Archive for July, 2005


I work with other developers at my clients and mentor several developers on a regular basis. It is not unusual for developers to ask me the question “When was that added to VFP?” I am finding it harder and harder to recall the details off the top of my head with so many versions of VFP.

This morning over on FoxForum a developer who is getting back into VFP development wanted to find out how he could go through a history of VFP to see what new features were added since VFP 6. Naturally I wanted to answer this information is in the VFP Help file in the What’s New section, but he last developed in VFP 6 and now owns a copy of VFP 9, so access to the 7 and 8 Help files is not on his machine.

Then I recalled the VFP Help files are online on the Microsoft MSDN site. Each version has a separate page:

What’s New in VFP 9
What’s New in VFP 8
What’s New in VFP 7
What’s New in VFP 6 (not found)
What’s New in VFP 5

This is a great way for developers who skipped upgrading to each version to find out all the features which are new to them. Unfortunately I could not find what’s new in 6, but I am guessing it is out there.

The definitive guide for me is the Hacker’s Guide to Visual FoxPro 6 and Hacker’s Guide to Visual FoxPro 7, but unfortunately there is no 8 or 9 in this series. I am also a fan of the What’s New in VFP 7, 8, and 9 as well. I use these books along with the Help files to understand which versions of VFP I can support for the developers tools I have published. I find it easier to look up a command in the various resources than to find it breaks when I perform system testing for the developer tool in each version of VFP I plan to support.


This is a headline in this morning’s Great Lakes IT Report: “Bill Gates is puzzled by computer science apathy.” I also read a couple of news items with the same story yesterday. If he wants to understand it, all he has to do is sit down with some high school students and he will get his answer. I have and can tell you there are several reasons.

The top reason is counselors are telling these young adults that computer science is a dead end career. Two years ago my son was talking to the Dean of the Math, Science and Technology school in our district. He asked my son what field he was interested in going into and what colleges he was interested in attending. I was in the room to witness the look of horror on the dean’s face when my son noted Computer Science. Then I listened to ten minutes of blah, blah, blah about how all computer jobs were headed to India. Apparently the dean did not realize the field I was in and was not prepared for my ten minutes of counterpointing. The field of Computer Science is not dead in America! So Bill, tell the teachers and counselors in our schools to get a clue before they go off molding the next generations of minds and fill their heads with incorrect information.

Here is a quote from the same article: “Gates said that even if young people don’t know that salaries and job openings in computer science are on the rise, they’re hooked on so much technology – cell phones, digital music players, instant messaging, Internet browsing – that it’s puzzling why more don’t want to grow up to be programmers.” This brings up three interesting points.

  1. The salary issue. At least here in the Midwest, salaries are not on the rise, They are stable, but more important, they are lower than five years ago (simple supply and demand). Even though more people are returning to work, flat out and simple, there are fewer people interested in returning to a job doing programming.
  2. Bill seems to have a different view than I do on this concept. Just because young people are consumers of this technology, does not mean they want to be the one to make it work different in the future. They want it faster and cheaper but in general they want some one else to do all the hard work. Most of my children’s friends could care less about working today. The fact is most of them do not have jobs, nor have their parents provided incentive for them to get to work. What we need are passionate developers, and from my perspective, young people are not passionate about much.
  3. The third point about his quote: programming alone is boring. Bill needs to stress all aspects of Computer Science including interacting with people, understanding their needs, translating needs to design, programming, testing, installation, and production support. So many people miss the mark and think Computer Science is only programming.

The last point I want to make is the career path of Computer Science is not for everyone. I am sure Bill Gates understands this. I believe it requires a special type of person. I can not think of many careers requiring a complete revamp every two years. Sure there are developers still writing COBOL code and are working on the same project for the last 10 years or more, but this is rare. Most developers learn new technologies to better the software they create, to provide better value to their boss and company, to stay ahead of the competition, and even just because they like change. Change is the part of my career I have enjoyed the most. Sure I could have been one of the COBOL programmers working on the same project my entire career, but my personality does not tolerate boredom well. What I am witnessing today is more developers hitting burnout than ever before. So many developers are looking at .NET and questioning if it is worth climbing one more technology learning curve. I believe the next generation entering into college is recognizing this and questioning if it is worth it or not. Do they want to enter into a career where the financial business model for success requires built in obsolescence every 24 months?

So my humble message to Bill Gates is this: you want to understand why this the next generation is apathetic, ask and you will get hours of discussion. This is my personal experience.


This week one of my readers posted on Tek-Tips how much he enjoyed my post on Doing whatever it takes post, but he had a problem reading the blog in Internet Explorer 5.0. In particular he was getting what appears to be carriage returns after each single word. Unfortunately I do not have any old machines hanging out with IE 5.0 (or even 5.5 for that matter) so I am not able to test it out. I have tested it with all the current versions of Internet Explorer, FireFox, Opera, and Mozilla and they all work fine.

So out of curiosity I fired up an old copy of Netscape 4.7 to see if it works and sure enough it makes a mess out of the HTML. I tested this out on a number of Blogger blogs and other blogs posted on different sites to see how they fared. Most of the Blogger sites get messy to various degrees. Some of the other sites on Foxite and ASP.NET work okay, but are not exact.

So I investigated the Browser states on my sites. Netscape is not even at 1%, Mozilla shows up at 4%, FoxFire is 20%, and IE at 50% for the last couple of months. The other 25% is spread across several bots and browsers like Opera, Safari and Konqueror.

Drilling down into IE, just a little more than 1% are using 5.0.

So the question begs, how much time should I spend trying to fix this issue? I hate ticking off readers because of accessibility, but we are talking two percent of all hits on my Web site, not just the blog. I understand not all developers have access to the latest machinesand operating systems, but there are other resources like libraries, cyber cafes, and even family computers. For what it is worth, I have posted a question to Blogger support on this issue. They only maintain a list of browser compatibility for the posting functionality. Fingers crossed.


This morning I posted the first of many videocasts to shed some light on the various developer tools I have posted for you to download and use in your application development. The first video is an introduction to HackCX Professional. It is a very quick seven minute video explaining why you would use a tool like HackCX and how it makes hacking a form or class library easier and a safer experience.

I plan on recording videocasts for all the developer tools, both commercial and freebies, at some point in the future. I think the videos will help developers understand the reason these tools exist, but more importantly I think most developers like me learn faster by watching someone else demonstrate how to do something.

Please let me know what you think. Let me know if you have an idea for a future video. I am very open to constructive criticism. This is the first one and it is not a perfect video. Recording it brought me a new found respect for people like Andrew MacNeill and the other pioneers in podcasting and videocasting. I am not a trained broadcaster. I think we have all heard of the technique of recording yourself presenting to learn to present better. Listening to this video the first half dozen times it was recorded was painful.


I have always found the traffic patterns on the various Web sites I maintain to be interesting. This morning I was working on updating the White Light Computing site and decided to poke around the statistics to see what developers and potential customers have visited in an effort to improve the site and provide more material.

It should not surprise me any more that the number one download from the site is the Programming Standards and Guidelines PDF file. Over the last year this file was typically accounted for 20% of the downloads for a given month. I attribute this to the fact there were very few files to download. Over the last six months I have moved more of the freebie developer tools over to the White Light Computing site from my personal site in an effort to provide one stop shopping for developers. Still, the Programming Standards and Guidelines are numero uno on the downloads (10% of all downloads in June).

The free versions of HackCX (8%) and the ViewEditor (6%) are catching up and if trends continue, will surpass the Programming Standards and Guidelines in the next six months. The free tools have always outpaced the commercial tools and associated Help files (available for free) downloadable from the site. No surprise the Fox Community (and developers in general) prefer free stuff.

I have on my to do list a set of blog entries about programming standards and their critical importance for all developers. I think these Web site stats prove there is definitely an interest. I am hoping to open a dialog on this topic and provide an update to the standards in the future. I have made some changes to this document internally, but I am hoping the numerous people downloading this document and reading this blog will provide me feedback.

In the last year several companies have asked permission to publish this document for their IT departments and programming staff, and I know many others have adopted parts of the document. I have always granted permission. I may own the published document, but these standards are not “owned” by me. The majority of the document is industry standards I have adopted over the years. I just made the effort to write them down.

Are you using programming standards and guidelines? Why? If not, why not?