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Showing posts from September, 2006

Usability Testing with UserVue: A mixed bag

Every developer loves to test, right? Well, ok, maybe some more than others. But when you're introducing a new product or trying out a new user interface, it's always valuable to get user feedback and see how it all works out.

Now, Microsoft and other larger companies have "usability labs", big rooms with two-way mirrors and video recorders, but this is usually out of the realm of possibility for most companies. TechSmith, makers of Camtasia, Snagit had introduced Morae a few years back which was a desktop-tool that made it easy. They now have introduced a new tool named UserVue, that offers remote user testing.

I did up a quick screencast on how it works. It's very cool, intuitive and very non-intrusive.

There's no question it's a valuable tool - but I do have some issues with it:

1. Markers are for Morae use only. I've told Techsmith about this and I will continue to harp on it. Without making markers available to the user directly from the web interfa…

Kevin is Certifiably certified!

Great idea, Kevin - Kevin Ragsdale : Get Certified... Today!

And No - it's not a misleading headline (headlines should be provocative but shouldn't be misleading)

Especially seeing as how Microsoft has stopped running certification exams for Visual FoxPro, the CVFPE is a great new program to run with.

So that would make people a PHD,MVP,MCP,MCSD,CVFPE.

Love the idea and as Kevin notes, the requirement is that you talk about FoxPro. "Recognize the fact that every development tool/language has it's pros and cons (including our beloved FoxPro)"

Wallflower, indeed.

Misleading Headlines Sink Reviews

OK - it may be early in the morning and maybe I'm just peeved but I'm getting tired of poor headlines. Maybe it's because you see headlines more now than ever, thanks to RSS feeds - or maybe it's Gmail's use of putting "web clips" on the top of the Inbox but I think anyone who makes a post owes it to their readers to make the headline reflect the story. Take, for example, the latest Wired News story:
Software Sinks Sansa

Then read the review. "And while my initial impression of SanDisk's Sansa e280 was cheap and nasty, it's grown on me, "

"SanDisk is the only company to present Apple with any real competition."

"But Rhapsody's interface is clean and well laid out."

"then it got ugly" - really?

The complaint? The player wouldn't play Unbox videos or anything with DRM. Hello? Most people who have tried Amazon unBox have already said "Stay away". And DRM? Well, that's not Sansa's fault - tha…

Craig Bailey's thoughts on life and Visual FoxPro: O07: Office 2007 Technical Refresh Thoughts

Craig Bailey gives a great rundown of features to be found in the latest Office 2007 Technical Refresh.

I'm glad he did this because while he identifies the good, he also identifies the bad (Project 2007 being hosed, among others), the ugly (Visio Startup) and the just plain "huh".

I had the beta on my laptop and unfortunately, that box lives on gmail and the web mostly so I've only had to use it a few times. One thing I hope they have fixed is their backward compatibility with Word 2003. I'm still out as to whether I'll do a full upgrade or even recommend it. As Craig notes, when some features aren't "backwards compatible so you are limited in who you can send it to" - this will really limit to how much it gets used. Microsoft should spend the resources and put together a web-based or free download tool to allow viewing of these files as they used to do. (if one already exists, then I've missed it)

Thanks Craig!

Unblocking Outlook

Ever had one of those days when you receive email from another programmer who didn't zip his files and as a result, you get left with Outlook saying:
"Outlook blocked access following potentially unsafe attachments ..."

There's a registry hack to get around this but why bother playing with the registry when someone or something else can do it for you?

It's free and it works really well. Even shows you a list of what those extensions are listed as to make it easier.

And it automatically restarts Outlook so your changes will take effect. (this was always a pain for me because even if you exit Outlook, if you use ActiveSync, it keeps running)

Go NewsGator Go

NewsGator Go goes live any day now thanks to all the great work by Kevin Cawley and the other NG team.

I've been using the beta for the past few months and I love it.

No - it doesn't do everything (auto sync and podcast support) but it is an awesome way to read my posts - so much easier than viewing it on the web. I now just sync and take my posts with me and then when I get back, re-sync on my Ipaq and all the posts I read are updated.

The Clipping feature is also totally awesome.

Newsgator has been doing a lot more "business" announcements recently (their link to NBC and Newsweek is is great news for RSS) so I am very happy to see new products coming from them as well.

The downside? It's not being put into the regular Newsgator offerings. I wish it was like the NewsGator email and other items but the $30 is definitely money well spent if you have a PocketPC device and read feeds.

Now I just want to see the podcasting support that Kevin had been working on earlier. W…

Would you pay to see something you've already read?

Rick notes that Conference blogging catching on - which is good and then he raises good points - some of which I struggle with every time a conference comes up - mainly why not stream or record these sessions?

Conferences want to be held and have attendees. Yet, as many developers note, getting to the conference isn't always possible. As Rick notes "But if the material is accessible about half the incentive to attend will be removed and conference will completely evaporate."

This brings us to the economics of conferences. While we all like the idea of spectacles, the main reason for an attendee to be at a conference is to learn.

Does a conference have to be at a resort? No - but without one, as John Koziol pointed out, "there's no natural watering hole to gather to at night;". Also, while there are a number of speakers who are true "road warriors" during conference season, not everyone , wants to travel and live in a hotel - thus a resort makes …

Would you pay to see something you've already read?

Rick notes that Conference blogging catching on - which is good and then he raises good points - some of which I struggle with every time a conference comes up - mainly why not stream or record these sessions?

Conferences want to be held and have attendees. Yet, as many developers note, getting to the conference isn't always possible. As Rick notes "But if the material is accessible about half the incentive to attend will be removed and conference will completely evaporate."

This brings us to the economics of conferences. While we all like the idea of spectacles, the main reason for an attendee to be at a conference is to learn.

Does a conference have to be at a resort? No - but without one, as John Koziol pointed out, "there's no natural watering hole to gather to at night;". Also, while there are a number of speakers who are true "road warriors" during conference season, not everyone (ok, just me
So it's a tough call. Hold it at a resort a…

Every programmer shall have two monitors - I disagree

While I love the concept of Alex Feldstein: The Programmer's Bill of Rights, I disagree with the first point.

Two monitors? How many USERS/CLIENTS do you know that have two monitors? I deal with a partner who uses two monitors regularly. The result? A bloody pain in the butt every time I try to support them.

I agree - it's cool, it's geeky but it's NOT THE NORMAL ENVIRONMENT THAT USERS SUFFER WITH.

Yes, I said it - SUFFER - users SUFFER with their hardware. Fast - developers need it, comfortable - absolutely - but at least deal with reality.

I remember when Calvin spoke about his notebook in fairly "obvious" terms (not a slight against Calvin, more against the norm) - 4 GB RAM, this was back at the 2002-03 Devcon. Hello? His comment, I remember, ("not that much improved" - or something similar) drew groans from the crowd.

I agree - spoil your developers - but they still need to sit in the world of user reality.

Why FoxPro Survives...

Quote from John Koziol: "I also wanted to get across how seriously we took customer wish lists and bug reports. For practical reasons, we had to say "no" to 10 suggestions for every one we took. Some people over time saw this as favoritism and I always felt bad about that and wanted to set that record straight.

Finally, at the Q&A, I wanted to stress that VFP survives and thrives not because of the amount of marketing that MS does for it, but on the sheer ingenuity and professionalism of VFP developers. And that's going to always be that way. The community does not give itself enough credit, IMHO."

John - great post (hidden among other comments) - hopefully that makes a lot of things more understandable.

I remember a Devcon when one dev said "that's my ER!" - and it was a true sentiment - yes, many others may have had a similar ER - but it is truly an awesome feeling when you see your input received.

This is why VFPX exists (and VFPY for that matt…

Ok Markus! I get it - I have to unsubscribe

Damn it, Markus! I hate to say it but I'm loving your travel
blog.

I only hate to say it because Trish and I are locked in a home with animals that require our constant attention - but I do love your very amazing descriptions of the places you and Ellen are visiting.

I saw Pompeii's aftermath when it visited our own Museum of Civilization but I am so glad I subscribed - and those who love to hear about different places should as well (despite the title of this post).

THANK YOU.

MarkusEgger.com - Travel and International Living Blog

FoxForward Starts...

Hey there Kevin , I hope the FoxForward FoxPro conference goes well. I'm looking forward to as many live blogs from the show as possible.

Oh yeah, and everyone should take the opportunity to say Hi to Kevin and congratulate him on those awesome VFP videos! What videos? These videos.

And hey wow! There's a video as well for Southwest - wish I had seen that earlier.

Eric Sink on Code Coverage

Another must read by Eric Sink - this time explaining the hows and why of code coverage

Makes me really wish for a good automated testing tool for FoxPro. Yes, there's FoxRunner but the UI still isn't clean enough (at least for me or my application is just too funky for it). It always seems that good automated tools like that work great for "well-architected" applications but they don't do a good job on older applications that are the ones that really need the coverage.

Stuart has a good Tone

Stuart's post about Tone is a great read.

After reading it, I found myself thinking of one older application I have where, indeed, it says "Your record has been saved." when the user clicks Save.

New UI design isn't just happening in Vista - it's something we can (and should) practice every day. It's not just about making the application look good, but also making it friendlier for end-users.

Fox Sighting: What Next?

So now that you've spotted the Fox and downloaded FoxPro, where do you go?

I remember seeing this on a lot of different newsgroups as well when you get new MSDN subscribers or when Visual Studio.Net came out - where do I learn about FoxPro?

There are a number of places. Craig did a great set of videos about learning Visual FoxPro, Andy Kramek has a set of wonderful articles about best practices. I've put them all together on Learning Visual FoxPro.

Do you have others? Let me know and we can ensure the links get added there.

Of course, another great resource is the Wiki.

More Tips for Kevin

Rick put up some good pointers for Kevin but didn't answer one of his nightmares : speaking to an empty room.

While I can't say what it means to speak to a completely empty room, I do know that some of the BEST sessions I've attended have been sparsely attended. Why? Because the speaker said "Forget about the big screen, let's sit around and watch it on the laptop" - and between three people, went through the real content, got valuable information and the speaker got new ideas about how to make the session even better.

Yes - well attended sessions always feel good and provide lots of opportunity for feedback - but sparsely attended sessions can also be very valuable.

And of course, you can run through the material and THEN check out the other session

This is the first though that I heard about John Koziol's session - wow - that would be a must-see.

Kevin Ragsdale : FoxForward is One Week Away

Remembering 9/11

A t-shirt , a word, a picture, a memory - everyone has their own personal memory of this day, five years ago.

Preparing for my morning DevCon session in San Diego, I had decided to be up early and was working in the session room when the first plane hit.

Trish has commented on how she felt fortunate not to have seen it all happen in real time (PDT vs. EDT). I went up to our room before my session began and told her to turn on the TV. Everything was over by then - and the rest was just beginning. I would agree except that I was there in "real time", receiving instant messages from a North Carolina office and attempting to view the front page on MSNBC. I wasn't watching television so I had no view on watching the destruction until later but giving the 8am session and coming out to a hallway filled with tears, TV monitors and more was an experience I will never forget.

That Devcon was incredibly surreal - I imagine, for everyone there. Dinner in the Gaslight District a few da…

Apple's design kills my own "multi-functional hand-held"

As I look over at these drawings, I went over to my filing cabinet and pulled out a rendition I had done up over 15 years ago (maybe even longer - it was before I was doing Fox stuff) of what I thought should be Apple's first "mobile" device. ( I was going to scan it but then thought better of it since Apple's lawyers would probably be all over the "Apple" logo I thought looked cool on it).

Keyboard? Who needs one. From my spec: "A speech digitizer and microphone would record users' comments for layer playback or communications with other users via modem. Microphone would be activated by pressing either of the side buttoms making it easy for both left and right handed people. Speech would be sampled allowing for clear but not stereo quality...compression similar to MACE...one pressed, a control on the screen would relay the digitized message back through the headset or a small speaker"

Oh yeah - but a hand drawn note then said "Extra jack c…

Developer Night in Canada

Cue the tunes... The Microsoft Developer group in Canada is touring the country, mainly touting Atlas and AJAX.

Yes, the Atlas stuff may not be directly for FoxPro developers but the AJAX stuff definitely can be. I've been doing a bunch of stuff with AJAX and some COM components and it totally rocks. If you are building web-based applications, then it might be a good idea to try and attend.

The original note said they weren't hitting a lot of cities but the list currently hits 17 cities (it hits Toronto three times).

John Bristowe's Weblog : [Events] Developer Night in Canada (DNIC) User Group Tour

Craig Asks for another call to action

Craig,

Of course with conference season upon us, one would think that the blogosphere would be PACKED with posts but sadly, Rick was one of the only ones who jumped on it.

But part of the issue I find with Tiobe is: which counts more? VFP, FoxPro, Fox, etc? As well, other tracking sites just don't do some of us justice. Don't try looking for FoxPro in technorati - it never shows recent posts from me , as well as others - despite my being one of the first FoxPro people to sign up.

Check out the posts regarding the great XFRX tool.

But on a more serious front, what can one do?

1. Add your posts and links of interest to del.icio.us. It's a free tagging service and it does increase buzz (which is really what TIOBE is all about)

2. Post any and all of your thoughts on the matter. I will bet that 90% of FoxPro developers are a lot like J Osborn who may feel a bit guilty, but has the right idea about posting about what they're doing.

3. User group members : BLOG about your meetings.…

Facebook Revolt - imeem alternatives?

When Scoble noted how Facebook under major revolt , I immediately thought of a site I found yesterday. The value offered by Facebook's feeds however do seem very cool - if only they had been smart and made them opt-in, instead of opt-out.

I have been impressed though with Facebook's opening of their API's - they certainly get it that they need to open it up to developers.

I haven't really explored this other site, beyond my first look. In some ways, I think the whole social networking site thing is just silly , but this site (imeem) definitely showed some value.

I could find music (as posted by the artist), it worked in Firefox and it allowed people to rank, add to delicious and more. And when I'm looking at someone, I can see what they're up to (or rather what they allow us to see).

Anyways, you may want to check it out.

Using BINDEVENT to ease FoxPro Grid issues

BINDEVENT is one of those great FoxPro commands that you never think of until you need it but when you do, you really appreciate it and you'll want to immediately refactor your code (hmmm- this sounds like a good Refactoring rule for the Code Analyst).

I was updating a client's older VFP system that used a lot of grids with RightClick methods. Lots of older programs do the same thing: putting code directly into the rightclick method of each columns' Text1 control. It's a real pain later on - especially if you ever reset the recordsource (which rebuilds the columns from scratch). In addition, if you use Page Up and Page Down to scroll through the various pieces of code, you get to see each individual column's method, which can get very tedious if you have a lot of grids.

Now, when you use BINDEVENT, it's a lot less code and a lot easier to manage. I put the actual rightclick code into a method either on the form or grid and then just do:

FOR EACH loColumn IN THIS.…

Thank you Rick

Rick Schummer did a great job covering the FoxPro DevCon and you can see all of his results here.

Shedding Some Light: Advisor DevCon - Wrap up

Day 3

Day 2

Day 1

Hope you have an awesome Labor day and thanks again!

Short of streaming or podcasting the event, this was great.

On a DevCon note, I was kind of sad about the turnout - I heard from an attendee that he felt it was kind of depressing because in the past, DevCons were where you could see all the new cool stuff. Now with VFPX and Sedna being "transparent", many developers had already seen it.

I'm of mixed thoughts on this - I would hope that MS pulled out a little bit more "cool stuff" but then after reading Craig's thoughts on TechEd, maybe not. I always look at Devcons as being about the enthusiasm and from the sounds of it from Rick's posts, many of those FoxPro sessions had it.


Thanks again, Rick!