(No Longer) Irritated with SmartBear Software

(For the happy ending to this rant, see the next day’s post…)

SmartBear Software has a product called AQtime Pro, which is a profiler capable of profiling software at the source code line level. If you’re not a programmer, that won’t mean anything, but if you write code, you know that from time to time you’ll have a bottleneck somewhere in a complex program which you cannot track down. This is where AQtime comes in. It lets you see exactly how many times each line of code is executing, and how much time is spend on each line and routine. It is hands-down the best tool for doing this sort of detective work.

I’ve used it a couple of dozen times in the years I’ve had it, and on each of those times it has saved my bacon, quickly identifying exactly what code is causing my program to slow to a crawl.

About two weeks ago I had just that kind of a problem that needed sorting out, so I fired up my old copy of AQtime 3.16. After some struggling, I discovered that it won’t profile software written in Delphi XE. This is not at all unreasonable – that version came out in 2005 or so, and there’s no reason to expect that it could cope with the output of the very latest Delphi compiler. (Delphi XE comes with a limited version of AQtime that doesn’t profile to the line level, so it wouldn’t do what I needed). No problem, I figured, I’ll just upgrade. It is, after all, a good tool to have available.

So on 7/28/2011 I went to the SmartBear website, and logged in. Their system still had me in their records, showing that the last version I had a license to is 3.16. All well and good. I clicked the link for upgrade pricing…

… and instead of an upgrade price list it takes me to a web form that I have to fill out. Really SmartBear? You can’t just tell me on the website what my cost will be to upgrade? I buy a lot of programming tool updates online and none of those companies make me fill out a web form to get a price list!

Well, I needed the software, so I filled out the form. That was a Thursday night. The following Monday afternoon, 8/01/2011, I got a call from a salesman. I explained that my version was long out of date, and I had an immediate need for the software, and I wanted to know what an upgrade would cost me. He understood, and said he’d email me the price. What? Huh? You can’t just tell me the price over the phone?

Fine. Whatever. I put SmartBear in my spam blocker white-list so the email wouldn’t get lost, and waited. And waited. And waited.

Here we are almost a week later, and that promised email never showed up. I’ve filled out the web form again today, but only out of idle curiosity. You see, I don’t need AQtime any more for this problem. The bottleneck had to be fixed, so I muddled through the hard way and figured out the problem on my own. I’d have preferred to have a shiny new copy of AQtime to help me narrow it down in minutes instead of hours, of course. But I didn’t have the luxury of waiting around for a whole work week for SmartBear to get back to me. Oh well.

I’ve got some questions for them:

  1. Why wouldn’t your website simply show me my upgrade price?
  2. Why couldn’t the salesman simply tell me the price over the phone?
  3. Why have I not received an email with the price almost a week later?
  4. Do you no longer want my business?

SmartBear Software, you had a motivated customer, representing repeat business, who had an immediate need for your product and who was ready to buy. Too bad you dropped the ball.

1300 Dark Frames

June in Illinois often brings with it some interesting weather, and this year was no different. One evening for about an hour we were surrounded by storms, but with clear sky overhead. There was a great deal of lightning, and I even saw one spider-web bolt jump from cloud to cloud, across the clear sky and the face of the moon. Very cool.

I decided to do a photography experiment. I made my best guesses on focus, ISO, aperture and shutter speed, then spent about 45 minutes trying to anticipate the most active part of the sky to point the camera at. With the camera hand-held and set on continuous burst mode, I fired off 1300 frames, hoping for the best. Really. 1300 frames.

Of those 1300, only about 40 had any hint of light in them at all, and just a couple were shots that I consider good enough to show. I’m very happy with these results, but thank goodness for the digital age, as this experiment would have cost a fortune in film!

 

Dragonfall

Not the dragonfly of the story

When I opened the garage door this afternoon, I discovered a dragonfly that had been bumping around in there all night. Despite the open door, he kept smacking into the back wall, and was dangerously close to a spider web. Poor, stupid, softhearted goof that I am, I decided I should help him.

So I stood on the top step leading into the house and gently, oh so gently, cupped my hands around the dragonfly.

By now, anyone familiar with me already knows what is about to happen.

With the dragonfly safely in my cupped hands, I turned to take him out to the flowerbed. Naturally, since I was concentrating so much on not hurting the dragonfly, I completely forgot that I was standing two steps off the nice, firm, concrete garage floor.

Yeah.

To my credit, my hands remained carefully cupped around the dragonfly, who came through the incident entirely injury free. Since I couldn’t use my hands to break my fall, I didn’t. Break my fall, that is. Eight hours later the feeling has mostly returned to my toes, and the badly scraped knee has almost stopped throbbing. By my standards, I came through it remarkably well.

I hope the dragonfly appreciates the assist.