Dental admin software



  • I should just stop at that and let everyone fill in the blanks.

    Just about any small market/small business software is going to be a collection of WTFs a mile long. So compared to some, this one is pretty innocuous. Yeah, that's like saying, "compared to murder, this other thing isn't all that bad."

    It started a couple of months ago when I was tasked by a client to install an update to their dental admin software. The first thing that jumped out at me was that the software was a beta and sent out to "knowledgeable" offices. My client didn't even understand what that might mean but insisted that I install it. In a bout of professionalism I called the developer/publisher/pusher to verify that the version is stable enough to put it on the receptionist's machine. To paraphrase them:

    "Don't do that, that version's been recalled. Destroy the disks, we'll send new ones with a stable version."

    So, OK. SpITy Sense™ did well by me. I inform the client about the snafu and they become impressed. I ignore the fact that they didn't listen to me, as this is a new client and they have to be slowly drawn into the certainty that I really do know better than them in matters of IT and when I say no it means no.

    Fast forward to last week and the client is calling me back with a little package of CDs and "manuals" in their hands, asking me if I could pretty please update them this time.

    Well, the software needs to be updated some time. They happen to be on the previous major release, which aside from the fact that the company is going to stop supporting the upgrade path very soon, it doesn't scale with the DPI on the desktop. I'm hoping the new version does because that will mean I can change the DPI instead of the resolution to non-native on the LCD screen of the receptionist who keeps on complaining about headaches and tired eyes.

    Smallish reason to improve things, but the office is already paying for it anyway.

    But a couple of things which didn't register last time jumped out at me as I prepared the installation.

    It's on CDs. Two CDs. The total size of the package is 724MB. 55MBs is for the user manual, plus another 33MBs for change notes and >100MB of MDX for a simplified database with the ability to show images of teeth. All the PDF files require Adobe Flash (they're interactive!) and could have been dropped down to a couple of megs. So, seeing as they passed 650MB making their manuals fancy and unreliable on systems where flash player is not allowed (the only sane policy), they put it on two CDs.

    Neither Flash nor Reader resides on either CD...and it gets better.

    Now, you would think that the software would have pretty low requirements if it's on CDs instead of a DVD. After all, that suggests the company expects to sell to people with pretty old hardware. So minimum system reqs should be in the P4 range, right?

    Well, no. Core 2 Duos@3.0 GHz. With 4 GB RAM and 80GB hdd for the client.

    Remember the PDF files that need Flash to navigate? Those alone make the reception i3 slow down to a chug. And that computer only has 2GB as it's 32bit Windows anyway. It does, however, run the previous version, which has the same requirements, decently.

    So why that much RAM? I haven't used it enough to know. No reason whatsoever as far as I can see for a DB program like this, but it fills me with dread to find out how bad their memory management is. The time it takes to move between records and the HDD accesses involved aren't promising. Then again, the requirement might be there to make it possible to read the manual and open the program at the same time.

    Then there's the server, which handles backups and other tasks in the office. It has all of one client for this software, which is a good thing because the recommendation for the server is 8 gigs if it has 2 or more clients. Luckily the minimum is 3 for 2 clients, so 2 gigs for 1 client should be enough.

    However, on running the sys-requirements program, although the processor is a pretty solid Xeon @ 2.5 GHz, the program starts blaring warnings because it demands...2.6GHz.

    It all goes on like this. The most minor WTF I've found is that autorun.exe has fixed pathing so you can't use it to install off of other media. Luckily the setup files seem to have relative pathing. I wouldn't know if this holds true all the way as I decided to do a bit more research in a couple of VMs before committing to an actual install.

    But you know what may in fact be the best part? That the primary prep for installing an update is to...make a copy of the program directory. And this is important because all the patient data is stored in the directory path under /Data/DATA. :cry:


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    Sounds like a PowerBuilder app to me.

    PowerBuilder, for when you need to make shitty software quickly.



  • @scrib said:

    Neither Flash nor Reader resides on either CD

    I'd be fine with that, if they had documentation and/or shortcuts referring to $getFlashURL and $getReaderURL


  • :belt_onion:

    @chubertdev said:

    I'd be fine with that, if they had documentation and/or shortcuts referring to $getFlashURL and $getReaderURL

    They probably do... inside the PDF that needs Flash to navigate.



  • Make some screenshots and let's rebuild, sell and retire to the Caribbean.



  • @Intercourse said:

    Sounds like a PowerBuilder app to me.

    PowerBuilder, for when you need to make shitty software quickly.

    No. Worse than that. If they use PowerBuilder, than they're not using it all that well.

    @chubertdev said:

    I'd be fine with that, if they had documentation and/or shortcuts referring to $getFlashURL and $getReaderURL

    They don't. But if you've got Reader without Flash, Reader will helpfully send you to an Adobe page with links to download Flash.

    IIRC from the office Windows machine that didn't have Flash, none of the links actually work, except for the download to the Mac version.

    @Onyx said:

    They probably do... inside the PDF that needs Flash to navigate.

    No. But the PDFs do act as containers for multiple PDFs, and that appears so far to be the only reason to have the Flash requirement in the first place.

    The change notes are especially bad. They look like PowerPoint presentations inside of a PDF file. They're useless in functionality, as anyone moving from major version to major version has to go through each of them, and searching through them is a major pain. You can save them out individually, but that still doesn't get around the fact that they are a WTF in a sea of WTFs. Another being that Reader defaults to saving these sub-PDFs into the System32 folder (this is a newly set up machine and nothing on my end would have done this).

    The format is hopeless for self-learning, although they may not be so bad if you're in front of a class and just want to get through the allotted time so you can go outside and get your nicotine fix. And I know is if I had to teach this shit I'd start smoking.

    @Eldelshell said:

    Make some screenshots and let's rebuild, sell and retire to the Caribbean.

    The more I learn about this installation the less I want to have anything to do with it.

    The really shitty thing is that much of the technical documentation is very well done, leaving me impressed by it. The words and the way they're written has left me with a completely different impression than what I get from looking at the way things are actually done. It's like having a really good-looking spokesmodel selling you a piece of crap that doesn't work while balancing an egg on her nose and miming being stuck in a box.



  • @scrib said:

    Another being that Reader defaults to saving these sub-PDFs into the System32 folder

    AKA, best practices, like we learned in the java thread?



  • @boomzilla said:

    AKA, best practices, like we learned in the java thread?

    What are you on about this "learned" thing? I didn't enter into the computer field to "learn" things. ;)


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