Modern Software Experience

2010-11-02

new genealogy software

Lulu Software

Lulu Software is a Canadian software developer based in Montreal, Quebec. The company officially opened its doors on 2010 Apr 7 and immediately introduced three different products in five languages; FIXIO PC Cleaner, Soda PDF and Gaia Family Tree. FIXIO PC Cleaner is a PC maintenance tool, Soda PDF is a PDF creator, and Gaia Family Tree is a genealogy application. Three quite different applications, each with its own website.

According to their press release, Lulu aims to provide simple, accessible and reliable solutions, with a focus on offering the friendliest user-experience possible. Well, that sure are a few desirable properties that many current genealogy lack.

Gaia Family Tree

The home page Gaia Family Tree site makes it clear that the software is a free download.

Gaia Family Tree Home Page

Gaia Family Tree is a download of about 1½ MB. I encountered a small issue trying to run the Gaia_Family_Tree_Installer.exe installer program; this installer apparently needs some administrative privileges, I had to run it as administrator.

Gaia Family Tree Installer

The installer managed to disappoint immediately. The title along the top of the dialog, Gaia Family Tree Download and Install Manager, made it clear that this is not a standalone installer, but one of those annoying we-will-download-now applications. That is not user-friendly.

Gaia Family Tree Installer downloading

language

All Lulu applications support five languages; English, German, Spanish, French and Italian. That first dialog has five buttons, one for each language, but only the English button worked. When I tried to click the other buttons, nothing happened.

email

The installer suggests an appropriate installation directory, but you can change the destination if you like. After downloading the software, the Wizard prompt you for your name and email. The Wizard claims to ask the email address so you can receive updates, which seems nonsense to me. Software does not need an email address to download and install updates. Perhaps they want it to send a newsletter.

browser page

When I finished installing, I left the checkbox to start Gaia Family Tree checked, so I expected the application to start, but that is not what happened. Instead of starting the application, the installer started my default browser. It apparently wanted to open some page, but as my current default browser happens to be a beta that excels at not opening pages that way, I have no idea what page that was.

Getting Started

The installer had left an icon on my desktop. Upon starting, the Gaia Family Tree application window maximised to fill the entire screen, and immediately tried to connect to the Internet, without asking permission or even informing the user that it was about to do so, or why it wanted to do so. When I restored the window size, Gaia Family Tree defaulted to the much more reasonable size of 1024 x 768 pixels.

Gaia Family Tree Registration Dialog

In the middle of Gaia Family Tree's main window is a registration dialog box. The text inside the box implies that the installed copy is fully functional, but that if I do not register within 14 days, it will be downgraded in some unspecified way.

When the two weeks were up, the Remind me later (n days left to register button) button disappeared, leaving only the Send me the activation link button, and a dialog that refuses to disappear until you enter your name and email address.
Response on entering your data is fast. Just moments after doing so I received an activation link in my email. Clicking that link led to a page on the Gaia Family Tree site that congratulated me on successfully registering Gaia Family Tree.

Gaia Family Tree Registration Success

The language in the first registration dialog box, which states that you need to register to benefit from the full functionality of the program seemed incorrect to me. As far as I could tell at this point, you only need to register because the registration dialog box blocks the application until you do. I did not notice a difference in functionality, so it seemed they only make you jump through all these hoops get your email address. However, there really is a difference. The application includes a backup feature that you need to register for.

Gaia Family Tree dialog: already registered

already registered

Anyway, after going through all this, I exited the application and restarted it, only to once again be greeted by the registration dialog demanding my name and email address. Then, when I entered those, the application told me that the specified user and email address already exist, and told me to enter different ones.

This is ridiculous. Gaia Family Tree recognises that I am already registered, but still won't let me use the application? It demands that I enter a second email address instead. What kind of nonsense is this? I registered already, you know I registered already, so stop asking me to register and let me use the application.

I decided to retry the registration link, but that did not work either; this time the Gaia Family Tree site told me that the registration failed. The site lists several reasons why registration might fail, including that you are already registered, and suggests contacting their customer support centre - but do not list any contact information for their alleged customer support centre. No email, no phone number, nothing. You have to go hunt for that information yourself.

Gaia Family Tree site: registration failed

bounced

I had a few questions about this product, so I tried to email Lulu Software. I did not find any email address on their site. I tried several obvious email address as well as the email address listed in their press release. Even the email sent to the address listed in the press release bounced! What kind of company is this?

They do list phone numbers on their site, so I decided to call their UK office and ask for a working email address. If I had looked more closely, I would have noticed that their idea of UK support is on an Canadian time schedule…
The support is provided by a third party, UpClick, that let me listen to eight minutes of mind-numbing muzak before answering my call. They then searched about five minutes to find a working email address for Lulu Software, and claimed to have found it: customersupport@upclick.com. That lack of answer tells me everything I need to know about UpClick. They apparently were the lowest bidder on Lulu's request for support services.

receptionist

I tried phoning Lulu Software directly, still just to get a working email address, and got an automated voice response system. The option to talk to the receptionist did not work; the voice response system informed me that the extension was not responding. I think I know why; Lulu has a job available for a receptionist...

Lulu Software looking for a receptionist

The email address for human resources is the only one that did not bounce, but it did not produce a reply either. Lulu Software might just as well not exist at all.

Gaia Family Tree Registration Success

another try

About two weeks later, I decided to give Gaia Family Tree another try. In that time, Lulu Software apparently fixed the broken registration logic. I

I started out with version Gaia Family Tree 1.1.17.0. It was version 1.2.0 that accepted my registration.

This time, when I chose the Already registered? link, Gaia Family Tree told me that You have successfully registered and confirmed your copy of Gaia Family Tree.. So, I could finally try it out.

updates

2010-11-02 instant update: press release

As noted in the first paragraph, Lulu Software introduced Gaia Family Tree 1.0 on 2010 Apr 7. It has been available for several months and the current version of Gaia Family Tree is 1.2.

Yet, upon publication of this first part of the review, Lulu decided to issue a press release, which gives today, 2010 Nov 2, the publication date of this article, as the launch date of Gaia Family Tree.

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