Archive for January, 2006

DOTNET: Adam Cogan on Dot Net Rocks

Posted on January 29, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

A very interesting chat with Sydney based Adam Cogan on .Net Rocks.
 
The focus is on using rules (I’d prefer to call them guidelines) in your software development company. Many of the rules are project management and marketing based, aswell as Coding and Naming convention standards, so this is a great resource for any software house (ie you don’t have to be .Net based necessarily).
 
The entire DNR show is a great listen, and there are some especially interesting snippets eg how Adam takes his entire team away once a year, and focuses on health. Also his thoughts on including the ability to let clients run Unit tests in your products are great – in fact Adam’s thoughts on unit tests (around the 52 minute mark) are some of the most sensible I have heard in a long time.
 
Strongly recommended.
 
 
 

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DOTNET: Adam Cogan on Dot Net Rocks

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

A very interesting chat with Sydney based Adam Cogan on .Net Rocks.
 
The focus is on using rules (I’d prefer to call them guidelines) in your software development company. Many of the rules are project management and marketing based, aswell as Coding and Naming convention standards, so this is a great resource for any software house (ie you don’t have to be .Net based necessarily).
 
The entire DNR show is a great listen, and there are some especially interesting snippets eg how Adam takes his entire team away once a year, and focuses on health. Also his thoughts on including the ability to let clients run Unit tests in your products are great – in fact Adam’s thoughts on unit tests (around the 52 minute mark) are some of the most sensible I have heard in a long time.
 
Strongly recommended.
 
 
 
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SCIENCE: Possible evidence for string theory coming soon

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

 
This will be of limited interest, although my wife will love it. When we were in Switzerland this time last year Michele spent a weekend down at CERN – she was in her element there.
 

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COMPUTING: Installer hell

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Rick Schummer writes about the importance of testing your installers on a non-dev machine. I couldn’t agree more. Especially important is the uninstall process which he also highlights.
 
I shake my head though at how complex the install process has become. I liked this guy’s comments about installing an app – why can’t we just copy over a folder like we did in the good old days? 🙂
 
I know we’ve got more complexity in our apps these days, but you should see the hoops we are trying to jump through in some of our ‘simple’ apps.
 
Here’s a scenario we are struggling to overcome at present (and I imagine this is a common scenario amongst software vendors). It is a combination desktop and web site app that uses COM+ talking to SQL. Pretty straight forward, right?
 
Basically, we want an installer to do the following items on the clients web server (only a subset is required on a client machine):
1. Check and install VFP runtimes if needed
2. Check and install .Net runtimes if needed
3. Install Microsoft Enterprise library
4. Install VFP compiled COM+ package
5. Prompt user for SQL credentials and write these into an XML file 
6. Install VFP desktop app
7. Install .Net based web site including setup of virtual directories and port
8. Uninstall completely and intelligently if required
9. Automatically check for updates and install them as required
 
Your installer is the first big impression your potential client sees, so you want it to be slick and professional, and to leave no issues if uninstalled.
 
We’ve tried all the big names and some (like InstallShield) come pretty close, but we still don’t have it down as a single file installer.
 
For the sake of argument let’s assume the reason we haven’t got it working yet is because we don’t understand InstallShield properly. What does this say about the complexity that our Installer programs have reached. This can’t be a good thing.
 
I know we have so many issues with security and privileges today and we need to get our installers respecting these requirements, but I just lament that after all the hard work we put into our apps that the next step to getting the release to customers is so complex.
 
As an aside: I was very impressed with Microsoft’s latest installers for SQL 2005 and VS2005 – they were great looking, handled immense configuration options and worked (in my case atleast) perfectly. They must have put in a ton of work on this aspect. Goes to the whole ‘perception is everything’ message.
 
 

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VFP: OzFox Lite update (Australian and New Zealand Visual FoxPro conference)

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Thanks to everyone who has been supporting OzFox Lite so far. I have been pleased to receive registrations from a whole bunch of people I have never heard of :-), so word is certainly getting around. I have you, the community, to thank for that. Please keep it up.
 
For those who don’t know about OzFox Lite yet, please check out the site (www.ozfox.com.au) for details. It is looking likely that the event may turn out to be free (yes free!) but I will confirm that in the next month.
 
If you are interested in hearing a little bit of a promotion for it you can head over to the OzFox Rocks site and download a small (7 minute) mini-podcast that Scott and I recorded. This will give you an overview of what the conference is about. Check it out here: http://www.ozfoxrocks.com/Default.aspx?tabid=56
 
I’ve also had a number of people ask about the full OzFox conference that I had previously advised will be later in the year. (To clarify: OzFox Lite is the 2 day, low cost, Australian speaker based, big user-group like conference in March. The full OzFox is the bigger, 3 day, ‘expensive’, international speakers, conference, aiming to be held late in the year).
Here’s the deal at the moment. I am using OzFox Lite to give me an indication of the real interest in hosting the the full OzFox. If there is enough interest I will definately proceed with the full conference later in the year. If there is only minor interest then the event may not even proceed, or may need to change format (eg I can’t bring out 6 international speakers like I did last time unless there is enough paying attendees to cover the costs of flights, accommodation etc). My hope, and the vibe I am picking up from developers, is that the full OzFox will be on later this year. I will decide at the end of March.
 
A few people have asked how they can help. Here’s the easiest ways you can help:
 
OzFox Lite is on in 8 weeks time: 25 and 26 March 2006.
 
Here’s why you should attend:
 
 
 

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PERSONAL: Achievement versus Contribution

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

One thing that struck me at the funeral (mentioned in my previous post) earlier this week was how much contribution the guy (his name was Rob) made to the local community. It came out later privately from close family that he was actually very successful in business and quite wealthy as a result. However, the focus at his funeral was on his huge contribution to local community ventures, including retirement villages and community services. Now, ofcourse at a funeral the presentation is always going to focus on the good things (how many funerals have you been to where people spoke ill of the deceased?) but that aside, it was telling that his business activities and other achievements were hardly spoken of.
 
To some this might seem obvious, but to me it came as a surprise. These days we live in a ‘success mentality’ culture where we are the sum of our achievements. Daily I find myself caught up in this need to achieve.
 
I try to read books on business and goal setting and the like (eg like this one) to keep me ‘striving for excellence’ (as opposed to the ‘striving for mediocrity’ that I would otherwise fall into). But in all of them the focus is ultimately on how successful you can be, usually measured in how may things you accumulate, or how good a quality of life you can achieve. Some, have a ‘do unto others’ line tacked on the end. Sadly though, it is normally tacked on in a spirit of ‘you will be amazed at how much you receive once you start giving’.
 
So, the funeral this week was a great reminder of the difference between achievement (self-success focussed) and contribution (other people focussed). Here was a man who contributed greatly to family and community, and happened to be a successful person too. Whilst we should always strive for excellence and achievement, my aim is to be a person who contributes to society first, and not as a by-product of any achievement gained.
 

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PERSONAL: Thankful

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

This past week started on a sad note. We were down in Canberra to attend a funeral for a good friend’s father who had been killed in a car accident.
 
After the funeral (then cremation service, then wake) we drove back to Sydney. We were exhausted after a long day. But we were so thankful for how fortunate we are compared to some. Lately there have been many around us undergoing difficult circumstances.
Just on Wednesday one of our our sister-in-laws has discovered she has breast cancer (the outlook is good btw – she has caught it early). Another friend has recently revealed her struggle with depression. And then there are friends coping with 2 disabled children (they only confirmed this year what the rare genetic condition was after suspecting for some time).
 
And through all of this, Michele and I are living charmed lives. We have good health, great friends, a lovely apartment, loving families, I have a fantastic job, and the list goes on. At times we start to feel guilty. How come we are so lucky? And why are so many others suffering so much?
 
Sure, who knows, this may all change in the blink of an eye, but for now I just want to express how thankful we are. As a Christian I believe that God is in control of this world, so I know that his blessings are bestowed when and on whom he chooses. All I really ask then, is that if he decides in his wisdom to change our circumstances significantly, that Michele and I still live thankful lives.
 

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SCIENCE: Possible evidence for string theory coming soon

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

 
This will be of limited interest, although my wife will love it. When we were in Switzerland this time last year Michele spent a weekend down at CERN – she was in her element there.
 
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COMPUTING: Installer hell

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Rick Schummer writes about the importance of testing your installers on a non-dev machine. I couldn’t agree more. Especially important is the uninstall process which he also highlights.
 
I shake my head though at how complex the install process has become. I liked this guy’s comments about installing an app – why can’t we just copy over a folder like we did in the good old days? 🙂
 
I know we’ve got more complexity in our apps these days, but you should see the hoops we are trying to jump through in some of our ‘simple’ apps.
 
Here’s a scenario we are struggling to overcome at present (and I imagine this is a common scenario amongst software vendors). It is a combination desktop and web site app that uses COM+ talking to SQL. Pretty straight forward, right?
 
Basically, we want an installer to do the following items on the clients web server (only a subset is required on a client machine):
1. Check and install VFP runtimes if needed
2. Check and install .Net runtimes if needed
3. Install Microsoft Enterprise library
4. Install VFP compiled COM+ package

5. Prompt user for SQL credentials and write these into an XML file 

6. Install VFP desktop app

7. Install .Net based web site including setup of virtual directories and port
8. Uninstall completely and intelligently if required
9. Automatically check for updates and install them as required
 
Your installer is the first big impression your potential client sees, so you want it to be slick and professional, and to leave no issues if uninstalled.
 
We’ve tried all the big names and some (like InstallShield) come pretty close, but we still don’t have it down as a single file installer.
 
For the sake of argument let’s assume the reason we haven’t got it working yet is because we don’t understand InstallShield properly. What does this say about the complexity that our Installer programs have reached. This can’t be a good thing.
 
I know we have so many issues with security and privileges today and we need to get our installers respecting these requirements, but I just lament that after all the hard work we put into our apps that the next step to getting the release to customers is so complex.
 
As an aside: I was very impressed with Microsoft’s latest installers for SQL 2005 and VS2005 – they were great looking, handled immense configuration options and worked (in my case atleast) perfectly. They must have put in a ton of work on this aspect. Goes to the whole ‘perception is everything’ message.
 
 
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VFP: OzFox Lite update (Australian and New Zealand Visual FoxPro conference)

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Thanks to everyone who has been supporting OzFox Lite so far. I have been pleased to receive registrations from a whole bunch of people I have never heard of :-), so word is certainly getting around. I have you, the community, to thank for that. Please keep it up.
 
For those who don’t know about OzFox Lite yet, please check out the site (www.ozfox.com.au) for details. It is looking likely that the event may turn out to be free (yes free!) but I will confirm that in the next month.
 
If you are interested in hearing a little bit of a promotion for it you can head over to the OzFox Rocks site and download a small (7 minute) mini-podcast that Scott and I recorded. This will give you an overview of what the conference is about. Check it out here: http://www.ozfoxrocks.com/Default.aspx?tabid=56
 
I’ve also had a number of people ask about the full OzFox conference that I had previously advised will be later in the year. (To clarify: OzFox Lite is the 2 day, low cost, Australian speaker based, big user-group like conference in March. The full OzFox is the bigger, 3 day, ‘expensive’, international speakers, conference, aiming to be held late in the year).
Here’s the deal at the moment. I am using OzFox Lite to give me an indication of the real interest in hosting the the full OzFox. If there is enough interest I will definately proceed with the full conference later in the year. If there is only minor interest then the event may not even proceed, or may need to change format (eg I can’t bring out 6 international speakers like I did last time unless there is enough paying attendees to cover the costs of flights, accommodation etc). My hope, and the vibe I am picking up from developers, is that the full OzFox will be on later this year. I will decide at the end of March.
 
A few people have asked how they can help. Here’s the easiest ways you can help:
 
OzFox Lite is on in 8 weeks time: 25 and 26 March 2006.
 
Here’s why you should attend:
 
 
 
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PERSONAL: Achievement versus Contribution

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

One thing that struck me at the funeral (mentioned in my previous post) earlier this week was how much contribution the guy (his name was Rob) made to the local community. It came out later privately from close family that he was actually very successful in business and quite wealthy as a result. However, the focus at his funeral was on his huge contribution to local community ventures, including retirement villages and community services. Now, ofcourse at a funeral the presentation is always going to focus on the good things (how many funerals have you been to where people spoke ill of the deceased?) but that aside, it was telling that his business activities and other achievements were hardly spoken of.
 
To some this might seem obvious, but to me it came as a surprise. These days we live in a ‘success mentality’ culture where we are the sum of our achievements. Daily I find myself caught up in this need to achieve.
 
I try to read books on business and goal setting and the like (eg like this one) to keep me ‘striving for excellence’ (as opposed to the ‘striving for mediocrity’ that I would otherwise fall into). But in all of them the focus is ultimately on how successful you can be, usually measured in how may things you accumulate, or how good a quality of life you can achieve. Some, have a ‘do unto others’ line tacked on the end. Sadly though, it is normally tacked on in a spirit of ‘you will be amazed at how much you receive once you start giving’.
 
So, the funeral this week was a great reminder of the difference between achievement (self-success focussed) and contribution (other people focussed). Here was a man who contributed greatly to family and community, and happened to be a successful person too. Whilst we should always strive for excellence and achievement, my aim is to be a person who contributes to society first, and not as a by-product of any achievement gained.
 
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PERSONAL: Thankful

Posted on January 28, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

This past week started on a sad note. We were down in Canberra to attend a funeral for a good friend’s father who had been killed in a car accident.
 
After the funeral (then cremation service, then wake) we drove back to Sydney. We were exhausted after a long day. But we were so thankful for how fortunate we are compared to some. Lately there have been many around us undergoing difficult circumstances.
Just on Wednesday one of our our sister-in-laws has discovered she has breast cancer (the outlook is good btw – she has caught it early). Another friend has recently revealed her struggle with depression. And then there are friends coping with 2 disabled children (they only confirmed this year what the rare genetic condition was after suspecting for some time).
 
And through all of this, Michele and I are living charmed lives. We have good health, great friends, a lovely apartment, loving families, I have a fantastic job, and the list goes on. At times we start to feel guilty. How come we are so lucky? And why are so many others suffering so much?
 
Sure, who knows, this may all change in the blink of an eye, but for now I just want to express how thankful we are. As a Christian I believe that God is in control of this world, so I know that his blessings are bestowed when and on whom he chooses. All I really ask then, is that if he decides in his wisdom to change our circumstances significantly, that Michele and I still live thankful lives.
 
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VFP: Kevin Ragsdale’s day ends at breakfast

Posted on January 21, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

One thing I realised after listening back to our latest OzFoxRocks episode is that a small chunk of discussion didn’t make it into the final mixdown.
When we discussed promoting VFP we made mention of Craig Boyd’s promos and in particular the phrase: ‘Does more before breakfast than other languages do all day’
 
As Craig Boyd’s post pointed out this comes from Kevin Ragsdale’s post here
 
But the bit where Scott and I chatted about this didn’t make the final cut. So I just wanted to acknowledge Kevin here.
His blog is here
 
And a reminder: The Craig Boyd promos are here:
 
 
OzFoxRocks is here
 

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VFP: Kevin Ragsdale’s day ends at breakfast

Posted on January 21, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

One thing I realised after listening back to our latest OzFoxRocks episode is that a small chunk of discussion didn’t make it into the final mixdown.
When we discussed promoting VFP we made mention of Craig Boyd’s promos and in particular the phrase: ‘Does more before breakfast than other languages do all day’
 
As Craig Boyd’s post pointed out this comes from Kevin Ragsdale’s post here
 
But the bit where Scott and I chatted about this didn’t make the final cut. So I just wanted to acknowledge Kevin here.
His blog is here
 
And a reminder: The Craig Boyd promos are here:
 
 
OzFoxRocks is here
 
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VFP: Catching up on my Fox Show backlog

Posted on January 18, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

I’m still about 4 or 5 episodes behind on my Fox Show listening…
 
So I started with the most recent show with John Petersen’s views on legal issues. This is an important issue and one all developers need to be grappling with. In my experience the smaller shops tend to put legal issues in the ‘that’s for the big software companies’ basket, but this is ofcourse a big mistake. And what a different world it would be today if Bill G hadn’t completely wrapped up that MS-DOS license issue completely when he was still a two-person setup…
 
Andrew asks John at the start of the interview about the business case for VFP. John’s response is useful (as was Andrew’s helpful counter). I know some would dismiss John’s thoughts given he has some history in VFP circles <g>, but that would be to lose the benefit of a viewpoint held by many in IT management positions in corporates. We need to have a good reply to those kinds of claims if we are to grow, let alone continue.
 
I wish I’d listened to this before I wrote my thoughts on the Surge a few days ago, as there are issues of perception that need to be countered.
 
However the most important point is his urging to protect the stuff you do, whether with patents, trademarks of other legal facilities. (Makes me nervous of all the ‘cool ideas that are gonna turn me into the next Google’ I have told people already <s>)
 
Download the latest Fox Show from here: http://www.thefoxshow.com

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VFP: Catching up on my Fox Show backlog

Posted on January 18, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

I’m still about 4 or 5 episodes behind on my Fox Show listening…
 
So I started with the most recent show with John Petersen’s views on legal issues. This is an important issue and one all developers need to be grappling with. In my experience the smaller shops tend to put legal issues in the ‘that’s for the big software companies’ basket, but this is ofcourse a big mistake. And what a different world it would be today if Bill G hadn’t completely wrapped up that MS-DOS license issue completely when he was still a two-person setup…
 
Andrew asks John at the start of the interview about the business case for VFP. John’s response is useful (as was Andrew’s helpful counter). I know some would dismiss John’s thoughts given he has some history in VFP circles <g>, but that would be to lose the benefit of a viewpoint held by many in IT management positions in corporates. We need to have a good reply to those kinds of claims if we are to grow, let alone continue.
 
I wish I’d listened to this before I wrote my thoughts on the Surge a few days ago, as there are issues of perception that need to be countered.
 
However the most important point is his urging to protect the stuff you do, whether with patents, trademarks of other legal facilities. (Makes me nervous of all the ‘cool ideas that are gonna turn me into the next Google’ I have told people already <s>)
 
Download the latest Fox Show from here: http://www.thefoxshow.com
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VFP: Win32 Offline ApiViewer

Posted on January 14, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

For those of you using Win32 functions in your VFP apps this will be of major interest.
 
I won’t go into all the great features, just go to the site, download it and buy it now.
Highly recommended.
 
And at $20 it is a steal.
 
(Note: I have told Anitoliy that I think the $20 price is rediculously low and that he should increase it to $50. So you may want to get in quickly in case he follows my suggestion…)

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VFP: Win32 Offline ApiViewer

Posted on January 14, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

For those of you using Win32 functions in your VFP apps this will be of major interest.
 
I won’t go into all the great features, just go to the site, download it and buy it now.
Highly recommended.
 
And at $20 it is a steal.
 
(Note: I have told Anitoliy that I think the $20 price is rediculously low and that he should increase it to $50. So you may want to get in quickly in case he follows my suggestion…)
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VFP: The Visual FoxPro Tipping Point

Posted on January 13, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

The Visual FoxPro Tipping Point
 
There is a VFP Surge on at present. 2005 was a good year for Visual FoxPro and 2006 could turn out to be the VFP Tipping Point.
 
Those familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book may see some similarities to the VFP environment at present. But first a quick recap of relevant important events in 2005.
 
The start was the unveiling of the Sedna Roadmap. Here we discovered that VFP did in fact have life left in it. Perhaps not a new version, but certainly plans for improvement. Next came some great conferences, exemplified by SouthWest Fox, and then a significant bolster by the SednaX initiative. A few key press items added significant weight to the acceptance of VFP (I wonder if Mary Jo Foley realised how carefully Fox developers would scrutinise and use her piece). Then late in the year an index was indicating a rise in the popularity of VFP.

All in all VFP captured the attention of many people.

And as an aside, there is also the fact that many senior executives have a FoxPro heritage and still hold the Fox with great affection (although not perhaps with as much passion as we’d like).
 
So that leaves us now poised to either: watch from the sidelines, or, help rapidly grow its acceptance.
 
Whether or not you agree with Gladwell’s notion of a Tipping Point (some consider him a genius, others little more than a rehasher of out-dated psychology studies) there are definitely compelling signs that we may be on the verge of a Tipping Point with VFP.
 
Let’s clarify growth
But let us first clarify what it is that is potentially growing. Is it the number of developers? I’d say this is unlikely, although Scott Scovell insightfully points out in an OzFoxRocks episode that there is scope for VFP to pick up from the VB vacuum. (This is the vacuum created in VB software houses that no longer find VB supported yet can’t finance the learning curve to move to full blown VB.Net development.)
 
However, the main part of VFP growing is in its acceptance by corporations. If VFP reaches an exposure and acceptance in the general community that it is alive, reliable and productive then the resistence at the corporate level will diminish. This is in contrast to the current response often heard: ‘is VFP still around – I thought it died out years ago’, and other examples of ignorance. (In their defence though IT Managers are being hit on all sides to meet compliance and other requirements, so it is often difficult to keep up with all development offerings out there, and thus only the most heavily marketed will get a look in.)
 
So, back to the The Tipping Point. To push towards an ‘epidemic’ we need three things working together:
1. The message
2. The connectors
3. An understanding of context
 
(This ofcourse is a slight bastardisation of Gladwell’s ideas – for example what I refer to as ‘the message’ is more akin to what he calls ‘stickiness’, and he also orders connectors before stickiness)
 
1. The Message
Here’s the message we need IT Managers (and the rest of the developer community) to hear and understand:
i. FoxPro IS still very much alive, and it is still improving
ii. FoxPro IS technically strong and well supported
iii. FoxPro DOES allow you to meet corporate compliance requirements (eg backups, replication, data privacy and security, performance, centralised reporting etc)
 
VFP ‘theoretically’ meets all these points. However, perception is not always the same as reality.
Let’s take point iii. for example. Most corporations are concerned about compliance. And thus are unlikley to be comfortable with a file based database. So, in this case we need to be promoting how well VFP works with SQL Server. (And SQL Server should definately be in your skillset – but that is a topic for another discussion)
 
Assume you are tendering for a large corporate project. You are competing against companies, let’s say, that use Java as the development tool, with SQL as the backend. The IT Manager is comfortable with SQL Server as the backend, and hence with their proposal.
How sad would it be if your VFP based solution was rejected because the IT Manager wasn’t comfortable with a file based database: ie when you say ‘VFP’, all he/she hears is ‘file based database’.
In that case it would have been better if VFP didn’t actually have any backend database functionality because then the IT Manager would have been forced to understand that you were going to use SQL Server.
 
So, in this case, the message needs to be spelled out clearly that VFP works extremely well with SQL Server.
When IT Managers hear ‘FoxPro’ they need to automatically think ‘strong SQL Server integration’
 
(Isn’t it ironic that you could miss out on a corporate project because your development tool is too database functional?)
 
Here’s some other examples where the message is not getting heard:
– you say ‘FoxPro’, the IT Manager hears ‘unsupported product’ (because they don’t realise it is supported until 2014)
– you say ‘FoxPro’, the IT Manager hears ‘ancient product’ (because they remember using a FoxPro app 15 years ago)
– you say ‘FoxPro’, the IT Manager hears ‘slow and unreliable’ (because they remember using a flakey FoxPro app 15 years ago on crappy hardware)
– you say ‘FoxPro’, the IT Manager hears ‘won’t scale’ (because they are like this guy)
 
You get my point. Our goal is not proving technical merits, our goal is to overcome misconceptions and get the real message heard.

2. The Connectors
So, we know the message we need to get out ther. How do we do it? Here’s where you need connectors.
These are the people who are moving between different developer and business communities. Are you going to SQL, BizTalk and .Net user groups? Then let people know that you (and heaps of others) are using VFP. Notice, I’m not saying promote it as something they should convert to. People going to a .Net user group are unlikely to want to change their primary development tool – so get off the ‘VFP is better at X than your tool’ hobby horse – you just end up convincing people you are a pain in the ass. No, rather, let them know you are using VFP productively, efficiently and profitably where appropriate.

If VFP is respected in the developer communities then it translates into the business world pretty quickly.
But don’t neglect connectors in the business world. Keeping corporates up to date is key. The more blogs, conferences, books, web sites out there talking about VFP the more VFP will be noticed.
 
Understand that IT decision making is often not about technical ability, it is more about perception.
An inkling that a technology is obsolete and non-supported will work against that technology in the IT decision maker’s mind. Responding with an argument about technical merits will likely confuse and bore said decision maker.
So this is a story about perception. Specifically, correcting perception.
 
3. The Context
You need to be aware of the context you are in. The context for VFP is that it is not well promoted, size wise, by Microsoft when compared to other tools. (Comparing marketing in percentage of user base however it probably is comparable.) So, that means there is an added hurdle trying to reach the corporate IT decision maker’s ear, since it is likely to be drowned out by the myriad other marketing campaigns.
Don’t assume that ‘others’ are promoting the message for you.
 
What can you do?
Well, lots. For starters do something. As Gladwell points out in his book, context is interesting here. For example: if you are the only person on a street and you see someone being mugged it is most likely you WILL call the police. But if the street is crowded it is likely that you WON’T. In fact it is likely that no one will. Everyone else thinks that someone else will do it (scary huh? – this is a documented behaviour).
How many of you assumed for example that the rest of the community emailed Mary Jo Foley about her article? Have you emailed her yet? (If you haven’t then you still have time)
 
Here’s some other things you can do:
– Start (or continue) blogging actively about VFP
– Tag your web sites. As William Sanders points out in his superb FoxWiki article 
there is direct benefit in doing these things? (OK, you might not be interested in skewing an index so much as actively promoting your tool of choice.)
– Support user groups and conferences.
– Start your own podcasts. How bizarre would it be if there were hundreds of VFP podcasts coming out?
– Write articles and help out on forums.
– How many of you are supporting VFP publications and books? Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of the bestsellers on Amazon was a VFP book

– And the big one for me: Improve the look and feel of your VFP products. I know I sound like a broken record here but nothing kills a prdouct’s reputation more than a crappy user interface. So put some effort into efficient screen layouts that meet Windows standards, nice user controls and decent graphics. People judge your development tool by the things you build with it. Just by striving for excellence in user interface design, you could be doing a great deal to promote VFP…
– Craig Boyd’s Call to Action has covered all this and other ground well 
And, the obvious thing about all these activities ofcourse, is that by engaging in them you are actively improving your own abilities and skills as well. You are investing in your own future.

Summary
‘The Surge’ is real and VFP is poised to grow in acceptance. The next year is crucial. We all need to promote VFP so it reaches its Tipping Point and moves to becoming an epidemic (Gladwell’s term). With some simple contributions by you this can be achieved.
 
 

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VFP: OzFoxRocks! Episode 2 – Aussie Visual FoxPro podcast

Posted on January 12, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Scott and I have posted Episode 2 of OzFoxRocks (which, statistically, means we have had an episode a year… <g>).
 
You can check it out here: www.ozfoxrocks.com
 
 
Enjoy

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VFP: The Visual FoxPro Tipping Point

Posted on January 12, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

The Visual FoxPro Tipping Point
 
There is a VFP Surge on at present. 2005 was a good year for Visual FoxPro and 2006 could turn out to be the VFP Tipping Point.
 
Those familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book may see some similarities to the VFP environment at present. But first a quick recap of relevant important events in 2005.
 
The start was the unveiling of the Sedna Roadmap. Here we discovered that VFP did in fact have life left in it. Perhaps not a new version, but certainly plans for improvement. Next came some great conferences, exemplified by SouthWest Fox, and then a significant bolster by the SednaX initiative. A few key press items added significant weight to the acceptance of VFP (I wonder if Mary Jo Foley realised how carefully Fox developers would scrutinise and use her piece). Then late in the year an index was indicating a rise in the popularity of VFP.

All in all VFP captured the attention of many people.
And as an aside, there is also the fact that many senior executives have a FoxPro heritage and still hold the Fox with great affection (although not perhaps with as much passion as we’d like).
 
So that leaves us now poised to either: watch from the sidelines, or, help rapidly grow its acceptance.
 
Whether or not you agree with Gladwell’s notion of a Tipping Point (some consider him a genius, others little more than a rehasher of out-dated psychology studies) there are definitely compelling signs that we may be on the verge of a Tipping Point with VFP.
 
Let’s clarify growth
But let us first clarify what it is that is potentially growing. Is it the number of developers? I’d say this is unlikely, although Scott Scovell insightfully points out in an OzFoxRocks episode that there is scope for VFP to pick up from the VB vacuum. (This is the vacuum created in VB software houses that no longer find VB supported yet can’t finance the learning curve to move to full blown VB.Net development.)
 
However, the main part of VFP growing is in its acceptance by corporations. If VFP reaches an exposure and acceptance in the general community that it is alive, reliable and productive then the resistence at the corporate level will diminish. This is in contrast to the current response often heard: ‘is VFP still around – I thought it died out years ago’, and other examples of ignorance. (In their defence though IT Managers are being hit on all sides to meet compliance and other requirements, so it is often difficult to keep up with all development offerings out there, and thus only the most heavily marketed will get a look in.)
 
So, back to the The Tipping Point. To push towards an ‘epidemic’ we need three things working together:
1. The message
2. The connectors
3. An understanding of context
 
(This ofcourse is a slight bastardisation of Gladwell’s ideas – for example what I refer to as ‘the message’ is more akin to what he calls ‘stickiness’, and he also orders connectors before stickiness)
 
1. The Message
Here’s the message we need IT Managers (and the rest of the developer community) to hear and understand:
i. FoxPro IS still very much alive, and it is still improving
ii. FoxPro IS technically strong and well supported
iii. FoxPro DOES allow you to meet corporate compliance requirements (eg backups, replication, data privacy and security, performance, centralised reporting etc)
 
VFP ‘theoretically’ meets all these points. However, perception is not always the same as reality.
Let’s take point iii. for example. Most corporations are concerned about compliance. And thus are unlikley to be comfortable with a file based database. So, in this case we need to be promoting how well VFP works with SQL Server. (And SQL Server should definately be in your skillset – but that is a topic for another discussion)
 
Assume you are tendering for a large corporate project. You are competing against companies, let’s say, that use Java as the development tool, with SQL as the backend. The IT Manager is comfortable with SQL Server as the backend, and hence with their proposal.
How sad would it be if your VFP based solution was rejected because the IT Manager wasn’t comfortable with a file based database: ie when you say ‘VFP’, all he/she hears is ‘file based database’.
In that case it would have been better if VFP didn’t actually have any backend database functionality because then the IT Manager would have been forced to understand that you were going to use SQL Server.
 
So, in this case, the message needs to be spelled out clearly that VFP works extremely well with SQL Server.
When IT Managers hear ‘FoxPro’ they need to automatically think ‘strong SQL Server integration’
 
(Isn’t it ironic that you could miss out on a corporate project because your development tool is too database functional?)
 
Here’s some other examples where the message is not getting heard:
– you say ‘FoxPro’, the IT Manager hears ‘unsupported product’ (because they don’t realise it is supported until 2014)
– you say ‘FoxPro’, the IT Manager hears ‘ancient product’ (because they remember using a FoxPro app 15 years ago)
– you say ‘FoxPro’, the IT Manager hears ‘slow and unreliable’ (because they remember using a flakey FoxPro app 15 years ago on crappy hardware)
– you say ‘FoxPro’, the IT Manager hears ‘won’t scale’ (because they are like this guy)
 
You get my point. Our goal is not proving technical merits, our goal is to overcome misconceptions and get the real message heard.
2. The Connectors
So, we know the message we need to get out ther. How do we do it? Here’s where you need connectors.
These are the people who are moving between different developer and business communities. Are you going to SQL, BizTalk and .Net user groups? Then let people know that you (and heaps of others) are using VFP. Notice, I’m not saying promote it as something they should convert to. People going to a .Net user group are unlikely to want to change their primary development tool – so get off the ‘VFP is better at X than your tool’ hobby horse – you just end up convincing people you are a pain in the ass. No, rather, let them know you are using VFP productively, efficiently and profitably where appropriate.

If VFP is respected in the developer communities then it translates into the business world pretty quickly.
But don’t neglect connectors in the business world. Keeping corporates up to date is key. The more blogs, conferences, books, web sites out there talking about VFP the more VFP will be noticed.
 
Understand that IT decision making is often not about technical ability, it is more about perception.
An inkling that a technology is obsolete and non-supported will work against that technology in the IT decision maker’s mind. Responding with an argument about technical merits will likely confuse and bore said decision maker.
So this is a story about perception. Specifically, correcting perception.
 
3. The Context
You need to be aware of the context you are in. The context for VFP is that it is not well promoted, size wise, by Microsoft when compared to other tools. (Comparing marketing in percentage of user base however it probably is comparable.) So, that means there is an added hurdle trying to reach the corporate IT decision maker’s ear, since it is likely to be drowned out by the myriad other marketing campaigns.
Don’t assume that ‘others’ are promoting the message for you.
 
What can you do?
Well, lots. For starters do something. As Gladwell points out in his book, context is interesting here. For example: if you are the only person on a street and you see someone being mugged it is most likely you WILL call the police. But if the street is crowded it is likely that you WON’T. In fact it is likely that no one will. Everyone else thinks that someone else will do it (scary huh? – this is a documented behaviour).
How many of you assumed for example that the rest of the community emailed Mary Jo Foley about her article? Have you emailed her yet? (If you haven’t then you still have time)
 
Here’s some other things you can do:
– Start (or continue) blogging actively about VFP
– Tag your web sites. As William Sanders points out in his superb FoxWiki article 
there is direct benefit in doing these things? (OK, you might not be interested in skewing an index so much as actively promoting your tool of choice.)
– Support user groups and conferences.
– Start your own podcasts. How bizarre would it be if there were hundreds of VFP podcasts coming out?
– Write articles and help out on forums.
– How many of you are supporting VFP publications and books? Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of the bestsellers on Amazon was a VFP book

– And the big one for me: Improve the look and feel of your VFP products. I know I sound like a broken record here but nothing kills a prdouct’s reputation more than a crappy user interface. So put some effort into efficient screen layouts that meet Windows standards, nice user controls and decent graphics. People judge your development tool by the things you build with it. Just by striving for excellence in user interface design, you could be doing a great deal to promote VFP…
– Craig Boyd’s Call to Action has covered all this and other ground well 
And, the obvious thing about all these activities ofcourse, is that by engaging in them you are actively improving your own abilities and skills as well. You are investing in your own future.
Summary
‘The Surge’ is real and VFP is poised to grow in acceptance. The next year is crucial. We all need to promote VFP so it reaches its Tipping Point and moves to becoming an epidemic (Gladwell’s term). With some simple contributions by you this can be achieved.
 
 
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VFP: OzFoxRocks! Episode 2 – Aussie Visual FoxPro podcast

Posted on January 12, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Scott and I have posted Episode 2 of OzFoxRocks (which, statistically, means we have had an episode a year… <g>).
 
You can check it out here: www.ozfoxrocks.com
 
 
Enjoy
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VFP: VFP Tetris

Posted on January 11, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

I know this is an old one…
 
 
 
 

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VFP: VFP Tetris

Posted on January 11, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

I know this is an old one…
 
 
 
 
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DRUMS: 12 year old amazing drummer

Posted on January 9, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Unbelievable

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DRUMS: 12 year old amazing drummer

Posted on January 9, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Unbelievable
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VFP: Learning VFP

Posted on January 5, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Do you feel ‘The Surge’?
The VFP Surge is building. Everyday new resources are popping up.
 
Andrew MacNeill’s excellent collection point arrived just before New Year
 
And I just stumbled upon this new one from Tom Meeks
 
 
Could 2006 be The VFP Tipping Point?

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VFP: Craig Boyd Promos

Posted on January 5, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Give me 10 Craig Boyds and I could rule the world…
 
 
and
 
 
Great stuff
 
 

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VFP: Sydney VFP User Group returns on 22 Feb 2006

Posted on January 5, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

I’ve posted a prelimiary timetable for the Sydney VFP User Group for 2006.
Notice that we will have Scott Scovell presenting every month on VFP Design patterns. Exciting stuff.
 
I’m looking for more presenters – please let me know if you are willing and able.
 
This year we will have some consistency for each of the meetings. Firstly there will in depth VFP technical stuff (headed up by Scott’s presentations). Next there will be a stronger focus than last year on using SQL Server in your VFP projects (and we are lucky to have Eka down for a few sessions here already). Finally, I will be delivering sessions on business skills (eg how to promote VFP to prospective corporate clients). These will be directed more at managers and business owners and be less technical.
 
On top of these we are hoping to regularly have extra speakers presenting on a range of VFP topics. 
 
As always I am keen to hear suggestions and feedback, and more than willing to take a risk on some new ideas.
 
It is going to be a great year.
 
 

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VFP: Learning VFP

Posted on January 5, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Do you feel ‘The Surge’?
The VFP Surge is building. Everyday new resources are popping up.
 
Andrew MacNeill’s excellent collection point arrived just before New Year
 
And I just stumbled upon this new one from Tom Meeks
 
 
Could 2006 be The VFP Tipping Point?
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

VFP: Craig Boyd Promos

Posted on January 5, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

Give me 10 Craig Boyds and I could rule the world…
 
 
and
 
 
Great stuff
 
 
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VFP: Sydney VFP User Group returns on 22 Feb 2006

Posted on January 5, 2006. Filed under: Visual FoxPro |

I’ve posted a prelimiary timetable for the Sydney VFP User Group for 2006.
Notice that we will have Scott Scovell presenting every month on VFP Design patterns. Exciting stuff.
 
I’m looking for more presenters – please let me know if you are willing and able.
 
This year we will have some consistency for each of the meetings. Firstly there will in depth VFP technical stuff (headed up by Scott’s presentations). Next there will be a stronger focus than last year on using SQL Server in your VFP projects (and we are lucky to have Eka down for a few sessions here already). Finally, I will be delivering sessions on business skills (eg how to promote VFP to prospective corporate clients). These will be directed more at managers and business owners and be less technical.
 
On top of these we are hoping to regularly have extra speakers presenting on a range of VFP topics. 
 
As always I am keen to hear suggestions and feedback, and more than willing to take a risk on some new ideas.
 
It is going to be a great year.
 
 
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