Stimulation at TechEd

03 June 2008

This evening at the Partner Expo Reception (free food! free drinks!) I got taken aside by a customer who'd been using XtraReports for a good couple of years — in fact as long as I've been working here: I wonder if there's a connection? — and proceeded to, er, give me some feedback.

Believe it or not, it's this kind of thing that I so enjoy about conferences. Take one customer who is passionate about one of your products, knows it very well, and is prepared to provide a well-reasoned and persuasive argument for why we should be doing something that we're not, and you've got the recipe for a stimulating conversation and the possibility of some real change.

This is what happened half way through the evening. I was doing a demo of our soon-to-be-beta DXGrid for WPF and one of the guys watching asked to have a chat about XtraReports afterwards.

Quick synopsis of his situation: his company generates reports of some variety for a whole slew of customers, kind of like a batch system. The reports are huge, many pages, with subreports in subreports, ad nauseam but possibly not ad infinitum. Happens weekly and monthly. Used to use a Certain Reports product and is glad that they made the move. Loves XtraReports.

Right away he's different then from the majority of our XtraReports customers in that he's generating lots of large complicated reports at once. Different, certainly, but not overwhelmingly so.

He had two main issues:

- The install size. Our install program for DXperience is now 150Mb or so. For someone who only has one or two suites (like XtraReports), this is an inordinately big download. He was wondering whether there was anything we could do. I must admit I was stung a little bit by this on Sunday before I came here: we released v2008 vol.1.4 on Saturday morning and so my Sunday was spent in downloading the latest version, uninstalling the previous, installing the new, and making sure that everything was working properly.

We talked a bit about the issues. He liked the frequency of the minor updates (as do I), so didn't want to reduce the rate of releases at all. It was essentially the size: could we split it up into Suites, use some kind of patching technology, download as we installed?

The breaking it up into Suites is possible, I suppose. The patching is a no win situation since we enable updating from any previous version, and so the patch file would be larger than a full install. But the download as we install stuff sounds interesting and is something we should possibly look into. (In essence it breaks the two-step big download followed by big install into a single step do everything at the same time. Mostly the same amount of time, but perhaps a better user experience.) We'll look into it.

- The other issue was memory usage. Because of the way he's set up the reports, he suffers from high memory usage especially if we have a slight bug where we're not necessarily cleaning up our subreports in a timely fashion. I'm going to get the team to take another look at this issue.

The most interesting thing about this conversation was I think the level of passion on both sides. He was passionate about XtraReports and loved to use the product. It was generating good revenue for his company. I was passionate about XtraReports too, from a different viewpoint obviously, and want to make it better. Between the two of us, we came to a consensus, and it's now up to me to see if we can't do something about it.

Gotta love booth work!

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Geoff Davis
Geoff Davis

Actually Julian I like the single download. 150MB; it's hardly that big, downloaded other 3rd party components lately?

It's perfectly justified IMO to have other non-registered products as evaluations inside the installer just in case I would want to spend sometime considering how I would build a business case for using some of the other great stuff you guys do.

If I remember correctly you used to have individual installers for each product suite and it was a pain in the *** to download each one and install them individually. Sometimes you had to install them in order and as you know running one setup as oppose to several is a breath of fresh air IMO.

Also what about the IT guys who automate installing software silently over products such as SMS, etc. One script vs several again! - You do publish regular updates.

No, unless you are going to offer a single download as well as individual downloads for each product (which is probably what you are thinking?) then I wouldn't like the idea but then again I would like to hope that release dates don't get delayed just because Joe Bloggs has to build ++ Installers instead of 1!!! so there is time and resource to consider.

On the other hand if you was to say that you are more thinking about a small bootstrap installer that downloads individual installers and runs them for you based on your subscription then now your talking. Sort of what Microsoft do on their products such as OneCare, etc... but I would still like to think that you still offer your customers the ability to download those evaluations as part of the process.

Just my 2 pennies worth. Take it as you wish.

4 June 2008

We're now at the end of day 3 of the TechEd Expo and another interesting day. For the first time

5 June 2008
Michael Proctor [DX-Squad]
Michael Proctor [DX-Squad]

I agree with Geoff, the small boot strap installer is easy for those who just want to pick the eyes out of the package.

However I find that these can be annoying when wanting to re-install or install on another machine, I don't want to have to re-download the packages (and certainly your web bandwidth would prefer us to download once as well)

I believe that when this installer runs first time the download packages should be placed in the same folder as the installer and each time the installer runs checks what packages are already available.

Therefore if a full install is performed on one machine then you want to install on another just copy the x amount of packages and installer and away you go. If you do only select one package such as the XtraReports then the options are still there in the future to install another suite if you wish, just by downloading it.

5 June 2008
Paul Brown
Paul Brown

I'd comment that the installer could be streamlined as it is, especially the package placed onto my harddrive (I presume the internals of the installer too).

Do I really need

    19 copies of nwind.mdb (~1Mb each)

    7 copies of cars.mdb (2.5Mb each)

I just did a quick search in the tree and found these, I assume there are plenty of other repeats too, maybe all the demo stuff should just refer to data in the Demos root directory and not have it's own copy included in the install tree?

7 June 2008

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