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Report on Tech Ed 98
Monday, January 1st, 2001
John Harvey, Shelbynet.Com
Custom database applications written primarily in Visual FoxPro and other Microsoft tools i.e. Visual Interdev, IE, VBA, VB Script as well as java script. Support for MS Windows NT as well. Web application development using MS Visual FoxPro and West-Wind's Web Connection. We also offer web hosting for VFP or other systems on a computer lease or co-locate basis. Certified Hughes Direcway Satellite Installer. I started with dBase III and jumped ship to FoxBase, never left. I have been on every beta since Dr. Fulton gave us the free copy at Devcon I. I am now a technical consultant with the Memphis Police Department, and also do independent consulting with other compaines like Honeywell, The Justice Network, other police departments, etc. I consult with other companies and developers both locally and nationally and recently started a web hosting service with emphasis on co-locating or leasing NT Servers for Web Connection and VFP. Http://www.shelbynet.com Have Computer, Will Travel
FoxPro is alive and well! Devcon had many eye opening sessions and the technology is moving forward. I wished this version had been version 3. With all the new wizards and the extensible framework, we should pick up alot of new users. The learning curve coupled with the lack of a built-in framework has kept many from moving from the 2.6 product or other xbase apps to VFP. Overall, VFP is getting good press and it's not even out of Beta.

MS Tech Ed was another "brain drain" but was worth the time. New technologies are coming that will make data access across the web much easier with ado, ole db, rds, and IE 5 (available via download later this month.) Having said that, I would like to point out that I attended three FoxPro sessions while at Tech Ed and they were all very good. John Petersen's session title included the word FoxPro and was only attended by around 24 people. He had a great session and will be uploading a white paper on his topic - "Moving FoxPro-based apps to the web without rewriting them." The fact that the title had FoxPro in it seems to have stultified attendance at this session.

Ken Levy's title was "How and why to turn a stand alone app into a Multi-tier web application" and was attended by a couple of hundred people. George Goley's session "Building the best Visual Studio Database Applications" was one of the very last sessions given on the last day and still had around 75 attendees.

Ken blew everyone away with his demonstration of the new version of the anomaly tracking system in VS98. The VB types in the audience were left scratching their heads as to "how did he do that?" I know all of us have had that experience with Ken's stuff. Anyway, he showed how he was actually storing the html pages on the server in a FoxPro memo field and using RDS pulling the records down to the hard drive and executing them there. Using this methodology, if you try to look at the source code by viewing source in the browser, all you see is some div or span tags (dhtml) because his code is in a table. He really blew them away when he showed how he could, as an administrator, actually modify the source html and send it back to the server. This is going to be HOT! Ken was talking about creating a framework so it would work more easily for the rest of us. It might even get included in this next version.

George Goley also had them thinking. He demonstrated how he created a tennis court program that allowed users to schedule court time at a ficticious country club. He used VB, VFP, Active Documents and IE to access the same code which was on the middle tier running in a VFP dll. When asked why he had used FoxPro to handle the middle tier instead of letting the users hit SQL Server, he said "the real reason for using Fox is ... SPEED!" Of course, we knew that but he went on to tell how it is faster that SQL server under certain circumstances and as a middle tier is a much better solution. One of the things that I found interesting was when he told of the system MEI (his company) wrote for MS to handle the 21 million hits they take per day. MS wants to know who hits them and all that other marketing stuff, so Goley's company was hired. He said after scrubbing and massaging the data he wound up with over 350 million rows (per day) One particular report he was running took Fox 4 seconds and SQL Server about 10 minutes. They were taking alot of notes.

A couple of things have come to mind as a result of these sessions. I'll be pushing Visual Studio and still doing VFP. If a client asks what I plan to develop the system I'll tell them VS tools and still most will be done with VFP. But, I'll also be doing some VB, VBA, html, VBScript and Jscript. If they really want to look under the covers, I'll demonstrate an Access table with a million rows versus a VFP table with a million rows, then let them make the call.

For marketing I think we should be pushing MS to tout some of the really excellent apps that have been developed using VFP like the DOD app that Brian Jones showed at Devcon. If the DOD and US government have enough faith in VFP to handle logistics for our military, surely it is mission critical enough for other applications. Also, I would like to encourage everyone to not devote time and energy to bashing VB but instead learn it. FoxPro isn't the only tool there is, granted it's the best database tool there is, but sometimes you have to build widgets too.

Sorry for the length of the message, but I felt the need to let people know how VFP did at Tech Ed.

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