Posts Tagged ‘OzFox’


The post conference buzz is abound with OzFox and I am feeling it as I spend 13 hours flying from Sydney to Los Angeles, push/rush through US Customs to change terminals, and hop on my four and a half hour flight back to Detroit Metro. The best part of traveling back to Detroit is I arrive three hours after I took off. Looks like I found a time machine after all {g}.

We headed to the Sydney International Airport by cab. I’m still not used to the driving on the opposite side of the road. The only other time I experienced this was back in 1995 when I was on a business trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. You also have to be extra careful as a pedestrian too, or you could get blindsided. I also noticed Aussies are a bit more aggressive drivers than I am use to.

I have mentioned how nice the weather has been during our short visit. Storms hit the airport just as we were about to board our flights and this delayed us for the better part of two hours. Fortunately the winds were kind and pushed my flight to LA. We arrived only an hour later than expected. I was concerned because I had to clear customs in LA, get my luggage and walk 15 minutes to another terminal. I was expecting the same long lines I have experienced in Detroit and Sydney, but instead got the short lines I experienced in Frankfort last November. There was even time to grab a veggie burger and make a couple of phone calls. Shocking – I did not have someone sitting in the seat next to me on both flights. What a treat!

There is one thing I want to point out that I forgot to mention in previous posts. Andrew Coates mentioned something at OzFox, something I have been looking from Microsoft to make my life easier. I have battled the beta software installs and the disclaimers that you might have to reformat your machine to fully unload the product before you install the RTM’d version. I have asked Microsoft to just provide me a virtual machine with the product loaded. This saves every beta tester the hassle of building their own VM, and simplifies setup. The negative drawback is the vendor (in this case Microsoft) don’t get the software tested on a variety of machines and configurations. No matter, Andrew’s “reveal” during my Professional Developer Toolkit session is the VHD Test Drive Program. He discusses it on his blog. Andrew also mentioned it costs nothing to register as a Microsoft Partner (which I have already done to get the Action Pack) and the program is available to registered partners. So at least we can offer this service to our customers. Now I hope Microsoft (and other software vendors) start offering this to me. The big deal on this is you don’t have to worry about distributing your OS license. This program makes it ok to do so via the VHD redistribution agreement.

I am back home now. I love to travel and see different parts of the world, but there is nothing like coming home to your family and your own bed. Gotta get my rest because tomorrow is going to be a big day with a couple new projects to get started, a conversion to run, and a big announcement too! Whew, no rest for the jet-lagged.

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I like traditions. I have one with respect to the last day of a conference that has developed over the years. Some may say it came together by accident, but I know better. The tradition is I present during the first session of the last day of the conference. I asked Whil years ago when I started to recognize the “trend” and he confirmed he scheduled me because I don’t drink, and he knew I was reliable to not have a hangover. Smart plan if you are conference organizer.

So I asked Craig today if this was planned and he claims to know nothing of this tradition. So know I have to believe there is some sort of supernatural intervention going on when Whil, Russ, Bob, Mike and Toni, Rainer, Christa, and now Craig put together their schedules. The good thing is I never mind and I have always been amazed when people show up for the session. At this point in the conference you are exhausted, physically, mentally, and maybe even spiritually. I am always appreciative of everyone who hangs out.

Today is packed with seven more grey-matter expanding sessions:

  • Rick Schummer – “Using and Extending VFP’s Data Explorer”
  • Lisa Slater Nicholls – “Getting the Most Out of Reporting in VFP
  • Alain Legrand – “Using a data driven approach to application customization”
  • Doug HennigStonefield Query (during lunch)
  • Rick Schummer – “Professional Developer’s Toolkit”
  • Lisa Slater Nicholls – “Migrations: Many stops on a tour”
  • Doug Hennig – “Best Practices for Vertical Application Development”

I definitely got something out of each session. When I first read the title of Lisa’s second session I thought it was “Migraines”. I think we all have gotten headaches when developing {g}. This session showed how VFP apps can extend 2.6 apps and even do cool interop using XML and other techniques. I was particularly interested in this session because I am doing a lot of 2.6 to VFP migrations.

Alain’s session was very interesting as he talked about his application architecture to localizing his CRM package. It was not traditional localizing though. When you think of localization you normally think of changing strings from one language to another. Alain’s app does do this, but his application often interacts with other systems. Not only does the app change strings, but it goes to the level of changing the names of the fields to be in the native language. Initially I thought this was strange because most presentation of the data is handled with metadata so users won’t care what the columns are named. Alain’s app is accessed externally so the localization of the data elements helps the local software developers who access the structures. Once this was understood the whole thing made perfect sense. The bonus was how cool his app looks and works. Nice job.

There was lots of good discussion in my “Professional Developer Toolkit” session. I actually finished this session early which is the first time this has happened. I really appreciated Andrew Coates‘ participation. He is the local Microsoft evangelist and seemed to throw Team System into the discussion for nearly every category. This shows how wide this product is and how it addresses the various aspects of software development. Great discussion.

The last session of the conference was “Best Practices for Vertical Application Development”. I listened to this session in Milwaukee last year, but again as it happens so often for me, hearing it the second time still reminded me of things important to some projects I have on the horizon.

Craig wrapped up the conference after Doug’s session with some thank yous and really cool speaker gifts. More good news – sounds like there will be another OzFox next February.

This conference was fantastic! I really enjoyed talking with the developers about Fox, the real world problems they face, the real world solutions they are developing, and the successes they are achieving down-under. Craig and the Talman team were very hospitable. My head hurts because of the lack of sleep, but mostly because of the amount of information I digested over the last two and a half days. You have my highest recommendation to attend OzFox 2008.

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The second day of the conference started with a review of “Get More Productive with VFP” session at 5:00am in the morning. I have been waking up around 4:30am to 5:00am each day no matter how tired I am. For a while this morning I tried to understand the rules of Rugby which seems to be on most TV stations here in Sydney. I learned that there are four different versions of the sport played, which solved much of my confusion. I also tried to understand Cricket, but have no clue how this game is played. It is nice that the American morning shows are played between 5:00am and 7:00am so I can catch up on the news from home. Some American shows are played in the evening, but they seem to be a season behind in some cases.

It has been raining the last couple of days. This is unusual from what I have been told and the Aussies have been very apologetic (like they control the weather {g}). Our sightseeing was not interrupted with bad weather and since we sit in the conference all day the rain has not affected any activity. Perfect timing. Therese has not been very sympathetic since Sterling Heights was hit by an ice storm and I am in very warm temperatures.

Busy conference day with six conference sessions, and two bonus sessions crammed in:

  • Doug Hennig – “Installing Applications Using InnoSetup”
  • Colin Nicholls – “Extending VFP 9.0 Xbase Reporting Components”
  • Rick Schummer – “Get more productive with VFP”
  • Bing Bao – “Security and the VFP Developer” (bonus session during lunch)
  • Lisa Slater Nicholls – “Reporting in Sedna/SP2 – A Tour”
  • Mark Crichton – “Getting a Visual FoxPro application to Market”
  • Colin Nicholls – “Data Visualization in Reports with VFP 9.0 SP2″
  • Andrew Coates – “Creating Office OpenXML Documents in VFP” (bonus session)

All the sessions were good. I missed most of Doug’s session because I saw it in Pheonix and wanted to catch up on some work I needed to do. The reporting sessions are causing lots of brain cramps with the large volume of information and exciting new functionality. Each of the sessions are building on the previous sessions. Extendibility is getting the doors blown off again.

Bing Bao (from Sydney) came in and tried to scare us all with some insecurities with applications and VFP data. It was a great way to spend lunch. Mark Crichton is also a local speaker and talked about some history of his app, business decisions he faces, the processes and tools he uses to get his vertical market application to market. Interesting ideas to consider if you are into this type of application.

Andrew wrapped up the day with an excellent session on the new MS Office file formats and showed us how we can create the files from VFP without any automation. It is all XML files and ZIP technology. This is the second time I have seen this topic only this time it had VFP used to create the files. I think this has lots of potential, but I also believe this is going to be very complex once you get past the fundamental and trivial examples. That said, I think it is great because you can build in scalability without worrying about Office being in the way, or licensing concerns, and the file formats are an open standard. This means other office vendors will be compatible in the future and the world just got a little smaller.

Excellent Thai food for dinner – finally (Doug and I have been looking since we arrived). We walked in the rain to a small little place down closer to the harbor. Conversation at dinner was more shop talk. The day was long and most of us have full skulls.

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The first day of OzFox is on a Sunday and starts at 1:45pm. Doug and I went through the keynote which was similar to the one we did last year at Southwest Fox, but with new/updated material, but was a little lower energy level because Craig Boyd was busy digging out his car from a snow bank back in the USA.

The keynote was focused on the bright future of VFP and it went well. I talked about the new SP2 and Sedna CTP released last week just in time for the conference (I could not load them because of my no-new-software-before-conference-rule). I provided a high level overview of the changes in SP2, but no details because Colin and Lisa are doing five sessions on the topic. The future as we see it:

  • VFP 9 Service Pack 2
  • Sedna
  • VFPX
  • Other CodePlex projects

VFP 9 Service Pack 2 contains:

  • Bug fixes (the list is lengthy)
  • Vista compatibility
  • Reporting enhancements

Sedna currently contains:

  • Data Explorer enhancements
  • NET4COM (.NET COM interface)
  • DBi Technologies’ components
  • My Namespace
  • Upsizing Wizard enhancements
  • Vista Toolkit
  • Other components

I covered the Data Explorer, Net4Com, and discussed the generous DBi Technology controls (not in the CTP). Doug handled the My Namespace, Upsizing Wizard, and the Vista Toolkit (big thanks to Craig Boyd for setting us up with a great demo). We wrapped up the keynote talking about VFPX and other CodePlex projects, and made a call to action for the attendees (and the rest of the Fox Community):

  • Download and start working with CTP
  • Join VFPX and other projects
  • Start your own blog
  • Join (or start) a user group
  • Tell the world about VFP

The rest of the day the attendees listened to Doug’s session “Extending VFP with VFP” and Colin’s session “VFP 9.0 Reporting Fundamentals.”

The conference has one track so all attendees attend the same session. I first experienced this style of conference at GLGDW 2006 and it works well when you have good sessions all the time or follow a specific theme. In the case of OzFox – it is jammed with great sessions. Even listening to sessions I have already seen (like Doug’s Extending VFP with VFP) has its benefits.

The last session of the day was called “Networking.” Craig Bailey (conference host) asked people in the room to introduce themselves and describe how they use FoxPro and a little about their business. This was an interesting session because it showed how diverse the projects are in Australia and New Zealand.

Afterwards we had dinner in the hotel restaurant (no Thai food yet {g}). Microsoft brought in XBox 360s like they did at the last OzFox conference. Spectacular graphics on large HD TVs. I am not into video games, but it was fun to watch a bunch of geeks race cars and play shoot’em up games. In particular the chain saw slaughters were humorous.

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There was no possible way I was not taking a couple of days off to see the beautiful sites of Sydney Australia while I am halfway around the world from our humble home in Michigan.

The flights from Detroit to LA and from LA to Sydney were pretty uneventful. Minor turbulence over the Pacific did wake me up a few times. I got about 4 hours of sleep on the leg to Sydney interrupted each time someone used the bathroom and locked the door. The good news is this was 4 hours more sleep than I expected. I watched a couple of movies and a couple of episodes of Quantum Leap (Season 1) I bought for the trip. It is one of my all-time favorite TV shows.

Sydney is gorgeous. Craig Bailey was a fantastic host on day one of our tour. He kindly picked us up at the airport. The city reminds me of Seattle because it is near a large harbor, close to the Pacific Ocean, has ferries, a bustling downtown, numerous tall buildings, mass transportation, people of all nationalities, and lots of coffee shops and restaurants.

As Doug mentioned in his post we got a sweet tour from Craig on Thursday after our arrival. We talked about the life down-under, VFP, conferences, VFP, running software businesses, the future of VFP, and our busy lives. A major highlight was the view from the Sydney Tower. We could see for miles as the weather was clear. I have always enjoyed going up the towers like the Seattle Space Needle, the Empire State Building in NYC, and CN Tower in Toronto. I am not sure I have seen a more spectacular view of a city. The end of the day was topped off by a fantastic dinner, and watching the Queen Elizabeth II leaving port just outside the restaurant.

Tuesday we let Craig get back to work on the conference and headed out on our own. The Taronga Zoo was fabulous. I have not been to many zoos, but the number of animals and the native Australian animals like wallaby (see Doug’s picture how close one came up to me), kangaroos, and koalas made my day. My pictures are still in my camera and I forgot the cable needed to bring them to my laptop. I’ll try to post them later including the one of the wallaby I caught up close when I return home.

Doug and I headed from the Zoo to the Olympic Park. In between we almost lost our lives when our ferry boat almost was taken out by a couple of sailboats that were tacking against a very strong wind. I have some great shots of these boats too (not the ones that almost rammed us). I am a big fan of the Olympics and really enjoyed the Sydney games in particular. We walked all over the complex and even went into the Aquatics Center where the swimming and diving events were held. The pools were filled with lots of people learning to swim. It is nice to know the venues are still in use today. We must have walked 10 miles on Friday and spent a lot of time in the sun. I was hoping this would help with the jet lag, but in my case it did not as I barely slept that night.

Saturday we were off to the Blue Mountains and the Jenolan Caves. Doug does a great job describing the trip. He mentioned the “somewhat white-knuckle road”, but did not mention the tunnel we went through where there is barely a foot in each side of the bus and the walls of the tunnel, and it winds around a bend. Nice driving by our driver Steve. The Lucas Cave. It reminded me of the time my family went to the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Lots of cool formations, lots of cool history, and a fantastic sound in the “Cathedral”. The cave is host to concerts and weddings in this dome that goes up to 168 feet from the floor. Coincidentally, back in Michigan my wife was at a Josh Groben concert with her sister taking my place. The music played in the cave was similar to Josh’s so the moment was a bit chilling for me. Fortunately, I grabbed a nap on the way back to Sydney.

Sunday I got up early after a decent 6 hour sleep. I wanted to rehearse my part of the keynote and my first couple of sessions. I have been waking up between 4:00am and 5:00am every day, regardless if I want to or not. Doug and I got together to fine tune the keynote and got ready for the conference to start.

I have had a little struggle with email and Internet connectivity here at the Vibe Hotel. The people have been great and helpful. The good news is the conference has wireless available and it appears to be working well.

I have met some developers I know from blogs and even a couple of customers of my developer tools. The Fox developers here are as friendly as the Aussies we met on our tour of Sydney. This should be a great conference. The trip certainly has started out with some unforgettable memories.

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