Friday, October 23, 2009

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.

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