Software Demo CD

So apparently our software demo CDs don’t work for all our clients. Of course, we don’t hear back from everyone. God forbid anyone gives us feedback, but I think my two years at a college IT department and my four months here should really have solidified that hope as “lost” by now, but apparently I still have hope. Silly me.

I’m not sure what the original issue was, exactly. All I know is that the problem got dumped on me at some point after my coworker got tired of it, with the directions of “find a way to make it work.”

Now, what we had was a powerpoint presentation that autoran. You navigate through, read stuff, and there are “buttons” that you click to view video demos. The video demos are actually EXE files, probably for compatibility or whatever. I don’t know; the original discs were made sometime between 2006 and 2008. The issue I got was that the videos wouldn’t play and my coworker couldn’t get it updated to work properly at all. Nothing ran right when I got it. It autoran an html page where you click the powerpoint, it downloads, and then it can’t play the videos/exe files that give you a warning about how terribleawful it is if you play these sketchy exe files.

The first solution was to make it a tiny website, but I didn’t. It just didn’t work the way I wanted it to, so I gave up. I asked about DVDs; logically a DVD would be great. Sadly, it would need a lot of menus, and I couldn’t even find something that made menus the way I wanted them. Worse, my boss doesn’t think many of our clients would HAVE dvd drives in their computers. As my friend Matt said, “what, do they run DOS too?” (The answer is “that is a distinct possibility.”)

I went back to powerpoint eventually. PP 2010 does the “powerpoint for CD” thing differently than past versions…. based on what the Internet told me. It seems less versatile now. But! But I did see that instead of writing directly to the disc, you can have it toss everything into a folder. This allows me to fix all sorts of annoying issues.

First: change the format from pptx to ppsx. See, when I autorun this powerpoint, I don’t want it to open up the powerpoint software. That stupid edit mode! No! But that’s what Powerpoint Show files are for. It just opens it up like you pressed F5 to play the powerpoint and everyone is happy.

Second: Change the autorun.inf file. I changed it to point at the new ppsx file instead of that stupid html file that powerpoint thinks I should use.

That almost makes it work the way it should! But, well, exe files. For some reason, they only work if you open them first, and of course, there’s the security warning because it’s an exe file. I came up with the idea of just putting some other file format in the place of those stupid exe files, so I toss in a wmv, burn the CD, and give it to someone else. (The exe files always worked fine on my computer, but nobody else’s machine.) The WMV works! Yay!

So now my job is to figure out which .avi files from when these things were recorded four years ago correspond to the stupid exe files. And really? They don’t. At all. I couldn’t find them. So in what I feel was a half insane move, I searched for “exe to video converter” and the answer was basically what I expected. “o lol” BUT! See, it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t realize that an exe file could actually be a zip file. Which is weird, because the icon on those exe videos have a little icon that SAYS ZIP ON THEM. I never even thought “This says it’s a zip. I should unzip it.” I do unzip the files and look! Each one contains an avi file and some tiny video player.

It was the happiest thing that happened to me this week.

I remake the powerpoint so it points to the avi files instead, and bring it to one of my coworkers. Well, it didn’t work. First of all, avi files just don’t seem to work right in Windows 7 with Windows Media Player. It doesn’t play video, just sound. I don’t know why and I don’t care because I can’t expect clients to install anything on their machines. The files also don’t open…. so hey, I’m going to try wmv. I’d rather mp4, but camtasia studio doesn’t have that option. Will this work? Fuck knows, I have about three files converted so far.

What I learned:

  • exe files can be zip files
  • I love you google
  • Who designed this powerpoint. My eyes are sad.
  • I can’t accomplish anything some mornings
  • Everything is broken.
Most importantly: DEMO CDS ARE HARD.
“Demo CDs” usually refer to music, so googling sucks. Very little software is meant for what I want to do. There are companies who will produce a demo CD for you. For money. After a long time. I have no idea why powerpoint doesn’t work the same way it used to, but there are ways around it.
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