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A Cloud the Size of a Man’s Fist

17 September 2010 — In the biblical account of the Hebrew Prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel, Elijah sees “a cloud the size of a man’s fist” visible on the horizon. After years of drought, the promise of the soon-to-come rain can be seen but it is not yet close enough to have an impact. Even so, there was activity.

In much the same way, macOS RADE will soon be upon us like a storm. But not yet; today we have a different announcement to make…

Helix 6.1.6 mea culpas

Even though the days until Helix is completely macOS native are winding down, the nature of this journey makes the idea of catching every possible problem a virtual impossibility. When we released Helix 6.1.6 (July 27th) we quickly learned that there were a couple of “show-stopping” bugs, which you can still read about here. We quickly addressed the worst of them with an update that shipped on August 9.

In the mad scramble between those two dates, we completely forgot to post a critical web page: the one that provided key details about the significant changes that were made in Helix 6.1.6. Those notes are now available. Even if you’ve been happily using 6.1.6 these last two months, these notes should help clarify some of the changes you no doubt observed.

Helix 6.1.7 ships today

Even then, we weren’t completely happy, so we decided to take a little more time and fix a few more bugs. Those bug fixes are now available as Helix 6.1.7. It’s a fairly small update, but it addresses many of the lingering issues that were being reported by our users. Most of all, it is the latest embodiment of our most fervent hope (no small thing in itself) for the future of Helix.

Just as DNA is present in all living things, Helix is the common denominator in a seemingly limitless variety of applications. Some are huge collections running multi-million dollar companies; others are a single relation with just one or two forms, keeping a retiree’s mailing list. Helix is, by nature, an experimental tool, and no two Helix experiments are alike. Consequently, there is always “one more bug” to fix because as more and more people make the switch to macOS, more and more collections are exposed to this new code.

People who tried the macOS native Helix a year ago and found it severely wanting are now finding it very useful, except for that “one little problem” that is unique to their particular collection. There are just too many permutations for us to test everything.

A Chinese proverb states that no problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking. And so each new problem that is reported is eventually seen clearly enough to be deemed fixable. At that point we must evaluate whether or not we can afford to take the time to fix it, and sometimes we regretfully decide a bug has to wait. But now, with the release of Helix 6.1.7, several lingering problems have finally been resolved.

For example, one of the things that debuted in Helix 6.1.6 was the Helix Connection Services moniker. A great idea that was, in some key ways, incomplete. Helix 6.1.7 improves those services by tying up the loose ends.

Help Us Help You

When we released Helix 6.1.6, we announced that it was to be the last update; that we were turning our attention fully to macOS RADE. Obviously things didn’t unfold as we expected. So now that 6.1.7 has come out, the obvious question is: “Will there be a Helix 6.1.8? 6.1.9? Where does it stop?” The answer to that depends on you.

We’ve thrown some very complicated functionality at Helix with great success. Clients can visit these collections and work comfortably in them both locally and remotely. Our beta testers have worked long on hard helping us get Helix to where it is, but between us and them, it’s still impossible to say that all the bases are covered. There can never really be enough good input.

So we have no doubt that, as more users make the move to macOS, some of you will run into obstacles that make for a bumpy transition. A lot of you have held on through all the upheaval, but we understand how tenuous that hold can sometimes be. So, when we say the answer depends on you, we’re speaking in particular to those of you who try the macOS native Helix, but give up as soon as a problem is seen, retreating to Classic Helix, while possibly considering bolting for another platform altogether. If that happens, and you don’t tell us about the problem that is pushing you over the edge — if you quietly give up on us, how can we fix the problem?

It is amazing how many people who contact us start the conversation by saying “I'm sure you are aware…” Believe us: if you see a problem, and it isn’t listed in the Known Problems section of the release notes, chances are we aren’t aware. And so we make this appeal: if you are one of those who has seen a problem persist even as we’ve released version after version, please contact us. If you’ve got a repeatable problem, we can almost certainly fix it, or at least suggest a reasonable workaround. But if you don’t tell us about it, we will never know, and we won’t be able to help.

And so, it comes down to this: if users contact us and tell us that Helix 6.1.7 doesn’t address the issues they face, there will almost certainly be a Helix 6.1.8. We really want to get it right.

On The Horizon

There are more things we are ready to announce, but for today, the release of Helix 6.1.7 is enough. What we want more than anything right now (our aforementioned most fervent hope) is to hear that our users are satisfied with the macOS Client and Engine, so we can move 100% of our effort to RADE — and a world without Classic.

So here’s hoping that 6.1.7 goes as smoothly for you as it is going for us and our beta testers. If you are already using an earlier Helix 6.1.x product, please be sure to download and install 6.1.7. If you are still waiting, we urge you in the strongest possible terms to take the leap — download the demo and see how it works for you now. We think you’ll be very pleased. If not, tell us why.

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