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.

Share this blog:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A technology quiz for the database and programming gurus among us (that would be YOU)

How many holiday parties have you been to over the past week? How many more are you planning to attend between now and New Year's Eve? I imagine that every reader of this blog knows how frustrating it is to be at a party when some drunken know-it-all starts giving business technology advice.

While they're sending people in the wrong (and often risky) direction, it takes every iota of your willpower to stop yourself from butting into the conversation to straighten the blowhard out (and more importantly, protect the innocents!).

And you know why you hold yourself back. Because the innocents can't discern the difference between nonsense and good sense. Nobody will really know what you're talking about. Your advice will sound as good as the blowhard's.

Here's what got me thinking about tech discussions and holiday parties: an end-of-the-decade technology quiz on Network World. Take the quiz. If you dominate it, keep the link handy on your mobile phone. Then whip it out when the next blowhard starts heaving hot air, and put him or her to the test.

Give the quiz a shot, and see if you're the smartest techie of the decade. Let me know how you do!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Alpha Five Version 10 Feature Peek #42: Closing Modal Popup Ajax Windows when saving grid data

This video shows how you can automatically close a popup modal Ajax window in Alpha Five Version 10 when you save data displayed in that popup window.

The year of AJAX, REST services, and Alpha Five

Once again we find ourselves nestled in the sweet pocket between Christmas and New Year's. The pre-holiday hustle is behind us. The focus is on friends, family, and the future. Our lives feel a little slower, cozier, and less stressful.

As 2009 and the decade come to a close, we exhale, reflect on the year past, and wonder what the new year will bring. I believe two things are certain. One, 2010 will be a better year, economically, for America and the world. I'm not expecting a return to boom times, but the worst appears to be over.

And two: 2010 will be the year of AJAX, REST services, and Alpha Five. I imagine many of you are nodding in agreement regarding AJAX and RESTful interfaces, and thinking I'm a little overzealous in including Alpha Five among 2010's big trends. Maybe I am. But I have some good company.

That would be Martin Heller, who writes the Strategic Developer blog for InfoWorld. In his latest post, Heller reveals he has decided to make a strategic commitment to AJAX and REST services.

The development platform he has chosen? Alpha Five Version 10. Needless to say, after I first read Martin's column, I double-checked my eggnog to make sure it wasn't spiked. (It was, but I had only just started sipping it.)

Those who know Heller know he is an exceptional and uncompromising programmer. He's covered application development for several decades, and speaks everything from assembler to JavaScript and everything in between.

For him to choose Alpha Five to build AJAX- and REST-powered cloud-based apps is a high honor, and speaks volumes about the appropriateness (and timeliness) of our investment in Version 10's Codeless AJAX technology.

As Martin says in his current column, he's made such a commitment only a few times over the course of the industry's history: when the existing development paradigm appears to have reached its end of life when a fork in the developer road appears when the old is about to be eclipsed by something new and greater.

We've reached just such a tipping point for the industry, as the considerable financial, operational, and user benefits of rich Internet business applications are becoming available to any business, regardless of size.

And for developers, Alpha Five Version 10 is a complimentary tipping point, giving you the the opportunity to earn and build more of these next-generation apps in less time, with less pain.

You don't get fired for choosing Microsoft or Java or some other conservative platform. But you don't get ahead, either. There are times when the unconventional path is actually the smarter direction. As Martin writes in his blog, one such time for him was when he decided to commit to Windows development when many others thought OS/2 or DOS would reign.

Today that unconventional path is Alpha Five Version 10, when you consider where the IT world is going. It's going to the cloud. It's going to be powered by AJAX, in the main. And it's going to be integrated RESTfully.

If Alpha Five Version 10 has the muscle to power apps for an experienced enterprise developer (and critic) such as Martin Heller, it's certainly worthy of consideration and a trial download by anyone now using any other top-tier development tool, language, or platform. I think it's fair to say that you might be doing yourself, your business, your users, and customers a disservice if you don't give A5V10 a serious spin.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Proof of Concept proves Alpha Five Version 10's power

As you know, Peter Conway is one of our experienced Alpha developers from "down under." Today we'd like to share another application he recently put together using Alpha Five Version 10. The app demonstrates some of Alpha Five's new capabilities, including populating data dynamic exchange rate changes. Most important to note: He produced it in a single work day.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A developer's thoughts on Microsoft Access 2010 (part 3)

In my last "Developer's thoughts ..." post, I spoke a bit about some of the reactions Microsoft Access 2010 is generating among current Access users. One of the primary reasons for that is the necessity of adopting an entirely additional (and costly) platform, Microsoft SharePoint, for application development on the Web. The bottom line: a lot of people are very unhappy campers. And for good reason. Read on to see what Martin has to say about it.

This validates everything I was saying and makes me feel comfortable that I am as expected, not alone in my thoughts. Everywhere you look the developers are VERY unhappy, but you know what, I don't think Microsoft cares, because what they are effectively saying is Visual Studio 2010 is the new home for developers, Access is now for those wanting to play at developing. It's become a new extension of Excel. How arrogant is that????

The door is wide open, guys. I am so excited to be in this at the beginning on the revolution ( I know I'm only an honorary member of the team, but it feels good nonetheless).

I think Martin hit the nail right on the head when he said that Microsoft simply doesn't care what Access developers are thinking. In my opinion, Microsoft is a company that is now (more than ever) very much driven by the Wall Street folks and their insatiable desire for short term earnings.

In another e-mail, Martin expands on the topic of SharePoint.

It is indeed a reflection of my earlier observations and if you look through the various posts there are some very unhappy developers out there. The big issue here is cost of ownership, MS is very cleverly directing the user base into SharePoint adoption I suspect as part of a wider strategy. I think what you need to consider is that in addition to Access being used departmentally within corporates, it is used by many more small businesses that could not justify the adoption of SharePoint, except for maybe a hosted solution where they and many other businesses share space and bandwidth. SharePoint is in my experience NOT an application feel environment, yes it satisfies the collaboration requirement, but my experience is that it's not a natural choice for business. Having said that Microsoft Live is promoting a business model that may well prove very attractive. However, given the fact that Access back ends are now part of every day life in hosting and VPS solutions, cost of ownership is very different from having to migrate to a SQL back end solution. The fact is that a small business solution simply DOES NOT require a SQL back end. Simply stick the Access back end on a VPS, add the application server layer and away you go. This is a massive market to aim at and I dare say would make for a great business opportunity to provide a service to help businesses move applications to the Web. I'm not suggesting you do this, but it's a fantastic opportunity for a startup. Once I have my migration out of the way I will certainly be looking to bring together some of the talent I know to maybe help them get started in this field. I think AlphaToGo is already down that route in your part of the world?

If you look at some of the basic Access solutions that are in play in small businesses, I dare say a week's work would blow them away as you use their existing data file to create something they never imagined they could get from what they have!

There are so many ways you can approach the market it's quite scary and nothing I see out there is a threat at the moment. I dare say that will change as others wake up to what you are doing, but the key is to be well established as the natural choice. I suspect that Selwyn is like me, he is already well down the road to the next steps, so while ever you adopt that approach it will serve you well. I have so many thoughts around all this it gives me a headache, but I'll try to keep it focused.

What MS are going to end up with is large numbers of poorly designed databases by enthusiasts hooked up to SharePoint lists, while developers struggle to come to terms with how to develop in the new environment. There is good reason many Access developers haven't gone down the SQL and Visual Studio route and that's because the low cost agility they enjoy with Access has got them by. This development is now forcing their hand and I for one am glad not to be going through that pain. The problem here is I can't assess performance and ultimately that will be the key. As we all know Web Apps are only as good as the performance they provide.



SAVE $100! Register before Dec. 24 for Alpha Five Version 10 training classes

It's the holiday season, and I'm in the giving spirit. So take advantage of it while you can! SAVE $100 and sign up for Alpha's Live Hands-On Alpha Five Version 10 Training Classes in Boston from Feb. 22 to 26 before Dec. 24.

"Alpha University" is a hands-on, in depth training course that will teach you how to build modern Ajax-enabled Web database applications rapidly with Alpha Five Version 10.

The courses will accelerate your Alpha Five Version 10 learning curve and position you to take full advantage of the mega trends as outlined this month by New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner, Tom Friedman, who describes the Great Inflection in the economy whereby the Web is making companies ultra lean, innovative, productive, and is transforming how business is done.

The courses will be taught by Dr. Martin Heller who writes the "Strategic Developer" blog for InfoWorld and is as you know, is a well respected author, educator, and developer.

Here's what you'll get out of it.

Web applications with Alpha Five Version 10 is a three-part, hands-on, instructor-led course that will teach you how to create your own highly-responsive Web applications using the revolutionary new database application developer tool, Alpha Five Version 10.

In 101: Introduction to Web applications with Alpha Five Version 10, you'll learn the ins and outs of Version 10's core component, the Ajax grid, and learn to combine multiple grids into Web applications.

In 102: Intermediate Web applications with Alpha Five Version 10, you'll learn how to build A5W pages, generate reports, publish a Web application, and secure a Web application.

In 103: Advanced Web applications with Alpha Five Version 10, you'll learn enough Xbasic and Action JavaScript to add event-driven actions and business logic to your Version 10 applications.

You can learn to use Alpha Five Version 10 on your own, but attending an interactive course with plenty of hands-on labs and a good instructor will get you up to speed very quickly. Martin Heller is writing a tutorial book about Alpha Five Version 10 Web applications, and has worked closely with the staff at Alpha Software to put together an authoritative course.

Come on, give yourself a break, and let someone else teach you the nitty gritty details of building AJAX Web database applications with Version 10. Sign up today!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A developer's thoughts on Microsoft Access 2010 (part 2)

Yesterday I introduced you to Martin McSweeney, an experienced Microsoft developer who recently "saw the light," as we like to say, as an Alpha Five convert. I printed the first of Martin's e-mails to the Alpha team about his problems with Microsoft Access 2010. And I'm certain he's not alone in these views. We believe that his fellow developers will find value (and perhaps learn something new) in Martin's (very well-written, if I do say so myself) words. And that's Martin's hope as well. As he said said to me just yesterday in another e-mail:

It is in my view vital that the Access Development Community is given an opportunity to understand the benefits. The problem with many Microsoft Developers is that they are for some very strange reason, prepared to just accept what Microsoft gives them on the basis that Microsoft's market domination makes their customers feel safe. The problem we have here is that I think some are more frightened of risk assessment within the project management phase of solution approval. Then there's the issue of change management, a subject we all struggle with. I do however think the latter is less of an issue if emphasis can be placed on breaking free of the restrictive development environment they find themselves in.

I have pondered in many a spare moment what's the best approach and there is little alternative but to continue to develop brand recognition and to build on what is clearly an outstanding product. I am hoping I can play some small part by documenting the migration of our application in a really high profile challenging workspace.

The "Developer's thoughts" series continues today with Martin's critiques of Microsoft Access 2010 based on the new version's feature set. It is worth noting that Martin's assessment is very consistent with comments from other users and developers on the Microsoft Access 2010 page.

Here's what Martin has to say, verbatim:

One of the key considerations here is the change for the developer. There was an expected jump from Access 2003 to 2007 and it's taken a step further in 2010. Microsoft HAVE to give Access users the ability to publish apps to the web or they will starve the user base of probably THE key requirement. So they have gone for developing what they started in real terms in Access 2003 with SharePoint integration, but now better integrating it into the platform which is essentially a SQL back end. I have talked at length in the past about what say an Access developer who has been using Access 2003 will have to learn to move to developing solutions in Access 2010. Given that many of the developer's clients chose not to move to Office 2003, let alone 2007, the limitations for the developer have been a challenge, unless they were deploying a runtime of course. You have to remember that many corporates steered clear of Office 2007 because of the potential training bill to deal with the RIBBON. I did have some stats on adoption and I maybe need to dig them out. The thing is that us longstanding Access developers are very fond of our clunky old friend VBA, we love it because it allows us to develop business logic that macros can't deliver. So what do they do, come up with some bastardised macro/code library that will be poorly used by the same users that think Excel is a database. It will be very very interesting to see how the real development community warm to where they are going!

This means that IF and it's a big if, business adopts Office 2010 it will undoubtedly be some time down the road and things will have moved on yet again with your product. So what you must be very careful to do is to understand the time lag from when Microsoft does a full commercial release of office (what I like to call the "real public beta testing phase" where the paying customer is given a product that almost works) to corporate adoption at say Service Pack 1 at the earliest and more likely Service Pack 2, this is a big time gap. The great thing about where you are is that you are there TODAY and many of the developments they are touting is way down the road in the real world.

The hard facts are this, business wants Web apps NOW not towards the middle of 2010 and you can do this now and what's more you can do it better. Note in the video when he goes to render a simple report in the browser, they zoom out while he distracts you with some chat and then zoom back in once it renders. Given that they will not have been connected to a lame back end, this tells you everything you need to know.

They know that their strength is in the trust in the brand amongst those who are risk averse, so they are taking this opportunity to further exploit SharePoint which they see as THE collaborative way forward. The concept of SharePoint in 2005 was in my view an innovative way forward, but the Microsoft Web delivery platform seems to have moved no further forward. There is a speed issue and it just feels outdated. How many adverts do you see from third parties promising they will improve the performance of your SharePoint site? Call me old fashioned, but if the original product needs third party intervention to speed it up, then it's not where I want to be. It's a great example of how market dominance allows you to deliver product way behind the curve and get away with it.

It would make a great commercial to have two PCs side by side with a network hard drive between the two. One screen with an Alpha 5 presentation through the browser of the data hosted on the network drive and the other with an Access desktop presentation of the data. With the statement "How would you prefer to view your Access database today?". You could then follow up with a series of images with the same statement, with the Access Desktop PC on but a PC at home as the other PC. Take it a step further with the same statement again with the Access Desktop PC on with a man on a train looking at a mobile phone. (My God I should be in advertising!!!). Data when you want it where you want it for less than the cost of ?????? (not sure what you might want to use as the example)

Just a few more thoughts on my road to Damascus!



Editorial note about SharePoint pricing: Microsoft's solution to getting to the Web with MS Access 2010 is SharePoint. I had repeatedly heard that Microsoft Office SharePoint is "cery expensive," but until I took a look at actual numbers, I didn't know what that meant specifically. You may want to check out Sharepoint pricing for yourself. Now I understand the meaning of STICKER SHOCK.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A developer's thoughts on Microsoft Access 2010

As you might remember, one of our most highly trafficked posts of 2008 was "A developer's thoughts on Iron Speed 6.0." That post's popularity, as well as the tracking of any subsequent Iron Speed posts we did, made it pretty clear to us that you truly value the thoughts and opinions of your fellow developers. That's why whenever we publish e-mails or testimonials from developers and customers, we're sure to give you the totally unfiltered version. We don't muddy them up by injecting any of our own thoughts, and we always post them verbatim.

That said, I've been exchanging e-mails recently with Martin McSweeney, Head of Development at Martin is currently using Alpha to revamp an extensive and complex case management system for members of the British Parliament. And the e-mails we've shared have reminded me of some of the thoroughly written reviews we'd gotten from Jim Dusoe last year: "A developer's thoughts on Iron Speed 6.0," "It's way more than RAD," and "A developer's thoughts on Iron Speed 6.0, redux."

Martin, as he says, is by experience a Microsoft Access developer. But throughout the years, his experiences in application development have brought virtually every development platform to his desk, including Iron Speed, FileMaker, ColdFusion, and Flex, to name a few.

But Martin recently made the switch to Alpha Five Version 10 because of Microsoft Access 2010's limited Web capabilities and overall "lack of beef," shall we say. Martin needed a platform with tremendous flexibility to handle his case management solution, that helps members of Parliament manage mission critical information relating to their constituents.

What a wonderful brain to pick. And pick we did! It all started when Martin joined in on an internal conversation we were having at the Alpha office about what we saw to be some of the major flaws of Access 2010.

Again, this is reproduced exactly as Martin had written it to us.


The comments are exactly right. I push Access development to the outer envelope and have done for some time. Integration with the Office Suite has enabled me to allow users maximum productivity for minimum input. The problem with Access is that it's ole connectivity can be unstable at best and if MS Exchange is having a bad day it can cause havoc. With Access 2007, MS have targeted would be developers with few skills in an effort to encourage template based solution delivery. This has effectively left true developers out in the cold. Try developing a comprehensive search function in Access, it leads to frustration heartache and pain. Do it in Alpha 5 and there you have it without even breaking sweat. Their answer to providing online connectivity is via SharePoint Services and anyone who has ever tried to deliver an
efficient user rich solution to the desktop will tell you it's a non-starter, although to be fair I haven't seen SharePoint 2010, so I can't comment on that.

I have been looking at alternatives for the past 18 months and have looked at absolutely everything. Alpha 5 is without doubt the answer to the dreams of Access Developers because it breaks out of the restrictive pen that Access has you in and allows you to be creative. I believe that creative solutions will win the day, because they will push the boundaries of what can be delivered to the client. In just two weeks I have made more progress than I did in six months when working with Access for the first time. Moving Access Apps to Alpha 5 is so cool because it lets you use both the existing desktop App alongside it to see how they perform.

I am by no means an Alpha 5 developer and have a long long way to go, but the development skills are VERY transferrable and I might add more useful as you move into javascript and other web technologies. I am just starting to come to terms with syntax etc, so I will be better qualified to comment better later. I am a fantastic example of converting a very very sophisticated Access App that is very tightly integrated with office a dedicated twain OCX to deal with scanning and integration with Google Maps etc, so I know where the limitations are. The migration of this app should be an awesome case study.


Martin McSweeney
Head of Development

Naturally, we wanted to know more. And over the course of the next few days, Martin poured his thoughts into a number of e-mails on everything from RAD to the reviews of Microsoft, Iron Speed, FileMaker, and Macromedia to his own experiences with Alpha Five Version 10. I'm going to share all of those with you here over the next week or so. Each post that contains an e-mail from Martin will be titled "A developer's thoughts on ..." with whatever platform covered that day. So stay tuned! We've got some great ones in the pipeline!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Building mashups with Alpha Five Version 10 by Martin Heller

One of my favorite parts of releasing Alpha Five Version 10 beta is seeing all the amazing applications being created with our tool. Developers and non-developers alike are taking Alpha Five Version 10 to the limits, and coming up with apps that would have been a dream not long ago.

Strategic Developer blogger Martin Heller has been spending some time in the Alpha trenches. And last week, he put together a quick tutorial on creating mashups with Alpha Five Version 10. Did you even KNOW you could do that? Many people don't.

We liked what Martin did so much, that we turned it into a fancy PDF for all to enjoy. In it, you'll learn how to write a REST client using A5V10. Enjoy!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...