Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Southwest Fox 2010: Days 3 and 4

I woke up Sunday at 4:30 a.m. For reasons I still don’t understand, I was really nervous about the speeches I was to give about Lisa and Rick at the closing session. I had slides showing their bios and photos in the closing session (unbeknownst to Rick, I had slipped in his slide after he, Tamar, and I reviewed them) but wanted to say something personal about both of them, and figured it would work better if Tamar worked the slides while I spoke. It suddenly occurred to me that if Tamar went one slide too far while I was speaking about Lisa, Rick’s slide would appear and spoil the surprise. So, I added a “But wait … there’s more” slide as a buffer between Lisa’s and Rick’s. I think this gives you an idea of how much I was obsessing about this!

After what seemed like forever composing the speeches in my head, I went down for breakfast and my last presentation, the second instance of my Cool Controls session. I was chatting with people between sessions, so I was late coming into Cathy Pountney’s fxReports - Sharing Custom Report Features, but I’m glad I went. Cathy is working on some very cool stuff: a way for VFP developers to share custom reporting features, including reporting effects and custom Report Designer dialog pages. She’s releasing it as a new VFPX project in the next little while. This actually fits perfectly into work I’ve done with Stonefield Query and a new VFPX project I recently launched, FRXTabs. After the session, Cathy and I discussed some ways we can integrate the two.

I then went to Steve Ellenoff’s Integrating Windows 7 Taskbar Functionality into VFP Applications session. From its description, it was the session I was most looking forward to seeing because I want to add Windows 7 functionality to Stonefield Query and figured Steve could jumpstart my work. I wasn’t disappointed; as I told Steve afterward, this session paid for the conference for me. He showed how, using a library he’s created and released as a VFPX project, you can with just a few lines of code support Taskbar jumplists, progress bars, and much more. About every minute in his presentation, I came up with another idea of how to use this library to add new functionality to my apps.

Finally, it was time for the closing session. Rather than describing it in detail, I suggest you watch it and you can read Lisa’s and Rick’s blogs about it. Lisa’s video was great, even if it started on the wrong foot thanks to Windows Media Player changing its mind and deciding to play a comedy audio file on my system instead of Lisa’s video. It was also great seeing the huge ovation Lisa deservedly got, and I was very pleased that her husband Colin Nicholls could be there to watch her receive the award. But the best part was definitely Rick’s reaction to the award. He was literally speechless and quite choked up. I’m amazed he even managed to get through the next part of the session. Afterward, I saw his Mom come up to him and give him a hug; that was my favorite moment of the entire conference.

As usual, Sunday afternoon is pretty anti-climactic: tearing down projectors and stands, cleaning up the registration booth, a post-conference briefing with our main hotel contact Sharon, and a Geek Gatherings meeting to discuss 2011 (yes, we actually start planning for next year the day the conference ends). It’s kind of sad in a way, because we’ve had so much fun over the past several days, talking with friends we only see once a year, knowing that’s it’s over for another year.

However, there was still fun to be had. Shortly after our last meeting ended, we took the speakers out for dinner as a small way of saying thanks for all their hard work preparing and presenting their sessions. This year, we went to Gordon Biersch and had a great meal and some very tasty beer. Afterward, it was out to the poolside again, but I headed to bed about 11:00 exhausted.

The next day was the VFP to Silverlight workshop presented by Uwe Habermann and Venelina Jordanova. More than half of the attendees stayed for this workshop, which was great to see. Unfortunately, I had a couple of client issues I had to resolve so I didn’t pay as much attention to the presentations as I’d liked. Fortunately, Uwe and Venelina handed out memory sticks with all of the presentations, sample code, and even installers for Microsoft Visual Studio Express and the Silverlight tools, so I can go over the materials when I get a chance. One of the cool things that went on was the back channel of communication using Twitter by some of the attendees. We even picked a place for lunch (In ‘n’ Out Burger, which I hadn’t been to before) without saying a word. That night, a group of about 15 went back to the Mexican restaurant I’d been to Saturday night and we had another fun evening of food, friendship, and margaritas. After we got back to the hotel, a group of us had some drinks, checked out some hilarious but definitely NSFW t-shirts online (I was laughing so hard I almost couldn’t breathe), and checking out some places in Brazil Cesar Chalom showed us on Google Maps.

So, another year of Southwest Fox is over. Every year, the conference seems to get better and better. We had a few challenges this year—a new hotel at the last minute and finding a speaker to replace Craig Boyd late in the game, which Jody Meyer did an excellent job of—but it’s always fun and worth all of the effort we put into planning it. Stay tuned for an announcement about Southwest Fox 2011 and I hope to see you there next year!

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