Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why VFP Developers should look at SW Fox 2013

For 10 years now, the Southwest Fox conference has served as a great gathering for FoxPro developers, looking for insight, ideas and inspiration on moving their development applications and skills forward. Over the years, there have been spotlights on moving VFP applications into the cloud, onto mobile, integrate better with .Net and lots of other technologies.

While Visual FoxPro isn't receiving internal code updates from Microsoft, Visual FoxPro (or VFPX) continues to grow into a larger tool in the developer's arsenal. While Thor continues to deliver more power in the actual FoxPro IDE, new interface features grow what FoxPro applications can actually do.

But the core of FoxPro (fast and efficient database access) remains - and for all the tools or applications provided with Oracle or SQL Server or Postgres or whatever, VFP still provides the best data access environment that I've ever worked in. That means for developers who still need to deliver solutions, VFP will still be in demand. It may not be the "development language" for the next application nor will the DBF be the database - but the concepts behind accessing data and the extensibility keeps the product compelling.

How is that possible? When you run software in a corporate environment, IT departments liked to lay claim and identify the software they wanted to support. Typically, that meant whichever software was a) sold into the department by vendors (Oracle/MS) and b) understood by the most recent IT hire. Today, the corporate world has evolved - it's run more efficiently. People don't care as much as what software is developed in or with, they care that it works. That's not to say, they didn't care before - but I've seen government departments spend four-five times as much on new development to replace an older working technology and STILL not get the same result. Now the focus is on efficiency. If someone had told a corporate department that they would be running with a free database server 15-20 years ago, they would have been escorted politely out of the room. Today, it's all about what works.

Smaller businesses (as opposed to Fortune 500/Government) has always been about what works - that's why you found the smaller tools with greater reach. I remember one of the first times I saw West-Wind Web Connection (or what was to become the web connection), it was the power behind one of the first online retailers, handling thousands of transactions with ease. I've heard rumours there are even some FoxPro DOS applications still in use today in Europe. Most development today isn't even about the latest tools -> you can write an application today in Notepad  - it's about HTML5, CSS and Javascript (check out the latest IOS7 mockup done in with just this , including icons).

At the same time, new software is constantly sprouting up. New databases, new extensions, new technologies, new cloud ideas, open-source environments, new environments ---- all of these make for exciting times for developers. SWFox also features a co-conference with Alaska Software, who have breathed new like into older Clipper applications with xBase++. In one of my sessions, we're going to highlight a lot of these new environments and how VFP developers can leverage their experience and expertise in these new tools.

Registration for this year's conference is wide open but they have an early-bird deadline coming up that ends on July 1st ($670, which includes a Pre-Con session - a steal considering some conferences are still going at $2500). Check it out at Southwest Fox 2013.






5 comments:

Rick C. Hodgin said...

I think the cost is not accurate. $670 for the event, plus lost development (billable) time, plus additional expenses while there. It would likely be closer to $2500.

In 2013 there are a lot of online possibilities which are nearly free. I think it would be better to pursue those. More people could present. In more languages. More countries. It would give everyone a chance to contribute to something which could become a very valuable centralized VFP video resource.

In my personal opinion, the days of the big event fly-ins are numbered.

Andrew MacNeill said...

Good point, Rick. I was simply referring to the cost of the event.

The real question would be when you leave the event, will it have been worth $2500? Will the ideas you experience there inspire $2500 worth of innovation?

That IS a very tough question and it really comes down to how people treat the conference.

Re the online aspect, a few years ago (um,,maybe even 10 years ago), I really wanted to see better online conferences - the logistics made it very difficult - but it's still something that I would love to see happen.

If you have some ideas as to which online tool would work best, I'd love to have that discussion. I've used WebEx as it worked best back then.

SW Fox does have a feedback loop and I'm sure they would love to hear from you in this regard.



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