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Software support and responsiveness to bug reports
As one on the developer side of the issue raised by Jerry Bakin, I would
like to add my two cents. The opinions here are my own, not Symbolics'.
You (Jerry and Mabry) are both right; in an ideal world, Symbolics would
always respond to bug reports quickly, and with a patch which would fix
the problem. Symbolics would also be able to keep track of which set of
patches has been distributed to which customers, and cross-reference
this with bug reports submitted. The patches would be fully QA'd, and
everyone would be happy.
In the present world, this is not the case. If you 1really0 need a patch,
and one can be made without expending too much developer time, then
the people Customer-Reports will get one for you. We don't hand out
patches by default, for a number of reasons. For instance, we have no
idea how important any particular bug report is when we get it. Many
times people work around bugs immediately after finding them, and submit
the bug report to Symbolics out of courtesy. We therefore have no idea
how much effort we should expend on an immediate fix.
Note that it may be very easy to fix the problem in in a Symbolics
In-House world, but difficult or awkward to distribute the patch into
the field. This is often the case. Would you still want a patch if you
found out that it took 2 hours to load, and made your IDS file be 10000
blocks larger? Should we spend 12 hours of developer time building a
new microcode for you? Should we spend 2 days building a new
distribution world for you? Is Symbolics going to lose a million
dollars in sales if we don't get you some kind of patch?
For all these questions: Maybe. I don't know, I don't have the input.
You have no idea how nice it is, when going through my 150 or so daily
messages, to see one which has already been fixed, and I can quickly say
"Fixed in 7.2" and delete the message. I simply can't devote time to
look up or write a patch which will work in the software configuration
in each of the bug reports I get. When it's clear that it's worth it to
somebody, then I try.
There is good news on the horizin. In 7.2, there is support for
distributed software ECO's. As far as I can tell, organizational
support for distributing these is still in place after the recent
"reorganizations" within Symbolics. The program is designed to be
responsive to customer concerns such as yours, minimize logistic
problems for Symbolics, and keep software quality high. I think it has
a good shot at success.
It will not be a panacea. There will inevitably be bug fixes which, for
whatever reason, will not be issued as ECOs. You will then be in the
same situation you are now.
Which brings me finally to my suggestions. Be civil with
Customer-Reports people. Try sending a reply saying that this
particular problem is important to you, and you require a patch or
workaround. And next time try to let them know whether it is important
for you to have a workaround when you send the report.
We really do try to help you out when we know it's worth it; it's just
that we don't have the manpower to do that all the time.