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What’s in a name?

27 September 2004—Our new baby, TCP/IP II, continues to kick and scream as it prepares to emerge and draw its first breath. When that day finally arrives, it will take its place for a short time beside its older sibling, AppleTalk, whose days are numbered. This is the news.

Recently the murmuring of "stale web content" has risen to a level beyond the threshold of pain. As we sat back to take stock of where we were and what news we could state unequivocally under the "three principles" of our operation (see June 10, 2002), we sought to address some of the questions that have been floating around unanswered, gathering ill will. What is QSA? What is QSA doing? Is QSA lost? Who are all those guys? What are they doing?

Since we posted the brief announcement on our web site that we were "Under new management" back on July 14, 2004, we’ve been besieged with questions: some are about the new name, the new company, how it all happened and what it all means. While it’s certainly an interesting story, it’s far from "the big story" at the moment.

Who are all those guys?
On July 14, 2004, if you’d been able to ask each one of us what the big news of the moment was, we would have simply told you, "Helix 5.3 is still not there." "Not QSA?" you’d have asked? "Why not?" The answer would be simple. Like the team leading its division into the playoffs, we still hadn’t clinched anything. All we had was a bunch of people, some new uniforms and a piece of critical code that still didn’t work 100%. So suffice it to say for now that when the team that is still looking for its first big hit finally gets it, learning who everyone is will be vastly more interesting (and more fun, we swear!).

The big story?
That, of course, continues to be the lack of a solid answer to the question of when you can expect to have Helix 6 in your hands, or, more precisely, when will you finally stop having to launch Classic to run Helix, and when you can finally can finally upgrade your Helix Server with the latest hardware. We realize how frustrating it must be for you to see us apparently going about our business, focused so intently--indeed, seemingly fixated on yet another pre-OSX version of Helix, Helix 5.3. A quiet undertone bordering on panic is asking if we’ve somehow lost our way. What could be so important about 5.3?

We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, now more than ever. AppleTalk is what’s lost its way. Apple is letting it slip away into nothingness. When we first learned of this, we made a difficult decision. As far behind everyone as we already were in bringing Helix to macOS and beyond, we committed to the work knowing that there could be no Helix 6 without a new Helix TCP/IP. The TCP/IP networking that was provided in Helix 5.0 was flat-out inadequate.

This effort has proceeded side-by-side with Helix 6 development. A ton of work has been done on Helix 6. But with AppleTalk going away, as the two technologies grew closer to fruition, it became clear that there was little point in taking Helix to macOS without solving TCP/IP first. Without recreating the TCP/IP, the future faded out under a sign saying, "No AppleTalk, no Helix."

As you know if you’ve been keeping up with your reading on this site, we began writing specifications for the new networking in January of 2003. We began testing the software in September of that year, about a year ago now. Since then, we have battled with it almost daily to whip it into "ready for prime time" shape.

It has been a monumental effort. We’re very close now, at last, to completing that work. but it has got to be right. Without it, there can be no Helix macOS Server. As such it is truly the lynchpin of the future of Helix and--by extension--the most important work we have undertaken since we began actually working on the code in the summer of 2002.

So what then, is the significance of the change in management?
Back in January, when the bankruptcy stories began circulating, we found that a diversion had presented us with a pair of opportunities.

Bearing in mind that none of us ever really wanted to own Helix, and that certainly none of us could condone using money we collected from upgrade and support sales to buy it, the first opportunity was the chance to continue what we were doing without fear of it all being pulled away by a whimsical owner. In spite of good intentions, Helix, its users and their future were in jeopardy.

The second was an opportunity to insure that no matter what happened, the bulk of the money being spent would be spent on improving Helix, not buying it. Whoever ultimately laid claim to owning Helix could have, in theory spent too much to buy it, leaving hardly anything left over to do the work, which--as we ALL know only too well--remains unfinished.

A strange combination of coincidences led to a moment when a Helix friend, who wishes for the near future to remain anonymous, stepped in to help us. This person offered to invest additional funds, if necessary, to help us over the rough spots on the road ahead of us. This person was not providing a solution to our funding problems, just an assist. Most importantly, this person believed, as we did and still do, that a bright potential future still exists for Helix, one in which it can again be a useful and self-sustaining product but finally capable of providing solutions for a larger audience than it has ever known.

And the name? QSA ToolWorks?
Well, we thought of a lot of names for this newest Helix incarnation. Some were really pretty cool, rolled right off the tongue like they were meant to be. But a prime consideration for us, doing most of our business on the internet, was the ability to get a "matching" domain name. Try to imagine how many companies wanted to be called "Phoenix Software" and how few of those actually got to use "www.phoenix.com" as their address.

There came a point in the name selection process where we began putting letters together to see what hadn’t already been taken. We ultimately selected QSA because it sounded okay, and because it let us use an "S" for Synergy and an "A" for Autograph and a "Q" for some word in the name of our other partner’s company. And ToolWorks describes pretty well what we do around here: we make tools. And then, when we had it on paper and we all looked at it and agreed we liked it, it jumped out at us and said, "Quit Screwin' Around and get back to work!"

So what’s in a name?
Not much. If we don’t pull off our next miracle and get 5.3 out in a timely fashion, QSA will most likely end up meaning Quietly Slipped Away. The fact that it has enabled us to keep going is certainly significant. Without doing the deal we have done, the future would be completely questionable. Now it is a bit more certain.

But there is one sure thing that becoming QSA has done for Helix. It has at long last liberated Helix to be finished and marketed without fear of repercussion. Sold as it always should have been. We are perched at the edge of the water at last, dipping in our toes and wondering, "Now that we can finally say whatever we want, what shall we say?"

For the answer to that question, we’ll soon be enlisting your help. Keep supporting this effort. If you are sitting there in 4.5.5 figuring you’ve held on just long enough, think again. The vitality of your role in this thing remains undiminished. More to come...

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