Southwest Fox 2006 Wrap-up

It's Monday morning and I'm back in the office again, a bit bleary-eyed after yesterday's return trip from the Southwest Fox conference in Phoenix. Getting up this morning to face 35° and overcast here in Illinois after leaving 85° and sunny in Phoenix was not easy, but living in the Midwest this time of year builds character (or at least that's what we tell ourselves).

Southwest Fox 2006 was a great conference. Organizer Bob Kocher put together a top-drawer lineup of speakers and sessions, and I got to see many of them when not doing one my own presentations. In addition to the speakers whom I always look forward to seeing at VFP conferences, this year saw the return of Jim Booth to the speakers circuit after a long hiatus, Mike and Toni Feltman were both there as speakers, and Christof Wollenhaupt came all the way from Germany to give two sessions. Unfortunately the schedule had me speaking during the same time slots as Christof for both of his Security Cookbook sessions, which I had really wanted to attend. I did get to see his session on Crashing VFP and Preventing Crashes, and Christof certainly lived up to his reputation as the "Foxpert". It's amazing what he's figured out about FoxPro internals. I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet and get to know Christof in person for the first time. I hope he will come back to the U.S. and speak at a VFP conference again in the future.

Doug Hennig's sessions are always well attended, for good reasons, and this conference was no exception. I went first to his session on Inno Setup. I've been using Inno Setup for years, and have written and given presentations on using it with VFP myself, but I know I'll always learn something new from Doug and that was true here, too. His session on adding IntelliSense to an application was also full of cool ideas. Doug's point in that session was that we developers love the benefits of IntelliSense as we work in VFP, so why not deliver some of the same benefits to our customers in our own apps?

As already noted by many Fox bloggers, Ken Levy presented Doug with the FoxPro Community Lifetime Achievement Award at the opening session on Thursday evening. The quantity and quality of Doug's contributions to the FoxPro community over the years is truly astonishing -- there's a summary on the FoxPro Wiki -- and I think everyone agreed this is a well deserved award. Congratulations, Doug!

Rick Schummer did his usual excellent job in his sessions, too. I attended Fishing With a Project Hook, which explored how to -- and more importantly, why you would want to -- hook into the VFP project builder and access the project file. I've used Rick's Project Builder tool for a long time because it makes building the VFP EXE simpler and easier. His Project Builder is now part of the more comprehensive White Light Computing (WLC) Project Builder and ProjectHook tool, available (and still free) on his web site.

The way the speakers' schedule worked out, I got to sit in on both of Mike Feltman's sessions. In Where Do You Want to Go Today (Mike's comment: I want to go back to bed!) he discussed the pros and cons of several software development tools and presented some interesting statistics on the relative size of the job market for each one. Mike also mentioned some of the lesser known and newer development tools that bear watching, particularly in the area of Web development, such as Ruby and the Rails framework. Mike's other session on VFP and AJAX was also of considerable interest to me since I do a fair amount of Web development in conjunction with my VFP work. Judging by the overflow attendance in a very small room, so do a lot of other VFP developers.

The other session I was able to attend was Toni Feltman's Using Version Control with Visual FoxPro. Toni's been using version control software a lot longer than I have, so I was really interested in her take on ways to use it effectively with VFP. I took more than a page of notes in this session and came away with a lot of ideas and resources to follow up on.

As for the sessions I couldn't attend, I'm anxious to view the slides and read the papers. There's a ton of good material there.

The closing session featured the usual round of heartfelt thanks to all involved, some great prize drawings, and the presentation of a special gift from the FoxPro community to Mike and Toni Feltman, who are expecting to instantiate another little Feltman in the near future (whether it will be a sub-class of Mike or Toni was not revealed). Many speakers and others contributed to the gift basket of baby items and gift certificates, and I think Mike and Toni were truly surprised. Thanks to Cathy Pountney for her efforts in putting it all together.

An important benefit of any good conference like this is the chance to meet new friends or make face-to-face acquaintance with people you may have only known online. I enjoyed meeting Mike Lewis from the U.K. and Esparta Palma from Mexico, as well as seeing again several other friends and colleagues I've met before at other conferences.

As always, it's back to work now with renewed energy and appreciation for all the many ways VFP makes it possible for us to write great apps and deliver excellent solutions to our customers.

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