Friday, October 31, 2003

Avalon and XAML Great for Developers, But maybe Fox should do it first

XAML or XUL (Mozilla's version) - two ways of building user interfaces via XML.

Column posts some great problems with this issue:

Is this going to be compiled at run time into the application or via a compiler via VS.net and C#? I don't know. Based on the demos I've seen, it would seem that XAML is loaded and compiled via some sort of software processing system because there was a noticeable pause between the window being created and the UI coming up.

Great - more application delay! Now how do you explain this to your customers?

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE The idea. Maybe FoxPro should support the first incarnation of it. After all, it's a LOT faster than any of the .Net stuff for parsing strings, etc.

BetaNews | Commentary: Avalon and XAML Great for Developers, But...

Longhorn - and the UI of the future will be

"Among the features shown off were transparent windows, animated windows that pop open and a new taskbar on the righthand side of the screen that displayed a clock, buddy list, and news and other information streamed onto the desktop via an RSS feed. "

ooohhh...ummm - don't I already have that? (hopefully it's an intelligent RSS feed that combines from multiple sources) Quite frankly I don't WANT my news streaming onto my desktop - I have too much news right now when simply clicking on newsfeeds in Outlook (thanks to Gator)

Granted I was not present but if this is the best the news media had to offer about it...I'm worried.

There is something to be said about "cluttered" windows (which is why Apple trotted out their new Panther software with a better Alt+Tab view). People today suffer from information overload.

The System Tray was supposed to only hold a few icons but now every company loads onto it so much it looks like an old TSR list in DOS.

The problem with running streams exclusively from an RSS feed is you still need to filter out the junk and it needs to be intuitive. For example, my feed may be on Blogs but you know there are so many stories or posts every day on various Blogs news sites that what I really need is for "something" to say "This is important because it was really a worthy news story instead of just a regular post."

I thought of this when I re-watched the Knowledge Navigator video. Apart from a "talking head", we have a lot of this today. Yes, it could certainly be better and it needs to be. Maybe it's more like an intelligent MSNBC newsfeed, that tells me the news when it happens ("Roy Horn attacked by tiger") but no more on a single story unless I actually ask about it. ("did something happen about Roy Horn lately?" or "find Roy Horn")

These features are already available in the best news aggregators and it also needs to start being available in regular email.

My biggest fear in reading about the graphical look of Longhorn is that it really is simply taking all of the great stuff that is ALREADY available and putting it into the O/S. Sorry - but that won't fly in an age when free and public source add-ons do the same.

(consider FoxPro - GENSCRNX was public domain and became a virtual "built-in" add-on for every developer).

What the industry needs is some serious innovation and not just in "better file-systems" or "transparent windows", something that actually increases productivity.

Right now, there are too many distractions on the desktop that prevent users from doing things. I want to work on a project, I have to shut down my email, and my IM, etc just so I can get work done. Why can't the OS do that for me?

It wouldn't be that hard - an O/S that intelligently hides things that aren't being used (so they don't even show up in the Alt+tab or task bar) but then re-appears them when the task is complete. Of course, it would also need to be able to interrupt a task if it really was important.

As I write this, I've got 6 windows open but also about 6 other things on my System tray. One of my windows is Outlook because I pulled up this news story because of it. But it is 7am and no one is actively looking for me. What needs to happen is that while I'm actively working, the O/S senses that I am hard at work and thus, automatically puts everything on "hold" until I finish.

Now that isn't something that can be easily shown in a 15 minute demo but it does introduce a REAL PRODUCTIVITY increase for those users who currently are feeling information overload with too many things on the screen (like a newsfeed), and are being distracted from doing what their jobs really need to be.

Gates trots out Longhorn | CNET News.com

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Incessant Ramblings: Everybody here works on Word

Priceless - wonder what people think when you say "I work on a computer" (visions of someone with their legs over a monitor spring to mind)

Incessant Ramblings: Everybody here works on Word

Wherever You Say, Yvonne, I Will Go

Well - at least they've realized that a friendly voice is better than the mechanical sounding voice from typical SAPI applications.

Now - the big question: does it work in Canada?

All of these great GPS navigation systems are completely useless unless you are in a major US city. Hate to break it to the designers but there are other places in the world.


Wherever You Say, Yvonne, I Will Go

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Sunday, October 26, 2003

October Hentzenwerke news: FoxTales - Behind the Scenes at Fox Software released

Great new things from Hentzenwerke!

1. FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software released
2. Painless Legacy FoxPro Applications on Modern Networks ebook released
3. Big, big, big sale - it's Halloween!

1. FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software released
-------------------------------------------------------

FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software chronicles the rise and sale
of Fox Software by one of the early developers, Kerry Nietz. Kerry joined Fox Software fresh out of college in the late 80's, and was responsible
for the Report Writer, the Screen Painter, the Foundation Read, and other parts of Fox that you still use every day.

While doing so, he found the time to keep a detailed diary of events
in Perrysburg through the day that the development team packed up their
offices and moved to Microosft. This is his story.

We've been shipping this book to Seattle and Toledo by the crate; get
your copy before they're all gone! No special pricing available - other
than the standard preferred customer and multiple book quantity discounts
that are always around - it's only $9.95, for Pete's sake!

Sample chapters and table of contents available at
  http://www.hentzenwerke.com/catalogpricelists/zcatalogpricelists.htm
 
2. Painless Legacy FoxPro Applications on Modern Networks ebook released
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Com'on, admit it. You're still maintaining a decade-old Fox application,
and will be for a while, since the powers that be haven't found a bucket
of money for new software development any time recently.

This ebook describes how FoxPro/DOS and FoxPro/Windows applications run
on current versions of Windows, to describe the best approaches for
configuring the environment in which a multi-user legacy FoxPro
application runs, and to suggest ways of handling problems.

The book is written for professional developers who have older apps that are still in use. It is also aimed at technical personnel who are
not necessarily FoxPro developers but are charged with installing and
supporting legacy applications on current networks. As a result, this
book isn't concerned with development per se but will be more of a
general guide to relevant operating system and network issues.

Electronic format (PDF) only.

Sample chapters and detailed table of contents available at
  http://www.hentzenwerke.com/catalogpricelists/zcatalogpricelists.htm

3. Big, big, big sale - it's Halloween!
---------------------------------------

Why should kids get all the fun? Cuz they get all the cavities, that's why.

If you're looking for a little treat for yourself, wander on over to our
online store by midnight, Thursday, October 30th (CST) and grab a handful
of books. All printed books (except FoxTales) ordered through our online
store are 35% off between now and then. As always, preferred customers
get an additional discount, and multiple book discounts also apply. And Hacker's Guide to VFP 6.0 is 50% off!

And if you're ordering, why not throw a copy of FoxTales on the order? The
cost to ship it in addition to the rest of your order is nearly nil and
you need something to do while you're waiting for the trick or treaters
to wander by your door, right?

- Online order form already reflects the discount.
- Discounts available only for printed book orders placed online.

Order here:
  https://hentzenwerke.com/olbs/A1_Instr.olb

The Scobleizer Versus Cerberus the Hound of Hades

Great article!

The Scobleizer Versus Cerberus the Hound of Hades

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Why the Yankees Can't Win

Maybe instead of Viagara ads, they should concentrate on the game....(or maybe Trish has a point, Beyonce would be a better bet).
 

Friday, October 24, 2003

Solid features boost iTunes for PCs

You know - there is an alternative here.

I subscribe to MusicNow (www.musicnow.com) which doesn't always have ALL of the latest songs but is pretty good about keeping up, offers $.99 cent purchases, excellent radio stations and unlimited access to a HUGE variety of music, all for $9.95 a month.

It's integrated directly into WMA (which I like because I can switch between the two seamlessly). Still, I will take a quick look at iTunes - if nothing else, I still bleed six colors.


Solid features boost iTunes for PCs

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

RE: Thoughts Regarding OutSourcing

(Some ideas gleaned from 5 small specs that were outsourced to an overseas programmer)
 
1. Always keep an idea as to how much time it would take to do it yourself and make sure the time and effort it takes to write it down and discuss it is worth it.

Example: I outsourced a project because it shouldn't have taken that much time but I didn't have that time. When our O/S company told me they hadn't done it yet (see next point), I had to put the time in. As it turns out, it only took me an hour to fulfill the functionality. Now I have testing to do but it really only took a little bit of time. I easily wasted that hour with emails asking about its status. (Note: the hour to spec it was worthwhile because it ensures the functionality is documented)
 
2. Only give away ONE task at a time. They might complain that there is a lag between the work but it's the only way to ensure prompt delivery of stuff.

Example: Our O/S company had a project spec for over 2 weeks yet when I asked where they were, they said "it's coming". Then I find out they hadn't even touched it yet. As a result, the client started screaming for it and I had to put in the time to do it myself.
 
3. Be 100% specific. Be ready for the company to come back and say "it wasn't in the spec" as a way of getting out of completing stuff. Many companies are willing to make minor changes but changes that are more "creative" can sometimes lead to problems.
 
4. Tell them how you plan on testing it. This gives a much better scope for their final work because it has to actually DO it when you test it.
 
5. Put down a timeline. See #2 for reasoning but if you give them a timeline, you can actually hold back funds if they don't provide the work for you.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Framework Review: The Calm before the storm

I know I've been warned but something tells me I'll be getting a lot of "feedback" from people on my Framework reviews. For one, not enough detail. For others, I whitewashed it. Can't keep everyone happy so let me just say right now:
 
The purpose of the framework reviews in FoxPro Advisor is to help developers who are looking for a framework see what is out there and what is involved in picking up a new framework. So if a framework doesn't have an application helper or something that helps a new user get started but is simply a blob of procedures, it's obviously not as easy to pick up as something with an Application Generator. But I WILL be trying to get under the hood so readers can see how difficult or easy it is to expand on stuff. Since we have limited space, I am deliberately going to focus on how quickly you can build an application, how difficult it is to change the application and how much learning you have to do to make it worthwhile. I'll also be making note of my wish list for each framework.
 
For those who care, the order that I'll be approaching frameworks is (at this stage): FoxPro Application Wizard (November), Visual FoxExpress (December), Visual MaxFrame Professional (January), Mere Mortals (February), Visual FoxExtend (March), CodeMine (April). Everything of course, is subject to change. If you know of a framework out there, please let me know about it and I'll add it to the list.
 
Thanks. Hope you enjoy reading them.
 

Thursday, October 16, 2003

NewsGator - Awesome NewsGroup Support

NewsGator has GREAT News Group support. After figuring out how to change the font for the posts, my posts are now all showing in a nice Verdana font and I'm finding the tool much more useable.
 
Apparently new features are coming imminently...I still have FeedDemon up but it may be changing soon....
 

Andrew MacNeill

 

 

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Great Lakes Closing Session: Where Whil's Heading

Great but short closing session from Great Lakes: Where To Go.

Whil's comment: "People ask me what to do...for years, it hasn't been clear, but now it is."

Whil is heading into Linux full steam ahead but that doesn't mean that Fox is dead.

A quick survey of the audience showed (gasp!) about 40% of attendees were STILL maintaining FoxBase and FoxPro/DOS code. (WOW!!!!)

That's 10 years old code - that would mean that in 10 years, we may still be able to work maintaining VFP 8 or later code.

That may be a bit of a stretch but the numbers would certainly make sense.

From Whil's thoughts: ten years ago, the Fox market was 2 million, it's now about 200,000 developers... user group attendance is down from 200 to about 9 to 20 - Dot Net is not where it's at because it means, for other reasons, competing with 10 million other developers currently moving to Dot Net from VB, C+, etc. Linux on the other hand represents a much more open opportunity. A Chance to get in at the bottom instead of the end...

Whil will CONTINUE to promote Fox running on Linux until he's fired (his words)

You know --- listening to him, it makes a lot of good sense. Many people got to install Linux at Great Lakes (including Drew Speedy) so who knows...

That doesn't mean Fox is dead - Henztenwerke is still publishing books on it and will as long as it makes money - but realistically the Open source books have outsold the Fox books for quite some time...

Dates to note:
Essential Fox: June 4-7 Kansas City
Great Lakes Next Year Oct 29-30-31 - wonder if he'll be dressed as Gene Simmons again

Great show Whil - look forward to it next year...

NewsGator Plug-ins

Tried newsgater as a news reader. It runs within Outlook.

Interesting...I like some of the features but the actual posting is done as an Outlook post (instead of an email) so it doesn't look as nice.

Still...it looks very cool for $29....
NewsGator Plug-ins

Great Lakes Last Day

Last day of Great Lakes....not a lot of activity in the trade show but definitely saw a lot of people yesterday and this morning.

Picked up Kerry Neitz's FoxTales book (heavily promoted by Toni Feltman of F1) about war stories from Fox Software (available from Hentzenwerke http://www.hentzenwerke.com).

Rich Simpson's ReportEngine control still continues to amaze...during the show, he developed a way to do real cut and paste while running a report (huh? Imagine copying a Visio or Project diagram and pasting it directly into a VFP report while it's running - very cool).

Drew Speedie put me on the spot on Monday night ('hey Andrew! how's that TB?') right during his MaxFrame presentation. Maybe I'll sic "Muffy" on him...

Nice to see some familiar faces...and put faces to names (Laura, Dan Greenberg, etc)

The next big show? Russ Swall's Essential Fox next June. What will happen? Well bets were being laid as to who would provide the best "deathmatch" - Whil vs. Ken, Steve vs. JP, Muffy vs. Drew....make your bets now...

Got some great feedback on the new FF! 8.0 - it's coming soon so be sure to check out the beta at http://www.foxfirereporting.com/livedesign/ffblog.htm!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Airports, Hotels & Wireless

Ok - the new Ottawa airport opened Sunday...guess what? No wireless...sure it's bigger but is it better? A few gripes: no desks to work at (the old terminal had them), the displays are way too small (only one display for 12 gates). Yes they have glitches ( doors don't open, etc, etc) but those are bugs that can be worked out. The gripes are things that MUST be addressed. It's a new airport - why don't they have wireless? Chicago (where I was stuck for about 3 hours) doesn't have it but it's an older airport (so they can be forgiven)
 
Hotels...Hotels should have this built in as far as I'm concerned. Modems? Come'on - it would not cost that much for a hotel to put  $500 of wireless routers on a few floors and have them service the area. They could even charge for it. Jeers to Hilton (where I am) and the Hyatt for not doing it. Someone should call Boingo!!!

Great Lakes Workshop

Finally made it to WhilFest...(a day of traveling on a plane isn't much fun)
 
Attendance looks around 200....the wireless network is also a bit funky but I think I've got it going now...found out I'm running a version behind on my wireless driver so that could be it.
 
Looks like a lot of people switched their box to Linux last night...wonder what that means for the EULA?

Monday, October 06, 2003

MvpVfp2004 - Missing Names

VFP MVP awards are given to those who are actively helping VFP developers on "FoxPro" related topics. Mostly online contributes for "technical assistance", but also adding to that is speaking at VFP events, writing VFP articles and books - on the topic of "FoxPro".

I see .... and yet Ted Roche and Whil Hentzen are NOT on this list... I guess being the sole publisher of VFP books, conference speaker (and organizer), User Group "constant speaker", initial Fox Blog publisher and general FoxPro promotion is not considered "actively helping to promote FoxPro"

Whil's recent promotion was called "Fox is everywhere..." - I guess someone at MS missed this.

MvpVfp2004 - FoxProWiki

Joel on Software - Bionic Office

Found this on Craig's Blog - very cool
Joel on Software - Bionic Office

EssentialFox Conference - Visual FoxPro Conference June 2004

A Great show for sure.

Hope to see you there...
EssentialFox Conference - Visual FoxPro Conference

Scoble: Make MS Dev More Transparent

 
As he writes later in the day, they are already doing this. Devs read blogs for all kinds of reasons - the problem is that the media picks up on stuff and considers it gospel and this is what the Legal team fears.
 
This is kind of like Arnie's comments in CA. People attack him for (possibly) saying something over 25 years ago despite all he has done in the past to show his true commitments. The biggest fear the Marketing and Legal groups always have is that someone in the media takes a comment and then treats it like public policy.
 
In Ontario (where I live), we just had an election where the number one issue turned out to be that the (eventually) losing incumbent party sent out a quick email calling the competition "a kitten-eating reptile from another planet". This became the entire big MEDIA problem.
 
Get over it, reporters! Get over it , media and such. Stop looking for scoops in blogs. They are simply ways to communicate. Maybe we should all hire lawyers to watch everything we say, er, write, er think. (I can't complete this sentence because my lawyer has advised me that thinking the way I am, someone will undoubtedly come up and accuse me of being ______ (fill in the blank with your own term))
 
 
Sheesh!

MS Response to Why Not Promote VFP and Citrix

David Dee (see post from 9/22) asked MS about promoting VFP by discussing items with Citrix...As noted in his comments, the response from MS was:
 
We do not test VFP with Citrix and it is not something we are focused on as a solution, mainly due to lack of demand. For web (or thin client) applications with VFP, we are promoting VFP with ASP.NET using VFP 8.0 with Visual Studio .NET 2003 and that is working well, and most companies we talk to who need web front ends to VFP applications are using or considering ASP.NET with VFP combined. Thanks for your feedback.
 

Huh?!?! - Until such time as Desktop apps are killed off completely (don't see that happening anytime soon), I actually prefer to recommend Citrix or Terminal Server based solutions than purely Web-based.

Maybe David's problem was actually using the term "Citrix" instead of the more "MS-friendly" Terminal Server. VFP continually gets updated in service releases to better support Terminal Server applications(recall the NOBITMAP setting in SP3 for VFP 6). In fact, in one newsgroup, one of the fastest suggested ways to build a "mobile" app for the PocketPC was NOT to use SQL Server for PocketPC, etc but rather to build a Terminal Server (read: CITRIX-like) application and connect to it using the PocketPC's Terminal Server client. The only caution was "keep your screens really small".

It's the "MS response" that really hurts the community. Promoting VFP with ASP.Net is great for all those bleeding edge developers (and yes, I know it hurts to say it but for most people ASP.Net is still a little too bleeding edge for many companies  - note that not even MS bCentral allows SOAP access on their .Net services - wonder why not?).

The fact is that EVERY developer needs to be told of workable solutions. Citrix and Terminal Servers represent GREAT Solutions for companies who have remote needs and WORKING desktop applications. VFP is not only ideally suited in these environments - it kicks serious butt when it comes to  performance! Why? Because the application actually runs LOCALLY instead of being on a network.

Other reasons to consider Citrix/Terminal Server solutions:
1. It's easier to support - you can shadow other users, and easily disconnect users when connected.
2. Single point of access - easier to track errors, provide updates and more.
3. Single type of workstation - easier to manage. Hell, even better than trying to deal with multiple browsers
4. You can FIND many companies willing to HOST TS servers for you - yes, they may charge for it but will provide 24/7/365 uptime with various guarantees (check out http://www.meganetserve.com)

If you have never considered using Terminal Server as a remote solution for your apps, I strongly recommend it. AND it's getting easier and better. Don't be fooled by Microsoft's response - VFP does work well under Citrix and is always being improved to work better because of it. (just don't mention Citrix in the same breath <bg>)

Andrew MacNeill