At 01:52 PM 10/22/2003, Peter Montgomery wrote:
I have been using Protel 2.8 for a long time now.  I recently came across a
30 day demo disk of Protel 99SE that Protel had sent me.  I decided to
install it to see what I have been missing by not upgrading.  I have sort of
just looked around a little but was rather shocked to discover 3 key things:

Just to note, when P99 came out, many of its features were irritating to many of us. The SE release ameliorated some of these problems, but, more to my point now, once we got used to the newer way of doing things, many of us came to think that it was better than the old. I don't know of anyone who has become familiar with P99SE who would want to go back if they were repaid the full upgrade cost....

(And they could be. It is quite possible that someone paid a total, over the years, of less than $3500 or so, just by having upgraded at the best times, to get P99SE. They might be able to sell that license now for that price. The software held its value. If they upgraded with every version, they'd have paid more, but, then again....)

1 - It's no faster than Protel 2.8 PCB and Advanced Schematic 3.0.  I would
have thought that somewhere along the  way they would have optimized the
code and sped it up a bit.  Apparently this is not the case.

The thought was ... naive. Software in general gets slower as it gets more complex, but the *hardware* gets faster, and hardware is cheap, cheap, cheap, compared with software costs (for software like Protel). You want faster Protel, buy a faster computer. In another post, I show how the faster computer might cost, say, one-tenth as much as the software.

Protel 99SE is doing much, much more, constantly, than was 2.8. Most of us keep on-line DRC active. You want it to run faster, turn it off. But I don't, because raw speed is not everything.

2 - The schematic portion of the Protel 99SE (with service pack 6) STILL
suffers from broken lines when panning.  You know, when you pan the image
and then pan back, you discover that many of the lines on the screen are
shifted a pixel or two, requiring you to do a full drawing refresh in order
to see the image look good again.

Others wrote about this. I've never seen the problem, I think it may indeed be hardware or driver dependent.

Does anyone at Protel actually use this thing or do they just write the code
and ponder wistfully about what it's like to actually run the program?

Altium (nee Protel) has people who do full-time training. They definitely know how to use the program, and they have to live with how it looks to users. I don't see them hiding in shame....

remember years ago being told by Protel support that the broken line issue
was a "driver problem," and that it only happened on some systems.

It seems they were right.

  Well, I
have been using Protel with both ATI and NVidia cards of all different
vintages (and on different OS's - 95, 98, 2K) , and it consistently happens
on ALL of them.

ALL RIGHT. Now we have some information. ATI is *famous* for compatibility problems. Go to the ATI site, you'll find some of the technical notes say, essentially, it doesn't work and we are not going to fix it. NVidia, I don't know. But others already addressed this issue. And it is definitely a fact that the problem does not happen with some hardware.

  As someone who has programmed GDI stuff on Windows quite a
bit, I think the problem is simply that the code they wrote at Protel
suffers from various "off by one" errors, and they are either ignorant or
complacent when it comes to finding and fixing the problem - possibly both.

I hope you don't talk about your employees like that, if you have any. They do what they do, what they are paid to do, pretty much the same as everyone else. And they are paid mostly for providing better features. Give me a choice between a better autorouter and fixing all the remaining bugs, I'll choose the autorouter.... minor bugs I can live with, routing is bread and butter.

All in all, so far I am SO glad I decided to stop upgrading when I did.  My
big bitch with Protel has always been that they ignore bugs that affect
everyday use (like drawing a decent image!) while adding new features to
qualify for marketing based upgrades.

Most users who did upgrade (to 98 and to 99SE, I've heard more gripes about v. 3) concluded that the upgrade was well worth the cost. DXP is still on the cusp for many of us. I just obtained a DXP license, I'm going to be investigating it.

You did not really test 99SE. First of all, it is pretty much expected that you are going to be using faster hardware. Don't believe the "minimum hardware requirements," you will not be satisfied! Yes, it will run, but.... Secondly, there are many powerful features added with each release, and it takes time to recognise them. There are some of us who have been using the software for years, and along comes someone and writes about how they do something, and there we are, slapping our foreheads, why didn't we read that manual? (Actually, much of this is not well documented in the manual, and we are used to using the software a certain way, perhaps we trained on 2.8, so we just assume that we have to continue with more or less the same.)

As far as "bugs that affect everyday use," I'm not really aware of any. Sure, there may be some, but I learned to avoid them. Frankly, though, I can't think of one. The software, *on Windows 2000, which has long been the recommended OS for Protel*, very rarely crashes for me, I can't remember the last time.

There are certain aspects of the program that are not used by most users; these, as might be expected, are buggier. I can probably get PCB to crash if I mess around with the Spreadsheet in certain ways. There are some of the other components, ones I have never used, about which I see some comments about bugs on this list. There is a list of bugs on one of the yahoogroups file spaces, I should be able to say exactly where but it's getting late and it's been a long day....

Bottom line, the software is relatively mature and bug-free for everyday use.

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