Here at Alpha, we pride ourselves with creating the most intuitive tools to build great looking and performing applications. As part of that, we always want to provide our customers with an array of training, so they can take full advantage of the power inside Alpha Five.
Our last training DVD by Steve Workings covered the desktop and an introduction to Web applications. The DVDs sold like hotcakes, but I've been fielding an influx of requests for more training on Web apps.
That's why we just released the ultimate video training guide for building Web applications in Alpha Five Version 9. If you're building or planning a Web or intranet application, this course will teach you (in just a few hours) everything you need to know for building an AJAX powered Web application rapidly with Alpha.
Check out this week's newsletter for more information, and special offers included. And pick up your copy today, for only $69.
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.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Here at Alpha, we pride ourselves with creating the most intuitive tools to build great looking and performing applications. As part of that, we always want to provide our customers with an array of training, so they can take full advantage of the power inside Alpha Five.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Yesterday I received an e-mail from Jim Dusoe, a professional developer with 25 years of experience, and a relatively recent Alpha Five convert. I thought it was worth sharing verbatim.
As a software developer, I am always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of generating an application. Alpha Software users have learned that using Alpha 5 is a great boon to building high performance, feature rich applications significantly faster than on other platforms. But there’s another area that I am discovering is having quite an impact on my development efforts that I’ve not heard discussed – modifications to existing applications.
Student Records Management System
I recently had to make a somewhat simple, but important change to an application that tracks grades for a small college. The college recently had an audit performed by an outside consultant (the consultant formerly worked for the UN, establishing new technical colleges in developing and 3rd world countries. This is the 13th college he helped to develop.) As he reviewed the software we had written for the college, he commented several times that our project was the most well designed and fully thought out package he had ever seen.
As good as it was, however, we missed a couple of items, one of which was the structure of the Course ID. This Course ID would be used in school catalogs, on student transcripts –- in short, this would be the primary PUBLIC mechanism used to identify a course. The actual change was simple -– we needed to add a column to the database table that indicated the year of the course (1 through 4, to indicate Freshman through Senior years) that would then create a unique key field based on the Department (Music – MU, English – EN, etc.), Student Year (Freshman – Senior) and an internally generated unique course ID (EN1101 would be English, Freshman course 101). I had originally wanted to define the ID as system generated integer only, for simplicity, but he pointed out that the naming convention would be best kept in a format that “everyone” was already familiar with (the user’s view always wins over the developer).
Here is where I noticed something significant when I made the change -– I had it completed in a matter of just a few minutes, including testing. Because of Alpha’s grid structure and easy to configure property sheets, I simply added the column to the database, adjusted my SQL query to include the column, set the field in the grid component, published, and tested. It all worked simply, smoothly, and without a hitch.
I began to think about the many tools I’ve used in the past -- Visual Basic, MS Access, Visual Foxpro, Ironspeed Designer, etc. -- and I realized that what I just accomplished would have taken anywhere from 2 to 8 times longer to complete in any of these packages.
- If I was using Ironspeed Designer, I would have had to modify and test at least four separate pages to accommodate this change, or at least let the system regenerate the pages after updating the schema, thereby clobbering my html formatting. Total additional time: at least 4 times the effort.
- Using Foxpro as a desktop app. I would have had to update my view, drag a new component on the form, update the databinding properties, update my data environment, set several additional properties to work with the framework I use with Foxpro, compile the app, test and distribute. Total additional time: at least 3 times the effort.
Now I know this is a really simple example, but when you began to add up the time savings multiplied over many applications, multiple “little” changes, you find that Alpha Software provides a whole new level of TOC. It is just plain easier to modify your applications when needed –- saving time for the developer, translating to lower costs to the customer, increasing profits to the developer, and better quality apps delivered faster than other platforms.
One more reason I continue to grow in my Alpha Software fanaticism.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I love hearing about all the ways Alpha is helping make people's lives easier. Robert Polley was one such person. Rob has been using Alpha for some time now, and has fully integrated it into his branch of the national swim education program, SwimAmerica.
I recently got the chance to talk with Rob about his Alpha experience, and wanted to share that story with you here. Scroll on down for Rob's story, or pull your eyes to the fancy PDF version.
SwimAmerica is designed to teach all the swim skills children need to be safe in and around the water for a lifetime.
New Canaan, Conn.
When Robert Polley became Program Director for SwimAmerica, he was given a three-ring binder overflowing with forms necessary to run the program and track more than 3,000 children enrolled in swim lessons annually. This information included swim lesson options, contact information, T-shirt sizes, lesson dates, and much more. All of the documentation was on paper. And there was no efficient way to manage the constant influx of paper forms. Polley attempted to computerize the information using a PC and a variety of software programs, but that only made the problem worse. He was still buried in paper, and now, redundant data entry. He knew he needed a true database that would let him enter information once, from wherever he was working. The database needed to be easy to use, and allow him to quickly create, update, and report on the data he collected. He also wanted the database to support an online registration system, based on e-mail, that could eliminate the back-and-forth of his existing snail-mail-based registration process. And whatever solution he found had to fit the organization's small budget. One problem: Polley wasn't a programmer or a database expert. He had never written computer code, and didn't know HTML, CSS, XML, or other technical subjects.
Polley tried to learn PHP and MySQL to create a database system, but soon realized he'd have to become a real programmer to make his application idea a reality. After researching the database tools market and playing with trial versions, Polley discovered Alpha Software's Alpha Five made it easy to create a customizable database that worked with any popular database (such as MySQL). Better still, it worked with the DBF files he had already created in his earlier efforts. He found he could import those DBF files to save time designing his database scheme, and then create data entry forms that worked on the desktop or the Web, with little effort. As he worked, Polley realized that he wouldn't have to hire a programmer to create the system-something he had started considering when his earlier efforts didn't pan out. In the end, Polley built the entire system himself, automating the management of all student records and other information integral to the SwimAmerica program. Alpha's Action Scripting tools and Genies made it easy for Polley to design the customized features he needed. For example, he was able to build a service that lets the organization e-mail registration options to parents, collect their choices, and add the results directly into the database. Whenever Polley was stumped, he hit Alpha Software's online community forum, where other Alpha users help each other by troubleshooting questions, sharing code snippets, and providing peer support. And thanks to Alpha Five's built-in Web security framework, Polley knows his students' sensitive information is safe from prying eyes.
Polley created a customized database system that works on the desktop or the Web, and completely manages all of SwimAmerica's data requirements. The Web-based e-mail registration system now manages thousands of student records annually. Information collection and data entry that used to take hours now takes minutes. A child can be fully registered, with classes selected and T-shirt size entered in just a few mouse clicks. Paper forms, binders, and file cabinets have been completely eliminated, as well as lost records. Thanks to instant online registration, children can sign-up for classes up until the day before lessons begin. And with information stored online and easily searchable, Polley is maximizing program profitability by filling existing classes before creating new classes. He is also now expanding his use of Alpha Five databases. For example, he built a database to automate payroll, and another to automatically generate e-mail reminders of swim lessons for parents. More databases are under development. By diving into programming with Alpha Five, Alpha Software has become the lynchpin of SwimAmerica's success.
For More Information
Alpha Software, Inc.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Barbara Borrington, director of Fern Computer Consultancy, recently sent me along a nice note about Alpha Five. As part of our ongoing Customer Testimonials series, I'd like to share it with you today, verbatim.
I have to tell you that the only reason I heard of Alpha Software was because I was searching for a FileMaker add-in that allowed proper integration with MS Office.
Alphasoftware was right there at the top of the list as a Filemaker competitor. Further searching on "Alphasoftware vs " and some reading, meant that I was confident that a download and test would not be a waste of my time. In testing the software it was love at first sight.
I've now got easy live data links to our SQL CRM and our Pervasive SQL accounting software and am just getting familiar with web based data storage.
Our company has the European software distribution rights to certain niche market software products, which we either sell directly or through sub-dealers. We would be interested in getting our search ranking improved, particularly in different languages. I am therefore interested in your keyword advertising.
Fern Computer Consultancy Ltd
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Servoy recently announced its end-of-the-year pricing specials, and all I have to say is, ARE THEY NUTS?
Servoy and Alpha are both positioned as companies that provide a rapid way to build Web apps. Both companies offer many of the same services. *cough* Only Alpha's are better. *cough* *cough* Yet somehow, Servoy's "special pricing" is still about $19,000 more than the price of Alpha Five Platinum.
If that's their discounted price, I'd hate to be the guy or gal who has to pony up for their "regular" price. If you're considering Servoy and you like what you see in their product and service stack, do yourself, your CFO, and your budget a favor: Call me for a personal demo of Alpha Five. It will open your eyes. And you won't hear that whooshing sound as a I vaccum cash out of your wallet.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Wall Street Journal's Independent Street published an article on Friday about recessions being the perfect time for entrepreneurs looking to start a new business. I think by now, most of you know my opinion on the topic (GO GO GO!), but I had to jump in and share my thoughts with Independent Street's readers as well, and give my kudos to the author, Kelly Spors, in the comments.
I've been doing some new things to my Web site with the help of Alpha Five, and wanted to share experience with you.
Recently, I created an updated shopping cart feature for my site, Liberty Manuals. The new shopping cart uses a MySQL database. For years, we entered orders into Alpha Five manually. The new cart gives us the capability of exporting the data to a .csv file.
I then developed a series of operations that imports, appends, and posts. I then attached those operations onto a button using Action Scripting.
Now, the daily office routine is a piece of cake, and that's what I think databases are all about. But be careful. Import first into a separate table, and then append to your main table. And check to be sure that the field types are the same in both tables.
For example, you might want the item ID to be a character field, but the import genie creates a numeric field. Then, when you go to append it to the main table, you get an error that the field types don't match.
Yuck. I hate that message! The problem is easily fixed, but I like it better when things work the first time around. (Okay, call me a dreamer.) The reward is pressing the final button that makes everything work. Heaven!
With Alpha's packaged e-commerce application, you can create a complete, fully functioning, "ready for business" online catalog, shopping cart, and e-commerce system. Or, it can be used as a framework for your own Web application. In either case, all you need is a copy of Alpha Five to edit the application, and the Alpha Five Application Server to deploy it.
Now, I must get to those gifts I was telling you about this weekend. From my home in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina to wherever this finds you, I wish you a very happy holiday. And happy shopping!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
It's early in the morning, with only twelve days left before Christmas. Since I'm up, I should be wrapping presents, but instead I find myself at the computer because I awoke with my noggin reviewing a conversation I had with Richard yesterday.
Many years ago, before I turned my computer addiction into a writing compulsion, I heard that many authors arise early to compose. I thought it was because they were very, very, VERY disciplined. Wrong.
Some of us simply wake up with ideas and can't go back to sleep. Just as a developer is likely to burn monitors late into the night, I work on the opposite time table, inspired by the early morning silence. When Francie Peake and I worked together on Alpha Five seminars a while back, I'd be getting up shortly after she had sent her last e-mail.
Okay, enough rambling. On to the matter at hand. Yesterday, Richard asked me to join his blogging group. I'm a long-time Alpha user, and the author of a number Alpha books, so I jumped at the chance.
Our discussion sparked many ideas. Here's one that slipped into my mind when I was supposed to be snoozing ...
Programmmers: Don't jump straight into code!
Many developers experienced in other programs grab hold of Alpha Five and want to pump Xbasic into it immediately. They're so used to writing code that's all they can think about. By doing so, they can miss the time savers built into Alpha.
For example, if you run through the genies for the various Operations (Append, Import, Update, etc.) and then examine the code behind them, you will accomplish two goals. One, you'll learn Xbasic more quickly.
And two, you may find creating the basic operation faster with the genie and then you can cut and paste the automatically written code into your application, adjusting it as necessary. Just click the XB button on the toolbar to view the Raw or Processed code, and then copy it to the clipboard or save it as a script. How easy is that?
Come back tomorrow for my other thought that kept me from my cozy bed.
Friday, December 12, 2008
I've recently been swapping some puppy pictures with Richard, and lo and behold, look what I found on a recent Alpha coupon! Better act fast, the deal ends Monday! Absolutely the lowest prices of the year, but this coupon expires Monday, December 15th! Don't be sad like Rover who missed out on a fantastic chance to save on Alpha Five v9. Take advantage of this great 4 Day Coupon 10% Off Already How to Redeem
Great Alpha Five V9
Sale Prices and Bundles!
Absolutely the lowest prices of the year, but this coupon expires Monday, December 15th!
Don't be sad like Rover who missed out on a fantastic chance to save on Alpha Five v9. Take advantage of this great
4 Day Coupon
10% Off Already
How to Redeem
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This holiday season, the topics dancing in everyone's heads seems to be bailouts and market points instead of sugar plums and and gingerbread.
An article in the Boston Business Journal points out that The Federal Reserve's latest beige book report (an analysis of economic conditions) paints a glum picture for 2009. Included in the predicted continued slowdown is most software and information technology services. Respondents reported they currently see a slowdown, or predict one in the near future.
Don't panic. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, IT will weather the storm. Pull your eyes to the analysis I did in a recent blog post on the topic. My beliefs remain the same.
To sum it up ...
- Investment in software, hardware, data centers, security, application development, etc., fuels increased efficiency and business competitiveness. In other words, sound investments in the IT infrastructure can, typically, save money and boost revenue.
- People gotta’ upgrade. They will need larger disk space, more memory, better graphics, higher bandwidth, apps that better align to their business workflow and strategy, etc.
- Companies can cut operational costs and reduce capital investments by ditching locally hosted e-mail and apps, and going with managed services and SaaS instead. They have a low monthly operational expense (and just one neck to choke when things go wrong).
- Likewise, companies will consolidate data centers using virtualization, blade technology, and more modern 6-core CPUs in an effort to cut energy costs and save on rent.
- Don't forget increased security needs. Companies MUST invest to harden their systems when holes are discovered or to comply with new legislation that comes down the pike.
- Traffic on e-commerce sites will certainly be up in 2009, with consumers and businesses pinching pennies and shopping for bargains online. E-commerce better ensure its data centers are up to snuff.
- And finally, what got us in to this whole mess in the first place? Big investment banks dabbled in risky subprime mortgage instruments because Internet investment services ate their core business: trading. Now anyone can trade online, without paying or using a human broker.
Now you should be able to thin your wallet with a little less remorse this holiday shopping season.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I came across an article on SearchWinIT.com this week about the many flaws within cloud computing. The piece is the second of a two-part interview in which best-selling author and Windows expert Mark Minasi talked with Christina Torode, senior news writer with SearchWinIT.com, about his thoughts on cloud computing and virtualization.
I wanted to share it with you, as well as a number of my own thoughts on the piece.
First, there has been a historical move from centralized/decentralized computing since the first days of the PC. Minasi talks about this in his second question. He mentions the “in-house/out-house” cycle. With Web apps, we are in the “out-house” mode.
The difference this time around is the performance lines of desktop and Web apps are blurring. We can already offer low cost hosting services with redundancy, clustered services, co-hosting, etc. that appear to be at least as effective as what the “cloud” approach would offer.
The big question: Would there be any REAL bottom line cost savings?
Second, the success of cloud computing completely depends on volume. The service problems that will arise from this model will be many, and difficult to overcome. It’s a question of value.
Cloud services might even be marketed as “free” from some companies. (Microsoft in particular is noted for that kind of “loss leader” approach.) But the real cost will be in the quality of the ongoing support and service.
Minasi makes the comparison of the consultant with 35 clients paying him monthly using MS Small Business Server to the “cloud” model. He can afford to provide premium services to his small, profitable group. The cloud model forces the provider to offer the lowest cost, with lower quality support.
Are we looking at another round of outsourced off-shore support companies, where both cultural and language barriers make for a less than desirable experience for the end user? There are a number of support organizations that make the marketing argument that users will talk to an American support agent.
Microsoft is a few years away from offering their apps in the cloud. What about application compatibility issues? Are all apps going to be required to be 64 bit because Microsoft will only support 64 bit computing in its cloud? What does that do to our cost of converting from 32 bits, rewriting, or waiting for compatible versions of software to meet your needs?
Third, virtualization is an area where economies of scale provide a low cost solution already. There are several service providers that can offer high performance, quality, low-cost, secure virtual private servers.
There may be a break-even point where the size of an application makes it more viable in the cloud, but we are already offering excellent value today. There needs to be a more compelling argument made for the benefits of cloud computing.
Monday, December 08, 2008
It's been a while since I updated the blog on Rooney, and Richard thought it would be nice if shared some doggie love today.
When Rooney first came to us, he had a bit of a rough start to life, and we had some issues to deal with. But since then, he's come such a long way, and has nestled himself firmly into our lives.
He's not as large as most hounds tend to grow, but has more than made up for that in his personality. And he's smart as a whip. His intelligence keeps us constantly on our toes.
Besides, who could say no to that face?
It may have taken a bit of work -- okay, a lot of work -- but I'm happy to report that Rooney is growing to be the perfect little gentleman. Or, er, he'll be even more of a gentleman after his "procedure" at the vet this week.
moar funny pictures
Friday, December 05, 2008
I recently exchanged a number of e-mails with Bill Broyles of Broyles Software, Inc., and I wanted to share Bill's thoughts as this week's customer testimonial, verbatim.
Hi Mr. Rabins,When I asked Bill if I could quote him for the blog, he was so kind to send even more of an elaboration.
I really enjoyed your newsletter this morning re: SEO, and think you are onto something very useful ...
... This is off topic, but I want you to know, after YEARS of trying software from everywhere to replace the CLIPPER software that I used to sell over 800 doctors an app that I wrote with it, I finally sat down and really gave a5v9 a workout. It involves writing source code to retrieve data from several dbf's and formatting the data to the Ansi-837 X12 format. Using Xbasic and my usual trial and error methodology I have it at last. I now am a believer. Your product has turned several other software products into shelfware. MS=Visual Studio included.
I wasted so much time trying other software, when I had Alpha all the time. Your code editor works great for me. I see somebody has tried to reinvent the wheel with a preprocessor to utilize Ultra Edit. I use Ultra Edit to maintain my Clipper app. Your code editor beats it hands down.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for Alpha 5!
A former ClipperHead,
BROYLES Software Inc.
You certainly can quote me. I suppose the "shelfware" line may have got your attention. Let me spice it up some.
Searching for development software is a real complex issue. I had literally thousands of lines of legacy code to rewrite. It seemed like a no-brainer, I needed xbase based software, like Visual Objects, or dBase, maybe Visual FoxPro. Besides these three, I tried Harbour, xHarbour, xBase++ and the new Vulcan. All of these softwares have a steep learning curve, that requires months of tutorials, message board participation, and in most cases costly support packages, and addins. All of these software packages are expensive, for me a one man shop. Anywhere from $199.00 up to $795.00 plus training and support. Did I mention books? I have more books on software than the library. One book shelf is overloaded with Visual FoxPro books. I'm not a speed reader, and my 65 year old brain doesn't usually "get it" the first reading …
I actually released a Visual FoxPro app. The scary part about that is Microsoft has decided NOT to support Visual FoxPro, and bug fixes are rare …
Now when I say I tried them, I mean I took months, in some cases over a year and a half coding all day, every day. I always would come up against a wall that I couldn't get past, or there were anomalies that were not getting fixed. Frustrated, I tried some of the new software offerings like Python, SoftVelocity and all of the Visual Studio programs. I forgot to mention that all of these softwares had updates, new versions and changes that had to be sorted out.
The pain has ended. Alpha software is the answer for me. It is a pleasure to use, actually requires NO expensive add ons, and is easy to code. It is NOT xbase coding, but close enough, and in fact has many functions and methods that do the same thing and MORE! The help is excellent with many examples. Your videos are truly inspiring.
Thank you again for such a rich and mature development package.
BROYLES Software Inc.
Clarkston, WA 99403
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Traditional pay per click, or PPC, is the standard process whereby search engines such as Google and Yahoo make their money. Essentially, you choose the keywords that you want to bid on. You place your bid, and if your bid is higher than the competition, your ad gets displayed in the sponsored/pay per click sections of search results' pages.
Pay per click advertising is flexible. Keywords can be adjusted, added, or deleted according to current market conditions. And compared to more traditional advertising techniques, it can be more economical depending on the keywords you are targeting.
Before you begin, establish a sensible budget for your PPC advertising campaign. Obviously, spending per click must be less than profit per click. Once the campaign has been launched, be sure to review the number of leads generated to ensure the campaign in still on the right track.
While pay per click advertising generates traffic immediately, and is a responsive and fast method for creating buzz for your site, it also comes with three very real problems.
1. Your competitors can "drown you out" by outbidding you.
2. Even if you have a high enough bid to be displayed on the search page, the search engine can still decide to run your ad infrequently because your advertisement is not getting enough clicks. Remember, they make money only when someone clicks on your advertisement.
3. A syndrome which is called "click fraud." Essentially the issue here is that your competitors can organize a campaign to have people (who have no interest in your product or service) click on your ad as often as it takes to consume and maliciously waste your budget.
But here's the good news ...
We were determined to find a keyword advertising service that solves these three problems. We've recently started using a new service at Alpha, and so far, we're delighted with the surge in traffic and leads coming to Alpha Five.
With this keyword advertising service, we're guaranteed to be in the top three slots in the sponsored positions at the top of the page on Google and Yahoo.
Our ads run 24x7, so we never miss an opportunity to be found. Our competitors can’t outbid us. Our competitors can't cause our budget to be "used up" without us achieving the intended benefit of the campaign. And we know, ahead of time, what the costs are going to be. And that price is guaranteed to us for one year.
To see how this works, let's use Alpha Software as an example. When someone searches Google for the word "AJAX software" (which is one of the many keywords we've targeted), we want to show up prominently on the search results page. This new service does precisely that, and does it consistently. (Right now we are only using the service in North Amercia - we will expand it to other parts of the world soon.)
To see for yourself, type “AJAX software” into the Google search box, and see who comes up at the top of the page. Or, here's Google's search results page.
Unfortunately, I don't have permission to give this keyword advertising company's name publicly. But fortunately, I am able to connect you to this great service.
If you're interested in getting in touch with this company, just e-mail me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll put you directly in touch with them.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Having a well-written, interesting blog that customers and prospects want to read presents benefits far more than just increasing your SEO (which it does).
As you know (because you're here, right?), blogging can bring your business down to a more personal level with visitors. This alone is a huge benefit to the bottom line of any business. People want a peek inside the company with which they are dealing. (Hello, I see you peeking!)
Best of all, blogging can be anything you want it to be. The book Naked Conversations is what inspired us to take blogging seriously at Alpha. I suggest you give it a read.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
As you know, the Web can be an incredibly powerful and highly targeted way to attract new customers. But how do you tap into this power without breaking the bank?
This week's Alpha newsletter discusses the four key methods to become visible on search engines, and cost effectively attract more business to your company or more visitors to your site. I thought this would be great information to share with our blog readers as well. You can find all of this info in the newsletter, or check back here each day for the rest of the week to learn more about the "laws of attraction."
The first of these methods is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The service of making changes to your Web site to get better search engine rankings is called SEO. When you search for something on Google (or other search engines), and you get back a page of search results, SEO determines which Web sites will be listed first.
Clearly being at the top of the list, or at least being on the first page of results, will help you gain more traffic than being at the end of the list. But how do you get there?
A number of factors influence your search engine ranking. These include how many other sites link to your site, how many pages your site contains, and how often a keyword is listed on your site.
SEO has become an art and a science, and there are companies that can help you get better placement. Alpha Software will soon offer a service to assist customers in SEO. For more information, contact marketing@AlphaSoftware.com.