Monday, August 25, 2003

Splitting the Palm

What's interesting about Palm splitting into two different companies: software and hardware is that this is PRECISELY the approach that everyone said Apple should have done years ago to preserve the Macintosh software. Now of course, while the Mac is still a niche computer, it is easily the most recognizable niche computer and considered a "best of breed". I will be very interested to see if in 10 years, we still even recognize what a PalmPilot is anymore...
 

Friday, August 22, 2003

And so email will eventually become unusable - and so we only subscribe to RSS...

While I hate to say it, I'm starting to agree with this article.

I'm a big believer in email newsletters and in sharing my email address with people who are interested in contacting me, but as these viruses and continuous SPAM are proving, it's getting to a point where many computer users may simply stop using this stuff and go back to other means.

If you bought a computer today, thinking it would bring you into the new world and give you all kinds of great new features and ability to search online, and communicate with friends, imagine the surprise when 95% of your emails are all either viruses or SPAM. Is a computer on the Internet still that much more productive?

Based on this idea, it really seems that the best strategy for notifying customers of new updates and articles of interest will be through RSS or hybrid type tools (like the VFP Task Pane's support for FoxCentral.net). Email newsletters are going to easily be confused with SPAM so what's the point in sending them out?

One of the companies I am involved with routinely sends out notices to customers, telling them of new features and seminars. We hit about 45% of our customers because many of them have SPAM filters that prevent them from going out.

Is 45% better than nothing? Yes - but it's not better than picking up the phone and telling them to their faces.

However, until MS and other companies start providing built-in RSS Aggregators in the operating system, there will be no way of getting real valuable information to users.

I am directing this primarily for end-users. Developers and power users will always find ways of doing this but new users won't.

At the risk of making a political statement, viruses and spam are akin to cyber-terrorism that threaten the rest of the world's ability to work successfully on a computer. My uncle made a comment the other day - "it seems the only people who are truly free are the terrorists" - but in the cyber world, I would doubt that even the spammers and virus creators are free from their own handiwork.

Clearly this needs a solution and none of the major vendors appear to be stepping up to the plate with a heavy bat.

Web Technology / Sobig.f proves why focusing on commercial spam is a mistake - Tech Update - ZDNet

WebMenu Genie: VFP Meets the Web

If you're a FoxPro developer who is also working with web site design, you owe it to yourself to check out WebMenu Genie (http://www.webportdata.com/webmenu/)
 
This shareware VFP application lets you generate complex Javascript menus for web sites in mere minutes. Tprice is very reasonable (under $100 for commercial web sites, $35 for personal use, shareware is limited to 4 menu items) and the features are phenomenal. From picture and transparent menu support to different special effects that you can add to individual menus, WebMenu Genie makes it easy for developers of any background to incorporate menus into your web site.
 
Definitely something to check out...
 

Monday, August 18, 2003

XML Editor in VS

Ok - I was wrong. It won't be a stand-alone editor but rather a separate download. Still - having it accessible anywhere will be better than nothing.

Why I Missed My Blackberry until I start using MSN Mobile

During the power outage last week, the first thing I tried to do was use my cell phone. No luck! It seems that on the network I was on, only incoming calls were accessible - I couldn't call out. (not quite sure why - maybe it was that guy on the cell phone who kept on calling all the radio stations). We actually had to find a non-cordless phone (cordless phones require electricity) and plug it in to call out and of course, now I can't find any of the phone numbers I usually call - why not? they are all on the computer.
 
To be sure, some of them were still on my phone so I could find some of them. Trish pulled out her old Zaurus ZR-5000 PDA and had some numbers in there, thankfully (after changing the batteries). It was then that I really started to miss my old Blackberry. Now, I'm really not impressed with RIM's support (they wanted to basically charge me for a new unit to fix my old one) which is why I stopped using it. But when I had my Blackberry, I could send out emails (not relying on cell coverage) or at least page any other Blackberry user to find out what was going on. Then, I also had my entire life on it, with access to contacts, calendar and more. Those of you who have PDA's might be going "and the point is...." but the fact that the Blackberry was my EMAIL device as well as all of those other things, really did change the way I worked. (I'm still waiting for a PDA that does all of that - if you know of a good one, comment on it and let me know). Of course, Blackberry didn't have a good IM client either and their web support was going to cost me plenty.
 
Which is why when the power came back on, I immediately grabbed a list of my contacts from my computer to put into my Siemens S40 phone (great phone). But still there was something missing: immediate contact. I had played with MSN Messenger's Mobile device support a few months back but found it lacking. On Thursday night, we had dinner with my sister in law (during the blackout) and I had mentioned that when she was looking for new phones for her son, make sure she gets one that supported MSN Messenger (he's always online). With power, I started looking into it and found that MSN has, in fact, upgraded their Mobile Device support so now proper Messenger functionality is available on my phone with minimal effort.
 
After a few minutes and sample messages, it was up and running and I could send MSN Messenger messages to anyone I needed to, all from my cell phone. I could even send email messages from my Hotmail account. Combined with the T9 editor on my phone, I was actually becoming fairly productive again, even without a Blackberry. Example: to find out who's online, I simply send an SMS message with CL in the body. It returns a list of who's online. I can then reply to that message noting the contact 1-9 etc and then the message. Fast, easy, and simple (once you get used to the acronyms). Maybe I really can do everything on my phone....

Friday, August 15, 2003

New XML Editor in VS.Net

Thanks Ted for letting us hear at least a little bit of the new XML editor. Of course, the big thing here is that it MIGHT be available as a standalone download so we don't have to wait until Whidbey (CORRECTION from Previous posts: I thought it read standalone editor - just my wishful thinking)

I know everyone thinks that XML is the NBH (Next Big Hype) and I will admit to being in that group. I love XML as a way for dealing with so many different data streams and more. But, realistically, I think it's important for an editor to exist that makes it easy to:

a) build useful XSL stylesheets quickly
b) understand the structure of the file
c) modify and update the DTD schema

I think that a lot of developers who have been working with XML tools in a theoretical or "tool" based environment miss the point that many developers, who are focused around getting products out, don't have the same time to learn how all of these new functions work, even though they can understand the benefits. They want the tools that allow them to take advantage of XML without having to understand the syntax of XPATH, XSL and other areas. I really hope this is where the new XML editor comes into play. I may be hoping for too much --- but I hope not. Otherwise we (as the entire developer community) will find ourselves in a similar situation as when OOP started becoming more popular and a great many developers who didn't get it immediately became frustrated and as a result, churned out a lot of pretty ugly stuff.

I've seen lots of TERRIBLE XML implementations and pure misunderstandings of what XML looks like. Tools like XML/Spy have great goals but I think the end result misses the boat. I hope the MS XML Editor helps fill the void...

Ted's Radio Weblog

Old but Useful: Visual FoxPro and .NET Interoperability

This is a very valuable article, as I recently discovered. I have a COM component which works great with VB, VB.Net and ASP but when we had some consultants working with C# and they tried to access it, they started complaining about problems accessing the dynamic components.

With a few minor updates and looking over this article, I was able to show them that it was , in fact, possible to do exactly what they said wasn't (without a bunch of work).

Visual FoxPro and .NET Interoperability

Power Outage: Gotta get a generator

How about that? Right in the middle of a presentation, at 4:15 yesterday, bang! all the power goes out.
 
At first, I thought it was just our area but then I realized it was a little more. Thank goodness I purchased that 10 minute UPS on my server and I ran everything off as a Terminal Server.
 
People that were watching the presentation had about 15 minutes to save everything and the meeting was still a success!
 
Still, you have to wonder how it could be that one outage could affect an area of 9000 miles. If that isn't a cause for a major alert, I don't know what is.
 
(for those of you not in on the goings on, pretty much all of north-east North America had a power outage for a period of (at this stage, at least 18 hours), affecting Ottawa, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, New York City and their respective states/provinces. Power is now coming on in spurts but we have all been warned to be ready for rolling blackouts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

For Those Who Like To Hack VCX files: Figuring out OlePublic vs. Not

From time to time, I need to go traipsing through the VFP VCX file to find changes or look at deleted records. Recently, I had to change a bunch of classes to OlePublic so they would be exposed in C# code (for some reason, C# can't see property objects the same way VB.Net can - still looking into that one)
 
For a few years, I've wondered why is there a COMMENT record underneath every class definition in the VCX file. Now I know, this is where OlePublic is stored (in the Reserved2 field).
 
So if you ever have to make a bunch of classes OlePublic and don't want to take half a day and go through all your classes to do so, just open the VCX file and replace Reserved2 with OLEPublic (case sensitive).
 
REPLACE ALL Reserved2 WITH "OLEPublic" for EMPTY(reserved2) AND Platform='COMMENT'
 
Then Compile the VCX file.
 
COMPILE FORM XXX.VCX
 
Just an interesting tidbit as you work....

Monday, August 11, 2003

Now this is useful: XML Source Highlighting

Hey- wonder if this will be in the new XML/XSL editor in VS.Net!
XML.com: XML Source Highlighting [Jul. 30, 2003]

Tip: Controls on Forms

If you have ever tried to design heavily graphical layout forms that use a lot of containers or controls, you may have run into a problem where VFP appears to hang.
 
This problem likely occurs if you are designing forms that have a lot of graphics or controls on them. For example, I was building a form that would allow users to drag and drop a graphical depiction of a trailer into a loading dock. There were to be 150 trailers on the screen. I created a control class that only contained labels and images. This is where I ran into the problem.
 
When VFP runs a form, it wants to find a place to rest focus. If it can't find one but the form contains a number of containers, it appears to go into an endless loop in its attempt to find one.
 
The solution is to put a control onto the form that looks for focus (like a textbox or a command button) and make it visible. This way, VFP will see the control and stop searching for a place to put the focus.
 
You can get around this two ways: one way is not to use control classes but simply images or labels. The better solution is to put a box on the form that can receive focus (like a textbox or command button).
 
 
 

Sunday, August 10, 2003

More Bad News for RIM: RIM loses patent-infringement ruling

It's really too bad that a company that made a GREAT product (although their tech support policies were terrible) are essentially going to lose out due to just really stupid things. Whatever happened to "let the market decide." RIM had to shape up anyways because they had too much competition in the PDA market but this really sours me on the company even more.

RIM loses patent-infringement ruling | CNET News.com

Speaking of patent infringements, wonder what's happening with that Business Objects lawsuit?

Friday, August 08, 2003

CNN.com - When good software goes bad

Survey finds widespread dissatisfaction with tech support. I guess, no one likes being told that the coffee cup holder on their new computer is really a CD.

CNN.com - When good software goes bad - Aug. 8, 2003

Best TRUE story I've ever heard was from a local vendor- get this one.
Compaq iPaq - 1 only - H3650 model - a funny story: a customer bought it, took it home, and brought it back claiming it did not work. We gave him his money back, no problem. At our expense we sent the product back to HP and they called us laughing, saying that their diagnostic tool had discovered an amazing fact: that the ON button had not been pressed. So we have an opened but retail boxed iPaq here - it can be yours for just $299 (it's $100 below our cost) - and like I said just one available

Bored? Create an Online RSS News Aggregator with ASP.NET

For those to us who actually want to do something useful with ASP.NET - here's a good way of spending an afternoon...

Creating an Online RSS News Aggregator with ASP.NET

Notepad popups - no end to the misery

As if web page popups weren't bad enough...see the link above to really get annoyed at popups!

VFP 8 OLE DB Provider Available

The Visual FoxPro OLE DB Provider (VfpOleDB.dll) exposes OLE DB interfaces that you can use to access Visual FoxPro databases and tables from other programming languages and applications. The Visual FoxPro OLE DB Provider is supported by OLE DB System Components as provided by MDAC 2.6 or later. The requirements to run the Visual FoxPro OLE DB Provider are the same as for Visual FoxPro 8.0. This free download version of the Visual FoxPro OLE DB Provider is a updated version from the one included in Visual FoxPro 8.0.
 

Getting Respect: A Plea from ToG - Interface Guru

"I have met the enemy and he is us."

When Pogo mouthed these words so many years ago, he must have been thinking of software designers, or interaction engineers, or human interface folks, or whatever we who create the interaction model for our products are calling ourselves this week.

We've been complaining bitterly, these last 25 years, that we get no respect, that we are thought of as nothing more than decorators, if we are thought of at all. Guess what? We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have sat on the sidelines, perpetually powerless, whining, instead of changing up the game so we can win.

 
 

Boston User Group Gets Ken Levy

Boston VFP User Group on Tuesday, August 12, 6:30pm at the Microsoft offices, 6th floor, 201 Jones Rd., Waltham MA, presents: Ken Levy, Microsoft VS Data Product Manager, will be presenting the latest news for Visual FoxPro. Ken will also discuss and demo Visual FoxPro 8.0 along with VFP 8.0 working with VS .NET 2003. Ken will also show demos and discuss Europa (next version of VFP) and Whidbey (next version of Visual Studio .NET). In addition, Ken will show some exciting demos of the new XML/XSLT editor/debugger for VS .NET. For more information on the latest news that will be discussed, refer to http://msdn.microsoft.com/vfoxpro/letters/
 

Using Windows APIs with VFP Desktop Apps

Want to integrate external Internet and local content into your Visual FoxPro desktop applications? Then look into the Shell APIs that allow using Windows components easily in your own applications. This article digs into using the ShellExecute API, the InternetExplorer.Application COM object and the Microsoft Web Browser ActiveX control for displaying Web and Windows content dynamically in your own applications. Article includes lots of short immediately useful samples and a detailed reference of how to use the HTML DOM object model from VFP.
 

Using Blogger and want to do RSS?

If you are using www.blogger.com and want to know how to let everyone know how to use this great feature called RSS, it's really easy! Just upgrade to BloggerPro! The upgrade is free, right now and it works great!
 
RSS is essentially an XML file that contains all of your latest updates. When you use a tool like FeedReader or RadioLand, people who subscribe to your RSS file, will be notified instantly when you change it. This is the reality of Publish and Subscribe that was touted so many years ago.
 
When you have an RSS feed being created, then put a link to it right on your main Blog page or in the template. For example, the RSS for my page is:
 
Ted Roche's is:
 
I know Ted uses RadioLand for pulling all the news from various sources - I use FeedReader (www.feedreader.com) - it works great and it's free!
 
Another great tip for using Blogger Pro : you can set it up so you can send emails to xxx@blogger.com and it will automatically publish them. This way, you can be anywhere in the world and your blogs can be publicized from anywhere!
 

More VFP Community Wikis: PortaFox Now Online!

 

Thursday, August 07, 2003

FoxPro's Hidden Communities

If all you ever do is work with FoxPro out of the box, the closest you may feel to other developers is what you see in the VFP 8 Communities Task Pane but there is a lot more!
 
After a few emails from Boudewijn Lutgerink, I found http://www.foxite.com - kind of like a European version of the UT with lots of cool stuff on board.
 
Great place to visit and free signups!

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Choose the right Microsoft database for your development needs

How do you decide which of these databases to use for a given application and client? Although hard-and-fast rules are few and far between, a basic understanding of the differences (and similarities) between these databases will help you choose intelligently.

 
 

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Typo in FPA XML Article

I've been getting lots of great feedback on the Intro to XML/XSL article in FoxPro Advisor. But there was a TYPO! (argh!!)
 
There is no method called LoadXSL in the XML DOM. Instead it should have read LoadXML.
 
Sorry all! A correction will be in the next issue.
 
Thanks for so many readers for letting me know.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Car Damage At MS?

Ok - sounds silly but Ken's letter actually spoke all about how wonderful this particular blog was (http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2003/06/28.html) and what's one of the topics:
 
Ouch, Mike Vernal hit Eric Rudder's car. Well, that's one way to make an impact on Microsoft's management! GDR&H.
 
Oh well - we all can't be serious! at least not all the time.
 

VFP 8 Service Pack Coming

As per Ken Levy's letter on http://msdn.microsoft.com/vfoxpro/letters, the Fox Team is working on a Service Pack for VFP 8. That's great news.
 
Also, for all those naysayers about VFP - Visual FoxPro 8.0 is supported by Microsoft until 2010 in the developer tools life-cycle support plan.  - even better news.