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, June 30, 2008

AlphaMailer delivers

What if I told you Alpha Five could help ensure all your legitimate marketing e-mails reached all of their adressees, and your return addresses were never flagged as a spammer? It's true, if you believe the press release we dropped on the wire today.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Alpha Five recognized by ZD Net Asia

Things have been sizzling at Alpha so far this summer. And while the heat usually slows everything down, the positive press we've been receiving over Alpha Five has done anything but. Take a look at the latest review in today's ZD Net Asia.

Gates leaves Microsoft, pundits come out of woodwork

You probably heard by now that today is Bill Gates' last official day at Microsoft. Get ready for a wave of articles and blog posts from people doing retrospectives on his impact on the industry, and what his departure means on Microsoft and the rest of us.

I'm happy to say I was among the first wave of pundits given the opportunity to pontificate. E-Commerce News rang me up to get my feedback, along with the feedback of some other industry people. Take a look at their coverage.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Alpha Software reaches Redmond Mag

We're very excited about what Ed Scannel wrote about Alpha Software in RedmondMag today. Ed is one of those industry IT journalists whose byline is known throughout the industry. In today's article, he gives a quick, yet surprisingly thorough, view of Alpha Software, from inception to our latest release of Alpha Platinum. Have a look!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alpha Software helps P & A amplify

Survival of the fittest applies to the business world just as much as it applies to the natural world. Businesses grow, thrive, and survive based on their ability to adapt and serve. No one knows that better than Gregory Zilliox, IT Manager and CTO at P & A Group.

Greg used Alpha Five to gain the step up he needed in the competitive insurance business. Read on to find out how, or take a look at the full PDF version.

Customer Profile
The P & A Group was established in 1975 to provide assistance in the design, administration, and communication of a wide range of employee benefit plans, compensation plans, and retirement and investment services. The company provides comprehensive outsourcing solutions for businesses searching for one-stop accountability in outsourcing of benefits consulting, brokerage, administration, compliance, and communication.

Buffalo, N.Y.



P & A Group is a small, fast-growing company that was reaching a tipping point. Rapid growth was making it harder to manage employee benefit plans, compensation plans, and retirement and investment services transactions for customers. Approximately 500,000 transactions a year were completed manually on paper and spreadsheets. The process was at risk for error, and made it hard to retrieve information quickly. P & A wanted to centralize and automate their business processes, so employees would spend less time working with spreadsheets or searching for data, and more time focusing on customers and the business.

P & A hired consultant Greg Zilliox to create an application to automate the business. Zilliox used Alpha to build a centralized database to process clients' 401(k) records. The application managed P & A's 401(k) client services end to end, and connected P & A to all major payroll companies in America. Zilliox gradually converted all of P & A's manual processes into software applications using Alpha Five. Ultimately, all paper-based and manual systems were phased out.

Since deploying the finished Alpha Five database application, human error at P & A has been eliminated. Data entry is fast and validated, and searches for client information return results instantly. Information is tightly integrated with all major U.S. payroll companies, eliminating double-entry of data. Most important, the application has empowered P & A to scale it customer base exponentially-something that would not have been possible had the company remained with manual systems. Within five years of deploying the new app, P & A's customer base grew ten fold, from 500,000 transactions a year to 5 million. As new requirements emerge, Zilliox can create new Web forms and processes in minutes, and entirely new application modules in just days, thanks to Alpha Five's rapid development tools such as Action Scripting and Genies. The resulting Alpha Five applications are so scalable and reliable, thousands of people access them simultaneously every day. And although the applications support extraordinarily complex financial processes, they are simple enough for any employee to use. Alpha Five's built-in security framework protects sensitive financial and personal information from prying eyes. Lastly, Alpha Five's competitive licensing model allows P & A to sustain a world-class financial software system for a fraction of what it would cost using any other database platform. Indeed, P & A's low overheard for software licensing and development is credited entirely to Alpha Five, the company's "secret weapon."

For More Information

Alpha Software, Inc.

P & A Group

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Grappling with life's unanswerable questions

Why is it that software branded "quick," "easy," and "smart" is always slow, hard, and dumb? That's just one of life's unanswerable questions.

Here's another: After over 50 years of evolution, why is programming STILL so hard, and how can we make it easier?

Certainly we believe Alpha Five V9 is the easiest way yet to build Alpha apps. But can it be even easier? Sure. Are we easier today than .Net, Java, Ruby, PHP, Perl, Python, FileMaker, Access, Base? We think so, and over a million developers at points around the globe think so, too.

Will future versions of Alpha Five be even easier? Hard to say, because each new version tackles new programming problems. For example, V9 (aka Platinum) tackled AJAX, among other things. Based on the response of developers and the media, I'd say we made AJAX development easier by an order of magnitude.

But we're not done. We're working to make working with AJAX even easier. Our efforts to raise the bar on developer productivity will always be challenged by the advent of new technologies. It's two steps forward, one step backwards in this business.

In the end, though, and overall, development in Alpha Five MUST be easier than competing products, or we have failed. That's been our design goal, our motivation, or Holy Grail since we first shipped Alpha in 1982. It's in our DNA.

So, what I can say with conviction is, we will always strive to make the day's programming problems easier to solve than any other product or platform.

Why am I thinking out loud about these eternal questions? Because I got this thoughtful joke (see below) in my e-mail today.

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are flat?

Why do banks charge a fee on "insufficient funds" when they know there is not enough?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are 4 billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Whose idea was it to put an "s" in the word "lisp?"

What is the speed of darkness?

Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up every two hours?

If the temperature is zero outside today and it's going to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold will it be?

Do married people live longer than single ones, or does it only seem longer?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Did you ever stop and wonder ...

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these pink dangly things here, and drink whatever comes out?"

Who was the first person to say, "See that chicken there ... I'm gonna eat the next thing that comes outta it's bum?"

Why do toasters always have a setting so high that could burn the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

Why is there a light in the 'fridge and not in the freezer?

Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but don't point to their bum when they ask where the bathroom is?

Why does an obstetrician and gynaecologist leave the room when a patient gets undressed if they are going to look at them naked anyway?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!

If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, then what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Why do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

(Stop singing and read on!)

Do illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?

Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive faster?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

K-9 Shock and Awe inspired by Alpha Five Platinum

It never fails: Every time a customer sees a demo of Alpha Five Platinum, they sit and stare into space with a shocked expression on their face.

Hurley (below) is one such customer. You can see the shock and awe he's experiencing, having just watched a demo showcasing several of Alpha Five's new AJAX features.

Hurley runs a disobedience school for pooches, and had trouble finding a database development tool that supported RUFF (Real User-Friendly Features). Once he saw Alpha Five in action, well, his expression says it all.

I think its safe to say Hurley is now an Alpha dog. (Yes, Hurley really is a member of the Alpha family. He's owned by Bridget, who helps write the blog.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

A5 V9 feature peek #57: Cascading lookups

Cascading lookups are similar to the tree control, but instead use drop-down boxes to select customers based on state and city. Once a state is selected, a call is made to the server to retrieve the cities.

Because only cities for the selected state are retrieved without reloading the entire page, the results are instantaneous. For more on cascading excitement, take a look at the video we put together.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A5 V9 feature peek #56: Instant data validation

Another way Alpha Platinum uses AJAX is to validate information entered on a form before it's stored in a table. On the page below, most of the fields were left blank before the submit button was pressed. By using AJAX, error text appears instantly next to each of the required fields, without reloading the page.

For more, take a look at this AJAX demo video.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Free Alpha Five Platinum training

As the popularity of Alpha Five Platinum surges, here at Alpha, we want to be certain that you're getting the absolute most bang for your buck. The best way to do that is to give you an expert's look at the raw power of Alpha Five Platinum and everything you can do with it.

That's why we're offering a free six-hour online training course for all new Platinum purchasers. Alpha has always been known for its ease of use, but with training from an authority in Platinum, you'll be able to maximize the benefits Version 9.

I accidentally let the first course slip by without a post (this heat wave is really getting to me), but there are two more upcoming sessions. Course 2 will take place Wednesday June 18 from 9:30 a.m. - 4:40 p.m. EST. And Course 3 will be held on June 19 from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. EST.

For more information on Alpha Platinum training and the agenda, take a look at the course information Web site.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Alpha Five Platinum: Transforming, manipulating, and analyzing data

A ton of our customers rely on Alpha Five Platinum for data manipulation, data analyis, data cleaning, data massaging, and data transformation (moving data from one format to another)

Here you can see how data can be imported from a wide variety of sources into an Alpha Five database.

A similar screen in Platinum will then show you how you can export data to the same set of formats.

As you can see, Alpha Five makes it easy to move data from one formats to another, such as from MySQL to MS SQL Server or from QuickBooks to Oracle.

In terms of manipulating data, the screen below displays some of the many options that are built right into Platinum. Plus, xbasic gives you an extra level of control over manipulating data.

The new features and abilities of Platinum have not gone unnoticed by our customers. Here's what a few of them think: as expressed in the comments section to the Techrepublic review of Alpha Five v9:

It [Alpha Five v9] doesn't have to be for full app development
It is great for app development, but it beats the pants off of Access for ad hoc data analysis and manipulation. The action scripting genies in combination with the expression builder make it easier to use than access, and the richness of the built in functions make it more powerful.
I imported an audit trail from Quickbooks in CSV format. The problem with many quickbooks exports is that it is really two tables combined into one, with the transaction header line repeated only once per transaction. There is also a problem in that multiple prior versions of the transaction are all referred to as prior, whereas I wanted P1 - Px to denote the particular version. Alpha's update operation made it quite easy to transform my data as alpha contains a function that refers to the previous record. I have created a short Jing screencast at that shows how easy it is.

Alpha's report writer has something that many competing products do not have. It can include conditional objects. Thus I can set a variety of styles in the detail band which at times can be nice.

VERY good point!
Very good point, and also something I feel contributes to what I perceive as Alpha's huge potential (and, incidentally, flexibility) as a core/all-round development tool. It can do a huge amount of different tasks, and it can do them without you needing to write a full interface/menu/app for it, either...

It's not just data manipulation, though - even just for the little tasks you need to do on the fly, without the need to build and deploy a fully-fledged app, Alpha5 - and the programming language built into it, Xbasic - has a HUGE range of functions (in particular file listing, list processing and character functions, including extract_string which is perfect for quickly grabbing XML data etc.) and there are dozens of dialogs and tools you can invoke with just a few snippets of code... and if you have the web app server, you can very quickly put any functionality you need available to your company/client/yourself on an Intra- or Internet website without needing to develop or distribute an application...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A5 V9 feature peek #55: Flexible connection strings

In older version of Alpha Five, when you built a grid or dialog component against either an ADO or AlphaDAO data source, and you specified the connection string using a named connection string, the named connection string was resolved at design time. In effect, the named connection string was nothing more than a shortcut for specifying a hard-coded connection string.

In Alpha Five Platinum, when you define a dialog or grid component using a named connection string, the connection string is resolved at runtime by looking up its value in the a5_application.a5i file, which is always automatically published when any file in your project is published to your server. This means that a connection string can actually be changed after the project has been published by editing the a5_application.a5i file.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A5 V9 feature peek #54: Grid linker

Alpha Platinum's new Grid Linker displays the selected row with a colored background. The row's color can be controlled using a new selector in the grid style sheet. Past versions of Alpha Five only displayed selected rows with an icon, making it difficult to spot rows quickly.

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