At 03:52 AM 12/22/2003, Hamid A. Wasti wrote:
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
Cynicism is the most widespread disease in our time....

[...] this is not a political forum, so lets stick to the topic.

For the topic, see the subject line. Cynicism strongly affects our expectations.

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

I tell my customers what I am able to do for them. If they choose to go down other paths, they are on their own. In buying many many things, software, computers, electronics, cars, etc. knowing that you can turn to someone you know and trust for help and assistance is a major factor.

Of course. But let me suggest something: I have many customers who similarly trust me. Nevertheless, I think that, for Protel support, any of them, if they had to make the choice, would be better off connecting with the user group than with me. As it is, they can do both.

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.

As stated above, I offer certain services. If you use the same software that I use, I will help you learn it and get better at using it. If you want to use something else, you are on your own.

The question was not answered. In the instant case, it would appear that Mr. Wasti's own knowledge of DXP, as well as of certain sales issues regarding the status of Protel 99SE, was lacking completeness in some important ways. Now, I might be wrong about this; the truth is likely to come out if the discussion continues. But I do have a basis for asserting this.

As an example, I bought a Tivo system over the summer. In the last 6 months I have learned many quirks about it and figured out how to use it most effectively. A friend is considering buying a Tivo system. If he buys the same model as I have, I will be able to teach him all these things in 15 minutes that it took me months of fooling around to learn. Incidentally, none of this could be gleaned from a manual or by calling customer support.

But any of it could also be gleaned by joining a user group. Now, having an expert on-site is quite valuable. But it can also be quite expensive. If it takes a user fifteen minutes to figure out something on his own -- i.e., by asking on a user group -- and I could solve the problem in five minutes (remember, it does have to be communicated to me) if I were there, but I'd have to drop what I was doing and travel, or at least take a call, how much was gained and how much was lost? Mind you, I do encourage customers using Protel to call me if they run into problems, but I also encourage them to connect themselves with the user group *before* they have problems, and, if they are new users, to read the list regularly. Even experienced users, such as myself and Mr. Wasti, can gain quite a lot from perusing this list.

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.

At my recommendation a friend bought DXP at the same time as I bought the upgrade and told clients that I intended to migrate to DXP and would support them when I made that move. After I played with DXP and realized what a lemon it was I decided not to migrate. After seeing the garbage he had received, my friend went back to Protel and asked them if he could get 99SE and at that time (this past summer) they said that that was not an option. It may have been a case that that was not an option for a sucker who had already bought DXP, but it was an option to get the money from someone who was too smart to buy DXP.

He received incorrect advice. The migration pack has been available for a long time. Further, 99SE could have been purchased "used" -- I had a license available for quite some time, it was more difficult to sell than I had expected. Not only would the customer have made an immediate investment of less than half of the cost of DXP, they would have had your support *and* they could have upgraded whenever they considered the time ripe; and in that case, with the upgrade cost, they still would have been ahead at least $1500. So there were two paths available, as would have been quickly discovered by raising the issue here.

Further, Protel policy was that software could be returned within a certain period if the customer was dissatisfied. If that has changed, I'd like to know.

So I'm asking that it be revealed *who* told the customer that they couldn't receive 99SE as part of their DXP purchase.

And what happened to that DXP license? Is it gathering dust with no prospect of use? If so, there is a secondary market in Protel licenses; DXP, I'd estimate, is worth about $6000 or not much less. Try that trick with PADS or OrCAD or Cadence or Mentor!!!

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.

I am merely pointing out that there are consequences for putting out lemons.

Indeed. And that is legitimate. However, there is much more to the issue.

By getting me to buy DXP by telling whatever lies it takes, they are shooting themselves in the foot.

We get closer to the core of the issue when Mr. Wasti mentions "lies." In my book, there are lies, truths willfully presented in a misleading context, willful exaggerations, puffery, careless errors, and just plain mistakes. "Lie" I reserve for a statement known to be false by the one presenting it. It is an inflammatory word.

If I were in Altium management, and I found that a representative of the company, at whatever level, had lied to customers, that representative would be history. Or I would. Any willful deception of customers would receive a similar response from me.

Now, if the rep said that "DXP is much better than Protel 99SE," that could be, on the face, puffery. If the rep knew that it was false, that your productivity would be trashed, then it would be more serious. The statement is not necessarily false, but it might well be incomplete. For example, it might only be better after you revise extensively the way you do things. If then.

They may have gotten one upgrade sale, but in the process they have acquires someone who, having used the product, will tell others the truth about it and cost them sales of full systems. And I am someone who, over the years, has been responsible for several sales through good recommendations and they did not even have to pay me a commission.

Unfortunately, Mr. Wasti is not telling customers "the truth," rather he is giving them his interpretations of his experience, and those interpretations are, it seems limited and incomplete. Yes, his experience and his report and interpretations of it are costing Altium sales, and they should pay close attention. Mr. Wasti is not, I'm sure, alone in his frustration and anger.

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 have a feeling that your attitude may change once you do use it more and like me, have a free choice between DXP and 99SE for most projects.

I do have a free choice, I'm not choosing DXP at the moment because I already knew about the retraining issue. Instead, I'm investigating DXP as I can find time, and I've been deliberately avoiding the DXP user group for the time being, because I want to experience the difficulties and frustration. I'm quite sure that most of this would disappear if I were to actively involve myself in the DXP user group.

There are users who likewise have a choice who have moved to DXP. It might be useful if one of them pipes up at this point.... How long did it take for productivity to turn around? Hours? Days? Weeks? Months? Not so far?

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.

There are indeed powerful new features, but so much of the good stuff has been "improved" out that I do not have any hope of achieving my current level of productivity under DXP as it stands.

The users can do something about this, as they have in the past with some of Protel's "improvements." I already know about the loss of simple Global Edits. It should be quite simple to restore that functionality, if indeed the issue sustains itself over time. Or it might well be that, once one really surrenders to the idea of a more sophisticated global editing engine, and becomes familiar with its use, it is just as fast. I doubt it, though, simply on the basis of keystroke count, which does become quite important in highly productive work.

And any current DXP licensee has been promised Protel 4 without charge.

I will believe it when it actually happens. After the lies I was told to get me to buy DXP, I will be hard pressed to believe anything coming from Altium.

It's legally binding, you know. The only way out of it, facing serious protest, would be to fold the company.... No, we'll get Protel 4.

As to "lies," perhaps it would be useful to tell us just what "lies" you were told. I mentioned before how seriously I would take lies were I in Altium management. We, as users, have a fair amount of influence with Altium management, when we approach the situation intelligently. Altium is still an engineering company, and as such tends to respond to belligerence by digging in its heels, but they do respond, quite well it seems, to cogent complaint

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....

The problem is not bad food being served by Altium; the problem is that ship is on fire and sinking fast.

Nope. This is Mr. Wasti, himself, digging in his heels. The ship is not on fire. Altium could disappear and Protel 99SE would remain a viable design tool for quite some time, years, I would say. Perhaps one could claim that the engine is beginning to burn some oil, maybe that is where the smoke is coming from. But fire, no. 99SE is not going to destroy everything it touches, it is not going to self-destruct, it will continue to function as it has. Nice thing about software.... After a decade or so, maybe the technology will be so obsolete that it will become effectively unusuable, though I can still fire up DOS Tango. But I do have a video driver patch that makes it possible, and the software key is history. It is conceivable that the 99SE protection scheme might not work with some future OS. But you can always keep running it on the same equipment.

One recommendation, however. If you *are* going to switch, I'd suggest looking for what CAD system is used by the majority of your potential customers. Then buy it and learn how to use it well, it doesn't really matter if it is the "best" either literally or in price/performance ratio.

Short of that, I'd highly recommend sticking with Protel.

After I vetoed DXP, I started an investigation, but decided to stick with 99SE for the current project to minimize the risk. The project included one extremely complex board with a very large component count and a short deadline. I intend to do an exhaustive search next spring and decide on a CAD package to migrate to. Protel DXP is not on the list because having used it for 2 minor boards, I know it well enough to know that it is not worth wasting my time.

I highly doubt that he knows it that well. What I think likely, instead, is that he became frustrated when something simple he knew how to do in a few seconds in 99SE, turned out to be.... invisible to him. It might even be there, just hiding somewhere else in the somewhat reorganized interface.

Did Mr. Wasti consult with other DXP users? Have his complaints been validated by others? I.e., "Yes, it is impossible -- or seriously tedious -- to do that necessary operation in DXP, there is no reasonably efficient workaround."

Is it possible that I could get conned by some other company and get stuck with a worse lemon than DXP? Absolutely. My goal is to avoid that, but I prefer taking a chance with getting something good, rather than going for a known lemon.

Mr. Wasti stuck with Protel from version 2 through 99SE. There were plenty of times in that period when there were hosts of users screaming about what a lousy piece of junk the software was. When I joined this list, it was riddled with hostile flames against Protel. Protel/Altium managed, apparently, to overcome most of this, and Mr. Wasti seems to have thought 99SE quite good, and assumed that DXP would be as well; that is why he recommended it to a customer, it wasn't just a foolish whim. It was premature, yes, since he had not verified that it was a good idea for the customer to start using DXP.

I think it fairly likely, however, that the customer, given proper support, would have been fine with DXP. Being a user of an older version can actually be a handicap for one switching to a new version. It shouldn't be, but it is, because those who supervise the programmers have not made the transition as easy as they could.

I think it highly likely that Mr. Wasti was not able to support his customer because he didn't understand DXP sufficiently to do so. And instead of pointing them to where they could find the support they needed, he bailed.

Now, as I've mentioned, I haven't been following the DXP list. If Mr. Wasti presented his issues with the program there, and there were no acceptable solutions, then what I've been writing is at least partially off-target.

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.

That is why I am sticking with 99SE for now, even though my requirements are starting to exceed the software.

Certainly the software needs to grow. It is clear that Altium realizes this and they are doing a great deal to anticipate the needs of future users. I think, however, that they rather obviously failed to keep sufficient connectivity with 99SE, they failed to make the transition easy. It's easy for me to say this, with 20/20 hindsight, but I do think it could have been possible. And it is still possible, it would just take an overlay of 99SE functionality; I don't think any basic functionality has been lost. If it has, then it could be restored.

File interchange is easy if you don't mind losing advanced data.

Does your definition of "Advanced" data include things like power objects?

No. It also does not include bugs. Rather, this is a reference to the existence of data in DXP that has no corresponding record/field in 99SE. Rather obviously, if you back-translate to 99SE, you will lose this data. But since 99SE is "fit for purpose," that data is not -- yet -- crucial. Only if you need the improved functionality of DXP does it become important.

My plan for helping my friend who I had managed to get stuck with DXP was to do just this. However, in the very first transfer we lost a few of the power objects and had a few other problems that I do not remember. This was going from 99SE to DXP.

It shouldn't happen. If correctly reported, it's a bug. Is it a known issue? If not, it should be reported, and it should be made known in the Knowledge Base as well as in our own bug database. It is probably time that we start one for DXP....

At that point I decided to support the rest of that board and the next board in DXP. That is why I can complain about DXP having actually used it, unlike those who defend it because they own it, even though they have never actually used it.

I have actually used DXP through gerber generation, but in bits and pieces, here and there. I'm not really defending DXP, but rather noting the harm done by the cynicism and lack of connection with other users represented by Mr. Wasti's comments. I've seen enough to know that DXP is not an absolute piece of junk, that it does in fact have advanced capabilities, that it can be difficult for this 99SE user to make the transition, and I have reports that I consider reliable that DXP is -- overall -- an improvement. I don't have enough experience to claim that 99SE uses should upgrade to DXP ASAP.

But I do recommend upgrading when it is convenient, based on Protel history, as others have mentioned. It provides Altium with funds to fix the problems. After all, if they go belly-up because we, as users, are so angry about the state of the program, I fail to see how we would benefit! We benefit from a healthy Altium, which is one reason why I see Mr. Wasti's comments as a bit of a tantrum rather than a rational response. He does not gain from them, nor do his customers -- who don't read this list -- he only gains if Altium fixes the problems, whatever they are. If he has already decided to move to another CAD system, why is he wasting his time here?

Some people have found that if they make enough fuss, if they are unpleasant enough, they will get a desireable response. It does work sometimes, but I think the costs are too great. If this is the case with Mr. Wasti, his unstated goal is to push Altium into fixing the program, into allowing him to stay with what is comfortable for him. I think that Altium will profit from meeting this need, because, as I have stated, he is not alone.

Even if a sophisticated user who makes the investment in DXP retraining finds that it is worthwhile, too many users are going to drop out of the process in frustration. And if Mr. Wasti is right and DXP is really a lemon -- difficult for me to accept as of yet because of comments from users like Mr. Wilson -- then Altium better be looking for some sugar to add to the mix.

If the reader is a 99SE user, it is reasonable to upgrade to DXP at any time, but I would not assume that you are suddenly going to be designing in DXP, unless you have the time to retrain. And I would keep 99SE installed and use it for any time-critical applications until I was confident with DXP, I don't know how long that would take.

To new users who don't know 99SE, I'd recommend the Migration Pack, i.e., you buy 99SE get DXP whenever you choose. I'd choose it immediately Why not? Note that you cannot sell 99SE separately if it is used for upgrade; to my knowledge, however, there is no problem with continuing to use it yourself, i.e., not as an extra seat but by a single user. I'd also recommend to a new user that they join the DXP list as well as this list (the PEDA Forum) and ask, especially ask about which program to begin with. If you go with DXP first, you might never need to learn the quite similar Protel 99SE.

And if you really want to save a little cash, buy a used 99SE license. If it includes DXP upgrade, it is essentially the same as DXP. If not, the upgrade to DXP is US$2495 at this time. So a saleable but non-upgrade-included license is worth $3500 - $4000 (cost to buyer), meaning that DXP, after the upgrade, will have cost perhaps $6000 instead of next to $8000. If you go this way, you can choose when to upgrade. There is a mailing list for protel resales, [EMAIL PROTECTED], join by sending a piece of mail to [EMAIL PROTECTED]

Always confirm with Altium that a license is transferable and is owned by the seller before paying for a resold license. I don't have any licenses for sale at this moment, though I do have a seller in line if a buyer appears, it might still be available. With used licenses, it is the *license* that is important. Altium replaces CDs without charge -- they used to charge $10; and not only is the manual available as PDF, you can buy the manual from Altium (if you have a license); the price for the 99SE manual was (is?) $90.

And one more piece of advice for one contemplating purchase of Protel from Altium: ask the sales rep if there are any discounts that are applicable to you. Don't just fax them a P.O.!!! There are certain kinds of licenses which are always discounted, and there are special discounts that appear from time to time. It might be that you can buy a Protel license from Altium for less than it would take to buy a used license, if there is a discount available to you.

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