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Showing posts from July, 2004

Firing By PowerPoint (Beyond Bullets)

Forget about your antics at the last Christmas party - Cliff points to a real career killer.
beyond bullets: Board Fires CEO Over PowerPoint

Ok, sure there were some other things that may have gone wrong but it certainly re-emphasizes the importance of being about to publicly speak, especially when you're in a role that demands you communicate.

But what role doesn't? The age of "I don't have to communicate with others" is certainly behind us in almost EVERY industry. I get really frustrated when I hear developers or other people of a technical nature say "I don't present" or "I don't like to talk about what I'm doing". If you can't make what you do sound interesting, something needs to change.

Now communication is a two (or more) way street and I'm sure many have stopped reading or listening to certain people because they don't like what they hear or what the person has to say. That's fine.

But to be in any kind of …

MS Responds to Craig's issues

If there's no bigger positive sign of the attitude of a company, it's the way they respond to issues or criticism. As Craig notes in his blog, he got a direct email related to his last blog about the problems with the VS.Net Setup.

Read on...
FoxBlog

The problems of installing Microsoft Service Packs

Craig discusses the problems of updating Service Packs and I have to agree with his results.

" I should not be required to have my Office installation disks. The SP should install without them"

With the litany of controls that some applications may use, it can get even worse for users who aren't even aware that they had an application installed. I've run a VFP application that halfway through it said "Please insert MS Office CD" because it had to re-register a control that was last installed through MS Office.

There's something certainly wrong with that.

If a service pack requires certain files to be present, I can appreciate needing to look for them on the Internet but don't force people to have to look for their CDs or DVDs (interesting copy protection scheme, I have to say, but it makes securing the applications way too time-consuming).
I install most of my applications from a network drive but Craig's absolutely right when he says:

"…

Registering Web services

I was revising a web service over the weekend and tried to post it and got the lovely "Problem accessing the Listener URI" error message in Visual FoxPro. So off to troubleshoot by searching on the web for this message. The problem started on Friday but I got pulled away and had to look at other things. Took out a bunch of stuff, including disabling my SharePoint server (which I love) only to not resolve the problem. Then just on the off-chance, tried to visit one of my own URL on my server: DSN Error. Hmmm...problem isn't as big as it may have been. Tried accessing the server from another box - no problem. As it turns out, one of my other trouble-shooting episodes (getting Rogers Cable to work with Webex (http://www.webex.com), I had set IE's proxy server to cache. Note: NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. Removed the proxy server and whammo - everything worked like a charm. It's one of those things though that you would expect to be on a checklist somewhere. And s…

MapPoint Web Service Offering for MSDN Subscribers

An aussie/MS points out that MSDN subcribers can get the MapPoint web service for a full year free. (the actual link is here)

This is awesome news! I'm a big MapPoint fan, using it for all kinds of things but I have to say, I hate having to constantly upgrade to the latest version to see the latest street changes, etc.

Besides as a web service, you never have to worry about it being installed on the user's workstation. I'll report on how integration within VFP goes in a bit.


MapPoint Web Service Offering for MSDN Subscribers

Tales from the Doghouse - MSDN Labs

Found this useful site just recently through looking for more information on FoxUnit and other testing architectures. I had never heard of the MSDN Lab site before but now that I have, I'm certainly going to watching it for more hints of what's to come.

Not a lot of new stuff recently (just the Whidbey beta - but who knows)

Tales from the Doghouse - Tuesday, July 20, 2004

What's New in Visual FoxPro 9.0 - What's Missing

Ken's blog notes some of the key features they will be promoting on Visual FoxPro 9.

The list looks complete except it doesn't mention one of the key productivity features that will be instantly used by many applications is the new Auto-Complete feature (Toni Feltman covers this in the July issue of FoxPro Advisor (the article's not online but should be) --- FoxPro Advisor!

Auto-Complete is a single property setting that can be turned on and INSTANTLY makes data entry easy for end-users.

There are a number of other extra settings for it , including the ability to specify the AutoComplete file that gets created. (hint: set the AutoCompTable property)

The AutoCompSource property specifies the value that will be used to lookup the autocomplete value. (if left empty, it uses the name of the object)

The file structure of the lookup table looks like this:
SOURCE Char(20)
Data Char(254)
Count Int -
Weight Int
Created - Date/Time
Updated - Date/Time
User



What's New in Visua…

Data Integrity with VFP 8 and Older Code

I was working on a problem earlier this week with VFP 8 (SP1) and an application that has been "upgraded" over the years from DOS to Windows to VFP. With any such application, unless it's been lucky enough to receive a complete re-write, there are always lots of older pieces of code that are running around that do FLOCK( ), RLOCK()  and the like. When this application was first distributed, an alarming number of "record is in use" messages occurred. And it was determined by the company's development and support staff that it was because of change in VFP 8 with the new SET VALIDATE TO, which creates better corruption awareness. As a result, we immediately switched all their customers' SET VALIDATE to a value of 0, to minimize the problem. But now the problem seems to be resurfacing. Obviously, this is a case for "why aren't they using TABLEUPDATE() ,buffering and etc?" but I'm wondering - has anyone else seen this problem w…

Duke to give iPods to all freshmen

Jeez and all I got was a pencil.

You see, this is how Apple is the number one computer for students and in the education market. They cut the right kind of deals, they know what to give away in the deal and they end up with huge mindshare.

Marketshare? Who cares about marketshare if you have people simply saying "one day I'll get an Apple" - because eventually they will.

(now,now - don't jump on me for saying that. Yes, Apple only has less than 10% of the computer market - but that doesn't stop them from still being a better REGARDED company than most others. and typically speaking, they aren't hurting in the overall sales area.

Yes, it could always be better but not every one has a BMW or a Lexus either - yet when you think of luxury or high-quality cars, those names typically come in on top.)

That said, you can't eat "mindshare" and you can certainly eat with "marketshare". It's a trade-off but this deal shows that Apple still…

Solution for Normalizing Filters()

I recently posted an article about how the FILTER() command doesn't always return back what you want it to.

Well, Sergey Berezniker set me straight - that's why there's a function called NORMALIZE.

I had never heard of this function before although it's been in FoxPro for quite a while (even back in FPW 2.6).

From the help file: NORMALIZE( ) returns a character string from the character expression cExpression with the following changes:
The character expression is converted to uppercase. However, embedded strings are not changed. An example of an embedded string is "Hello" in the character expression "LEFT('Hello',1)".
Any abbreviated Visual FoxPro keywords in the character expression are expanded to their full length.
Any -> operators separating aliases from field names are converted to periods.
The syntax of any Visual FoxPro commands or functions within the character expression is checked, although the expression is not evaluated. I…

No Need to go to tools

Now when you're editing a form, you can choose how you want to change the tab order WITHOUT having to go to Tools Options. Either interactively (for those who like to go mouse crazy) or by list (for easily choosing by Row or Column).

MS and the PocketPC

For that matter, I have to gripe about MS some more. I use a Pocket PC and wanted to search for news yesterday. As soon as I directed my browser to MSNBC.COM, it immediately took me to a "pocket PC friendly" site. No problem there except that you can't read any of the news - just the headlines and you can't even search. To make matters worse, I tried to see Ken Levy's email letter: http://msdn.microsoft.com/vfoxpro/letters on my Ipaq. Where did it take me to? A "Mobile device" friendly page that wouldn't let me read the letter. I have no problem with web sites that offer friendlier views of the same information but DON'T LIMIT what I can look at. As a result for my news search, I ended up going to CNN's web site. Now, don't tell me that the PocketPC is an "old-hat" product, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I know more resources are going into the TabletPC (which as far as I know still can't be fit into a pocket) or into t…

MS Gets It - Why Doesn't MSNBC?

It's become rather obvious based on the immediate explosion of blogs at MS that they certainly see the benefit to RSS and the entire newsfeed concept. So one has to wonder why they haven't put that over onto their partner network, MSNBC? When you use NewsGator, you can automatically add known 'real news' news feeds and the biggest one is, arguably, the NY Times. Both CNN and MSNBC offer email alerts and yet searching their web site for "RSS feed" produces menial results, little articles about this "new way" of getting information. I, for one, am slowly starting to cancel any email subscriptions I have, purely in favor of the RSS feed. (I say, slowly because if I tried to use Outlook's Unread Messages folder, I would find about 25,000 unread messages from the various blogs I subscribe to). Using NewsGator and LookOut in Outlook, I let it do the job of getting the news I want to read and then view it at my leisure. Now that's conv…

Star Office: why can't they get save as html right?

Just a little rant but I just was saving a Word document in Star Office (a complimentary copy from Sun for attending one of their seminars). I then took the document and saved it as HTML.

Everything looked great in Star Office but posted it on my White papers site and the result?

All the text was centered.

I don't mind a few formatting changes but when they say "Formatting changes may not be retained" - wouldn't that mean LEFT-aligned?

Maybe this is why OpenOffice is the better choice (I'll install that after removing StarOffice) but for the interim, I'm installing MS Office as my primary office tool.

Sheesh.

FoxPro 9.0 News - July 2004 - Letter from Ken Levy

Ken's latest letter lets everyone know that VFP 9 is on course for release by end of the year, which is great news.

If you haven't downloaded it yet, DO IT NOW! I use it as my primary dev environment and then simply recompile the apps in VFP 8 for release purposes.

Of course, if you've got a new project that won't be released until next year, VFP 9 is CERTAINLY the way to go. The beta doesn't expire until May 2005 so you can start now and be ready for the production version in time for your release.

Sadly, he does note some of the limitations that cannot be extended due to the current 32-bit architecture of the product (the 2 GB file size limitation). Steve Black recently noted on the wiki however that the overall size of VFP hasn't changed despite all of the great feature enhancements (http://fox.wikis.com/wc.dll?Wiki~VfpExeSizes~VFP).

Who knows ... maybe if enough people get on the VFP 9 wagon, a 64-bit version might be in its future...

Naysayers may say …

Beware of how the FILTER() works

Some older applications use the FILTER ( ) function in Visual FoxPro to identify what the current filter on a file is. Be warned that what this function returns isn't always what a filter was originally set to. Here are some examples: USE HOME(2) + "TASTRADE\DATA\CUSTOMER" SET FILTER TO region<>"NC" ? FILTER ( ) This Returnsregion#"NC" But it gets better than this: SET FILTER TO (company_name!="Alfred" OR region<>"NC") AND country = "United States" Returns (COMPANY_NAME#"Alfred".OR.REGION#"NC").AND.COUNTRY="United States" For most cases, this won't hurt anyone's code but it's a real pain when you're trying to translate the FILTER() statement to match an original filter. For example, in one application, we have a table that looks like this: cDesc C(30) cFilter M The cDesc field contains a friendly name like "Important Customers" or "Customers who I ne…

How many DotNet developers are there?

Someone(?) had a problem with my post about how many developers were using DotNet so I thought I would clarify my stand on it. 1. The actual title was a link to an MS blog which had noted a survey in which it stated that 64% of app developers use DotNet.  Now, in all seriousness, that's kind of like someone saying that 98% of the world speak English because the majority of Americans do. It's a very one-sided comment. (as a note - I have re-titled my previous post so that it's a little more obvious that the "title" is not necessarily my opinion) 2. The post makes more of a note of the comments back to the original poster. If MS wants their entire dev groups to be blogged (which it certainly seems like), they need to be careful about how they blog (just like I am correcting right here) -  in fact, Scoble wrote an article about that http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2004/06/25.html#a7890) 3. The comment was fairly accurate on how lame the study was though a…

Survey says 52% of application developers use .NET ??

More interesting than the article itself (or the survey for that matter which certainly appears biased) are the comments.

My own theory behind this is because everyone who used to be a VB developer likely has DotNet on their desktop - whether or not they are USING it actively or just want to say they are using it to make it look good - remains to be seen.

I have DotNet. I have USED DotNet and if a survey asked me what tools do I develop in, I would certainly check off DotNet. But I don't work 100% in DotNet, which may be the real question that needs to be asked.

52% of application developers use .NET

Blogs and RSS come to Microsoft.com

MS has just introduced their portal and it's pretty comprehensive. Nothing quite like learning that some people use AIM instead of MSN messenger, or that there really may be a need for supporting 4 monitors (Cyrus Complains)

However, it's really a great sign that MS is serious about supporting the blogging community which seems to have um, exploded in size in the past year.

Blogs and RSS come to Microsoft.com

Ken Levy Clarifies

Wow - good to know Alex keeps up on the UT. That's an interesting tidbit from Ken Levy that basically says exactly what people want to know:

"There won't be anything announced about what the VFP team works on post version 9.0 until after we launch VFP 9.0"

What's the version of Windows going to be after Longhorn? Jeez, people! VFP 9 is a phenomenal version. You want it to keep going - get people to buy it.

VFP is NOT a cash cow for Microsoft, unlike their other products. SQL Server pays them $$ every time someone installs a SQL Server application. VFP apps do not. SO the ONLY source of proof that MS has, that VFP is alive and well, is by sales of its Developer product.

The fact that VFP 9 is bundled with MSDN probably hurts it more than helps because people don't have to actually buy it anymore.

Bloglines | Clip Blog

learn vascular surgery in 24 hours

Ok - it's a bit profane but I couldn't resist after I read the line:

"when was the last time you were meandering through the bookstore and you spied learn vascular surgery in 24 hours?"

Where is THAT book? Sounds like an idea for the dummy line:

"Neurosurgery for Complete Dummies" by Dr. V. Frankstein

- Learn how to find the right donors for your subjects
- Circumvent the hydro company with your own power generation
- Learn why corks make the best necklaces around
- How to find the right girl for your new best friend

On a more serious note, caustic has some major issues with things that are 100% valuable. If I buy a book and get at least 5 good ideas from it, it's worth it. I don't care if they are in the form of tips or do's and don't. The fact is that people who buy books want to enjoy reading - just because caustic likes reading dictionaries doesn't mean that everyone else should have to.

Look at Dynamics of Software Development - tha…

Conference On the Web Part II

It's an idea that I'd love to gauge interest for. While I know everyone likes to get together and physically "bond" at a conference, the technology is now available (readily) for a true virtual conference - where sessions are given via on-screen demonstrations, tele-conferences, even some with video.. I know many of the companies I work with will be offering individual one-on-ones of this nature in the near future but why not expand it a little bit to an entire "Virtual DevCon" where sessions are given on a number of topics. See my previous post for full ideas on that. There wouldn't necessarily be a need for multiple tracks because one conference could offer different times for all of the various tracks over a 2-3 day period. There are obviously some gotchas:
a) the main one is making sure people are good "online" presenters. I've seen great online presentations and I've seen terrible ones. If we follow concepts in Beyond …

Conference Re-design

Craig makes a great post referring to Beyond Bullets and their socialable media template. After going through their template and their blog articles, I have to agree but then I start thinking out the actual content of the conferences. Wouldn't it be great if a conference actually was organized to go from different types of application development from beginning to end? Think about it - two possibly three tracks: Desktop, Web, Hybrid (or Pocket PC, etc, etc) Day 1 - Design. An entire day devoted to different design techniques, including physical, architectural and conceptual designs. Show exactly what each member of the team does during those phases.  Discuss project management on the whole. Day 2 - Prototyping and Development. Discuss data planning techniques, user interface prototyping, show some examples of Extreme Programming at the prototype phase. Have a round table of why certain approaches to n-tier architecture work and others don't..  Even bring up unit te…

Nielsen Sounds Off on Web Design

Jakob Nielsen sounds off on better web design. Interestingly enough, he doesn't mention blogs per say but he does the goal is to limit what needs to be in an email from a corporate standpoint. If you believe that concept, run, don't walk and pick up the Simplicity Handbook (http://www.simplerwork.com/handbook.htm) because Bill Jensen suggests deleting 75% of your new email as a way to become more productive. Funnily enough, the approach actually works. Bill also has great ideas for making your emails more effective. Now, who's to say how Nielsen regards RSS feeds but the fact is, using something like NewsGator (which makes new blog posts appear as emails), it simply makes it an easier search mechanism (especially when combined with Lookout). Sadly, the issue with making intranets more useful is NOT having more intranets - the problem I have found is with the people. That's why blogs and wikis are so valuable. I can easily find out what people are up to by …

Form vs. Function

Seems like Scoble's on about form vs. function again...Not really much to add here as the designers have tried to tear a strip off him while the readers have said "no design".

Kind of sounds like Windows vs. DOS all over again. Hell, everyone loved DOS and the Unix command line, right?

Can you imagine making a phone call if it actually involved trying to tell the phone what phone switch to go to each time you wanted to do something?

Good design makes things easier to access - but the point on blogs is simple. "Here are my thoughts. If I can make it easier to read quickly, I'll do it - if I can't, tough luck." Eventually better design will win out and everyone will be happy. Until then, read it in your own view.

I say this after having played with various Blogger templates ad finitum only to have to copy and paste other code into it.

The biggest downside to bad or lack of design is that your message may actually get lost, because of a confusing inte…

When I was on this project...

Scoble points to a post about someone from the old Money team discussing direction...all very nice and retrospective.

For more of a really neat discussion as to what went on with one of our favorite database products, check out Kerry Nietz's FoxTales.

It's a great read. When you consider how long it's been since "Soul of A New Machine", very few books have taken readers on that journey in an introspective manner, with the view of someone who was on the team. Philip's Money post reminded me of it somewhat but I have to say that I read Kerry's book on the plane ride back from Milwaukee last year and found myself chuckling at all the stories, including remembering my first Fox DevCon back in 91.

Not necessarily for current technical reading but great retrospectives...

When I was on this project...

MSN Search Improves?

Definitely noted the speed improvement with MSN Search (as noted by Scoble). Now what about those meaningful results?

I still find I'm constantly searching in the results (on both MSN and Google). I suppose it's a trade-off - on MSDN, I search and never find things that I know are there - on MSN and Google, I search and find things that I would never want to know existed.

(oh well)

Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger