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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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jeff Kalwerisky weighs in on the Internet Safety Act

The Heartland Institute recently published an article about the Internet Safety Act, a controversial measure introduced in Congress this year, which could make anyone who operates a wi-fi network responsible for keeping records of everyone who uses it for two years.

The bill also makes it mandatory for any individual, business, or municipality to hand over those records to government authorities upon request. Supporters of the bill site cases of child pornography to support their case.

Naturally, a bill that puts security and citizens' privacy on the line is going to attract a lot of attention in the cyber world. And you can bet that as Chief Security Evangelist, Jeff Kaleriwsky has something to say about it. It's an interesting article, so enjoy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cisco's John Chambers' security storm

As you might have heard, Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers has been kicking up a security storm recently. During his keynote address at the annual RSA security conference in San Francisco last week, Chambers commented that cloud computing is set to be a major security problem.

He predicts the integration of data, voice, and video will become a normal way of life, but warns this could be a "security nightmare." Here's my two pesos worth on the situation.

Every new technology brings new challenges, not the least of which are security issues. Now, the usual problem with military generals is that they are often fighting the last war and not the one to come. However, in this case, the old and tested ways (of security) are still appropriate, and they are relatively independent of technology. The unchanged security principles
are ...

1. Know where your sensitive information is located; whether it be in the cloud or on an unknown local server.

2. Control access to that information. You must be able to identify the people or systems that access it (authentication), and ensure they have proper permission to read or change the data (authorization). The more sensitive the data, the more rigorous the authentication and authorization processes must be.

3. Take steps to ensure sensitive information is always protected from prying eyes by appropriately encrypting when in transition across security zones. For example, from a secure data center across the Internet ("the Wildest West").

4. Build information risk management into the culture of the organization. Security is much more than a few technical point solutions, such as a firewall or intrusion detection device. It is everyone's responsibility, especially executive management.

5. Always be alert for "Black Swans," those unexpected or "unlikely" events that can be career- and business-limiting. That means always assume that the security defenses might be vulnerable to a new threat -- external or internal. So never rest on your laurels, and continually test and challenge the security decisions.

6. If any sensitive information is to be outsourced -- whether to a cloud computing vendor or any other service provider -- apply the same rules of information protection as if the data were in-house, with the added proviso of proper legal and contractual protection.

With these standard practices in place, your organization will be set to take on whatever the future of computing holds, wherever that might be.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Have a glance at Glance ... for FREE

Once in a while we come across a product or service that we love so much here at Alpha, that we want to share it with you.

And lately, we just can't stop talking about Glance. This service can save you a ton of time and effort, and make selling your software and services more profitable. It's a product we use here at Alpha Software everyday.

With Glance you can:

*Provide remote technical support
*Give sales presentations online
*Hold meetings online
*Host webinars with up to 100 attendees

You can do all this for one flat fee, no matter how many customers you need to support, or how often you use the service. This makes Glance a much more attractive option than services like GoToMyPC, for example.

Use Glance to provide technical support. Do you support your clients (or friends, colleagues, or family) with their computer and software issues? How much easier is it to do this when you can actually see their screen so you know what's going on, rather than have them describe it to you? Much easier.

Many people use services like GoToMyPC to provide assistance. And while GoToMyPC is great, you need a separate license for each PC you want to support, which can quickly increase costs. With Glance, you pay one flat monthly fee, no matter how many people you support.

And Glance is much easier to set up, too. The service runs equally well on PCs and Macs, and works smoothly with every major browser. Most Linux computers can also view Glance sessions.

Use Glance for meetings, presentations, and webinars. Using Glance to display your screen instead of your client's screen is just as easy. Open Glance, tell the participants your special Glance URL, and then tell them the session key. You can do live demonstrations, give PowerPoint presentations, review spreadsheets, and more. Whatever you typically do in person can now be done online, which saves you time and money.

Plus, thanks to its simple design, Glance connects more quickly than traditional Web conferencing services, letting you get your meeting started quickly. In a side-by-side comparison with GoToMeeting, Glance connects three times faster. Glance also includes free phone conferencing, which you can use during Glance sessions or all by itself. Have a look at a Glance demo for more info.

But wait, it gets even better. Here's the deal:

We're offering all Alpha Software newsletter subscribers and blog readers the chance to get their first month of Glance for FREE, and lock in to a discounted monthly service fee. After the first month, Alpha members get $10 off each month, and pay only $39.95 (regular price $49.95). Make sure you use this subscription link to get the discount. And hurry, because the offer ends next Wednesday, April 29.

Of course, if you have any other questions about Glance feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reasons why Trackvia's online database is not better than a spreadsheet

Trackvia recently published a top 10 list of reasons an online database is better than a spreadsheet.

Their argument holds water when it's applied to disposable applications. But it's a colossal FAIL in the making when it's applied to professional developers or business-critical requirements.

Web applications certainly have a long list of real advantages over desktop apps. We are excited by the rich and fast Web apps that can be built using AJAX methods (which is why Alpha Five v10 will introduce codeless AJAX).

But when the development tool lives on a vendor's proprietary Web platform, you lose control. We think loss of control is reason enough to avoid Web-based development platforms like the plague for any non-trivial application development.

In the worst case scenario, you run a real risk of the vendor suspending service or going out of business. Remember Coghead? They were not the first Web-based dev platform to fail, and they won't be the last.

There are other risks. What happens when the Web-based dev tool company increases the cost of their service? Answer: Your operational costs go up. It's conceivable that a major price increase could raise your operational costs beyond the point of feasibility.

What if you're using a Web-based dev tool to build, sell, and operate a commercial on-demand application (SaaS/software as a service)? A price increase could break your business model.

In both cases, you're done. Out of business. Put a fork in it.

This problem isn't limited to Trackvia. It's a problem with all Web-based development environments (think Zoho, Caspio, etc.). Say you built a project manager using Intuit's Quickbase platform. Now suppose Intuit management decides to increase their monthly fees (maybe Wall Street is demanding more profits). This would threaten your business.

Simply put, it's too risky to have your business, or any business, held hostage by the model used by vendors of Web-based development tools..

By contrast, when your Web development tool is sitting on your desktop, you have ultimate control and flexibility. You can host your Web app with any ISP, across multiple ISPs for redundancy, on your servers, on a VPS, in the Amazon cloud, or on other clouds as they emerge.

Of course, all software development platforms present risk. (We published a white paper on this some time ago.) The choice is never easy or risk free. But some platforms have more risk than others. And all Web-based database platforms are bristling with risk, by their very definition.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Show Us Your Alpha Apps: San Lorenzo Unified School District

During our Show Us Your Alpha Apps contest, Jim Rodriguez sent us over this demo for the behavior support plan creator application he developed with Alpha Five for the San Lorenzo Unified School District, where he works. The behavior support plan creator is a database used by the district's special education resource teachers, who are frequently required to write behavior plans for students with mild to moderate behavior problems.

This applications cuts back on tedious form filling, and saves teachers valuable time. If you work in the special education field, you'll most likely be familiar with the pages Jim shows in his demo. Have a look. If you have any comments or kudos for Jim, don't hesitate to leave them in the comments below.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hiring doesn't have to be harder in a downturn

Earlier this week I came across a blog post by Auren Hoffman on his blog, Summation. In the post, Auren discusses why he thinks it's actually harder to hire high-value employees during an economic downturn, especially, he points out, for those industries "reliant on innovation such as those in the tech space."

And while I see Auren's point about the noise going up, but the quality staying the same, I think he left out an important point about many of the people seeking jobs today. What about today's new entrepreneurs? Pull your eyes over to Auren's blog to see the comment I left on the post.

What's your two cents?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do you *get* Twitter?

I'll admit it, when our PR people started going on (and on and on and on) about Twitter, I wasn't sure what to think. Could Twitter be a valuable tool for my company. And if so, how?

I've since come around to the microblogging application, and I've seen first hand the power that it actually possesses, as well as the power it gives the people and businesses that have their hands in it.

Paul Gillin put together an easy guide for Twitter newbees, and I thought it would be a great article to share with you here on the blog. The post provides a strong overview of the application, and gives good insight to the endless possibilities that Twitter has for entrepreneurs. So have a look and Twitter away! Tweet tweet!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Show Us Your Alpha Apps: AlphaToGo

Steve Wood is a long time Alpha developer and founder of AlphaToGo, and often sends us over short demos of a new application he put together using Alpha Five.

While we were running the Show Us Your Alpha Apps contest, Steve sent us this new demo. Steve designed his new AlphaToGo Web site entirely with Alpha Five. In the demo, he takes us through all the features of the site, including the back end database, shopping cart, testimonials, and much more.

Have a look at video to get a behind-the-scenes tour of Steve's Web site, and don't hesitate to let him know what you think of his company's hot new digs here in the comments.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Did you miss out on "The Four Pieces of E-Commerce?"

In case you missed our latest webinar, "The Four Pieces of E-Commerce," or if you attended, and would like to listen in again, we've created a studio-recorded edition of the webinar, available for free.

The webinar provides a comprehensive overview of e-commerce best practices for people looking to implement or upgrade an e-commerce system, and features seven specialists in various aspects of e-commerce.

The one-hour session covers the technology, design principles, and traffic generation to an e-commerce Web site, as well as long-term customer retention.

All seven presentations from our specialists are available here, in under 10 minutes each. So if you have a few minutes, have a listen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Show Us Your Alpha Apps: Healthsoft Solutions

Here's another demo that was submitted to us by Don Lavigne of Healthsoft Solutions for our Show Us Your Alpha Apps contest.

Don created this application to help doctors and physicians have a more time-efficient way of taking notes. With this application, the days of tedious hand-written note taking are over, and the days of organized flow charts, easy-to-access records, and instantly updatable schedules are in. Does this mean the days of jokes about doctors' bad handwriting are over too?

Have a look at Don's demo for more information on turning your office into a well-oiled machine.

Our first glimpse of our Alpha dog

Way back in October I told you about my family's plans to bring home our very own Alpha dog. Well, the sister of our four-legged neighbors, Caspian and Teige, has just given birth to a litter of 12 (!) adorable puppies.



Who will be the Alpha dog?



Will it be this little fella?



I bet nursing 12 puppies is a full-time job. I think I'll stick with selling software.



This lucky momma was bred with a Canadian champion, so those pups have a great bloodline. My daughter and I are heading down to visit the puppies in Rochester, N.Y., this weekend to have a first look at the litter and maybe choose the next member of the Rabins family. I can't tell who's more excited, me or my daughter!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Codeless Ajax: the future is here

If you've been tuned in to our little Alpha Five Version 10 teasers, you know that codeless Ajax is the whipped cream, sprinkles, AND cherry of our newest version. Around here, it's basically all we talk about. Of course, there's plenty of other newer, better, and faster features to Version 10, which we'll fill you in on soon, much like we did with the Version 9 Feature Peeks.

So naturally, when TechNewsWorld asked Alpha developer Jim Dusoe what the next big thing in development would be, he had two words for them: codeless Ajax. Have a look at the article Jim penned for them that was published yesterday. Great job, Jim!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The government's role in Internet security

If you've got an eye on Internet security news, you've probably heard about the proposed Internet security legislation that would create a cabinet-level cybersecurity advisor for the U.S.

Byron Acohido of USA Today had an interesting write up of the legislation and the early reaction it has garnered in his blog, The Last Watchdog. Of course, I have a few early reactions myself, so take a look at the comments to get my full two cents.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Show Us Your Alpha Apps: BrowseCollection.com

As promised, I'll be featuring some of our other applicants to the Show Us Your Alpha App contest here on the blog. This demo was created by Ken King of Info Vision.

Ken created a library automation software designed for small library collections. With the software, users can add items to their collection, then check those items in and out with the Web-based BrowseCollection.com application, developed in Alpha Five Version 9.

Take a look at Ken's demo for more details about everything you can do with BrowseCollection.com.

An update from our Show Us Your Alpha App contest winner

When I told Bruce Fraser he was the winner of our Show Us Your Alpha App contest, I also asked him to snap some pictures when his prize arrives so we could share them here on the blog. And Bruce, being the good sport that he is, was more than willing to send us some shots.

Here he is opening up the box:



And pulling out his super-portable new MSI Wind netbook:



Congrats again, Bruce. Hope you enjoy it!

For those who haven't seen it, take a look at Bruce's demo.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Who is the Who?

Earlier this year, Janet Park and I put together an article about finding the face of your customers for Information Management. And I'll let you in on a little secret: You need more than just your Web analytics to find out. Web analytics alone can't provide precision tuning of information and data access.

But you'll have to read the article to find out what does! If you're a small business owner, knowing what's working and what isn't with your online marketing strategy (and most importantly, who's listening) is the key to running a successful campaign.

Unchained success across industries

The Boston Globe published an article today about how America's small bookstores are defying the odds by making a comeback against the Borders' and Barnes & Nobles of the world (not to mention the Amazon.coms, Ebays, and Half.coms, to name a few).

The key point in the story is that the smaller independent stores are able to read customer needs better and then react quickly. And when it comes down to it, a major chain such a Barnes & Noble can't compete with the intimacy of an independent store that depends on and communicates with their customers in an entirely different way.

In today's economy, it's always nice to read a feel-good, "David-beats-Goliath" story. In the case of these independent bookstores, the ability to react quickly is what's keeping them alive and thriving.

Which got me thinking. For the developers who rely on Alpha to keep their business blood pumping, the ability to react quickly to customer wants and needs is equally important. At Alpha, we make software that lets people build and modify systems quickly. Our developers never have to tell their customers, "We know what we need to do, but it will take months for IT to build the system that will allow us to do it."

And that is what makes all the difference.

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