7 January 2012

WindowBlinds breaks Opus (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Neil from Stardock has posted a response in the comments below and also in the Stardock forums. I've copied my reply to both places as well. Looks like we're making progress, which is much appreciated.

UPDATE 2: From a support request I just handled and confirmed, we've also found that the current version of WindowBlinds breaks the Configuration Backup and Restore wizard in Opus, making it so that nothing happens when you click Next. There are probably other issues as well. As a general rule, if you're using WB with Opus right now and something doesn't work, try switching to Windows Aero.

UPDATE 3: List of related issues and their statuses: http://leo.dopus.com/dowb/index.html#summaries

UPDATE 4: Stardock have released WindowBlinds 7.30a Beta for registered WB users, with fixes to the Directory Opus issues (and a bunch more). Use it in conjunction with the beta (or later) versions of Opus. I'll post about this separately as well, so more people see it.

This post is borne of frustration, and it's a shame it has come to this, but for months now (maybe longer), Stardock's WindowBlinds software has been breaking Directory Opus in ways that make it look like Opus is at fault when the problems are entirely caused by WindowBlinds.

As the videos below show in detail, these aren't just the kind of cosmetic issues which WindowBlinds causes with a lot of software (including standard tools like Windows Explorer).

WindowBlinds explicitly detects Opus by its executable name (dopus.exe) and, in its latest version, does something (we have no idea what or why) to Opus which completely breaks any standard file dialog which Opus tries to open. The dialogs simply do not appear and Opus looks broken.

(If you rename any other program to dopus.exe then WindowBlinds will break that program as well, so it cannot be anything wrong with Opus itself.)

Anyone who already had WindowBlinds installed and decided to try Opus would think Opus was faulty due to problems that do not exist without WindowBlinds.

Stardock have known that WindowBlinds causes problems with Opus for at least six months. We proved to them that various problems seen when WindowBlinds and Opus are used together are caused by WindowBlinds, and we even demonstrated how the WindowBlinds DLLs could be modified to solve most of the problems. Even though these issues are entirely due to WindowBlinds, we did all the investigation, provided the proof and explained how Stardock could fix their own code.

Despite giving them the solution on a plate, Stardock have done nothing. (Worse, in fact: They released an update which breaks Opus even more than it did before.)

Stardock do not seem to care. Their shoddy software is making our software look broken to anyone who doesn't know the details, but they do nothing. The barely-supported product that they sell is damaging our product's reputation, through no fault of our own. We have run out of patience and want everyone who has used the two programs together to know the full story.

I have made a series of four videos about this, embedded below. These explain the symptoms, prove where the fault is and show how Stardock could easily fix things. The last video, the most informal of the set, closes with a brief look at problems that WindowBlinds causes with other programs, like Windows Explorer.

A tool like WindowBlinds, which modifies the operating system and individual programs in this way, needs to be updated more proactively than Stardock are doing. A tool like that, and which hasn't really even been updated and tested to work properly with Windows 7 (see the last video), should not be given away for free, let alone sold for money.

(All videos are available in 720p resolution, with optional subtitles.)

Part 1 of 4: The symptoms.

Part 2 of 4: Whose fault is it?

Part 3 of 4: Fixing WindowBlinds.

Part 4 of 4: WindowBlinds breaks other things.