Saturday, April 26, 2008

VFP 9 SP2 Help Fix: Glitches

As I noted last night, a new version of the VFP 9 SP2 Help file is available for download.

I have reviewed the new Help file and it does have a couple cosmetic issues, which in my opinion are minor compared to the advantage of including the 600+ missing index items. There is one unexpected minor improvement too, and I found a more serious problem, but it is not a show stopper in my opinion.

Cosmetic issues:
  1. Blue header section is white.
  2. Header section is rearranged a bit.
  3. Parameters are no longer bold.
  4. Microsoft copyright missing at the bottom (maybe this could be to our advantage. {evil grin}
  5. See Also sections with different References and Other Resources subsections are all merged under Concepts.
  6. Help title would be better as Visual FoxPro 9.0 SP2 instead of dv_foxhelp91.
Cosmetic improvements:
  1. Code is more readable without extra white space.
Real problems:
  1. The only serious problem I have found in my limited testing the Favorites are missing. I am not talking about my favorite topics (those always seem to get lost when updating CHM files), but the entire tab and feature is missing. I use this a lot and it will be a big hit my productivity. It won't stop me from using this version of the Help file.
  2. Internal links are broken on a number of pages (thanks to Andrzej for pointing this out to me and posting an image on the Foxite Upload site), also not a show stopper.
  3. PEM links are broken on pages for all objects I have looked at. This is definitely a serious problem so you have a choice, missing PEMs (used all the time by some people), or missing index entries in original SP2 Help. Both have a common workaround, use the Search page.
[RAS (26-Apr-2008 @ 10:30AM) - Updated to reflect internal links broken]
[RAS (28-Apr-2008 @ 2:26PM) - Updated to reflect PEM comment I posted yesterday, but not read by some readers based on posted feedback I have read]

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Friday, April 25, 2008

VFP 9 SP2 Help: Fix is available

Need Help? Specifically, need a more complete index in the VFP 9 SP2 Help?

As promised at the MVP Summit, Microsoft has made available the corrected VFP 9 SP2 Help file, which includes the missing index entries. Get the file at the Microsoft Download site.

One small step for VFP 9 SP2, one huge Help for VFP 9 developers...

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

MVP Summit: Outlook Issues

One of the great things about the MVP Summit is the discussions with MVPs outside of your core group. In my case I had the opportunity to talk with someone who is an Outlook MVP about some of my Outlook headaches. She is pointing me to a tool to help me migrate my PST file to the Outlook 2007 format. Christof Wollenhaupt told me to expect my file size to double because the file is upgraded to support Unicode and this takes twice the bytes. He also told me I should be able to see the Russian spam easier. Cool. This is another thing I was wondering about. When I read Web Mail on my Windows Mobile phone I see the Russian character set, but in Outlook it looks like garbage text.

The other thing I learned is an explanation for something that has bugged me about Outlook, but not something that has affected performance or organization of the PST and the 2GB limit. Each time I do a send/receive pass I see the message "Sending Message 12 of 12" even when I do not have any messages in my Outbox. I have always thought this was a bunch of return receipts clogged in my Outbox, but I have guessed wrong. This is a bug. It has a direct correlation to the number of email accounts I have set up in Outlook. If I add a new account it would say "Sending Message 13 of 13". This must be a seriously pain in the neck bug to figure out, or simply not a high priority, because I know the bug has existed as far back as Outlook 2003.

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MVP Summit: Recipe swapping

OK, this is sort of off topic unless you understand you need food to power the brain to be able to code. It seems over the last couple of years the VFP MVPs eventually gravitate the discussion to food during the evening offline sessions. Last year we discussed our attraction to the Food Channel and this year some how got on the topic again. I think we were talking about Craig Boyd from Sweet Potato Software, which reminded me of an excellent recipe Therese uses to make some really yummy and healthy soup. Since a bunch of my friends requested the recipe I decided to blog it:

Black Bean Soup With Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

2 teaspoons canola oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (29-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
6 fresh cilantro sprigs
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 cups vegetable broth
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander and cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Place the beans in a 5- or 6- quart slow cooker. Add the onion mixture, potato, cilantro sprigs, salt and pepper. Pour the broth over the beans and vegetables. Cover and cook until the vegetables are fork-tender, 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low. Discard the cilantro sprigs (Therese actually leaves these in since we like cilantro)
  3. Pour the soup in batches into a blender or food processor and puree. Return the soup to the slow cooker. Garnish each serving with cilantro leaves.
Nutrition Information
Per serving (2 cups)
213 Calories
4g fat
Sat fat: 1g
Trans fat: 0g
5 mg Cholesterol
788 mg Sodium
41g Carbohydrates
12g Fiber
12g Protein
121mg Calcium

I really like this soup and it is really tasty the day after for lunch. Normally we have leftovers unless the kids are home from college and they take some back with them. I am salivating as I write this post.

Now in exchange for this I received promises for chocolate chip cookies recipes (the single thing Therese has not been able to master in our 26 years together) from several people, and I look forward to getting them. {g}

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Monday, April 21, 2008

MVP Summit: The Fox Team

The MVP Summit completely exceeded my expectations for many reasons, but mostly because of my interaction with the other VFP MVPs and the Fox Team. Microsoft did not schedule a single session for the VFP MVPs so we decide to make our own. I learned several things and felt the trip was well worth the time and cost. I had to work at night to keep up with the project schedules so it really was an exhausting week.

There is one thing I want to address publicly that I feel is important. I have been reading many comments in the community on how the Fox Team has been disbanded and how they have gone their own separate ways. How they have abandoned our favorite developer tool and our community. Yes, this is partly true. Each of the developers, the testers, the management, the Help file folks, and the marketing team (no jokes please {g}) have all gone on to do great things in some other part of Microsoft and the entire team is not working full time on Visual FoxPro. This is part of growing as individuals and making moves in one's career.

But one thing I realized and something that should have been very apparent to me all along is this small group is still the Fox Team no matter where they go and no matter what other projects they work on. The group as a whole and individually have been smacked with a virtual baseball bat over the last year, yet they still managed to correct the Help file's missing index items and correct an annoying bug in the reporting system. I think this says a lot about the individuals involved. They listened intently with an open mind to the bugs/issues in SP2, and have left open the door to improve the SP2 experience and its adoptability by FoxPro developers. They all showed up for the product team dinner including Fox Team members from the past who long ago moved on to something new. Even someone who was on vacation and may have wanted to celebrate a birthday with the family came to spend time with us. Any one of them could have spent the time with their product groups, but choose to come to ours.

My hat goes off to the entire Fox Team and their dedication to Visual FoxPro and the Fox Community. Thanks for your efforts.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MVP Summit - Good News About VFP

Alan Griver spilled the beans today that Microsoft has some fixes for VFP 9 SP2. Alan announced the missing index items in the VFP 9 SP2 Help file are fixed and being reviewed, and will be available online sometime soon. The "Fox Team" has already fixed one report bug when the preview toolbar becomes unusable in the "new style" report preview. The fix is done and is going through the packaging process before being released to the Fox Community.

This is absolutely great news and a step in the right direction to help with the adoption rate of VFP 9 SP2.

There is more good news as the "Fox Team" is open to possibly fixing more SP2 regression bugs. No promises were made, but it is encouraging news that the serious bugs are being considered. It was a positive meeting and a good day.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

MVP Summit: Headed to Seattle

This week I will be in Seattle to attend the MVP Summit. It is one of my favorite weeks because I normally just show up and soak in the new technology Microsoft has to show us under the standard Non-Disclosure Agreement. I don't have to prepare for the MVP Summit like I do for the conferences where I present.

It is always a fun time seeing MVP friends again, meeting with the folks formerly known as the Fox Team, and geeking out with Visual FoxPro. I come home exhausted and energized at the same time. I am looking forward to returning to the Seattle area again, staying downtown, and soaking in the city atmosphere and mountains off in the distance.

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GRAFUG: Winging It with VFPX

Yesterday I presented a smattering of topics to the Grand Rapids Area Fox User Group. It does not matter if I am presenting to customers, at a conference, or in front of a user group, I like to prepare. But this week was nuts and I had only a couple of hours Friday night to put together all the new material I wanted to present. It is definitely not my style to slap together something at the last minute, but it was unavoidable.

I discussed three things:
  1. Installing VFP 9 SP2 and the importance of doing it.
  2. Showed how I am using VFPX components in my applications
  3. The Advantage Database Server
The key thing I want to discuss in this blog post is how easy Emerson Santon Reed made the second part of the presentation go with his new Themed Controls. I wanted to show something new and the Themed Controls were only released last week. If you are not familiar with the Themed Controls, take a look on VFPX. The Themed Controls absolutely rock! The project currently includes the OutlookNavBar (formerly known as Outlook2003NavBar), the ZoomNavBar, and the ToolBox.

When Emerson first released the Outlook2003NavBar I wanted to use it as a toolbar along the left side of my applications, but unfortunately it was only designed to work on forms. I made the enhancement request to have it work on toolbars and I am pleased to say the newest version does. It works great and was very easy to implement. I literally downloaded the file, reviewed the samples, and implemented it into the Southwest Fox Event Management app I have written. All this in less than two hours. Wow!

Mike Potjer brought up the new FoxCharts during the discussion so I showed what Cesar has put together by demonstrating the sample included in the project.

It is important to note that both the Themed Controls and FoxChart both leverage GDIPlusX. This demonstrates the synergy we already see from the VFPX projects. Very, very exciting things are happening in the Fox Community these days and I was glad to have the opportunity to share this with the folks in Grand Rapids who are always gracious hosts. Even when I am unable to prepare properly.

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DAFUG: Collections

Last Thursday Mike Feltman of F1 Technologies presented his new session on Collections to the Detroit Area Fox User Group. Mike is putting this session together for the 2008 conference season and wanted to rehearse it to get some feedback before presenting it at conferences this year.

This session was excellent! Mike talked about collections, some advantages and disadvantages, how they work, how they compare to arrays, and then went in and demonstrated some code. Mike has put together a really cool set of utilities using collections based on his work with JavaScript over the last year. These utilities show the power of collections and are worth the price of admission to his session alone.

I rarely use the Collection class in Visual FoxPro, primarily because they are more difficult to debug than arrays. I use arrays for the same thing I can use a Collection. After seeing Mike's session I likely will use the Collection class more. Another thing Mike showed is how you can return an array property from a method in class code. This is something I either knew and forgot, or learned last Thursday.

Great session Mike! I know Mike is showing this session in Grand Rapids on May 10th, and anticipate this session will be selected by conference organizers too.

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ViewEditor Bug

I received a bug report this week for ViewEditor Professional that took a little time to track down. I don't have time to immediately fix it so I want to pass this along to the developers with two simple workarounds to use until I can figure out the best solution.

The bug is only revealed under a specific circumstance and has likely been a bug since ViewEditor Professional was originally written back in 2002. The bug shows itself when you save the view you are working on. The save process verifies the view's SQL code is valid and reports any problems with the SQL code. During this process all view parameters are substituted using the VFP STRTRAN() function. Depending the substitution sequence of the view parameters and the names of the view parameters, an incorrect substitution occurs. The problem only happens when you have two view parameters starting with the same characters.

?vp_lActive = .F.
?vp_lActiveArchive = .T.

SELECT cCustomerID, cCustomerName ;
FROM Customer ;
WHERE ?vp_lActive = .T. ;
AND ?vp_lActiveArchive = .T.
If vp_lActive is STRTRAN'ed first you see the validation code after the substitution to be:

SELECT cCustomerID, cCustomerName ;
FROM Customer ;
WHERE .F. = .T. ;
AND .F.Archive = .T.

The two workarounds (use one or the other):
  1. Do not name your view parameters starting with the same characters.
  2. Shut off the validation process when saving views by unchecking the Validate SQL checkbox on the SQL page.
If your views give you an error when you are saving them you can click on the Show SQL Validation Code button to see what the ViewEditor uses as the validation code. This is how I revealed what happened with my customer's view. She knows the view is valid and has decided to shut off the validation until I can the validation substitution of view parameters.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

White Light Computing Doubles Visual FoxPro Staff

Contact Information:
Rick Schummer
White Light Computing, Inc.
42759 Flis Dr.
Sterling Heights, MI 48314

STERLING HEIGHTS, MICHIGAN, April 2, 2008 -- It is a great pleasure to announce Frank Perez has accepted an offer to work at White Light Computing as a Software Developer. Frank has a proven track record of success in the software development industry and brings more than 13 years of experience supporting and developing custom and vertical market solutions. He is experienced in all phases of software development with strengths in Visual FoxPro reporting, Stonefield Query, and has a passion for developer tools. Frank also has extensive experience with hardware and networking support.

In his role at White Light Computing, Frank will be working directly with our growing list of clients to collect business requirements, write specifications, architect and design, develop, test, deploy, and support our software solutions. He also will help release a couple more developer tools nearing completion.

His first day at White Light Computing is May 1, 2008.

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