Posts Tagged ‘German DevCon’


The final day of the conference in Germany is like the final day of any conference, you start out the day exhausted. Add on top of the fact I have not slept more than a couple hours a night because of the jet lag and the time zone difference from home.

I also did not have the first session of the day so I was able to attend Bo Durban’s 8:30 session on “Creating Custom Controls with Sedna.” Yes, another reporting session I am sure will be very useful to me in the near future. Bo showed us how to take the Sedna reporting architecture and extend it for our own purpose. His extensions show how you can drop a shape on the report and have it be one of the custom shapes he has predefined. His custom shape takes on the attributes (size, color, etc.) of the standard VFP shape you drop on the report. Very interesting and will take a little to sink in.

Up next is Tamar’s “Solving Common Problems with VFP SQL” session. It sort of was a session that gave me that time-warp sensation. I recall sitting in on one of Tamar’s SQL sessions at one of the early DevCons (probably 1993 in Orlando). Tamar has been giving SQL sessions for many years so I am not sure if it was then or 1996 in Scottsdale. Or maybe both. It does not matter how many times I see sessions like this, I always walk away being reminded of some technique I have forgotten about. It also reminded me I probably should reread her book: “Taming Visual FoxPro’s SQL – Real World Data Solutions For VFP“. There are techniques I just have not used that were introduced in VFP9 like the ability to create SQL Selects from virtual tables (another SQL Select).

I skipped the Microsoft keynote given by Tim Fischer of Microsoft Deutschland because I probably would only understand about 1% of it. The topic was interesting as it was about Software + Services and VFP, but it was given in German and my mind was not prepared to pseudo translate.

After lunch was “Practical Uses of XML” by Doug. I really liked this session. I definitely have used XML in my customer applications and developer tools, but it is always interesting to see what applications other developers come up with. Doug’s session gave a brief overview of XML and some of the gotchas you have to be aware of and some techniques for working with XML data.

Last session of the conference was my “Extending the Sedna Data Explorer” session. I have done this session numerous times and I got tripped up in the last example where I display the ShowPlans for all the views in a database. The demo crashed and burned. This is a demo I did in the morning when I ran through all my examples one last time. During the day I was working on the Upsizing Wizard chapter and upsized the VFP NorthWind database. I was testing the upsizing of VFP views and when you do this it turns them all into remote views. Well the ShowPlan code is counting on local views and I was seeing the SQL Server login dialog during the demo. Not cool. Fortunately everyone was understanding that the demo gods were not kind during the last 5 minutes of the session. See why I don’t update my machine for a couple weeks before a conference? Even something a silly as a demo can get tripped up by changing data.

Later in the evening of the last day is the speaker dinner. Rainer always comes up with a spectacular spread of interesting food. Each year there is fun discussion and lots of laughs. I thought I would leave by 11:00 but they kicked us out sometime after midnight. I was nearly falling asleep at some point, but got my second wind along the way.

The conference was terrific. I learned a lot, got some important work done, and was able to get some ideas spawned for VFPX during my time in Germany. In fact, during the conference one of the German speakers submitted a project to automate VFP builds. It was accepted and is the first time I was able to tell the project manager face-to-face that the project was accepted. We have not announce the project yet because the project manager is busy with his real job, but expect to see it soon. Looks real interesting. I am looking forward to next year if I am so blessed to be selected to speak in Germany for the fifth straight year.

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I skipped all the morning sessions so I could work on my customer projects since I have seen all the English sessions already. I did not get a lot done Wednesday and Thursday and was feeling the heat to produce some code for the deliverables I promised. The code is not very glamorous as it is changes to a FoxPro for DOS app, but the implementation is extremely important for my customer and the code I am working on has some cool elements in scheduling service calls out for the repair people. My customer is changing the process of assigning the calls to the repair people for the first time since the 1990′s so I have to make sure it works and assigns the calls correctly every time.

The first session I attended was Doug’s “Creating Explorer Interfaces in VFP”, a session I have looked forward to since he submitted it as a session for SWFox. His screencast generated a lot of interest among the people who registered for SWFox and it received a lot of praise from people I talked to who went to it (both at SWFox and in Germany). During the session Doug went into something I am coining as “high-speed Canadian” as he started speaking quickly. You can tell when a speaker is really excited by the material they are presenting. Doug is a natural high energy speaker and he was ramping up during the early part of his session. He did slow down eventually. You see, while the Germans are terrific at English, it is not their first language so it is the responsibility of English speakers to conscientiously slow themselves down. The session did not disappoint. Doug has a really powerful treeview wrapper class with all the bells and whistles you could want. I also know he added the ability to disable the treeview after his session based on feedback he got during the session. He also showed how he uses VFPX components from the Themed Controls project as well.

The second part of my “Using VFPX Components in Production Apps” session was next. I presented a couple of components and filled in the rest of the session by showing off the new changes to the New Property/Method and the Edit Property/Method Editor being worked on by Jim Nelson and Doug Hennig, and the recent FoxTabs project lead by Joel Leach.

The last regular session of the day was Kevin McNeish’s “Rich Internet Applications in Silverlight 2.0.” There has been some buzz around Silverlight and I have a potential project that might be best done as a Web app so I wanted to get the scoop on Silverlight.

Rainer asked me to talk about VFPX in the second bonus session during his segment on the future of Visual FoxPro. He wanted me to briefly discuss the importance of VFPX, why it is so important to the future of VFP. I took the opportunity to ask people to get involved one more time.

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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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Sorry for the delayed posts, but life has been very busy since returning from Germany.

Traveling to Germany is not high on the physical fun list when you go and come back in less than a week. I like the conference and the people, but my body does not do well on the trip. The flight to Frankfurt was empty when I booked the trip and nearly as empty when I checked-in online the day before leaving. Wouldn’t you know, someone picked the seat next to me when there was an empty row behind me. So I moved my seat so I could have two seats. When I got on the plane the person across the aisle made a bed out of 5 seats. I watched a couple of movies (Wall*E being one of them) and tried to sleep, but instead worked a little on customer code and some on the Upsizing Wizard chapter for the Sedna book.

We made it to Germany 30 minutes early. Normally I get there before Doug and I would go to his terminal. This time my flight was arriving after Doug and Tamar and so they came to my terminal. We got a taxi to the hotel. Rooms were not ready so we ate breakfast and talked about Southwest Fox feedback. Once the rooms were ready I took a nap and did a little bit of work before the speaker meeting Wednesday evening. Before the meeting I met Bo and his wife and listened to their stories about traveling in Germany before the conference. This is exactly what I did with Doug and Jeff the first year I came to the conference.

All the VFP sessions I attended at the conference were excellent. Normally you will see me rate them with a certain number of stars. I learned something in every one of the sessions and rate them all 5 of 5 stars.

I did a lot of live posts during sessions on Twitter using the #GerDevCon hashtag, but is dead and does not find them which bums me out as I was hoping to use them as notes for these posts. I did have lots of fun interacting with my friends on Twitter, especially when I offered twitter beer when Rainer brought in beer during the evening sessions.

The conference hotel rooms have a new digital TV and digital service. I thought it was cool that I could filter channels by language. Mostly watched the BBC to keep up on news, and CNBC to hear about the financial crisis and watch the Tonight Show for some American humor. After the speaker meeting I went back to the room and slept as solid as I have in Germany.

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Once again I am honored to say I have been selected to present sessions at the German DevCon, November 13th to 15th in Frankfurt Germany. This will be my fourth trip to this conference, which is celebrating its 15th year (congrats to Rainer and his staff).

I will be presenting:

  1. Extending the Sedna Data Explorer
  2. Using VFPX Components in Production Applications, Session 1
  3. Using VFPX Components in Production Applications, Session 2

Other presenters include:

  • Rainer Becker
  • Bo Durban (first time)
  • Joachim Dürr
  • Sebastian Flucke
  • Tamar Granor (first time)
  • Uwe Habermann
  • Doug Hennig
  • Kirsten Hinrichs
  • Venelina Jordanova
  • Kevin McNeish
  • Nathalie Mengel
  • Armin Neudert
  • Michael Niethammer
  • Rick Schummer
  • Markus Winhard
  • Christof Wollenhaupt
  • Jürgen (wOOdy) Wondzinski

As usual, the line up is strong and the sessions sound terrific. I am looking forward to the conference, and hope if you can fit it into your schedule you get registered as soon as possible. If you want to read some first-hand experience at the conference you can read any of my blog posts in November 2007, 2006, or 2005 found in the index to the right of this post.


If you are interested in a preview of my session “Extending the Sedna Data Explorer” you can take time Saturday September 13th, 2008 to visit the Grand Rapids Area Fox User Group (GRAFUG).

Can’t make it to GRAFUG? One more chance to review the session before Southwest Fox. October 9th I will be presenting it to the Detroit Area Fox User Group (DAFUG).

Same session will be delivered at the German DevCon. More details in another post.

I have a short video posted on the Southwest Fox Video Page if you want to see some of the things I will be going into detail about.

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In an effort to entice you to sit in on my Extending the Sedna Data Explorer session I have recorded a short teaser video, and have it posted on the Southwest Fox Video page. The same session will be given at the German DevCon in November.

Please take a look and let me know what you think.

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Today is Saturday, the last day of the conference. Interesting, Rainer did not follow my tradition of speaking at the first session, but since my first session today is at 11:30, I will be presenting during my body clock time of 5:30AM. {g}

First this morning is Armin Neudert’s “Vorschau SQL Server 2008″, which is a German session revealing some of the new stuff in SQL Server 2008. I barely understood Armin’s discussion and could not read most of the slides, but I got the examples he showed and found the session very beneficial. One thing I noted is the addition of some new date/time formats. I was also working on reviewing my “Creating Help – Made Easy” material in preparation for my session after lunch.

I presented my “SQL Server Developer Toolkit for the VFP Developer” during the third slot of the day. I really enjoy this session because it shows developers tools to increase productivity. This session is designed to be interactive with the people who come to the session and this session did not disappoint. Lots of questions and experiences. I normally worry about a session like this at the German DevCon, but this year it seems developers are willing to contribute, which makes the session go better. It was exciting for me.

Lunch – more smoked salmon despite Marcia’s attempt to plate it all before I got to the buffet.

Next up was my “Creating Help – Made Easy” session. It is a session I developed for WhilFest 2003. I feel pretty passionate about creating Help for applications when it is required. I also know many developers who are nervous about Help because they think it is complicated. The reality is, when using the HTML Help Workshop it is hard. In fact, it is really painful. Miserable. This is why I step through the process in my session. I want to show the developers the pain and why you want to purchase a tool for a couple hundred dollars (Euros, etc.). I show you how to integrate the Help file into your application. Finally I show you a couple of HTML Help authoring tools (West Wind’s HTML Help Builder and Help and Manual) to show you how easy it really can be. I realized after the session I forgot to mention you need to ship a couple of VFP HTML Help DLLs with your app to get the integration to work in production. Fortunately all this information is in the session white paper, so if you attended the sessions or the conference you can read all about it.

Andy’s “Get the Most Out of Intellisense” session is in the official last slot of the conference. I have seen this session a couple of times before, but as usual I relearned several things. Couple of my favorites are:

  1. Command Tip Window (replacement for the Quick Info tooltips) which allows you to copy the text.
  2. Adding common variables you use in your code such as “loObj” and have it expand to “loObj = ” and then have it drop down a list of object references such as “this”, “thisform”, and “this.parent”.

Sweet refresher and packed with good examples, and literally a hundred items to use in our own Intellisense table. Not only do you get the code, but you get inspiration to create your own based on needs you have in development. Andy is one of, if not the authority on Intellisense. His knowledge on this topic is top-gun. I also appreciated his endorsement of using spaces instead of tabs in my code {bg}.

Based on some bugs discovered and some other quirks Andy has found over the years, I am hopeful the IntelliSense Manager becomes a project on CodePlex in VFPX once Microsoft releases the Sedna components and the XSource ZIP file. Alan Griver noted in the keynote that Sedna and XSource should be released in the next few weeks. Another session I can rate a six out of five stars.

Tonight is the speaker dinner which is something I always look forward to since Rainer brings out some of the most exotic food I have ever seen. In the past we have seen zebra, rattlesnake, fish I am sure is from another planet, and various other interesting food I cannot pronounce or spell. I am hopeful we will not see Monkey brains.

Tomorrow Doug Hennig and I head to Holland for the Software Developer Network conference on Monday. If I have time and a decent Internet connection I will make a report. I will be presenting three sessions and ignoring Doug’s (especially his Vertical Market session {g}).

Thanks for the great time Germany! Rainer: you run a terrific conference. Good news to the rest of the world as he has announced German DevCon dates through 2014. Check out the Fox Wiki for absolute details.

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