Tuesday, November 16, 2010

FoxTales Review

This is a very short review of FoxTales by Kerry Nietz. I received this book free at SWFox2010. I enjoyed reading this book. It is written by one of the programmers of FoxPro and covers a little history of Fox Software from the FoxBase days to the company being sold to Microsoft.

After being sold to Microsoft there is but one single chapter which is more of a summery of where the different programmers went to within the Microsoft organization. I would have liked to have read about the Microsoft days too. Maybe Kerry can be persuaded to write a 2nd book covering that time period.

Reading this book was a walk down memory lane for me. I used FoxBase+. Before I purchased FoxBase I was using dBase III+. I had written a bicycle race program that I was using at a bicycle race. Well, my program froze on me and it was an anomaly in dBase III +. I immediately bought FoxBase+ and my problem went away. Later I moved up to FoxPro 2.6 for DOS. I had bought the Windows product too by I didn't like it. I had even used the Mac version of FoxPro, but it didn't do much for me either. I used FoxPro 2.6 for DOS for a long time. When I found Visual Fox Express, I moved up to VFP 6.0 where I have been for a long time. Enough of memory lane.

I dogeared a page at the end of Chapter 15. The passage that caught my interest was from the 2nd Fox Devcon at the "FoxPro Feedback " session at the end of the conference. A woman from the audience spoke:
"I'd just like to take this time to thank those of you on the panel. You and your product really changed my life. Before Foxro, I was living in a tent on the street, unsure of where I'd get my next meal. But now I'm a highly skilled and well-paid consultant... and I have you guys to thank."
This made Kerry feel very appreciated and he says "Sometimes the blessings take time to see." referring to all the work he had done himself on FoxPro and feeling under-appreciated up to that point. Kerry then understood the importance of his work and the FoxPro product. People were making a good living using the product that he helped build. This section made me think a lot about developers on every level.

I use a couple of frameworks. I have tried to make a point to the developers of those frameworks how important their work is too me. I use these frameworks for the products that I've created. I honestly believe that I could have never created these programs without the frameworks that I use. I have been able to make a good living because of FoxPro and the frameworks that I use. I am deeply indebted to the developers for FoxPro, Visual Fox Express, and Web Connection.

I am also very proud of the fact that there are many users of my programs. My programs have actually created good paying jobs. Not only has my program created jobs for those who use the program, but the output of my programs helps people as well. My programs have touched thousands of people. Hopefully their lives are better because of the work that I have done; I certainly hope so. It is that knowledge of helping others that at times keeps me going.

I think we as software developers sometimes forget the impact that we have made and continue to make. Sometimes we even feel like we have been taken for-granted. For the most part that's ok with me. I consider myself a humble person and I've never wanted to be in the spotlight or famous. But I do want to do good in this world and I do want to make a positive difference.

I was reading Keven Ragsdale's blog not long after attending SWFox2010. In one of his post he talks about being self-taught. I've used that line too. I taught myself FoxPro as has all the FoxPro programmers that use to work with. Kevin says NOT! Kevin says we are deeply indebted to the writers of the publications and books that we have read over the years for teaching us. So true. Read his blog post, a three part series, starting here. These are older posts, but I'm sure you will find that what Kevin says applies to you as well. I know that it does for me.

So, I encourage all of you to acknowledge the developers that have helped you realize success. And if you are one of those developers who has created a framework or other tool please know that you are appreciated and because of you and your work the community has been blessed in immeasurable ways. I also encourage every one to acknowledge the writers that have given so much.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Help Builder and Snagit

Last week I spent time getting re-familiar with Help Builder by Rick Strahl. I had created a help file years ago which is used by my primary application. I really liked using Help Builder back then, but I never updated my help file. So I decided to start updating the help file.

First I made sure I had the latest version of Help Builder. Rick has made some enhancements that I believe the programmer will like for building program documentation (that's another thing I haven't done either).

Next I purchased and downloaded Snagit v10. In the past I had used Paint Shop Pro's (PSP) capture software. Using PSP worked but it was also kind of a hassle; I think that is why I let the help file get so far behind. Well, Rick has done something special. Help Builder will interface with Snagit. This process works really good and makes capturing screen shots a breeze. There is no excuse to not have plenty of screen shots in the help file now.

I have to give Rick a big thanks for another wonderful product.

I've never seen my users use the help file. Maybe because it is so old, or maybe because they just don't know about it. Recently I've been reading the help files from different frameworks that I use and there is a wealth of information in there. It is my hope that I can create a help file that is just as useful as the ones I've been using lately. I hope to have help project completed soon and I have Help Builder and Snagit to thank.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Resizer Control

I've been playing with the Resizer Control in VFE the last few days. It has been a lot of fun and the guys at the office like it. I can't believe I've never used it before.

In the past I've made my screens to lower resolution monitors as that is what some of my user's use. With the Resizer the users can make a form what ever size they want.

Now if I can just figure out how to save the changed size settings so that the user doesn't have to do this every time they open a form. I'll have to come back to this later as I have other things that need my attention. The Resizer was a fun diversion.