[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: AN IMPORTANT MESSEGE FROM SYMBOLICS SOFTWARE SUPPORT
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 89 14:59 EDT
From: pan@Athena.Pangaro.Dialnet.Symbolics.Com (Paul Pangaro)
Subject: Re: AN IMPORTANT MESSEGE FROM SYMBOLICS SOFTWARE SUPPORT
I respectfully ask that all those interested in software bugs and
fixes read the following and respond. Your opinions are important
during a phase when we (SLUG) again push to get some action on a
long standing issue: getting Symbolics to provide timely
information about the existence of, work-arounds for, patches for and
future fixes for known bugs as discovered by users (and Symbolics
developers too, presumably).
Sorry that it has taken me a while to get around to responding; I wanted
to wait till our situation here was more clear (see below) before
responding. I do have to say that I was a bit disappointed in the
amount of net traffic that this request produced; especially from
Symbolics personnel. Disclaimer; Please note that these are my personal
opinions, not NIST.
In view of prices vs. budget vs. service (Remember the `Deficit' ?), we
decided to go with the subscription service this year, previously we had
the equivalent of contract service. In view of the IMPORTANT MESSEGE
(sic), I am now wondering what it is we're going to get.
With the contract service, it turns out that we had relatively few
occasions to phone in. We don't need handholding here (much :)), but we
do need a clear mechanism for dealing with bugs. Unfortunately, and
probably unfairly, the most memorable of those occasions were also
unfavorable. Its rather frustrating to call in over a period of years
(and pay a premium for the phone #) to check on the status of a bug and
each time have to start from the beginning with explaining "what the bug
is, yes it IS possible for this bug to exist, here is how to reproduce
it, yes i DO know what I'm talking about; the bug IS possible", and so
on... OK, mark it up to the `DNA Syndrome', the original developers are
gone, etc, etc. I know things are being improved...
The point is not to get myself into a flame mode here (calm down!), but
it raises two points:
1) For our purposes, I dont feel we got very much extra for the
contract service. I have found SLUG to be more helpful. However, using
SLUG as an alternative does raise issues that have already been
discussed here: fairness to Symbolics (`free' maintenance, esp. when Sym.
employees respond), the ethics of passing symbolics fixes to non-paying
2) Does Symbolics itself know what the bugs are?
It seems to me that we are offered three options for Software maintenance:
1) None; buy it and shut up. (This is Chris's designation `AS IS')
2) Subscription: pay monthly, get updates & documentation.
(This is Chris's `Supported')
3) Contract: pay more and get telephone & email `Access'
(Or is this what Chris meant by `Supported' ?)
But just what does `Access' mean anyway; for the price I would hope it
means `conversation'; in particular, hand-holding, discussions about how
to do something, how to get something to work, just what is this CAR
thing anyway... Certainly discussions are expensive to provide & should
be paid extra for.
But what about a simpler form of transaction:
User: "We think we found a bug in (x)"
Symbolics: "Thank you, we'll look at it", or "We know, here is the fix"
It doesn't seem all that expensive. But, as I read the infamous
"IMPORTANT MESSEGE", they wont even ACCEPT a bug report from a
non-contract site, much less respond or even acknowledge it!!! [I guess
if they get no bug reports, they dont have to fix em right? :)]
Let's remember that updates involve both rewrites, new features, etc, and
bug fixes. I cant say enough good about the creativity, ingenuity and
usefulness of the software and how it has evolved over the years.
Release 4 was way above anything else available at the time, and compare
that to Rel 7. I would also say that for the most part Symbolics has
been very sincere about bug fixes. Yet there is clearly a problem with
records of bugs and communication.
We recently had a discussion about `Corporate Memory'. I think that
there can be a good solution to both of these problems; something along
the lines of Brad's and others suggestions. IMHO, it should include the
1) Some form of database/bulletin board accessible via
email/internet/? Or possibly emailed digests; but if so, they must be
frequent and back copies should be available.
2) Should be coupled with an internal record of bugs & progress.
[This should be designed for corporate memory] Symbolics presumably
would only want to release somewhat sanitized information to avoid dirty
laundry & secrets; but if access is limited to PLA (NOT just contract!!!)
then perhaps they would be less worried.
3) Should not require excessive labor on Symbolics part to maintain the
`public' version beyond that of maintaining the internal version.
I think that such a system would help Symbolics internally and provide a
very useful service to its customers. There would be a lot of initial
overhead in setting up the system, but I think that maintaining it would
not be so hard. In any case, the labor would be essentially independent
of how many people were accessing it.
I would bet that such a system is far ahead of what any competitors
provide, and yet I cant help but think that Subscribers (at least)
deserve something more that what the IMPORTANT MESSEGE seems to imply
"Go away; we'll send you a new tape when we're good and ready"
In lieu of that, I would hope that at least symbolics would accept email
bug reports from subscribers. The report should be acknowledged; not
just its receipt, but a comment on status, known workarounds, etc.
Do you respond?
Belatedly, but emphatically, Yes!
I am interested in what Symbolics feels about all of this.