Wilcox Development Solutions Blog


April 27, 2005

Yesterday an app of my shipped. Today it showed up on VersionTracker. It’s a great feeling.

Helix Maintenance Manager (HMM) is finally out the door. We wrote this app for QSA Toolworks, LLC, and it’s finally out the door. All wrapped up, small details fixed, last minute bugs squashed, and things renamed at the last minute. To top that all off, we’ve started the list for Features For The Next Version.

Now for a look into the development of this app, and why this app is so important for those of you using a Helix database… When I’m working on an app I keep a 8.5x11” notebook for every project I work on. This notebook holds information about what I did, issues I fixed, how I spent my time, one entry for each time I sit down to work on something. The first entry in HMM’s notebook was March 21, 2003. Yes, this application has been in development for a little over 2 years of calendar time.

Why did it take us that long? Several reasons:

  1. This is a big, complex, and really really useful app. It took a while to make
  2. Development went in spirts: sometimes 3 months would go by without any work being done: we had other fish to fry, and sometimes HMM took a back seat to more important things.
  3. We were kind of waiting for the OS X version of QSA Toolwork’s Other Products to ship (but we finally decided to just ship HMM first.)

In July 2004, Jared started working on this app (almost) full-time, getting HMM stable, filling in the places were I had just made a chalk-outline, inventing an entire QA suite, writing the manual (107 pages of it), and working on the extras we released with the product. He also wrote the Scheduler application, the app that runs Plans automatically. I’m very proud of the work he’s done, making this app into a Real Boy.

HMM also provides many, many places for attachability, while including many useful features like Stuffing backups, and/or datestamping backups, a very detailed (and well documented) log file, email communication via Mail, and much more.

Oh, useful hint: HMM’s log file is in a tab delimited format, for easy import into a Helix database. Woh!

If you maintain a Helix installation, and want painless database integrity checking (in other words, want to automate the running of the two Utilities), then this app is for you. You can schedule Plans to run via the built-in mechanisms, or use an iCal calendar for those complex, variable, or just plain wacky, schedules.

Why should you run maintenance on your Helix databases? The same reason you should have an annual physical: to make sure that everything is still working, and nothing is wrong. Sometimes little things are wrong, but are easily fixable (eat better, exercise, more - or less - time in the sun, you know). Sometimes bigger things are wrong, and further action needs to be taken - but knowing that something is wrong is an important first step in getting it fixed.

I’ve gone on enough, beaming over The Latest and Greatest. If you think we’re excited about this, I suspect you’ll see the next level of excitement when Helix 6, for OS X ships.

I’m sure over the next few days/weeks/months you’ll hear a lot more buzz from QSA on this app. To take a line from Thomas The Tank Engine: “It’s a really useful engine!”