Navigating GIF Construction Set: FAQs and Technical Insight

Frequently asked questions about the GIF Construction Set.

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Not intended for use by children or liberals under the age of five. Printed on unrecycled dead trees and we're proud of it. This document contains the following sections: SECTION 1: Downloading, Installation and Shareware SECTION 2: Technical Support SECTION 3: Running GIF Construction Set SECTION 1: Downloading, Installation and Shareware Q: Is there a Macintosh version of GIF Construction Set? A: Not as yet. One is in the works, but no release date has been assigned to it at this time. Macintosh development is relatively slow and confusing, something they don't tell you when you buy one of the damn things.

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Q: I've been trying to download the current version of GIF Construction Set for days but your server is always busy. Can you e-mail me a copy? A: Sorry, we are unable to e-mail large binary files over our present mail server. Our main server has been the recipient of an ongoing program of expansion, but each time we increase its capacity, the demand seems to increase to match it. It's usually more readily accessible before noon, EST. We do have a number of mirrors around the world, accessible through the Mirrors link at the top of each of our web pages. The SimTel mirrors are especially useful. Q: I've downloaded GIF Construction Set but it will not install - - it tells me that I must run it under Windows, even when I do. What's wrong? A: You have a damaged download. Download it again. Q: Does using an unregistered copy of GIF Construction Set to create a few graphics for my web page constitute a fair use of the shareware? A: In our opinion it does not. The shareware release of GIF Construction Set is provided for you to evaluate. If you find it to be good enough to create GIF files for use on a web page, we feel that it is good enough to register. If you don't agree that is, if you find it to be unsuitable for your needs and as such not worth registering please delete it and accept our thanks for trying it out. Q: Should I install GIF Construction Set in Windows 95 or NT through Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel? A: Absolutely not. Use the Run item of the Start menu. Q: Can the 32-bit version of GIF Construction Set run under Windows 3.1 or Windows 3.11 if I have WIN32S installed? A: No, it uses several DLLs not supplied with WIN32S. Use the sixteen-bit build. Q: What are the functional differences between the sixteen- and 32-bit builds of GIF Construction Set? A: Not much. The 32-bit build supports long file names, while the sixteen-bit build does not. The 32-bit build is somewhat faster under 95 and NT. The 32-bit build can create wide palette GIF files, discussed elsewhere in this document. Otherwise, they're identical. You're probably wondering about now if Windows 95 might not have just been a really sneaky way to sell everyone 32-bit versions of perfectly good sixteen-bit applications. Q: What files does the GIF Construction Set installer add to my WINDOWS and WINDOWSSYSTEM directories, and what changes does it make to my registry? A: None. We feel that shareware should not mess with your system files, and none of ours does. Everything the installer writes to your hard drive goes in GIF Construction Set's private directory, and no system files are altered. Q: How can I uninstall GIF Construction Set. A: Simply delete its private directory and everything in it. Q: If I register GIF Construction Set by phone, can I get a registration code immediately? A: We can e-mail one to you if you request it. This usually takes about 72 hours. Please note, that's actually three business days weekends don't count. Q: How can I register GIF Construction Set? A: You can pay by Visa, Mastercard, American Express or by a cheque drawn on an international bank having the address of a North American clearing office and a bank transit number printed on it. Cheques must be in US dollars no other currency can be accepted. Please do not send us Eurocheques they cannot be cleared outside Europe. Our present bank cannot accept payments by wire transfer. We ask that you use the order form provided with every copy of GIF Construction Set to place your order. It's stored in a file called ORDER.WRI in the GIF Construction Set directory, which can be opened with Windows Write or WordPad. You can register over CompuServe at GO SWREG. The registration code 10595. You can FAX the order form to 1-905-936-9502, e-mail it to alchemy@mail.north.net or snail-mail it to Alchemy Mindworks Inc., P.O. Box 500, Beeton, Ontario L0G 1A0 CANADA. For the fastest service, please call our order desk at 1-800-263- 1138 or 1-905-936-9500. They take all major plastic, and are open 24 hours a day. We are unable to send you GIF Construction Set COD. Q: Can I pay for GIF Construction Set by purchase order? A: No. If you want to buy 100 or more copies, please get in touch with us and we'll consider it. Sadly, the purchase order system has seen considerable abuse in recent years while few institutions issuing purchase orders flat-out refuse to honour them, we have found that many purchase orders are accompanied by extensive documentation requirements, lengthy waits for payment and the need to follow up and beg for money multiple times before a cheque actually gets cut. This probably makes sense if the purchase order has been issued to pay for a Cray supercomputer or a couple of B1 bombers it's not workable for a $20.00 shareware registration. Q: How long does it take to get a registered copy of GIF Construction Set? A: Barring unforeseen delays post office strikes, mice in the disk copying machine, an unscheduled apocalypse we will ship your software within 72 hours of receiving your registration order. Note that it usually takes about two weeks for a package to get from Canada to the United States, and about three weeks for one to get from Canada to overseas destinations. We have no control over this. The only other shipping option we can offer at present is Federal Express. As of this writing, this costs $28.00 (US) to the United States and $45.00 (US) to other parts of the world. We cannot ship by UPS, Airborne, DHL or other couriers at this time. Q: I already have the shareware version of GIF Construction Set. Can you just e-mail me the registration code and not charge me shipping. A: We certainly can. Just be sure to state that you'd like this done when you register. You'll get no disks by snail-mail, and we'll deduct the $5.00 shipping charge. Please note that you must state that you want your registration code e-mailed to you at the time you order. We are unable to locate and amend your order after it has been received. Q: GIF Construction Set used to be bookware. Can I still register it by buying and reading The Order, by Steven William Rimmer? A: GIF Construction Set is no longer bookware. While we are still happy to honour the bookware offer if you wish, this will get you a registered version of GIF Construction Set 1.0G, a sixteen-bit build with relatively few features. Alternately, you can order a registered copy of the current release of GIF Construction Set. This version includes better animation support, Animation Wizard to make creating animations easier, better palette options, block management, Netscape sanity checking and numerous other features. It costs $20.00 (US) plus $5.00 shipping. Q: I'm writing a book and I'd like to include GIF Construction Set with it. Can I do this? A: We grant permission to include our software with books on a project by project basis. We require a signed agreement for each book. Please e-mail your request to alchemy@mail.north.net and provide us with: 1. The name of the book you wish to include our software with. 2. The author of the book. 3. The name, address, phone and FAX number of the publisher. 4. The name or names of the applications in question. 5. A FAX number and contact name to FAX our agreement to. See the Shareware Distribution document which accompanies GIF Construction Set for more information. Please note that due to the high volume of requests we receive to include our shareware with books, we are unable to review, sign and return individual publishers' agreements for permission to use our shareware. The only permission you need is our signed distribution agreement and not to put to fine a point on it, that's all we have the resources to provide at the moment. Q: Do you offer an educational discount for GIF Construction Set? A: No, we don't. We feel that the fairest price is one which applies to everyone equally. Q: Does the registered version of GIF Construction Set come with a printed manual? A: No, it comes with complete documentation on disk which can be printed out if you require a paper reference. A paper manual would have about tripled the cost of the package we feel that software should be affordable, and this extra cost didn't seem to make sense for an application as simple as GIF Construction Set. Q: Are you guys in league with the devil? A: Don't laugh we get asked this one frequently. Some of the people who work at Alchemy Mindworks have pagan beliefs, and some vaguely pagan iconography has appeared in some of our literature and example graphics. The most overtly pagan images arguably turn up in the "click me" advertisements for Steven William Rimmer's novels, which are themselves fairly pagan. This document being about GIF Construction Set rather than about comparative theology, we won't get into the distinction between that which is pagan and that which is occult or satanic, save to note that there is a really huge difference between them. We have been surprised or perhaps more correctly, disturbed to find that some fundamentalist christians seem to equate pagan traditions with worship of the christian devil. Our reply to this is "not even close" and their reply to our reply is very often "that's just what I'd expect the devil to say." Well, we aren't. If we were, we'd no doubt have a much more convincing rebuttal. Should the pagan graphics trouble you, you can convert the distribution version of GIF Construction Set into a politically correct, culturally neutral GIF Construction Set. Delete the two "click me" advertisements and this bit of the Frequently Asked Questions document. Q: If I register GIF Construction Set and the leather-winged demon of the night comes by to rip out my heart before the registration key arrives, what can I do? A: Running away isn't an altogether bad idea. Painting its nose with Keen's extra hot mustard has been known to work as well. Keep in mind that the leather winged demon of the night has been lunching down those still-beating hearts in record numbers of late, and is getting a bit porky. It can't move like it used to. Do not attempt to use high explosives or small tactical nuclear weapons against leather-winged demons of the night, as this just irritates them. Q: I received a message from Alchemy Mindworks saying that I have a GIF file created by an unregistered copy of GIF Construction Set on my web page, and asking me to register the software. I only created the one GIF file while I was evaluating the shareware version don't you people think that coming after me this way is somewhat unreasonable? A: A considerable pontification follows this is not recommended for anyone with a short attention span. See the question following this one as well. We receive a number of messages each week from registered users of GIF Construction Set which say, in effect "I paid for the software. I've found a GIF file which was obviously created by someone who didn't. Can't you do something about this?" In one light, this ignores the reality that shareware developers are ultimately powerless to stop users of their software who are determined not to pay for it we can't call in the shareware police, and as should be obvious, we wouldn't even if we could. We're also unable to ascertain how long someone has been evaluating an unregistered copy of GIF Construction Set, of course. At another level, however, we feel that this is a reasonable concern. Users who have supported the shareware they use should feel a bit abused when they see others who do not. We don't believe that shareware which seeks to compel its users to register it with 30-day timers and other restrictions is really in keeping with the spirit of shareware. However, getting in touch with the owners of the web pages in question and mentioning that they've used GIF Construction Set without paying for it doesn't seem unreasonable. The messages we send to the owners of web pages which include GIF files created by unregistered copies of GIF Construction Set seem to evoke one of three responses. Some of them are ignored this is especially true of messages sent to large corporations and branches of the government. The White House web page, for example, has two GIF files of a waving American flag on it as of this writing which were created by an unregistered copy of GIF Construction Set. Some of the people we contact actually register GIF Construction Set, which is, of course, very heartening. Finally, a few of the replies we receive express howling, lethal outrage at our having contacted their senders. These seem to be from younger users of the Internet, or possibly from people who feel that a good strong offense is the best defense. These replies usually include sentiments such as "you have no idea how shareware is supposed to work", "I only used the software once", "you have some nerve demanding that I register your shareware", "you're spamming my e-mail", "I'm just evaluating it and haven't decided whether I like it" and "I'm so offended that I'll never use your software again, and I'll tell all my friends what bastards you are". This latter point is a somewhat hollow threat users who had no intention of paying for GIF Construction Set in the first place can't very well threaten not to do so in the future. As to our "demanding" payment, the most coercive line in the message we send to unregistered users of the software is "we would like to ask that you register GIF Construction Set..." not exactly a leg-breaker. We feel that software should be regarded as you would any other tool for example, a hammer or a power drill. If you only needed to drill one hole, you'd still have to go out and pay for a power drill the price of the tool isn't predicated on the number of times you intend to use it. Admittedly, this precludes users who would buy the drill, use it for the one hole they needed drilled and then return it, claiming they didn't like it - - a practice at least as unethical as using unregistered shareware. The distinction between GIF Construction Set and a power drill is that the people who sell power drills have pretty tight control over the number of people who use them versus the number of people who pay for them. Shareware developers must, by nature, be resigned to a level of abuse that the manufacturers of more conventional tools need not concern themselves with. Some users of shareware might regard this as a degree of license to abuse the software they download. Our perception of shareware albeit from the point of view of shareware developers is that shareware which is being evaluated should not be used to do productive work, and that shareware which is doing productive work is no longer being evaluated. In the case of GIF Construction Set, "productive work" would be creating GIF files which wind up on a web page. If it's good enough to create images for your web page, it's worth paying for. License to evaluate shareware should not be regarded as the opportunity to get as much productive work done during the evaluation period as possible, and then to "decide" that the software isn't worth registering. If there's a distinction between this and the aforementioned example of returning a tool to the shop where you bought it after you're done with it, it eludes us. In conclusion, then, we don't feel that our messages asking unregistered users of our software to pay for it are unreasonable or out of keeping with the spirit of shareware. They're certainly less so than the level of crippling we see in other shareware packages. Parties who use shareware and don't pay for it make it more expensive for the ones who do doubly so for the users who don't pay for it but call our technical support line anyway. (You know who you are.) Users who claim to have only used GIF Construction Set once can take heart we're only asking you to pay for it once. Q: I received a message about an animated GIF file on my web page having been created by an unregistered version of GIF Construction Set. I found that GIF file on another page do I have to do anything about it? A: This is the Internet you don't HAVE to do anything. We feel that using an unregistered shareware application to do productive work is software piracy, no less so than using an unpaid-for copy of a commercial application. Someone used a pirated copy of our software to create the GIF file in question, even if it wasn't you or anyone you know. You might want to consider whether you wish to support software piracy by using the product of a pirated application. Secondly, you might want to consider whether you want people who browse your web pages to know that pirated software was used in part to create them. They certainly won't know where your animated GIF file came from. Ulimately, it's your decision whether you want to remove the GIF file in question from your page, register GIF Construction Set to make it legal or just pretend we're extraterrestials and wait for us to beam up and go away. To phrase it another way, you're free to decide whether you see yourself as being part of a lawless Internet, wherein everyone does as he or she pleases presumably doing it to you one day soon or whether you feel that the Internet has a conscience and a sense of ethics, of which you are part. If you're not prepared to register GIF Construction Set, we would certainly prefer to see you remove any GIF files created by unregistered copies of it from your web page, however they got there. However, as was noted earlier, this is the Internet no one is going to force you to do so. Q: Can I bundle GIF Construction Set with my commercial product. A: Possibly, but please read the Shareware Distribution document that accompanies GIF Construction Set first, and then get in touch with us before you proceed. Q: How much do upgrades for a registered copy of GIF Construction Set cost? A: Upgrades in the 1.0 series are free just download the current shareware release and install it on a system with a registered copy. It will find your registration code and become a registered copy. We have no current plans to amend this situation in the foreseeable future, although we reserve the right to do so if we change our minds. Q: I registered GIF Construction Set for Windows 3.1, but I've upgraded to Windows 95. How much will the 32-bit version cost me? A: Nothing. We sell functionality, not platforms. In fact, if you look at the GIF Construction Set disk you received when you registered your shareware, you'll find the 32-bit build is on it. Barring this, you can download it from our web page. The same registration code works in both versions. Hands up all Windows users who consider 95 to be an "upgrade". Q: I live outside North America how much more must I add for shipping? A: Nothing. The $5.00 (US) shipping charge for GIF Construction Set will get it anywhere on earth by air mail prices for the Martian colonies are slightly higher. Q: What is the Unisys GIF tax and does this mean that I must pay a royalty on GIF files I create? A: The GIF format was originally created by CompuServe. The image compression algorithm used by GIF files is called LZW. At the time GIF was created, back in 1987, CompuServe appears to have assumed that LZW was a public domain entity at least, there's no indication that they did a patent search to find out whether LZW was owned by anyone. CompuServe announced the GIF format in 1987 with the following grant of rights to developers: "While this document is copyrighted, the information contained within is made available for use in computer software without royalties, or licensing restrictions." As it happens, CompuServe didn't actually have these rights to grant LZW is a patented entity which is currently owned by the Unisys Corporation. Unisys actually acquired the LZW patent in 1985. They didn't make much noise about it until December of 1994, however, leaving sufficient time for GIF to be widely adopted as a graphic file format. Among other things, it became the defacto standard for lossless graphics on the web. At the end of 1994, Unisys announced that it would be demanding royalties from any developer who created for-profit software which can read or write graphic files using LZW compression for practical purposes, this includes GIF and some TIFF files. Our understanding of this situation, as explained to us by our trademark and patent attorneys, is that Unisys can demand a royalty for software which uses its patented algorithm to read or write GIF files, but not for the data the algorithm creates. As such, while we must pay Unisys a royalty on each copy of GIF Construction Set registered, you're safe in using GIF files without any interference from Unisys. Our attorneys have also recommended that we not say what we think about Unisys' conduct in this situation, so we'll leave it to your imagination. Note that Unisys would now like to sell us all Internet-based services and hardware. Ya, right... Q: Can I use some of the images at the Alchemy Mindworks web page on my own page? A: If you are a registered user of GIF Construction Set, you are welcome to use the animated moving red ball graphic and the animated spinning compact disk graphic on your page. There are two conditions to this: 1. Your page must include a link back to ours, and credit for the source of the images. 2. You must download these files from our page and reference copies of them on your server, rather than referencing the files on our page. From time to time we change the links and the file names for frequently "borrowed" files, replacing them with something else entirely. You probably don't want to see what "something else" looks like. If you'd like a graphic to use for a link to our page, please check the link at the bottom of our main page to download one. Q: If I have a registered copy of GIF Construction Set, do I have to pay a royalty to Alchemy Mindworks if I sell the animations I create? A: No. Your intellectual property is yours to do with as you like. You also don't have to acknowledge the software you used to create 'em, although you're welcome to do so if you like, with our thanks. SECTION 2: Technical Support Q: Can I get technical support for GIF Construction Set even if I'm not a registered user yet? A: We will provide limited technical support to unregistered users at our discretion to help you evaluate the software. Please note that we reserve the right to discontinue technical support to specific unregistered users if we feel that your requests on our technical support facilities are excessive, or if your questions are answered in the GIF Construction Set documentation. Q: Is there a limit to the amount of technical support I'm entitled to as a registered user? A: We would like your use of GIF Construction Set to be as effortless and productive as possible. As such, we do not impose specific limits on technical support if you're genuinely having a lot of problems, we're here to get you through them. However, technical support is not a talking manual. We reserve the right to refuse to provide technical support to users with questions which are answered in this documentation, or in the GIF Construction Set documentation. If you're really new to computers, to Windows or to the net, you might need to read up on these areas before we can assist you with specific problems in GIF Construction Set. We consider that the question "which one of the plastic things on my desk is the mouse?" is a good indication that you have some way to go before you need to talk to us. We usually will not be able to help you with applications from other developers, even if you're using their files with GIF Construction Set, or GIF Construction Set's files with them. We cannot direct you to books to read or places on the web to find out about things other than our software. We cannot provide technical support in languages other than English. That's contemporary English, by the way, rather than, say, Chaucerian English. Neither jive nor val-speak constitute English for the purposes of this discussion. Inserting the word "blimey" into another language at regular intervals doesn't qualify as English either. Finally, we will hang up on, shred or delete requests for technical support from users who are rude or abusive. Q: How can I contact the technical support desk for GIF Construction Set? A: You can get technical support by e-mail at alchemy@mail.north.net questions sent to this e-mail address are usually answered within 48 hours, and often within two or three hours. You can also call us at 1-905-936-9501 between 10:00am and 5:00pm EST, most working days. If you get the voice-mail machine, all our lines are busy. We will not under any circumstances return calls for technical support. Please do not call the 800 number for technical support this connects to our order desk, which knows nothing about software. They cannot transfer you to someone who does. Please read this document in its entirety and the Documentation file for GIF Construction Set before you call technical support. Q: What's the best time to call the technical support desk. A: Before noon EST is usually somewhat quieter, as the west coast hasn't come on line as yet. Noon to one EST is dodgy, as it's lunch time. Afternoons can get fairly busy. Friday is particularly heavy, as Sprint gives some of its customers free long distance calling on Fridays. Some of them call us just to chat. Thanks, Sprint... We are often able to provide technical support on weekends and after hours if anyone is working here during this period, they'll be happy to assist you as best they can. Note that after- hours technical support cannot help you with questions about order status or software registration codes. If you call after hours and get voice mail, there's no one about. Q: Is there any way to call technical support without my paying for the call? A: Aside from relocating to beautiful Adjala township in central Ontario to raise potatoes and drink warm, flat beer, no. Unlike many software developers, we do not impose a per-call fee on technical support, nor will you find yourself on hold for fifteen minutes listening to elevator music if you call us. However, the only way we could provide toll-free technical support would be to increase the price of our shareware to cover the phone costs. This would, in effect, impose the cost of technical support on everyone who uses Alchemy Mindworks' software, even though only a few users would actually be calling for technical support. We feel strongly that people shouldn't be required to pay for services they don't actually get. We believe that this would be fundamentally wrong. We further feel that if our various governments felt the same way, our various economies wouldn't be melting down as you read this. Q: I'm having difficulties with a GIF file. Can I e-mail it to you

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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