Open Letter To RS

Dear Real Software,

Thank you for a wonderful product.  It has served me and my clients well for over a decade now.  I can think of no other product that is as easy to use yet as powerful and flexible as Real Studio.  It really is a great product and I have no problems recommending it to others.

I have been critical of Rapid Release Model in the past and will probably continue to do so in the future.  I feel that in too many cases incomplete features and documentation have been released simply to fit the schedule.  I have advocated for fewer releases or releases that stagger bug fixes and new features because I have been bitten, too often, by needing a bug fix in a new release just to be bitten by a new bug somewhere else in the product.  It’s very frustrating for me and my clients.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, we are experiencing the opposite effect.  You see, you have been telling us for over a year that we need to be testing Cocoa because it’s the future.  We’ve taken this to heart because we don’t care to get caught with our pants down.  In addition you’ve also told us that bugs in Carbon, unless critical, won’t be fixed.  This leaves us between a rock and a hard place for our Macintosh builds because we have projects (for paying clients) that can’t be built using Carbon because of bugs, and we can’t build for Cocoa because of Cocoa specific bugs.

We have similar issues with Web Edition apps.  We have a number of very critical bugs that are affecting our delivery of web apps to our clients.  Sadly, what makes this situation hard to deal with is that those bugs are marked as fixed and are only awaiting a new release.

We all know that the goal is to have the 2012 Release 1 be a 100% Cocoa Mac build.  We also know that it is a completely redesigned IDE.  Both are laudable goals and I can only imagine the complexity of managing both of those projects simultaneously.

Real Studio Release 4 was released the week of December 5, 2011.  The three dot releases fixed some hugely critical bugs but contained just a few changes.  I understand that all hands are on deck to get the new IDE up and running and Cocoa polished.  No one is denying that it’s not a huge job to undertake all that at the same time.  I question, however, if you really have the resources available and the proper planning in place to accomplish these goals in a timely manner without understanding the ramifications to your customers.

It’s now been 120 days since the last major release.  Frankly, I don’t care about the 90 day release cycle but it leaves a foul taste in my mouth when you tell us to use Cocoa because you need more feedback and then stick us with a release that has bugs in both Carbon and Cocoa.  Unfortunately, there is no end in sight as there is no release date set for 2012 Release 1 and, as far as I know, R1 is not in beta testing yet.

This delay is starting to be intolerable.  Your failure to plan and execute this transition properly is starting to cost me.  So far, my clients have been patient.  The really large projects are still on schedule but that’s about to end as Web Edition and Cocoa bugs WILL cause them to stop dead in their tracks.  Do you plan on paying my salary and my employees while we wait on you to release a working and stable version?  I’m certain that my clients won’t be willing to pay for projects that don’t work because of framework bugs.

Here’s my fear:  You’ll release a new IDE with all of the Cocoa and Web Edition fixes but because you’re hurrying it through the testing process (because we’re all bitching for bug fixes) it will not be usable.  If that happens I am doubly screwed since I have zero options.  I can’t go forward and I can’t go back.  I see this as a lose-lose situation for me.

I urge you to reconsider the Cocoa and IDE redesign in the same release.  Let us, your loyal, paying, customers get our bug fixes so that you can continue working on the new IDE.  I realize this change will greatly impact the schedule of the IDE.  I also realize that retrofitting the newer framework into the older IDE is also a LOT of work if not extremely difficult.  However, if going back to an R4 update is faster and more stable than the new R1 IDE then I say do it and I will applaud the decision and defend the decision to the end.

I know this letter probably won’t go over well but I’m looking ahead and getting nervous.  I know you’re working as hard as possible but perhaps it’s time to rethink the strategy and go a different route.  Engineering is about planning and adapting to changes.  There is no shame in doing something different.

I hope I’m wrong and things fall into place.  I’d love to pen a post saying thanks for a great release saying that all of my developers and clients are happy.  I see many things that will make that hard to do.  I am nervous and nervous customers are a bad thing.

Anxious and concerned,

Bob Keeney

BKeeney Software Inc.

69 thoughts on “Open Letter To RS

  1. @Mark
    I tried kbasic/q7basic. I even have a commercial license. It isn’t robust enough for anything more than hobby work.

    For commercial development I use .NET/Mono. For personal I use REALStudio though I find myself increasingly using Mono for the personal stuff as well.

  2. Well that’s a shame, it looks interesting, myabe it will get some more traction soon. Thanks for the response.

  3. In the comments I read on the RS, which worries me most is to have the impression that RS is intended primarily for non-professionals.

    For small businesses like mine, who bet their future on RS, should be enhanced support.

    For example, with priority support, requests for bug fixes are they treated as a real priority?

    It is important for a company to know that customers will not be abandoned in case of bug.

  4. >When you run a business, if your software has a bug, your customers don’t care if it is your fault or Linus’ >or some random Rails developer’s. They care that your software is bugged…

    >Closed-software shops have two choices: beg for generosity, or work around it….

    >True hackers have come to terms with a simple fact: If it runs on my machine, it’s my software. I’m >responsible for it. I must understand it. Building from source is the rule and not an exception. I must >control my environment and I must control my dependencies.

    An excerpt from a very timely post at Codinghorror.com on the benefits of using open source development stacks versus the dangers of closed-source

  5. @ jjb …..and that probably explains why most “True Hackers” don’t run a business.

    Economically it is infeasilble to bring in open source code for everything you do, and get to know it at the level you need to support it. I own the MBS Charting Director because I don’t know enough about charting and graphics to be able to use and control some open source offering. At some level I am going to have to rely on a company to provide what I am paying them for and concentrate on my own core business.

  6. paxdo :

    For small businesses like mine, who bet their future on RS, should be enhanced support.

    For example, with priority support, requests for bug fixes are they treated as a real priority?

    It is important for a company to know that customers will not be abandoned in case of bug.

    Those are all concerns that many of us share. There are a number of very long standing bugs that seem to be ignored under the guise that those bugs only affect a relatively few number of developers. I’ve been waiting so long for some I’ve just moved on to other solutions (where I can) and sometimes simply don’t bother implementing that feature.

  7. What about those who can’t wait till May 25 ! when they said that The latest version has been delayed, I thought that it would release up to two weeks 🙁 not THIS long. some of my apps are suspended because of this delay !!!

  8. Mahyar :

    What about those who can’t wait till May 25 ! when they said that The latest version has been delayed, I thought that it would release up to two weeks :( not THIS long. some of my apps are suspended because of this delay !!!

    You are not the only one in this situation. It’s part of the reason why I wrote this article.

    • No, they ARE listening and they are working as fast as they can. Because they passed their own River Rubicon there’s no going back to the old version.

      Could they have planned better? Absolutely. But there’s not much we can do accept gnash our teeth and rattle our swords (figuratively speaking of course).

      If you are in desperate need you might contact them to see if you can run against the internal alpha. It might not solve your problem (it didn’t ours) but it might for you.

  9. This is a bit unsettling – as 1) I have bet the future of my small company on RS; and 2) I’m already a year into what I thought was going to be a six – eight month conversion. It’d be easy to jump on the band wagon and blame RS for my own “lateness” – but truth is – so far – I’ve been able to work around any issues. Sure – there are things that I don’t understand “why” – but as long as it works in the end – I’m getting there. Most of the “extra time” is my own fault (I’m an old fart – and new stuff doesn’t come as easy as it used to). Having 30 years in “linear” programming – learning OOP hasn’t been easy. Combined with also having to learn SQL from the ground up – it’s a challenge. But – the results (so far) are worth it. Routines are (in most cases) more than 10 times faster than the “same thing” in 4D. And I can do things in RS – I could never do in 4D.

    Yes – I agree with Bob – a “real” date object/control would be WONDERFUL! but I’m learning to get by with my own “date system” kludged out of RS. Full COM support YES! – but I didn’t have that in 4D either. No offense to MBS – but I shouldn’t have to “buy” (in addition to RS) USB support. And printing… That is woefully short (anyone figure out how to print text as text)? But I’m living with it. (eventually I will need to be able to print real text, though).

    Have I just wasted a year (and consequently sunk my company)? I sure hope not. I (and obviously from the posts here many other people) need a stable, dependable platform to build on… And while at times frustrating – so far – I haven’t sailed off the edge of the planet staying with RS.

    So – with the hope that RS does indeed get things “stable” *soon* – I’m sticking with it as long as I can… I just hope that’s longer than sooner…

  10. @Randy Guttery
    Going a bit off topic here, but what do you mean by “print text as text”? If you need help I have a document class I use for printing (which isn’t ready for public release yet) – message me through the Real Software Forums with an email address and I can discuss it with you to avoid filling up the comments here.

  11. I’m with you here Bob.
    I haven’t had any functionality that I NEEDED out of a build of RS later than 2007.
    I paid for updates through to 2011 but still use 2009 instead. Thats two years of subs I didn’t need to spend, and I’m not putting my hands in my pocket again until Cocoa is shippable.
    I don’t need a new IDE, and it won’t make me upgrade.
    RS would have been better doing a Delphi and roping in a third party IDE like Eclipse, while they worked on the important stuff.

  12. @Geoff Perlman

    Errr….. RunRev has no Cocoa support and that is troublesome. But it does have great mobile support (i.e Cocoa Touch…), and works well enough on all desktops to get integrated mobile/desktop solutions shipping.

    Which has attracted a lot of new users, which makes them grow and fix bugs faster…. And at some point moving from Cocoa Touch back to Cocoa will definitely be easier, be my guess.

    Anyway, I was evaluating RealStudio, but I’ll wait until there is a stable cross-platform release out. Until then it’s native, web, or LiveCode or Corona for mobile.

  13. Bob, that’s what happens when you become too tied to a specific vendor especially when they’ve demonstrated time and again the same thing during your 10+ years with them. Diversify your skill set so as not to negatively impact your clients.

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