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.

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