Saturday, December 31, 2005

Best for the New Year!

Hope everyone has a great farewell to 2005 and a big welcome to 2006.

The new year looks to bring lots of cool stuff, including more from the FoxShow and a new site, Learning Visual FoxPro, a collection of links to great new ways where new developers can learn about Visual Foxpro.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Problems at Xdrive?

UPDATE: Effective 2/7/2006, I canceled my xDrive account after being told that my issue was still "hundreds, if not thousands" behind others in the support queue. If that isn't a reason why people should stay away from this company, I don't know what is.

Looks like I'm not the only one either with problems with xDrive.

I was looking for a reliable online backup facility. I agreed to pay them for the full year up front. Although my 5GB drive has approximately 1 GB free, one of my regular backups hasn't been successful since October.

I also received a nice little missive that said "we've moved to a large system upgrade intended to improve the overall performance. As a result, the service has been unreliable. We do not have an ETA as to when the site will be completely fixed."

Unreliable? I can't even back up or upload a file without an error.

I've been dealing with Henry Forrest who seems very interested in helping me but back on December 6th, I was told to be patient. My recent email from yesterday was greeted with a "Please provide me with your user name and password" - huh? That's a workaround answer and I know it. You HAVE my user name - it's on the case #. Their "superior customer service" list doesn't even note that there is a problem although the forums are fairly detailed with some flame comments.

According to the most recent post, Molson reports that their recent patch (from last week) had to be rolled back. Argh!

Patience has its limits. I hope 2006 brings a completely improved XDrive, otherwise it will suffer the same fate as those companies who just can't deliver what they promise.

Update: I think what bothers me most about this whole thing is that I prepaid the year for only 5GB and I could have put the same money towards a 200GB USB drive that would have allowed me to back it all up and more. And the bad reviews for xDrive keep on coming.

loose wire: Problems at Xdrive?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Carbon footprint calculator

I've seen this ad on local TV but finally got to the site today.

Very interesting especially for those in the UK and US who are interested in how their lifestyle affects the environment.

They didn't have Canada so I had to settle for the US calculation but I'm about an 16. What was interesting was that if I travelled a bit more again, I shoot up to about a 20.

What's your carbon footprint?

Carbon footprint calculator

Top 10 Fox news stories of 2005

Craig does an excellent job of noting the top 10 Visual FoxPro stories of 2005.

Among his notes: the departure of Mike Stewart, John Koziol and Randy Brown from the FoxTeam, the shipping of VFP 9, the loss of Drew Speedie, and the reranking of VFP in the TIOBE list.

While he did note Whilfest 2006, he didn't mention Southwest Fox which is coming back in 2006 and will be sure to be a big hit and the SednaX site, which I'm sure will be showcasing an awful lot in the coming year.

The other thing that I think is still valuable to note, although not entirely VFP-related, is the elevation of Eric Rudder at Microsoft to focusing on the overall technical strategy for Microsoft. With that and Tod Neilson now running Borland, former Foxers seem to be everywhere, rather than nowhere.

Anyone have any Visual FoxPro predictions for 2006?

1. Ken Levy will sponsor the giving of Ultimate FoxEars headphones at Devcon 2006.

2. After a slow start, the SednaX site will start to show very cool technology like the Solution Explorer and a new FoxLINQ.

3. Urged on by Craig Boyd, FoxPro developers will ensure that FoxPro jumps another 5 points on the TIOBE rank.

4. The first self-sponsored FoxPro CodeCamp will be held somewhere in the world and will be streamed somewhere. Unlike typical conferences, the CodeCamp will be more of an "un-conference".

5. Someone will figure out how to make object-oriented menus work with a way-cool designer.

6. Bill Gates will actually say the words "FoxPro" and someone will take notice.

7. Someone will predict the death of FoxPro and will be flamed by the entire community.

8. Someone will predict that FoxPro will become part of DotNet, or that DotNet will become FoxPro, or something like that. No one will confirm it - but the Fox team will continue to instigate creative data handling ideas into Microsoft development environments.

9. Microsoft will stop making presentations filled with bullets.

10. A completely different way of using FoxPro will be shown, prompting everyone to say in unison "Fox rocks!"

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Handling buffered data in Visual FoxPro

Andy Kramek has done another one of his "and now let me explain how this works" posts with a great 6 page discussion on the two data buffering functions (TableUpdate and TableRevert) in Visual FoxPro.

His original article on data buffering (which explains what is buffering and the like) may be found here

Combining this with the other learning resources that the other FoxBlogs are offering and there is no excuse for knowing everything about Visual FoxPro!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The FoxShow Listener Survey

If you've been listening to
The FoxShow, please take our listener survey. This is something I am using to try and improve the overall quality of the show.


On Teachers, certification and tests

Jeez, I hate going from tangent to tangent but I was about to. On my last post about Tag Clouds, just as I started talking about the teachers cheating , I recalled a conversation I had this holiday season with a couple who are in the academic world and was amazed when they expressed outrage (yes, it was real outrage and incredulity) that a teacher had to pass a test to become a professor at a university, to gain a higher position. The conversion went so far as to even suggest that competitions for government positions was "beneath" someone who had gotten to a certain point and a certain age.

(ok - have you stopped laughing at this yet? Because it's true).

I used the opportunity to drop in the obligatory Doonesbury ID joke because it's based on the same premise - if things don't grow, learn or evolve, then yes, I agree - it only needs to be tested once but since things DO grow, learn, mutate or whatever, then YES, test early and test often, I say.

Small businesses may choose a database programmer, or a web designer based on their reputation or a portfolio of their past work but at some point, you will be competing with someone for a job. It's a ......test. Certification is a way to help bypass all of those tests so you're dealing with everyone at a similar level. And no, it's not perfect (think of the drivers who really shouldn't have passed their driving test) but it's a start.

I recently took an online MS Academy course. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Not by the course, mind you but by the topic. There are certainly ways the course could be improved ( a topic for another post) . The topic looked very interesting but by the end of the course, I think everyone would agree that the technology involved was immature (or the tools involved were just not there yet) - to be used in a real business or complete software solution. But still, it was a technology to be learned about - which was great.

Only an industry that has not changed in 100 years would not benefit from recurrent training - and even then, even if the industry or technology did not change, the sad fact is, PEOPLE change. (people learn more, people forget more, peope grow) In the aviation industry, recurrent training is a requirement. In the software industry, where some look at development as art and others as science, certification is still there. And while there are some cases of people who were not "trained" in a particular field being able to teach things and revolutionize an industry, most fields require people who are able to prove their ability. So why wouldn't teachers believe this?

And just as one would be frightened to think that a doctor who operated on me suffered from a debilitating disease, there may be teachers who are on education's front lines who don't feel they should have to prove they are capable of learning themselves.

Are there other teachers that believe that they are beyond recurrent training?

The mind boggles at the thought.

Finding patterns...

So now that Rick has put up the FoxBlogs tag cloud, some may be asking "what's a tag cloud?"

Basically it's running the content analysis service from Yahoo (who knew they had one? Everytime Google talks about something, everyone's on it but Yahoo? Needs to do better job of marketing to developers- or maybe I should just listen better )

What does that do? Wow - no wonder no one likes to listen to developers ramble on...they talk and talk and talk but don't really say what it does... (this is because I just went through 5 minutes of links without a good "stand on its own" description.)

Essentially, it attempts to put things into context automatically. For example, when Ken Levy talkes about Headphones, , the entire set of threads are tagged with that term. Now how does it recognize that term? That's the trick.

From Yahoo's own Y!Q (context query), "Y!Q analyzes the context you provide and determines automagically the most important keywords to use." - so you can provide the context but it determines the keywords.

Uh - "automagically?"

In short, it must look for patterns. Patterns are really quite interesting. I'm just starting to read as opposed to listen, to Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Drubner.

(it was on my Audible wish list but I ended up getting the hard copy version)

In one chapter, they describe how they identified that some teachers in the Chicago Public System were cheating on standardized tests (yes, teachers, not students - read the book - very cool chapter on why a teacher would be motivated to cheat) - and they did it through patterns ( teachers "fixed" certain exams with the correct answers in a "pattern").

Now patterns aren't necessarily keywords but it would be very cool to take the TagCloud data at the end of, say, a year, and see if there are any patterns in the way people blog - kind of like a VFP ZeitGeist

I love finding patterns in data - it's one of the things I love about using FoxPro interactively. While the TagCloud application doesn't do the analysis automatically, it is very cool the way it highlights keywords that everyone is talking about (obvious ones like Microsoft, vfp and visual foxpro) and ones that have only been mentioned a few times or only on a particular site (like that all important word, "argh!")

Monday, December 26, 2005

FoxBlogs : A dynamic tag cloud for the FoxPro community

Very cool, Rick.

As Visual FoxPro developers start blogging about things, they instantly get tagged.

Very cool!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Maybe France does get it after all..

After hearing about the strange laws being passed by France lately, this one really had me going.

So you can't have FREE software, but downloading " copyrighted files is legal as long as it is for private use only" - hmmm...maybe they don't get it after all. Then again, this was being reported from the Xinhua News Agency so who knows.

Craig Bailey's BBQ stage

While I have been known to barbeque in the middle of winter, Craig's post made me smile.

Because I woke up this morning and it really does look just like Christmas - there is white snow everywhere and soft snowflakes have just started to fall....

What a contrast to "The weather is warm, but not too humid, the days are long".

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Becoming a GMailer....

Gmail is slowly but surely taking over my life where a Microsoft product once held a very key place. (yes, this message has a lot of links just so you can see that it's no longer one product but several that does what needs to happen)

I used to live in Outlook but after having worked with various Outlook and Desktop search tools, NewsGator Outlook and the like - my Outlook just freezes or crashes all the time - and that's AFTER reinstalling. gMail allows me to send emails and specify the outbound email (so it can come from my aksel address instead of my gmail).

The Search is, not surprisingly, great (who needs to organize messages anymore?) but the biggest change just happened this week when they turned on mobile gmail at

Where I used to rely on ActiveSync to ensure my PDA had all my inbox messages and the like, now I can get and respond to my email whereever I am (yes, I have a data plan with Rogers, my communications provider). Send email to others? Why not just blog it?

Yes, I still need ActiveSync for syncing files but between gMail mobile, Trumba , Newsgator Online, Basecamp's WriteBoards, it's looking more and more like I could "live" on the web with minimal desktop software. I'm thinking of even downgrading my Newsgator account down to a non-business level - except that I couldn't store and review all of my downloaded feeds. (hmmm....when are they going to improve Desktop search to search within DATABASES?)

What I really need now is for 37Signals to make a more mobile friendly version of BaseCamp, Backpack or even just the TadaLists. Yes, the current versions are fairly light-weight on a web site but if they could do it more like mobile gmail or NewsGator mobile, that would be killer.

Update: They DO already (at least for BackPack!) Just add /mob to the end of any URL and the 37apps are instantly PDA friendly! Very cool guys.!

Am I relying too much on an Internet connection? Possibly, yes but once the Google Grid comes online, I may be ready to be assimilated.

Now I just need that online database...I'm not completely sold set on GoogleBase, Craig joked about it but hey, West-Wind lets you build the application with FoxPro, if I could build my rich front end with FoxML, and support online web reports via XFRX, I might be able to build that very cool Web app, right online!

Haven't tried gmail, ask me for an invite!

Friday, December 16, 2005

How ironic...

that Microsoft would name their foray into web 2.0 conferences Mix 06 when their most recent product features the most ridiculous DRM schemes around...

Oh sure, they like to get into the "mix" with CrossFader but come on!

Next thing you know their next Office or Development product will be dubbed "Open Sourcer" or "FavaBeans"...

Ya sure, I get that it's not aimed at the DRM community but rather developers but calling it Mix just sits wrong with me.

Cool logo though.

Not quite the end of COM....

I'm taking an online course about Developing Smart documents and one of the modules is on Developing DLL-based smart documents (with Visual Studio)

While obviously you have access to all of the core UI components (text boxes, lists, etc), one comment struck me:
If none of the built-in controls match your requirements, use an ActiveX one. Bear in mind that ActiveX controls written in .Net framework langauges are NOT (emphasis mine) directly supported and it is recommended that you use COM-based ActiveX controls.

Sigh - the more things change, the more they stay the same....

No Drag and Drop?

As much as I like talking about Drag and Drop, I'm not always sold on its usefulness. So I immediately found this little article (found via Yahoo) interesting:
Sesame Software: going against the flow | The Register

One thing that bugs me about reading news articles online - the real lame ones never put links to the COMPANY (because they want all the links themselves) so here's where you can find Sesame Software and their Relational Junction ETL Manager (uh, I'll just call it RJet!). a tool that lets you "Extract Transform and Load production data into your data warehouse. Integrate Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, Sybase, and DB2 databases. Leverage your existing SQL skills with native SQL scripting, or use our SQL builder technology." - oh yeah, did I mention? They have Visual FoxPro support coming soon.

What does it do? It links data together so you can copy your data from one or more tables into a target table. Sounds a bit like BizTalk functionality but it does kind of cool. Because of the way it's built, it can move 2 million records an hour and only use 67 MB of memory. Is that a lot? Hard to say but I can certainly see why Drag and drop isn't a huge need here. Sure dragging and dropping makes for great demo - but when you're trying to integrate databases, it's not about the demo - it's about the DATA!!!

'The Perfect Fit'

This story keeps on getting more press.
VARBusiness Nielsen and Borland - 'The Perfect Fit'

Interesting because back in 1999, it was Tod who "leads Microsoft's Developer Group as it transforms the Web from a static tool into a vast network of personal and programmable services."

If you read the background story, it really is fascinating. Back in 1999, here was the comment ""If you're building applications, I'd love to meet you, find out what you are trying to do, tell you about the products and technologies we have, and figure out a way for us to work together so you can build the best applications," Nielsen says "That's the key to success for developers and for ________." - <---- enter company name here.

What's cool is that Tod is still completely committed to doing it. What's interesting is where he's doing it - he's just raised my interest level in Borland which had dropped off a fair bit when Philippe Kahn was the CEO, who liked to show off his arrogance.

Changing your community on the fly

Anil's Antisocial Behavior post is almost as good as all the comments under it as well.

The reason that Google gets more "free passes" than Microsoft? Maybe there is something to that "Don't be evil" thing

Why should I use FoxPro?

Andy and Craig have already pointed to this:TPCI - TIOBE Programming Community Index. What I like is this statement:

"The index can be used to check whether your programming skills are still up to date or to make a strategic decision about what programming language should be adopted when starting to build a new software system."

In other words, don't come to me with ignorant statements like "no one works in Visual FoxPro anymore" or "it's a dead language" - seems I heard that mentioned ten years ago when PowerBuilder was the tool of choice. Where is that now? Oh yeah, I think it's number 90 on the list. Even last year, Visual FoxPro was higher than that.

Sure the list is based on Google, MSN and Yahoo searches but hey - it's ALL about mindshare and the VFP community has plenty of it.

Ed Bott to Microsoft: Loosen Up

I love this post of Ed Bott's"
Scoble can talk about Office 12, but I can’t

As with all those great NDAs: "This information blackout applies to everyone except Microsoft employees, apparently."

He forgot - and CNet employees too as it turns out. (granted Cnet is a news site - but since when is journalism and blogging not the same? - oh right, as of January of this year!)

I'm with Ed. From the VFP perspective, it's nice that the Fox team has opened up a lot more. Some users in the "private" forums are wondering "where is everyone?" because they're all out talking abou FoxPro and what they're doing. That said, it would be nice if they joined Craig's latest goal": Today position 20, tomorrow the world!

Now Craig...about that SednaX discussion and the FoxShow interview....

Congrats Rod and Jessica!

DevBlog: Daddy Rod Paddock

The pictures don't seem to be coming up though...

Whil's back: Moving from Windows to Linux and now back to Fox....

Whil just announced the return of the Great Lakes Great Database Workshop 2006 with one track of 14 sessions covering every major aspect of Fox development.

Sounds like he's gotten 10 speakers all set and ready to go for for developers not looking for the faint of heart developer conferences - his original email said (updated):

"What can you, the developer who is committed to VFP as a long term development platform, do to optimize the next ten years of your life?

This is the question that GLGDW 2006 is going to answer.

This is not a marketing conference masquerading as a technical conference. This is not FoxPro for Dummies. There are no 'Intro to X' pre-cons or 'How to use feature Y' sessions here. This is an advanced workshop - for experts.

This is a workshop for thoughtful people with attention spans. This is an event about wisdom."

Sounds ambitious - but Whil usually pulls off a great conference and it's nice that it's focused directly on FoxPro and seeing it through for the next 10 years....

But it also sounds like there's now also an opportunity for that "Beginner to FoxPro" series that Craig is doing.

The Dates:
Opening Keynote starts at 7 pm on Friday, April 21.
Regular sessions start at 8 am on Saturday, April 22.
Closing Keynote ends at 12:15 pm Monday, April 24.

The Sessions:
Session Topics include Best Practices for...
Development Environment Setup, Error Handling and Reporting
Class Design, User Interfaces
Data Access, Refactoring, Coding Standards
Debugging and Scaffolding, Reporting
Project Management, Deployment, Performance
Professional Developer's Toolkit

Monday, December 12, 2005

Craig expands on the bar graphs...

Craig takes Calvin's original post and produces a revised set of classes, using GDI+ or not to great online bar graph examples.

The SPS Weblog - Bar Graphs - Part II

Who thinks too fast?

Richard comments on my original post about misinformation, really promoting planning:

"I usually spend two weeks (and sometimes even more) in the planning phase which includes the creation of the database structures and overall flow. "

I'm not sure I agree that "thinking fast" is necessarily a bad thing but I certainly agree that "thinking deeply" is required with it.

Consider watching Rick, Markus, Ken or Steve demonstrate a concept at a presentation - these guys think fast - yet they also think deeply at the same time.

Just as there are too many consultants and IT specialists who act too quickly, there are also far too many consultants and IT specialists who prefer to get paid for "thinking" instead of "doing".

The end result? Their project takes forever to get done and by the time it's done, they haven't really "thought" of what happens in the interim. Yet they get the reputation of being "great analysts".

I certainly don't advocate stopping at the first thought and then moving ahead on it - as Richard notes, there are too many people who do that. But you need to be able to
carry that thought through to its inevitable conclusion without spending days doing it. Then if it doesn't work - you move onto the next idea.

That's definitely a skill - and there are tools that can really help do it for you! Both in software and project management.

Nothing wrong with saying "let me think about it" and then coming back with something that is truly innovative - but wasting time on thought without having anything to show for it - is just plain bad. You may "feel" good about your introspection but in the end, what you just did was, in fact, nothing.

Foxpro.catalyst :: FoxPro workBLOGS and more

Another Oz Fox Blogger: Scott Scovell

Craig pointed this out but his partner in crime on the FoxTabs and Solution Explorer also has a blog where he goes through some of his trials and tribulations in coding with VFP.

Great examples on this site!

Scott Scovell on Visual FoxPro

Friday, December 09, 2005

Scaling VFP applications

So after my last post, I thought "hmmm---how does one ensure their application IS scalable?"

Here's a good definition.
Rick talks about it here but it's all about the web.

Kevin talks about it when discussing the Mere Mortals framework here but again all about the web.

The BlackBean site has a great repository of these and other articles.

But once again, most of the articles deal with web-based VFP applications. No surprise there, I suppose. The fundamentals are typically the same and if you really want a scalable application, why not deal with an environment where there may be a million users coming in from all areas instead of your standard applications.

What's great though - is the summary of Rick's To SQL or not to SQL. Using VFP data was recommended as a local data source for retrieving data.

"When we converted from local data to a SQL backend data access turned more between 2-3x slower for short requests and up to 5-10times slower for complex queries. "

The downside: "The site needs to import new Inventory data several times a day and it was necessary to import it while the site was still running in live mode, while people were reading this data. This tended to corrupt indexes frequently causing mysterious crashes and data consistency errors. "

Ah, the index - the glory and bane of a FoxPro developer's existence!

But to note: "Overall performance of the site applications dropped by about 50% when the move to SQL Server occurred. This is something you should plan on if you make the move from local data." However "The main reason for the move to SQL at Surplus was for better stability."

After you take away, it's the design of the system that counts - and as Randy Jean noted in a comment on the original post, "it's not just code design , poor database design (and management) will cause all sorts (of) scaleability issues."

So how should you work with server data? Consider the ideas noted here and here on the Wiki

Of course as with the Wikipedia, all information shown here is deemed to be true until proven false.

How misinformation feeds FoxPro myths

So, Mary-Jo Foley calls VFP the "Rodney Dangerfield" child of Microsoft's solution and we wonder why there are mixed messages.

Steve Black emailed me this post where the supposed "Head of information technology" at an Indian company had to upgrade because "the software was not scalable as it had been developed on FoxPro".

Excuse me? The older software was probably not scalable because this guy, or the person who worked there before him, who had originally commissioned the software likely wrote it not to scalable. Yes, it was written in FoxPro - but it could likely have been written in Visual Basic.Net or Delphi or anything.

Applications are not inherently "not scalable" because of the platform but more because of the design.

Near the end of the article , the comment "Compared to legacy systems, which needed to be changed every six or seven years, SAP solutions are expected to prove effective for 20 to 25 years and beyond." - - "are expected to"???

SAP has only been in business since 1972 and while they have commendably only had 3 core versions but even so, R3 was only released in 1990 and I'm sure there have been upgrades since then. And is SAP written in the same language as it was back in 1979? I don't THINK so!

But why is it successful ? Because it was designed properly. (and I'm not an SAP expert - so I'm sure there are those who would say otherwise as well)

I've seen this before in lots of organizations. It sounds to me like the "head of IT" was likely someone who designed poorly written systems in the past, recognized it, became a manager who preferred "third party" vendors who would have to do the real scalable design work and then blamed their past failures on the product. Have you ever run across those kinds of people before?

By contrast, some businesses have been running the same FoxPro applications for years. One Canadian government agency refused to support FoxPro - their IT department thought that Paradox would be the next big thing - in the early 90's , even though their survey applications and many internal office systems were running with FoxPro. Their IT department changed and went to Visual Basic and SQL Server solutions. While the SQL database may have been fast, their programmers designed the new survey applications poorly and as a result, they went back to the ten-year old FoxPo program which wasn't just reliable but faster as well.

Craig Bailey posted this about the new MS certified Architect - this sounds like something that every head of IT should have BEFORE spreading mis-information.

General programming rule: It's not about the product - it's about the DESIGN!!!

I even recall hearing someone who worked at Microsoft say exactly the same thing. Internal systems at Microsoft weren't always written to be scalable and thus had to be re-architected.

Heck! I'm in the middle of re-architecting an older application to be more scalable and run under SQL Server. The older application used indices and filters to show information to a user. Could it run with a million records? sure! Should it? No! So the issue is one of how do you redesign it? In VFP or under another language?

In the most recent FoxShow (to be posted today I hope), John Petersen noted how he was interested to see how the arguments for FoxPro actually worked in a business meeting.

After reading this article and the mis-information spread around through it and other journals and by otherwise 'well-meaning" "IT experts", you can start to see a pattern. It isn't bad marketing that FoxPro is up against - it's ignorance, plain and simple.

How do you fight ignorance? By making BETTER applications (yes, I've said this before)

Some have noted that Ruby on Rails doesn't follow along the path of traditionally designed n-tier applications, choosing speed over architecture. Uh, tell that to 37Signals, the group behind Basecamp. Not sure how many users they have using it, but sure feels like a scalable application to me.

So once again, let me repeat: It's not about the product - it's about the DESIGN!!!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Visual FoxPro 9.0 Service Pack 1 Released

Visual FoxPro 9.0 Service Pack 1 has been released.

Be sure your version gets updated. Here's what they fixed.

Yea! MindManager does OPML!!

My favorite Mind Mapping tool, MindManager, now directly supports OPML files with both Imporing and Exporting!

Looks like my show notes for the FoxShow are about to get completely OPML'ized!

It even includes support for the new Simple Sharing Extension for shared RSS!!

MindJet - thanks for listening!!

Using DABO to build an application

Check out this Flash-based screen cast (the WMV version will be uploaded to the FoxShow shortly) about how the DABO Application Wizard works. It was done through an hour-long demo with Ed Leafe.

Buliding Building an Application with Dabo

I have some more casts on this technology that I'm just editing but I wanted to put this up so you could see it.

Craig Bailey's thoughts on stylish apps

"Anthony Hopkin" FoxPro apps? I have a vision of a Fox head with a muzzle on it..."yes, I ate the SQL with some fava beans and a nice Chianti...."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bug Bash

And this says it all for a Friday!

Too bad it's only Wednesday...

XFRX now exports to OpenOffice

What is a harbinger of things to come from more tools I'm sure, Eqeus just announced that the new version of XFRX, a very awesome reporting engine for FoxPro, now exports to OpenOffice.

So not only can you run your report (formatted) to Excel, Word and the rest of the world but now you can use your reports in the state of Massachusetts!

Great stuff, Martin!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Johnny Carson Podcasts!

So maybe podcasts aren't going to be around to stay but you can at least enjoy classic bits of the master on your favorite MP3 player...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Redmond | Column: FoxPro Not an Endangered Species

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's a direct link to the Mary Jo Foley column on FoxPro.
Send her an email with your thoughts.

There's not a lot of new news in the article - what's more interesting is that a journalist is covering it with the attitude of "maybe Microsoft sees that not everything is a DotNet world". Funny, because I think most FoxPro developers see Microsoft's attitude as being the opposite, despite the ongoing efforts but kudos to M-J for the article and the possible follow-ups it may generate.

Let's make no bones about Sedna though: it's about making FoxPro play nicer in the DotNet and Vista sandbox. You can easily tell a bunch of VB developers to recompile their COM component in VS and now it's a DotNet piece. You can't say that to FoxPro developers because there's no upgrade path so for those developers who believe that "COM is the answer" (a mantra by Microsoft prior to DotNet) and are now stuck in DLL version hell.

I think with the Sedna initiative, they are trying to show an openness and possible support for future development. A few years ago, expecting MS to open the Office file formats would have been considered sacrilege - now it's happening. As she notes in the article, the success of Ajax is forcing MS to re-evaluate "smart-client or nothing" approach (I'm currently taking a course on Smart client so I'll report back on that in a separate post).

Does Microsoft have bigger things in mind for FoxPro? I think Ken's words on the Fox show were not "no" but "not at this time" and as we've seen, things have a way of changing. Want to enforce change? Get involved in the SednaX projects (Craig et al - are you guys simply doing it all or going to provide templates for how you want it done?)

Now then, as to the comment "less than sexy database tool"? What is "sexy" about a database tool? Is it the interface design tools? Is it the applications that you can build with it? After seeing a demo on DABO, I'm beginning to think that the reason FoxPro is considered "less than sexy" is because developers treat most of these applications as "data entry" applications. You're not building data entry applications - you're building BUSINESS applications.

Excel made number-crunching sexy - it didn't mean spreadsheets sexy though. It's what you can do with it. Look at Basecamp - project management can be boring - but it made it exciting by inviting everyone to see it. Microsoft would do well to make MS Project a more community based tool (Project Central just didn't do it right) just like BaseCamp.

The FoxTeam has shown with stuff like the Task Pane and Project Environment that you can make a cool looking interface with a typical application. That's where developers should be jumping to. As long as we show a boring "data entry" application when someone says "what can you do with FoxPro?" - then it will always be considered less than sexy.

Make it exciting - make your users excited - make the managers excited - make everyone excited about your product. That's not Microsoft's job - as the developer, that's mine and yours.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Learning VFP 102: Scope

Craig Boyd just posted his Learning VFP 102 : All about Scope (not the mouthwash), he also discusses arrays.

Great stuff Craig!

One of the things I wish he had for this was a "take-away" or some kind of call-out that popped out on top to tell people what he was saying about important rules. Sure he gives out the source code but cheat sheets would be really helpful!

One note: great example for using DEBUGOUT.

So I'll start doing some on these take-aways. Although you may also want to refer to Andy Kramek's two part article as well.

Part I

His Guidelines
1. Stay away from public variables. Use screen properties instead for global objects or create a property on your form. Try and avoid them.
2. Also avoid private variables. (huh? - and he really didn't explain why.) Ah - he did mention on the side - send them as parameters instead.
3. Always remember to declare your variables. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. ( I just did a screen cast with Ed Leafe about Dabo where they don't call them non-strongly typed variables, they call them "Dynamic" instead.)
4. Use Local Arrays. If you need to share arrays, don't use Private - send it in as a parameter. Ah, Andy Kramek had a better suggestion a while back - pass it as an object!

One other suggestion - run the online on a high resolution - I was set to 1024x800 and I still couldn't see it well at all. The videos are available online and in SWF format.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Trumba Lets others see what's Coming Up

I used to live in Outlook for all of my scheduling but somewhere between Outlook crashing, hanging, syncing with my PDA and using gMail for more of my regular email, I've really started getting into Trumba's Online Calendar tool.

I can have both private and public calendars (or as many as I want). To protect privacy, I typically name the events fairly generically except as they relate to public endeavours such as podcasts, screencasts or public conferences.

When users are looking at my public calendar, they can click the calendar icon and it will add it automatically to their own calendars (iCalendar, HotMail Calendar, Outlook, email or whatever)

You can even allow others to update your calendar as well by sharing it. Or publish it as a Conference Schedule for easy access.

Another very cool feature is the ability to synchro with Outlook so that my Pocket PC can always be up to date.

Still - it's not perfect.

Some things I wish it could do:

a) allow others to request meetings with me via email after they see the schedule
b) allow users to switch between other views instead of just the monthly or something else
c) have private meetings simply blocked out on the calendar instead of just being hidden.
d) RSS Feeds (don't even get me started on this one)

Let me know if you'd like to try it out. I think it's a by-invite only but I'm able to invite others to join.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Calvin shows Excel's Gradient bars in VFP

Calvin's post shows how to write gradient bars in your grid. The actual execution is a bit wonky if you're not running on Windows XP but you can still see the results here.

Note: this reminded me a little of Mike Brachman showing colored browse windows in FoxPro DOS way back when - except that the colors move with the form because they are directly attached to its HWND. Nonetheless, it's a cool example of what's possible when you grab some features from some DLLs (in this case OLEACC.DLL and GDIPLUS).

Excuse of the Day

Rick - this is priceless.

Just what I needed today.

Monday, November 28, 2005

VFPConversion's has a newer look and feel

I may have missed this earlier but the VFP Conversion site has been updated and it makes finding things a lot easier.

Granted, Dan and Kevin look out of place with all of those haircut-challenged people but you can choose to read articles or blogs.

What's particularly cool though is you can build your own RSS feed, filtering on developers, managers or just articles.

Welcome to

Name Twins: Would the real Andrew MacNeill please stand up?

Markus Egger sent me an email over the weekend, noting "this is scary..."

Wrong spelling apart - what I found most interesting is that there is an Andrew McNeil who works as a senior product consultant for CIN Com in Australia with a comment like

"While legacy thinking may be a problem, 'herd thinking' may be an even greater contributor to problems in IT organizations," McNeil says. "This thinking leads to a silver bullet mentality, which causes technologies to be over-hyped then subsequently [creates] a backlash."

But of course, the first search result was from Mr. McNeil who is the director of Institute of Alcohol Studies, who "thinks a major factor in high consumption among young people is the affordability of alcohol," (note only the Cached version of the site shows this reference anymore) and follows on with all kinds of funny comments like "Andrew, if you have the cojones to set me straight"

It reminds me of the days when Micromega had Andy Neil working for them and we always used to get confused on Compuserve.

Still happens a little bit even today.

But I suppose I should feel worse if my name was John Smith or worse Robert Scobel. In Canada, there's a politican named Robert Scobel who's running in Calgary. The sad thing? When you search for his name, 7 out of 10 Google results assumes you REALLY want this Scoble instead.

But maybe there is something similar between the two:

14. Best advice you have received (for running in an election)?

Honesty and integrity are your only platform.

Who is your "name twin"?

Presenting Gates vs Jobs: A study in contrasts

Great post comparing Steve Jobs and Bill Gates presentation styles - one that I saw mirrored at the Visual Studio launch.

Considering that Microsoft Press publishes Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Point, it's amazing that Microsoft still allows people to present this way. Yes, it's hard - especially if you're presenting online because you can't see their faces but then again, I don't imagine that when they're on stage in front of 2000 developers, Bill or Steve are looking at anyone's faces either.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Craig Bailey: What coffee were you drinking?

A few of us were chatting around the coffee machine at work the other day discussing what would happen if Google bought Visual FoxPro from Microsoft.

Now that's an interesting conversation...for one, GoogleBase would likely be super fast and incredibly cool.

Microsoft is on a "disruptive" streak these days - how could FoxPro be made more disruptive?

Well, Craig's started that one off. I wonder what wwGoogle would look like?

I'm intrigued by what Rainer said on the FoxShow about what's coming for the FoxExtend platform.

In fact, I even had a dream last night (bad sign when you're dreaming about work!) where I was describing ways that FoxPro could really take advantage of the new RSS and SSE services. Unfortunately, the details were in the part I can't recall.

Is it hard to make a product as old as FoxPro disruptive? I don't think so - look at what Rick Strahl did with West-Wind. I remember back in 1994 seeing someone in Germany who had built a three dimension data viewer (a LIVE Pivot Table) in FoxPro 2.x.

And then after years of hearing about how every UI innovation has to come from ActiveX, Alex Grigorjev pulls out the CommandBars - more work needed but still just as disruptive.

And then you get Ed and Paul who are doing Dabo - Ed and/or Paul are going to do a FoxShow soon but first I want them to show me a la screencast.

Still the mind boggles at just what Craig and associates were really drinking at the "coffee" machine...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ted's on the "Why can't MS do anything right or good" view again

There is a third alternative, Ted:

Manufacturing can't keep up and they figured it was better to ship what they had when they could and then keep them coming.

Now then, the reports of the crashes? That can definitely be put into your formerly category.

Ted's Radio Weblog

Southwest Fox 2006 Dates Announced

From Bob Kocher:
There are still some details to work out so specifics will have to wait a week or so. For now, I am extremely pleased to announce Southwest Fox will return to Tempe, AZ Thursday, October 19, 2006 through Sunday October 22, 2006. We have a great new location this year and we are working on a couple of new and exciting ideas.
from Rick's original post: Shedding Some Light: Southwest Fox 2006!

MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test

Found this from Alex Feldstein's link - a good quiz to take for anyone who responds to emails.

MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Why Good Programmers Are Lazy and Dumb

Great site, noted from Wildfire.

I particularly like this image:

Using NewsGator Folders smartly

1. Why is it that Newsgator can't always find the right feed when I use the Subscribe with Newsgator shortcut? It couldn't find the proper link to even though FireFox and other browsers could. It's just very frustrating.

2. I know a lot of people are coming up with great ideas about OPML and such as a way of sorting or weighting different topics - I use the Folders in NewsGator online all the time - it would make MY life (maybe others as well) a lot easier if I could assign Locations to individual Folders as well as specific blogs. For example, I have a folder called 10 Blogs I Must Read Immediately (which only has 3 in it right now) and then I have folders for FoxPro, Diversions, Microsoft, Podcasts, Tech, Product Stuff, etc. It works very efficiently as I can create my own type of Attention planning piece there - the only thing is - I wish I could have new blogs suggested for those different folders.

If the Folders concept grew just a little further with a "Suggest Blogs for this folder" feature and a separate "OPML" Feed for each Folder - it would make it much easier.

By the way, I've turned off NG Outlook and find I'm not missing a single thing thanks to the Online and Mobile editions of NGO. I LOVE Newsgator!

A truly interesting Scoble link

Trying to keep down the noise/signal ratio, I try not to link too much to Scoble because either :

a) everyone else already has
b) if it's a microsoft story, it's usually redundant because of COURSE he has the story (and although I'm interested- there's no sense in linking to it)
c) it's too much about Seattle and the West Coast which is nice but I'm not there so...
d) I'm just not interested
e) he no longer links to me - (KIDDING!)

But his no-GYM posts have been really quite fun. What I really enjoyed though was this blog about the SunShine movie and Gia Milinovich, who is blogging it here.

OK - it's a SCI-FI movie - so big time geek alert - and so the blog has lots of cool posts about Sci-Fi trivia (et al) but this post about suttirat (a new adjective and name of the costume designer) was so cool. She actually BUILT communicators. From the post:

"The comms units are a cool and geeky bit of kit. Suttirat got her inspiration for them from her Mac laptop, iPods and Army dog tags, which is evident when looking at them- two separate, but virtually identical sections with a ‘breathing’ blue light and rounded corners. They aren’t, however, just bits of plastic on string- they are actual, working communications units. The actors speak to each other through them" an example of true team collaboration (whoever though costume design could be geeky but "Though Suttirat designed them, they were made to work by the sound department."- is anyone in the cell phone industry listening?

I like the movie making process - it's so easy for everyone to get wrapped up into "it's the director and the actors and the writers" but there are so many little things that go on that actually explain why directors and producers take 90 minutes to thank everyone.

And hey! - she even has a podcast or at least an interview with Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy.

Thanks Robert for giving me a link to something that I otherwise would NEVER have found.

Scobleizer - Microsoft Geek Blogger � #65: Cool movie blog

Conferences: DevTeach - no Fox Tracks

Just found out this morning that DevTeach won't be offering a separate Fox track this year at all.

No - Jean-René isn't abandoning FoxPro but it's simply the economics of it - I imagine that with the last conference, there were a lot more sponsors and such from the DotNet world than from VFP and as a result, there's no loss there. The real factor is that not enough VFP developers were attending. I wasn't at the last show but it would appear that the VFP developer showing was fairly low.

That's really too bad for Fox developers as J-R puts on a great conference but not bad if you want to visit a great city and learn more about the internals of Visual Studio. I'm sure Markus and Kevin will do a great job of lining up great sessions.

So now you either consider Advisor DevCon, Southwest Fox or any of the amazing European and Australian conferences.

Hey Markus - how's the VFP Road Show looking? Maybe that would be a good thing to wrap into a VFP CodeCamp.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Found: Translating for Instant Messengers

This is interesting. I'm communicating with a Russian programmer through MSN Messenger using this Paralink Online Translation utility.

But the translation definitely needs some clarification but it works pretty well.

Know what I think? I think someone should come up with an IM client that does automatic translation.

Anyone know of one?

Update: Paralink has one. Very cool - not completely integrated but close.

Free Translation Online

Maybe Ray Ozzie can change Microsoft...

Boy, that "Microsoft is not evil" comment from BuzzOutLoud is going to continue to grow with Ray Ozzie's new stuff.

Microsoft's Simple Sharing Extension for RSS is being released under the Creative Commons license Attribution share-alike license.

And it answers one of my biggest complaints about the way Microsoft has done things for developers. To quote but we decided we’d never get short term network effects among products if we selected something complicated – even if it were powerful. What we really longed for was "the RSS of synchronization" ... something simple that would catch on very quickly.

That's the spirit!

What's funny is that he uses a Lotus Notes example to show what's he talking about:
Notefiles replicate by using a very simple mechanism based on GUID assignment, with clocks and tie-breakers to detect and deterministically propagate modifications. Something like this could easily be represented in XML.

Now we're talking!

Ray Ozzie: Really Simple Sharing

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Why hold competing conferences?

On Friday, I noted Andy Kramek's post about the timing of the next Advisor FoxPro Devcon which is scheduled for August 27-31 in Phoenix, Arizona which would appear to conflict with the Southwest conference in Tempe, Arizona a few weeks later.

Not only did I post about it, I also emailed my editor at Advisor asking if they were aware of the scheduling and why this might possibly be considered a bad move on part of the community.

Not only did I hear from them, I also heard from Ken Levy who wanted to assure me that "Microsoft has nothing at all to do with the dates, locations, or speaker selection at any VFP conference world wide, and that the VFP team is not involved in any decision making there". That's good news - in fact, he heard the news when he first arrived in Frankfurt.

So why would Advisor decide to do this? Well, for one, the FoxPro devcon isn't their only conference. As it turns out, they are offering several conferences: GroupWise, Access, .Net, Lotus, WebSphere , Sharepoint, ZenWorks at the same time, and the same location.

Some may say "hold it - I only want to attend a Fox-only conference" - for which there is the Southwest Conference and others. But as the last Foxpro survey suggested, Fox-only developers are rare - most developers, including myself, work with a variety of tools and just as the Visual Studio developers find cool features in FoxPro, it wouldn't be unheard of for FoxPro developers to find other cool features in other technologies. Ken went so far as to suggest that this is a good thing for FoxPro and Ken, I would agree with you - more people in the area may mean more people exposed to FoxPro and no, you likely can't plan your conference always around every single developer's plan.

So would you rather have a Foxpro Devcon in April of 2006 or August in Orlando? (they have other shows around there)

As I noted to Advisor, there are many FoxPro developers who like to play the conspiracy theory game (at the end of one FoxPro devcon, it was suggested that because they had not announced the next one, that maybe there wouldn't be one). And my original post may have suggested I was. I was not - and it was definitely not my intention to do so (hence my updates).

Fact is - there are a lot of developers in the world and there are a lot of great conferences, both for VFP and other technologies. Advisor puts on conferences for a lot of them. It's hard to get the facilities to put on conferences year after year - in fact, the cities that can hold them are only a handful if you want to hold them in great resorts as the Advisor folks usually do.

In this case, if you attend this one in Phoenix, you also get the chance to attend others as well.

And if you're looking for a Fox-only conference, then there's one right around the corner.

So why talk about it? Some might say you're just starting stuff up - but I say no. Maybe Advisor WASN'T aware of the conflicting schedules and maybe they should have been - but then by the same token, no one should jump to those conclusions. If, one believes (I do) in the concept of transparency and how it's changing the way business is run, then having these types of discussions can be valuable.

Let's be realistic - the conference season is notoriously (some may say thankfully) short, there are only so many days, so many weekends, so many hotels. If only I could spend my life visiting each one.

My original post

Friday, November 18, 2005

If you blog, support the EFF

Saw this on Anil Dash's site.

It's important to every single blogger out there today, even the ones who just want to talk tech. The US recently followed suit to Canada where any kind of commentary on a blog is akin to being a political contribution. I'm not typically political on this blog but I do want to support organizations who do stand for protecting our rights. The RIAA has shut down Mashuptown who went out of their way to promote the artist's iTunes records.

So why support the EFF? Because they are supporting you and your rights:
- blog anonymously
- keep sources confidential (think how Mini-Msft must feel)
- Fair use of intellectual property (you do quote sources don't you?)
- Allow Reader's Comments
- Freely blog about elections
- Blog about work (but be smart about it!)
- Access as media

Check out the EFF's How to Blog Safely guide.

Andy Disses the latest ILL-Advised Move - updated

First thing I heard of this Andy - I've been down in the weeds of work for the past few days but it certainly doesn't pass the smell test.

Hmmm...I'm an editor with FPA - wonder if they'll tell me why did this.

Sounds like a surefire way of getting out of the FoxPro conference business.

I know sometimes they've come back and said they were asked to organize their shows around other schedules such as launch, etc - I certainly hope no one from the MS Data Team has anything to do with this.

Update: I have been told by Ken that in this case, the timing had nothing to do with the MS Data team. I'll update more in a separate post.

FoxPro ILL-Advisor

Visual FoxPro software helps teen win MS Award

Great post Alex - glad you found this.

Figures that Visual FoxPro would help out in drag race software.

Alex Feldstein - Powered By Bloglines

Welcome Toni and Mike

Thanks Alex for pointing this out!

By the way, the RSS Feed for the F1 Technologies is hidden through Blogger but it's available here!

When does Mickey get his own Blog?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Need a Lat/Long for a US address? Now you can get it for free

You can access it as a web service, directly over the web or wherever.

I deal with a trucking software company and I always used to hear that this information wasn't freely available - so the data may be slightly out of date but being able to pull this so freely is great.

Pass it an address, city and state and it can come back to you in CSV or XML. a free US address geocoder

Bricklin's WikiCalc: Very Cool

Just saw this over on zdNet but then wanted to try it out.

I think David may be right when he talks about the potential of what this could do.

Wikis aren't just for group blogging or information - now you've got a live application for it as well.

Tod Nielsen gets around...

First PM at Microsoft, then SVP at Oracle and now CEO or Borland. Seeing as he had just become the SVP at Oracle in September.

Tod was the guy who I mentioned on the FoxShow at the same time as Jon Sigler who moved over to FileMaker.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Risk via Google Maps v0.9.5

Way too much fun with Google Maps.

Noted by Alan Bourke on the ProFox list.

Sony BMG caves to outcry, drops DRM software

Nice to see that with enough public outcry, Sony will react in the right manner.

I guess now I can cancel those "No Sony" buttons.

As noted:
The whole ugly affair has turned into a nightmare for Sony BMG, and deservedly so. People were understandably angry about Sony installing software on their system that would cripple Windows if they tried to remove it while giving other malware authors another route into their systems. Thomas Hesse, President of Sony BMG's Global Digital Business Division didn't help with his assertion that what people didn't know wouldn't hurt them. Well now they know, and Sony is the one left with egg on its face. Let's see what it comes up with next from its apparently bottomless bag of proprietary technology and bad DRM.
Sony BMG caves to outcry, drops DRM software

My life as a Code Economist

Eric Sink (Update: I previously said Eric Rice - who does AudioBlog, not SourceGear - thanks to Ranjith Anthony for recorrecting me) continues his posts, certainly qualifying him to have one of the most valuable site for software developers and managers. This one is on Testing, or debugging, or the horrors of shipping on Halloween.

Especially in the wake of Microsoft's launch of Visual Studio, this post is an exceptionally good read. He describes each bug with four qualifiers: frequency, severity, cost and risk. Sound obvious? Read it - print it and then send it to your nearest manager. This is an article worth reading especially when he compares levels of severity:

# The top of the graph represents a bug with extremely severe impact:
"This bug causes the user's computer to burst into flame."
# The bottom of the graph represents a bug with extremely low impact:
"One of the pixels on the splash screen is the wrong shade of gray."

How many times have you had to fix the BOTTOM issue BEFORE the top one?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thoughts from the Ottawa Rocking the Launch

So yesterday was the Ready to Launch event in Ottawa, celebrating the release of Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and the, uh, imminent release of BizTalk 2006.

No Wifi - (which I found really hard to believe at a tech event) - which meant the GPRS on my ipaq6315 got a good workout but because I don't have a good Pocket PC blogging tool for blogger (anyone know of one? - and no I don't mean moblogs - that's a PITA - I'll rant on that later)

OK - so we get the idea that they are ready to "Rock the launch" based on the music and the bouncing balls (where everyone applauds when they pop! - clean up crews must really like that).

Visual Studio Rocks - where have I heard that before? Back in 2004 and before...

Funniest pre-show comment: "do we have to watch this?" - one of the Microsofties who was managing registration (yes, likely a hired hand)

My first thoughts? Well, let's say 45 minutes on PowerPoint for a DEVELOPER launch? Jeff Zado and Craig Symonds should be burned at the crisp for that. They were READING their PowerPoints, the technology was glitchy - but hey! One slide managed to put a "Live Services" box around Windows, Office and more - good job so soon after Bill and Ray stillbirthed it.

I was about ready to scratch the whole keynote up to a waste until 43 minutes into it, John Bristowe , who is a Developer Advisor at MS Canada, saved the morning with a brief tour of what we were going to see. Thanks John - ya, you were rushed but you rocked it!

(On that note, I used to do the DevDays and PDC conferences in Ottawa. Back then, we used to complain that the video demo shown during the keynote always showed what we were going to show in the demos but at least they showed something. Note to Jeff and Craig - save the stats for the PHBs - as John noted - most of the people there were developers and wanted to see something.

Thankfully they got right into it after the first hour which made them 15 minutes late. Now you know what happens when your first presentation is 15 minutes late and you don't cut snowballs. (by the end of the day, they were almost an hour over).

Also you would think that after years of presenting, the Visual Studio guys would have realized what the Fox team did when they added the "Small, medium and Large" font options to the Property browser and Project manager - it makes it easier for people to see. No one changed the font on anything so it made it very difficult to see in the larger sessions. Not only that but their fictitious company had employee pictures that were so faint that John kept on referring to them as "ghosts".

I obviously spent the majority of my day in the DevTrack (which was ALWAYS packed - good job they opened it up to the big room for the Team System because they could have used it for all of the Dev Tracks).

John, along with Jerome Carron and Barry Gervin from ObjectSharp, did an excellent job going through the scripted demos. Watching a launch demo is always a bit surreal - as John noted - he felt like a cooking show where you pulled out the finished piece "right out of the oven", but the enthusiasm was definitely there.

Pop Quiz: What is the keyboard shortcut to compile in Visual Studio 2005? (constantly reminded by John - answer below)

Also had a great chance to talk with David Campbell from the Ottawa Dot Net community user group - Microsoft Canada has a really cool User Group challenge - note it's a PDF.

Anyways back on the actual products themselves - some very cool stuff - it's funny to see BizTalk still being promoted as much as it is. It's a great tool but I think Microsoft really missed their mark on it by waiting for partners to build the various adapters, especially when one common theme I kept hearing was that they took what everyone wanted and put it into the product but then still were relying on their partners (kind of like when they build in functionality that shuts down third party vendors but then still actively solicit more partnership innovations). The businesses I deal with still work with EDI - which is what XML and BizTalk was supposed to transplant - so a lot of BizTalk stuff always seems like "demo" as opposed to real world. That said, Ottawa has a lot of BizTalk experts so maybe I'm just bummed about not being able to use it in day to day work.

BizTalk 2006 certainly does look like it will make some of this pain go away - but not everyone deals with XML just yet - which is too bad. The "new" Flat file import wizard reminds me of every File Import wizard in other MS tools but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Now while a lot of focus these days has been on the new stuff coming down the Orcas pipe, the Whidbey and Yukon tools really do offer a lot. Once you've mastered Try/Catch in VFP, having it in SQL Server seems so obvious - and the native support for an XML Data type made me wish we had that directly in VFP. No, it's not as cool as the XML object type in VB 9, but it is still very cool. And while VFP developers always hear moaning about the 2GB database limit, it was quite funny to hear John and Barry gush about the new Max specifier with up to '2GB' for storage. (yes, I know it's at the field level but it struck me just the same)

Although having CLR support in SQL server I think is great, I worry about onset of versionitis since the DLL is essentially put into the database itself. I guess we'll see how popular that approach becomes but I am very excited about the possibilities it opens up.

The Team System overview helped provide a clearer picture as to all of the offerings that companies or MSDN subscribers get to choose from. If you like to draw pictures and flowcharts, get Architect. If you like to code, get Developer and well, testing - the built-in web testing recorded, etc, and the load testing is very cool but certainly the code analyzers and tools in the Developer part are going to be well-used. (note for FoxPro developers - these are similar to the tools that either a) exist or b) are being discussed in the SednaX project). Certainly the big push is on for the new Source Control tool. Yes, it's in SQL server (boy, I hope the SourceSafe team has their flak jackets on for these sessions - they really came down on how many things SourceSafe was missing)

I do really like the ability of the tie-ins to Work Items and policies. The Project Admin sets a check-in policy and it's "enforced" - well, until you let someone override it.

At the launch, they have this section called Ask the Experts where a bunch of MVPs and softies hang out to answer questions which was great. I asked Nick G. about how SourceControl notifies people about changes - hoping for the great RSS answer -
turns out - no it's not built in - but they're sure someone will do it because the entire platform is open. So do it now but expect to see it built into a future version because apparently, they DO have notification happening at Microsoft but they don't have it in the product. I smell service pack?. Also in the Experts section was John Marshall, a Visio MVP. Think we have a bad time? Visio hasn't had a real update since 1998 and now they're taking away features. He had been down to the MVP summit where there were only two of them. The Visio team is about 150 strong (including management). What's the VFP comparison? How many MVPs to Fox team size?

Sadly, I could only sit through the final Smart Client/Web development session before they talked about WinForms, instead focusing on the great improvements in ASP.Net 2.0. So I also missed my chance to win some new gaming tool that MS is launching soon.

Immediate thoughts:
Master Pages -> hopefully this will be the implementation idea that takes hold because none of the past ones have really been successful.
GridView -> Awesome
Code Snippets -> ummm....this is what Intellisense in VFP needs - or can do - or both - kind of like taking the Snippets from the Toolbox right into Intellisense. Awesome implementation.
Better DataBinding -> Yes - finally!
Wizard overload - wow there are still an awful lot of wizards for stuff - seems like mostly in BizTalk but still seems like way too many.

These launch tours are a great idea and if you haven't signed up for it, you definitely want to. Note: if you are going, be sure to wear some old MS stuff- they are searching for people wearing old Visual Studio shirts, buttons, etc to give cool stuff too.

Yes, it's a tour - the demos will be scripted - the samples will be very basic - but despite an auspicious start, John, Jerome and Barry did an awesome job at demonstrating their enthusiasm for the product. In a lot of the FoxShows, I asked should developers wait for better data access in Orcas and the answer is always, no - jump in now, VS 2005 is a good way to get into it. It definitely has a lot of great tools and the ASP.Net 2.0 stuff definitely rocks.

interesting thought - nothing in the IDE jumped out that said "we can't do this in FoxPro" and it left me thinking of what Rick Strahl notes in the next FoxShow (should be out today) that it would be really nice if the Sedna focus was made on ensuring that Fox applications looked like real Windows apps. You can easily make the Fox IDE look like VS and Fox's intellisense still is way above anything else - so now it's just a matter of making the actual apps look that real.

I walked away very pumped.

Hope your last name isn't Bryant...(or Guei)

Wow - it's moved from Nigeria to the UK now...just got an email
"My name is Susan Bryant, I am an artist with my husband Tommy Bryant, We own Sus Art World in London(United Kingdom)I live in London United Kingdom, with my two kids, four cats, one dog and the love of my life my husband Tommy Bryant."

and of course it goes on to say "I'll give you 10%" for every transaction on my money orders"...

Well it's to be expected - Microsoft said they would work with Nigeria to crack down on it - so now the spammers move around.

Shakespeare needs to be updated: First you kill all the lawyers, then the spammers, then the phishers...

Update: (and now an email from Sarah Guei from Cote d Ivoire as well. I really do feel for the people whose names actually match the spammers - they must show up on every no-receive list everywhere)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Loyalty to Visual FoxPro: the SednaX Generation

Priceless -
Korby Parnell's Gotdotnet Wunderkammer : Loyalty to Visual FoxPro: the SednaX Generation: "May you stay long, do great things, and spread the good word about CodeGallery. Note: gotdotnet will be down today for a significant upgrade."

Don't stop the discoverability - on that note, I'll be at the Ottawa Visual Studio Launch tour today - not sure if I'll blog it, podcast it or picture it - or all of the above.

Could be fun...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How many lines of code is ideal for your program?

While looking at the refactoring project over on SednaX, I found myself writing up some quick little code analyzer classes designed to see whether or not a function should be refactored or not.

Looking at that chart, it shows FoxPro has some numbers like 35 single lines of code per function. Wow - that seems low but maybe not.

So tell me - what do you consider to be the ideal number of lines per code / function for readability, maintainability in your programs?

Take the Poll and let me know...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 E-Learning

While the jury may still be out as to the overall quality of Visual Studio, there's still not an excuse not to learn it.

Microsoft E-learning is offering FREE courses and clinics (for 90 days) on all aspects of VS for both Web and Desktop based development.

Have to sign up soon though - offer ends Nov 17th.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fwd: why use vfp? reliability

hmmm...wonder what rss reader he's using....while i'm about ready to
toss newsgator outlook - outlook and the pst file is just way too slow
- newsgator online rocks!!

Dilbert boss syndrome -how sad...

is that ever sad...been there though - the cosmetic part is always true,though

how many foxpro developers have a similar story due to the reality of
the vfp native interface?

"why can't it look like a windows app?"

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A slideshow is worth a thousand pictures

Late last month, I made a post about FilmLoop, and someone noted that Slide has been doing it for a while as well. Then I went to Nial Kennedy's photos from the Live event and saw a show done via Flickr.

Reminds me of blogging tools - so many companies doing similar things, competing - which is good, right, Ted?

Now, FilmLoop has drag and drop but you have to download a player, Slide also has a player/intergration tool wih a sidebar. The tool you use is the one you like - but I really enjoy the concept of the slideshows over going to personal web sites and having to choose the pictures to view.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

FoxTabs beta available

Awesome! STILL beta - but then what isn't beta? Every software obviously required more testing when it breaks when you need it the most.

Great stuff guys!

I LOVE the Recent Files option - only what's that Solutions popup for?

Craig Bailey's thoughts: VFP: FoxTabs beta available

Primate Programming(tm) Inc

This is old but hilarious!
Got this from FoxPro.Catalyst - as quoted
Visual Basic 6.0 ™ was the preferred IDE for the majority of experiment primate subjects.

Primate Programming(tm) Inc

TechCrunch � Windows Live - More than an AJAX Desktop

Yeah, ok so they have some stuff like VOIP integration - but it's not there yet. It's "coming" in the future.

So what the purpose of the demo? Was it worth the negative press to show stuff that isn't ready for primetime?

Windows Live Ideas � Page d'accueil de Andrew

Uh - how do I explain this to Americans...especially those who are behind building

Just because someone is from Canada does NOT mean they only speak French.

I sign into thinking this will be the second coming (despite the reviews) - hmmm...decidely underwhelmed....but then I say, maybe what's new will have something.

Oh they have something - in french. Now I'm not sure why - maybe because I said I wanted the weather in Ottawa, but the rest of the site is in English - is it something weird with my profile? (wouldn't be the first time)

But worse - you can't change it to English. What's up with that? (and before you ask, YES my settings were set to English (UNITED STATES).

Anyways - I'll hold off on final judgement but definitely underwhelmed. Even Google home page provides more right off the bat and that's been out for a while....

Come on guys - EXCITE ME - the dev teams' work on LINQ shows that you have a lot of exciting stuff coming - was Live worth the demo?

Gadgets are cool - uh, like Konfabulator and Google desktop....I'm with Dave.
"We need Google to get some serious competition, and Microsoft is one of the places that can come from. (Apple and Yahoo are the others.) But they're going to have to do much more than they did today."

Hmmm...maybe Office Live will be worth it. But based on what I've seen, they just aren't getting it. Others may think otherwise so what am I missing?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Microsoft's Linux lab and view on open source software

Greg Hughes (via Malcolm Greene on ProFox) has a link to
Microsoft's Linux lab and view on open source software - a recorded session with Bill Hilf, who runs Microsoft's Linux and Open Source Software technology group (yes, you read that right!)

Monday, October 31, 2005

Rainer Becker's the new FoxTalk editor

As noted on David's blog, FoxTalk is getting a new editor. Before anyone jumps to any conspiracy theories, take a listen to David's interview on the FoxShow where he explains why it was time to pass the torch.

In an upcoming show we'll talk to Rainer as well as he gets prepared for the 12th dFPUG conference.

Ruby on Rails chases simplicity in programming

Great article on Ruby on Rails, the environment that 37 signals uses for BaseCamp and Backpack among others.

While I continue to hear about this framework to help web developers be more productive, I find myself thinking very much about West-Wind WebConnect 5.0, still in beta and the buzz that was generated at the Southwest Fox conference about it.

No, they aren't the same thing (one is open source, the other isn't) - but the key goals are the same - simplicity in web development.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

VB + VFP = VB.Net 9?

Ken's latest blog entry raises some interesting points - 1) he's taking part in a chat on VB 9 Language Enhancements on Nov 1. We all know that the VFP team is working with the other groups especially as it pertains to data so this may be a good opportunity to hear more about it.

But perhaps more importantly is the following comment:

Parts of Sedna will be written in VB 9.0, and our current plans are to include all of the source code (VFP, VB, C++, etc.) of Sedna with Sedna.

And then considering his comment in the October newsletter about attempts to make aspects of the VFP source available and then also possibly making a change in the EULA to make it distributable...

Combine that with the SednaX project and you have a very COOL open community (not open source) initiative.

It will be interesting to see what (if any) other features from VFP show up in the VB 9 language.

Friday, October 28, 2005

VS & SQL Server 2005 Available

Craig notes it here and I just got my MSDN flash telling me so....this must be why the MSDN Subscription downloads page is SO SLOW this morning....

Congratulations to all teams involved - the first of many releases that MS has coming

I, for one, certainly hope Rick's last issue is dealt with - nothing worse than telling us versionitis is going away only to have it come back.

Ok guys - enough time in the sun - get back in and finish off Orcas

I agree with the B-man -
"We just can't make our customers wait three or four years for the things which should have been on more interim cycles," (Balmer) said at last week's Gartner Symposium/IT Expo in Orlando. "

DevBlog: VS & SQL Server 2005 Available

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The End of an Era at SourceGear

Great article on the memories that an office building can hold, especially as you prepare to leave it. Even if you can get wi-fi on a hog farm.

The End of an Era

The Fox Show needs a cool graphic

Any budding artists (or companies who have used a good Fox logo recently ) - I need a good logo for the Fox Show.

I'm thinking of a cartoon Fox listening to a headset or a stylized logo with the Fox logo.

Anyways shoot me an email at foxshow / if you have some ideas.


Some caveats here:

1. It can't use the MS Fox Head logo (that's copyrighted - since the show is Creative Commons - the logo can't use copyrighted stuff)

2. While I was thinking of using this :

I would rather something a little more "serious" - although it can certainly be fun.

Photo Blogging Gets Looped

FilmLoop is a new player that Guy Kawasaki noted in his Garage list. It's interesting - they call it photo broadcasting - sounds a lot like Flickr but the take is different. The slides are done in a nice looping show that you can add your own pictures to as you go through it.

Adding your own Loop - it's very cool - and easy to do - just add a bunch of pictures. People can comment on each one (like Flickr) but the slideshow context is a very neat idea.

And there are sponsors throughout to help make it worthwhile. I just wish there was sound....

FilmLoop is here
FilmLoop Invitation from Guy Kawasaki

VFP gets feedback

Ken posted it yesterday but VFP is now part of the MSDN Product Feedback center. So what does that mean?

Well this means you can submit bug reports, ERs, etc directly to the Fox team directly through this site, you can review existing bugs, etc.

And hey! Emerson Reed and j_h_p_l were the first to take them up on it.
What's especially cool are the stats

41627 registered users
9282 suggestions
20063 bugs

Active Feedback
1192 suggestions
2988 bugs

Is there any way we can get that shown to be specific to a product or technology like, say, VFP?

All in all, another example of how, as Craig says, Microsoft IS supporting Visual FoxPro.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ok, say it with me... "Not For Resale."

One quote should be enough to get the gist of this post:

So let me try to make this VERY simple for anyone "on the fence" over what NOT FOR RESALE means... It means, "NO YOU CANNOT SELL THIS SOFTWARE!"

I guess that would be kind of like those signed personalized copies of Visual Studio or XP that some individuals got that were promptly offered up to the highest bidder.

Microsoft Small Business Community Blog : Ok, say it with me... "Not For Resale."

OzFoxRocks - Direct link

Craig and Scott had some issues with bandwidth so we're sharing the duties over here - download the Australian FoxPro Podcast from our FoxShow mirror site here

Great show!

Ah - I see I didn't need to mirror it. Oh well - I'll remove it after the other one is reloaded.

Google getting into the online database market?

Now this could get interesting...wonder where the API is.

Of course, Google's official word was "We think it's an exciting product, and we'll let you know when there's more news."

� Google Base - Web 2.0 Central: Web2.0, Ajax, Beta, Alpha, Startup, Companies

Alex Feldstein - Unscatched

Glad to hear it, Alex.

Alex Feldstein - Powered By Bloglines

Comments in Regular Expressions

Now this is something that would be really valuable when trying to make code readable. Granted, once you understand regular expressions, you probably don't need them - but still I'm glad Claudio was able to explain that @"^(?=.*\d)(?=.*[a-z])(?=.*[A-Z]).{8,10}\s$ isn't just a new swear word.

Claudio Lassala in Software Development: Can you please put some comment on that Regular Expression?!

Ted notes VFP in eWeek

Quote from Stephen Vaughn - Nichols:
I haven't been a big fan of personal database programs for a long time now. The only one out there these days that I care for at all is Microsoft's Visual FoxPro. Yes, I can say good things about Microsoft products—when they really are good.

Great quote - thanks Ted.
Ted's Radio Weblog

Ken's been busy posting....

Ken's got a variety of posts including a link to the Southwest keynote, some hints on accessing VFP 9's Report XML output, the PDC 2005 video, speaking at the Seattle Code Camp and Tamar's new Taming VFP SQL book.

Also, almost missed this but there's a new case study as well, where they talk about automating Visio with VFP. Hey! didn't I write about that somewhere?

Ken Levy's Blog

Who was that masked man? (correction)

- UPDATE: It was Tod Neilsen -

In Fox Show #28, I was commenting on how Jon Sigler is now working a FileMaker and there was another name from the past who was front and center at a recent Oracle Developer's conference. In the show, I threw out the name Robert Green, which is wrong. Ken Levy has pointed that out to me.

But does anyone recall the news story? So much for the power of Google and search - it was a very short story but the essence was "developers must have done a double-take when they saw ________ at the recent Oracle conference"

Thanks for the correction, Ken - now who was that masked man? It was Tod Nielsen.

See here and here - uh, unless you can read Chinese you won't have much luck with that last one - but funny enough, the English version didn't turn up on Google but hey wow! Google's translation did a good job - "Tod Nielsen is the Oracle whole world sale support and market department vice- President".

Too bad I can't find the original story.