Delayed DevTalks and Status of Native Access

Hayo_NI
Hayo_NI Product Team Posts: 263 mod
edited November 2023 in Native Access

Hey all,

The Downloads DevTalks I mentioned in my previous post is going to be delayed till the end of July/early August. There have been changes and loads of fruitful conversations that we've been having lately, and some things that we've been working on that have made me forgo writing up the DevTalk for now. To be even more transparent, considering we're still working on updating our download infrastructure, I'm likely going to instead end up chatting about the installation step, and save the download topic for when we've released that update.

That being said, I wanted to give an update on the state of affairs now that quarter planning has rounded off, and share where we're going moving ahead into the next quarter.

Past quarter

You may have noticed we've done two or three releases that seemed to have an adverse impact on the product's performance. For one of the releases, we unintentionally introduced a bug where users get logged out after every system restart in an effort to urgently patch a threat to our backend systems. I've explained this more in this post. Next release should mitigate this issue alongside a better UX should a user's session be invalidated again.

Many users were left confused thinking they had a Beta version of Native Access due to its presence in the main window. While initially linking to the shop was going to be a lot more experimental or potentially removed, we've since decided that we're happy with it existing as is, and as such will remove the Beta tag in the next release as well.

We also identified a few fixes that we can make to address a few of the bigger user concerns. While we're still actively working on loads of the download manager stuff, we've identified a cause for a crash whenever people put their devices to sleep, as well as why some users experience more frequent NTK Daemon crashes (as well as false negatives), so those have been in the works alongside many others that we've found. Some of these will make it into the next release.

We tried to work on too many things at once this quarter, which has slowed every initiative down quite a lot. Combine this with emerging issues and an unhealthy quarter for many of us (especially myself), and many of the things we planned to release just simply didn't get done in time. We're narrowing our scope next quarter as we round off the work in progress for now.

What's coming in the next quarter?

I'm really excited for this quarter. We have three planned releases that we anticipate to get in within the first half of the quarter, with more things getting kicked off too.

3.5.0 

Firstly, Light Mode has been merged in. We currently only support Light and Dark mode, but in the future we'll include the ability to bind it to your system's theme (which will be the default on release, so some of you will see Light Mode on the next launch). It will also be available for both windows and mac. You can toggle this setting in the General tab in Preferences. I'll be scouring the community for feedback on this feature, so please let us know what you think! Here's a sneak preview of the main window.


It’ll be shipped alongside some stuff to our diagnostics to get more context into what the system has been doing that leads to a crash so that we can finally explore the issues that our system is causing for users. This was supposed to be our next release last quarter, but turned out to be a lot more complex than we thought.

More importantly, we’re removing the version number from the splash screen. Native Access is a live-service application that should remain up to date, with our intent to eventually stop support for the old versions that we still have some users on. Ideally we want users to have the same Native Access experience, and with this release we feel ready to commit to making this happen. I’ll be referring to the older Native Access version as Native Access Legacy or NAL moving forward, and we’ll work to begin renaming that in all areas as well. We’re getting ready to ship as of posting this, so it should not be long.

Second Release 

After that release, we'll be gearing up for another release containing Uninstall for content products. This will make uninstall available for the largest bulk of our product catalog within Native Access, exceptions being applications, plugins, and third parties. For these products, we'll be updating the knowledge base article you get guided to to focus exclusively on these exceptions and integrate it into Native Access to make it a more interactive checklist-style experience for you. We will continue to iterate as we go moving ahead. 

Third Release 

The third release we're aiming for will contain a back-end upgrade to the download manager. We're aware of how buggy the system is, and one of the flaws in our approach is that I've largely been keeping track of urgent changes we need to make alongside that branch. Hopefully our efforts here have been fruitful, but one example of an improvement we're shipping with this is that downloads will continue automatically in the case of connectivity dips instead of stopping. Combine that with a fix that prevents the NTK Daemon from crashing and hopefully your download experience will be a little smoother. In addition to this, for our accessibility-dependent userbase, we're going to enhance the experience here as well  by making it easier to navigate to the download manager.

Extra work

We have a few initiatives in the works. Our backend team is improving our installers which I will go into more detail on in the future, but the gist is that we want to reduce disk space and mitigate the install phase of a product being downloaded. This is especially helpful for updates. Our NTK Daemon does not support Updates for products already using these installers yet, so we will work on those this quarter.

As you may have heard, Native Instruments has some new partners under our brand. What this means for you is that Native Access will become the one-stop hub for everything Native Instruments, and you will be able to use your Native ID across our brands. Over the course of the year, we’ve been hard at work transitioning iZotope products to Native Access. This has been happening in tandem with all the other commitments I have shared thus far. Our commitments to you remain intact, and we will continue to work on these initiatives over the next quarter. I’ll have more details to share in the future as we finalize our roadmap for Native Access, but we're aiming for the first changes to hit in September.

But on top of all that, we've decided that our number one priority is starting to ship meaningful bug fixes. We want the download/install/user experience of Native Access to be better than where it is now, and with all the extra context that the next release should start giving us we can start to address the ones with the most impact.

Last words

The next DevTalks will go in depth about the installer technology and will be released by the end of July. I’m really excited to get the work we’ve been doing out there to you, and eager to hear feedback on what we shall do next. I’ll be answering any questions you might have in the comments all week. Hope the summer’s been treating all of you well so far!

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Comments

  • Jojo123
    Jojo123 Member Posts: 220 Advisor

    Thankyou for the update @Hayo_NI

    As I was late to the last Dev talks, and my last questions weren't clearly answered before the thread closed I'd be keen to hear clarity on those this time around.

    .

  • Hayo_NI
    Hayo_NI Product Team Posts: 263 mod

    Hey Jojo, would you mind asking these again so I know where I missed the mark here?

  • Jojo123
    Jojo123 Member Posts: 220 Advisor

    @Hayo_NI Thanks. I thought I'd have to wait for you open another Dev talk session. I'll go and find that thread and come back.

  • LostInFoundation
    LostInFoundation Member Posts: 4,022 Expert

    PLEASE

    Don’t stop support for the old versions until you are SURE new version is working 100%, not only “hopefully your download experience will be A LITTLE SMOOTHER”…

    At least now if the new versions are a work in progress, the users can be almost sure to have a way to install their products with older version.

    Removing them when even you are aware of and admitting all the issues new versions cause is a little bit like a trapeze artist removing the safety net saying “hey…yesterday I closed the triple somersault one time over 5 attempts”… Specially cause you are about to add new features and new brands installers and since how things went lately hoping nothing will mess up is frankly…pure optimism.

    Work on your product, squeeze the bugs it has now, add the new features, add the new brands…then TEST everything. And then test it again. And AGAIN. Then buy other systems with other OSes installed and test it on those. Once you are sure your product is working 100%, ok, stop support on anything you want. We all will be happy to move to the new version with the new features.

    A developer saying “I tested it on the 2 computer models we have with 2 OSes” is acceptable only in the case of a small company composed by a single person developing, making UI, making advertising,…and selling small products with small prices. In the case of a company like NI, everything must be done perfectly. This is what makes the difference between a professional company for which users accept to pay a steeper price and amateurish developers putting out their products

  • Hayo_NI
    Hayo_NI Product Team Posts: 263 mod

    The upcoming release will be crucial to move towards this goalpost, so we can figure out what the cause of the remaining blockers are. However, like I mentioned, Native Access is a live-service tool. We want to ship more and ship faster, especially bug fixes. We will keep Native Access Legacy forever in the support toolkit to assist users in activating older/legacy products, but Native Access must be up to date.

    Some blocking issues are:

    • Users not having granted permissions even though they have
    • Users not seeing their products in Native Access
    • NTK Daemon crashing after installation

    The rest of the issues, while still noteworthy, are things we will forever improve on over time. I'm working on finding a way for our users to keep track of this in one consolidated environment alongside our support team.

  • LostInFoundation
    LostInFoundation Member Posts: 4,022 Expert
    edited July 2023

    We do agree: NA must be up to date. And all the things you are doing to improve it is highly appreciated.

    As already said, once everything will be working and all the tremendous work you are doing will be finished, we all will be happy.

    But there is a couple of “must” that are even more important: programs must work flawlessly and users must be able to download, install, authorize and USE what they paid for.

    I wish you a good and accurately done work

  • Jojo123
    Jojo123 Member Posts: 220 Advisor

    Well I see the threads got busy already!

    Took a while to backtrack a bit. From the bottom of page 8 and page 9

    https://community.native-instruments.com/discussion/comment/65997#Comment_65997

    https://community.native-instruments.com/discussion/12231/devtalks-native-access-startup-journey-and-next-steps/p9

    @Hayo_NI Even though a member came and rephrased my question for you and asked for a direct answer, your short answer was clear until you came to the "but" part.

    You said:

    "Short answer: No, but we're not sure how that looks yet.

    Long Answer: We haven't thought about offline usage, but we want products to be usable both offline and online. Native Access at the moment has no offline support, but it's a topic we parked and intend to address in the future. NTK Daemon's offline interaction I don't know, hence why I need to check, but I'm off today to tend to personal matters."

    Just to recap what I meant - I realize of course, we need an internet connection to download, install, and authenticate our products. When I bought K13 UCE thats what I understood the process to be, so I dont have a problem with that process even though I'd prefer the option to install offline like some companies do. So I wasnt meaning about installing offline as the norm.

    What I asked was are you going to make it mandatory to have CONTINUAL internet access or our products won't work? The other concern was I also dont want the NTK Daemon running in the background taking up precious resources and I dont see why it should run. Anything that requires me to do terminal stuff and other tight rope methods to get it working are clearly not user friendly and unacceptable.

    While Im here, if I may, Im not clear on your future plans for auto updating. I absolutely dont want automatic updates. I want to choose when to hit that update button myself. Im not a beta tester, if things are stable and if it doesn't put me out of step with other things on my system then I'll update. Just as an example, if you had these running right now, Id wouldn't be able to use most of my NI products. I still have an open ticket and patiently waiting for support to get back from over 2 months ago. Im getting work done now because I was given an older installer. Do you see how important it is for us to have access to installers a few previous versions back.

    Thankyou.

  • Monochrome
    Monochrome Member Posts: 1,065 Expert

    Thanks for the update, Hayo!

    Regarding downloads and installations: I'm thinking of how e.g. Steam or Battle.net does this. When an update for a game gets released, only new and/or modified program data will be downloaded. You can also pause downloads and even shut down your PC without losing any download progress as it will be saved (and likely validated once resumed).

    Is something like that planned for NA?

  • Hayo_NI
    Hayo_NI Product Team Posts: 263 mod

    Yes. This is one of our priority 2 commitments for this quarter (prio 1 being installation success initiatives of course).

  • PoorFellow
    PoorFellow Moderator Posts: 1,665 mod
    edited July 2023

    @Hayo_NI

    Thank you very much for the comprehensive update ! And sorry to learn that you have had "an unhealthy quarter" , my best wishes for you improving your health both short time and long time.

    Quote : "Native Access is a live-service application that should remain up to date, with our intent to eventually stop support for the old versions that we still have some users on. Ideally we want users to have the same Native Access experience, and with this release we feel ready to commit to making this happen."

    Feedback : Trough my experiences in this forum the last weeks then my impression is that the single most important thing to 'deliver' or do in connection with Native Access would be to make an app install that is capable of , prior to install , to both shutting all relevant blocking processes and services , and completely clean the Windows registry for all remnants of previous KK and NA and NTKDaemon install (both old and new versions) AS WELL AS cleaning hard drive for file remnants of same that may hinder the functionality of installation and the installed app. N.I. has simply not managed to make the installation process work smoothly enough for many as well as either installation failed or the functionality of the installed app failed due to leftovers of old installations on hard drive and/or in registry.

    In short : The average user ought not have to run "NI Uninstall RegTool_64bit" and what not to to install the new version of e.g. N.A. that ought all be built-in to an intelligent installer ! (though of course all such stuff always ought to be well designed and thought through not to screw other things up for other reasons)

  • PoorFellow
    PoorFellow Moderator Posts: 1,665 mod

    The NTK Daemon in the end is part of a DRM scheme that you can not expect to go away. N.I. and others can not make a living if their software could easily be pirated so they have to come up with ways of protecting the IP and their programs and sounds ! Just saying !

    If you compare to playing computer games then N.I. is Steam not GOG !

  • Hayo_NI
    Hayo_NI Product Team Posts: 263 mod
    edited July 2023

    Hah, no worries, I'd still get to most/all the questions anyway :)

    To the offline topic, my response hasn't changed much, and I apologize for it being vague. There are genuine use cases for working offline and being able to manage your products' activation state offline. Plain and simple: we don't know, and we haven't done any research here yet. We know iZotope users and many Kontakt users tend to work offline.

    Regarding the NTK Daemon topic: This is something we're discussing. NTK Daemon for subscription users was our biggest case for the NTK Daemon to constantly run, but more importantly, we're authenticating too frequently, which is probably where your grievances are coming from. We're going to try to ship some fixes over time to address this.

    Regarding Auto Update, there are many security, business, and stability reasons to do this. Our plan is once stability isn't a blocker anymore, we'll be updating Native Access for every operating system our company supports. Native Access Legacy will not autoupdate for operating systems below Windows 10 and MacOS 10.15. Native Access will consistently leave checkpoints behind for every operating system we cut support for so that you can still authorize your products. But as we release improvements, we absolutely want you on the latest version of Native Access. The deprecations Native Access makes have checkpoints prepared for them (like 3.2.3). The benefit of live-service is that any problems that you may encounter we will address for everyone in one go. Keeping around an older version just adds to the dev work. I'll be giving more information once we begin getting closer to kicking off the official dev-work for auto-updating Native Access Legacy users to Native Access. Native Access Legacy will remain a support tool for users to authenticate legacy products.

  • Hayo_NI
    Hayo_NI Product Team Posts: 263 mod

    Thoroughly appreciate this feedback. This is likely how our forced migration efforts will work, but will check to see what we could do with these issues. Thanks for raising this!

  • nightjar
    nightjar Member Posts: 1,238 Guru

    Excited to be getting uninstall and iZotope integration over the next several months!

    NA has been improving at a fast clip this year. Thanks.

  • Percivale
    Percivale Member Posts: 197 Advisor

    Thanks for the update! Hope that others in the NI team would be equally forthcoming about their product and service roadmaps too.

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