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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard triexa's Avatar
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    For those of you who encode

    To those of you who encode your software:
    - Do you offer multiple versions, for the various encoders?
    - Did you notice any decrease in sales/have a number of customers report not being able to use it?
    - Which encoder do you use/prefer? (From most to least)

    Thanks!


    Also, to those of you that purchase PHP scripts -- how often does the fact that it is encoded stop you from buying it?
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  2. #2
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    I have never and will never buy a php script that is encoded. I like to be able to see what the actual code says so I can modify it if I need to (which happens frequently) and also so I can be sure there are no back doors.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard holmescreek's Avatar
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    I prefer RoadSend - an actual compiler. But, Zend for encoding, since RoadSend doesn't yet support PHP5.
    intragenesis, llc professional web & graphic design

  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard triexa's Avatar
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    hmm according to a brief look at their website, it appears to to use machine code instead of php byte code... requiring no additional loaders or anything. Why wouldn't everyone have just gone this route from the start?
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard triexa's Avatar
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    The Roadsend Compiler will generate a dynamic loadable library (.DLL on Windows, .so on Linux/FreeBSD) from your PHP source code. The Roadsend Apache module will use this compiled library to serve user requests to a configured URL (such as http://localhost/mywebapp/). If the requested file is found in the library, then the compiled code will be run and the result returned to the user. If the file is not found in the library, the current include path is searched and if the file is found on disk, it will be interpreted and the results returned to the user. This allows the flexibility of compiled and interpreted code to be used at the same time.
    IonCube offers these .so files for free download for those who do not have it installed on the server...

    So it looks like if you want to use roadsend for web apps, you still are in the same boat as ioncube? Not all hosts will allow dynamic loading of runtimes...
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  6. #6
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    you still are in the same boat as ioncube...
    and which is not a bad boat to be in :)

    Systems that offer dynamic install, of which ours is one and there are others, offer the best of both worlds for the end user; dynamic install, if supported, requiring no php.ini edits but a little performance overhead for Loader install and removal at the end of a request by PHP, or a php.ini install for best performance. The runtime install is a big benefit over php.ini only solutions as hosts often have no extensions, i.e. no Zend Optimiser or Loader installed by default. Those that support runtime install, which is many, generally do not install a Loader as they never need to because they're supporting the technology by default, sometimes without realising it, and never need to get asked. Compared to systems that require and only work with a php.ini edit, having runtime install as an option greatly increases the chance that encoded scripts can run on shared servers without having to contact the host, and for providers of encoded scripts, is one of the major benefits for them and their customers over other solutions.

    Where a php.ini install is required, and although taking a little longer to go round the loop of contacting the host, this is still rarely a problem in practice. Most hosts are reliable and helpful for their customers, and have no problems to install a Loader in the php.ini file as it's a well known, proven and recognised solution. It tends to be only the hosts that do not care about their customers, and who through arrogance or laziness, choose not to help because they believe that they don't need to, and who typically have no extensions installed at all, and possibly an old version of PHP to boot.

    I prefer RoadSend - an actual compiler
    Roadsend, who happen to have ionCube, is interesting, and actually not a compiler at the top level but a translator. Unless they have evolved, Roadsend turns PHP into Scheme, and then use a public domain tool to turn Scheme into C or C++ before being compiled into native machine code. ionCube and Zend are optimising compilers that turn PHP into bytecodes. This process is still compilation, just to different target architecture. Turning PHP into Scheme, and then capitalising on free tools to do the rest is actually quite neat, and a testiment to the power of the Scheme language and the other tools. Performance though is not as good as one might expect, as whilst the target architecture is native machine code vs. interpreted bytecode, there are big penalties to pay with the general inefficiency of the C code generated to support the scheme language environment. Whilst benchmarks such as qsort operations, sieve, factorials and other highly iterative or recursive algorithms may run faster than native PHP, the performance on real world code isn't generally that good. When PHP is further accelerated by being encoded and with a php.ini installed Loader engine, or even better, cached with an accelerator, the performance of the cached PHP bytecode can dramatically outperform the compiled scheme. (based on realworld benchmarks we used a year or so ago) That said, a native compiled application is going to be the perfect solution for some cases, particularly command line tools, where the baggage of the PHP virtual machine, Loaders and so on is undesirable. It's "horses for courses" as we say, and definitely a good tool to have around as an option.

  7. #7
    WebAmoeba mythix's Avatar
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    I had been planning on encoding my scripts, but I decided not to because when I do come accross bugs and people email me, I find it an absolute pain to find the error if its encoded. Admitadley most people who contact me know php anyway, so tend to help out, making life easier, and usually quicker to find and resolve errors.

    But will certainly watch this post to see what the general responses are
    Laws are like sausages. You have much more respect for them if you haven't actually seen how they're made.

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  8. #8
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    I find it an absolute pain to find the error if its encoded
    This is a good point, and if code is obfuscated (which is optional), line numbers and function names in error messages may be obscured too.

    At this point there are options, which in the worst case would be giving out your entire source code to that particular customer, and taking a chance that your code would not then find its way onto P2P sites and the hacker networks. This would be quite a safe play though as the customer would not know to how many other customers you had done the same, and would not want to risk being fingered if you subsequently discovered your source code in the wild. The alternative of always giving out your source is guaranteed to get it in the wild.

    A case that we often quote as it's a good one, is x-cart. They give away source code licenses for end user flexibility, but they do protect their evaluation copies. Their testimonial (unsolicited) to us was then after doing so, their sales jumped 500%. This would have recouped their investment in the encoding technology most likely within a matter of days, and thereafter the benefit of encoding translated directly into increased revenue, helping to ensure longevity of the product, growing their business, funding future developments and support. That was a 2 or 3 years ago, and they're still going strong today. Had they not taken the early step to encode their evaluations, it may have been a very different story for them.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard holmescreek's Avatar
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    Since PHP is probably written in c/c++, which acts as an interpreter for your php script, seems that it would be easy enough for the php developers to create a compiler.
    intragenesis, llc professional web & graphic design

  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard holmescreek's Avatar
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    Or rather, PHP could take the php script then generate the c/c++ code which could be compiled with a stand alone compiler on any flavour platform.
    intragenesis, llc professional web & graphic design

  11. #11
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    i've always been encoding my major php applications.. if i was a VB programmer, i would give my client compiled software, and i wouldnt want to give away my source codes (That comes at a price).. i dont see why this should be different if I'm a PHP coder.

    So yes i do encode my scripts as much as possible using zend encoder. it's really fast and secure.. soemtimes i encode the entire directory.. sometimes just the important files such as my own libraries.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard triexa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brownchild
    i've always been encoding my major php applications.. if i was a VB programmer, i would give my client compiled software, and i wouldnt want to give away my source codes (That comes at a price).. i dont see why this should be different if I'm a PHP coder.

    So yes i do encode my scripts as much as possible using zend encoder. it's really fast and secure.. soemtimes i encode the entire directory.. sometimes just the important files such as my own libraries.
    How much is the zend encoder? last time I checked their website they wanted you to call for pricing information...
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  13. #13
    Just starting to make money... Sparta's Avatar
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    When I roll out my software, I'm going to have a single small file thats encoded, but it will be the keystone. The software won't run without it, but the encoding will not interfere with anything else.

    It'll simply call home, so I can keep track of licenses/stop pirating.
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  14. #14
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    How much is the zend encoder? last time I checked their website they wanted you to call for pricing information...
    I dont know the latest one.. im still using the old one that supports up to 4.4 only.. set me back over $1000 USD. cant remember exactly..

  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdesigns
    Also, to those of you that purchase PHP scripts -- how often does the fact that it is encoded stop you from buying it?
    I'm not anywhere near as likely to purchase an encoded script as compared to unencoded.

    I would consider an encoded script as long as it operates just like a standard PHP script, with no special server software required, and it is easy to customize (via some type of template system).
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  16. #16
    SitePoint Wizard
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    I have never actually encoded my PHP applications, but I am sure eventually I will come into that boat.

    I prefer ioncube however, as when I used it awhile back the process was smooth.

    Read this as well:

    http://www.mytton.net/recursive-encoding-nope

    It has a downside to the Zend encoder.

  17. #17
    SitePoint Wizard TheRedDevil's Avatar
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    I use both ionCube and the Zend encoder, all depending on the clients preferences.

    For now I dont sell any of the scripts directly on the net though, only as part of the solution to clients (CMS etc). Please note that I usally only encode the backend of the CMS, any modules created especially for the client is not encoded.

    If your wondering on getting the Zend Encoder, give them a call and ask for the small business solution. Then I think the price is $395 each year for the encoder and the studio gui.

  18. #18
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    Zend has a small business program (-$250k/year) going for $295 (or $395 but I can't remember now sorry) ... but it is a one time fee. I think they charge $xx or $xxx per year for updates, I'm not sure. We've been using the old version all along and it's been fine without upgrades/updates.

    The only thing that is annoying is the "yearly license key renewal". It's a drawn out process that Zend makes you wait for days before re-generating a new key for the year. They also require new key generation if you re-install your OS and/or you re-install Zend to a new HD.

  19. #19
    Web development Company chrisranjana's Avatar
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    Initially when you launch a php product I'm not sure whether encoding will do your sales good since people may want to look at your code for security holes etc. But once your scripts are established then encoding maybe the way to go for future versions.
    Chris, Programmer/Developer, Chrisranjana.com
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  20. #20
    Non-Member pbkill's Avatar
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    I do not think it is a good idea. If a client ever has a problem or if they want to change somthing it can cuase downtime in thier site and that is not very good. When I sell code to someone they get all the rights to the script unless its a specialty script.

  21. #21
    PHP/Rails Developer Czaries's Avatar
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    I think if you encode your scripts it is always a good idea to offer an unencoded version as well (at a higher price) to satisfy those clients who want to customize the software extensively. Usually the clients who are doing extensive modifications are already paying developers hundreds of dollars to customize it, so paying an extra $200 for the unencoded version usually won't be an issue to them.

    That being said, I think it's always a good idea to leave some main files unencoded. You should probably only encode your core files and leave entensions, modules, and addons unencoded so developers can see how they work.

    You could even possibly offer "stepped" versioning:
    - 90% Encoded $100
    - 60% Encoded $170
    - 20% Encoded $225
    - Unencoded $400

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdesigns
    How much is the zend encoder? last time I checked their website they wanted you to call for pricing information...
    Zend recently changed their entire Encoder/SafeGuard Suite product line and 'refreshed' their small business suite program last year. Pricing on the Encoder/SafeGuard Suite varied from having ‘set’ pricing to asking you to call, but they seem to have finally decided on figures

    Previously, Zend sold the Zend encoder for $960 per year (~$3k or so for a perpetual plus license) and the SafeGuard Suite (containing the Zend encoder + a licensing component) for $6k (perpetual license, I think it was ~$3k for a yearly). In the past few days Zend has changed things and it seems that they now only sell the SafeGuard Suite at $960 for a yearly license, with no perpetual option listed on the site (the Zend Encoder standalone has disappeared completely). It's certainly now better value for money since you now get the licensing component at no extra cost compared to what you used to pay for just the Zend encoder, but, it's still much more expensive compared to other solutions such as ionCube ($199 for a perpetual license including 12 months support + upgrades? Count me in!).

    For the Zend Small Business program, it used to be $295 for perpetual licenses to the Zend encoder, Zend studio and the performance suite (with a yearly 'reconfirmation' to get you new keys valid for another year). As of last May, they changed the small biz program and now it only includes yearly licenses to Zend Studio and the Zend Encoder for $395, and then you need to pay $295 every year to continue running the software and for another year of support and upgrades. It's not that bad a deal, considering Zend Studio on its own is $299 and then $199 each year for support + upgrades, and the small business program is definitely an option you should consider if you’ve got revenue under $250k per year.

    In terms of what I use and prefer, I think both Zend and ionCube offer good encoding solutions and I own licenses to both. ionCube however is much better value for money, and offers some neat features such as ASCII encoding that reduces support headaches from FTP software uploading binary encoded files in ASCII and corrupting them. For our products that are targeted at developers/experienced users, we only offer an ionCube option. For our largest product in terms of client base, we offer both Zend and ionCube encoded versions as it better suits the industry the product’s targeted at. I think we’ve had maybe one or two people asking about a Zend encoded version, but, for the most part people seem quite happy to use ionCube encoded scripts and I don’t think we’ve ever lost a sale for only offering an encoded version (i.e. no source code) or only offering an ionCube encoded version.

    If you have the money, I’d say go for both Zend and ionCube encoding solutions as it keeps everyone happy. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be any worse off simply offering an ionCube version. You can always purchase the Zend SafeGuard suite later if people start asking for a Zend encoded version of your product
    Alasdair Stewart
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Czaries
    I think if you encode your scripts it is always a good idea to offer an unencoded version as well (at a higher price) to satisfy those clients who want to customize the software extensively. Usually the clients who are doing extensive modifications are already paying developers hundreds of dollars to customize it, so paying an extra $200 for the unencoded version usually won't be an issue to them.

    That being said, I think it's always a good idea to leave some main files unencoded. You should probably only encode your core files and leave entensions, modules, and addons unencoded so developers can see how they work.

    You could even possibly offer "stepped" versioning:
    - 90% Encoded $100
    - 60% Encoded $170
    - 20% Encoded $225
    - Unencoded $400
    The issue with offering an un-encoded version at any price is that all it takes is one fraudulent order (e.g. purchase the 'un-encoded' edition and then chargeback) and then to post the product on a website/p2p and the entire point of offering encoded lower priced versions is negated as anyone can then go and get the source. This is exactly what happened with DeskPro (a professional helpdesk system) – they offered several editions from $199 to $999, and people purchased the viewable-source $999 edition, charged back, and now the source code is freely available on numerous sites. No matter how much you look at each order and check it for fraud, one will slip through eventually.

    I’d much rather offer a single version of my product which only has key files encoded to ensure compliance with my licensing measures – you get the best of both worlds in allowing the majority of your application to be viewable for users to customise, but, you still keep control of your product.
    Alasdair Stewart
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    21% ionCube encoder discount!

  24. #24
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    and it is easy to customize (via some type of template system).
    You see, this is where I have a problem; If it's an application, you are not actually buying the application, but you are buying a licence to use that application, and thus the author has the right to encode it.

    On the otherhand, if it's a case of a website, that area may be different; A bespoke piece of software developed for a website may well be the work of the owner of said website, but even in that event, I would still to a certain degree, encode the code base that I've spent countless hours developing.

    There is usually a clause in the contract to state just that in fact - the site owner, owns the script for the functionality of his or her site, but not the code base, of which that given functionality was based upon.

    This is a difficult area though, and before you buy a script or licence, you do need to get legal advice, just so you know where you stand; Something a lot of people don't bother with, and then they are left with the impression, that they've been screwed...

  25. #25
    SitePoint Evangelist CapitalWebHost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron D.
    I have never and will never buy a php script that is encoded. I like to be able to see what the actual code says so I can modify it if I need to (which happens frequently) and also so I can be sure there are no back doors.
    Guess you don't use any kind of client based software then? Not a Windows user?

    While encode scripts can be a pain in some cases, if developed correctly where the author leaves exits and configuration options un-encoded, I have no problems. Authors have every right to protect their work.


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