19 June 2014 — A mere fifty-five days after shipping version 6.2.3, QSA ToolWorks, LLC today announced the release of Helix 6.2.4, another free maintenance upgrade to owners of version 6.2, and provided a look into the emerging feature set for the next major upgrade to Helix.
Significant improvements in stability and performance across all Helix product lines are the highlights of this release. “Improving product speed wasn’t really on our radar with this maintenance release,” said QSA’s Gil Numeroff. “We went into 6.2.4 quite reluctantly as problems reported in the field were occupying more and more of our mindshare.”
“It was really important for us to deal with a handful of crashes that were still occurring in Client/Server, and get those fixes along with some additional enhancements into the hands of our users in order to clear the decks and get back to work on the next Helix,” says Matt Strange, director of product development, adding that “the astounding performance improvements were achieved as a byproduct of fixing something that turned out to be almost completely different than we initially thought it was.”
Some processes run twice as fast as before
An unusual problem had an unexpectedly happy result for Helix. “A user was telling us that with each additional client that was logging in, performance was bogging down,” says Gil Numeroff, director of marketing. “This was something we had not seen in any of our testing and we were, for all practical purposes, ready to ship 6.2.4 before we gave this problem a serious look.”
“After seemingly endless hours trying to break the problem down, Matt Strange had a real brilliant inspiration and suddenly we were faced with a decision to delay release,” says Numeroff, adding that “when the engineers were able to put their heads together and analyze what Matt found, they came back with the problem solved and a surprise benefit: dramatically increased performance.”
The development team was stunned at first, afraid that this good fortune might be illusory, or concealing some other problem. But the subsequent round of testing revealed it not just to be fast, but stable, rock solid.
Feature Game results help point the way to the future of Helix
In early March, QSA conducted some research to help firm up its future direction. Helix users have, for several years now, been able to add their suggestions directly to the company’s technical database, and many users have taken advantage of that channel to let QSA know what they want.
“The so-called ‘Feature Game’ survey we placed before our user base was a massive undertaking, and the results bore out, in large measure, what we expected. We still haven’t analyzed all the feedback in detail” says Numeroff, “but some of the decisions we needed to make have now been made and the user base will be excited about where Helix is about to go.”
The main thrust of the next release will be the addition of a new Helix web client. The technology will extend the Helix paradigm to a logical place, allowing the Helix collection designer to build web pages in RADE that, when running under Helix Server, will allow anyone with a browser to view, edit and query information.
“This is a giant step for Helix,” says Numeroff. “In one leap, we will allow our collection designers to create applications that can be accessed from any device that can get on the web. It’ll be a great start that will only get better over time.”
Helix was created in 1983 by Jonathan Schneider, Larry Atkin, David Harmon and Daniel Cheifetz and originally produced by Odesta Corporation of Northbrook, Illinois in November of 1984. There are Helix users in virtually every country on earth who have been running the product in their businesses and homes almost continuously since 1984. There are very few products on any platform that can boast that kind of longevity through the number of major changes that have occurred in the computer industry since the Macintosh and PC platforms debuted in the 1980s. In spite of its tumultuous history, and the difficulty in pigeonholing the product into any single marketing category, Helix endures. It’s power and flexibility remain its hallmarks as it continues to evolve.
Helix provides a complete development and deployment suite
Helix is an application development and deployment environment that was one of the original thirty software products created for the Macintosh platform prior to its debut in 1984. It is now comprised of five principal applications:
- Helix RADE: the Rapid Application Development Environment, which is used to create applications, called “collections.”
- Helix Engine: a stand-alone tool that allows Helix collections to be deployed as single-user applications.
- Helix Server: used to deploy a Helix collection to a workgroup in both local- and wide-area networks.
- Helix Client: used to connect to a collection hosted by a Helix Server.
- Helix Utility: used to assure the data integrity of a Helix collection.