Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Southwest Fox 2011, Day 3

After breakfast, I presented my session on creating ActiveX controls for VFP using .Net. This was a fun session to do because it shows some cool techniques for greatly expanding the list of controls available to VFP applications. This session is pretty complex, so I started by suggesting folks not worry about the details (the white paper has cookbook-like instructions) but focus more on the overview. The session has a lot of complex steps, and sure enough, I missed a step a couple of times and got myself into a little demo trouble. I figured out the first one myself but thank goodness Paul Mrozowski was there to point out the problem with the second one. The audience was very gracious with my gaffes, and someone even pointed out later that they were glad I’d done that so they could see what to do if they missed a step. Of course, I planned that!

I next went to see Kevin Ragsdale’s UI session. I was a little late because, as usual, I was chatting with folks between sessions. Wow, another great session by Kevin. He showed some UI problems common to VFP applications and then showed how to fix them, resulting in a more comprehensible and easier-to-use application. I have a strong feeling I’ll be handing the Best Speaker trophy to Kevin at next year’s conference.

I then went to see Jim Nelson’s session on Thor. If you haven’t seen Thor, a new VFPX project, you’re missing a huge productivity boost in your development efforts. Thor provides a framework for IDE tools, but even more importantly, provides a huge set of such tools to do things such as rename objects, change base classes, and go to the definition of a class, method, procedure, or constant. Jim did a nice job of showing how to install Thor, how the UI works, how some of the included tools work, and how to add your own tools to Thor.

After a nice lunch of hamburgers and hotdogs with all the fixings, I went to Rick Borup’s session on Mercurial. I don’t think Rick knows this, but we call him “The Professor” because his sessions are incredibly well-researched, prepared, and presented. I was thinking later on about how I would’ve done this session and I wouldn’t have done half as well as he did. I’ve been using Mercurial for about six months so I went to this session hoping to have some gaps filled and wasn’t disappointed. Afterward, Toni Feltman expressed amazement that I was finally using a version control system, because she’s been after me for years about it. I think Rick also inspired Tamar to give Mercurial a shot.

Next up was the repeat of my Windows 7 session. Like the first session, I spent some time going over why virtualization (a misnamed term: it refers to redirecting reads and writes to protected locations to “virtual stores” rather than virtual machines as the term is commonly known today) is bad for your health. This led to one of the most gratifying parts of the conference: helping someone resolve a problem. Steve Bodnar mentioned to me after the session that he had a huge problem with a customer system crashing whenever they tried to output to PDF. He suspected the FFC Report Listener class library had somehow become corrupted but replacing it with a fresh version didn’t resolve the problem. During my discussion of virtualization, he realized that it wasn’t the FFC version of the library that was corrupted but the virtualized copy. Sure enough, as soon as he deleted the copy, the application worked as expected. Steve was so happy he Tweeted that he was going to kiss me full on the lips, so I ducked him the rest of the day and evening (just kidding, Steve).

I was beat, so rather than attending a session during the last timeslot of the day, I hung out at the Servoy booth drinking wine with Yvo Boom and Jon Madden of Servoy, Ken Levy, Chick Bornheim of MicroMega, and Chick’s friend Gary, who was attending his first SWFox.

Next it was time for the conference dinner party. Last year, we’d planned on holding the party out on the veranda but a sudden dust storm forced us to quickly move indoors. Fortunately, the weather was in our favor this year, and the dinner was magnificent: superb food and a really nice dark atmosphere. (I would’ve called it “romantic” except my wife wasn’t there and I don’t think Walt Krzystek and the guys from Matrix would’ve appreciated my expressing that point of view.)

At 8:30, the bonus sessions started. I attended the Show Us Your Apps session, which featured six VFP developers showing the crowd an application they’ve developed that they’re proud of. And proud they should be—there were some very cool apps and techniques on display! I was especially impressed by the fact that for several of the presenters, English was not their native language. It takes a lot of courage to get up and speak before a group of technical people, but even more so in a foreign language! Kudos to all those who took the time to show us what VFP is capable of.

The other bonus session was for independent developers, an idea that Rick Borup came up with a few months ago. I heard a lot of great comments about this session, so we may have to do it again next year.

We once again ended up at the hotel bar, this time enjoying some of the leftover cake and champagne from last night’s celebration.

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