We have just begun a yearly activity that to some of us in the business is as anticipated as the years’ first round of golf… the traditional opening of the pool on Memorial Day weekend, or the start of hunting season in November… That’s right sports fans… it’s time for SolidWorks Beta Season!
- “The software should be shipped without bugs”
- “We’re not updating until Service Pack 3.0′”
- “We don’t have time to beta test… we have important work to do”
Let’s be honest, folks. Beta testing is done for a reason. This is YOUR opportunity to control YOUR own destiny and to have an impact on the things that matter most to YOU. We realize that SolidWorks is really just a tool in your toolbox, but do you really want to rely on other users to find the problems in the features that your company uses every day?
The Reality of ANY Software
Believe me, no software company wants more than to ship 100% ‘Bug Free’ software to their customers, but the reality is that if it is made by man, and man is fallible, then the software is therefore fallible. Every, and I mean EVERY company that makes a product has a support department. If things could be made perfect all the time (or ANY of the time), why would this be the case?
Take, for instance, the Space Shuttle. NASA has been flying that marvel of technology for 30 years. I remember gathering in the library at my elementary school to watch the first ever launch way back when the main fuel tank was white… not covered with the orange foam that has garnered far too much publicity in recent years.
The space shuttle has over 400,000 parts!! Even if NASA tested, probed and proved it out to be 99% ‘perfect’, which is nearly impossible in any manufacturing environment on even simple things we use today… that means that there are still over 4,000 ‘problems’ to deal with!
Even my wonderful iPhone has a problem or two (sorry, Steve, it’s true 😉 )
‘It should be fine by SP 3’
Will it? Do you really want to stake your investement in technology and your companies intellectual data on the hopes that ‘someone’ out there will find ‘your’ bugs before you do?
Beta gives you a chance to have an impact on the features that are important to you and your company. If you wait until SP3 (which is far too common) and find a bug, you may have even lost your opportunity for that bug to be fixed until the NEXT RELEASE!!
You see, with the Service pack schedule, the chances of there being a service pack much past SP5 are pretty slim. So finding a bug in SP3 only gives SolidWorks a couple months to try to get that bug fixed. Otherwise it has to wait until ‘2013’… then where are you?
Even worse, if that bug was a ‘Kernel’ bug, then SolidWorks has no choice but to wait until the next major release in order to retain full file compatibility through all service packs of a major release. If you find it in Beta, it can be fixed before SP0 hits the shelves.
There is also a perception that SP3 is the ‘middle’ of a major release cycle. Well, maybe by the number, but in the time between Service Packs, SP3 is pretty late in the life of a major release.
When you find a bug, I’m sure you have little sympathy for Quality Assurance department at SolidWorks. “Why didn’t they find this?!” and “This is something I do every day, how could they have missed it?!”
Again, let me point out the realities of what is taking place behind the scenes of software development…
First, SolidWorks 2011 has just over 9 MILLION lines of code, and that is JUST for SolidWorks. SolidWorks 2011 added between 700K and 900K lines of new code. Needless to say, there is A LOT going on, and a lot of code to pour through when a bug is discovered.
Furthermore, when a service pack is getting set for release, it must be tested to install properly on ALL operating systems tested for compatiblitiy to all previous service packs before it can be made available for download.
Let me state this a different way… When SP3 is getting set for release, it must be tested for all OS’s — that’s Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, 32 and 64 bit, times 14 languages! Yes, that is 84 tests and varifications! Add to that ALL PREVIOUS SERVICE PACKS on ALL of those operating systems and you can see that quality assurance has their hands full. All of this in an ultimate effort to provide the best user experience in the industry.
Nobody feels worse when a bug is found than QA, but these guys are working very hard to deliver the cleanest code they can. Trust me, these guys are the best in the business.
You don’t have time NOT to Beta test!
Beta testing is NOT a life sentence! Everyone thinks that Beta testing requires weeks of effort by a valuable engineer. Not true!
All you have to do is take one user and a representative data set for what you do and have him run thru your key workflows to see if he finds anything odd. You can spend a day or two MAX to prove out the things that are important in your business. Get them reported to SolidWorks and get back to business.
Take some time to ensure that your invenstment in hardware, technology and training keeps moving along at YOUR pace and on YOUR terms. A litte Beta testing can go a long way in ensuring that the features and functionality you depend on most continue to work as you’d expect, or even better, from release to release.
Your ‘Pot of Gold’ will be waiting for you in Service Pack 0.0 !!!
Darin J. Grosser – CSWE