At 04:05 PM 12/21/2003, Hamid A. Wasti wrote:
Dennis Saputelli wrote:
it appears that the PCB side will essentially be DXP SP3
There you go believing the guys at Altium again. What next? Are you now going to start believing things that come out of the mouths of politicians?

Cynicism is the most widespread disease in our time. Some "politicians" can be believed; one knows by the history.

and as Ivan has asked have you identified a competitive alternative for you and your customers?
And as I answered in a previous post, I am not in the business of helping customers find alternatives.

But apparently Mr. Wasti *is* in the business of "helping" customers reject alternatives.

I tell them that this is the CAD system that their product is being developed in and if they want to buy this CAD system, I will support them in learning it.

I wonder, does Mr. Wasti also "support" them by informing them about the user group, which can generally provide better support, not only than any individual, but also than Altium itself, and which is 24/7 and free?

In the past, the only option that was presented was the latest version of Protel which the customers invariably bought. Today, the only option is the dead end version of Protel (99SE), which I will be happy to support them in , but they would be crazy to buy (if it is even available for sale). As for the specifics of the specific cases cited; one client may teach us their system (I have no idea what they use) while the other client is still deciding what they want to use.

First of all, Mr. Wasti should know, if he considers himself knowledgeable enough to advise his clients, that Protel 99SE is still for sale. It's called the "Migration Pack," and it includes the right to upgrade to DXP any time the purchaser chooses. It is also the same prices as was 99SE before the DXP release, which is also the same price as DXP.

The mystery to me is why he considers DXP so totally awful that he would (as it appeared) "crow" at having torpedoed three license sales. There are plenty of designers who have the choice who *are* using DXP. I'm only beginning, and because must of my own focus is elsewhere for the time being, I can't claim to be an active user of DXP; I can see, so far, that there is indeed a learning curve, but I can also see that powerful new features have been added, features that in some cases provide us with what we have been requesting.

And any current DXP licensee has been promised Protel 4 without charge. I think a number of users have indicated that Protel 4 is in Beta.... But they can't disclose the situation with Protel 4 because of non-disclosure agreements -- standard with Protel Beta releases. (But they can communicate with each other through a special Protel list, which has also been standard practice.)

but at some point i guess we will need to either jump ship or
bite the bullet (hey! 2 cliches in one sentence)

As for our own company use, my first choice would be to jump ship. I would rather take my chances with a company that I do not know than stick with the one I do know, because I know how bad they are.

This would make sense if the action were not "jumping ship," but rather simply investigating alternatives. Without having done that -- and not knowing if there is anything better -- "jumping ship" is little short of suicide, i.e., one is choosing to take one's chances in the middle of the ocean without relief in sight, the food on board is that bad....

It's ridiculous! Protel is a tool, and it is a tool that does accomplish the purpose for which it was designed. Even if you argue that it does it badly, a professional will use the available tools until he finds something better. Or retire.

the years of work in the libraries form a sort of trap, i wouldn't relish having to recreate all those parts
Libraries are a huge investment. However, if you are gaining productivity by going to a different software, you will come out ahead in the long run.

Be careful! That "long run" might longer than the rest of your life! If it is true that you have to recreate years of libraries, the "productivity" you are trying to enhance may be trashed for quite some time. And then you may discover, at the end of the process, that after all this work you are roughly as productive as before.

My wife's business was using Quickbooks as book-keeping software. Quickbooks was lacking certain features that existed in another program, MYOB. Since I was frustrated, in particular, with how Quickbooks handled inventory transfers -- and I did all the book-keeping -- I decided to switch. When we made the transition, we were current with out book-keeping. It is now more than two years later, and we are far from catching up. Supposedly there were tools to transfer Quickbooks information into MYOB. And there were, but the limitations of these tools was not obvious until we were in the middle of the process. And MYOB had its own irritating "features," which, in hindsight, were worse than the problems with Quickbooks. And Quickbooks, shortly after we made the switch, corrected some of the problems that had given me such motivation to switch, plus I also realized that there would have been workarounds I could have used that would have made the switch unnecessary. This was a very expensive mistake, many hundreds of hours of my time.

So ... if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
   ... a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
   ... a word to the wise is sufficient.

There are plenty of people on this list who have dual or triple CAD experience. I highly recommend talking to someone who is familiar both with Protel tools and with the alternative under consideration, before committing to a switch. Just to "test" a CAD system is a major undertaking.

I had been using Tango DOS for years; I was personally happy with it, I knew workarounds for many of its shortcomings and knew the ASCII database intimately so I could extend its capabilities even further. But Tango customers were becoming more and more scarce; some customers just needed Gerber, but my business was getting more and more marginal. I had to switch. At about that time, American Express offered me a substantial line of credit, I could have gone with any of the major CAD systems. So I did a bit of research. In the end, I made my decision based on what I noticed about engineering companies in the S.F. Bay area, where I lived at the time. In small companies I surveyed, Protel was the majority CAD system, by quite a margin, a surprising result. In large companies, it was Cadence Allegro. I considered Allegro, I could have gone that way. But I talked to designers familiar with both it and Protel. Allegro was -- is, I assume -- a powerful system, but not a productivity enhancer for the kind of work my customers generally needed.

In the end, I went with Protel, and it was very, very inexpensive, particularly since a long-time friend allowed me to use an old spare Autotrax license for the upgrade to Protel 98. (Apparently, when he went to Windows Protel, he had obtained a new license, perhaps this was common with that switch, I don't know.) And the switch through 99SE only cost me $700 because I made the move at the optimum time, when there was a special offer.

Now, it is true that once I switched from Tango, I never went back, and my productivity was immediately enhanced. Protel 98 was very, very easy to learn, for this Tango user, and the switch to 99SE was mostly incremental improvement, at least as far as core functionality is concerned.

Our design business uses 99SE at this time, day-in and day-out, simply because, so far, the enhancements in DXP have not become necessary enough to justify the learning. Most of our design is presently done by a subcontractor, who has his own service bureau, and he's being advised to move to DXP before the price goes up; that doesn't mean he has to stop using 99SE.

Altium is a complex company, some elements in it I'd call progressive and others conservative, with the balance appearing -- from a great distance -- to shift back and forth. Overall, however, the company seems quite responsive to users, and by no means is Protel a design dead-end; before I'd even think of moving to a new system, I'd really want to give DXP and Protel 4 a chance!

From various public sources, one can glean that Protel 4 is likely not to be a totally new system, such that major retraining from DXP will be necessary. I may know soon, if I install the Beta software, but then I won't be able to disclose the case. If it *is* totally new, you can be sure that there will be a lot of complaints unless that new functionality is so dazzlingly good that we are happy to retrain! I don't see why Altium would take that risk at this time, they already seem to have some trouble with the move to DXP.

Sometimes Protel releases have been, at first ... less than ready for prime-time. But they have always made good. Not perfect, but good, quite good. And in this world that's more than we often get, so overall I'm pleased with Protel and happy to recommend it. "Recommending Protel" at this time would mean suggesting that one buy 99SE used -- perhaps US$4K or so, upgrading to DXP for $2495 -- immediately or in the near future, which means getting Protel 4 included. As to what to actually use, 99SE is certainly an option, but I'd incline toward recommending a new user go with DXP/Protel 4. File interchange is easy if you don't mind losing advanced data.

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