Monday, December 15, 2008

Composer the Poser

When a teenager wears skateboarding shoes and a brand named hoody but doesn’t skateboard, he is referred to by real boarders as a “poser”. Unfortunately, the same can be true for EMC’s Composer. It wears all of the key features of the doc app builder, but it ain’t no DAB.

Don’t get me wrong, like a good EMC citizen, using a DAB built system, I created Composer projects from Production to QA and Dev. I worked through some initial bugs in the Composer build and was determined to deploy the next phase of the project using D6 sp1 Composer. I had heard that D6.5 was not going to use DAB, so I thought I’d better get on the bandwagon and get used to Composer.

I read through Jason Duke’s article on the Blue Fish site and was assured that I’d get through the process with a few issues, but no show stoppers. I figured out that all of the directory structures needed to be consistent in each environment. I also worked through a deployment plan for multiple, decoupled dar files for easier development coordination and implementation. I rewrote my design document to follow the new and “improved” configuration UI of Composer.

The first road block was value assistance for a query. The xml file created by Composer was missing the “complete_list = true” key/value pair for the query element. This meant that the dropdown was fixed at 20 pixels. EMC support sent a fix for webtop (not Composer) which fixed the width of the dropdown, but the dropdown graphic was the new look and feel graphic. This was glaringly bad for users to see. What were they thinking?

The second road block was that if you include groups and roles in the Composer project during deployment they will overwrite the existing groups and members if you don’t remember to change the install instructions each time. There is no global way to tell Composer to ignore existing artifacts, thus each time you deploy, you have to set the install option again for each artifact. When the project install fails which it will over and over again, you’ll be clicking and clicking. Bottom line is that this needs a lot of work for it to be production ready.

The third road block was that value assistance for query based dropdowns changes the rendering of the select box as compared to the fixed value dropdown. Hello, a customer can tell the difference between the two and won't like it. The fix is the go into DAB and save it again, but this is no excuse. Gotta wonder what level of regression testing was done...

After chasing a few more bugs with Composer D6 sp1, the patch came out, but that didn’t help much. Common sense won out and we’ve gone back to using DAB for deployment. As clunky as it is, at least it isn’t a poser. By the way, DAB was released for D6.5. Gee I wonder why?