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----- Original Message -----
From: "Julian Higginson" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: "'Protel EDA Forum'" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2002 8:48 PM
Subject: Re: [PEDA] Top Notch Talent for Troubleshooting.

> > From: JaMi Smith [mailto:jamismith@;sbcglobal.net]
> > I mean forgive me for being sarcastic, truely, I am sorry,
> > but I need to be
> > able to talk to someone in Tech Support who can understand my
> > questions, and
> > can understand Electronic Design, and can understand what I
> > am using Protel
> > for and what I am trying to do with it, so that he can
> > understand why the
> > problem is a problem, and more importantly he can understand
> > what needs to
> > be done to fix the problem.
> >
> Why? Technical support is about technical support....

Because in reality it usually means the difference between getting an answer
and not getting an answer to your problem.

> If you ring up Microsoft tech support, for help with Word XP crashing, do
> you expect the helpdesk potplant to be a writer? I don't think so.

No, but at a company like Microsoft, if the Helpdesk Potplant can't answer
the question it gets kicked up to a slightly brighter Potplant, and so on,
and so on, until the question ultimately actually gets answered.

Unfortunately, my experience with the Protel / Altium is that you only get
one chance at one Helpdesk Potplant, and if that one Helpdesk Potplant
doesn't know the answer, then you are SOL.

> Technical support is *just* that. there are issues with their software,
> people call up with a problem and a helpdesk potplant works out if it
> matches any of their known list of problems. If it does, they read out the
> solution step by step to you. If it doesn't they escalate the problem to
> someone who is more technical.

Again, my experience is that there is no "escalator" at Altium, and going
back to my original first call to Altium with a problem on a brand new seat
on a brand new system continually crashing, the "Potplant" who handled the
"Helpdesk" couldn't even understand the problem, let alone attempt to
resolve it. They didn't even know enough to look in the "Knowledge Base",
and I, being brand new to Protel 99 SE at the time, didn't even know there
was a "Knowledge Base". I have learned a few things about Protel / Altium
since that time. I now know for example that there is a Knowledge base
consisting of 4 year old bugs that Altium has absolutely no idea how to fix.
I also know that one can usually draw on the vast experience of the people
in this forum to answer most problems that Altium cannot understand. I also
now know that Altium is hopelessly understaffed with people who know what
they are doing.

Respecting the ad for the Technical Consultant in San Diego, it appeared to
me from reading the ad that they were actually looking for someone to
ultimately "be" the "Helpdesk", "Potplant" and all.

The real problem here is that a large company hires someone who really knows
what he is doing to write the "question tree" for the computer that a
"Potplant" can navigate, and ultimately, an unanswered question can even get
kicked up to that knowledgeable person to get answered if necessary, and it
will also usually get added to the "question tree" at that time so that the
"Potplant" can handle it the next time. However, with Altium, it doesn't
appear that they are large enough, and have a large enough customer base to
have the volume of repeatable problems that someone like Microsoft would
have, and possibly they don't have anyone knowledgeable enough, to write a
"question tree" for the "Helpdesk Potplant". Actually, it would appear that
the "Knowledge Base" is their equivalent to the Microsoft "question tree",
and yet even some Altium "Potplants" can't navigate that. I really do have
to give credit where credit is due and say that Altium has changed their
policy since I encountered that first "Potplant", and that particular
"Potplant" no longer is no longer answering "Helpdesk" type questions,
although I do know for a fact that that particular "Potplant" does do still
do "Training".

Unfortunately, another issue that is very important here is the fact that it
appears that a very large percentage of the "problems" encountered by the
much smaller customer base have to do with actual software bugs, as opposed
to the "Duh!, how do I do this?" type of problem.

> If you want help with your design, or even your Protel methodology I'd be
> happy to assist you, but I'll charge what my knowledge is worth.

I am quite sure that you could do monumentally better that most people at
Altium, regardless of what you charged.

> > That is not to say that there is no one at Altium that has
> > this type of
> > experience, but is does raise the question of whether or not there are
> > enough people at Altium with this type of experience.
> "People" at altium have beeen writing CAD software for what, 15 years now?
> They have been providing valuable (and generally usable) tools to the
> engineering community, and I imagine that as a result, some people at
> have a lot of knowlege about what makes good CAD software. Just because
> actual programmer hasn't been routing PC motherboards for the last ten
> doesn't mean they can't write program modules to spec. In fact if they had
> been laying out motherboards all the time, maybe that would be a problem
> because their windows programming skills might not be so great.

Yes, "someone" at Protel / Altium has in fact been writing software for
about that length of time, and yes there have actually been gradual
improvements in the software, and yes it is a "generally useable" tool for
the engineering community.

But, speaking as someone who has used many of the EDA Software packages out
there and also as someone who owns his own Protel 99 SE / Protel DXP
license, I can say that Protel is deficient in many many areas when compared
other system that are available out there.

Let me give you an example from personal experience as it relates
immediately to this situation. In the late eighties, the "law" was
MIL-STD-275. According to 275 them you were not allowed to put a "plated
thru hole in compression". This meant that when you were not allowed to
plate the barrel of a hole that you were going to install a swaged terminal
(turret or bifurcated) in, and specifically you could not use that hole for
an interfacial connection or a connection to an internal layer. This had
been the "rule" in both Military / Aerospace and Commercial usage for eons.
I had been using Mentor Board Station 6.0 (thru about 6.2) at the time, and
Mentor would not let me create a part with a surface pad and a unplated hole
for a component pin (it either had to be a surface pad only for SMT or a
plated thru hole for a thru pin component). At the time, I had to trick
Board Station and leave the holes out of the pads until after I did all of
my error checking, and as the last thing I did to the board, I overlaid a
separate mechanical drawing that had all of the "holes" for all of the
terminals. Shortly after that, sometime around 89, 90 or 91, I ran into the
"founder" of Protel at a Protel Booth at a trade show (I believe it may have
been Wescon), who I believe was Nick Martin if I am correct. I asked him how
Protel handled the problem, and specifically whether or not Protel would
allow me to place a non plated hole in a component pad for a swaged
terminal. The man was totally dumfounded. He could not understand what I was
trying to do despite my trying to explain it several different ways, and was
totally oblivious of the industry requirement, and even appeared to be
oblivious to MIL-STD-275, which I could understand and accept from a
"programmer" from Australia. He wrote the program, but he didn't understand
the industry that used his program. I am hoping that he has learned a little
more about the industry by now, or has surrounded himself by people who do
know the industry.

A second example, which should be more than enough to prove the point and
existence of the problem, is here, in this forum, today, right now. There is
a post and a thread regarding the fact that the Protel DXP BOM has no
"Quantity" column for the parts. This is totally insane. This is monumental
stupidity. This is unprecedented for EDA Software. This would never have
ever happened if the programmer, or his boss, or his boss's boss, or anyone
who had ever even looked at the BOM during the whole of the Protel DXP
development cycle, had even the slightest idea of what a BOM was. Talk about
a smoking gun for proving the point that they really do not know what they
are doing. How big a blunder do you need to prove the point.

> > For years and years and years, virtually everyone in our
> > industry (and I am
> > sure that includes almost everyone in this forum), has been
> > complaining that
> > all of the software is written by people who do not know the
> > first thing
> > about Electronics or Electronic Design. This is a recognized
> > industry wide
> > problem, and it didn't begin with me.
> >
> you seem to be talking about something else....
> Protel is a tool. Every tool is designed for a way of working, and like it
> or not, you CAN use protel very effectively. I find its user interface is
> reasonably intuative and I find that I can work in a way that suits
> Why should Protel conform 100% to how you want to work? Its pretty
> as is, and everyone will want to use it differently. So of course people
> will complain when it doesnt do 100% of what they want to do the way they
> want to do it...

All of that is true to a point, but must be balanced against the fact that
this software is designed and marketed for a specific function within a
specific industry, and the industry itself has standards and practices.

The real question here is first whether or not Protel / Altium knows those
standards and practices and to a certain extent follows them, and secondly,
and more directly concerning us here in this discussion, does Protel /
Altium violate or fail to meet those standards and practices by deleting a
legitimate 4-way connection, eliminating De Morgan equivalents in schematics
and Logic diagrams, or by leaving out a "QTY" column on the BOM.

> I think the problem is thay make the software flexible at all. It doesnt
> need to be, but it makes people expect more.

Rigid requirements from the software would not really be a problem if in
fact the people who wrote it knew what the requirements of the industry were
and understood them.

The problem is that they obvioulsy do not.

Thanks for the feedback.


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