At 02:47 PM 11/16/01 -0500, Paul Hutchinson wrote:
>****Warning long post**** :-)
> > *However*, if Mr. Hutchinson will watch this list, he may note that those
>I have been watching the list since the end of 1999 and have not heard of
>even one new feature or, bug fix in Protel99/SE that would improve Maximum's
>productivity over P98.

The synchronizer. The print server. The CAM Manager. CAMtastic. Loop 
Removal (or was that in 98?). (Loop removal is not what might think from 
the name. If turned on, it removes redundant track as it is created, i.e., 
you can reroute without ripping up. It saves a *lot* of time.) Additional 
mech layers. Additional inner planes. Named mech layers. Better control 
over poly pours. One button complex CAM setups (you can, for example, merge 
different mech layers with different output files). If I went back to 98 
and looked around for a while, I could come up with quite a bit more.

We made a list of what we wanted when Protel 99 first came out. Protel gave 
us nearly everything with the SE release. Even the router was slightly 
improved, though that remains the most glaring deficiency in the package. 
(It's a moderately good router, useful for many designs, but most 
experienced designers prefer to manually route except in certain 
situations.) There are *many* small improvements, the cumulative effect 
being that productivity is significantly enhanced, it was *well* worth the 
$1K that Mr. Hutcheson did not want to pay. But I am quite aware that many 
users won't believe this until they have tried it with some persistence. 
That's why I suggest asking users who have used both 98 and 99, how would 
they feel about going back to 98? How much would they pay to avoid having 
to go back?

Let me tell you, it would be more than $1K. $2K I start to get nervous, but 
I think I would pay it. I *should* pay it if I had to, but I've got a tight 

>  This is why I have not had us upgrade, the cost is
>not an obstacle for us. I would gladly have Maximum buy the upgrade if it
>would improve productivity for our work. When I first saw the ads for the 3D
>viewer I thought that would save Mechanical Engineering a lot of work if we
>could pass them an accurate 3D model of the PCB assembly. Thank goodness I
>read this list and didn't spend the money for that toy feature.

Actually, contrary to what has been said here, the 3D feature can be used, 
it is just that to create the models, necessary for serious use, one must 
buy a third-party tool. It is not expensive, and that is likely to change.

>But this is very specific to Maximum, many if not most other companies would
>probably find features in P99SE that improve productivity over P98. Of the
>dozens of software tools we use, Protel PCB is used the least often,
>Schematic falls in the middle, it is used just a bit more often than
>MathCAD. Over 70% of our PCB's are double sided 25mil tracks on 50mil
>spacing. In fact P98 is overkill for many of our designs.

This is the one argument that makes sense. But if Mr. Hutcheson were to 
look back, he would see that he could have bought the 99SE upgrade for $695 
if he had waited for the special offer and then snapped it up when he 
could. That's what I did.

I upgraded from a friend's copy of Autotrax. It cost me $1995 to go to 
Protel 98, then $695 to move to Protel 99SE. This has been one very 
inexpensive software package. Since I had to borrow the money at the time, 
that was important to me. However, I also considered borrowing the money 
for Allegro workstation, $10K at the time. That was really the only other 
reasonable option for me. (I'd been using Tango DOS for years, which, in 
fact, might have been a reasonable package for Mr. Hutcheson's needs. 
Cheap, easy to use, and quite adequate for everything he thinks he needs.)

>In August 1999 we got an offer to upgrade from v1.1 to P99 for $500 less
>than we had paid to upgrade to P98 11 months before.

That is *very* strange, but version 1 upgrade pricing was not something 
that I knew about. It could not have been more than $1995, since that was 
the Autotrax upgrade then.

>  We also got an offer to
>upgrade P98 to P99 for $1000.00.

Yes, a decent price, subsequently reduced to $700 for a short time, then 
back to $995, then to $1495, now at $1995.

So Mr. Hutcheson, it looks like, is claiming that he was offered a v. 1 to 
Protel 99 upgrade for not more than $1495. I don't think so, though I 
suppose anything is possible. There were certain times when special offers 
were made, but that sounds better than anything I heard.

>  I decided to take the opportunity to
>complain to the person in marketing about the non-existent support, see if
>they would cut me a deal on the upgrade and to ask the technical questions
>again. The person from marketing apologized to us again and forwarded it on
>to support. This time we got a response from support essentially stating I
>was a jerk for asking and totally ignoring all the technical questions.

You know, letters like that deserve to be forwarded to this list and to 
Protel management....

In any case, Protel 98 support has gotten thin.

>  At
>this point I gave up on Protel support and started searching the web for
>Protel information, finding this fantastic group of users who know more
>about Protel than anyone at Protel/Altium.

We ought to. We live and breathe the program. We apply it in all kinds of 
odd situations. And there are many, many more of us than there are Altium 
employees. Essentially, this is easy for us and difficult for Altium.

>Reading the messages on this group I learned about the cost cutting move of
>closing support in ??(can't remember where) and moving it to Utah I think.
>And then closing Utah and moving it to ?? (have no idea where it is now). I
>guess my first two support requests got lost in the shuffle.

Well, support requests that cannot be quickly answered by the support 
person tend to go into a pile to be attended to when he or she has time. 
And he or she never has time. It happens in many businesses. Protel until 
recently had a bit of an attitude of being behind barricades with a hostile 
world outside tossing piles of complaints. Protel employees often didn't 
understand this, after all, wasn't the program the best for the price?

Right, but people expect to be treated better, and they will even pay more 
for the privilege. Protel has made quite a few very bad PR moves, but I 
think the largest ongoing mistake is giving insufficient publicity to this 
user group. Some of the largest CAD companies are realizing that, while 
users are a cantankerous lot, given to criticism, sometimes fair and 
sometimes not, overall users are in the same boat as the software company. 
If the software company is struggling financially, it can't provide good 
support, it can't improve the program, so users suffer. If users can't use 
the program, if bugs cause loss of work efficiency, even if it is only a 
matter of the frustration until one finds a workaround, they have less 
money to spend for software. Sure, individual users often want the world 
for a dime, but if we all paid only a dime for software, we'd only have 
lousy software. In the end, we need to pay the right price for the benefit 
of everyone.

>Maybe Protel will get our money when it's time to upgrade but with our past
>experience of zero support and crazy price changes they've got an uphill
>battle. I just took a look at OrCad's latest prices and offerings, they
>appear to have reduced prices quite a lot, $4600.00 for everything we need.
>I had good experiences with OrCad's products and support in the past so,
>maybe they'll get us back. Right now, if we needed to update, I would be
>more inclined to spend $5K (or $10K with extra goodies) and move to OrCad
>than to spend $2K on Protel.

G O O D   L U C K ! I've used those programs. Frying pan into the fire. I'd 
very gladly pay $2K not to have to use OrCAD ever again. (Capture is not 
bad, though not as efficient as Protel Schematic, but Layout is a disaster. 
Ask anyone familiar with both, there are quite a few on this list, I think.)

>In the meantime I am thankful for this great forum of users.

We try.

Abdulrahman Lomax
Easthampton, Massachusetts USA

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