Thursday, December 21, 2006

Updated to new Blogger

Google has enhanced Blogger, which is the blogging service I use for this blog.

Earlier today I upgraded my blog to the new version. My favorite new feature allows you to subscribe to comments for a specific post. This is a common feature for other blogging services and one I like to use for interesting posts. The other feature I am looking forward to using is "Labeling". I can categorize each post and you can read posts specific to a category. So when I post something about Visual FoxPro I will label it VFP. When I write something about the space shuttle I will label it Space Shuttle.

Thanks Google. Your blogging service rocks.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Geek Endorsements

Therese and I attended a holiday party for the band boosters last night. I was talking with a couple of the other dads about kids. The discussion eventually went down the path on how they want so much today when they enter into the real world on their own. It reminded me of a true story about "geek endorsements."

I was working at EDS as an Advanced Systems Engineer. I was with the company more than five years and had worked my way up the food chain a little bit. I took pride in how I managed my career and learned how to play the corporate game. My salary was decent for my experience, we lived in a nice house and we were raising three children.

Our management hired a kid directly out of college. He was green, very green, and I don't mean just technically. He did not even know how to write a check from his checkbook. He bought a new Camero along with the big insurance bill, signed a lease on a two bedroom apartment, bought a new stereo, a big TV, and some other luxuries. All of a sudden he realized he was over his head and complained to me how he could not live on US$36,000. First of all it was company policy not to discuss salary between employees. Second, he was making almost as much as I was and he was still wet behind the ears.

He asked me how I survived because I was raising a family. I told him it was endorsements. He did not understand. I explained it to him: Michael Jordan had the Nike shoe endorsements, the Hanes underwear endorsement, etc. I showed him my Motorola pager and told him I have the Motorola endorsement. My Docker pants, the Dockers endorsement. You see this ThinkPad laptop? Only a few of us are good enough to have the IBM endorsement. You can't get these right away. You have to get your career started and eventually get an agent.

About 10 minutes later I get a call from my manager asking me why I am messing with the new guy. Messing with him? I figured my manager knew all about geek endorsements. After all, how was a guy raising a family with 10 years of experience in software development suppose to make it in this world making a little more than this English major he just hired with no programming experience? I offered to set him up with my agent.

Geek endorsements - I still laugh recalling this unforgettable moment in my career.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Office 2003 Bug and Cool Feature

I know the rage is to be talking about our Office 2007 experiences, but I have not had the time to load it and get use to the new ribbon control, and find where Microsoft moved all the features. I am still using Office 2003. For the last few weeks I have been battling a bug on and off and last night I decided to see if I could find the fix. (I know - how exciting are my Saturday nights? {g})

The problem is annoying. Ever since I changed my login on my machine to my new domain all the office apps for the new user no longer have the most recently opened files on the File menu. Naturally I looked at the setting on the Tools | Options dialog to turn it on and bump up the number of files it shows to the maximum limit (nine - which is too small), but the checkbox is disabled! I looked all over the Help file and checked for some compatibility settings without any luck.

A Google search lead me to a Web site called, which sounds appropriate for this problem. The problem is documented for Office XP, but apparently the problem still exists in Office 2003 (and maybe even in Office 2007). The fix is simple as long as you are not afraid to mess with the Windows Registry. Here are the instructions I followed:
  • Run the Registry Editor (REGEDIT.EXE).
  • Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Policies\ Explorer.
  • On the right side, delete the NoRecentDocsHistory value.
  • Close the Registry Editor when you're done; the change will take affect the next time you start any Office XP application.
I exported the key just in case it created side effects and deleted it from the Registry. Bingo, the option can be turned on again in the Options dialog and all is well again in the world of Microsoft Office.

I also found a feature to export your office settings so I can save a bunch of time when moving to a new machine or a new user on the same machine. Microsoft has a program included with Office 2003 called the Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard. I have been using Microsoft Office for more than 10 years, but this is new to me. I am positive it could have saved me hours of my life going through and setting all the options for Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, FrontPage, OneNote, and Publisher. The wizard has two modes, one to export the settings and one to import them. It creates a file on disk with the OPS extension. This file can be moved to the new machine or put in a common folder on the same machine for the other user to use. Brilliant.

If you are looking for this wizard you can find it on the Start Menu | Programs | Microsoft Office (where ever you have this) | Microsoft Office Tools | Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard. I obviously have not paid much attention to the tools menu, but this is one important little program and is not easily discoverable in my opinion. I think this should exposed on the Options dialog in each of the Office applications where people like me would see it and think to use it.

The MS Office Help file was not helpful at all in regards to discovering either the fix for the File menu or the settings wizard. In fact, I put "Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard" in the MS Word Help search and the first three topics returned are links to:
  • The Perfect PC Office Suite: Get Microsoft Office 2003 on a P4 2.6GHz system (Web content marketing slime)
  • Save an Office document as a TIFF file
  • What happened to the Office Shortcut Bar?
Nothing returned in the list was even close to being related to the wizard. Is it just me, or is the Office Help nearly useless to the average user?

I blogged these two recent findings here mostly to have them documented for myself in the future (they were also added to the White Light Computing Wiki for safe keeping), but also to share them with you in case either of them can save you a few moments of your life down the road.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Living in Dilberville

I know I live in Dilbertville every day, but today's legacy theme hits particularly close to home.

OzFox 2007 - Conference with good ideas

I was visiting the OzFox 2007 Web site the last couple of days because I am trying to figure out if I can some how attend the conference. I think it would be cool to blog live from down under. Right now it is a matter of arranging my schedule and determine if the business model works.

Craig Bailey has done a real nice job with this site. The only thing it is missing is the hotel cost, which I understand will be added soon. Looks like Craig is doing some things I think are important for future conferences to include or adopt:
  1. Promote new speaker talent. OzFox is looking for local talent from Australia and New Zealand. Whil Hentzen was well known for doing something similar years ago with GLGDW. He took risks and grew the speaker pool and thus broadened the materials presented at FoxPro conferences. I have always been grateful to Whil for taking a chance on a punk from Sterling Heights Michigan back in 2000. Last year Bob Kocher dragged Craig Boyd from his basement in Minnesota to participate in the Southwest Fox Keynote and now he is a rock star, and this year Kevin Cully based the entire FoxForward conference on volunteers and introduced the community to some rising stars with Kevin Ragsdale and Bo Durban getting some serious buzz on their sessions (to mention only two). This is tough to balance because speakers and their topics are the number one draw to a conference.
  2. Building community - Craig has been banging the Fox Community drum down under for quite a while with his participation in the OzFox Rocks Podcast with Scott Scovell, plus organizing OzFox Lite and previous OzFox conferences. I recall the days when Microsoft held special meetings for user group leaders at DevCon, and Whil had a special dinner where he organized a user group leader dinner at GLGDW. Whil and Bob Kocher offered discounts to user group members.
  3. Networking - based on strong feedback from the last OzFox, attendees want more time to network with each other. OzFox will have a session dedicated to networking. I have said for years the in between session material/discussion is as valuable as the conference sessions. While I am not sure a session has to be dedicated to the topic, I think conference organizers need to innovate ideas on how to enhance the networking experience. Interesting decision and hopefully one to start other ideas flowing.
Conference organizers have earned my deepest respect with the effort they put in to bring us these important events. It is impossible to satisfy everyone, yet they do everything they can to make the experience as pleasant as possible for all the personalities involved.

OzFox sounds like a great conference. If you live anywhere within an earshot of Sydney you need to register right away. There are nine days left to take advantage of the least expensive registration cost.

My first crack at airfare on Northwest was taking me from Detroit to Sydney east over the Atlantic instead of directly west. Three days and four or five stops and US$10,000. I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. I would have literally seen the world from 38,000 feet.

All I have to do is see if I can jam a week out of my schedule, possibly work out some resource issues with one March deployment, and see if I can convince the other shareholder to spring for the expenses. Fingers crossed this all works out, but I am realistic when I review all the work I have to do in the first quarter of 2007. If not, I will be reading some one else's blog to hear about all the cool stuff I missed.

I'll be at OzFox 2007


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sedna Data Explorer

I have been meaning to blog about the Sedna Data Explorer for a long time. Mostly to inform developers reviewing the October Community Technology Preview (CTP) of things they can test so the bugs are revealed sooner than later.

In case you have not attended any of my Data Explorer sessions over the last few months or the Southwest Fox 2006 Keynote, I have been working as a contractor for Microsoft on the changes for the Sedna update to the Data Explorer. It has been a real pleasure to work on this developer tool. I have developed a real respect for the work Ryan Katri (Code References, Evironment Manager, Toolbox, and Task Pane are the other tools he is famous for) and Randy Brown (retired Product Manager) did on the original version. The design of the Data Explorer is very well done and the code is written well too. I wish there were a few more comments in the code, but figuring out how it works was straightforward. I have also learned numerous techniques to incorporate in my own developer tools along the way.

As you might know, I have been a little vocal about some of the bugs in the original Data Explorer release so Microsoft asked me to put up and fix the bugs, and include numerous enhancements in the Sedna version. I gladly accepted the challenge.

The first release for public consumption is in the October 2006 Sedna CTP and VFP 9.0 SP2 CTP. Please note this is not a production release as I wrote about here. You need to carefully load this over on a test machine or in a test folder. Steps to do this are in my blog entry just mentioned. Note: The Sedna CTP is separate from the SP2 CTP. The Sedna CTP does not overwrite any critical files. In fact, the entire release is installed in a separate folder under your VFP 9 root folder. There are few risks to installing and running the Sedna CTP.

There are however a couple of things to consider with respect to the Data Explorer. First, if you use the Data Explorer pane in the Task Pane Manager you will not see the new version. The Task Pane Manager looks for the DataExplorer.APP file in the VFP 9 folder. If you want to use the Sedna version you need to rename the original version to something else, and copy the Sedna version from the "Sedna October CTP" folder to the VFP 9 folder. If you want you can just run it directly from the Command Window:

DO HOME()+"\Sedna October CTP\DataExplorer\DataExplorer.APP"

The second item on the check list is the shortcut menu for the tree view is where most of the Data Explorer functionality is found. Several new features have been added in the Sedna release. These features do not automatically show up on the menu if you have been using the Data Explorer previously. The reason is the functionality for the shortcut menu is stored in the metadata: DataExplorer.DBF in the HOME(7) folder. The new functionality is stored inside the DataExplorer.APP file internally in a DBF file. If you want the new menu functionality and want to retain your existing connections and extensions you have added or downloaded you need to update your DataExplorer.DBF metadata. This is accomplished via the Options dialog. First click on the Options button on the Data Explorer toolbar. On the Options dialog you will find a button called Restore to Default. This might sound like you will be set back to the factory settings, and indeed this is possible, but you can also retain the connection settings and your extensions you have added.

Click on the Restore to Default button to start the update process. You will be prompted with a message: Do you want to maintain connections and customizations that were done by you or a third-party vendor?” Click yes if you want to save your changes and get the new enhancements. Click no if you really want to be reset to factory settings including and include the new functionality distributed by Microsoft in the Sedna release. One note, if you made any enhancements to the native code included in the original Data Explorer features, it is likely the Data Explorer will reset it.

For instance, I have changed the behavior of the Design option for VFP tables and views to run the White Light Computing ViewEditor instead of the native View Designer. Each time I restore the native functionality I select the option to save my connections and additions. It does that, but restores the original code for the Design feature and I need to reset the code to work the way I want it to.

My recommendation to you is to create a backup of the DataExplorer.DBF file using the Options dialog before restoring the functionality. This way you can get your customized code for the native features and restore the code overwritten during this process.

There are no compatibility issues with the DataExplorer.DBF and nothing gets structurally changed. You can still use the original Data Explorer once you work with the Sedna version. I have not run into any issues doing so. Things do work differently between the two, and hopefully the changes are for the better.

The changes discussed in this blog post are based on the version shipped in the Sedna October 2006 Community Tech Preview (CTP). It is important to note at the time this post is written the features to be included in the final release have not been finalized.

The list of fixes/enhancements in the Sedna Data Explorer are a bit longer than the Microsoft list included in the Sedna CTP release notes.

Bug Fixes:
  • Drag/drop of VFP table/view from the Data Explorer to a form now sets the grid's RecordSource.
  • Drag and drop operations now respect Field Mapping settings for SQL Server data
  • Fixed drag and drop of VFP table from Data Explorer to a form when a Field Mapping setting is set to a non-existing class or class library. This triggers a C5 error every time. Now you get a message telling you to fix the Field Mapping.
  • Default values are displayed in the description pane for VFP data. Previously you see nothing or a logical false (.F.) even for non-logical data.
  • Run Query dialog - running add-ins while on the Message tab triggers an "Alias Not Found" error.
  • Run Query dialog - result set grid with General fields, double-click on general field triggers "Field must be a Memo field" error.
  • Browse form - change auto incrementing integer column causes the grid to lose the RecordSource, and thus causes the grid to lose all the columns.
  • Included David Fung's fix for stored procedure sorting when using the Korean code page.
  • The issue with free tables not showing their columns when expanding the node was an issue I introduced in an interim build to Microsoft. You should not see this in the original version or the Sedna version.
  • Ability to sort objects (tables, views, stored procedures) is separate from the ability to sort columns. See connection properties for new setting.
  • Display SQL Showplan for local views via context menu.
  • Display Database Documention for VFP databases via context menu. This is text output in the October CTP. I have a newer version of this I demoed at Southwest Fox that outputs to HTML, has CSS control of the output, and does a better job documenting the database.
  • Launches the new and improved Upsizing Wizard for VFP database connections via context menu.
  • Options dialog has Rushmore Optimization Level setting for the showplan features now included in the Data Explorer. You can set this to your favorite setting once and the options will display the results using this setting.
  • Options dialog allows you to pick where the Upsizing Wizard is located. This allows you to run the one that ships from Microsoft, or your own enhanced version, or possibly one you get from an open source project like VFPx in the future.
  • Option dialog has a new button to back up the DataExplorer.DBF metadata file. This was a personal requirement because I was tired of hunting the file down during my development of the new feature for the Sedna version. I need to back up my source often.
  • Run Query dialog has "(F5)" added to the Run button to expose previous functionality of using the hotkey to run the query (the same hotkey as SQL Server Query Analyzer).
  • Run Query dialog has Report result add-ins to generate reports in form and columnar style.
  • Run Query dialog Message tab on the result set now shows the Rushmore Optimization level and number of rows returned for VFP data. SQL Server queries always showed the number of rows returned.
I have made several new enhancements since the CTP release which I will blog about when I know they are going to make it into a future release. This has been a fun project and I look forward to hearing the feedback you provide to Microsoft.

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