'Release candidate' software almost ready for prime time
ONE of the most common complaints we hear in the IT industry is that we're full of buzzwords and acronyms that "normal" folks can't understand. (IT, for example, means information technology.)
This has come to a head recently with Microsoft's announcement of the availability of "Release Candidate 2" of its new Vista operating system.
What exactly is a release candidate? Is it someone running for office that doesn't belong to any of the traditional political parties?
Actually, a release candidate is a version of software product that is almost ready to be sold on the open market. They are put out so that users can perform additional testing on the product before it is made available to the masses. Usually, a release candidate is not quite ready for "prime time." After all, if it was ready, it wouldn't be a release candidate; it would just be version 1.0. So perhaps a better name for Release Candidate would be "Almost Ready Software."
Many other software developers rely upon a simpler, yet just-as-nebulous categorization of software. The first version is called "alpha," which usually means that the software is ready for some real-world testing. After this round of testing and associated modifications, the software progresses into its "beta" version. Again, the product is tested and modifications are applied. In many cases, the next version is released to the open market as version 1.0. Sometimes, you might hear version 1.0 referred to as GD, which stands for General Deployment. GD is often called "gold," for no real good reason other than that gold is spelled with a "g" and a "d" and gives the impression of value.
Whatever you want to call it, most folks should be wary of implementing a version 1.0 product. An old joke in the industry says, "Version 1.0 means never having to say 'I'm sorry.'" While many folks think version numbers are as ambiguous as the buzzwords that are tossed around, there is actually a method to the madness. Any dot-0 (1.0, 2.0, 6.0) release will have components that are new or different. Newer software just isn't as reliable as software that has been used extensively. A version 1.0 release is practically brand new. In the old days, software vendors used to cheat and number the first release 4.5, for example, instead of the proper 1.0. Nowadays, however, software developers have seen the benefit of setting expectations appropriately with the right software version.
A prudent step many folks employ when deciding whether to adapt new software is waiting for the first service pack to be released. Once a service pack has been made available, it usually solves many bugs and other problems that might have become evident in version 1.0.
Again, however, further complicating this matter is that service packs are often called by other names, including "update," "refresh," or the ever popular "hot fix accumulator."
John Agsalud is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.