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Is the third time the charm?

27 September 2016 — Eleven days ago, on short — but not extremely short — notice, we conducted the second public test of Helix Client/Server 7.0. While certainly more successful than our first test at the beginning of the month, we were once again alerted to problems that must be addressed.

We should also point out that unlike last time, you did not just stumble upon the news or get here thanks to the diligence of some user who alerted you to it on the Helix List. You are most likely here reading this today because of an email you received from us directing you to this page.

We believe that the fixes we now have in place address all the issues we knew about at the time of our last public test. As noted in our email, we are inviting you, with a bit more advanced notice, to join us for our third public test, which we will conduct this coming Friday, September 30, 2016 in HelixChat, at noon Eastern US time (1600 GMT). We urge you to take a few moments and check in, say hello and help us verify whether what we learned two weeks ago has been properly addressed and how much closer that might bring us to releasing Helix 7.0.

As we noted last week, we are already using Helix 7.0 in our own operations. However, because of the issues exposed in the public tests, we still haven’t given our beta testers the OK to put Client/Server to work in their production environments. That is the last step before we release Helix 7.0 to the public, and this Friday’s test could provide the push we need to make that call.

In this Friday’s test, you will be asked to log into a part of our system we call HelixChat. (If you don’t know what HelixChat is, click this link to learn more.)

Helix Client 7.0b14 is required for Friday’s test. If you have an earlier version from a previous test, just launch it and choose Check For Updates… from the Helix Client menu; the rest is automatic. If not, read on for instructions on how to download it.

Helix 7.0 is a major feature upgrade and along with that comes a bit of seismic upheaval. It is important that you understand the changes described below before you join us on Friday. Please don’t just skim through it, looking for the download link. There really is important information here.

“Hello! My name is macOS Sierra…”

If you have already updated your Mac to macOS 10.12 (Sierra) or are planning on it, the following information is for you.

On August 31, 2016, we wrote, “Soon, Apple is expected to release a new version of macOS (10.12 aka ‘Sierra’) that may once again wreak havoc with our infrastructure.” We take no pleasure in being correct in this prediction. Sierra has indeed caused us a problem and it occurs in all versions of Helix running under macOS: the Font Panel is broken. While workarounds exist, the fix we found back when we shipped 6.2.4 does not work in Sierra and now we are contemplating whether to hold up the release of Helix 7.0 even longer.

“…you killed my return key…”

Way back in 2007, we warned everybody that the computer world was moving toward making the Enter and Return keys functionally identical. Helix (and the Mac OS) have always treated them as separate keys, while PCs treated them as being the same. At the time we didn’t need to merge their function, but the writing on the wall was clear that we would someday. That day came when we updated to the ‘wxWidgets 3’ code library and found the support for distinguishing between them gone. Suddenly the future had arrived and since most of you told us nearly 10 years ago that it would be OK to make this change, we decided that now was the time.

Joining us on Friday takes you to the literal point of No Return. The Return key now functions the same as the Enter key. If you want to enter an actual new line character (a linefeed) you now hold the Shift key down while pressing the Return key. Undoubtedly you have encountered this behavior in other programs, so the transition should not be too difficult.

We agonized over this abrupt change, so much so that we dug deep and found that with a bit of work we can still detect which key is being pressed — at least in the versions of macOS currently shipping. And so we are able to make the transition a bit smoother by presenting the dialog shown at the right when you press the unmodified return key.

It does take a while to get used to the new behavior, so this dialog will be a welcome interruption for many of you. But as soon as you ‘get it,’ you can click the “Do not show this dialog again” checkbox and be done with it.

“…prepare to test.”

OK, now that you’re prepared for the change, how do you get to see it for yourself? Start by clicking here to download Helix Client 7.0b14. Once you’ve launched it, check the ‘File’ menu’s ‘Connect To…’ menu for techdb.hcf. If you find it, choose it and you’ll be connected immediately to our Server. If you don’t find such an entry in the list, choose New Connection… instead, enter techdb.qsatoolworks.com in the hostname field, and click “Connect.”

Either way, you will be presented with the standard Helix authentication dialog, where you can connect as ‘guest’ or ‘guest2’ (no password for either username) to experience Helix 7.0. If you get stuck somewhere along the way, refer to those web pages we noted above about how to use techdb and HelixChat.

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