Archive | February 2018

BallisticXLR Price Increases, Service Updates, Version 9 Dropping Soon, Reality Check

General Service Update

I started BallisticXLR really out of pure self interest. I was working on an invention; a gizmo for military applications, and needed to know how external ballistics worked deep in the guts so I could create some computer software that did ballistics calculations as part of the overall thing that gizmo did. At the same time, I’m not a software developer by trade (I’m a system administrator for large Linux/UNIX installations) so I needed some way to systematize the ballistics and anatomize the bits so I could figure out how to set up the code architecture. Doing it in a spreadsheet was an easy way to systematize each of the bits and a great way to learn it all.

I didn’t plan on releasing any part of BallisticXLR as an Excel spreadsheet for general public use. Dr. Pejsa and Russ Ring had already released its predecessor and despite the bigass bug in it, it worked. I actually used that spreadsheet as the basis to create mine… after fixing the bigass bug in it. Hey, I’m no physicist but I am a computer geek and I know more math than the average college graduate. Fixing the bug came down to a hunch, a test and I was done. I’d guessed right the first time. Hey, blind squirrels and nuts right?

When I found TiborasaurusRex’s Sniper 101 series it discussed the really fine points of ballistics. Particularly, the stuff that doesn’t even matter in the real world and and the stuff that very much does were both addressed. TiborasaurusRex was using a table design he’d pinched from Dean Michealis who literally wrote the book on .50Cal Hard Target Interdiction. Rex’s real contribution was to explain some basics and terminology and then to have users go to and generate some numbers and then to copy/paste those into his spreadsheet layout. I saw that and nearly puked. It was very clear that this troglodyte TiborasaurusRex sure knew his stuff behind his guns in edited video footage but didn’t know a damned thing about computers (which he freely admits) or how unintelligent the average person actually is capable of being even if they’re normally very smart (which he also freely admits).

Not only did it require using JBM which, while full featured, is as complicated as the insides of an automatic transmission but to compound things, nobody could do it and they kept asking the most ludicrously stupid questions. The Sniper101 series almost died in its adolescence because Rex’s system was at the time simply damned near impossible for the newbie to use. I decided to put out a couple demo versions of BallisticXLR which took about 100 hours and gave copies to Rex. Rex promptly went cuckoo for cocoa puffs and started sending people to my channel immediately. What I’d done to elicit this response is add the back end math and automated everything so it was really easy to fill out inputs and get results. Easy enough that newbies could make a good fist of doing it without asking irritating questions. It also got people to stop bugging Rex so much and to start bugging me. So he got to pawn off his problem on me. So what? I volunteered right?

Seeing that Rex’s people were benefiting from the work I put in and having transferred further development of the original gizmo that brought me down this path to another party, I decided to really make something of BallisticXLR. I’ve now put about 5000 hours of my time into it and my helper in Belgium has put in a few hundred of his own. At this point I’ve released over 150 versions including patches and bug fixes across 8 major versions. And, every single one has always been free to download and users provided with free personalized email based support. Sadly, this is not a tenable situation in the long term. In order to deal with the amount of time and money it costs me to run BallisticXLR I need to introduce a fee structure.

The download for version 8.31 is currently still free but version 9.1 has not been released yet and may be released as a paid product with a license cost. The cost for the download, if any, is still under consideration.

Additionally, while support services have historically been free I have no choice but to introduce a fee structure for support services. There will be 3 levels of support: Gold, Silver, Bronze. Gold is limited phone support (3x incidents per 12 months) plus unlimited requests with a 24hr response time to email support. Silver is up to 10x requests per year to email support w/ 24 hour response time. Bronze is limited to 2x requests per year to email support w/ 72hr response time. You will be able to purchase a support entitlement at my website soon. Fee structures are as follows: Gold $200/yr. Silver $100/year. Bronze $50/year. This new fee based support will go live very soon. I’m trying to stall that as long as possible.

Version 9 Dropping

I’ve finally nailed down the last details to implement velocity regime banding for ballistic coefficients. This deals much better with G1 ballistics as the BC will degrade with velocity. Continually changing BC’s need to be dealt with in the drops and drifts or you’ll hit low and wide respectively.

Some companies like Sierra publish velocity regime specific BC data which Version 9 of BallisticXLR can now use. The differences won’t be seen really at close range but as you start getting to proper long range applications of fire the smallest differences start to mean a lot. Anyone that shoots into the transonic zone from over mach 2 will certainly find some benefit there. In addition to the banded BC’s I’ve shrunk the file size dramatically, fixed all of the little conditional formatting, reduced to single decimal precision in many places, eliminated the “#VALUE” and “######” errors, added all kinds of error handling in the back end and made oodles of subtle improvements that help to make cleaner and easier to read the stuff it prints out. It’s much faster now, less error prone, easier to use, more flexible, more accurate and smaller. It’s also now working either fully or partially in Libre Office and Google Sheets (Google Sheets is ridiculously slow though) so there’s even options for using it with non-Microsoft application software.

It’s really hard to communicate the amount of effort that went into this latest, possibly final, version. 12 to 16 hours a day for days at a time. When doing these big upgrades I can’t even focus on my day job. I have to give 100% to the spreadsheet or mistakes get made. I wasn’t the only one to put in the work either. My Belgian volunteer assistant, Wouter, put in quite a number of days of effort there too and he doesn’t get paid either which is another situation I can’t let stand. His contributions have been huge and there needs to be some reward for that.

Price Increases

Prices for my indestructible printed materials have gone up substantially to keep up with materials costs. When I started the media cost around 60 cents a page and printing a page cost about $2 in toner and printer life. Nowadays it’s teetering very close to $1:page for the media and it’s up to over $3:page in printer wear and toner. Keep in mind I don’t often just get to print 1 copy. Tiny defects in printing getting QC’d out mean that I burn about 1.4 printed pages per page actually delivered. The reject rate is high because I’m picky. Add to that the cost of handling, packaging and shipping (another ~5 bucks) and it starts to be a losing proposition quickly. When I started I made about 10 bucks a kit for my time (about an hour per kit) after shipping. At the old price with my current costs though, I lose 10 cents a page before I even package or ship the thing. Each kit loses me a few bucks. The old cost of $55 for a 10-page B-FEDS kit has therefore gone up to $75. That amounts to a compensation of ~$14/hr for my time and paying for the hard costs of materials and shipping. I didn’t increase the price because I wanted to make money. I increased it because I can’t afford to lose that much.

Reality Check

People being the cheap ass bastards that they are, I expect that the changes I’m making will be the death knell for BallisticXLR. If everything goes as I predict then there will be no more orders for any of my products and I’ll shut down next year as a result. If I’m wrong in my pessimism and people are willing to pay too little and get too much then it might last a bit longer. Anyone that ponies up for licensed products will continue to get the support they paid for even if I shut it down. I just won’t accept new customers in such a case. So, I hope you all continue to support the work that I’ve done and continue to do but I don’t expect squat and I’m planning for either contingency. I would simply ask you a question, “Did BallisticXLR and/or Meccastreisand help make you a more successful shooter?” and if so, consider making a contribution (see donate links on my youtube channel) or purchasing some of my products/services and supporting my efforts in that way.




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