Monday, October 26, 2009

Dates for Southwest Fox 2010 Announced

At the closing session for Southwest Fox 2009, we announced the dates for Southwest Fox 2010: October 14-17, 2010. Planning for next year’s conference started before Southwest Fox 2009 had even commenced.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Southwest Fox 2009, Day 3

I slept in slightly (6:30 a.m.), which was good after several days of sleep deprivation. I went to do my second Stonefield Query vendor session but no one showed up (Duh! It’s 8:30 in the morning on the last day of the conference), so I went to Menachem Bazian’s session on open source tools. He presented quite a few tools I wasn’t familiar with but want to check out, including SugarCRM.

Next I went to Jim Nelson’s PEM Editor session. I mostly went because I mentored Jim (not that he needed my help) and worked with him a bit on PEM Editor. However, even though I’ve been using it for almost a year, I learned several things I didn’t know. More importantly, I saw how Jim uses some features I did know about but hadn’t used much, and now I really see how they were intended to be used.


In the last timeslot of the conference, I repeated my GDIPlusX session. I must admit I was watching the door to see if a crowd suddenly formed but it was uneventful.

Mike Feltman and Alan Stevens livened up the last day by doing their sessions wearing kilts. Certainly not something you see at the average conference! Alan’s dad said he liked Alan’s red “dress”.


We wound up the official part of the conference with the closing session, including announcing the dates for Southwest Fox 2010 (October 14-17) and drawing prizes. Here’s Tamar presenting an Amazon Kindle, courtesy of Sybase:

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After cleaning up for an hour or so, we met with the Arizona Golf Resort staff for a post-conference debriefing (not the Feltman-Stevens kind). We thanked them for all their hard work and especially how they really partnered with us to help fit what we wanted into our budget. We pointed out a few things they can improve, but they were all minor things.

After a brief rest, I went to the Feltman’s suite for the speaker dinner. Rather than going to a restaurant this year, we took the suggestion of several speakers and had a BBQ (the Arizona Golf Resort provides a couple of Weber grills between groups of rooms, at least in our area). We had NY strips (chicken for those who wanted), sweet potatoes, mixed veggies, salad, and peach crisp. This was definitely the way to go; it was much less formal and a lot more fun (although Therese and Tamar had to spend some time preparing things). About 8:00, other attendees started showing up and the party kicked into high gear. Kevin Ragsdale kept a group of us amused for an hour, doing impressions and hilarious riffs. Mike Feltman figures he should be our keynote speaker for next year. I finally called it a night at about 2:30.

As I said at the closing session, this was easily the most fun Southwest Fox, or conference of any kind, ever. Everyone seemed to be energetic and full of fun, and the camaraderie was off the charts! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really think Twitter had a lot to do with it. Like CompuServe of old, Twitter is a place for the conversation to carry on year-round. Thanks to Twitter, people I’d only briefly met at previous conferences (or hadn’t met at all!) seemed like old friends. I’m happy to see that several new people joined the conversation right after the conference ended; more new friends!

Thanks to everyone who came to Southwest Fox and made it a truly outstanding event: speakers, attendees, Arizona Golf Resort staff, exhibitors. I’d especially like to thank:

  • Therese Schummer and Marshal Granor, who made it possible for Rick, Tamar, and I to see more sessions than ever, and took a large burden off our shoulders.
  • My partners Rick and Tamar for organizing this conference so it ran as smooth as glass.
  • Mike and Toni Feltman for opening their room to everyone and creating a memorable night-after-night party.

See you all next year!

Southwest Fox 2009, Day 2

Once again, I was up early but really fired up: today was F1 racing day, something Rick, Cathy, and I have been trashing talking each other over for the past year.

After breakfast, I presented my GDIPlusX session. This was a fun session to do. I started by going over the basics of GDIPlusX: how to draw, using colors, drawing text and images, etc. Then I dug into practical uses, including measuring strings accurately, creating gradient images, and implement a “lightbox” effect Bernard Bout blogged about. Almost all of the examples I showed came from production code I use in Stonefield Query.


Next was my Stonefield Query vendor session. Interestingly, all of the people who showed up were customers or already familiar with Stonefield Query, so rather than doing the usual demo, I covered the same things we discussed at Friday night’s developer meeting. One of the cool new features I showed is “application views”. The problem with most reporting solutions is that they show a database-centric view of the data in an application. Even with nice descriptive names for tables and fields, it still isn’t a natural view of the data for the user. With application views, you can mold the data dictionary so it’s organized exactly like the data entry forms in your application, making it much easier for the user to find exactly which items they want to report on.

I was going to see Alan Steven’s OOP session but started chatting outside with Cathy and Toni (and others who happened by from time to time) and ended up spending the entire session there. That’s one of the nice things about a conference: if you don’t feel like going to a session, you can meet new people, chat with friends, and discuss new solutions to problems.

Lunch was build your own hamburgers with either meat patties or portobello mushrooms. Like some others, I actually went for both, which was a very tasty combination.

After lunch, I went to see Jody Meyer’s Office Automation session. Jody is one of our first-time speakers so I wanted to see how she did, plus learn more about Office Automation. One of my developers, Trevor Mansuy, was also in this session and had lots of questions for Jody, as he’s currently working on a couple of new features for Stonefield Query involving Excel.

Southwest Fox 2009 005

Next up was Christof’s Excelporting session. Christof did his usual excellent job and was even funnier than usual. Creating Excel documents by outputting XML is not only incredibly fast but doesn’t require a license for Excel. Unfortunately, and this was totally not his fault, the three hours of sleep I was getting for the past several nights finally caught up to me and I dozed off several times. Steve Bodnar was quite impressed with the various angles I managed to twist myself into without actually falling off my chair! Thank goodness Christof’s white paper and samples are on the conference CD so I can see what I missed.

The last timeslot of the day was the repeat of my VPC session. Shortly after I started, more people started filing into the room. I mentioned that there were open seats near the front, but they seemed content to stand at the back. Then more people came in. Then more. And even more. By this point, there were at least 40 people standing at the back of the room and a lot just outside the room. I knew something was up but had no idea what was going on. Suddenly, Craig Boyd screamed out and the attack began: I was hit by HUNDREDS of darts from the 40 or so Nerf guns these people hid behind their backs. The attack lasted a minute or so, then Craig yelled “Pull back” and they all filed out, leaving me to stand in a pile of darts. If you want to watch for yourself, at least three people recorded it and put it on YouTube:

Talking to Craig later, this was apparently revenge for my thinking about messing with him on Friday. Let me get this straight: you want to get revenge for something I thought about pretending to do? In the words of the immortal Bugs Bunny, “of course you realize this means war”. You should come to Southwest Fox 2010 just to see what I have planned for Craig!

Rick, Therese, Christof, Emerson, and I were going to meet several others for sushi but couldn’t find the restaurant, so we found a sushi place close to the hotel and settled in there. Wow, was it good! Excellent sushi and large portions.

Finally, the moment we’d been waiting for: racing at the F1 Race Factory. More than 20 people showed up for this year’s event. Rick and I suspected Jody, Toni, and Cathy had something planned: Jody carried a large bag into the building and wouldn’t show us what was in it. Rick and I figured there was a conspiracy against us, with Jody and Toni acting as blockers so Cathy could zoom by. However, what they really planned was WAY cooler:


The Pink Ladies and Danny Zuko ride again!

Unfortunately, it didn’t help Cathy: Paul Mrozowski finished first, I was second, Rick was third, and Cathy was 99th or something like that (it doesn’t really matter once you’re that far down <gd&r>).

Not as many people were in the second race, and it was a lot more wild (at least for me). I spun out a couple of times and was black-flagged for taking Dave Hanna into a wall. However, it was great fun and we’ll definitely be back next year.

We got back to the Arizona Golf Resort about 11:30 and proceeded to the Feltman’s suite for another evening of socializing. I called it a night at about 1:00 because I had an 8:30 session.

Southwest Fox 2009, Day 1

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. Friday (pretty much standard for me at conferences), so I did a little email and then went to the conference center to set up room signs, test projectors, and have breakfast.

I then headed to Jim Nelson’s FoxCharts session. Jim started by showing an overview of what you can do with FoxCharts, then went over the basics of creating charts, building example upon example. He went through the majority of the properties and methods to show how easy it is to customize a chart. Finally, he showed a very cool Visual Chart Designer (VCD) he created that acts not just as a builder for developers but a simple tool allowing users to customize their charts visually. VCD isn’t part of the FoxCharts VFPX project yet but it will be soon.


Next I went to Craig Boyd’s Virtual Earth session. Craig showed the basics of Virtual Earth (now called Bing Maps) and discussed the API. Then he showed a wrapper he created for VFP developers making it very easy to incorporate mapping into your own applications. Apparently, this is the most complete wrapper available in any language: he exposes more properties and methods than even .Net developers have. One cool technique he showed is how to use JSON to serialize a VFP object and pass it to JavaScript, something I haven’t seen done before.


Part way through Craig’s session, he excused himself to refresh his water glass. I told him I’d do it for him and took his glass into the hallway to refill it. As I was coming back into the room, an evil idea hit me: since he was the only one facing the back of the room, I could do something to mess with him and no one else would be the wiser. I decided to pretend to, ahem, relieve myself in his glass. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch his eye as he was in his usual Boyd demo zone (if you’ve seen Craig speak, you know what I’m talking about), so I just took it back up to the front. After the session, I told Craig what I’d thought about doing and he thought it would have been really funny. Little did I know this would come back to bite me on Saturday!

The next timeslot was my session on Microsoft Virtual PC. I showed how to install VFP, how to create a “base” virtual machine with the operating system of your choice, how to create “working” VMs, and how to manage your VMs. I then went through a variety of uses for VMs, including testing installs for missing dependencies, testing applications in different environment (such as Windows regional settings different than your usual ones), demos and presentations, installing beta versions of applications or operating systems, and so on.


Lunch was deli-style: make your own sandwiches, potato salad, etc. Very tasty and interesting conversation. One thing we forgot to do was draw for prizes; Tamar remembered after lunch. Oh well, more prizes for the dinner party.

After lunch, I sat in on Cathy Pountney’s back-to-back reporting sessions. As usual, Cathy showed very cool techniques, including how to automatically shrink fonts so text fits in the allotted space, how to force page breaks, and adding text and graphic watermarks.

One of the really interesting things about this year’s Southwest Fox was how many people were on Twitter, tweeting about the sessions they were in. At one point, I was sitting beside Mike Roof of Matrix Imaging and he started laughing. When I leaned over to see what was so funny, he pointed at a tweet Steve Bodnar had just posted about me being on my hands and knees in Cathy’s session (I was plugging in a power bar which had become unplugged). That started some funny back-and-forth comments and even spilled into some “real time” jocularity. I think Twitter is directly responsible for what really feels to me like a strengthening of the VFP community of late. If you aren’t on Twitter, it’s time for you to join the conversation!

One change we made in the schedule this year was to set aside a “normal” timeslot for bonus sessions, rather than always having them in the evening when people want to socialize. The two sessions at 5:15 were “Show Us Your Apps” and “VFPX Users Meeting”. I sat in about half of the SUYA session, watching Dave Tucker demo KnowItAll, a very interesting, Microsoft OneNote-like application that every Southwest Fox attendee got for free, Paul Mrozowski show his very interesting calendar control, and John Henn show his Web store software. I then moved over to catch the second half of the VFPX session. The VFPX session was streamed live, so you can still watch it even if you weren’t at Southwest Fox.

Like last year, Friday evening featured a dinner party. This year it was Italian: delicious pasta and chicken dishes. After dinner, we drew names for door prizes, including t-shirts from Red Gate and SnagIt and Camtasia from TechSmith. Servoy donated a gift basket, including a license to their software, and it was presented by one of their staff doing a very funny Borat impression.

After dinner, it was time for more bonus sessions. I hosted a Stonefield Query developer meeting, in which I went over features we added in version 3.3 (released earlier this year), showed new features planned for 4.0 (due next year), and discussed wish list items with developers using our software.

By the time we wound up, it was almost 10 p.m. That makes for a very long day, but it wasn’t over yet. Quite a few people went to the Feltman’s suite to socialize and party until the wee hours. After lots of great discussions, more than a couple of beers, and tons of laughs, I headed to my room about 2:00 a.m.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Southwest Fox 2009: Pre-Conference

On Tuesday, October 13, Rick, his wife Therese, Tamar, her husband Marshal, and I arrived in beautiful sunny Phoenix to start preparing for Southwest Fox. The weather was a pleasant change from home, where it had snowed throughout the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. We ran some errands, such as picking up the shirts and conference bags, water, and other supplies. We had a great dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and called it an early evening, as most of us had been up since well before sunrise (2:30 a.m. Phoenix time in my case). I slept a much needed eight hours.

We spent Wednesday meeting with hotel staff, assembling binders and bags, and doing other prep work. This year, we decided to do things a little differently: rather than assembling a bag when an attendee comes to the registration table, we did them before hand, including shirt and name badge. This made a huge different at registration time: it was easily handled by one person, whereas in previous years we needed at least two or even three when it got busy. We were done by about 3:00 so I caught up on some emails until dinner time. That evening, I got to meet the Ceil Silver Ambassador, Emerson Santon Reed from Brazil. I was thrilled to meet him and found him to be very nice and really excited to be at Southwest Fox. A good-sized group, including Tamar, Marshal, Rick, Therese, Barbara Peisch, Dan Freeman, and Emerson, went to P.F. Chang’s for a really good dinner.

I got up early Thursday (as I did pretty much every day) to help finalize registration, then for the first time ever, attended a pre-conference session since we didn’t need everyone at the registration table. I saw Walt’s excellent session on SourceGear Vault, as did Trevor Mansuy and Chris Wolf, who both work for me. We’re really fired up now and plan on implementing Vault soon.

After a tasty Mexican lunch, I spent the afternoon at the registration table. It’s always fun doing that because you can meet up with old friends and put faces to the names of new people. Afterward, several of us went for dinner (BBQ ribs and chicken) at the hotel.

At 7:00, we started the keynote session. After introducing the speakers, thanking sponsors and others who helped, covering conference logistics, and awarding Cesar Chalom the 2009 VFPX Administrators Award, Sara Ford began her keynote on CodePlex. You can watch the entire keynote at Afterward, we held a reception in the trade show area so attendees had a chance to talk to the exhibitors.

After the reception, a group of people went to the hotel bar while others congregated in the “Mike and Toni Feltman Party Suite,” which was to become a very popular place over the next few days.

VFPX Administrator’s Outstanding Service Award

At the keynote presentation for Southwest Fox 2009, the administrators of VFPX (Craig Boyd, Rick Schummer, and I) presented Cesar Chalom with the 2009 VFPX Administrator’s Outstanding Service Award (you can watch the presentation at Cesar is well-deserving of this award due to his work on the GDIPlusX and FoxCharts projects, both of which were covered in sessions at this year’s conference. Unfortunately, Cesar couldn’t make it to Southwest Fox this year, so the Ceil Silver Ambassador, Emerson Santon Reed, accepted it on his behalf and will present it to Cesar when he returns to Brazil.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Southwest Fox 2009 is Next Week!

We’re only a little more than week from the start of Southwest Fox (actually, less for Rick, Tamar, and I because we get there on Tuesday). I’m really pumped up about the conference: great sessions, great people, great weather (anything’s better than the 35F or 2C it is here right now) … what more could you ask for? I’m going to be busy: two sessions presented twice, plus a session demoing Stonefield Query presented twice, plus a Stonefield Query Developers meeting. I guess I better try to catch up on my sleep now!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

MVP for 2009-2010

I am once again honored to be named a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP). Congratulations to other award recipients; see for a complete list of VFP MVPs.