Posts Tagged ‘Fox Community’


Last week I saw Jim Nelson present his two Southwest Fox sessions, and one of Jody Meyer’s sessions in Grand Rapids and Detroit. Yesterday I had the pleasure to listen to Cathy Pountney and Jody Meyer rehearse both of their sessions at Chicago Fox User/Developer Group (CFUDG). The two groups were also kind enough to listen to the real rough beginnings of my sessions too. I thought the three meetings were terrific and the hosts did a magnificent job.

Special thanks to Jody Meyer and Cathy Pountney for putting on the special August meeting in Grand Rapids last weekend and thanks to Bill Drew and Jeff Simon and the CFUDG gang for putting on the special meeting yesterday! And thanks to everyone who came out to listen.

These sessions are invaluable to speakers as they figure out what works and what does not work in front of a live audience. At least for me, I know I present differently in front of developers interested in learning than when I sit down in front of the dog in the office and run through my sessions.

Cathy finished her second session of the morning making it obvious to me she is serious about defending her #1 speaker status as she is already in top conference form. It was at that time someone made the comment (and I am paraphrasing here): “There is no need to waste your money on expensive conference fees and outrageous hotel costs when you see this quality of session during rehearsals.”

Now I am sort of being kind on the paraphrasing, because what I really heard is: there is no need to support Southwest Fox or other conferences when speakers do the session rehearsals for almost free at user groups. Mind you the group who showed up made a generous donation for the food and covered some travel costs for the speakers, so the event was not free. Yet, the comment really rubbed me the wrong way. As an organizer who commits to 200-300 hours of volunteer time to put on Southwest Fox each year, and another 80-130 hours preparing sessions for the conference, I don’t appreciate the sentiment that was expressed. It simply hurts.

There is something I believe is too important to be overlooked. It is something I have known for a long time and probably have not expressed out loud enough. Southwest Fox depends heavily on FoxPro user groups. We depend on them for marketing and we depend on them to provide venues for the speakers to rehearse their sessions. It is something the organizers of Southwest Fox have recognized from the very beginning. Two of the three organizers started and run local user groups and the third organizer presents at them regularly. We all understand how important these groups are for the community to share and learn together. One of the first things we figured out for Southwest Fox was the user group discount we offer and giving money back to the community to support the groups.

But this is not a one way dependency. FoxPro user groups depend on Southwest Fox and other FoxPro conferences. You see, the Chicago group has been blessed more than most groups because they draw lots of conference speakers to present to their group. CFUDG invites speakers to come and share. They proactively call speakers to visit. They are a terrific group to present to and are open to learning all kinds of new things. The Detroit Area Fox User Group, Grand Rapids Area Fox User Group, and LA Fox User Groups also have been blessed with regular meetings being filled with conference-level sessions. I know there are other Fox user groups around, but these groups really fill their schedules packed with presentation rehearsals.

So what exactly is the real dependency? Conferences need well prepared speakers to draw people to the conference, speakers need to rehearse, and user groups need speakers to draw people to meetings. So if the presenters are not rehearsing the conference suffers and people are not as likely to return next time. If there is no conference, speakers are not likely to spend 40-80 to prepare one session. User groups won’t have conference-level sessions at their meetings and as a user group leader I know the “big name, conference level sessions” draw more than the core regulars to a meeting. It would be a downward spiral. I prefer the upward spiral where conferences exists and draw the best speakers and attendees, where user groups get more rehearsals, and the perpetual motion goes in the right direction. For conferences to exist, people must come. So now you understand why the comment felt like a dagger in my chest.

I know some people are unable to come to Southwest Fox because it conflicts with personal events, or live to far to travel at a reasonable cost, that the economy has affected some, or they have some project deadlines to meet. But to not come because you can see some of the sessions before the conference really doing yourself a disservice. You are missing most of the session you can benefit from seeing, not to mention the networking, the comradery, and talking to vendors who have some terrific products to demonstrate for you in person. Getting outside of the office and talking with other developers of like mind is an experience you will find extremely beneficial.

At the same time lots of people have asked me about 2010. Will there be a Southwest Fox 2010? I can only say maybe. We have not signed a contract at this time for a venue, and have not set any date. It all depends on how the community supports the conference.

So support your favorite conference (I hope Southwest Fox is high on your list) and support the speakers who are hard at work preparing to help you learn some really cool and useful stuff. There are upcoming rehearsals in Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Lansing, LA, and Philly. I personally will see almost half the sessions before we arrive in Mesa and hope to see more at Southwest Fox and German DevCon.

This past week I saw six of the sessions and I already learned enough stuff where it is entirely worth the effort I put in to make Southwest Fox happen. I think you will find out the same thing when you attend our conference.

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As you may know, the April 2008 version of the VFP 9 SP2 Help file is broken. Actually I would consider it a serious mess. Lots of cosmetic things broken, and hyperlinks broken on important things like properties, events, and methods. I blogged about many of the problems found. A real mess, literally unusable, and not much hope from Microsoft to get it fixed by the Help team because of resources.

Several people (who will remain nameless at this time) started working behind the scenes to fix the Help file by decompiling it, repairing the problems, and rebuilding it. Some of us allegedly got closer than others and there allegedly was lots of collaboration, but one person allegedly made a serious breakthrough with lots of time put into getting it corrected.

I contacted Alan Griver and asked if a Help file allegedly was fixed, would Microsoft post it for the Fox Community to use it. You see, there are lots of legal entanglements with copyrights and third-parties and no one wanted anyone to be thrown in jail. It took a while and I was starting to lose hope.

A couple of nights ago Alan emailed me with the news that we can post the changes on VFPX under the Creative Commons license. This means the Fox Community has the rights to improve the VFP 9 SP2 Help file! Some final tweaks are going to be made to the new file, and one additional fix has to be made, but soon a usable VFP 9 SP2 Help file will be posted.

Thanks to Alan Griver for spending time battling Microsoft Legal and going to bat again for the Fox Community. Proof again that even though there might not be an official Fox Team at Microsoft, we still have friends who are helping us out. And thanks to all allegedly involved in the battle to assemble the Help file without some key source files. You know who you allegedly are and you folks rock!

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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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The publishing industry in general has faced some troubling times in the last couple of years. This can be witnessed in spades in the Fox Community as we have all watched both FoxTalk and The Advisor Guide to Microsoft Visual FoxPro literally go away. FoxTalk is still published, but is continuing printing the “best of” articles. Advisor collapsed the majority of their technical magazines into Databased Advisor and nearly tripled the price. Both of these situations are sad. I still have active subscriptions to both publications, but I do not intend to renew either of them.

So this leaves a huge gap in the community. There are authors who are getting jittery with extra time on their hands each month and no outlet to get articles published. They could resort to blogging, but long blog entries are not fun to read (at least to me), and often hard to take with you to the reading room, or on a plane or train. More importantly they are not necessarily permanent. Bloggers change services, RSS feeds only hold so many posts, and the authors have the right to pull their posts. Magazines (paper or electronic) are delivered to me and I can keep them as long as they are useful.

It would be nice if there was a publication that would focus on FoxPro. A great magazine the entire Fox Community could subscribe to for state-of-the-art and timely information, and techniques for our favorite development tool and language. I would subscribe in a heartbeat.

Rainer Becker, the newest Lifetime Achievement awardee is stepping up and creating a new magazine called FoxRockX (pronounced Fox Rocks). He has convinced some of the regulars you have come to enjoy reading to produce some new content for this magazine. He has lined up some excellent regular topics on the Sedna extensions, VFP 9 SP2, VFPX, business topics, deep dives into development, Vista, extending with .NET, new tools, tips and tricks, Guineu, and is resurrecting the KitBox column. I am sure there are going to be many more topics as time goes on.

I am very excited by this development in the Fox Community and am glad I am able to help out with getting this magazine started. I have already sent in one article on VFPX and plan on doing more articles that deep dive into the various VFPX projects and tools being developed by developers in our community.

I am glad Rainer has been working on this because I was starting to plan again how to start my own venture in publishing I knew I did not have the amount of time and energy it was going to take and still keep White Light Computing running properly.

FoxRockX will have subscriptions in electronic and print (print is naturally more). All the details will be posted soon and the magazine will start in early 2008. Thanks to Rainer for heading this up and to all the individuals who are pouring their creative and administrative energies into this new venture. I hope everyone in the Fox Community can support this magazine. It will only be successful if people back it by subscribing to it as soon as they can. I hope Rainer can count on your support.

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One of the resources in the Fox Community that does not get a lot of publicity and might be a little under appreciated is FoxCentral. FoxCentral is hosted by West Wind Technologies and is a great place to get news about things happening in the Fox Community. Many user groups announce future meetings, third-party product producers inform you about releases, conference organizers post updates to entice you to attend their conference, etc.

Not only is FoxCentral a Web site, it is also a Web service you can access from VFP or anything else that can access Web services. For instance, the Web service is used by Foxite to display the news on the Foxite home page.

FoxCentral has been my Web browser home page since it was introduced. I also subscribe to the RSS feed in FeedDemon. Many thanks to Rick Strahl for hosting this site and for the recent update. The new look is very nice. For those who post entries, make sure to get the latest client because there have been changes to the Web service.

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I did a bit more research yesterday and reviewed most of the MasFoxPro wiki Web site. All the posted messages reference signing a petition so I was looking for the legal petition. I could not find it. I found ideas, wishes, the letter to the Microsoft executives and some discussion, but no petition. So I emailed Pablo Roca (one of the organizers of MasFoxPro) and asked for some clarification and a link to the “petition.” Pablo was kind enough to send me a link to the Letter to Microsoft Executives.

Well that cleared up a lot of confusion on my part as I was looking for this petition thingy. Pablo and I exchanged several great emails and with it I have an better understanding of what the MasFoxPro movement is trying to accomplish and what they really want from Microsoft. In addition to my email exchange with Pablo, some comments on my blog, and reading some of the additional comments from the Fox Community on Doug Hennig’s blog I think I have a better understanding of the issues at hand.

One of the reoccurring themes from angry and not-so-angry people in our community is they want a clearer explanation of why VFP will no longer have dedicated resources within Microsoft. I think Tod McKenna has bullet pointed this best:

All I want is:
(a) continued VFP development, or
(b) a good solid, no-BS reason why VFP was dropped, or
(c) a decent migration path for the dozens of VFP Apps I have floating around.

There is no doubt that I would like to see VFP development continue. This is something we can all agree on. I don’t want anyone to misinterpret any of my writings about the future of VFP to be anything different than I would like to see VFP flourish and be enhanced. The difference I might have with some people is that I believe it can be enhanced and flourish with OR without Microsoft.

I definitely don’t want a decent migration path for my apps to another Microsoft tool or platform. I have worked on migrations in the past (IBM OS changes breaking JCL and COBOL apps is one simple example from the far away past, FoxPro 2.6 DOS and Windows to VFP is one I am living today) and I know it is better to rewrite the applications than to migrate them to a new platform in some magical/automated way.

As far as the reasons Microsoft is stopping future development of VFP and getting a clearer explanation of the reasons: I can understand this, but I believe Alan Griver has regurgitated it over and over on the various forums and his blog. Is the reason the Fox Community is asking for a better explanation because Microsoft gave a convoluted one, or because they did not like what was stated? I think part of the confusion is the fact it was stated so many places and in different message threads, so maybe it would be best for Alan to restate it once so the community is ultimately clear on the reasons.

I still have not decided whether I am going to sign the Letter to Microsoft Executives. I have many more thoughts on this that I plan to share this week as time allows (I am up to my elbows in alligators at the moment) and still have to PDF form-ize the Southwest Fox registration form before it goes live tomorrow. Most of these thoughts are in the emails back and forth with Pablo, but I need polish them up. When I get through most of the 18 items for today’s To-Do list (yes, this is an actual number) I will sit down and blog some more.

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