The Perils of Beta Software

Occasionally you'll see beta versions of firmware available that you can download and use. We've seen this recently with Fibaro releasing Beta versions of the HC2 software. Most people know that you should be careful using beta software, but we still see people unwittingly installing it and then having issues with their system. At which point they ask us for help to figure out why their system's not working correctly.

What is a Beta?

Firstly, what do we mean by a Beta version?

A Beta version of software is one that is not ready for final release; but which the vendor or developer wants to get a larger number of users to test and identify bugs. Beta releases are very common in the software world - helping to improve software development and product quality.

When developing a new version of software, the developers will have internal releases followed by an Alpha release that goes to a very small number of testers. After this, when the developers feel they have found most bugs, they will release a beta version - this allows the software to be tested by a wide group of people in as many different ways and combinations as possible. The purpose of the Beta testing is to get feedback from the users to trap undetected bugs or other issues. Finally, when everything has been fixed, the software will make it to final release.

The important thing is that a Beta version will have known bugs, it will have bugs that haven't been found and it will have issues working with other software or hardware. This is part of the beta process - to find and fix these issues. A beta version should NOT be confused with a full, stable, final release.

Should you install a Beta?

This entirely depends on whether you want to participate in a beta test.

As I highlighted earlier, Beta software will have bugs, it will have issues. So you should not install it unless you really wish to be part of a beta program. And, ideally it should be installed on a test system - we strongly advise that you DO NOT install it on the system that is controlling your home - especially if the system's controlling your heating as winter comes!

Using beta software may stop your system working correctly, so you need to be very sure that you want to participate in the beta program before installing it.

At Vesternet we don't support Beta software - it's beta for a reason and all feedback and support should be made through the vendor's beta program. For this reason we always advise people to stay on the latest full (stable) release - in that way we can support you as we know the software and we know that any issues can be solved - rather than being related to some unknown bug in a beta release. Having said that, in some rare cases we will suggest a beta version - we've recently done this with the VERA 1.5.672 Beta as it is identical to the fully released version but has support for Fibaro Motion and Smoke sensors.

Final Word

I'm not saying beta releases are bad - actually they have an important place in all software development.

What I am saying, is that you need to think carefully before clicking the Beta Download button - do you really want to be part of the beta testing? The beta version may have some cool new features that you want to check out, but it will also have some other issues that you really don't want. So click that button with care, or wait until the software makes it to final release.

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