New agent improves workflow and capabilities

Posted on October 28, 2014 in Blog \ News

The new Mac agent we just released isn’t the only thing we’ve been working on in the past weeks.  The agent software we give to our customers has been re-written in a cross platform language.  While we were in there gutting, cleaning, and fileting…we decided it was a good time to implement some new features and improvements to existing features.  In no particular order:

  • Automatic sub-accounts (multi-computer use)
  • Single executable
  • All compression is now internal
  • Job size calculation and display
  • More remembered settings and fewer clicks to submit a job
  • Queue viewer updates

Automatic sub-accounts

This really is a pretty neat feature that was inspired by our work with studios.  In a multi-artist environment, studios needed the ability to allow many machines to upload jobs to our farm while having all of those jobs bill to one account.  Our agents, both Mac and Windows, can be installed on multiple computers using your single agent ID.  Jobs submitted from each machine will have results delivered back to the machine from which they were submitted.  No special configuration is necessary for you to use this capability.  Simply install our agent on any machine you like.  At present the management of each job is restricted to the machine from which it was submitted, but we’ll soon be adding display of all jobs running under your account to each queue viewer.

Single executable

Gone are the multiple executables we used to perform our many functions.  Now, all operations on your computer are handled by a single executable.  File compression, file transfer, data encryption and decryption, GUI display, and result decompression are now provided by that one application.  That means we do not run as a service on Windows any more.  Only the Systray application is needed to do all functions.  This makes it easy to tell if the agent is running on your machine or not…if you see the icon, it’s running.  This single file model makes life much easier for us to implement new features and maintain the simplest footprint.

All compression is now internal

We now don’t rely on 7-zip, capable though it is, to do any compression or decompression on your computer.  Our compression libraries are native to our application, so we don’t have to leave our application to perform those functions.  We have greater ability to ignore compression on non-compressible files, which vastly speeds up prep time when your scene file contains textures that are already in a compressed image format.  Overall compression throughput is just as good or better than 7-zip.

Job size calculation and display

This is a handy little gut-check in the job submission process.  It tells you how much data the agent is preparing to compress and transfer to the farm.  A simple glance, and you know you have the correct contents in your selected scene folder.

More remembered settings and fewer clicks to submit a job

These features come out of our desire to be as easy to use as possible.  We’re remembering the folder that contained the last scene folder you selected, so it’s there by default when you submit the next job.  This makes it very handy to submit repetitive jobs during the testing and design processes.  We’re reducing the number of “are you sure” windows in the current and next clients to get straight to business.  Little tweaks, yes, but they do make a noticeable difference.

Queue viewer updates

When looking at your jobs in our queue, the periodic screen refresh is easier on the eyes.  Columns have been added for more information, and more data is being fed to the viewer during different phases of the job.  Additionally, if you don’t like our column sort order (we try to keep the important columns toward the center of the display), you may move the columns around to your liking.  Those changes are remembered and will display the next time you open the queue viewer window.  We now support cancelling jobs during the upload phase, in case you realize you forgot something after your job was submitted.  That will prevent the job from even reaching the farm, potentially saving you some money.  You may now leave a job selected in the view and the window continues to refresh.

We hope you enjoy the new features and find them useful.  It is our goal to continue implementing customer suggestions wherever possible, so keep those ideas coming!

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