Archive for June, 2005


Looking forward to July 2005…

NASA announced the launch of space shuttle Discovery is currently scheduled for July 13th. This will be a great day for the space program and a tribute to the spirit of the seven astronauts who perished with Columbia on February 1, 2003. It will be good to see the shuttle program back in space and the International Space Station back in the construction business. I only wish I could fly to Florida to see it in person.

Then three days later is the launch of another kind – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince! Coincidentally, the last book in this series Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was launched in 2003. The Schummer family has read all five books as a family out loud and the sixth book will be consumed in the same manner. Most of the reading happens while we are driving on vacation and in the evenings in our camper. I anticipate the kids will not wait for our summer trip.

Hard to believe both of these events are two years in the making. If things go well, I anticipate White Light Computing will be making an important announcement in July which is also two years in the making. Stay tuned.


I just got a reminder from Bob Kocher that the early bid registration deadline for Southwest Fox 2005 is tomorrow. If you are definitely going to Tempe in October, or are considering attending a FoxPro-centric conference this year, I suggest you take advantage of the discount. Even without the discount Southwest Fox is a fantastic value for the price you pay, but why not save US$50? Alumni from the 2004 conference save US$100 off the full price admission.

This will easily be the best conference in North America in the fall. I really enjoyed the conference last year. Most people I talked to who attended the conference said it was very much like WhilFest, but a lot warmer.


I am not sure this is a lesson I learned in Kindergarten, or if it is a character trait I was born with, or is a philosophy I adopted or develop during my life, but I am still amazed at people who do not step up to a challenge when a task needs to get done.

Case in point. Friday I was working and the client management decided at 2:30 to commit to running a data conversion. This was not a complete surprise since it was on the schedule. As with any conversion, the timing of the conversion is critical to the success. This means we have to wait for the users to finish with the old system, grab the data, run through the conversion, load the data into the new database, and test the heck out of the system and verify the correct data was converted. Anyone who has performed a conversion knows the importance of the timings, the importance of the validation, and the importance of all team members coordinating their efforts to ensure success.

This conversion has the following players:

  1. Management: corporate managers who fund the staff, set priorities, and run the company.
  2. Project Manager: coordinate all team players, schedule the project, make sure we are meeting deadlines, and ensure proper resources are working toward success.
  3. Onsite consultant: application experts for the new system who know the data and know if the system is working properly with the new data.
  4. Business Analyst: business experts who know the old system, who know the data in the old system and how to verify the correctness of the conversion by reviewing the data in the new system.
  5. Developer: software craftsman who know how to extract the data from the old system, translate it into a format later imported into the new system.
  6. Help Desk: staff of experts in support of the hardware, networking, Citrix, operating systems and general business productivity software.
  7. Users: Experts in running the business they are in using the software provided to them to perform their jobs.

My role in this project is Developer. I extract the data from one or two different FoxPro systems (data stored in DBFs), and format the data into delimited text files for import into a SQL Server database. I was informed of the conversion by both management and the Project Manager. So I call the users and coordinate a time when they are done for the day so I can compress the files and prepare them to be transferred from the plant and brought back to the corporate offices by the Help Desk. I stress the importance of everyone being out of the system. I send off an email to the Help Desk at 2:45pm to coordinate the transfer (around 5:00pm) and note the urgency and importance of the timing for the task. Communication, Communication, Communication (or as I refer to it, Communication-cubed).

I call the end users at 4:45pm (which was fifteen minutes late because I was dealing with a different support call). All I ask for is that no one is in the system so I would avoid possible DBF corruption. I was assured this was the case. I zipped up one folder and then start the second set. Before the second set was done the user informs me that they need to go home. I asked them to stay so I could ensure the files were not open. They had more urgent matters to attend to than this corporate conversion of their data and left. Guess what, the files were in use and no one answered the phone when I called back.

I walk over to the Help Desk to inform them the files were ready to transfer. One person from the team was still in the office. It is now 4:55pm. I was informed the assignment to get the data was assigned to one of the people who left for the weekend and I was asked of the files could wait until Monday. In my 2:45pm email I noted the timing and urgency of the file transfer. All I was met with was resistance and questions of who made the decision to convert data on Friday evening. The manager of the Help Desk also questioned the decision. The Project Manager left for the day as well. The only one there was the developer (me) and one IT manager. After 15 minutes of groaning how the Help Desk person was going to have to give up an hour of “personal time” to copy the 100MB files, and how poor planned this was, the Help Desk person initiated the files, handed me her cell number and left for the day. She had dinner plans. While I can appreciate the dedication to family, I sacrificed my plans to help my family set up for my son’s grad party and the 120 people schedule to visit the next day.

Now the only way for me to know the files are transferred is opening the files with WinZip and see if they are corrupt. At 6:30 I check and had success, but literally was flying blind. I ran the conversion and fortunately none of the DBFs were corrupt even though they were open. I sent the files to the SQL Server developer for import at 8:30pm.

So once again, despite the lack of cooperation, I delivered because I have the “do whatever it takes” gene. So management, the Project Manager, Business Analysts, onsite consultants, Help Desk and end users will not suffer the consequences of several people having better things to do than running this conversion, which is important to the future of the plant and the company and keeping the project on schedule. If I had not dedicated myself to the success of my client, this conversion would have not run. I could have easily said, sure, copy the files when you get time on Monday and went home to a peaceful household Friday evening instead of one that was behind schedule a little bit because I was not there.

I apply my “do whatever it takes” attitude in all aspects of my life. It frustrates me each time I run into people with the “I don’t really care what it takes”, the “I will do barely enough to get by” philosophy or approach, or what I often refer to as the clock-puncher mentality. I can tell you right now, if you ever apply to White Light Computing and have a clock-puncher mentality, forget about being hired.

It is about balance. Sometimes you put in a little extra effort for the good of the business and sometimes the business is flexible enough to let you take time for the other important things in life. With respect to working with co-workers, clients, friends, and family, be willing to step up and do what ever it take to get the task accomplished. If you have not already done so, adopt the “do what ever it takes” philosophy. You will be more successful in all your endeavors.


I wanted to blog about game 7 the night the Spurs beat the Pistons for the championship, but we got home late after the game, Friday was nuts at a client, and Saturday was Chris’ graduation party.

So back to Thursday. I got a call mid-afternoon from my son asking if I had already bought tickets for PalaceVision. He was bummed when I said no because the game was sold out. We were under the impression that tickets went on sale when you arrived at the game. This naturally was a disappointment. Around 4:00 I got the bright idea of driving out to the arena and finding a “ticket broker” who might want to make a couple bucks for his time of purchasing our tickets in advance. We got to the Palace around 7:15 and found out the security people would not let you drive into the Palace grounds without a ticket. We figured this is where most of “ticket brokers” would be hanging out. More disappointment for my daughters who really wanted to go to the game.

So I told them to make a sign asking if anyone had tickets and we would drive through some parking lots of restaurants, gas stations, and the main road around the Palace. We even let the girls wave four five dollar bills along with the sign (the face value of the tickets were five bucks).

People honked horns, and thought the sign was cute, but no tickets were available. Not to give up easy, I had Therese drop me off and I walked into the Palace grounds in search of someone with spare tickets. In the mean time Therese and the girls drove around some more. The three of them were able to get two tickets at face value and I was able to hunt down two more at face value! No premium price, which was sweet.

We had decent seats and watched the game. It was hard to hear Al Micheals and Hubie Brown when there were 22,000 fans screaming. The game was well played by both teams and it was fun listening to Mason (the team announcer) do introductions before the game and announce part of the game as if it were being played at the Palace.

It was great to be in the crowd. They booed loudly when ever ABC stuck Bill Walton’s mug on screen. The only thing I was disappointed in was the reaction and cheering when Tim Duncan, and I think Robert Horry both went down on the floor with what looked like possible injuries. Most of the fans stayed until the end and the crowd was very well behaved. The energy in the arena was the same as if the game was bing played on the floor in front of us.

Naturally we are disappointed in the results, but losing to the Spurs is the best alternative to winning back-to-back championships. They are a great team and have a lot in common with the Pistons. Class players, a deep bench, young players, play fantastic defense, a great coach, and the stigma of being underrated (both as individuals and as a team).

We had a great time and my daughters had a lot of fun trying to get tickets, did some people watching, and learned more about the game of basketball. Nicole, who is now 16 still recalls watching the games back in the early 90′s when we were home together and mom was out working. I think this is one adventure added to the list and will be a story told over and over when they have kids.

I am looking forward to next year and would love if the Pistons could make a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. I think it would be fantastic to watch another series between these two teams. Now we get to see if either of them have the drive it takes to get back.


When the Pistons have their backs to the wall, count on a win. No team has won a game six on the road in the finals when down 3-2 to force a game seven, Pistons win. They say no team can win two games on the road to finish a series. No team has won a game seven on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, and they beat Shaq and Wade on their home floor. Keep giving this team the impossible because it only fuels the fire.

They have the same resilience as the Fox Community. {g}

Oh, Bill Walton, time to find a different line of work. You have not called it right once this entire playoffs. If I was head of ABC Sports I would not even let you finish out the season. You would definitely be fired. You are the worst basketball analyst on the planet. Pull Charles Barkley off his vacation.

Two great teams, one fantastic series. I cannot wait until Thursday night. We are going to try to get to the Palace and watch the game with 20,000 other fans to cheer the Pistons to one more impossible win. Last time we went to see the Pistons in the Finals on PalaceVision was the back-to-back championship when Vinnie Johnson sunk the winning shot with 00.7 seconds left against Portland in 1990. It would be cool to repeat history one more time.

Go Pistons!!!


Just in case you did not see this one: Drew Speedie posts his thoughts about the VFP Roadmap on the Visionpace Blog. This is a relatively new blog in the VFP and .NET community.

Well said Drew.


OK, early this week I posted why I was not able to attend Advisor DevCon, but now I am declaring I have returned from Microsoft DevCon? What’s up with this? Well apparently Microsoft thinks the DevDays is better called DevCon. Yesterday I attended the one day Microsoft DevCon which highlighted Visual Studio 2005 (web and smart clients), Team System, and provide a 50,000 foot view of the Visual Studio and Longhorn RoadMap.

I had three goals for the day. One was to meet local Microsoft reps here is Detroit, find out who is replacing the local Microsoft Developer Evangelist (an official job at Microsoft), and make some connections with other Microsofties. The second goal was to get a jump on ASP.NET 2.0 and the third goal was to learn as much about SQL Server 2005 as possible.

The first goal was accomplished in short order. Drew Robbins was very kind and even knows of Visual FoxPro MVPs in Canton, Ohio (actually Andy and Marcia are in Akron). Drew noted he worked on one VFP project, but asked me not to quiz him on VFP syntax. I mentioned that Michigan has three VFP MVPs and he was surpised how many VFP MVPs were concentrated in the Midwest. We talked about the user groups in Michigan as well. It was nice to get a positive reaction to the groups and VFP in particular. I also talked to several .NET MVPs and user group leaders.

The sessions started out early in the morning and I had to drive across town in rush hour traffic, which I normally avoid. The keynote speaker obviously did not rehearse because he went over by 50% for a 60 minute session with few questions asked during his time. I cannot imagine how frustrating it is to work every day in VS 2003. The crowd got excited at things I have taken for granted for the last 15+ years like a window to evaluate expressions (Command Window) and Visualizers (the BROWSE).

The morning sessions I attended covered the new features in ASP.NET 2.0. The sessions were okay, but the presenters were not prepared. They did not cover all their material, the demos crashed, and that morning they found out their 75 minute sessions needed to fit into sixty minutes. A tough task for experienced speakers. The product looks promising despite the sessions not going well. I felt bad for the presenters. One thing is obvious though, you need a serious machine to run Visual Studio 2005. The presenters all used Virtual PC to present the material and it looked very sluggish. I am not sure if it was VPC or if it was the Beta 2 version of the product, but every presenter said you need a serious machine to run this product.

At lunch I talked to a couple if “kids”. One is starting college in the fall, the other is a developer at a company, but is definitely in the early years of his career. It was interesting listening to their perspective as they are in the midst of being brainwashed by academia with respect to the “Evil Microsoft”. The college freshman definitely loves LAMP and was only at the conference to connect up with some Microsoft people and see what it takes to become a Microsoft Ambassador for his college (Michigan Tech). The other developer is working on financial web apps. I think it would be good to wear the rosy-colored glasses once again.

The afternoon sessions were great. The ASP.NET session covered the separation of presentation from the business objects and data. It looks like the data binding is a lot easier in ASP.NET 2.0. One of the design goals with ASP.NET is to reduce the coding by 66% and the speakers demonstrated several ways this is true. It was pretty impressive. The binding initially looks a lot like the VFP CursorAdaptor object. The other session I attended was on the Compact Framework, SQL Server 2005 Mobile, and deploying apps on PocketPCs and SmartPhones. Despite the struggles with VirtualPC, the speaker did a great job to getting the message across and showed how to deploy an app and do merge replication with SQL Server.

The day wrapped up with a peek into the Microsoft future and the promised delivery of VS.NET 2005 on November 7th (the announced release date). Lots of information in a 75 minute session about Longhorn, WinFS, Indigo, Avalon, WinFX, SQL Server 2005. Interesting, there was nothing about Orca (the version of VS.NET after 2005). Looks like the developers in Redmond are going to be very, very busy over the summer. I get the impression from the speakers and Microsofties that the schedule is very aggressive and announcing the release date this early is nuts.

I really enjoyed the day, learned a lot, and walked out with three books, two t-shirts, and several VS.NET press on tattoos (giving a whole new meaning of product branding {g}).


You might be wondering what has happened to the Pistons in the first two games of the NBA Finals. Simple explanation: they have been schooled and beaten by their own game. Fortunately the Pistons play best with the backs against the wall. Spotting San Antonio two games should provide them the pressure situation they thrive in.

I am impress how global the finals have become. More than 150 countries have sent reporters to cover the games and I have already forgot how many languages the games are broadcast in, but it is staggering.

The one thing the NBA needs to discard is the goofy trophy poses the players have to make when their name is announced before the start of the game. Dumb idea. You can see the players are embarrassed when they are standing there.

Hopefully the real defending champs will show up tonight and we will see a real game between two great teams. Go Pistons!