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Starting to take the wraps off Pele

8 June 2005—Many years ago, in an America far, far away, as the summer faded out, one of the sure signs of fall would be the unveiling of the new cars for the coming year. My friends and I would ride our bikes to the dealerships with baseball cards affixed to the spokes by old wooden clothespins for maximum impact. We'd slide under the salesmen's radar and grab the new car brochures to take home and cut up for our scrapbooks.

Our own pre-adolescent Matt lived just down the street from the local Ford dealer in Mansfield and one of the highlights of the year for him was when they held the "sneak preview" party. True to the nature of the event, he'd sneak in, grab some cake and listen to a local band crank out covers of all his favorite tunes. But most important, he'd find out what next year's Mustang was going to look like. Not a whole lot happened back in small town America, and the Mustang was just about all any red-blooded American boy cared about in the good old gas-guzzling glory days.

In the final weeks before their debuts, ads would appear in print and on TV showing the cars beneath their sheets, waiting to be unveiled. It was an exciting time because we knew there was something new and wonderful under those sheets and just seeing them there meant that there wouldn't be that much longer to wait.

Last Friday afternoon, Helix beta testers from around the world got their first under the sheets glimpse of our "new car." This first test drive of Helix Server 6.0 was an emotionally charged moment for all concerned and unlike our initial tests of Chaski, there were no crashes, performance was better than expected and the problems we found were--for the most part--cosmetic.

Mt. Pele erupts at precisely the worst possible moment

Helix Server 6.0--or Pele, as it is code-named in-house--took us through a torturous round of alpha testing. As recently as the Friday before last, when we thought we had solved enough problems to inch forward, it looked as though we had hit another one of those blinding walls of snow. We had solved a major performance problem that had plagued Helix for years, but in so doing had brought to light a bug that brought us to a virtual dead end.

We had no idea how to solve this new problem and our frustration was compounded by our inability to consistently reproduce it. After all the good work we had done, we had "spawned" a new bug whose result was that a Client couldn't exchange even moderately complex data with the Server, seeming to render everything that had come before it essentially useless. And with a user base sitting on the edges of their seats waiting for the news that Helix Server 6.0 was done--and no money in the bank--we found ourselves between the proverbial rock and hard place again.

In our personal lives, at times like that, we turn to friends and family members who are detached enough from our work to find it nearly impossible to understand, yet who are supportive enough to listen to us when we spin our tales of woe. There's a phrase we have often uttered when they ask about our progress. We say, "We know we're going to make it, but we'll probably cross the finish line gasping for breath."

When I get really stuck, I go for a ride. I often find that getting away from the problem improves my perspective. But not this time. I pulled back into my driveway in a state of despair. Then, in a moment I will remember as long as I live, I was pacing the asphalt, wringing my hands and contemplating an alternative career, when my cell phone rang. Steve Keyser was on the phone saying, "I thought you'd want to hear this right away...I fixed it." And in spite of the economic reality of our situation, the members of the Helix Recovery Team rose to the occasion in heroic fashion, built, tested and prepared for beta.

You can see for yourself

This coming Friday, a little before the time reserved for the weekly HelixChat (to accommodate more of our international guests), we will officially open the Pele beta testing cycle with a public test.

You are all cordially invited to participate. For those of you who are HelixChat regulars, you know the drill; the only difference this time will be that you're visiting a real Helix Server 6.0 running in macOS. For those of you who have never participated before, it's easy. All you have to do is visit this page and follow the instructions found there.

The pitch is coming...

A few months ago, we took a survey asking whether or not you'd be prepared to purchase Helix Server 6.0 in advance of shipment. The response was overwhelmingly positive. However, that did little to ease our discomfort with the notion of selling a product that still isn't ready for delivery.

In looking for ways to get some capital into this business so we can get this product, and the rest of our Helix 6 products into macOS as quickly as possible, we hit upon an idea that's makes us more comfortable.

For those of you who purchased Helix 5.3.x, you're going to have to wait until we actually start selling Helix 6.0 to give us a hand. You've already done your part. And for those of you who purchased Helix 5.2.x and are thus entitled to a free upgrade to 5.3.x, there's nothing you can do either. We can't charge you for 5.3.

That leaves everyone else...those of you whose last purchase or upgrade of a Helix product was version 5.1.1 or earlier. We know a lot of you are out there waiting for Helix 6.0 before you spend any of your hard-earned money. We appreciate your position and sympathize with you, but as we've told you countless times on this page, working without funding can only get us so far. The more money we have at our disposal, the more work we can do in less time. So we're offering you an incentive, one last time.

From now until we start selling Helix Server 6.0, we're offering you a chance to upgrade to Helix 5.3.2. You already know how great we think that product is, so we won't belabor that point. However, we're stepping up here and now to say that you should purchase the 5.3.2 upgrade even if you have no intention of ever using it. Why? Because you will pay less IN TOTAL to get to Helix 6.0 if you do. That's right, you read it correctly: the COMBINED cost of the 5.1.1 (or earlier) to 5.3.2 and 5.3.2 to 6.0 upgrades will be LESS than the 5.1.1 (or earlier) to 6.0 direct upgrade cost.

Effective immediately, we have updated the Helix 5.3.2 price list to accommodate this offer, and the tentative pricing for Helix 6.0 is available for your perusal. Those prices will remain in effect until we actually start selling Helix 6.0. Whether Helix 6.0 will be sold pre-release or at the actual time of shipment is, quite frankly, dependent on whether this offer generates enough funding to move us forward.

A key point to keep in mind here is this: when we start selling Helix 6.0, the price for 5.3.2 will increase, and any potential savings will be gone. We plan to continue shipping and supporting 5.3.2 as the final OS 9/Classic version of Helix Server as long as demand is there, but the cost of ongoing support of an older version requires that we charge more for it right up front.

So, here we are, nearing the finish line at last, gasping for breath as we knew we would. How prophetic. We know all too well that all anyone really wants to know is when Helix 6.0 will be ready. While we still can't give you an exact date, we finally have an answer that has some teeth: as soon as beta is done.

Based upon the quality of the work we've done and the degree of testing to which it's already been subjected, we believe this beta cycle will not be a long one. But this final step is critical and there's no way we will put the product out there without it.

If you want this step to be as short as possible, help us out. Keep an eye on our public test page and when we announce public tests, join in. We can't see how the Server acts with 100 Clients if only 30 people join our test.

We know you've been waiting a long time to see a Helix product boot up and run in macOS. Your patience will soon be rewarded. That time is finally at hand. And to those of you out there whose last Helix purchase was 5.1.1 or earlier, this is your clarion call. We need your help now.

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