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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Alpha Five and the Quest to Conquer Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. There are 20.8 million people in the United States alone, or 7% of the population, who have diabetes. The number of people around the world suffering from diabetes has skyrocketed in the last two decades, from 30 million to 230 million, claiming millions of lives and severely taxing the ability of health care systems to deal with the epidemic, according to data released in June 2006 by the International Diabetes Federation.


Andrew Janert, an Alpha Five developer, created an application initially to manage this disease himself. When he realized how the application he wrote was able to positively affect his life in a profound way, he decided to turn it into a commercial application. This article provides details on the application as well as the story and motivation behind its creation. Hopefully this application will be useful to anyone who has or knows anyone who has diabetes and will inspire you to create your own commercial applications in Alpha Five.

For more information on diabetes please visit http://www.diabetes.org/about-diabetes.jsp.

The Inspiration
My name is Andrew Janert. I'm a Type II diabetic, and have been for over 5 years. bG Monitor - Complete! is a new application I created originally for myself to help me manage my condition. For the first few years, I struggled with managing the overwhelming aspects of diabetes - blood sugar control, stress, diet, exercise, and my biggest battle of all-weight management! Over a year and a half back, I came to the realization that I needed a method to allow me to become more mindful and aware of my daily life as a diabetic. The existing software was limited mainly to blood sugar control and that was it! What I needed was something to cover the full spectrum of managing this disease. That was when I set out to use Alpha Five to develop a complete diabetes management solution.

Over time, I discovered more and more people like me needed this program as much as I. Tracking my health with this program enabled me to take greater control, lose weight, and feel great about my health.Since the beginning of 2006, I've lost well over 40 pounds, I'm more aware of what I eat, I exercise regularly and I've reduced my daily medications by over 80%! I've increased my energy levels back to what they were when I was in my mid-twenties!

From personal experience, diabetes requires more than just controlling blood sugars, and Alpha Five has allowed me to build a quality tool to assist me in maintaining better control of this disease. Because of what I've been able to accomplish, I wanted to share this application with other diabetics who could dramatically benefit from using this software. It's also proof that any Alpha Five developer can create their own commercially viable applications, whether web or desktop based.

The Application
I found using Alpha Five to create a commercial program most rewarding. If you've created Alpha Five databases you've already discovered the ease and power of development available to you. I created seven different modules on this desktop application that address the full spectrum of diabetes management. Starting with the Glucose Management form, I followed the same design concepts to create the other six components. Using tab controls gave me the option of adding more controls and features even with limited screen real-estate.



Most of my programming was done in Xbasic™, at times relying on Action Scripting™ as a frame of reference. Using Action Scripting quite often over the years, I easily learned the language and customizing the code was a breeze! The Glucose Management component above is the "core" of the program. Development started here. Like the blueprint for a house, designing the tables, fields, and data model is the foundation for the application. Creating the interface coupled with various business rules (in this case diabetic management), I took full advantage of Alpha Five's comprehensive tools. A good tip to get you started is to take advantage of Alpha Five's Code Genie whenever possible.

Each module also makes use of Alpha Five's ActiveX capabilities to launch built-in web browsers from buttons to access more web-based information related to each module. I used the Xdialog™ windows, which of course were completely customizable and easy to implement into the application!

Developing a nice, clean looking GUI (Graphical User Interface) is quite pleasant with the toolset in Alpha Five. Of course having some graphics ability and creativity also helped!

bG Monitor's main screen takes all of the values of blood sugar readings and averages them out. You can see where you're at right at the top whenever you open the program. The green bar above changes color if your glucose averages are
too low or too high. As long as it's green you're on target! Based on the average value of all readings, the Xbasic code determines the color value of the bar to be displayed on the interface.

I built the Patient Information form, containing the user's personal information, to dynamically grab the data into variables. These variables are invoked when the Glucose Report is generated, and then displayed along with the user's readings, which are selected by date range.


Using Alpha Five's methods of backing up data, I managed to implement a user profile document file containing all data for a specific user. This is excellent for backing up data, and for multiple users of the application. Each person can save their dataset to one file as a backup! With Alpha Five you can easily create your own unique file container for datasets in your custom application.

Alpha Five's Runtime made it easy to give the application a "stand-alone" look and feel. Defining the icon, splash screen, and window title gives the user the impression of a quality product. I took this step a bit further and created an external small-footprint EXE file which compiles the startup command line parameters. This EXE is the file which launches the program-much like any software you buy off the shelf! For distribution, the Alpha Five Runtime is incorporated into my custom all-in-one setup program to give it that professional touch.

I've included only a small 'snapshot' here of how I developed this application into a commercial package. With the upcoming release of Alpha Five version 8, the doors open even further to greater, more powerful desktop and web applications-both custom, and commercial!

Special thanks go to Alpha Software for allowing me to share my story and application, one of many more to come! Proper diabetes management and control is absolutely essential to prevent the major complications of diabetes later in life. This software is an excellent tool to help you achieve these goals and learn to live your life to the fullest! To find out more visit my website at www.bgmonitor.com.

- A.W. Janert

Customer Comments on Alpha Five Version 8

Selwiyn/Richard,

I just wanted to compliment (more like praise) you for the continued development of an excellent product. I have been involved with software (writing, designing, developing) for over twenty years. I am truly amazed at the incredibly intuitive product that you have brought to the market.

I discussed the development of an Intranet yesterday with our VP and regulatory department at lunch yesterday and was able to demo to them what could be done with alpha in a couple of hours. It really impressed the hell out of them and they were convinced that I had been working on this for weeks. The Screencast tutorials are fantastic!. Without Alpha I would not even know where to begin in developing a browser based system that is so flexible and secure.

I recently noticed a post on the message board regarding Filemaker 8.5 . I had looked at Filemaker years ago, but found it very difficult to accomplish much, since it was not really a database, with the ability to work with only one table at a time (this was a while ago) . It really was not very intuitive as to how to do things. I figured I would give another peek before just to satisfy my curiosity. I found the same product that I had looked at YEARS ago/ I am sure it has changed and advanced, but I could not see it. All the same terminology (which never made sense to me) and it still appeared to not be a "real" database. I uninstalled it almost as quickly as it had taken to download it, point being that it just was not intuitive as to the how everything fit together. I am sure that by FIlemaker's fan base that it must be able to accomplish something, but just know it is not for me.

Your team at ALPHA is fantastic. You should be very proud of V8. Thanks again and keep the excellent software coming.

Bill Griffin
PARKELL, Inc.

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