Third Party Watch
Shawn M. Gordon
President of S.M. Gordon & Associates

Let’s start out this month by talking about technical support and what you are getting for your money. As far as I understand it, we pay X dollars per year to our third parties so we can get two things, support for our questions and bug reports, and new versions. In my opinion if you are paying annual support you should be able to expect an updated version at least every 18 months for many types of software. Companies implement their technical support in different ways, some good and some bad. As you have noticed over the last year, I am not in the habit of mentioning a company name unless it is for something positive, but I just spoke with a friend this morning and I am so ticked off by the way his technical support was handled, that I am at long last going to blast someone in print.

The company is DRC, the software is SFD (Software For Distributors). Anyone knowing the history of SFD, already know’s it’s convoluted history, suffice to say it is an application system that comes with a pretty hefty price tag. My friend, who shall remain nameless, had a question to ask DRC on one of their functions. He pays them 15,000 per year in support by the way. They told him what intrinsics he needed and that they could give him a sample of code. However this code would cost $800 because it had been custom job for another customer (so what?). Or they would let him talk to one of the programmers to have them explain it, but that would be charged as a minimum 2 hours of consulting. Consulting usually runs in the $100 per hour range.

My question to DRC is this, why the heck is my friend paying you $15,000 per year for support when you won’t support him? I think this practice absolutely stinks and I sure hope I don’t hear about anyone else pulling this kind of garbage.

On to nicer subjects. I finally did it, I got married on January 11th. I didn’t have to, I wanted to. Hopefully she will continue to let me work on this column and all my other projects. Anyone wishing to send my new wife condolences is welcome too, care of Interex.

Well for me I just got through the holidays (and my wedding) so I haven’t been hearing anything major of late. However I did see a company, Zebra Software, that had just started marketing a product called FrontEnder. This is the exact product that I was asking for MONTHS ago. Anyway, in theory it is a generic interface builder for HP 3000 applications for MS Windows. I just got a copy in my hot little hands and I will be writing a review for Interact that should be out by early Summer.

Read any good books lately? I just started on one called “Taming the HP 3000 – volume two”. This is the long awaited sequel to Robert Lunds very popular book “Taming the HP 3000”. I just received a copy that I will be writing a review of. It is packed with over 250 pages of helpful tips and positive thinking. I am only about 50 pages into it so far, and I want to ask Robert how he managed to come up with quotes to put on the sides of every single page. No wonder it took him so long to finish. I appreciate the effort and awed by the investment in time it took to research them and put them in that sideways type. Good work Robert.

Some hot news from HP these days. IMAGE has been rebundled with the HP 3000. HP is referring to it as being ‘packaged’ not ‘bundled’, but what the hell. With the advent of IMAGE/SQL we will now see a slight increase in support costs to cover IMAGE, but this money is supposed to go directly to the IMAGE labs and Jim Sartain. This is exciting news, we could really start seeing some major things start to be added to IMAGE (even beyond what has been done in the last couple of years). HP is also offering the Systems Package Plus package. This is a full blown system that is 20% off of what it would cost you to purchase the components. My hat’s off to HP for being sensitive to the needs of the user base.

Speaking of IMAGE, there was a wonderful debate raging in HP World (A European trade rag) early this year between Wirt Atmar of AICS, Roger Lawson of Proactive and Tim Cullis of HP World (Adager is supposed to jump into the fray as well). I don’t want to regurgitate it here, but it was pretty interesting. My money is on Wirt at this point, anyone wanting to see a copy of the articles just give me a call and I will try to get you one.

I want to wrap up this month by telling everyone how happy I am that I have two different Star Trek series to watch every week now. What the world needs is a little less reality and a little more Science Fiction.