Sunday, November 28, 2004

Good RSS Readers for SmartPhones/PocketPCs

I was actually lamenting this before

I've tried Egress and Pocket RSS but I still come back to NewsGator (Outlook edition) but here's what I'm missing: a way to take a post from my Inbox and send it to my Blog without losing the formatting.

Right now, I use Blogger's email feature but whenever it gets to the site, it has a bunch of %20 in it and other stuff that prevent the links from working right.

I was hoping Pocket RSS and/or Egress would let me do what I do in FireFox or IE - find an interesting post, right-click (or "hold-click" on a PocketPC) and then blog it.

Right now, it makes my News of Interest blog very hard to read without having to correct my individual posts.

I know Robert's big on the Kunal approach but I'm not always in Outlook - (except on my Pocket PC).

Any ideas anyone?

Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger

Friday, November 26, 2004

Why Unit Test? Channel9 Wiki explains...

OK - sure it's on the xBox but it's still a great example of why the best developers unit test.

And no, I'm not preaching --- it's a neat article. I try to unit test all of my VFP stuff but it's hard when things need to get out the door and someone's breathing down your neck. It's even HARDER when you're going through someone else's code as I've been doing recently.

Channel9 Wiki: TheBestDeveloper

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Visual FoxPro 9.0: Still Here, Still Relevant

Op-Ed piece by David T. Anderson. (originally from here)

"Even though FoxPro has long been overshadowed by more glamorous products, it's still one of the best tools on the market for getting things done. With new enhancements coming in version 9.0, it's not likely to go the way of the dodo anytime soon. "

Good reading for everyone who uses FoxPro. The critical stuff is on the second page: Where Does FoxPro Fit Today

Visual FoxPro 9.0: Still Here, Still Relevant

Monday, November 22, 2004

Patents Should Meet BASIC Tests of Reason (Coffee)

This has got to be someone's attempt to simply show how silly the entire concept of patents are...unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be so.


Patents Should Meet BASIC Tests of Reason

Lost Remote: Comcast deploys Microsoft TV software

Robert posted to this and this site actually shows screen shots.

I'm comparing it to what we have in Canada - Roger's PVR. We picked one up a while ago and I love it. The UI isn't as intuitive which is too bad - because Rogers has used a lot of MS technology before, using an older version of WebTV. So now that I've got a PVR, my biggest problem is I need to send the signal to all the TVs in my house (I hate lugging it around - oh sure I could buy another one but why tape in two locations?).

I guess the answer COULD be a Windows Media Center Extender. Anyone have any good experiences with these?


Lost Remote: Comcast deploys Microsoft TV software

Ted Takes on Patents and MS Practices

Even though Scoble also posts about it here, I always find Ted's links a little more illuminating and insightful. It's not a "pro-MS" view point but the more points of view, the more informed we all can be. As Ted notes, "The irony is that Microsoft is likely to violate just as many patents, if not orders of magnitude more, but that's a lot tougher to determine with closed-source software."

Actually, I thought Ted's best post on patents was the one on Poland' in which he says
"Software patents are an abomination: licensing an idea, instead of the implementation of an idea (the latter is what copyrights are). Patents will chill the software development marketplace and reserve software development for the big companies that can afford patent lawyers. Stealing another programmers copywritten code is theft; building on another programmers code is progress."



Ted's Radio Weblog

Avalon Tech Preview Now Available

Chris makes a note of the Avalon Tech Preview being available for MSDN subscribers (note to subscribers: it's not called Avalon in MSDN but simply WinFX SDK under Platform Tools,SDKs)

There's a document here that talks about what's in and what's not in the Preview.

Now that Avalon is going to be fully supported on WinXP and 2003 servers - it will be interesting to see if Mike's right about Winforms.

One of his arguments was that WinForms run on Win98 boxes, etc. My big concern would be how fast? I've always experienced "lags" on DotNet apps even on my XP or 2003 boxes - I'm expecting much of the same from Avalon - so if they both are slow in loading, then would you really recommend such a solution for lower-end boxes such as 2000 and Win98?

My experience may not be typical and there are probably some crack applications that likely run circles in DotNet but many posts I've read leave me with that "sluggish" impression.

The future for interface design is in XAML and XUL and similar technologies - now we just have to get all of our hardware up to spec.

PermaLink

Sunday, November 21, 2004

ASP.Net Goodies

Jim Duffy goes quickly through several valuable resources for budding ASP.Net developers - the best part? They're all free.

:: CoDe Magazine ::

Friday, November 19, 2004

How to write Firefox extensions

Nothing like something that says: "You need to have a vague understanding of XUL and Javascript, but you certainly don't need to be a master of either. "

XUL is one of the best things about FireFox and it is an indicator of the way things are moving towards in UI development. Look at XAML and other initiatives.

This page helps you get started with a basic "Hello World" example...

How to write Firefox extensions

RSS Readers for Pocket PCs

Does anyone know of a good RSS reader for Pocket PCs?
While I use NewsGator and then have my best feeds sent to my iPAQ, it's still a little kludgy if I want to link a post back to my own blog.

So while Scoble notes that "A few people said they couldn't conceive of reading a site on a small screen"

There's a list here RSS Readers for Pocket PCs and here.

EGress and PocketRSS look like the ones that are on both of the lists. Anyone tried them out? I'll let you know my reaction after I've got them installed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Running Dynamic Code with ExecScript

The Wiki has an interesting post on how to run dynamic code. While much of the post deals with using BINDEVENT, I just want to make a note on ExecScript.

This is one of the best additions to Visual FoxPro. In one application, we used to offer the ability for users to write their own validation rules (provided they knew how to write FoxPro expressions). Now, we take it even further: they can write their own full scripts.

Not only that - but we offer popular rule "templates" that users can build their existing rules from and use TEXTMERGE to fill in the appropriate values.

How so?

A rule table with a field for
Rule Description (cdesc)
Rule Script (mrule)
Rule Parameter (cparm)

The code that executes the rule does a

EXECSCRIPT(TEXTMERGE(mrule,"*PARM*",cParm))

The user only needs to fill in the Rule Description and the parameter - everything else is hidden from them.

Our templates start with easy to use templates like : This field must be filled in or here is a valid list of values to "Don't allow this entry unless today's date is Dec 31 and the user's name is XXXX".

By using rule templates, more advanced support staff can write rules that others then simply re-use by filling in the templates.

Previously, we had a bunch of FXP files lying around in folders where people had to learn the expression and the parameters. With ExecScript, you can put all of these into a library of functions and call them with Friendly names.

"Oh you need to send an email to a user?" Instead of making them learn how to write SENDEMAIL.PRG, they can call a function library call like

CallFunction("Send Email", "person@company.com", "Hi")

This is almost like going back to macros in Excel and Lotus days, but it becomes infinitely easier on the end user.

If you've never used ExecScript, try it out.

It's been in Visual FoxPro since VFP 7.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Movies of Software

Jon Udell discusses using Windows Media Encoder for easily capturing footage of what's going on in an application to make mini-movies.

I've used Windows Media Encoder and while it's not bad, I know many others like to rely on tools like Camtasia or others. I use a variety of web conferencing tools, like Webex and iLinc and each of these tools also let you record your sessions for easy viewing. It's something I try to encourage our support people to do as well - so they can SHOW me when something doesn't work right.

The point Jon makes is a good one: "In the same way that blogging has radically democratized basic web publishing, I expect that Windows Media Encoder--along with counterparts that I hope become broadly accessible on other platforms--will democratize the use of screen videos. The medium needn't be available to professionals only. Lots of folks need to describe, demonstrate, or document the behavior of software, and this is a powerful way to do it."

Podcasting is already popular even with its 25MB files - the Channel 9 guys are also showing how you can easily put in video spurts into your blogs - now with just a few clicks, you can also document software behavior easily.

Try it out - Windows Encoder is available here. - BUT this is something that MS should seriously look at embedding directing into future versions of Windows. It's not enough to come up with MS Producer which converts Powerpoints into "live" casts - it has to be able to work with everything!
O'Reilly Network: Movies of Software

Friday, November 12, 2004

Business Model Generator (BMG)

All your strapping entrepreneurs should check this out....(found it from http://www.exploriem.org)

All from Carleton University's School of Business...good for them.

It goes through and asks 5 sets of questions, all designed to help identify how long it will take your business to be productive and profitable. It takes about 20 minutes and does ask some useful questions. What's great is that you can pause it and come back at any time and it gives you a graphical depiction of your business model. After each page, it also provides a summary of how you "scored" on that page.

It takes you through a number of steps including: testing your ECQ (Entrepreneurialist Culture Quotient) Score (are you ready to be an entrepreneur) - (this is kind of similar to Guy Kawasaki's Entrepreneur test), helping you understand how you can use guerrilla marketing and bootstrap capital in designing your business model, learning and discovering what the 'pixie dust' is in your business model , generating a schematic diagram of your business model, scoring your business model and, finally, comparing your business model score with other enterprises. (a - you have to be ready to share your results to do this).

Speaking of Guy, I'm half way through his book, the Art of the Start - you know - just when you think someone can't continue to talk about a similar area (evangelism) and say something new, Guy puts the concept of starting up a business into very effective and straight forward steps. I'll be posting a little more later but the book goes through some great ideas for powerpointing your ideas (36 point font only), the real need (?) for business plans and how to approach new ideas from both someone who is starting a brand new company and someone who is in an existing company).

Business Model Generator (BMG)

Novell sues Microsoft for sinking WordPerfect (revised)

Oh come on now.... we all know who sank WordPerfect and it certainly wasn't Microsoft.

(Craig set me right in his comments too - Noorda did a similar thing , overpaying for a product that was long in the tooth and then just calling in the lawyers. How much did Borland end up buying dBase for? They at least waited until the product was pretty much history in so far as being a market leader. There's something to be said about picking the right battles...)

It was Corel (among others) biting off more than they could chew with an owner (a certain Mr. Michael Cowpland) who made grandiose statements that couldn't be kept. Cowpland is a great visionary but he couldn't manage Corel at that size and he made a TERRIBLE mistaking buying a product like WordPerfect that simply hadn't kept up with the times.

Yes - there are secrets in Windows that maybe MS should be more open about - but to say they SANK WorkPerfect? WordPerfect was beginning to become a terrible product in the very first version of the Windows product - before Novell even owned it. I remember trying to save a basic document with some images and having it grow double the size each time. Let me guess - that was Microsoft Word secretly adding code into the Wordperfect file...

Unbelievable...

Novell sues Microsoft for sinking WordPerfect | Tech News on ZDNet

Craig's got the details on upcoming conferences

Craig's got the details on DevTeach and the new Advisor DevCon, scheduled for less than 9 months after the last one.

I hope you're wrong too, Craig - about the hotel decision.


Craig - you've got to do something about your archiving - no one can link to individual posts. At least I can drop comments on it.
FoxBlog

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Managing Product Development

Aside from the voting note, here's a good tidbit for managing product development and ensuring things aren't waiting until the last minute.

Managing Product Development

Always Us vs. Them?

Robert treads into that dangerous water of talking about the competition...

He also talks about some feel MS is still running "roughshod"

Although I believe that Scoble doesn't need to get any more links, (he's already achieved #1 status via Google), he lays out some valid discussion points here.

Ted got me for my "media promoting Firefox" post, forcing me to remake (or try and remake) my point (the issue isn't about how great FireFox is but rather how the media discusses it. Case in point: EWeek Loves it - as do I. - I only use IE for sites that aren't supported by Firefox, like Webex)

Between going back and forth between other blogs, you really can get the feeling of Us vs. them (teams of lawyers don't really help that for MS's case either).

There will always be those who want to portray things as "us vs. them" - but when I look at that, I always think of Ted's "mission" on his blog: "Competition breeds Innovation. Monopolies breed stagnation. Working Well with Others is Good."

Although a company may be judged by its lawyers, I still think there are plenty of good activities going on at MS and in other great tech companies around the world.

Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger

Kevin McNeish has a blog! [for C# and .NET]

Thanks to Alex for showing the link on this.

As with Rick's blog, I always expect to find something new from Kevin. I really like his "Did You Know" section that mentions something that other developers may take for granted that others know.



Kevin McNeish [C# and .NET]

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

More on FireFox 1.0....

I just heard a big push by CNN Radio (CFRA, actually) on all the people who should go to Firefox. It's interesting the way radio goes through the same "media play" that some accuse others of.

Don't get me wrong - Firefox is an amazing browser - but it's only one of numerous others...there's still Opera which offers many of the similar features that FireFox does (and more...including built-in RSS)...

Just did a google (is that a noun AND a verb??!?!?!) and guess what? Firefox is the number one, Opera is number two.... and number three is Netscape, followed by Safari...and so on,....

The more things change...the more they stay the same...

Mozilla releases Firefox 1.0

Expect some slow downloads from the web site. I can't even bring up the main page!

Mozilla releases Firefox 1.0 | Tech News on ZDNet

Microsoft Visual FoxPro Konferenz Frankfurt 2004

If you're in Europe, Germany to be exact, be sure to attend the 11th (WOW! - I remember the first one) German FoxPro Developer Conference.

Rainer and his team put on a first-rate conference and I'm sure this one will be no different.


Microsoft Visual FoxPro Konferenz Frankfurt 2004

Monday, November 08, 2004

FoxCast - See Online Seminars from Fox Experts

Good show!

The goal of FoxCast.org is to provide a community for VFP developers who are not able to participate in a local user group or who want additional information on developing in Microsoft Visual FoxPro.

FoxCast

OzFox 2004

If you feel like escaping for what looks to be a fun-filled conference, head on down to OzFox!

Why will this be fun? Forego the regular '"after-conference" event and head to the X-Box room - unwind after a VFP packed day with a round of Halo 2!

Jeez - I wish I was going....

OzFox 2004

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The ReportListener Repository

From Craig's FoxBlog:

One of the great features of VFP 9.0 is the enhanced report designer. It's easy to create more complex reports than before, but changing things at runtime is a real pain. You need to use report listeners to do things...and these all have to be coded.

Ed Leafe has setup a new web site, Report Listener HQ , that is a Report Listener repository. The hope is that as people create report listeners, they will make them available on this site.

Ed runs a number of other sites, including Task Pane Central and Open Tech . He also runs the ProFox mailing list.

Markus Talks to Steve Ballmer

Ok, while he didn't mention FoxPro(!), long-time Fox and Visual Studio speaker and publisher, Markus Egger, interviews Steve Ballmer and asks that all important question:

"What's your favorite X-Box Game?"

Actually, the interview covers a number of topics including offshore development and importing of programmers (hmm --- Markus is from Austria but now lives in Houston), the Tablet PC (Markus' favorite toy for the past few years it seems and now with the election networks showing the Tablet PC in a number of key areas), open source, and Visual Studio Team System.

Sure, it's Ballmer - so you should expect some marketing propaganda (I still don't think he gets what's the "next big thing" - seems he should have asked Scoble to talk about it - as he did here - yes, it's important to have things that "just work" but that's a goal, not a technology.)


:: CoDe Magazine ::

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Microsoft EULAs and Benchmarks

Ted roche points to an interesting post about the DotNet EULA and
benchmarks.

it wasn't so long ago when Fox software used to dare companies to benchmark
themselves against Foxpro and rushmore...

Protecting yourself against benchmarks in the licence agreement -- do any
other companies do it? I wouldn't be surprised. If you Know for sure,leave
me a comment


Get the Facts on Microsoft Benchmarks
. "Now that Steve
Ballmer and company have given you all the facts you need to compare Windows
and Linux, allow me to add just one little tidbit." Posted at Ed Foster's
Gripelog

Related...
adio.weblogs.com%2f0117767%2f2004%2f10%2f30.html%23a1284>

http://radio.weblogs.com/0117767/2004/10/30.html#a1284 | Comments
tp%3A%2F%2Fradio.weblogs.com%2F0117767%2F2004%2F10%2F30.html%23a1284>

Why MS Doesn't Do All Their Products in Dot Net

Yag does a great job of explaining to those who don't get it why not all MS products are using DotNet as a native framework.

If you read all the comments, you'll see that part of the issue has to deal with the components that have not yet been put into DotNet (Uniscribe, and features for multi-lingual text etc).

Yag's basic premise though is that no one should expect every single MS app to flip over to DotNet overnight - there's a lot of work involved in moving it over and as the DotNet framework matures, more features get added in.

How this will apply to the entire Avalon scenario is up for grabs. It reminds me a little of how DNA has matured into DotNet and also how FoxPro has matured into Europa. The basic MS approach of development frameworks and almost any new technology (at least in my view) is:

Phase 1: Tell Everyone How they Should Be Doing It (VFP example: VFP 3 / Win Example: COM and Windows DNA)
Result: Some people get it, some people don't.

Phase 2: Show Everyone How To Do It (Ex: VFP 6 with the FFCs / DotNet v 1.0 / COM + )
Result: More light bulbs go off and more people get it

Phase 3: Write Tools so people can do it easier (VFP 8 / Whidbey)
Result: More applications start using it across the board.

Phase 4: Continue to mature the toolset (VFP 9/ _____________ )
Result: More applications use it than don't

Phase 5: Come up with a new idea (or rename the older one) and go back to Phase 1
(just kidding)

Seriously though, that is the basic path that these things take.

But at any step in the road, people get frustrated with waiting for Phase 3 and jump off the wagon. At other times, you may think you're ready for step 3 but you took a wrong course and have to go back to step 2 to get it right.

In some scenarios, MS jumped the gun and did a lot of steps 1 and 2 in secret (umm, research) and then introduced a product like MS Bob only to be assailed by critics and the public.

In the development world, MS has been a little more open in this context, perhaps to avoid the surprises or headaches of newer technology. Some succeed, some fail but each one builds on each other.

Just because MS had a monopoly in DOS didn't mean it would naturally succeed with Windows 9x. Likewise with XP and future versions.

Many of the technologies found in DotNet 1.0 needed to mature to be "production-ready" but just like SpaceShipOne is simply the first version of what will be more tourist trips into space, the conceptual foundation of managed code is the one that MS has built its future on.

Now it's a matter of getting to phase 4 and ensuring you don't lose any more developers on the way.

Microsoft and .NET (by yag)

Approaches To Unit Testing

Interesting post on Unit Testing by Steve Rowe. Describes the differences between different types of unit testing very well.
Approaches To Unit Testing

Monday, November 01, 2004

Creating, parsing, graphing web hit logfiles or other temporal data

Calvin provides a great example of how to read IIS logs and then graph the results in VFP.

The one comment on the bottom suggests that there is a built-in utility with the IIS 6 Resource Toolkit to parse the log automatically but where's the fun in that?

More seriously, this post, like my previous post about Lisa's Coverage Profiler add-ins, show that while it's very tempting to say "give me a tool and I will use whatever it gives me"; with Visual FoxPro, it's so easy to build your own , quickly and easily.

I do this regularly with Outlook. I see some of the tools that are available on Slipstick and when they don't meet my immediate needs, just write my own in VFP. Fast, easy and it meets my needs.

Calvin's post is also interesting in that it's not using the MS Graph control but rather VFP's Line method to draw the graph.

Creating, parsing, graphing web hit logfiles or other temporal data