Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Barbecue Tips from The Master

OK, being somewhat ostentatious. I take grilling pretty seriously, though, and I don't have many complaining here are the tips:

  • Ribs take 2-3 hours of indirect heat to properly cook. Douse with sauce every 30 minutes. Forget the packaging and a lot of cookbooks that say an hour or less. They are full of crap.
  • The best chicken parts to cook are the breasts. Start them meat side down for 5 minutes over medium coals, then flip them and close the grill with medium vents for 45 minutes more. Marinate on the flip.
  • If you're looking, it ain't cooking. Do not open a closed grill in time increments any less than 30 minutes.
  • Shellfish, ie shrimp, seem to love flame. Put them on while there's still flame in the coals - two minutes. Take them off, wait 10 minutes, and finsih them with 2 more minutes on a more relaxed fire.
  • Never ever ever use Wal-Mart large (60% larger!) coals. These coals SUCK. They flare up and then suicide with ash and you won't get more than 30-45 minutes good heat out of them.
  • Sauce secret: Go to an Asian market and buy some Srirasha - a Thai chili garlic sauce. Also have on hand some molasses. Mix about a cup of KC Masterpiece with 2 TBS of Thai and about 4 TBS of molasses. Use that as your sauce.!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Get Well, Senator Tim Johnson

I don't know you from Adam, but I pray for your speedy recovery. We really don't need the kind of political crap that would happen should you become permanently disabled.

Hang in there, Tim.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Things I Would Love to See (Or Not)

Ever see politicians argue over something and were left screaming at the TV (or net) because they all got it wrong? Yeah, me too. Here's my list of issues that they all have wrong. I, of course, could be wrong too. YMMV.

  • Abortion. It's an individuals right to determine whether abortion is OK with them or not. There shouldn't be laws for or against it at the Federal level as that violates the Constitution. The Constitution clearly states that if it's not specifically enumerated as something deserving Federal oversight, it devolves to the States or the people.
  • Talking points. I think I heard Pelosi say "culture of corruption", literally, a gaxillion times from 2004 to now. I can't think of the GOP equivalent now but I know I've heard it. Can't these fuckwads think for themselves?
  • Gay Marriage. Since when is it reasonable to even consider a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage? That's incredibly stupid. It would give the Federal government the power to regulate peoples personal lives and that's never good. Until fairly recently, the government has no role in marriage: you either got married in a church or were deemed common law after an amount of time of co-habitation. My solution: All civil unions are just that - cilvil unions. Man to woman, man to man, whatever. Marriage is a sacred institution rendered by a church but the legal and civil rights conferred by the state are conferred equally to all.

There are more later.

Things I Would Love to See (Or Not)

Ever see politicians argue over something and were left screaming at the TV (or net) because they all got it wrong? Yeah, me too. Here's my list of issues that they all have wrong. I, of course, could be wrong too. YMMV.

  • Abortion. It's an individuals right to determine whether abortion is OK with them or not. There shouldn't be laws for or against it at the Federal level as that violates the Constitution. The Constitution clearly states that if it's not specifically enumerated as something deserving Federal oversight, it devolves to the States or the people.
  • Talking points. I think I heard Pelosi say "culture of corruption", literally, a gaxillion times from 2004 to now. I can't think of the GOP equivalent now but I know I've heard it. Can't these fuckwads think for themselves?
  • Gay Marriage. Since when is it reasonable to even consider a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage? That's incredibly stupid. It would give the Federal government the power to regulate peoples personal lives and that's never good. Until fairly recently, the government has no role in marriage: you either got married in a church or were deemed common law after an amount of time of co-habitation. My solution: All civil unions are just that - cilvil unions. Man to woman, man to man, whatever. Marriage is a sacred institution rendered by a church but the legal and civil rights conferred by the state are conferred equally to all.

There are more but mainly minor.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

NASA Creates Tenure

Today NASA announced plans to establish a permanent base at the Moon's South Pole. Here's the news story:

According to the article, this is supposed to occur by 2024.

OK, great, but I'm 46 now and I'll be 64 then. When I was freaking 9 years old we had guys tramping around the moon and were promised that by 1980 we'd have guys at Mars....and moving sidewalks by 1985.

From 1973 through today we have done doo-diddly-squat as far as manned exploration. I got an A on a paper I wrote in college on the death of manned space 1983!

Instead, we've focused on a Space Ford Excursion (the Shuttle) since the 1970's. Sure, can haul a lot but gets lousy gas mileage. To top this off we decided that the Space Excursion needed a garage in orbit and hence came the low orbit, underused, overbudget ISS.

The ISS and Shuttle consume mass quantities of NASA budget for a dubious return in science. What does the ISS prove that Mir didn't? Nothing. What science to we get from the Shuttle? Occasional Earth studies and repair trips to Hubble. Bah!

Meanwhile, the rest of NASA has to contend with relatively low budget robotic missions to the other planets where the real action is.

And, God bless 'em, they do great! The Spirit and Opportunity rovers are still tooling around Mars far after the expected design specs. Cassini is doing great as did the little Huygens probe (thanks, ESA!) carried. The Pluto Express is on it's way.

In 2001, these audacious bastards even tried to land an asteroid orbiter on an asteroid when it was low on fuel...and succeeded!

So why don't we do away with the low-orbit shenanigans and marry the astronauts and budget with the visionaries and top engineers carrying out planetary missions? Fuck the moon, I want to see Dave Bowman orbiting Jupiter before I die.

Just tell him to ignore HAL's complaints about the AE-35.

The Feline Frightener

We have a cat who is the most peaceful, serene animal I have ever had. He's actually my daughter's pet and he'll come running the minute she calls. He always sleeps in her bed and nuzzles her on demand.

Actually, he likes everyone to a degree. What's funny is that he isn't terribly loving with anyone if my daughter is in the room - my theory is that he's afraid of making her jealous.

Like all cats, though, he does some irritating things. In his case, it's scratching at the fringes of carpets. We yell "No" and he stops doing it but shortly after forgets it's a bad thing and does it again.

If this was any other animal I'd swat his with a rolled up newspaper while yelling, "No!" and this would get his attention. But he's so sweet I'd hate to do anything that could affect his disposition.

So I have an idea....

Cats are startled by sudden loud noises. They don't like them one bit. Most cats will immediately drop what they're doing and haul ass at a sudden loud noise. What is needed is a good loud noise that is untraceable.

If I took an aluminum beer can and put a couple of dozen BBs into it, it would be loud when shaken or thrown. If I seal the can and then wrap it in light foam it's still loud but now soft.

If I have this can, (I dub thee "Feline Frightener") I can throw it close to the cat when he's misbehaving and he'll freak and stop what he's doing. There are advantages to this approach.

  • If I accidently hit the cat he's unlikely to be hurt because it'll be very light.
  • He won't know where the Frightener came from so he can't trace it back to me. As far as he knows, the Cat God is smiting him for his transgressions.
  • Since the BBs randomly rattle in the can, the noise will be slightly different each time so it'll seem like an animate threat.
  • If I throw it from a different spot each time he'll be even more afraid of it.
  • He will begin to associate the Frightener with any bad behavior and I can use it at any time for any badness.

I base my bulletpoints on the fact that cats are stupid. No, really. They look at you with eyes slitted because they don't have the mental energy to keep them wide open unless directly focused on a straightforward task such as catching squirrels. Which they rarely do because even squirrels are smarter than them. Some cats are good at rats and birds but rats and birds are even stupider than cats.

Some cats are both stupid and deranged. I have known cats that attack strangers without warning; cats that howled for no reason, obsessive-compulsive cats (no shit - one of mine was), and cats that wiped out all of a homes drapes and blinds because the owner was gone overnight.

But I digress.

The Frightener would not work for dogs because when you want to stop a dog from doing wrong things, you can train them either with reward or punishment. This is for three reasons: You want them to respect and obey you so a loud can from the Dog Gods is impersonal - they need to see that You Are Personally Unhappy. A dog would likely be curious about the can and not run so far, killing off the startle value after the first few uses. Finally, dogs are clearly not as stupid as cats and would likely try to retrieve the Evil Can to bring to you as a fetch toy.

If I ever get up the gumption to actually make the Frightener, I'll let you all know if it works. I think it will.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Scene to Love as a Foxhead

So a co-worker came to me all in a panic about munging a huge table to convert "x" to "y" uising some arcane formula.

"No sweat", I said, and wrote a 9 line VFP program to do it in about 1/2 hour. Apparently, three .Net dweebs had been debating the approach for two weeks.

Visual FoxPro....there is no substitute.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Same as the Old Boss....

Say what you will of me and my political persuasions, but the Democrats seem to be going out of their way to prove they are even more corrupt and ideologues than the guys they are replacing. Cases in point:

Pelosi supports Murtha for a chair. Murtha??? This is the guy who escaped Abscam by the skin of his teeth. Not a message to send if you are against corruption.

Pelosi supports Hastings for chair on Select Committee on Intelligence. Again, are you kidding me? This is one of the most corrupt elected officials in America. My God, he was only one of a handful of Federal judges ever impeached by Congress. The ranking Democratic member, Harman, apparently pissed off Pelosi at some point so is being passed over. This is seen as a sop to the Congressional Black Caucus.

So. the Dems get into power and then totally blow off the principles of "culture of corruption" that they have espoused nigh on 2 years. Pelosi makes her chair decisions on personal vendettas and power-brokering.

There is nothing you left-wingers can say to alleviate the truth of what's going on. It's as obvious as a cheap suit.

Have fun for the next 2 years....cause I think it'll be the last you have for a long, long time.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Job Opportunities

My current employer is looking for software engineers and quality assurance professionals. It's a good company to work for and a great town (Tallahassee, FL) to live in...some of the best schools in the country are here.

If anyone is interested, drop me an email and resume at and I'll pass it on.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For

I've been watching the post-election bruhaha with some amusement.

I have to get this out: A lot of my friends and associates for some reason think I'm a Republican because I don't hate Bush and am generally contemptuous of liberal politics. Actually, I'm libertarian which means I'm a true small government and fiscal conservative but I don't give a damn about how people conduct their personal lives.

Just so you know where I'm coming from.

Anyway, what's striking to me in the last week is that Democrats seem to have no idea how and why they swept elections. It's evident in what has been going on the last few days.

Pelosi and the leftist Democrats think that they've been given a mandate to lead from the left as evidenced by her support of Murtha and Alcee Hastings for committee chair choices. The Blue Dog centrist/conservative Democrats believe that America remains in the middle and just simply wanted change on the Iraq issue.

My opinion? The Blue Dogs have it right. This election was the Perfect Storm of two trends....the growing dissatisfaction with Iraq and the historical loss in Congress of a 6-year President. This was not an endorsement, by far, of leftist ideography. Witness how Murtha crashed and burned in the secret ballot and we shall see what happens with Hastings.

Will the Federal minimum wage be raised? Probably. Although I have to admit that the concept bothers me as it seems to me a an issue best raised at the State or local's certainly not in the Constitution which should automatically devolve it to the States.

Will Medicare be able to negotiate prices directly with the pharmaceutical companies? This seems to me so common sense that I feel like there must be a snake in the grass somewhere. Why would the GOP be so against this on principle? And, yes, I know my leftist friends will claim that it's because they're money-grubbing bastards in the pockets of Big Drug but that's too simplistic...

Bush tax cuts? That's the third rail. Say all you want about "tax cuts for the rich" but I ain't rich and the cuts have saved me $2k or more each year. That's money I could not do without. Take the cuts away and you will not be popular and you'll probably damage the economy as well.

Iraq? God, who knows? No opinion here. There are good arguments for all points of view.

So who won the election? All Americans. Why? Because the right extremists can't dictate and the left extremists can't legislate without compromise. So we're either going to have some very common sense government over the next 2 years or total pig-headed gridlock.

2008 will prove interesting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

.Net vs. Fox for the Rest of Us

Recently I had a .Net application dumped in my lap; that is, I was forced to understand it, the server on which it resides, and the code it is comprised of.

I was petrified. A good part of being a good tester is understanding completely every nut and bolt that goes into what you are testing. How else can you set expectations? There can be no ambiguity.

What I found after a week or so is that my fears were (largely) unfounded. Once you get past some basic issues on web hosting and syntax issues it's pretty simple.

How do I put this? Hmmm. Once you put your Fox-brain aside and truly evaluate non-Fox project architecture and syntax you will realize just how clueless 90+% of these folks are. Once I understood the mechanics enough to assess the underpinnings I was struck by the realization that the average .Net developer may be much more addled on delivering a "best practices" solution than your average VFP developer.

This goes back to my assertions 5 years ago on the UT and elsewhere that the VFP community has (had?) a tremendous opportunity as architects to embrace the .Net way of life and kick-ass. I am more convinced as ever of this after the stuff I've had to go through the past few weeks.

Some of y'all know and embrace this already. Strahl and McNeish come to mind...

Forget translating apples to oranges and applying VFP architecture to .Net and the Web. Just look at what .Net and the framework has to offer and how you would approach a client solution at a high level.

The light will come on. And you'll be thinking, "Holy shit, why did I ever think this was hard?" Sure, sure you'll still be thinking (as I do) that there are far easier ways to do x, y, and z in VFP (and that's true) but if you get off of trying to decode every line of code you'll see it.

Go forth my VFP brethren and kick the .Net coders, who have far less experience in the real world as you do, in the teeth.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Speaking.... Chicago at the invitation of Randy Bosma. I have no idea what value they think I can bring .

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Be Careful Who You Bless

Weird title, huh?

For many years, I was a closeted Fox guru not really interested in global attention or acknowledgement. I had my hands full with my local market. Honestly, I didn't really think I was all that good at what I did until I discovered the online community and began to contribute. Shortly thereafter I was an MVP and writing articles and, by a weird chain of circumstances, a major contributor to the VFP 6 MCP and MCSD tests. By another strange turn of events I found myself offered a position at Microsoft and sojourned there for over 4 years.

The minute I joined MS things changed. Suddenly I was a member of the illustrious Fox Team and that conferred stature and power in the community. Power insofar as promoting individuals and ideas into the community. The bully pulpit.

Really, I didn't want it. I had a ton of support when I joined MS from folks who had gotten to know me and felt that "one of theirs" was joining the Borg Collective. In the 4 years I was there I tried very hard to stay true to my developer roots and, I believe for the most part, succeeded.

But while there it became easy to see who was "in it" to help others and who was "in it" to promote themselves and community benefit was a side benefit.

I won't name names of the latter, but I can in good faith name plenty of names of the former: folks who gave and gave and gave to the community far beyond whatever direct recompense might come. Hey, there's nothing wrong with making a buck but don't be dishonest about why you're doing something supposedly altruistic when it's not.

So here is the Gonzo Hall of Fame of people who did great things for the right reasons and deserve the respect and consideration of the VFP community as a whole. If a name is not on this list it's not necessarily because they don't belong; it's more likely a sign of early Alzheimer's on my part.

Tamar Granor ....I'll never forget how she organized ad-hoc sessions in SD in 2001 for those trapped by 9/11. Class act.
Ed Leafe ..... No one pays him for ProFox and it seems that MS doesn't even give a shit about it as far as MVP is concerned.
Garrett Fitzgerald ... the guy spent so much time helping folks outside of the normal PSS box it cost him his job. I'm very thankful to have been his supervisor for two stints as a contract tester at MS as his heart was always in the right place.
Doug Hennig ... I know for a fact that the stuff he does when under contract for MS is far more taxing than what he is paid. But he does it anyway.
David Stevenson ... You think being editor of FoxTalk 2.0 was easy? A thankless job which he stuck to for quite a while.
Ken Levy ... This guy deserves much more credit than I've ever seen him get promoting the product above and beyond his job title.
Carl Warner ...Spends a lot of time keeping VFUG running with no help and he doesn't charge fees.
Calvin Hsia ... Same as Ken....goes above and beyond as witnessed by his blog posts.
Rainer Becker ... Goes out on a limb many, many times to promote VFP and, sometimes, at great personal risk. Wholly responsible for German help files.

....and many others.

Support these folks. They support you.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hatred and Restraint

I caught another report of a an anti-US demonstration in the news in passing today and it was staged in some Muslim nation. I don't know which because I was working and we're trying to get a product at the door and I'm pretty focused on that.

But it got me to thinking. If we were as evil as these people think we are, would they be demonstrating? Methinks they'd be cowering in fear because if we were all that bad we'd bomb the crap out of them for daring to protest.

So where is the line drawn? Frankly, I don't know. Anyone who says they know is full of crap. This country was founded on the principles of individual freedoms and the sanctity of the citizen. We've moved off of that a bit de facto....the government can and will screw you if you don't pay taxes but on the whole we place great stock in the freedom to do what you will as long as you don't harm others.

We are able to stay true to our values because, at least in Western countries, the root tenets are upheld. We may not agree with the specific policies of Canada, France, the UK, or whomever but the core values remain the same.

But now we have to deal with people trained from birth to hate. Folks who have not a single shred of foundation matching ours. People intolerant of differing views on religion and tolerance. People with a "Convert or die" mentality. If we had encountered them as individuals when I was young we'd have called them "fucking assholes".

What to do? If we try to reach out and "understand" them, what does it matter? Do we reach out to KKK members and try to understand them? What amount of sympathy and understanding undercuts a foundation of hate?

None. Can't be done. Those that want to impose our ideals on these fundamentalists are deluding themselves as they don't look at the flip side of the equation. Their ideals are to kill us. I'm pretty sure we don't want bilateral understanding under those circumstances.

Perhaps we have to just kill them like the cockroaches they are for a while until the rest get the message. Perhaps they only understand overwhelming and merciless power. Perhaps they are so far gone in indoctrination that this is all that will work.

Islam needs a Martin Luther. Until they have one, they are a dangerous breed who we can only effectively counter by playing the game by their rules. Our rules will get us killed, unfortunately.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

FoxForward - Day 3

Another early rising, dammit! Ed Leafe called me about 8:15 or so to join him for breakfast. Totally cool, though, I wanted to sit with Ed and chat as he's a good man and my wife likes him a lot. My wife is generally the far superior judge of character in the family - me, I'm clueless as a dog and will trot along with whomever has the gristled bone.

We ate and then walked and talked a bit. I returned to my room and packed my stuff up and loaded up the car. I came back down to the main area amd didn't do much besides chit-chat with the conference organizer, Kevin Cully, and his pretty and witty wife, Kim. I poked my head in the door of a few sessions but didn't attend because I really wanted to say my goodbyes to friends before I left - which I had intended to do about noon.

I acutally left around 2. I stayed for the conference lunch and the giveaways. Kevin had a signed box from VFP 8 that Ken Levy had graciously donated to the conference. In fact, I had helped Kevin identify who were behind the signatures and he numbered and tagged a bitmap of the box to accompany the box itself to the prize winner. The winner was a woman named Stacy and I apologize if she reads this as I missed her last name.

So I sailed off into the bright Georgia sunlight trying to find a good sports station on the radio. Found one in time to hear that my beloved Dolphins were getting stymied by Buffalo and turned the radio off in disgust. I had already suffered the pain of the Hurricanes humiliation on Saturday and there's only so much a homer can bear.

This was a good conference, albeit small. The economic model used by Cully was good and I think a model for future cons as I alluded to yesterday. I have to disagree with my friend Andy Kramek that this constituted a threat to SWFox and North American cons as a whole. On the contrary, Kevion Cully's model may be what keeps us able to have viable conferences for years to come.

I look forward to next year.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

FoxForward - Day 2

I was really, really tired this morning as I began obsessing over my session last night, did my blog entry, and the next thing I know it's 2 AM. I awoke about 9 AM and went down for breakfast at close till 10. Sat down to breakfast with John Harvey and John Miller who I also had the pleasure of having dinner with later this evening.

Well, there are the Three Tenors - I guess we were the Three Johns today.

I missed the early sessions as I was speaking with several of the attendees and other presenters who I hadn't had the privilege of speaking with before or had not seen in years. In my last blog post, I mentioned my general aversion to technical sessions and that goes double on sessions before lunch when my only coherent thoughts are on mass quantities of caffeine beverages.

I simply believe I learn more when AFK just chatting with folks in any case.

After lunch, I made the effort to spend some time in Bill Anderson's session on design patterns and Dave Stevenson's CursorAdapter session. I got more out of Bill's session as it was theory oriented and not so much code oriented. Dave's was heavily sprinkled with code which reads like Greek to me when I don't have a screen in my face. Both were very professional and the audiences were captivated. As I concluded with ReportListeners yesterday, the interest level indicated to me that a lot of folks have yet to integrate CursorAdapters into their applications. As the old saying goes, for many it's a "solution waiting for a problem".

...and I'm fine with that. I still think we made the right decisions on putting those features into the product. When a developer needs the unique advantages these two broad features provide, it's better that they are there than not.

I missed Dave's next session on the XMLAdapter. I had some phone calls and had to start getting ready for my session on the VFP product cycle. I sat in on Ed Leafe's session on Python for Fox Folks as he had the larger crowd and I could more easily sneak in and out the back without interrupting. Also, Ed is known to be of strong opinion on VFP, Python, and other topics via his ProFox listserve and I had seen some of his preparation for the session and was intrigued.

Very nice presentation. Ed has a calm, relaxed manner as he presents and is effortless at fielding questions. He doesn't seem tightly wedded to his materials which comes across, at least to me, as a prepared speaker who's completely in his element.

I also caught some of his next session, an introduction to Dabo. I have to admit some ignorance on this topic but understand that it's an Open Source language that is Python based and Ed is a major contributor to. But I was only listening with half a brain as I prepared for my session which followed immediately after.

So then came my turn. My topic was the inside history of a VFP product cycle. This is a topic I would never have even considered exploring while I was at MS for two reasons: One, before the current MS policy of being open with communities it was verboten to discuss anything about what when on at Campus with anyone outside. I was taken to the woodshed, metaphorically, on a number of occasions early in my tenure there for being too open. And Reason #2 is that it probably would have been unfair to the current MS team members to discuss process which was still being used.

I really wanted someone at MS in the VFP world to vet my slides before I presented them to make sure I was in conformity with the current version of NDA but....who? The only person there who is officially sanctioned to support VFP to any degree is Milind Lele and Milind, while a good guy and I'm sure working hard to support the product, is simply not a member of the Fox community and I'm not sure would be a good sounding board. Alan and Ken have moved on and anything they do involving VFP is, AFAIK, unofficial.

I'll leave this at if Ken, Alan, Milind, Calvin, or anyone wants to look at my slides (because I may present this again at some point), all they have to do is email me and ask for copies. I will take whatever suggestions they might make as the gospel and edit accordingly.

So my session hummed along. I was comfortable doing it because it was a topic that I am intimately familiar with and I enjoyed dispelling a lot of the myths about how the product is put together. I had a few negative questions at the end about the future of VFP but
the official roadmap is pretty clear and I simply repeated what's already been said elsewhere.

The most interest appeared to be in how Test assessed testability and risk. I suppose it's because most VFP shops are small affairs but these was very little knowledge of structured testing and testing methodologies in the attending group. Stew (Mike Stewart) used to present a testing session at conferences a few years back and I'm thinking I might revisit the topic in the future. Some of the stuff we used to do to automate testing designers and whatnot is pretty alien to the average developer but could have value as an approach to acceptance testing or reduction in otherwise manual testing. Hmmm...have to ponder this.

The messages I really, really wanted to get across were a bit deeper. I used to get a lot of comment while at MS from our MVPs and others that folks were glad to see me hired because I was "one of theirs". The implication was that others already there were part of the MS Borg Collective I suppose.

I really wanted to get across the fact that this wasn't true - the Fox Team I was a part of really was about the community and how we could best serve our customers. These folks, and I won't name them to avoid embarrassing them, really put the interests of VFP and the VFP faithful above their personal careers. These are brilliant people and could have been (and some are now) extremely valuable to MS in other, more strategic, product areas.

Some have moved on but fight to spend their spare time coming back to service the Fox folks. They do this at some personal risk I suppose becauwe if something gets messed up in their new teams, someone could use that time spent with Fox as an excuse.

I also wanted to get across how seriously we took customer wish lists and bug reports. For practical reasons, we had to say "no" to 10 suggestions for every one we took. Some people over time saw this as favoritism and I always felt bad about that and wanted to set that record straight.

Finally, at the Q&A, I wanted to stress that VFP survives and thrives not because of the amount of marketing that MS does for it, but on the sheer ingenuity and professionalism of VFP developers. And that's going to always be that way. The community does not give itself enough credit, IMHO.

I ended my session on time, in fact, about 10 minutes early. The remaining time was spent in informal discussions on a variety of issues. I was asked some SP2 questions but demurred to answer because I've been gone for a year and didn't feel I was in the position to answer authoritatively.

Afterward, I drove John Miller and John Harvey to the aforementioned dinner at an informal restaurant where a Florida Gator group was meeting, making it hard to grab a table. We were joined by a couple of the other guys and about 10 other conference attendees were seated elsewhere in the restaurant. Good food; good company; a nice dinner.

Came back to the hotel and everyone with me retired for the night. A problem here is that there is no hotel bar and I didn't stock the Portabar for this conference because the small number of attendees didn't cost-justify it. So there's no natural watering hole to gather to at night; the acoustic jam players are not in full attendence as well.

If Kevin does this again next year, I'll have to think about how to address this informally.

...and I hope he does do it. This little conference has a lot of potential. He took a big risk to put this on and it's definitely no-frills as a speaker as he pays no expenses. But, honestly, speaking is more networking and name-recognition than anything else and it should be worth it to a potential presenter to attend even shouldering expenses. The day of the big, flashy VFP conference is probably over. But the small, manageable conferences could be around a very, very long time if the "supporting casts" understand their roles and manage expectations accordingly. Some may disagree but that's my opinion.

Not sure how much of the conference I'll be participating in tomorrow. I have no sessions and the regular track goes go 5:15 pm, but I have a long trek back to SeminoleWorld (Tallahassee) and a pretty nasty workday Monday. So I'm thinking of leaving sometime around lunch and if I have anything of interest to talk about for Day 3, I'll post.

Friday, September 15, 2006

FoxForward - Day 1

I arrived just in time for the Meet and Greet at 4 PM. I had planned to be here earlier as I've had a grueling few days at work and wanted to rest a bit beforehand, but driving through Atlanta was not fun. A 5 hour planned drive took 6 1/2 hours.

It's a small but very nice hotel; part of the Hilton chain. Not dissimiliar to a Hampton Inn in terms of amenities but an ample lower lobby for conference activities. Nice staff and convenient restaurants nearby.

As anyone who knows me realizes, I rarely sit through sessions. It's not that I don't appreciate the content or speakers, it's just that I don't seem to learn well being lectured to and if the speaker does pique my interest, then I immediately want to run off and explore the topic on my own.

The 1st two sessions were on data English language query by Dave Bernard and creating custom report controls by Bo Durban. I only glanced at Dave's session (sorry) and spent sometime in Bo's. Bo's session was the most heavily attended and I think that speaks volumes to the lack of general understanding of the ReportListener and other VFP9 report enhancements. Afterwards I spoke with some folks who told me more about what Dave and his company, Intellection, is doing with natural language queries and I regreted not being more present. In fact, I'd like to see him given more opportunities to present this topic and his approach to the issue at other conferences.

The second, and final, session was the VFP World Domination talk by Craig Boyd. Interesting. I sat in for most of that session as I know Craig is "in the know" on the whole Sedna cycle and I wanted to see what's being done since I left.

Well....precious little was said on the Sedna topic. Most of what Craig presented was on the pros and cons of VFP and what cool things Craig has done in the last year or so. I came away with the impression that Craig is trying to cover too much ground with a very wide topic. IMHO, the pros and cons of VFP and being a VFP developer are more suited to a discussion group. I found myself in near agreement with his assessments but in some disagreement with his conclusions. And I would bet that there were seasoned VFP devs in the audience who would agree with neither of us. Needs to be a panel discussion.

Overall, however, Craig did a good job. It's refreshing to see someone virtually unknown a few years ago burst on the scene with his drive and enthusiasm and passion for the product. We need more Craigs....he's one of the good guys. Kudos to Yag and Ken for supporting him.

In my last post, I mentioned being eager to see old friends and named Dave Stevenson and Ed Leafe. Well, Dave was delayed and was not expected in until late so I missed him. I saw Ed and, in fact, sat with him in Craig's session. I forgot to name John Harvey who's also here and who I consider a buddy.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see John Miller and Bill Anderson here as well. As well as a whole mess of folks who I've known on the UT or met at the other cons and plain forgot the names. Early Alzheimers I suppose.

Off to bed....more tomorrow.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Forward March - Off to FoxForward

Leaving early tomorrow for Kevin Cully's FoxForward conference in Alpharetta, GA. It's a suburb of Atlanta and about a 5 hour drive for me.

I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed with the turnout insofar as the information I have. Very small conference, and that's surprising to me considering that all of the other VFP oriented conferences have been west of the Mississippi for a few years.

Oh'll be great to see some old friends like Dave Stevenson and Ed Leafe. This is my 1st Foxish get-together since I left MS and I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Unofficial Software Testing Terminology

These are terms I've heard used informally to describe testing activities and results. I used one of them today and the other tester looked at me funny. So, in the interest of clarity, I present those terms. Please don't post comments arguing precise definitions because if you do that you are taking this way too seriously.

Puked. The test returned invalid results.

Shit and died. The test returned non-sensical results and then crashed. Not to be confused with ate shit and died where you inject a function with a bad parameter and it fails ungracefully.

Burped. The tested functioned paused inexplicably.

Pathological. Something the user could do but was unlikely to. Tests exploring this are called "pathological tests". Useful for determining if overwhelmed software stops gracefully. Not to be confused with psychotic.

'Caced. Pronounced "cacked". Synonym to puked. Don't know the source of the word; Ipecac (a vomit-inducer) maybe?

Lost It's Mind. The code being tested or the test itself worked OK first few iterations and then started producing non-sensical results. Alternately, code that returns values that are far removed from what is expected at any time.

In a Coma. A function or application that freezes but doesn't crash; in other words, it's in a persistent vegetative state.

Psychotic. A function or code that fails non-sensically, but differently, each time tested. Also known as psychopath.

There are others ...

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Disney Channel is Evil

Rather a controversial title, eh? I'll explain.

A while back, my wife and I had noticed an uptick in the eloquence of my 13daughter when she was being insolent. For example, she'd cry, "You people!" and pirouette out of the room when she didn't like something. And there have been other examples of this where has suddenly developed a flair for the dramatic.

And it all comes from the Disney Channel.

My daughter often has the DC on the main living room TV when I get home from work. I usually don't pay attention but the other day I heard one of the girl characters exclaim, "You people!" and march out of a talk with her mother. I watched with sudden interest the remainder of the show.

I kept waiting for the girl to be chastised or otherwise get some sort of comeuppance for the lack of respect she showed her mother. It never happened. There was no consequence at all.

Since then I've been watching these shows with interest. Phil of the Future, The Suite Life, and others. And I've noticed that while the settings and story backgrounds may be different, the child characters all behave more or less according to - I guess - some super-secret Disney formula. And most, to be fair not all, of the characters are disrespectful to or smarter than their parents.

I know this appeals to kids. Kids love shows where kids out-smart or out-sass adults. But some kids, and my daughter is apparently one of them, see this as behavioral norm. Disney is showing my kids how to disrespect me!!!

Anyone else have teens or pre-teens who like the Disney Channel and may have noticed the same pattern?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

False Agility

In my last post, I mentioned that I am working privately on sorta-Scrum tracking system for agile project development. My working name for the project is TMX. (T)eam (M)anagement and the X is because everything cool that ever came out of the Fox world has to end in X.

I'm not going to repeat here the definition of agile processes or Scrum in particular, but if you already understand it you know that there is a high reliance on the professional judgement of the development team and that management acts more as an obstacle remover and facilitator.

What bothers me is that, for Scrum at least, this blind assumption that the development team knows what they are supposed to be coding and most whitepapers confidently posit that you can retrofit any sort of project management structure into Scrum.


Birds cannot fly free without the structure of wings. That is, no amount of expertise or instinctive talent will guarantee success without the support structure. Scrum seemingly substitutes open communications between customer, management, and the development team as a panacea for that structure.

This is wrongheaded. Open communications are great, and absolutely required for agile development, but must be backed up by rigid and detailed functional requirements which are created from dedicated and formal requirements gathering.

Scrum is described as best working for small teams. My take on this statement is that this is the case when all you have is real-time communications and no written, formal documentation of the form and function of the application. This is absolutely required to reduce bad assumptions and people wheelspinning by having to undo the wrong work.

I have found in the real-world that detailed requirements are absolutely a key; they are the wings of the bird. Good strong wings let that bird fly with the greatest agility...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

VFP Coding

So I'm working on a new VFP application that tracks team management towards an overall project. It's loosely Scrum based with a lot of school of hard knocks thrown in. If I get it working the way I want to get it working, it really does have the potential to be one of the best agile process project management apps out there.

Aye, there's the rub. Getting it working the way I want.

It's been 5 1/2 years since I wrote a soup-to-nuts VFP application. Yes, I've written monstrous amounts of code during this time but most of it small routines for algorithms or test scenarios. But I haven't put it all together for quite some time.

And it's downright embarrassing what I've forgotten. I feel like Werner Von Braun with Alzheimers asked to design a Mars booster. Sure, I'm an expert in the foundations but the step-by-step part is a bitch.

There is so much experience-rated wisdom in being a good VFP developer that you don't realize until you've been away from it for a while.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Development Costs Inflation Model

There's a theme I've been pounding on for years that, IMHO, developer productivity is actually going down rather than up over the years. I used to make comparisons in developer productivity between command-line interfaces (CLI) and graphical user interfaces (GUI).

My point has been that developers were focused on functionality in the CLI world because of limited presentation options. Therefore, one would spend maybe 10-20% of the project designing the interface and the rest of the time with functionality and reporting.

With the advent of Windows 3, we're GUI and now had a whole bunch more things to plan that had nothing to do with the actual functionality of the application...such as what fonts to use, precision control placement, modal versus non-modal dialogs, etc. So, perhaps, we're looking at 50% interface and 50% functionality.

Now with a lot of business applications exclusively using web interfaces, we have a third area of concern in application development: systems integration: Network issues, request handlers, security, etc. Plus, web UI is not quite as flexible as Windows UI so we spend even more time working out the user interface. I figure that now we spend 30% on integration, 40% on interface, and 30% on functionality.

And, so.....let's do the math but establish a truism first.

GUIs, be they web or desktop, do not generally enhance specific business functionality; they enhance user productivity. For example, being able to look at 5 different chart-of-accounts entries, each in it's own spiffy non-modal window, does nothing to aid the process of closing a period nor does it force multiply the developers time to implement the closing code.

So, the rule here appears to be that GUI applications do not shorten the development time to create business-oriented functions. And, arguably, web applications increase the amount of time required to implement the user interface because of the lesser flexibility of web controls over desktop controls.

My example above is typical of a simple accounting application. Let's look at what the CLI development effort might well be:

UI design and coding: 20% = 20 hours
Functional design and coding: 80% = 80 hours

TOTAL 100 hours

Now let's look at a desktop GUI application. Bear in mind that our UI efforts are 50% of the time now, however, there's nothing in a GUI versus CLI that makes functionality; i.e., closing a fiscal year, any easier. I'm reversing the order of the tasks to highlight this:

Functional design and coding: 80 hours (50%)
UI design and coding: 80 hours (50%)

TOTAL 160 hours

The cost to implement the GUI solution is 60% higher for the developer with little or no increase in business productivity.

With the web app, the numbers go to:

Functional design and coding: 80 hours (30%)
UI design and coding: 96 hours (40%)
Systems integration: 80 hours (30%)

TOTAL 254 hours

The web application is two-and-a-half times more expensive with little of no functional gain. Scary thought, isn't it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fox Forward

I'm speaking at the Fox Forward conference in Alpharetta, Ga in mid-September. Not sure of the crowd or the reception. It's nice, though, to support community efforts. Yaa-haw!

Updated: Stupid-ass me had the conference name wrong. Sorry, Kevin!

Monday, July 17, 2006

OK....forget management ... let's talk Sedna

I never followed up to my previous post. Why? Mainly because I'm too busy practicing it to preach it. My main management philosophy is this:

Treat others with the respect and consideration they deserve. Enable those who work for you to use their talents as efficiently as possible without bureaucratic bullshit. End of story.

Pretty simple.


I dunno; I'd have thought by now that enough folks had gotten the discrete message that Sedna is not VFP 10 or even 9.5. And it's not. It is an add-on to VFP to leverage some cool new stuff in newer MS technologies.

One of the mantras of Sedna is not to crack open the VFP9 binaries because that introduces risk. Therefore, a lot of potential functionality is lost, however, this decision makes sense in terms of the strategic direction of VFP as far as MS is concerned.

For years we've all heard Fox is dead, right? And it never died. One of the reasons for the Sedna project name was the implications of an undead Artic princess.

And it still won't die no matter what MS does. I think at this point we have to realize that our use of VFP is independent of MS; if you haven't gotten the message that VFP is not important to MS after this length of time then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

H0nestly, MS is not abandoning the VFP developer, though. Take a close look at LINQ technologies.

We might have lost the battles ... but might win the war! LOL

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Coming Soon: Gonzo's Rules of Project Management

I have been doing more project management than coding or anything else over the last 10 years; my time at MS was about 50% testing and 50% management. And now I'm managing a midsize development team pursuing a very aggressive release schedule and it's exhilarating.

I'm distilling certain maxims from my experiences and will post them RSN. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Missiles and the Fourth of July

We launch a huge rocket on the 4th and the world cheers...North Korea does and the world shudders. Someone has to do something about those insane folks north of Seoul.

The problem is: what? The U.S. tried to get an agreement in place in 1994 involving aid in exchange for a promise that they would give up nuclear ambitions. Yeah, that worked. Now they seem hell-bent on perfecting missile technology which poses some threat to us but a huge threat to South Korea and Japan.

They are so isolated and so inward, what do you threaten them with short of military action? And if you do that, those crazy fucks may obliterate Seoul; they have about 100,000 artillery pieces aimed there.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Adrift away from Fox

I have been so outta the Fox world for several months that I feel guilty about it. Sedna (which I named), SednaX (which I didn't but feel a strong Ken influence - lol).

I am alive and well and working on a project that I literally can't talk about.

More later.