Southwest Fox Session Evals

Today I finally found time to carefully read the evals from my sessions at Southwest Fox. Thanks to all of you who attended one of my sessions and took the time to comment. To those who had good things to say, thanks for the kind words. To those who suggested ways in which I can improve, I genuinely appreciate your suggestions.

A Speakers' Dilemma
One thing I always wrestle with is how much content to try to fit into the allotted time. Like most speakers, I try to provide maximum content and hence maximum value in all my presentations. Sometimes, however, that comes at the expense of not leaving enough time for questions. Several people commented that this was a problem with both my sessions at Southwest Fox this year, and I want to let you know that I hear you.

I generally ask that questions be held until the end of the session. The reason for this is to ensure there's enough time to cover all the material. You might be surprised at how easily taking the time to answer just a handful of questions during a session can derail a carefully timed presentation. However, I realize that if I ask for questions to be deferred until the end, I'm also making an implicit agreement with the audience to leave enough time for those questions.

So, here's my main take-away from this year's evals: I need to be sure to leave time for Q & A even if it means trimming the session content a bit. As I think about it, that's a better formula for maximizing the value of a session anyway, because all of us (speakers included) learn from each other's questions. Besides, the white paper provides a place to put relevant content that doesn't fit in the verbal presentation.

A Question
I think leaving around five minutes for Q & A at the end of a 75-minute session feels about right. Any less is almost certainly not enough, while significantly more means that much less session content. But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

An Apology
To the person who came up to me at the end of my Friday afternoon session on the FoxPro Foundation Classes: I apologize for putting you off and rushing out of the room. I had come down with some kind of 24-hour bug Thursday evening (and no, not from too much partying - really!). I was feeling pretty rocky all day Friday, and to be honest I wasn't sure I was going to make it through the entire Friday afternoon session. I came pretty close to losing it immediately after I finished speaking, and had to rush out of the room for a couple of minutes. When I got back, you had already left. If you are that person, I hope you will understand, and if you still have a question please e-mail me and I'll be happy to try to answer it.

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ZoneAlarm Pro for free

In celebration of the popular firewall's birthday, ZoneAlarm Pro is available for free, today only. http://tinyurl.com/6l3br7



Stupid error message of the day

This is evidently all it takes to handle an error. Who said programming had to be hard?


MS Patch 951748 and Zone Alarm Issue

If you use Zone Alarm and Windows XP, don't install yesterday's MS security update #951748 'cause it breaks your Internet connection. The explanation and workaround is already posted on the ZA forum, see http://tinyurl.com/5k8zjs.

Side note: I posted this on Twitter late last night when I first ran into it and found the answer. After using Twitter for a couple of months, that seems to be where I turn first to post this kind of thing because it's easy to get the word out quickly. I'm still blogging, but some stuff now goes on Twitter first.


PowerDesk Pro 7

It looks like a new version of PowerDesk Pro is finally here.

PowerDesk has long been my favorite desktop file manager and replacement for Windows Explorer. But version 6, which was released in 2005 and last updated in 2006, has been feeling a little long in the tooth recently. Although clicking on its EasyUpdate link (on the Help menu) still says "You have the latest software version. No update is necessary.", I discovered today that the PowerDesk home page is now featuring PowerDesk Pro 7.

I haven't received any e-mail announcement of the new version yet, and I can't find any indication of upgrade pricing for licensed users of version 6 on their website, so this might be brand new. In any case, it's good to know this fine product is getting another update.


Minimalist error message

"Just keep on movin', folks. Nothing to see here. Really, this is all you need to know. Anything else would only confuse you."

This is a real error dialog from a real app. Not a beta release, either. And no, I didn't capture the screenshot before the dialog was fully rendered - this is the whole thing. (I did add the caption, though.)

So we're not only left to wonder what the error was, but also what application had the error in the first place. Huh.


Beyond Compare v3 beta

Beyond Compare is one of those wonderful little utilities I use virtually every day. Version 2.x has been a terrific product for years, but it looks like it's going to get even better with Beyond Compare v3.

There's a lot of information about the new version on Scooter Software website. Check out what's coming in the screenshot gallery and the list of new features. Or if you want to you can actually download the beta and explore it for yourself.

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I've been trying out Twitter since last weekend. If you're already on Twitter you can follow rickborup. If not, you can go to http://twitter.com/ and sign up for a free account.



Cool tool from Frank Perez

You learn something new every day. Today while reading Paul Mrozowski's blog I learned that not only does fellow VFP developer Frank Perez have a blog, he's also developed and published a very cool tool for Visual FoxPro developers.

Of all the tools in my developer's toolkit, the one I use most often (besides Visual FoxPro, of course) is probably Beyond Compare from Scooter Software. Besides its ability to compare and synchronize the contents of two different directories, Beyond Compare has a file comparison utility that lets you view two files side-by-side with their differences highlighted. This capability is extremely useful for analyzing the differences between two versions of text-based files such as Visual FoxPro PRG files.

While there are Beyond Compare plug-ins to facilitate comparisons between other, non-text based file types such as binary (hex) and image files, until now there was nothing designed to work specifically with non-text based Visual FoxPro files such as DBF, CDX, SCX, VCX, and so on.

Frank's new VFP file viewer rule and VFP2TEXT tool fill this void and enable you to use Beyond Compare's file comparison feature with Visual FoxPro's non-text based file types. Get the full story and the download link straight from the source on Frank's blog post. Nice job, Frank, and thanks for the "cool tool".

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InstallShield Sold Again

Macrovision Corp. has announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell its Software Business Unit to private equity firm Thoma Cressey Bravo. This may be of interest to Visual FoxPro developers and others because Macrovision's Software Business Unit includes the InstallShield® line of products, which Macrovision has owned since it acquired the original Installshield Software Corporation back in July of 2004.

The deal was announced on Feb. 14, 2008, almost a month ago. I'm a little surprised that, with one exception, this hasn't generated any chatter among the developers I know or on the blogs I read regularly. The only public mention of this that I'm aware of was Stefan Kr├╝ger's post on his InstallSite Blog the day after the official annoucement was made public.

Here are the official announcements from Macrovision and from TCB.

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New goodies from Sysinternals

Today on Greg's Cool Thing of the Day, Greg Duncan blogs "It's a sunny day when we get a new Sysinternals utility". Not only a brand new utility, ShellRunas, but also updates to a couple of other favorites, Process Explorer and AutoRuns. On top of that, I discover there's a Sysinternals Site Discussion feed on TechNet Blogs where this kind of news gets posted directly from the source. A sunny day indeed.

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FeedDemon is now free

FeedDemon version 2.6 has just been released, and in a surprise move, it's now free. Also free are the rest of NewsGator's consumer RSS readers, along with online services including feed synchronization.

As a long-time fan and paying customer of FeedDemon, I was a bit skeptical at first as to why NewsGator would do this. Evidently anticipating this kind of reaction among its existing customer base, FeedDemon's creator Nick Bradbury addressed some of the reasons for the change in his blog post yesterday, as did NewsGator's Greg Reinacker in his blog post. Best to read these for yourself and get the answers straight from the source.

FeedDemon 2.6 for Windows is available for download from www.newsgator.com/Individuals/FeedDemon/.