Friday, October 26, 2007

Southwest Fox 2007 Day 2

Friday ended up being an even longer day than Thursday. We once again opened registration before 7:00 a.m., expecting a few people who hadn't made it to the keynote. Surprisingly, three people showed up who hadn't previously registered, so that boosted our counts nicely. I wanted to go to Craig Boyd's ClickOnce Deployment session but it ended up being busier than expected at registration plus I chatted with some folks. We also decided that it was a mistake not having coffee for a morning refreshment break (none of the organizers drink coffee so we somehow missed that), so we asked the hotel staff to put some out and they quickly complied. I joked with one of the new registrants that his conference fee paid for the coffee for everyone else, so they all owed him thanks.
Here's a picture of Rick and Tamar at the registration table:

I then did my Best Practices for Vertical Application Development session. The room was jammed and I got lots of great feedback from attendees. This is a different kind of session for me; it's a business track session so I discuss facets of vertical development such as activation and licensing, support policies, update mechanisms, and so on rather than the usually code-intensive sessions I do. In fact, I didn't show any code at all because for some reason, although my laptop worked on the projector the night before in the keynote, for some reason it couldn't see the projector at all in this session. Fortunately, Scott Malinowski had downloaded the conference materials before the conference started and kindly offered to let me use his system. Restarting my computer fixed the problem for my next session, so it wasn't a problem again. By the way, this was "the other" Scott Malinowski. It's really interesting that there are two Scott Malinowskis (the other one is from Phoenix but was out of town during the conference) in a community as small as ours.

I attended Craig's Power of Regular Expressions session. Power is right. Although I've played with regular expressions a bit, Craig did a great job of going over the various symbols and their meanings (he claimed the language was invented by aliens, given the arcane syntax). He had tons of examples, and even gave pop quizzes to the audience, showing an expression and some text and asking what the matches would be. I saw a lot of light bulbs come on for people in this great session.

Lunch was served in the courtyard. Like almost every day we were in Phoenix, the weather was gorgeous, so many people ate at the tables outside. Lunch was build-your-own sandwiches and very tasty.

After lunch, I attended Steve Sawyer's Marketing for Custom Software Services session. It was great seeing Steve again, who sort of dropped out of the community for a few years. He talked about why he felt his former business didn't succeed and what he'd do different if he could do it over again. Although the first half of the session seemed a little theoretical, Steve made some great practical suggestions about meeting new clients. He finished early, so a general discussion on marketing ideas broke out, with me, Steve Bodnar, Jeff Zinnert, and Russ Swall all contributing our viewpoints.

I then went to Christof Wollenhaupt's On the Dark Side of FoxPro session. Christof once again amazed with his incredibly deep knowledge of VFP internals, discussing how variables and objects are stored, how cache memory is used, and how Rushmore does its magic. Although this isn't a session where you walk out with ideas to implement, it does give a glimpse under the hood and lets you understand why some limitations in VFP are the way they are.

I next presented my Developing VFP Applications for Windows Vista session. This is a fun session to do, because I show all of the potential gotchas Vista has for VFP developers and workarounds for all of them. I also show how to take advantage of some of the new features in Vista, including Windows Desktop Search (which is available as an OLE DB provider, making it easy to use a CursorAdapter to query your system), new dialogs (using the Vista Toolkit in Sedna, created by Craig Boyd -- there, I mentioned your name one last time for good measure, Craig), XPS documents, and more. It was obvious from some of the questions that several people had struggled with some of these issues, so it was timely. Tracy Pearson also contributed with a couple of tips.

The last session ended at 5:30 and vendor sessions started at 7:00, so there wasn't a lot of time for dinner. We had told the conference staff on Wednesday that since there was only an hour and a half, most people would likely eat at the hotel restaurant so they'd better prepare for 180 people. They came up with a great plan: a prime rib buffet for only $16.50. It was laid out very nicely and they had enough staff available that everyone had a great meal and were back at the conference center on time.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many people showed up for vendor sessions. Although some rooms were a little light, most of the sessions had about 20 people, meaning almost half of the attendees stayed late into the night seeing what features the vendor's products had. Stonefield had a Stonefield Query developer meeting rather than a vendor session (our vendor session was scheduled for Saturday afternoon). I'm not sure if it was the free beer or our product, but we had about 30 people in attendance, which was great. We went over the new features we added in our latest release, wowing the audience with things such as drilldown reports and charting. We then went over our proposed new features for our next release and asked for feedback about which they really wanted. We also got some great suggestions for things we hadn't thought of. It was also nice that I could introduce Jeff Zinnert, Trevor Mansuy, and Chris Wolf from our company so they and customers could finally meet in person.

Since there was some wine left from our meeting, we took the extra bottles and headed to the hotel bar. We were hassled a couple of times about bringing in outside liquor until we told them that we'd purchased it from them. After a couple of hours blabbing, I was ready to collapse so I called it a night.

Here's a picture of the trade show area in the hallway outside the session rooms:

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