Epicor Tracing. Everbody’s favorite method for figuring out what, where, and when the application does what it does.
For reference, the tracing options are stored locally, per computer in the Mfgsys.exe.config file. It is not stored in the database and is not attached to any particular user.
For those of you that deploy Epicor by just copying binaries, this can potentially lead to problems if you forget to turn off tracing before deploying. Then you wonder why everyone is logging things all the time (at least this is what happened to me).
You’ll note that the XML config files file changes the following values as tracing is enabled:
Enable Tracing Logging: DataTrace changes from 0 to 4
Exclude client processing from method timing: DisableLegacyTiming changes from 0 to 4
Write Full DataSet: DataTraceFullDataSets changes from 0 to 4
Track Changes Only: DataTraceFullDataSets changes from 0 to 3
Write Call Context DataSet: (unknown, this doesn’t do anything in the config as far as I can tell)
The Mfgsys.exe.config file can be updated manually or via the Tracing Options Form and then deployed to your clients if you need to adjust the tracing settings.
If tracing is completely turned off via the GUI, DataTrace = 0 and DisableLegacyTiming = 4, but I think that you can set both to zero and be okay.
Looking for some help with your Vista/Vantage, Epicor 9 or other related ERP system? There’s lots of information to be had, but it seems to be tucked away in little pockets around the web. Here’s the places I know about, in no particular order:
Epicor’s application help can be easily overlooked because it’s sitting right in front of you, but it’s fairly robust. In Vista 8.03, there are cases where some of the documentation refers to deprecated features (possibly from v6), but for the most part the info here is solid. It’s an easy place to start.
Home of all things Epicor, EpicWeb contains a wealth of information and downloads for the entire line of Epicor products. Download updates, search through active calls, or peruse their knowledgebase of answers. The search function is a little crummy, and it’s not uncommon to get lots of duplicate results. But it’s better than nothing.
One thing to note is that since EpicWeb is a SharePoint site, you can take advantage of the ‘Alert Me’ feature and get email notifications when a file or something else is posted to the site. I use it to let me know when new Epicor 9 files are posted. Pretty handy.
Another important item on EpicWeb is the Epicor Support Management Contact List. It contains escalation contacts, email addresses, and phone numbers, in case you need some additional attention to your issue.
Vista/Vantage and Epicor 9 User Guides
Epicor makes available a number of printed user guides covering the base application, customization and tools. Ask your Customer Account Manager (CAM) and you can order a copy (they’re not free). However, recently they’ve made available electronic copies of the Epicor 9 user guides, freely downloadable from EpicWeb. They’re tucked away under Release 9.05.603, listed as User Guide eBooks. The larger books are broken into chunks. I’d still recommend having at least one printed copy, but the eBooks are great for quick reference or for printing out sections of the user guides to distribute to users.
Similarly, EpicWeb also has a number of technical reference guides for installation, service packs, SDKs, application tuning, etc.
Ah, the good old telephone. I’m sure you’ve all got the numbers handy. There appear to be different numbers depending on what product you’re using, but at least between Vista/Vantage and Epicor 9 there is a little overlap.
I’m a fan of using online chat when I can, since I don’t have to be actively on hold and can be doing other things until I’m at the front of the line, but it feels a little like the same team that fields phone calls also monitors the online chat, so it’s not unusual for an online chat request to time out.
Software Change Requests (SCR) are an integral part of the Epicor product lifecycle. Bug fixes, enhancements, and other features are assigned an SCR and slated for service packs and patches. Recently, they’ve introduced the ability to search through SCRs through what they call the Customer Matrix Viewer. Neil McLachlan, Vice President of Product Management provides this description of the service:
The purpose of this site is to provide you with Web-based access to a listing of SCRs addressed in previous service packs and patches, as well as SCRs planned for future releases. This will help you plan your upgrades and go-live strategy for Epicor 9 with more insight into your specific requirements, risks, and issue resolutions.
It’s a fairly rudimentary search, but if you’ve been assigned an SCR for a particular issue you’ve been having, it’s a good place to get some info on the status of the fix.
The Epicor Yahoo! Group is my current go-to place for information outside of official Epicor channels. It’s an active community of users asking and answering a wide range of questions. However, I’m not the biggest fan of the mailing list format, and there’s only one big group for everyone to post messages, so it’s easy for your own post to get lost in the mix.
I find it easiest to get the Daily Digest email rather than receive individual emails each time someone posts to the group.
I learned about the existence of the IT Toolbox Epicor Community directly from an Epicor employee, who told me that there are at least a few actual Epicor employees that lurk within this community. It’s very similar to the Yahoo! Group, but there is much less monthly activity on the message board on IT Toolbox.
By the users, for the users. The Epicor Users Group (EUG) maintains a close relationship with Epicor to provide feedback from their members to help make their software better for all of us. It’s a paid membership, but they’re a major sponsor of Perspectives (Epicor’s user conference), and your membership gets you a hefty discount on the entrance fee to the conference. Cost to join is per company, rather than per individual, which is also helpful.
The EUG also has a LISTSERV mailing list available for their members. Their webmaster mentioned to me that they may be moving towards a forum format rather than the mailing list, if that’s more your style. Individual lists are available for a number of different Epicor products, and there are sub-groups for very specific topics. I’m not very familiar at this point with how active the lists are, but it seems fairly lively.
Additionally, this User Group has a unique feature with their Enhancement Request Portal. It allows members to submit enhancement requests that are then reviewed by Epicor when the EUG meets with them, usually on a monthly basis. Other users can amend their thoughts and comments on issues and Epicor also has an avenue to respond directly through the Portal.
For the sake of completeness, I’m listing the Epicor Customer Forums, but frankly, it barely gets used. I posted questions there a few times when I first started using Epicor, and got very few responses. I also saw no way to be notified via email when someone responded to my post, which made it cumbersome to use. Not the greatest, but points in my book for being a forum over a mailing list.
As far as I can tell, Jose Gomez is doing some pretty great stuff, and his Epicor-related blog showcases some of that stuff. Prior to starting this blog, he’s posted some videos to YouTube through the Yahoo! Group and continues to provide useful advice and information. His team now offers maintenance packages at competitive rates, and I’ve spoken to some people that are very satisfied with his services.
Another very small community can be found within Spiceworks. I use their network monitoring software, so I stumbled across the Epicor group here. There appear to be fewer posts than the barely-used Epicor Customer Forums, so I wouldn’t count on it too heavily, but it’s there.
For Progress/ABL/4GL specific questions, you might check outProgress Communities (PSDN.com). It’s pretty low level stuff and it’s not Epicor-specific, but for the more technically-minded code junkies, this is the place to be.
Let me know in the comments if there are other useful resources you’ve found in your quest for Epicor knowledge. Consultants and integrators, lets see some practical blogs covering various topics and answering common questions. Epicor, lets keep working towards comprehensive and worthwhile documentation for all aspects of your software. Happy ERPing, everyone!
tl;dr MyFax Support sucks. Getting ‘Mydll_NT: Error in function: dAddPortMonitor, Error code: 126.’ installing the Print-to-Fax Assistant? Run msiexec /i myfaxassistantsetup.msi /q and install in silent mode.
Dear j2 Global Communications/Protus/MyFax:
Please remind your company to care about their software and the people that use it. In particular, you need to provide support for the installation of your products. Telling someone you won’t support your own product until it’s installed is ridiculous and asinine.
What Went Wrong: Installing Print-to-Fax Assistant
A few days I attempted to install the MyFax Print-to-Fax Assistant on a fresh-out-of-the-box Dell workstation running Windows 7 Professional 32-bit SP1. Nothing out of the ordinary installed on this system. It’s joined to a domain and I’m running the install as myself, a user with administrative rights on the local machine.
I accept the EULA and all the defaults to get the install on its merry way, and I receive the following error:
After that, the install failed and the MSI rolled back.
I tried a reboot and a few other normal troubleshooting tactics, and it all ended with the same error. I’ve got the Print-to-Fax driver installed on a Win 7 64-bit and another Win 7 32-bit install, as well as an XP box, so I know the thing works. Even tried downloading the installer again and comparison the checksum. Everything checked out, but it wouldn’t install. It’s not a particularly helpful error message, and there’s no information on any sort of manual installation process.
To the Googles! Less than 150 results come back on a search for this particular error. Mostly from Black Ice Online Support, which leads me to suspect that they provided the lower level drivers that MyFax uses. Searching for this particular error specific to MyFax returns nothing.
How Not To Help: MyFax Support
Nothing there of any relevance. In fact, it looks like the latest I can find on any subject was last modified almost a year ago in June of 2010. (Update: by the time I got around to finishing this article, I now see one new knowledgebase post from July 2011.)
Online Chat Support
So, it’s time to contact support. First, I try the online chat. Here’s where it gets interesting.
I’m told that:
The Print-to-Fax driver is not compatible with Windows 7 (contrary to information on the MyFax site even showing 64-bit Win 7 compatibility)
The Print-to-Fax driver is one of the oldest plug-ins they have
That Blackberry, iPhone, and Android apps are out or in the making
None of which helps in the slightest to resolve my situation.
It’s also suggested that I turn off my firewall (which it is), and then I’m given a couple of Google hits on the error, neither of which reference MyFax in any way.
Finally, I’m told that it’s not a MyFax error, and it’s the computer that’s giving me this error. Oh really? So the fact that I get this error when installing the MyFax product means nothing? How about uninstalling it and then reinstalling (except I NEVER GOT IT TO INSTALL IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!)? Blerg. Kthxbye.
Let’s see if a phone call nets anything more helpful. What follows is a highly paraphrased conversation.
I’m told by the Tier 1 tech that it’s a driver issue, and that I need to install the driver so that the Print-to-Fax assistant will work. And to try Google. Can I speak to a supervisor? Sure, he says, and puts me on hold.
Me: “Hello Mr. Supervisor? I can’t install your program!”
Supervisor: “Well, Mr. Customer, the ‘dAddPortMonitor’ error is a very common error. You need to install the Mydll_NT.dll in order to get our program to work.”
(Common? ‘dAddPortMonitor’ returns less than 300 hits on a search engine. ‘Mydll_NT.dll’ returns about 600)
Me: “I can’t download Mydll_NT.dll, because it came with your software. I can’t install your software.”
Supervisor: “Oh, you can just go to Microsoft.com or Google and search for it and download it.”
Me: “Yeah, no, I can’t.”
Supervisor: “Well we cannot support the Print-to-Fax assistant until it’s installed at which point we can check settings remotely from our systems?”
Me: “So you’re telling me you sell a product that you don’t support? If I can’t get your product installed, I can’t use your product. What about those Blackberry, iPhone, and Android apps? You’re telling me if I can’t get them installed, that’s my own problem?”
Supervisor: “Basically, yes.”
Me: “Okay, we’re getting nowhere. If you have any play at all with anyone in management, customer support, marketing, or product development, tell them that SOMETHING IS MAJORLY WRONG HERE. *click*”
Finally, a Workaround
I really shouldn’t have to do this, and MyFax support has given me nothing to go on, but I keep troubleshooting the issue. Running msiexec.exe with verbose logging options enabled, I discover that the TARGETDIR variable is ignoring the default path and is dumping all the files in the root folder. Changing the path doesn’t help, creating the path ahead of time doesn’t help, nor does copying the extracted files to the path in the middle of the install. Same error.
For kicks, I try a silent install:
msiexec /i myfaxassistantsetup.msi /q
It works. Why? No idea. Do I really care at this point? Not really. I run a test fax through, and it works. Reboot, and it still works.
What’s Still Wrong
So I got the Print-to-Fax Assistant to install. Yay. However, I don’t think I’d be writing all this if the whole support experience wasn’t so terribly, utterly, horribly, bad.
On one hand, MyFax and the whole internet faxing universe is really just an attempt to hold onto an antiquated technology that really should have been replaced by something better years ago, but amazingly, faxing still exists and Osama Bin Laden doesn’t. But that’s beside the point.
Here’s the thing: I pay for your software. Other people pay for your software too.
Granted, it’s not a lot of money every month, but it’s not like I’m mooching off free software. You’ve got a support page with numerous ways to contact you. But to tell me you won’t support me until I get the program installed…that’s just wrong. That’s like Dell telling me they can’t help me troubleshoot a brand new system that won’t boot up until I can get it turned on.
The installation process is a critical part of the distribution of software. If your program can’t be installed, then people can’t use it, and then it’s worthless. Zero stars rating. Refund.
The least you could have done was taken a note of the issue, given me a ticket number, and then ignore me. At least then I would’ve thought (initially) that somebody cared.
What Can Be Done
Start by fixing your Print-to-Fax Assistant installer.
Windows 7 has been out for two years. Make your software compatible. Simple as that. I downloaded the 64-bit version the other day, and got the same error message on my own desktop, and fixed it by running it through a silent install as above. But that’s a poor workaround. I’ve now had this error on at least four separate machines, so it can’t be just a fluke.
Next, figure yourself out as a company.
With all your buyouts, I count at least five distinct faxing services you offer. I’m not going to bother to list them here, and frankly I don’t care about your other products, because I don’t use them. If you want, consolidate all these similar products into one and then focus on making that product better.
Finally, beef up your support.
Support is your first line when customers are having problems. If they can’t resolve simple issues because they’re uninformed of the solutions, then provide training. Make it better.
Maybe you don’t care
j2 Global Communications, it’s entirely possible that MyFax doesn’t matter to you. Somehow your stocks are still are still up and you’ve apparently got money in your pockets with reported growth over a number of years, but the product I care about seems to be dying a slow and painful death. Since buying Protus in December 2010, you cut 100 employees from the Ottowa office and presumably dumped that workload on other locations. On on the MyFax and related websites, I see the following:
1 new knowledgebase article in the last year
The last post on the MyFax Blog is from 7 months ago (January 2011) and as far as I can tell, all the actual content contributors on the blog are no longer with Protus or j2
A black hole of tweets between Dec 2010 and June 2011
Twittermonials on the main page of MyFax.com shows the last favorited tweet to be 200+ days old
Last released dates for the iPhone and Blackberry apps are both over a year old, and both with less than 50% ratings. There’s no Android app at all, and no acknowledgement publicly that they’re even working on an app for this platform.
The MyFax What’s New page shows a Fall 2010 Update, and nothing newer.
I could be wrong. Maybe you do want to make MyFax better. Maybe you do want to provide customers with a good experience in the bizarre world that merges the zombie-that-will-not-die that is faxing with this internet world that has Google+ and TouchPad fire sales.