Wireless Network Manager Is Going Back To Beta
We had to make a hard decision today at Network Magic that will affect many of our customers. We decided to remove our "Wireless Network Manager" feature from our latest release and put it back into Beta for more testing. Read on and I'll give you some more insight into why we made this decision and when you can expect to get your feature back!
When we launched our recent set of improvements earlier this month, one of the great new features we added was "Wireless Network Manager". It allows Network Magic to be the primary manager of your wireless connections. We were excited to get this feature to our users as we thought it was a huge improvement over what the standard wireless connection manager in Windows XP (Known as Microsoft ZeroConfig) provides. In our (humble) opinion, we added some improved features and a better interface to manage your wireless networks.
However, we ran into one major snag: The feature didn't work with every wireless card out there.
Building a wireless manager feature is hard. You need to build a component known as an "NDIS driver", and to do this have to write what is known as kernel-level code. This is code the runs in the very low level guts of Windows and works directly with your specific hardware. Josh – one of our developers worked hard on our NDIS driver for months. In our QA lab (and in Dogfood testing), we have tested the driver with over a hundred different wireless network cards. Our confidence was high as we didn't see any show-stopper bugs in our lab.
After we launched 3.0 our support team started receiving a lot of calls from users that were having stability issues with our NDIS driver. We’ve been working hard these last few weeks trying to replicate or reproduce the problems in house, so that our development team can fix them. However, we're not having much luck. So far we have not been able to replicate a single hang or blue-screen in house. There are so many network cards out there with so many different permutations of software people have installed on their machines. It's really tricky to replicate the same environment in the lab so we can reproduce the issue. To compound things further - our NDIS driver is at the mercy of buggy 3rd party driver software. For example, we've found a few drivers that ask for an n-byte buffer to write data into but then proceed to write n+1 bytes into it. Get the wrong byte out of line and BOOM! - you blue-screen.
While this is only affecting a very small percentage of Network Magic users (~1%) at this time, the severity of the impact to those users is very painful. We think it's prudent to remove this feature from the product until we can make it bomb-proof. We can only do magic to peoples networks if we're making things better, not if we're making things worse.
Our plan is to package "Wireless Network Manager" into a separate Beta download and post it on the Network Magic Labs page. That way if users still want to try it, they can simply download the beta installer without being forced to get it as part of the base Network Magic install. Once we have had enough beta testing and have stabilized across the majority of network cards out there, we'll put the feature back into the main product release.
Of course, we're going to be very dependant on a few loyal beta users that are willing to put our Wireless Network Manager feature through it's paces and give us feedback along the way. Keep checking the Labs page and we will have more info about our Beta program!
Please post comments on this entry and let us know what you think. Did we make the right call?