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Showing posts from June, 2007

So many conferences, so little time...

In my ideal world, I would be able to attend just about every conference out there - Gnomedex, Advisor DevCon, Southwest Fox, FoxForward, dFPUG and more. Realistically, it's hard for a number of reasons : work, expenses, time, family. I'm always a big promoter of conferences putting some of their sessions online as well, even if it costs something. There's value in conferences even if all the attendees can't get there.  Southwest is going to have a business track which is great - especially because of the number of small business or independent consultants in the FoxPro community.

The Business of Software Conference , coming in San Jose in October, looks like another one that a lot of people would get something out of. It's got a nice mix of developers (Eric Sink, Joel Spolsky), some marketing people, one of my favorite speakers and also Bill Buxton, who has a GREAT session (you can see him speak at the Boston CHI session which is available online)

It's …

Need an online Wiki? Check out Zoho

FoxPro developers should be fairly familiar with Wikis - after all, Steve Black's FoxWiki has been around for several years, Wikipedia continues to grow in popularity (and so on). MediaWiki is free to install and use but it does have some basic requirements.

If you need to quickly create your own Wiki, check out Zoho Wiki - It's free, fast and easy to set up and works just like other wikis you may know how to use.

Zoho's other offerings are also pretty cool - you just have to get used to the building blocks logo - not exactly business like - but just as irreverent as the Google logo.


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Doing Code Reviews with Code Analyst

I mentioned earlier that I was at a developer strategy meeting last week (n fact, Markus was there too) - of course, I wasn't traveling at the time. One of the comments from that meeting was how it's very hard (read, impossible) to stick to manual code reviews. Code reviews are a great practice and certainly valuable but when push comes to shove, it's often one of the practices that seem to slip away in favor of getting things done.

Now, in Team System, you can set up all kinds of rules for checking code in to help manage this process but what can you do in FoxPro?

One idea that came to me was extending the VFPX Code Analyst tool to become "project" or "environment" specific. Yes, you can create a number of new rules to run within the code analyst and enable/disable them as needed but what would also be useful would be to allow different projects to have "different" sets of rules that they might apply to. Then set up a project hook so that when …

Displaying a Progress bar that doesn't affect your program

I have been really intrigued by the MTmyVFP project on Codeplex - primarily because I want my FoxPro apps to be as efficient as possible and to run in the background where possible but one of my pet peeves in a recent application is that if I'm doing some heavy work and want to display an animation (similar to the Copy files that you see in Windows), the animation really gets bogged down with the processing.

As a result, it looks funky to the user. I had asked Claude Fox if MTmyVFP could be used to do this - and the answer was to make my processing code run in the background and then make the animation run in the main application thread.

That wasn't doable but it made me think: what if I had an application that could show the animation and then I would just call it when needed.

Here's how I did it in VFP:


DEFINE CLASS oAni AS Custom OLEPUBLIC

oForm = .NULL.


PROCEDURE Show (tcTitle,tcAvi)

THIS.oForm = CREATEOBJECT("frmanimation",tcTitle,tcAvi)


THIS.oform.Show()



ENDPROC


PRO…

The Sketch Questions, the Prototype Answers

This is a GREAT session by Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research on why you should get a sketch pad out when thinking about designing interfaces.



Some great ideas:

 - bring 5 design ideas before you build a prototype (and don't commit to any of them)

 - have great mistakes instead of mediocre successes (in design at least)

 - if a sketch was made in a forest and nobody saw it, it's not a sketch



It's about an hour and a half but you can definitely get some interesting stuff out of it.



Certainly, you can always try simply to follow UI guidelines but...another great one is Why We Should Ignore Users.



Brightcove - BostonCHI - Bill Buxton (Nov. 2006)



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Cloudy or Dark? - your choice for future development platforms depends on you

John, over at gonzomaximus, asked me to respond to his latest post ("The future is cloudy") - I would have directly on this blog but he has comments disabled, so here I am.



I think part of the confusion may have been from my previous post about his World of Tomorrow where I commented that there are a lot of free or low-cost how to's for DotNet.



Since he did ask, I will respond point by point. I certainly don't expect this to become a "read here, read his response, read my response, etc" but I think it's useful to see where this is coming to. (and hey, John - when you get some free time - why not come onto the FoxShow and really tell us how you feel!)



1. Yes, we know you're crazy - oh you said BORDERLINE crazy - sorry, I'll take that back.



2. I agree that to effectively use DotNet, you DO have to get into it a fair bit and likely a lot further than most FoxPro developers ever delve into FoxPro. Just yesterday, I was at a developer strategy meeting a…

A Four Hour work week or a simpler life

It seems funny all of the attention on Tim Ferriss' best seller, The Four Hour Work Week, which has some very good ideas (no, I haven't read it yet - but I did listen to his session at South by Southwest) - but many of them seem familiar to me, perhaps because of Bill Jensen's also popular Simplicity Survival Handbook.



The overlap is definitely there:



Tim: Stop checking email / Bill: How to Delete 75% of your emails

Tim: Fire Your Customers / Bill: How to Say No

Tim Result: Four Hour Work Week / Bill: Do Less...Accomplish More



Certainly there's more in Tim's book than just those few items I mention above - but I do find it interesting that both books advocate some of the same actions.







Simplicity: the Book



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VFP Sedna Wishlist: A single way of doing dialogs

While Craig is espousing how awesome VFP will work with Sedna and Windows Vista - what IS missing and should likely be the #1 extension put into Sedna upon its release is a way to use the new Vistadialogs4COM under non-Vista platforms. (Updated: Doug brings up a good point in his comments that the purpose of this work was NOT to be a generic dialog handler, strictly for VFP - read the comments below)



As Craig noted, using the dialogs is very simple unless you are allergic to OOP - but it would have been really nice if the DLLs were immediately smart enough to say "hey, you're not running under Vista, so we're going to give you the older file dialogs instead."



I know that Vista is soon going to be everywhere - but NOT including some of this functionality now will limit the usefulness and implementation of this library for regular developers. In most  deployed applications, you are going to be balancing between Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista and even po…

VFP 9 SP2 and Sedna Beta now available

Microsoft has made the latest beta for VFP SP2 and Sedna available for download. A good number of bugs have been fixed according to the fix list - I hope this deals with some of the C5 errors I get when working with cursor adapters. Lots of people talking about it - be sure to get it and try it out!



Download details: Microsoft Visual FoxPro 9.0 Service Pack 2 and "Sedna" - Beta



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Figuring Out Your Project

(note: on the path to building a software product, there are lots of decisions to make - but perhaps the toughest is trying to decide what type of project /product you want to build. This post describes some of the issues involved - if you've got other ideas, agree or disagree, I'd love to hear about it)

Schedule. Schedule. Schedule

Do you want to be all things to all people from the get-go? Or do you want to grab people's attention quickly and then build functionality based on a longer term vision.

The decision you make will greatly affect how long your entire project will take.

All Things to All People
This approach means you don't plan on releasing a product until it does everything you think it should do across the board.

While the one huge benefit is that you will be able to say "Yes - we can do it" to potential customers, there are several problems with this approach.

Benefits
"Yes - we do that"
It's always great to be able to say to a customer or …

XAML in FoxPro is Hot!

Craig Boyd, after a long absence, hits back with lots of great stuff - but what caught my eye big time was XAML in Visual FoxPro



an interesting comment: "I just wanted to show that this sort of thing was possible and hopefully get Microsoft to sign off on a XAML project for Sedna"



Isn't Sedna almost about due to be out ?



Hmmm...ongoing projects...I like that idea.



I'm excited by XAML - I've always liked it as well with XUL (the tool used for Firefox). But it also shows the extensibility of FoxPro integrating with things that while Microsoft won't support - they will still make possible.







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Koziol: The fear is the .Net Framework itself.

John continues his piece on the "World of Tomorrow".



While it is definitely pro-fox, consider the contrast between Part III, where he discusses how tough the DotNet framework can be, to Part IV, where he talks about the difference in community.



Now,he doesn't note DotNetNuke, which is a free (as in beer) framework for content management and there are a lot of free or low-cost how to's for DotNet. (VFPx isn't the only tool in the CodePlex)



Now, John isn't just another FoxPro developer spilling his gripes - he did work for Microsoft at one time - and as he says , over the last 18 months, he has led and worked with various development teams on DotNet projects. Frightening?



Sounds like it. " It is so, so easy to "blow up" Visual Studio apps", " A small behavioral tweak may cause 2 or 3 developers days to complete." - maybe this is why existing Fox developers have moved to creating frameworks (like Milos and MereMortals) to make it eas…

Now that's an idea - a FREE developer conference

The attendees were super-lucky with Guy speaking. He remains one of my favorite speakers, reading him first, and then seeing him when he spoke at the 1993 FoxPro Developer's Conference.



But just as interesting is what Salesforce did. They wanted to promote their new Apex platform and as a result, the conference (in Santa Clara) on May 21st was free. (Salesforce is a real leader in Software as a service and web as a platform - is that SAAS and WAAP).



Granted - it's a one day thing - did anyone attend and more importantly - was it more than just a sales-job on the new Apex platform?



How to Change the World: Salesforce Developer Conference



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How to decide what features to include

Mike Calligaro offers a great discussion on how features get decided upon for software such as Windows mobile. The discussion in the comments is also really interesting, especially the note about http://idea.salesforce.com where they will be letting users rate and help rank the ERs.



Windows Mobile Team Blog : On the Left Hand: How Feature Prioritization Happens



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How to introduce a new product in this day and age...

While it's all about the numbers and regardless of what you may think about the overall success or failure of the site, here's the best quote:



...no entrepreneur can tell me that he needs $1
million, four programmers, and six months to launch this kind of
company. ... things are a whole lot cheaper and easier these days.


For not a whole lot of money and time you can get something out
there and see if it works. If it does, hallelujah: there’s no better
time to raise money than after your prototype is scaling up.



...There’s only one way to find out if your idea will succeed, and that’s to try it, so go for it.

How to Change the World: By the Numbers: How I built a Web 2.0, User-Generated Content, Citizen Journalism, Long-Tail, Social Media Site for $12,107.09



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Why continue supporting xDrive?

I've been railing against xDrive for almost 2 years now and it seems that based on the comments, that they have done nothing to improve their overall service.



So it amazes me when Webware continues to talk about them as though they are a viable service. The comment back from Sept 2006 said "oh they're back - looks like it's worth a try again" - yet they had burned them just "a few months ago".



Does anyone have any POSITIVE stories about xDrive that go beyond "I've tried it and it's ok" - it worked great the first few times I used it but then went into total disarray after 2 months.



Anyone?



Andrew MacNeill - AKSEL Solutions: Problems at Xdrive?



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From Basecamp to MS Project

I don't hide the fact that I really like Basecamp from anyone I know. Free for single projects and with a relatively low price-point, I've gotten one of my clients to use it for basic tracking of projects. I've also logged into Huddle ( a similar DotNet offering from British-based Ninian Solutions)) but haven't gotten right into it just yet.



One of the great things offered by Basecamp is the Basecamp API - which they describe as plain vanilla xml over HTTP.  A lot of the samples that integrate with Basecamp are primarily web-based or widgets. I think that's primarily because of the synergy of the Web 2.0 world - but you can just as easily integrate Basecamp with Windows-based apps directly with a little bit of COM automation.



While I did some basic stuff like posting messages and updating items with the API, I found imified more useful to do updates over instant messenger instead.



However, when one of our sales managers asked for an MS Project file of all the…

Looking to edit an old help file?

If you've looked on the right-side of my blog, you'll know that I have a Giveaway of the Day link that updates regularly. Usually the stuff is pretty low-key and not always useful for the developer (maybe some file organizers, disk maintenance , etc).



But today (and since it only lasts for one day - you have 12 hours as of this post to get it), they are providing a CHM Editor.



What does it do? I was skeptical at first but it works amazing well.



It opens a CHM file and displays it in its original index format but then on the right side, you have a full WYSIWYG editor to edit the actual text of the CHM file (no need to have any project files or anything - now I'm sure there's possibly a legal issue here - because you could edit someone else's CHM files).



They promote it primarily as a way to translate help files but this is also really handy if you need to fix an old help file and don't have the original source files.



And it works really well. Check it out but realize…