Alpha Software is focused on enabling developers to create robust, data-driven business applications that run on any PC, Tablet or Smartphone in the fastest, most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year to all

As 2007 winds to a close, I want to take a moment to thank you for your use and evangelism of Alpha Five.

Contrary to Emerson's famous quote, the world will not beat a path to your door if you build a better mousetrap (or a better database IDE).

It takes a devoted group of evangelists to get the world to take note. And you, my friends, are that devoted group of evangelists.

Your suggestions, advice, criticisms, peer support, and sweat equity were crucial to expanding the Alpha Five universe in 2007.

Every new application you deployed, every peer you supported in the Alpha Forum, every feature you requested, every idea you shared or issue you flagged -- it all made the Alpha Five ecosystem stronger.

So, in a nutshell, "thank you for your support." We have some great things in store for you in 2008; things I can't say much about just yet. But I assure you we have been listening, and will again raise the bar for rapid database application development.

I look forward to working with all of you to make 2008 the best year yet for Alpha Five developers and users. If you have any suggestions, comments, or crits, as always, please feel free to write to me, or post a comment here.

Happy new year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Top twenty starship captains

Frankly, none top Kirk in my book. Or Selwyn.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Meet the new members of the A Team

Alpha Software recently added two new members on the development team. But -- as it often goes -- my intention to introduce them on the blog was swept up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

So without further delay, please welcome Alpha's new senior developers, Christian Knott and Matt Sheils. Some of you might already be familiar with Christian, who jumped head first into the Alpha blog.

When he isn't passing his time on the blog, Christian is responsible for R&D on advanced techniques for rapid Web application development.

Before joining us, he was the Director of Development for Monster Worldwide in Maynard, Mass., where he built a new advertising system for the Monster Career Advertising Network. He took it from inception to product deployment to market success.

In his role as lead designer, Christian was responsible for designing the system, coding significant parts, and mentoring team members throughout the process.

Before that, he spent 13 years in various software architecture and development managerial positions for companies throughout Massachusetts, such as Kronos Inc., Aras Corporation, Last Daze, and Customer Analytics Inc.

He holds a bachelor's with honors in computer science from University College London.

Matt Sheils is an industry veteran as well. Coming to us from SPSS Inc., Cambridge, Mass., Matt has assumed the role of Senior Developer at Alpha Software. He will drive development and design of the Alpha Application Server, focusing on ease of use, performance, scalability, and reliability advancements.

While at SPSS, Matt served as Director of Research and Development, where he directed R&D operations for Internet startup NetGenesis, which SPSS acquired.

He transitioned NetGenesis to SPSS's business model by using its process and measurement disciplines. Senior execs selected Matt to champion global initiatives, ensuring all R&D teams were integrated with OEM sales strategies, in line with program management office planning.

Before SPSS, Matt served in a number of software and staff engineer roles, including entrepreneur, software executive, and senior director of engineering for Massachusetts area software companies. Among them were Equatio, Collego Corp., and Sybase Inc.

Matt has experience in enterprise software product engineering, full lifecycle development, process maturity, project management, technical partner relations, and strategic business planning.

He's received a number of professional awards, including the Sybase Leader of Tomorrow Award, Cimtelligence President's Club Award, and CS Draper Lab Award from General Electric Ordnance Systems.

If there's one word that describes these guys, it's "results." We're thrilled to have them on board. And I'm sure you'll be hearing more from Christian and Matt in upcoming posts.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A true Computer Power User uses Alpha

Another Alpha Five Version 8 Review just hit my desk, this time from Computer Power User. Read on below to see what CPUer Nathan Lake thinks of the program.

Have you ever wanted to build your own database with user-defined functions or write a database application for your Web site but didn’t have the programming knowledge to make it happen? Alpha Five Version 8 features genies (wizard-like selection processes) that let you create custom database applications without writing any code. And for those of you blessed with programming skills, Alpha Five lets you create custom program scripts in the XBasic language to let you add other functions into Alpha Five databases.

When Alpha Five opens, the application offers several genies to get you started, including genies to import your data from Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access, to enter data into a premade template, or to create your own new database. Once you get your database set up, you can control the data with several field rules, including validations, conditional expressions, and custom input masks. There are enough templates and adjustable settings to create professional-looking databases for both small business and Web designers.

If you regularly deal with large databases, you’ll appreciate the Query Genie, which lets you create search criteria from a series of drop-down menus. For instance, we created a catalog of the songs on our computer, and the Query Genie made it easy for other users to narrow down the list. For viewing convenience, you can add custom toolbars, menus, and help buttons, among other options. Alpha Five Version 8 also provides plenty of ways for you to transfer data into reports, form letters, and labels. You can access a Web Projects Control Panel to design a custom database for your Web site.

If you’re serious about the appearance and usability of your database information, Alpha Five Version 8 offers you plenty of tools to create the application you need. It took us a little while to get used to the program, but Alpha Software provides excellent tutorials on the Web site, so you can always go online for some quick lessons. You can download a free 30-day trial to evaluate Alpha Five Version 8, and the application is offered in Desktop, Professional, and Enterprise versions.

A divine review from Programmers Heaven

The developers at Programmers Heaven recently took Alpha Five for a spin. They wrote a rather thorough review of the program -- a good reference for anyone considering Alpha.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Factoring in all the costs of a development environment

We are seeing an increasing number of developers switching to Alpha Five from PHP and ASP, because it simply takes too long to build Web applications in those platforms.

When choosing a development tool, it's important to estimate the full costs. Doing so requires consideration of direct and indirect costs.

With one exception, direct costs are fairly obvious. They include:

* The cost of the development tool.

* The cost of application servers required to deploy and manage the solution.

* The cost of hardware (servers) required to run the solution.

* The cost of licenses required to deploy the finished solution.

* And the oft-overlooked exception, the cost of time and labor (man hours) required to build the solution. Ideally, this should factor in the time required to learn a new platform, and the time required to update an application (maintenance) -- because some platforms are more maintainable than others.

Indirect costs (frequently ignored because they are often intagible):

* Loss of end-user productivity, as users are forced to continue to use an old, inefficient system, while they wait (and wait) for a new system to be developed.

* Loss of competitiveness (e.g., your rival has an online self-service solution, and you don't, because [A] you built your system using a platform that doesn't do Web, or [B] building in ASP or PHP is taking longer than you anticipated). Lower productivity also reduces competitiveness.

* Loss of first-to-market advantage. If you're an ISV or consultant, your time-to-market is longer, giving competitors more opportunity to get to market first.

* Loss of confidence. The longer it takes to perfect and deploy a solution, the greater the chance that management, investors, the market, or taxpayers get fed up and kill the project.

Obviously we believe Alpha Five will fare better than ASP or PHP for Web development when all costs are properly accounted for. Based on our internal sales and market research data, a growing number of ASP and PHP developers feel the same way.

I suspect their decisions to switch to Alpha Five are based more on intuition than accounting. Still, I encourage IT leaders to work with their accounting teams to develop ways to measure the factors discussed above, and to use these metrics to aid (if not drive) future decisions about development platforms.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Alpha Five Version 8 is a finalist for a Dr. Dobb's Jolt award!

I was just going through some e-mail this afternoon (as I am apt to do), and I clicked on a message that read:

Jolt Award Finalists!

Spam? I think not! The following "Christmas present" appeared on my screen:

Thank you for your participation in Dr. Dobb's 18th Jolt Awards. I'm pleased to announce that the following product has been chosen as a finalist:

Category: Development Environments
Product: Alpha Five Version 8

Jolt winners will be announced March 5 at SDWest in Santa Clara, CA.

A complete list of finalists can be found at:
http://www.joltawards.com

Amber Ankerholz
Dr. Dobb's Events
CMP Technology
Lawrence, Kansas

For more information on these awards please visit http://www.joltawards.com/
These awards are run by Dr. Dobbs, a highly respected publication. The Jolt Awards are described on their Web site as:

The Jolt Awards are the Oscars of our industry. [The Jolt Awards] recognize the most innovative, trend-making, ahead-of-the-curve products. Jolt Award winners are the software products, books, and Web sites that developers should be using today.

That's their words, not mine. Of course, I'm *delighted* to see Alpha Five V8 recognized by DDJ. Dr. Dobb's has 30 years of experience covering programming, languages, platforms, and tools. Their authors and readers are professional developers and architects who stay abreast of the latest technologies, and build world-class systems.

You can review past winners here.

Even if we don't win the award (which I hope we do), being a Jolt Award finalist says that Alpha Five is among the world's best tools for professional developers. It also tips the hat to our development team, led by my brother and co-chairman Selwyn. They work incredibly hard to keep Alpha Five's capabilities ahead of the pack, and deliver a tool that serious developers can use with confidence, yet novices can grasp with ease.

That is NOT an easy task, as you might imagine. But as this Jolt Award nomination testifies, it's one they are clearly achieving. CONGRATULATIONS, team Alpha! Hopefully we'll be collecting the goods at SD West!

Monday, December 17, 2007

BusinessWeek features Alpha Software

We were just featured in BusinessWeek's Small Biz section. Check it out here.

Going my way?

Rising to the occasion. Raising the bar. Reaching new heights. I guess you could say I like going up. And -- much like the innovative elevators I shared in a previous post -- I like things that help me get there.

Maybe that's why this blog post caught my eye too.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The secret's out

Word Perhect is here to change the world of word processing. Where else could you get such a wide array of materials to scribble notes on? Except, of course, your pocket, the bottom of your pocket book, or your rubbish bin.

Eat your heart out, Bill.

Catching up with the Cart Blog

We caught the attention of the Cart Blog last week when we announced our AlphaStore 2007. Take a look at their coverage, and keep watching this space. We invited Scott from the Cart Blog to join us here for an upcoming podcast. We'll likely post that in January.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Eight ways to win more business

Alpha consultants and developers often network for tips on how to market themselves and their services more effectively. I've compiled eight of the most popular suggestions. Some you might already be doing; others will (hopefully) be new and useful.

1. Get a professional Web site. Don't laugh. Many professional consultants and small business owners don't have a good looking, hard working Web site. It's nearly 2008. Stop delaying. Get the site done and up.

A well-designed Web site will attract new customers, and make your business accessible online. It also boosts your credibility with potential clients, and that increases your chance of closing more deals and sales.

It's easier than ever to get a professional Web site up and running. Many companies offer low-cost plans and easy-to-use templates. Check out TemplateMonster.com as a start.

2. Optimize your Web site. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of using keywords on your site to improve your search engine rankings. When your site is listed among the first batch of search results, it's more likely be seen and clicked on by Web surfers.

You can hire an SEO consultant to optimize your Web site, or task a tech-savvy employee to do it in-house. At Alpha, we use BonazaTech, and have been very happy with the results.

For more tips and information on SEO, take a look at the Happy Marketing Guy and Google's Webmaster Help Center.

3. Use pay-per-click (PPC). Pay-per-click lets you bid on keywords you believe (or know) your target customer is using to search for your type of products or services. Done right, you ad will appear at the top of the list when users type in your targeted keywords. You pay for an ad only when users click on it.

PPC is a very effective way to advertise online. It delivers incredible reach, and can measurably drive up visits to your Web site. The downside: it can quickly get expensive if you don't manage it properly. You'll also need a landing page or other call-to-action to optimally convert your clicks into sales.

Hit SmartSearchMarketing.com for a good primer and other resources on PPC.

4. Invest in public relations. A good PR firm will help you reach customers through the media coverage, a company blog, YouTube videos, and other non-advertising promotional venues.

When the media writes about you or your company, you gain credible third-party validation of your business and products -- something no advertisement can do. But be forewarned: PR alone won't build your business. You have to leverage resulting media exposure or blogging as part of the sales process to close new deals.

For example, add a "In the News" section to your Web site. Get reprints of articles and give them to prospects. Feature news coverage on your blog, and make sure you a building relationships with other bloggers, who will help you spread the word.

You can hire an agency or handle PR in-house. If you're doing the latter, you can use free wire services, or paid wire services such PR Newswire and BusinessWire to disseminate product launches and updates, and other company news.

Our PR firm is Gregory FCA, in Ardmore, Pa. If you do decide to source a firm, develop an RFP, and send it to several firms. Review their suggestions, and go with the firm that seems to have the best media relationships, track record, and ideas for your line of business.

5. Use an e-mail marketing list. As part of any marketing campaign, it's crucial to target your outreach to people who are most likely to need your products or services. Don't waste time or money pitching people who aren't interested.

Hire an experienced list broker, such as MeritDirect to develop your lists. List brokers have access to an array of qualified, clean, opt-in e-mail lists, and can provide them on a cost-effective basis.

Or, do it yourself by contacting the Multichannel Merchant ListFinder, which connects you to over 60,000 lists for print mailings and opt-in e-mails.

6. Network. Reach out to old and new contacts. It's a tried-and-true technique to gain and retain customers. To refine your networking skills, I recommend reading Business by Referral: a Sure-Fire way to Generate New Business.

In addition, get involved in your college alumni association, or join social and business networking sites such as LinkedIn, Elance, sologig. These approaches cost you nothing but time, and the results can be impressive.

7. Blog. I touched on this earlier, but it deserves its own section. Think of your blog as a public business journal; a conversation between you and your customers. Write about anything that you're passionate about, and nothing that you're not. Industry analysis, new products, trends, ideas, problems, challenges, predictions, career opps, an interesting e-mail thread you're engaged in, noteworthy links and videos, and so on.

Blogging lets you create a "dynamic" Web site that shares your personal business views, analysis, and insights with your market. And that's builds bonds with customers, by establishing and strengthening your credibility.

Tools such as Blogger and Typepad make it fast, easy, and free to set up a blog (the blog you're reading right now is running on Blogger).

Also check out Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Ways Businesses Talk to Customers for a good overview of how blogging can build your business.

Blogging works (after all, you're reading mine). :)

8. Join Alpha Pro Services. OK, here comes some shameless marketing of my own. If you're an experienced Alpha consultant, consider joining the Alpha Five Professional Services Partner program.

Alpha Pro Services pairs Alpha users who don't have the time or desire to create their own programs with a trustworthy Alpha consultant who can handle the job. It's a great way to compete for and win new projects, and is proven to help Alpha consultants build lifetime customer relationships.

Did someone say technology bubble?

If you've seen one bubble, you've seen 'em all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Selling smarts

Smallbiztechnology.com mentioned AlphaStore 2007 in today's post. Have a look!

Another reason to DIY

It's the most wonderful time of the year for merchants -- holiday shopping season. More than a week after Black Friday's record sales, shoppers are still going strong, and cash register bells are jingling.

Last week's "Cyber Monday" sales were so strong, Yahoo Checkout Services crashed. They blamed a surge in online shopping traffic, but whatever the reason, small businesses around the world were shut out of a once-a-year opportunity to sell their goods to millions of eager customers.

The day Yahoo Checkout Services crashed also happened to be the day we released the newest version of AlphaStore 2007. Coincidence? I'll just say that nobody at Alpha Software had anything to do with Yahoo's crash.

If you're using Yahoo Checkout Services, I urge you to give AlphaStore 2007 a look, and a try. It lets you take control of your e-commerce fortunes. You can better compete with large retailers by building and managing your own online stores, on your own servers, with no reliance on third-party providers like Yahoo.

In fact, we have not had a single report of an Alpha Store failure over the Xmas shopping season. The new release is equally robust, and easier than ever to use. Give it a try.

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