Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Reviewing SQL Server threads on the UT

The Universal Thread has a few online forums that I monitor from time to time. In particular, I read selected Foxpro and SQL Server threads (and sometimes DotNet as a curiosity). I especially like to be sure I read as many of the threads relating to SQL Server as I can. At the end of a month (or whenever), I use a feature of the UT that I'm not sure many users of that forum know about. What I do is the following...

  • Click on the Calendar button near the top of the browser.
  • Change the forum to Microsoft SQL Server
  • Change the month to whatever month I'm reviewing.
  • Click on Search
  • Then click on "Display all the messages in a map format."

When you do the above, all of the threads discussed during the month selected appear in the top frame in your browser. You can review which threads you may have missed during the month. Incidentally, if you try this in the Visual FoxPro forum, you do not have the option to display all the messages in a map format. My guess is there are too many messages in that forum for this to be available.

Anyway, this is a little something I do to help me continue to learn as much as I can about SQL Server.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fox Foward - Days 2 & 3

Day 2

The 8:30am session I attended was Michael Babcock's "Discussion on N-Tier Design Using a Real Life Solution." In that I primarily use the Visual FoxExpress Framework, I've been familiar with nTier concepts for a while. Still, it's good to see different perspectives on the same concept. Next, I went to Stein Goering's presentation on Web Connection 5.0. I've never used Web Connection other than downloading and playing with the demo, but I'm still curious about what's going on with it. The latest version allows you to use Visual Studio to create and edit your web pages. Pretty cool stuff. Next, I attended Bill Anderson's "Using Software Design Patterns" session. I've read a number of articles on this topic over the years and it's been a while since I've looked at that stuff. It was a good review. It was also good to finally meet Bill, having known him from the VFE Online Conferences, where he and I are active participants. For whatever reason, we've never met in person at any of the past VFE Devcons I've attended. After that session I attended Ed Leafe's "Introduction to Dabo." Ed is a very good presenter, and he and Paul McNett are doing some fascinating things. Everyone got a Dabo preview CD with their conference materials. I'll have to fire that up whenever I can squeeze in the time to do it. The last session of the day was John Koziol's "VFP Inside-Out" session. This was just an informational session, but very interesting nevertheless. I hate that I didn't hang around long enough after the session to go out to eat with some of the attendees, but I guess I left too early to go along with the crowd. Instead, I went back to my room to eat and listened to my USC Gamecocks struggle to beat a Division I-AA Wofford team. Wofford is a small school located in Spartanburg, SC, more known for its academics than its football prowess (at least against major Division I schools).

Fox Foward - Day 3

All of Saturday's presentations were good, but there were several very high quality sessions on Sunday. I started off the day going to David Greenberg's session where he showed how he uses the Grid control. I'm in the crowd that doesn't use the grid control for data entry, but I'm always open to see how others do things. Plus, I like any session where I might can get a new idea for my User Interfaces. The next session was Kevin Ragsdale's, and it was simply fantastic. From my perspective, this was the best all-around session of the conference. Kevin was entertaining, his content was well presented, and his topic was fresh. In addition, he provided a well-written, 24 page white paper. He spoke on how to mimic the little window that pops up just above the system tray in Outlook 2003 that alerts you to an incoming mail message (again, another UI topic). You can use this for anything in your app where you want the user to be notified of some event in your app that doesn't necessarily need immediate attention. The window will fade in and fade out just like we see in Outlook. Just another good idea, if used appropriately, to add spice to our apps. I don't see where he's doing this presentation again at any upcoming conference, but conference organizers might want to take a look at luring him to speak at their next conference.

At lunch, I sat with and spoke to Craig Boyd and asked him how it happened that he came from a C++ background to use Foxpro. He said that years ago, his company assigned him to an old Fox 2.x application where the previous developer was long gone. He said that at first, he didn't like it, but as he learned more and more of how Foxpro was supposed to be used and became more aware of its strengths, he fell in love with it. On the way back to the conference rooms, I spoke to Tracy Pearson, who runs a user group in Ashville. I've been known to drop in on the Atlanta Foxpro Users Group at times, and Ashville is actually closer. I gave him my email address so I could find out about upcoming meetings of his user group.

After lunch, I had a tough time deciding whether to go to Craig Boyd's presentation on encryption or John Harvey's presentation on using VFP with Wireless. I decided at the last minute to go to Craig's. I've never really taken a close look at encryption, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to fill in a weak area in my skill set. Craig's delivery is excellent, and I learned a great deal from this session. Next, I went to Bo Durban's session on using GDI+ with VFP. Bo knows graphics, and he showed off some of the stuff that he, Craig Boyd, and Cesar Chalom are doing in the GDIPlusX project. Another fascinating presentation. For the last presentation slot of the conference, I chose to go to Dave Bernard's on using AJAX and VFP. I've heard a little about AJAX and all I was looking for here was a little more exposure to it. I don't do much web development, but that might change if I continue to be approached about possibly doing web stuff. Dave is another gifted speaker and he delivered on my expectations.

The last "generic" VFP conference I went to was the Advisor Devcon in Orlando in 1998. Since then, I've gone to a number of Visual FoxExpress Devcons in Las Vegas and Toledo. I tend to return from these things jacked up about development and eager to try out the new stuff I've learned. This conference is no different. Once again, kudos to Kevin Cully and those working behind the scenes that made this conference a success. The hotel, the speakers, the content, and the food were excellent. My wife and kids actually stayed in the hotel with me and treated it as a mini vacation. There was plenty for them to do while I was at the "geek convention." :-) In short, the conference exceeed my expectations, and I hope it will be offered again in the future.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fox Forward Begins

Today was the first day of the Fox Forward Developer's Conference in Atlanta. The conference has really started off with a bang with the presentations I saw tonight. I want to thank Kevin Cully for bringing a conference to the Southeast. He has taken some criticism for his efforts that I think is unwarranted. I have been to a number of Devcons in various parts of the country, but there's never been one so convenient for me to get to. It doesn't make sense for there to be "regional" Devcons, but only in other regions of the country. Once again, thanks to Kevin and those who helped him!

I'm not sure I could review every presentation I see at the level of detail others do or even comment on every session I attend, but I will try to make some comments here and there. I went to Bo Durban's presentation on Creating Custom Report Controls in VFP 9.0 and enjoyed it. I've read a number of articles and so forth about the new features of the report writer, but I haven't gotten my hands dirty with it yet. Bo's presentation gave me more exposure to it, and I'm sure it will help me do more with it when I get to the reporting phase of the current app I'm constructing in VFP 9 (which is my first using that version).

Craig Boyd gave his Visual Foxpro World Domination Tour presentation in the second and final session of the first day. I'm not sure why I hadn't heard about his presentation skills before because he was quite inspiring. He exudes lots of energy and has clearly done quite a bit for the Foxpro community with his contributions. I knew about some of them, but I don't think I realized just how much he has done. If you wade through his past blog entries you will find a ton of stuff that you can download. I'll have to make some time to go through that.

Not sure if I can check in here every day, but we'll see how it goes...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Got Firefox?

I've liked the Firefox browser ever since I found out about it a good while back. For one reason or another, from time to time I'd revert back to Internet Explorer because of some feature that I'd become accustomed to in IE that either didn't exist didn't work quite right in Firefox.

Firefox 1.5 eliminated a bug that was in prior versions - when you were browsing a website with frames, if you clicked on a link in one frame to render a page in another, the link that you clicked would not immediately change color to indicate you'd viewed that page. This is important in online forums that use frames, because this would be the visual indication of what messages you had and had not read. I learn alot by viewing messages online forums, so this was a big issue for me.

Another thing I liked in IE was the ability to right-click in a frame and choose Print, which would allow me to print the content that was only in that frame. Again, this was important to me because when I find a forum message I'd like, I wanted to print just it and not all the superfluous stuff outside the frame. I recently discovered in Firefox that you can Right-Click inside a frame and choose This Frame and then choose Open Frame in New Tab. Once the frame is rendered in a new tab, you can then print the content that was just in that frame as you would anything else. This may have been there for a while and I never noticed it.

Another thing that I couldn't do in Firefox was to be able to use Outlook Web Access to check my office email and also check for updates at Microsoft's windows updates site. These sites wouldn't work correctly in Firefox, so I'd have to fire up IE for them. Well today, I found out about a nifty extension for Firefox called IE Tab that allows you to run an instance of IE in the browser. Within its options, you can specify which websites you want to use the embedded instance of IE with. with Outlook Web Access, when you click on a message to view it, it opens in another tab rather than pop up a new window. Love it! And if you're a web developer and are viewing a page rendered in Firefox, with this extension you can right click a page in IE and choose View Page in IE Tab to see how a page would render within IE.

Another extension I've been using with Firefox is Sage. This is an RSS reader for Firefox. I've been using it for about a month and a half now and it works well enough for me.

I think most of my gripes with Firefox have been addressed, so it is getting pretty rare that I need to fire up IE itself. Oh, yeah. If you don't have Firefox and would like to try it, you can get it here.