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Someday soon, your prints will come!

5 September 2008 — Helix users have been deploying Helix 6.1 Servers, first PowerPC and then Intel versions, since April, with varying degrees of success.

On the solidly successful side, our Server products continue to improve, to be more and more reliable and, now, each one is capable of communicating simultaneously with three different Helix Clients: Helix Client Classic, Helix Client for PowerPC and Helix Client for Intel. You can successfully mix-and-match Server and Clients; in fact, until all the functionality seen in the Classic Client is available in both of the macOS native Clients, you absolutely should keep a few machines around to run the Classic Client when those functions are required.

On the less successful side, broader adoption of the native macOS Engine and Client has been hampered by the inability of those products to generate high-resolution printed output, the lack of two longtime Helix features (Power Query and Document Management), and by its less-than-stellar performance on lists. Even though the Classic products perform all of these duties as well as they ever have, the “works in progress” aspect of the macOS versions tends to obscure how well the Classic products work in this new environment. In particular, in those locations where Helix Server 6.1.x is being used, the ability to fall back on the Classic Client when features not yet available in the macOS Client are needed is what has allowed that adoption to proceed as smoothly as it has thus far.

Survey Says…

During July and August, we conducted a survey to give us a bit of guidance as to what was the next logical or most expedient step for us to take. You can read the detailed results of that survey on this page, but the condensed results of that survey — that is, the direction we are now taking — are found below.

One of the interesting things we learned from the survey is that the Power Query and Document Management users were nearly split into camps. That is, many of those who use and depend upon Power Query are not users of Document Management and vice versa. From earlier surveys and talking to users, we’ve learned that in addition its ‘quirky’ interface, one reason Power Query is so little used is because its operation is not well understood. Yet those who do understand it derive great benefit from its use. Conversely, many users of Document Management don’t use Power Query, or even Form Query or Quick Query because they find it more effective to “pass values” (as Chuck Hinkle puts it in his excellent DVD set*) to a User Global relation and then use those “passed values” in an abacus that controls the location of the record or records needed that would otherwise require one of those three query methods.

Both of those projects are of roughly equal importance to those who use them. Slightly more people indicate that — when ranking priorities — they need Power Query more than Document Management. Regardless, both functions will be implemented at least well enough to satisfy the pressing needs before we move on to RADE.

Good News and Great News

So that leaves us with the twin snowbanks of performance and printing, which have confounded us for several months. On those fronts, we have “big news” and “bigger news.”

The big news is that we are finally performing internal tests on an overhauled messaging protocol that is an important first step toward improving the sluggish performance that has been reported when using Helix Client/Server across a WAN (wide area network).

The bigger news is that we have — since the last beta release — addressed the top issue holding people back from using these products: printing. We continue to identify various problems with the new printing protocols, but overall, we think you’ll be quite pleased with what what has been accomplished thus far.

Unfortunately, a major change like this typically results in a few weeks of ‘virtually unusable’ code, and that is where we have been for most of August. So if you were wondering when the next Preview Release was going to appear, rest assured: we’ve got something very good in the pipeline. As soon as we knock off the rough edges and our beta testers tell us it is solid, we’ll make it available. If you’ve been frustrated by the current Preview Release, hang on; we think the next one is going to knock your socks off.

The Bar Is Set

But please let us reiterate this important point: the Helix Client Classic for 6.1 is feature complete and functions as well as (or better than) the Helix Client Classic for 6.0. There is no reason to delay upgrading to Helix Server 6.1 for fear that ‘something’ will not work right. Helix Classic Client — along with Helix Server for Intel or PowerPC — is the “bar” which we have set to measure the future. Helix Client and Helix Engine for macOS must function at least as well as the Classic Client does before we will be satisfied.

But while the Preview Releases continue to improve, we’ve got to keep the fire going if we’re going to finish cooking. In case you missed it — there was no specific announcement — we restructured our prices on July 2nd, eliminating the separate "Server price" and setting price ceilings on all new server licenses and upgrades. There’s never been a better time to upgrade than now. And to make it even better, we’ve got a sensational offer to go with it: anyone who purchases a new or upgraded license for Helix Server for Intel can receive a $200.00 discount on a Mac Pro tower, or a $300.00 discount on an Xserve purchased from Autograph Systems, an Authorized Apple Reseller. If your needs are more modest, you can also get a $25.00 discount on a Mac mini or a $75.00 discount on an iMac, And if you’ve already purchased the software, we’ll honor the hardware discount for you too. Just contact Matt at Autograph Systems to take advantage of this offer. Expires December 31, 2008.

* You can purchase Chuck’s Advanced Techniques DVD set via our web store. Click here to learn more about the DVD and to see a short excerpt from one of the discs.

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