Observations of Parallax recent trends

I thought that is was obvious on the recent forum change some months back that there was a drop off of conversations.  That change wasn't really even a bad change.   This change is bad.  I have to ask why are you guys putting so much effort into changing this forum?  I suppose it is some effort to migrate old forum posts to a manageable format as VB has it's issues.  It seems like there is far too much driving the car while looking in the rear view mirror.  Looking at the past and worrying about all the old stuff is driving the car into a telephone pole.  I wonder if the lack of conversations in the Prop 1 forum is due to  a.  the info and obex has matured to a point that it is far easier to sort it out without a lot of newbie questions  or b. the device has saturated it's audience, and the audience has plateaued.  I'd put the forum back to VB.  Host all archives on a server and google will find it for those searching specific keywords. 

I understand pressure very well, and surely there is a ton of pressure on you guys with all the frustrations, money spent, and delays on a new propeller product.  You guys are digging a deep hole on several levels.  Maybe it is time for some Eckhart Tolle injection.  Live in the present stop dwelling on the past and future,  start making sense today.  

The Prop 2 has put the core forum base of Prop users into a perpetual ground hogs day or waiting.  Carrots and teasers then wait.  It think the whole p2 forum should be nuked, just remove the whole stigma from the forums and if an FPGA is released,  then proceed with an enthusiastic "present" minded approach. 


Comments

  • 19 Comments sorted by Date Added Votes
  • Oldbitcollector (Jeff)Oldbitcollector (Jeff) Posts: 8,083
    edited July 2015 Vote Up5Vote Down
    My message has raised concerns from Parallax.  My criticism is being seen as an attack on the company and not as constructive, so I'm publically retracting the entire message in addition to all of my recent posts.   I may also consider resigning from the forums completely, but I'm not a fan of "heat of the moment decisions", so I'll leave things alone for now.

    I'll probably be ejected from the forums after this, or the post will be moderated, but I'm past caring.

    Propeller 1 code has matured greatly, but that being said there are many issues which need to be addressed and code which needs to be updated.   Parallax has had a tendency to rely on their customer base to push the code forward.   A lot of these same people have tried to develop products around the Propeller with little support from Parallax itself.  In some cases, I've witnesses Parallax make decisions which actually worked against these folks.

    Parallax has suffered from an identity crisis for a long time.   They have tried to be like "Sparkfun" or "Adafruit" for a while.  They have tried to be commercial/industrial company.  They have also worked hard to be an educational resource.   They tend to be all over the map.  They have marketed everything from boards made in house, to quadcopter kits, to reselling sensors and other imported products.   They invested a great deal of time to develop Spin, then decided that the winds of change should steer them to be more like the Arduino and develop C.   If you keep doing things like this, you'll ditch that next and be programming in Python.

    I wish they would adopt a mission statement, then make everything they do align with a singular direction.

    Honestly, I agree that the Prop 2 should probably become an internal project and information regarding it should be kept under wraps until it is ready for consumption.   It's been "almost" for a very, very long time with several false starts, and delays.  Folks like myself who have tried to align commercial opportunities with this potentially great product have suffered loses.   The Propeller 2 project appears to be a black hole in which Parallax continues to pour money hoping for a return.   It might even be time to consider some radical changes, but someone needs to draw a line in the sand, and pick a singular direction to go and put all other distractions aside.   IMHO, constantly changing the forums or website is just another distraction that is costing time and energy from other great products which would benefit Parallax.

    This recent forum "upgrade" is a disturbing peek at the current state of Parallax.   This ISN'T the calibre of polished quality that I've seen the past which has always challenged others like myself to try to step up their game to a Parallax level.  

    Seriously, please consider re-instating VB until a more viable, fully tested solution can be put forth.   In the meantime, please invest your efforts in the things that have made you great.    Do the thing you are great at and do it proudly.   There is Spin code which needs to be upgraded to "Gold Standards"  (remember that concept?  It was a good one!)   You just fired one of the people who was an original code contributor who should be put back to work updating and maintaining the code library.  If someone in the forums creates great code, reward them, toss money on the table!   Invest in your current project!  You'll see returns!

    There is much work to be done on Prop 2.   Get it there without distraction!  

    Interact more with authors and project producers to keep the Propeller out front.     Keep your foot in education and continue to be a resource to the classrooms.   Continue to allow all of that material to flow into the hobby users as well.

    The Propeller is now an older product, but it shouldn't stop new development from happening.  Heck I still see software being written and released for 30+ year old computers, so I KNOW there is still gas in that vehicle.

    Come on Parallax!  We're counting on you to be great!   You have a history of greatness!!!
    <br>
  • PublisonPublison Posts: 9,668
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    I'll probably be ejected from the forums after this, or the post will be moderated, but I'm past caring.




    Not by me Jeff. I and others feel your pain. You have done so much in the past to promote the Propeller and other Parallax products, and I for one applaude you for all your work.
    Jim
    (I guess I don't show up as a Moderator anymore. Maybe I have been replaced along with the software? )  
    Infernal Machine
  • PublisonPublison Posts: 9,668
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Not by me Jeff. I and others feel your pain. You have done so much in the past to promote the Propeller and other Parallax products, and I for one applaude you for all your work.
    Jim
    (I guess I don't show up as a Moderator anymore. Maybe I have been replaced along with the software? )   :smile:
    Infernal Machine
  • jmgjmg Posts: 10,346
    Parallax has suffered from an identity crisis for a long time.   They have tried to be like "Sparkfun" or "Adafruit" for a while.  They have tried to be commercial/industrial company.  They have also worked hard to be an educational resource.   They tend to be all over the map.  They have marketed everything from boards made in house, to quadcopter kits, to reselling sensors and other imported products.   They invested a great deal of time to develop Spin, then decided that the winds of change should steer them to be more like the Arduino and develop C.   If you keep doing things like this, you'll ditch that next and be programming in Python.




    I'm not quite following the logic ?As suppliers of all of Silicon, Software and Systems, Parallax will always cover more than one base.Many Vendors are the same - they sell Silicon, Software tools, and Eval Boards.
    Spin is in ROM, that work has not gone away. C was the next logical step, as was better IDEs and more diverse platforms. All that seems to have gone quite well.
  • jmg,
    1) Other silicon vendors don't have less than 40 employees. They have departments/groups/business units addressing the areas that Parallax may have 2 people working on if they are lucky.
    2) I'm on the fence with "better IDEs and more diverse platforms" - I'm currently trying to get PropellerIDE installed and running on a new Fedora 22 install. It's not for the faint of heart so far. Many of the latest Open products out on GitHub don't build without a lot of playing around and feel far from being ready for prime time for a new user wanting to take a Propeller for a Spin.
    MOV OUTA, PEACE <div>Rick </div><div>"I've stopped using programming languages with Garbage Collection, they keep deleting my source code!!"</div>
  • ElectrodudeElectrodude Posts: 1,081
    edited June 2015 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Spin is in ROM, that work has not gone away. C was the next logical step, as was better IDEs and more diverse platforms. All that seems to have gone quite well.


    I beg to differ on your point of better IDEs.  I have never seen an IDE for the Propeller better than BST or Prop Tool.  I would prefer Vim any day over SimpleIDE (or almost any other IDE, for the Propeller or not, for that matter).  BST, a closed-source IDE that has been unmaintained for five years and has plenty of bugs, is still better than PropellerIDE, a currently-maintained open source IDE.  PropellerIDE can't even do Spin syntax highlighting properly.  
  • Spin is in ROM, that work has not gone away. C was the next logical step, as was better IDEs and more diverse platforms. All that seems to have gone quite well.


    I beg to differ on your point of better IDEs.  I have never seen an IDE for the Propeller better than BST or Prop Tool.  I would prefer Vim any day over SimpleIDE (or almost any other IDE, for the Propeller or not, for that matter).  BST, a closed-source IDE that has been unmaintained for five years and has plenty of bugs, is still better than PropellerIDE, a currently-maintained open source IDE.  PropellerIDE can't even do Spin syntax highlighting properly.  

    I would consider that a pretty unfair argument. PropellerIDE - as denoted by the version number - is still pre-release. BST, though now quite old, was officially released by its author. PropellerIDE will (probably) get there - just be patient :)
    David
    PropWare: C++ HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) for PropGCC; Robust build system using CMake; Integrated Simple Library, libpropeller, and libPropelleruino (Arduino port); Instructions for Eclipse and JetBrain's CLion; Example projects; Doxygen documentation
  • Electrodude,
    I'm not sure where we go with all that.
    The Prop Tool is a fail because it's not usable outside Windows.
    BradC's BST was great but is now a fail because it's been abandoned.
    SimpleIDE I can imagine is a fail because it became "ComplexIDE". Although it used to work for  me. 
    PropellerIDE is a fail because whatever reasons you say. I have not checked it recently.
    Perhaps you are right, Vim works fine as a Spin editor with highlighting, Openspin works fine as a  compiler and propeller-load works fine as a loader on many platforms.  
  • I agree with a lot of what you've said Jeff. Particularly when it comes to focusing on education, helping authors and content creators, and choosing a mission statement (which hopefully aligns with these things). They have their hands in a lot of pots, and you don't have to be Micheal Porter to know that you need to find a competitive sustainable advantage and focus or pivot.

    Ultimately it's a private company. They might be making a sufficiently comfortable living and they want to do what they feel like doing. They might want to do the nitty gritty work to grow, and maybe they are doing that work. I'm just not seeing it. And as an author/content creator focusing on education, working with them on a project (which they continually delay), I'm not personally seeing that focused strategic work.

    I've been a die hard Parallax fan for probably over 10 years. I parade around Parallax stuff the way some mega Mac hipsters do. But I have to say I've been very disappointed lately. I did an event that had well over 500 technically minded people check out my booth. I asked Parallax if there was anything they wanted me to promote, or to do the help them. I got no response. Meanwhile 10% of people that saw Parallax boards asked if they were Arduinos, while only 2 knew they were Parallax products without me telling them.

    I'll be at Maker Faire Detroit. I got one of the exhibitioner slots. I told them months ago I hoped to go to the event and I don't think I've gotten any coordination from them for it. Maybe they were too busy fixing the forums...

    I want to be a Parallax fan 10 years from now. But it seems nearly every pot they have a hand in has another hand which is dominating Parallax through strategic focus. In 10 years I hope there is still something they are the best at. Ultimately it's their business to run as they see fit. But I personally hope they pick something to excel at, I hope they choose education, and I hope they run with it.
    Founder of Kinvert
    https://www.kinvert.com/
  • localrogerlocalroger Posts: 3,002
    edited July 2015 Vote Up2Vote Down
    I understand both the frustration and the difficulty Parallax faces.  I think Parallax is one of the finest companies I have ever been privileged to do business with, but I think they have made some (perhaps understandably) sub-par decisions.

    I have created a whole line of little products for my company based on the Propeller and particulary the QuickStart and Mini boards, which literally make the task of knocking out a new product a matter of hours for me now.  (Literally:  Oh you need four serial ports instead of just two with video.  I'll have something for you next week.)  These products would not exist nor the revenue they have generated nor, in some cases, the applications they have salvaged without Parallax and Chip Gracey's vision creating the Propeller.

    But the official documentation for the Propeller is ... spotty.  The core example OBEX objects by Chip are woefully undocumented, and a complete explanation of how the video generator really works is almost impossible to find.  The answers to other questions which should be prominent are also generally found on this forum.  (>= anybody?)  But when I got introduced to the Propeller by a Hackaday article this forum held most of those answers, found easily.  I was able to quickly get up to speed for doing profitable work and within a year I was writing my own video drivers and other specialty PASM.  It's a remarkably versatile and easy to use platform once you know that you need to put # before the target of a jump in PASM.

    But the hard switch to C broke the forum in some ways more fundamentally than this latest software change.  Many solved Spin problems became new unsolved C problems, and some newly solved C problems went unsolved for Spin.  While the rationale for supporting C makes sense from a certain angle, the plain fact is the Propeller is a very poor fit for C, which depends rather heavily on the stack for basic operations.

    This will also be true for P2, unless Chip has snuck a hardware stack in there.  Just sayin'.

    The accusation of being "all over the map" is not entirely unfounded.  I think Parallax still hews to their core principles but they are a small company in a sea of large sharks trying to find a path for themselves when their core moneymaker, the BASIC stamp, is becoming much less relevant.  This isn't really their fault; in an objective sense the Stamps are a much better small scale learning tool than Arduinos.  But it's very hard to argue with the price and performance comparison.

    That they are seeking such a path before the moneylenders are knocking on the door with foreclosure notices is a good thing.  Some of us are bound to be upset no matter what they do.  I understand they have to do something.  I do believe they are listening to us and I believe that they will eventually figure something out that will work for at least some of us.  I realize that in the quantities I order I can't be their target priority, though. 

    Yeah I've found the last couple of days frustrating too, but this is a company that has found successful new directions several times already.  I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment.  While gently letting them know that it ain't working yet in my case.
  • It's sad......Always have found finding answers a little bit of a hassle. Then I go to the book store everything is Arduino projects. There's a thought.....
    Lawrence Sutherland,

    What do you do_ once you've changed the world?
    Keep changing it.....
  • But the hard switch to C broke the forum in some ways more fundamentally than this latest software change.  Many solved Spin problems became new unsolved C problems, and some newly solved C problems went unsolved for Spin.  While the rationale for supporting C makes sense from a certain angle, the plain fact is the Propeller is a very poor fit for C, which depends rather heavily on the stack for basic operations.

    This will also be true for P2, unless Chip has snuck a hardware stack in there.
    FYI, Spin depends more on the stack than GCC does. GCC assumes a register machine which matches the Propeller pretty well. Spin does every operation on the stack. The biggest problem with C on the P1 is that LMM code density isn't very high so not enough code fits in 32k of hub memory. This is solved to some extent by CMM but you still don't get quite the code density of Spin and CMM code runs quite a bit slower than LMM (but usually faster than Spin).
  • David Betz this is probably not the place to restart that argument; if you say the stack is not the problem I'll take your word for it.  In that case P2 hubexec will probably make it a much more viable platform.  But the switch from Spin to C still orphaned a lot of code and queries in both directions.  This was not a good thing.  In the Spin-only days one could come on here and post a query and often find someone to write a video driver for you if you couldn't do it yourself as long as your requirements weren't too stupid.  Nowadays that doesn't seem to happen at all.  Which is not a big problem for me, but it's a very big problem for newcomers.
  • My take on this is that C drives people, who might not otherwise be interested, to the Propeller. Programming in C for the Propeller generates an interest in Spin/PASM, the Prop's "natural" language. So C serves well as a "gateway drug" for the Prop, and that's okay with me, as long as users finally get hooked on the "hard stuff." :)
    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • I think not having C was a real problem for the Prop.
    C is the standard lingua franca available everywhere, and not having it certainly didn't help sales.


    ---- This space available for rent ----<br>
  • @koehler
    That might be broadly true in more recent times with the Arduinos and what have you, but in the early days of the Prop that was more the domain of professional markets. Not saying the prop was unsuitable for use "professionally", but was that really their target at the time? Is it even now? After all, a PIC with BASIC interpreter firmware was quite popular back then, with various other companies providing similar products. 
  • David Betz this is probably not the place to restart that argument; if you say the stack is not the problem I'll take your word for it.  In that case P2 hubexec will probably make it a much more viable platform.  But the switch from Spin to C still orphaned a lot of code and queries in both directions.  This was not a good thing.  In the Spin-only days one could come on here and post a query and often find someone to write a video driver for you if you couldn't do it yourself as long as your requirements weren't too stupid.  Nowadays that doesn't seem to happen at all.  Which is not a big problem for me, but it's a very big problem for newcomers.


    Yes, C has fragmented the group. So has Forth and Basic. Not sure what can be done about that. Parallax thought they needed C so I guess that's a price that had to be paid.
  • Beau SchwabeBeau Schwabe Posts: 6,282
    edited July 2015 Vote Up4Vote Down
    Ironic or not, there seems to be two sides of the fence depending on how much Parallax cool-aid you like to drink and what your PARALLAX PERSPECTIVE is.  Me? ... my vantage point is unique in that I have experienced both sides of the fence and for now we should just leave it at that and move on.  I wish Parallax well, but there are many things not including the forum that absolutely need immediate attention, and I mean immediate attention.   Five months for me to reflect on my own talents allowed me to focus on certain LIFE priorities.  Parallax should REALLY reflect on themselves for a moment... I don't mean a cheerleader pep talk telling everyone it's going to be ok and what the vapor plan of the day/week/year is.... I mean reflect on your current resources as a Company and what talents within the company you are actually good at without leveraging someone else outside of Parallax to do the job.  While that may sorta work and you can get by with it for a little while, people simply get tired of it rather quickly.

      



    Beau Schwabe -- Submicron Forensic Engineer
    ෴My Message෴www.Kit-Start.com - bschwabe@Kit-Start.com ෴෴ www.BScircuitDesigns.com - icbeau@bscircuitdesigns.com ෴෴

    "You just wait and see what I have up my sleeve ... After figuring out functionality, I feel like the guy who solved broadcasting color TV while keeping compatibility with existing B&W TV's"
  • OUCH.  Um, guys, does this mean we can use that curse word we learned now?
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