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German DevCon – Day 1

Rainer Becker (organizer) starts out the first day at 9:30am with a brief Welcome session. It is in German, but I still catch part of it based on the technology words he uses.

First up was Tamar’s “Making the Most of the Toolbox” session. I vaguely recall seeing Tamar do a session like this many years ago, and Toni Feltman did a session on this tool several years ago at DAFUG. I even present a couple of uses of the Toolbox during my “Get Productive with VFP” sessions. That said, I rarely use the ToolBox. I drag and drop classes from the Project Manager. But Tamar reminded me that the Toolbox is way more than the Form Controls toolbar on steroids. There were lots of interesting things presented, but the one I really liked is how you can set properties on an item in the toolbox. The property settings you make are applied to the control when it is dropped on the designer. For instance, you have a command button in a class library to close forms. I drop this on to the designer and right away I am compelled to name the control cmdClose via the Property Sheet. You can set this up in the Toolbox so it is done for you. This works almost like a builder or property editor, but handled behind the scenes and is custom to the class you are working with.

Up next was the conference keynote and keynoteX (where Ken “KenX” Levy talked). Ken gave a little history of VFP and how Microsoft actually at one point killed the product after the 6.0 release, but it was not killed based on the community uproar and the efforts of the Fox Team. He also noted that developers need to try VFP 9 SP2 to make the appropriate business decision for themselves instead of making the decision based on what they hear SP2 is like. There are over 100 bugs fixed and a couple of serious regression bugs that might not affect your application. Ken also mentioned some interesting statistics from community surveys. The one I remember is half of VFP developers are using SQL Server.

As far as the future of VFP, Ken mentioned several things. He expects Microsoft to provide hotfixes for VFP 9 if there are issues related to Windows 7 (note these are Ken’s opinions, not Microsoft official statements – he no longer works for Microsoft). He said that the Fox Community must remain active to support each other. He had high praise for VFPX and the efforts of the people working on projects. He even referred to the developers as the “New Fox Team.” He is watching and recommends the community watch the progress of VFP Studio, Guineu, .NET Extender for VFP and the VFP Compiler for .NET.

Ken finished up noting the four pillars of the VFP Community:
1) Product and Experience (VFP9, Sedna, & third party products)
2) Frequent Communication (online forums, online content, Web casts, screencasts, blogs and white papers)
3) Deep Engagement (conference, events, influencers, open source)
4) Product Enhancement (VFP tools online, VFP XSource, and VFPX)

After lunch I gave the first part of my “Using VFPX Components in Production” session to a crowded room in the auditorium. As a speaker I prefer crowded rooms because I feed off the energy. Rainer said my two VFPX sessions had the highest attendance of the conference. Sweet. I think the session went okay. I did have trouble finding a couple of examples, which is uncharacteristic of my sessions at a conference (I blame the jet lag). I did get some positive feedback afterwards and during meals. VFPX is really taking off in the community right now so it is not unexpected that there is some buzz going on at conferences too.

Doug Hennig followed my session with his “Advantage Database Server for Developers” session. I really looked forward to this session and was not disappointed. I am learning bits and pieces of ADS and Doug’s session really helped me understand the positives and minor negatives with this product. One of the things that impressed me is the full text searching you can do on memo fields. If I recall correctly it took five minutes to do a search with the $ operator in native VFP and less than a second using the ODBC drive and the full text index capability of ADS. Very cool stuff.

Bo Durban’s session on “VFP 9 and SP2 Reporting Component Basics” was one of the sessions I really wanted to see at SWFox, but knew I could see in Germany. It is always cool to have this in my back pocket when I am picking sessions I want to see. Being able to spread them across two conferences rocks. I arrived a little late as I was talking with Igor Vit and Christof Wollenhaupt between sessions. In this session I was hoping to pick up some tips on working with some of the new SP2 reporting enhancements because I have not had a lot of time to work with them based on my current projects. Getting a refresher on the Dynamic properties was worth the price of admission. Bo has a knowledge packed white paper for the session. It is definitely going to be one of those white papers I will need to read several times for everything to sink in.

After dinner is the evening sessions. The first was more from KenX. Ken showed the NET4COM and My Intellisense tools from Sedna. He also showed his AppScanX tool he has been working on
this year and plans to submit to VFPX as a new project. Ken mentioned AppScanX to me several months ago and was planning on showing it at SWFox, but decided at the last minute he was not ready. I have been wondering how this new tool was different from Code References. It is actually a cool tool that takes a different approach to searching for text in all the source code in the project. You can search for text strings just like Code References, but you can also tell it to skip instances of the string based on different conditions. The tool is a little rough based on the fact the UI is done by BROWSEing a table, but it shows a lot of promise and should be something to look at in the future. I am looking forward to seeing Ken submit the project to VFPX. We kidded Ken at the speakers meeting that we are under strict orders to reject anything he submits. I am sure it will be accepted.

That is all I could take for the day. It was busy for sure and I was feeling a little guilty because I was neglecting my customer work, but I make that up on Friday as you will read: I played hookie in the morning to work on my customer projects.

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