One key, but not decisive, means of troubleshooting is to see if anyone else has had the problem. That confirmation could confirm the causes of your problem, and may mention a work around or a solution.
Already been fixed: Of course, the easiest solution is to identify the problem as a problem with PowerBuilder that has already been fixed. Check the Downloads section of the Sybase web site for a more recent build. For some time, Sybase has been providing a separately downloadable list of fixes that have been implemented for that particular build. Check that document for something that could match. If you see something that matches your problem, it’s worth experimenting with the new build on one machine. Then again, if you’re at your wits’ end, you may want to try a newer build anyway. The big drawback to this as a solution is that if you upgrade to a new patch, you should test your whole application again. It’s a basic principle of software engineering that, for a large enough application, like PowerBuilder, every build will contain bugs. While it is theoretically guaranteed that every build will introduce new bugs, generally more bugs are fixed than introduced. However, one of these new bugs may affect you, and you’ll need to confirm that this is the case before you release.
Sybase has heard of it: Sybase has lists of issues it has heard of and resolved through technical support, although it is now only available to those with support contract, available through the Sybase search page. If you can find it in this database, you can either identify a work around or a build in which it is fixed (or both). If the case lists a build in which it is fixed, you want to get a build that either matches the build number listed, or has a build number greater than the one listed. The best place for this is the Downloads section of the Sybase web site. This has all the publicly released builds on it. Publicly released builds are vastly preferable, since they are more extensively tested, and may even undergo a private external beta period (particularly maintenance releases). However, if your problem is fixed in a version later than the last released version, there are other builds that are not publicly released. These weekly builds undergo less testing (strictly automated), so should be viewed with a cautious eye. If you need to get one of these builds, the proper route is to get it through Sybase Tech Support.
Sybase also has a large and growing library of technical documents. This library is excellent not only for troubleshooting, but also for education. You will find some issues and work arounds listed in technical documents.
Someone else has experienced it: Sometimes the best experience to learn from is someone else’s. Finding that someone else that has worked through the problem with peers in the PowerBuilder community could end up being your least painful approach. Sybase has sponsored user community newsgroups on the Internet (and, historically, CompuServe and MSN before that) that have been part of Sybase’s award-winning support. There are several ways to access old messages:
- Google Groups: Google is the king of the Internet search, and does a pretty good job of searching newsgroups. If you limit your search to newsgroups like *.powerbuilder.* using the Advanced Search option, you’ll be searching just the PowerBuilder newsgroups. However, about mid-2002, Google started having a problem reading all the messages in certain groups, including the Sybase ones. Regular readings resumed in mid-March 2003, but about a 10 month gap remains in its history. Another gap occurred between July 24, 2003 and December 5, 2003.
- Sybase search: Sybase provides a search mechanism for its newsgroups. It is less reliable than Google, but it is available.
- TeamSybase search: TeamSybase member Bruce Armstrong, with the help of former TeamSybase member Tony Cook, have come up with a Sybase-specific newsgroup search tool. It is probably the best choice for ease of use issues. If you want to do frequent searches, the TeamSybase IE toolbar will give you quick access to this database, and other useful PowerBuilder links.
Ask: Once you have exhausted the above avenues (there’s no point imposing on your peers to answer a question you can get an answer to yourself, or making yourself wait for an answer you can get yourself), you can ask the PowerBuilder community through the newsgroups. Keep in mind that this is just a peer-to-peer communication; this is not a means of communicating with Sybase. Also keep in mind that you may not necessarily get an answer. Not getting an answer usually means that either the message was unclear, or no one else who is on the newsgroups at that time has an experience that parallels yours. Pick a newsgroup that best matches your problem. To post a message, use one of the following means:
- NNTP Readers: The best method, when you don’t have firewall constraints, is to communicate directly with the NNTP (Usenet) server with a dedicated NNTP newsgroups reader. Sybase provides advice on how to configure some news readers.
- PFC Guide: PFC Guide provides web-based newsgroup access, with relatively low overhead. This web interface is best at viewing most recent postings.
- Sybase WebForums: Sybase provides its own interface to its newsgroups. This interface is the best web interface to view messages in threaded discussions.
- Do not post with Google Groups, or to NNTP servers other than forums.sybase.com. While these read messages from the Sybase server, it is a one-way feed. Messages posted to these will not get back to the Sybase server. Messages posted to these will only be seen by people that also use that source, not by the entire PowerBuilder community.
- Do not cross-post (that is, posting the same question to multiple forums). Posting more than once may seem to get you a wider audience. In the electronic community, this is socially akin to sitting at a large dinner table, and asking the same question that always has the same answer (e.g. “Where is the bathroom?”) to each of the dinner guests. Many people in the forums partake of more than one newsgroup. In fact, what this does is:
- Decentralizes the discussion of responses so that there may be redundancy in the discussions and a lack of synergy between the participants of the individual discussions
- Ticks people off, particularly the active participants who are most likely to be helpful. Having to hear the same question over and over is quite annoying.
- Follow other advice for using newsgroups supplied by Sybase (and Breck Carter). Newsgroups are an excellent resource, and you don’t want to burn your bridges the first time in.