. It's just a shame that some won't be able to check for updates or update unless they do manually since the ToDoList updater requires admin rights.

For what it's worth, I take being an ambassador for many projects that many of our users haven't seen before seriously. That's why we make a point to test, fix bugs, assist with iconography and branding when needed, etc. We're trying to help users find great software they've never heard of in addition to making it easier to use their current favorites. At least that's the way I've always thought of it.

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upstream

Furthermore, not only do we actively fix portability bugs, we've occasionally fixed bugs for upstream developers as well. Not often, but we do what we can.

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This is just aweful John!!!!

Seriously, awful in the original/traditional way. Smiling (awesome, temporarily incapable of speech.)

or better:

2. Commanding awe: "this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath" (Herman Melville).
3. Filled with awe, especially:
a. Filled with or displaying great reverence.

Came here a long time ago, hard times, haven't been near a computer regularly in about two years. Big FOSS advocate. Anyhow, ran into website, needed another app (to do list), searched here first and this website has come a long way, and for the better! Will support and promote you guys any chance I get. Love the dedication, consideration and fortification to humanity. Bravo!

Blessed_Healer

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Alternatives?

Are there any alternatives?

Thank You.

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Organization

Check the Organization section of the Office category in our app list: https://portableapps.com/apps/office

Task Coach is the most direct replacement. The Lightning extension for Thunderbird also does a good job. Personally, I've switched to cloud-based task managers so I can easily sync to my phone and tablet. I'm thinking of approaching a couple of them to offer portable versions of their desktop apps (which are usually just nw.js packaged web apps like 2048 Portable).

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r.i.p.

as long as at least one other app has the ability to import data from this (dead) app, then case closed. Otherwise, I would suggest keeping a zombie version of the app around as TDLister, for those who care, and maybe someone will adopt it. It looks like it would be best to drop TDList entirely, though maybe something could be worked out, if the dev can change his/her mind.

;>jamvaru

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