You've probably heard whisperings about a mythical thing coming out of the distant land of Xtheta.  Could it be - a major new version of the Xcb web portal?  Although it seems like only rumors (after all - they've been going on for a while); a new Xcb web portal really does exist.  Better yet - you won't have to play any games to get it (it'll be like finally getting the pink unicorn you've always wanted)!

Now, at this point - you're probably wondering why it's been a rumor for so long.  Why haven't you seen anything yet?  Well, the most substantial reason for the delay was that we went 'back to the drawing board' with the new portal.

It's SOoo fluuffy...different!

So, from the moment you visit the new Xcb sign on screen, you'll notice that things have changed. Once you log in, the user interface changes become even more pronounced. But, the changes aren't just skin deep. In fact, the whole underpinnings of the system have changed.

But if you're with me so far - you're probably wondering: WHY?  Why would we stop issuing substantial updates for so long (we're talking years, not months!)?  Seems like a major risk - especially when you realize that the existing product works!

These are questions I (and everyone here) has asked at least once.  But, it all comes down to a simple fact:  we don't want to be in the software business if we don't do it right.  That's why we recently changed our tagline from "your customs solution" to "excellence in action."  From the software we produce to our support, we want to be truly excellent at what we do.

With that goal in mind - there's a few inherent issues in the current series of Xcb:

  • Many screens can be slow to load and searching for items sometimes takes a while
  • You probably get lost going through the tabbed screens; I do! (try explaining how to set up a new notification in 50 words or less)
  • Updates are a question; how do you know if you're falling behind?
  • Sometimes the system does something "unexplainable"

We're looking at Xcb as our future entry package, and these issues were enough to cause us to realize that the system needed significant changes.  So, the goal was to head off these issues before they became worse.  Specifically, here were the 'big ticket' design goals of the new Xcb:

  1. Easy to use and manage: The system should be easy to understand and use, installation and maintenance should be 'a breeze'
  2. Expandable: We often need to add new features to the system; so adding features should be 'simple'
  3. Consistent: Nothing's more annoying than having to deal with software that seems to behave randomly
  4. Fast: Making people wait is just mean

Unfortunately, meeting those design goals wasn't possible with the present system; so, Xcb vNext is almost a complete rewrite of the system.  This sort of change doesn't come easily though, so there's going to be a rather heavy learning curve.  If we've succeeded in meeting those goals, I'm sure it will be well worth the difficulty.

Overview of changes

Over the next few weeks we'll start using the programmer's blog to detail some of the changes in the system; and you'll also be invited to join a series of webinars that take you through some of the changes.  But, to whet your appetite, here's a quick overview of what's new from the software side:

  • User Interface: Revamped to guide users through the system, and now includes an integrated help system.
  • Plugin support: Plugins allow users to make their own features and add them to the system
  • Upgraded internals: Uses newer version of Microsoft's NET framework and takes advantage of new features in Windows 2008/2012 and higher
  • Integrated maintenance & diagnostics:  The application has a series of automated tools to make installs and upgrades go easier.  And if there is a problem, there's a variety of diagnostic tools to help support.

Other blogs

  1. Xtheta