Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vacation Accomplishments

I returned to Michigan today from a 10-day break in the Orlando area. Yesterday I was in the 70s (F) with sunshine and a slight breeze in Florida. Today it is below freezing and we are getting 2-4 inches of snow this evening. Fabulous. At least our flight was not delayed like the many people flying on Delta today.

I accomplished a couple of firsts on my vacation. The first was attending a Detroit Tigers spring training game. My dad took me to the game for my birthday and it was a real treat, although it felt more like a typical opening day game in Detroit weather-wise (game time temps in the low 60s with wind-chills in the 50s without jackets {g}). The Tigers won it in the ninth inning 10-9. Great game as the Tigers fell behind 6-0, rallied to an 9-6 lead, Astros tied it in the top of the 9th, and Tigers pulled it out in the bottom of the inning. It has been a long time since my dad and I went to a Tigers game and the first game I attended with my nephew and brother-in-law.

The next thing I accomplished was attending the live landing of the space shuttle. I have seen the orbiter return once before to Kennedy Space Center, but on the back of a 747 as it flew back from California. I can't say I actually saw Endeavour return because it was dark. We heard the twin sonic booms and heard the jets that escorted the orbiter to the landing. We also saw the lights from the escort jet as it descended to the well-lit landing strip on the horizon. Our view was fantastic and it would have been even more spectacular if Endeavour would have landed during the first pass at 7:05pm. Still, it was a great evening filled with fun and terrific meal with my parents as we wrapped up our spring break.

Back to work and catching up on a couple of projects, plus I have a huge announcement coming early next week. It will be good to get back to full-time work, and some positives vibes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Port Forwarding Information

Today I was setting up with a developer to do some mentoring for the first time. He was looking for ideas on how I can connect to his computer so I offered several options including Co-Pilot from Fog Creek,, VNC, Remote Desktop, and the old stand-by PcAnywhere. To do the last three we need some port forwarding set up and the developer had not previously set any of this up.

I have used for years to get the port information. It is a clear and easy to use site for the various ports used by different software. A terrific knowledgebase. Today I also found on the site a great resource I did not know existed before: step-by-step instructions on how to set up the port forwarding on different routers. I have always used LinkSys routers so even someone with my love of hardware can simply set it up. When my new client asked me how to do this on his 2Wire router I had no clue. I Googled the router and found a link to this site.

Very nice!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

FoxRockX Arrives!

I returned to my office late this afternoon and in my email is the first issue of FoxRockX - all shiny and new! Open for business as the saying goes. for all the details (make sure to include the "www" until they get this fixed).

Go get subscribed today before you forget and miss the inaugural issue. Consider it a gift to yourself, and an investment in your career. You should not be disappointed.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

LifeHacker to the rescue

Earlier this week I had to tear apart the office and next week it gets put back together. The nightmare of doing this is moving some extremely heavy furniture around, and dealing with the miles of electric cords and network wires. The wires have always been a pain to me (I know, its hardware {g}) no matter how careful I try to be when I connect it all to the power source. A very timely post on LifeHacker is going to save me some of the aggravation this time around.

Today I am going to go get some of the foam pipe insulation which I think is brilliant, and I ordered some of the ID Pilot Identification Labels. I am also going to get some tie wraps for the server closet in the basement. When I built the server closet I put peg board on the inside walls to allow for better circulation, but thanks to this inspirational post I now can attach the DSL modem and switches to save on shelf space.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Southwest Fox Potential Speaker Alert

I know Doug Hennig has already blogged how the call for speakers deadline is coming up on Monday March 17th. You may have seen the post over on the Southwest Fox Conference Blog when we announced it.

I thought I would take this opportunity to point potential speakers to Craig Bailey's blog "TIP: The Top Mistake of public speaking", which has some very solid advice. Maybe Craig will submit some sessions {g}.

I am looking forward to reading the submissions from the Fox Community. I was talking with some Fox friends recently about how the selection process for last year's Southwest Fox was for me the most difficult part of putting the conference together. I expect this year to be no different.

Please note there are details on the Southwest Fox site and we expect to select some seasoned veterans, as well as some new presenters too. Please consider topics you are passionate about, and topics you think will fit both the tracks we are looking to offer as well as the spirit of the conference - Fox Rocks!

Only 224 days until we meet in Mesa!

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UT Magazine - Revived

The Fox Community once again has two magazines devoted to VFP content! Over on the UniversalThread Martin Salias announced that Mike Yearwood is taking over as editor of the UT Magazine. This magazine will be published quarterly and targeted towards Visual FoxPro developers. Looks like they want to write about the VFP Compiler, Guineu, new versions of Web Connection, Sedna, the VFPX projects, and the upcoming VFP Studio. More details to come later.

You will find the "Universal Thread Magazine will be back!" thread in the Chatter section so those who avoid Chatter might miss this announcement.

The good news just keeps on coming!

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FoxPro Content on Advisor - Updated

Back in November I posted how you can get to VFP specific content on the massive Advisor site in a post titled: FoxPro Content on Advisor

Last week I got an email from Jeff Hibbs noting this link was broken so I contacted Advisor to see what happened. Looks like they moved some servers around. The new link is:

This is way better than trudging though pages of material on Lotus Notes, FileMaker and SharePoint when all I want to read is what Mike Lewis has to offer for tips this month, and the rest of the content the VFP authors have to share with me before my subscription expires.

Thanks Jeff for pointing out the broken link!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

FoxRockX - almost ready!

Looks like the first issue of FoxRockX is about to hit the streets (I first blogged about it here: Fox Rocks with FoxRockX). More details can be found here:
Visual FoxPro Wiki - FoxRockX Introduction.

I think it is very exciting how Rainer negotiated to get the past issues and source code samples of FoxTalk from Eli. These will be available to all subscribers of FoxRockX. While the demise of FoxTalk is well documented, the information in the back issues will live on, which I personally appreciate. I refer to this archive quite frequently. I have all the issues on my development machine index for optimal searching.

I will be writing regularly in FoxRockX too. My initial series of articles will focus on VFPX. It looks like you will see many of the regular authors who have been sharing with the community for years, plus some fresh faces. Bold new beginnings for our community. We live in exciting times.

I hope you take the opportunity to support FoxRockX and subscribe.

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Bo Durban on VFP 9 SP2

Just in case for some reason you don't have your favorite blog reader pointing to Bo Durban's Moxie Data Weblog, you might be interested in his posts on VFP 9 SP2 issues, bugs, and workarounds. Excellent posts with insightful details on one of the reporting issues. I look forward to reading more as this series continues.


White Light Computing Relocating

White Light Computing is relocating...temporarily.

Our home is 13 years old and needs a makeover in many ways. We have done a little here and there, but starting three businesses got way of the cash flow over the years and we kept putting it off. Over the holidays I convinced my wife we need to make some changes to the family room furniture which is a mismatch of hand me downs and some couches we bought 15 years ago. This means we need to paint too, and when we moved the old furniture out we decided new carpet has to be ordered. One little change like this always snowballs.

The White Light Computing world headquarters is right next to the family room, so the carpet decision impacts the business. My office is jammed with stuff, computers everywhere and enough wire to probably circle the globe once. The last time the office was torn apart was when I started White Light Computing four years ago and it was painful.

We ordered the furniture in January, and I started working on the drywall repairs in spare time normally when I am thinking through a design or need to work out a bug. This slowed the progress and we decided to hire a painter so I could keep focused on the clients. Yesterday the painter called us and said he can show up *now* so I had to tear apart the office. I figured it was going to take two weekend days to tear apart the office and relocate it to the dining room (an acquisition not easily negotiated with Therese {g}). So instead of a month long project, this will all be done by Wednesday next week (paint, carpet, and furniture delivery). This pleases the project manager (Therese) because she now has hired workers who are not sluffing off pretending to write code all day.

I was seriously dreading tearing apart the office, but now that it is done I feel better because it gives me a chance to better organize the layout of the furniture and discard some stuff I no longer need in my life. Still, this is a nightmare come true. Time to get back to work.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

VFP 9 RTM/SP1/SP2 - One Machine

I have talked to a lot of Visual FoxPro developers since VFP 9 SP2 was released in October 2007. I have read many of the posts on the forums. In my unscientific poll I can safely say that less than 20 percent of the developers have even loaded SP2 and there are a number of reasons for this:
  1. Developers are comfortable with the stability of SP1 and don't need any of the fixed bugs deployed in SP2.
  2. Some developers do not have the resources to system test all of their applications and cannot adopt the new service pack until the resources can be allocated to their projects.
  3. The first release of VFP 9 SP2 eroded the confidence of VFP developers because of the missing fixes, and the "beta" splash screen.
  4. The reputation of SP2 is further eroded because of the number of serious regression bugs discovered since the release of "SP2a" (however, most developers are going on the experiences of a few who have blazed the SP2 trail, and have not loaded it themselves).
  5. Developers do not understand you can have VFP 9 no service pack, VFP 9 SP1 and VFP 9 SP2 loaded on the same development machine.
  6. Anger at Microsoft over the decision the product is feature complete, and the sloppiness of the release cycle for VFP 9 SP2.
  7. Something else?
I believe the biggest reasons are the confidence eroding regression bugs posted by the trail blazers, and the fact many developers have not considered the possibility you can host more than one version of VFP 9 on the same machine.

There is a big problem with this situation, and one really concerning me. The problem is that too few people have installed, tried, and tested the release of VFP 9 SP2. This means the brave few who have installed it possibly have revealed only a subset of the problems with SP2. I am confident that the most serious and obvious problems have been revealed. But more developers running their code through the release will better establish the complete list of issues we might have to work around for years to come.

You can see the current list on the Visual FoxPro Wiki's VFP9Sp2BugList page. You can also see some of the workarounds for the bugs on the SolutionsToVFP9SP2Bugs page. I would like these two pages and other pages added if necessary to this important knowledgebase so the Fox Community has a centralized list of the best practices in dealing with VFP 9 SP2 issues. These pages are referenced over and over as developers come online with VFP 9 SP2 and hit the same problems others have already solved. It also allows developers supporting each other a place to refer developers who are new to SP2 where to go to get key information.

As to the new regression bugs without workarounds, the sooner we can identify these the better. The identification of the problems has a potential four-fold advantage:
  1. Developers who are making the business decision to adopt or not adopt VFP 9 SP2 will have the best information when testing and certifying their decision.
  2. A centralized set of best practice workarounds for core VFP9.EXE problems is continually refined. Bugs in the VFP XSource components can be identified and a plan to make corrections by the Fox Community can be put into motion through VFPX.
  3. If more developers adopt SP2 the Fox Community as a whole have an easier time supporting each other on the online forums.
  4. A business case to have Microsoft consider fixing some of the serious regression bugs without reasonable workarounds can be developed and presented to Microsoft. The sooner we can do this, the better the chance it will be considered. And please, never say never.
I know by myself I cannot turn the tide with respect to the eroded confidence, but if more developers give SP2 a try we can take advantage of the benefits I have outlined in this blog post. Those developers with a positive SP2 experience need to post their successes too. Too often humans focus on problems than the positive experiences, and the positives get overshadowed.

I definitely want to see the best practices flushed out and fixes applied to the XSource code. Several have already been identified to ease the adoption. If we can identify the VFP 9 core EXE show-stopper bugs to Microsoft and get those fixed, big bonus!

To help those who have not loaded VFP 9 SP2 on their development machine I have written a short white paper detailing the steps I have taken to load VFP 9 original (a.k.a. RTM - released to manufacturing), Service Pack 1 (SP1), and Service Pack 2 (SP2) on my primary development machine. This white paper is available for you to review and help guide you to install more than one of the VFP 9 versions. This process has been refined over the years and others have stepped through it, so it is tested by more than one developer.

If you are interested, you can find the white paper here:
  1. PDF file (584K)
  2. ZIP file with Word document (747K)
I am open to any feedback about the white paper and the process for the installs. I have identified the feedback mechanism in the white paper. I am sure people will see different things they want to do to make it work better. As I have noted, this process works for me and is being provided as a guide to get you through the challenge and give you some food for thought on the process.

If you are one of the those important language translators in the community (and you know who you are) and you want to translate this document to your native language, please do and let me know so I can also host it on my Web site too. I have granted general permission to everyone who has ever requested permission to translate blog posts over the years. This information should not have artificial barriers because people cannot read my writing (and no comments from the peanut gallery on my English {g}).

Special thanks to Pamela Thalacker, Mary Pilon, Tamar Granor, and Cathy Pountney who kindly responded to my request to review this document. They helped me think thorough many of the steps and offered gentle advice on improving it. This document is better because of their help, but any bugs or confusing details you may find in it are all mine.

Call To Action!

It is my hope you will install VFP 9 SP2, and will post your VFP 9 SP2 issues on the Visual FoxPro Wiki so we can identify the best practices and workarounds discussed. I also hope you will post some discussions on the various community forums. I cannot promise to engage in all the discussions because I am only one person and having an expanding customer base to serve in my day job, but this is what the FoxPro Community is all about, masses of people helping each other out.


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DDEX Install Instructions Updated

I am sure anyone who reads my blog looking for VFP advice and insight already reads Craig Boyd's blog, but since this is an important discovery and set of instructions I thought I would mention it here.

Last week a friend asked me about installing the Sedna component DDEX for VFP in Visual Studio so he could work with VFP data in Visual Studio.NET. These instructions are a byproduct of the initial inquiry.

Check out Craig's detailed research and corrections/enhancements to this component here.

Thanks Craig, once again your contributions to our community are huge! I love his statement at the end of his post, and maybe will become our new mantra: "That's one of the things I love about VFP... the VFP Community can provide for themselves."

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