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?