Archive for September, 2012

BPC SurveyManager Desktop V7 : New Alpha Release 3 available (Updated : Release 6 now )

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

We have just uploaded the latest Alpha release of the BPC SurveyManager V7 Desktop administration application.  This is ALPHA3 and clients with active maintenance subscriptions can download it from your BPC RiskManager download site.   This version is stable enough for production use – in fact it is the way we maintain SurveyManager  sites and build surveys – rather the other clients we supply.

Alpha 1 has been available for some time, but it was really intended for system administrator level users.  This one is meant for general survey administrator users and behaves correctly under the latest versions of Windows.  It will now map the machine registry keys to current user level registry keys.  So the first time you access it it will attempt to read the user keys, and failing that it will then read the machine keys and then save them back as user level keys.

This version allows you to completely manage all aspects of a survey site – including any number of databases (local, remote and RiskManager survey databases), manager distributed survey databases, multiple orgs (we manage over organisations in a single database), users, instances, multiple surveys, import and export, survey creation, survey previewing, survey distribution, survey publication, survey reporting, database comparison, survey duplication & template generation, MS Word surveys, etc.  

Changes made in the desktop are live and instantaneous – change a question text and refresh the browser page and the change is there.  Alternatively you can work on a local copy of the survey and upload it to a remote distribution site, and download the results separately (distributed mode).

The system is client-server (not N-Tier as with BPC RiskManager), except in distributed mode where it talks with a remote survey engine on the publication server.

If you are working with surveys in BPC RiskManager, or managing surveys separately, you should probably download the BPC SurveyManager desktop and try it out.  Note, however, that this is a fairly serious application and, while we have attempted to make it straightforward, it is meant for people who have already learnt the general principles of BPC SurveyManager by using our other simpler clients – like the one built into BPC RiskManager.  BPC SurveyManager is extensively documented on the riskwiki, but the SM DeskTop V7 client is only lightly documented there.

I think their are only two features missing from it that are in the SurveyManager Web Client or the BPC RiskManager client – auto deployment of surveys across many organisations (Web client) [UPDATE:  This is now available as of ALPHA4] and the built in survey styles (RiskManager)[UPDATE:  This is now available as of ALPHA5] .   Since all the survey clients work together, you can easily use either of these two clients to deliver these capabilities.

If you want to give it a try, and feel you need a little hand holding to start AND you have a current maintenance subscription for any BPC software product, feel free to send me an email and we will arrange a time to phone you and talk you through it.  You better allow a couple of hours though – there is a lot to know.

It is released without an installer at the moment (as it doesn’t relly need one and it is an alpha release).  So just unzip the zip file and you can run it from pretty much anywhere.  When we eventually move it to a production release it will come with an installer. 

Now the main things you will notice is that some of the screens have the latest look and feel, while other are clearly older.  A lot of the SurveyManager Maintenance Application is in the V7 release – and has been running without fault since the late 1990′s.  We wrote the earlier systems to be future proof – ie. to read the current DB structures and change what they did accordingly so a lot of code has simply accommondated changes in the DB over time.  Where there was nothing wrong with the original code – except that the window panels were grey and the buttons didn’t have that nice flashy glass effect) – we have kept it and concentrated on improving the overall user interface – navigation by trees rather than grids, adding sliding panels, etc –  and adding new features (or simply surfacing existing BPC SurveyManager capabilities).  

The inconsistent screen colouring and use of control sets is, however, the main reason why this is an alpha release - the look of the screens is not 100% consistent  throughout (although the behaviour essentially is).   About 60% of the code has been running stable for over 10 years, and about 20% has been stable for about 5 years.   So this is probably one of the most stable alpha’s you are ever likely to see!   

While I agree, it would be nice if the SM Desktop was an N-Tier app like the BPC RiskManager, I doubt we will be going there in a hurry as there is a mountain of code to rewrite in order to achieve that and we are doing that effort for the BPC RiskManager client.   Similarly the SurveyManager web client is gradually getting most of the capabilities of the SM DeskTop (except the distributed database capability),  so most of the future direction for BPC Survey Manager clients lie in these two editions.  The SM Desktop will remain the principal ‘serious’ creator’s application as it is the fastest to use and the edition we use to enable and test new SM ideas.  So while it will always lead the other editions in capabilities, it does not need to be N-Tier for that purpose and would not serve its testing platform role as well as it does in client-server mode.  As an aside – the web client actually uses the same code as the SM Desktop client – except for the screen painting parts.  So when we add a capability to the Sm Desktop we are simultaneously making the capability potentially available in the web client – we just have to add the appropriate web page(s).  

One last thing – if you are accessing a survey DB that is a RiskManager DB you MUST have set a local password for access (or it won’t allow you in).  If youare using one of the external authentication protocols (eg LDAP, AD, NT Groups, etc) in BPC RiskManager for access authentication and you have not set a local password at any point, you MUST go to the Access/Security panel in BPC RiskManager and press “reset” for any ID you want to have access to the SM DeskTop.  Further to access the SM Desktop you must have the Admin or Super role in the org or parent survey org – and here we are talking about survey orgs, not RiskManager orgs or Incident Manager.    The appropriate users for the SM Desktop in a BPC RiskManager site are the Risk Administrators or designated Survey Administrators – not every person in the organisation who completes a survey!   

UPDATE: 17 Sep 2012

ALHA4 has now been uploaded:

  • “Orgs I Administer” has had some behaviour improvements so that it tracks the org list better and the drag-drop allocation of access to users works more reliably.
  • Survey deployment across many orgs has been surfaced to the Desktop.  It is available in the Administration function for now.  We might move it later to the Org control area.  This version is slightly better than the Web client’s because it will also auto-publish to any user with a designated filter key.
  • Last connection memory now works properly for remote databases so you wont have to re-enter the details with each run of the application.
  • Various other minor bug and behaviour improvements and a couple more screens converted to the new look.

UPDATE: 19 Sep 2012

ALHA5 has now been uploaded:

  • Pre-defined survey themes have been surfaced – same is in the BPC RiskManger version.
  • Survey folders have beden re-worked and the image display control replaced with a new one capable of displaying many more graphic formats than the previous one.
  • Local database last connection is now stored in the user registry for the desktop.
  • Various other minor bug and behaviour improvements and a couple more screens converted to the new look.

UPDATE: 27 Sep 2012

ALHA6 has now been uploaded:

  • More screens repainted.
  • Survey response configuration screen has been updated to include the additional fields available for selection response option lists (radio buttons, lists, jumpers, drop lists, button, lists, etc.) that were surfaced in the BPC RiskManager version and SurveyManager Web Client some yime ago.
  • Copying and pasting of XML packets in the response option grid now supports rows with the ID’s preallocated – rather than insisting on the auto-naming of ID’s.