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The Final Countdown

The clock ticks down in the SapphireSteel Mission Control towards the launch...
by Huw Collingbourne
Tuesday 16 January 2007.

So what actually goes on in those days after a software company announces the imminent release of some software and before the arrival of the software itself…?

Do the developers sit around drinking tea and playing Happy Families? Or is there an insane mad panic as everyone suddenly realises that about fifty percent of the features on the ‘Features List’ haven’t even been implemented yet…?

Well, I really don’t know what goes on in other software companies. But I do know exactly what’s going on here in the gloom-filled basements deep under SapphireSteel Software’s luxury tenement building as we count down the days, hours and minutes towards the release of Ruby In Steel Developer (last week of January).

Tea-drinking, coffee-drinking and even (as we wind down from work in the early hours of the morning) a modest amount of drinking of fluids of a more invigorating nature have, I confess, been taking place. As far as I am aware (and I do take a fairly close interest in these matters), all the features on the Features List are now fully implemented. And thusfar, at least, there is relatively little panic in the air…

So why, you may wonder, don’t we just release the software early and have done with it?

Ah, if only…

It turns out that there is a whole bunch of stuff that we still have to do in order to get to the point of actually selling the darn’ software: getting the sales systems up and running being pretty close to the top of the list. Surprising as it may seem, relieving would-be purchasers of their hard-earned cash is a complicated process fraught with unexpected difficulties.

Oh, and did I mention documentation? So far we have a 60 page PDF manual, a pretty substantial integrated help system plus various other documents devoted to the mysteries of the snippet editor, setting up web servers and the Ruby In Steel Macro Library. The documentation is still growing – and, in all probability, it will continue to grow right up until the moment the software finally goes on sale.

It has always been my view that you can never have too much documentation. It’s only a pity that I happen to be the person who ends up writing so much of it.

It’s at times like this that I begin to wish I’d embraced one of those programming methodologies that are so much in vogue these days. You know, the ones that say that you really shouldn’t bother with documentation and you should absolutely never ever ever pre-announce a release date – you should, you know, just sort of release it “when it’s ready…”

Well, too late to change our minds now. It was back in early 2006 that we committed ourselves to releasing the Developer Edition of Ruby In Steel in January 2007. I’m of the old-fashioned school of thought in these matters: once you say you’re going to do something, you jolly well go and do it! And so we remain committed to releasing the software in January – though, as the more eagle-eyed among you may have spotted, we’re leaving it as close to the very end of January as we possibly can without slipping into February ;-)

Ah well, come February, maybe we’ll think about taking a few days off at long last. Who knows, I might even be prepared to consider a nice relaxing game or two of Happy Families…

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