Who is Fourth Ray Software?

Fourth Ray Software is owned and operated by Peter Vanvliet as a sole proprietorship, and is based in Houston, Texas.

Fourth Ray Software is not some fancy corporation with elaborate offices and lots of overhead. No, it is just me, working from home. Doing exactly what I love to do. There are no other employees, so I come up with the ideas for new products, do the design work, write the source code (which is all written in C++, by the way), test, document, and support the products by myself. When you contact Fourth Ray Software for technical support or to share your thoughts about the products, you are directly interacting with me.

How Did Fourth Ray Software Get Started?

When I first started this business in August 2001, I thought it might be hard to be able to work 8 hours per day due to all the distractions one might experience working from home. However, over the years, looking back, it is quite the opposite. Because I love what I do, I can easily work 10 and sometimes 12 hours per day on the software products. Although I try not to write code on the weekends, I will still handle all e-mails. Lest you think I am some single-minded computer nerd, you might want to visit my hobby web site; I do have other interests!

I started Visual Sage in August 2001. In October 2004 I renamed the company to Fourth Ray Software. However, I became a professional C++ programmer long before that. In 1990 I started working for a local software development consulting company, and eventually became a Senior Software Engineer. I wrote several software applications for a large oil company to be used in-house by their oil exploration engineers. The last project I did for that client was work as the technical lead for the user interface team for a huge 3D oil/gas reservoir simulator. There were about 30 developers on that team. During the dot-com craze of 1999/2000 the consulting company I worked for was bought out by a larger web consulting firm from Atlanta. Although they bought our company because of our programming expertise, most of their work was still just creating basic web sites. Because of the "Everybody gotta have a web site" craze, the prices that the company charged for web design were ridiculous. I left that company in early 2000 to start working for a local software company. They were trying to build the "next web browser", and were in negotiations with AOL® to make our product be their next browser. However, in 2001 AOL bought Netscape®, so that effectively put an end to the application we were developing. None of the other projects that the company had under development were of interest to me, so I decided to take the leap and start Visual Sage (later renamed to Fourth Ray Software). I had been thinking about doing that for several years, but it takes guts to quit your well-paying job!

I had lots of experience writing software applications. In additional to the professional work I had done, I would often work on my own software utilities at home in the evenings or on weekends. One of which I had made publicly available as "freeware". Usually when you are employed as a software developer, the company will frown upon, or outright forbid you working on any other software application, even in your free time. I had special permission from the owner of the software consulting firm I worked for, and would often share the applications with him.

Fourth Ray Software Also Does *Some* Web Design Work

However, starting the new company I knew it was going to be a while before I had a product ready to sell. I therefore started developing and maintaining web sites for other companies and individuals, on the side. I had been maintaining my own web sites since January of 1994, so I had plenty of experience. I decided to charge a reasonable hourly rate, not like that Atlanta consulting firm I worked for briefly. Fairly quickly I had about ten clients. These included real estate agents and brokers, crafts people, clubs, storeowners, etc. Eventually, the work started cutting into my available time for my software product development, so I gradually started cutting back (mostly through attrition). You can see my current list of web site clients on this Web Design page.

Our First Product

LinkCheck was the first software product I released in 2002. It was later renamed to FRSLinkCheck™, when the company was renamed. All products start with "FRS", which are the first letters of the company name. FRSLinkCheck flowed naturally out of the many web sites I was maintaining: "How can I verify that all of the links on the web sites I maintain are actually still pointing to a real page on the Web?".

More Products Followed

From day-one, I didn't want to be a one-product company. I enjoy the creativity from producing any number of products. My current goal is ten commercial products and any number of free applications. And so, FRSLibrary™ came next in 2006. It took a long time to develop, but it was worth it. I was involved in an organization for which I volunteered as the librarian and webmaster. The organization had a substantial collection of books, magazines, and video tapes that could be loaned out to members of the organization. Previously, the librarian had a manual record/log of all the items that were on loan, but nobody ever knew what was available, or what the entire inventory contained. So, I developed FRSLibrary. Its ability to generate web pages allowed me to show the organization's inventory on their web site. I then later on developed the ability for members to place reservations for items via the web site. FRSLibrary has grown over the years and it now allows you to keep track of any and all multimedia items you might have in your home or office. It can generate reports for insurance purposes and create web pages for your web site, if so desired. Also released in 2006 was FRSGiftRegistry™, which grew out of a need of a web site client of mine who was maintaining her baby shower gift registry on a sheet of paper for each registrant. This has become a popular product for small mom-and-pop type of stores that provide registry services.

Giving Back

In an effort to give back to the community, I decided to also make several freeware applications available. In 2007 I released FRSPCReboot™ and FRSPCShutdown™. These are command-line only applications that quickly reboot or shut-down your computer, bypassing all the clicking that you have to do normally through Windows. They also make it possible to use them in batch files, so that you can automate those actions via scripts.

Create New Applications or Improve Existing Ones?

My overriding philosophy is to constantly work on improving my software products. Early on, when I only had a few applications to maintain, I had more time to create new products. Nowadays, it takes a lot longer to create a new product. Not because the new products are harder to create, but because I take great pride in making sure my existing applications remain relevant, incorporate all the latest technology, and have all known issues fixed in them. However, in 2009 I was able to create FRSWebSpell™ to help you check the spelling of text that appears on your web site. I also released FRSCalendar™, which is another freeware product.

In 2011 I released FRSFileList™ which also is a freeware application. I have always been fascinated by software utilities that manage files on the computer. When Windows 7 was released I was so fed up with the convoluted user interface of Windows Explorer (the built-in Windows file manager), that I decided it was time to fix that problem. There were many people on the Web complaining about the complexity of Windows Explorer, and quite a few who wanted something like the original Windows 3.1 File Manager back. So, after spending most of the year working on FRSFileMgr™, I was able to release it before the year's end.

In 2013 I released FRSProductMgr™ to make it easy for a small online or brick-n-mortar store to maintain their store's inventory and then publish that inventory on their web site. As I built more and more flexibility into the product, I realized that it could easily store other data that wasn't necessarily specific to a retail store. This has now evolved into a web site content management product. Nearly all of the web sites I currently maintain for clients have their content generated by FRSProductMgr!

In 2014 I released three new freeware applications, namely FRSAddressbook™, FRSPhotoGrabber™, and FRSPasty™. My philosophy around freeware applications is that the application must not take too much time for me to develop, and it must not generate a lot of maintenance work. So, usually these are applications that have a very specific purpose and have their functionality "fixed" with their first version. Of course, I will do routine maintenance on them, but for the most part they won't receive many new features down the road. That is why I can "afford" to release them free of charge. My commercial applications are constantly under review and most have a substantial "to-do" list of functionality that is still scheduled to be implemented.

2015 was another maintenance year. Most of the time was spent in working on updating our various existing products. 2016 saw the release of two brand new freeware applications, FRSStopwatch and FRSCountdown; one counts up in time, other counts down. FRSBikeTraxx was our new commercial application released in that year. It was a banner year for updates, since we did 22 releases in 2016.

A Word About Windows 10

Windows 10 has been released by Microsoft. The good thing about Microsoft has always been that applications developed during older versions of the operating system continue to work with the newer ones. The only exception was Windows Vista when Microsoft decided to aggressively pursue not allowing software applications to make system changes. On the surface this is a good idea, because they were being hammered with virus and malware attacks, but the way they implemented it in Windows Vista prevented a lot of existing applications from working properly, thereby creating a maintenance nightmare for software development companies, such my own. Because of that, Windows Vista turned out to be a very unpopular operating system and it was soon replaced by Windows 7, which relaxed a lot of those restrictions. Windows 8 and 8.1 with their touch-only, forget-the-desktop-user approach was another disaster. This is why Windows 10 has been released quickly, and why it is available for free for the first year, to entice people into upgrading from Windows 7 and 8. My early tests with Windows 10 in August 2015 showed that the operating system still needs some more baking in the oven. Too many things were incomplete, not functional, and caused random crashes. I think they should have waited another 6 months before releasing it. However, luckily, Microsoft allows one to revert back to the previous OS, be it Windows 7 or 8, if you don't like Windows 10. Once they get the major bugs worked out and resolve some of the issues, it is my opinion that Windows 10 will be a true replacement of the solid Windows 7. Give it a bit more time, but I recommend upgrading to it, eventually.

Please be aware that Microsoft has an ulterior motive for making the Windows 10 upgrade free. They aggressively use the new operating system to track everything you do, say, and type on your computer. They guise it under the concept that they need to do to that to be able implement the features of things like Cortana, but behind the scenes they sell that information to advertisers. This is how they make their real money. It is a shame that Microsoft sold their soul to the same "devil" that Google sells their soul to. When you are a corporation, your shareholders demand to see increasing profits year after year. So, for a large corporation like Microsoft to do that, selling software (especially mature software that for the most part works well), that is hard to do. Selling your customer's private data, collected without that customer's expressed permission, to advertisers is now how they can show a profit. It is my recommendation that if you are planning on upgrading to Windows 10 or have already done so, search the Internet, and especially YouTube for settings that you can apply to Windows that will slow down or shut off this stealing of private data. If you can do that, Windows 10 in and of itself is a good operating system.

Below is a listing of the dates when Microsoft stopped, or is going to stop, support for that version of Windows. The ones that are struck out are those that Fourth Ray Software also no longer supports.

What Are We Up To Now?

We currently have six new software applications under development, which will be released as they are ready. However, most of our time will be spent on making sure our existing applications remain in top condition.

Trust

Fourth Ray Software does not participate in any adware, malware, phishing, spam, or any other nefarious and underhanded schemes. When you install our software, you only install our software. No secret tracking or advertising applications are installed; no web browser hacks are installed; nothing but our software application is installed. Our installation programs do not contain viruses. Period. If your anti-virus program complains about our installation program, it is simply lying. Some anti-virus companies allow us to file a complaint and have them check our installation program for themselves, but since we are a small company, they pretty much ignore us. Ultimately, it all comes down to trust. Do you trust me when I tell that you my software doesn't contain anything bad? If you do, then download, install, and enjoy the use of the software. If you do not, well, then you'll have to pass on the power and usefulness of our products. Our motto is "Shining a new light on software", which to us means that we create applications that are easy to use, intuitive, and that don't have all those underhanded things that a lot of software comes with these days.

If you have any questions about the products, feel free to use the Contact link at the top of the page. Enjoy browsing this web site, and enjoy using the products that I put my heart and soul into!