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 29, 2010

We ordered the winning netbook!

MSI WIND: The fairest netbook of them all
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Today I had the distinct pleasure of ordering what is arguably the best netbook on the market for the winner of our netbook contest.

The MSI Wind is just sweet to look at, and it's got fantastic specifications. We ordered it from our friends at TigerDirect. But why was it the worst of times? Because I wanted to deliver it to ME.

I'm very jealous. Maybe I should enter myself in the next contest. Oh wait, employees of Alpha Software are not eligible.

Well, the netbook is ordered and on its way to our winner, Cynthia. We're hoping she'll send us an un-boxing video when it arrives on her doorstep early next week.

Alpha Five impresses .net magazine

.NET: Alpha Five impresses the editors
My friends over in the United Kingdom got their hands on the June issue of .net magazine. They dropped it in the mail and it arrived in my mailbox today. Snail mail isn't dead yet.

I read the editor's review of Alpha Five and I'm very happy to report it's another pub name to add to the list of happy reviewers who are recognizing the power and productivity that is achieved through developing in Alpha Five Version 10.

The magazine called Alpha Five "an impressive product," and said it "allows developers to visually build rich Internet database applications powered by AJAX without having to write a single line of code."

They also went on to describe how Alpha Five lets developers take advantage (if they want to) of external JavaScript libraries, REST Services, SQL code, and Xbasic.

The article is not online yet, but you can always order a copy. If you're eager to read it, you can take a gander here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How to build a blog with Alpha Five

Are we using Blogger or Alpha Five to power this blog? After watching the video Jeff Cogswell sent me, I started to second guess myself. He replicated our blog to a T using Alpha Five. Jeff's name might sound familiar to you frequent readers. A few weeks ago, he wrote a review on Alpha Five for eWeek.

Jeff wrote to me last week explaining how he took an unconventional approach to familiarize himself with Alpha Five. Instead of building a traditional database application, he rebuilt our blog. But I won't tell you what he did, I'll let Jeff explain. Here's his e-mail.

Since we last spoke a few weeks ago, in order to learn Alpha Five over the course of the past month, I created a blogging system that's entirely hosted within Alpha Five itself! Check this out -- I've attached a Powerpoint presentation demonstrating it. I modeled it after the existing blog on the Alpha Five site, and even duplicated an entry to show it looks basically the same. And since it's Alpha Five and Codeless Ajax, it uses many of the Ajax features in Alpha Five. For example, the comment mechanism updates the comments after a blog entry right after the comment is added, all using Ajax. And editing the entries makes use of the Rich Text editor, with a couple of my own enhancements for inserting images and editing the HTML source. I'm really excited to see how far I can push Alpha Five -- indeed, I feel like this application barely begins to showcase the features. When people think of a web-based database application, they often think of the usuals, such as a customer order-entry system with a grid look to it. But I wanted to use it to create something very different from that to demonstrate that it can be used for more than what one might initially expect. And while I shouldn't be surprised that Alpha Five can handle it, I'm certainly pleased with the results! (And there are many more features I could add, but my 30-day trial runs out today.)

To take it one step further, we asked Jeff to put together a video explaining how he built the blog entry page. The capabilities of Alpha Five just grew a little bigger with his video. When we developed Alpha Five, I never imagined it being used as blogging platform.

I leave that up to developers to explore its features and test its capabilities. Now that I see Alpha Five can power a blog, I might have to consider switching and put my money where my mouth is. But enough with the talk, watch Jeff's creation in action.

This won't be the last video from Jeff either. In his next video, he'll take you through how he made the entry list. So stay tuned to the blog for part two! And to answer my first question. Yes, we're using Blogger ;)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Alpha Five Version 10 Feature Peek #49: Customizing write conflict error message

There's a classic problem in database technology, which is how do you handle the situation where more than one user is working on the same record at the same time? How do you prevent one person from overwriting another person's edits? Lastly, how do you know whose edits should take priority?

Fortunately, that's something you don't have to worry about with Alpha Five. Our Grid component uses optimistic record locking, which prevents editing conflicts from occurring in multi-user environments.

However, in the past you haven't had a lot of control over how users are informed that a record is being locked by another user for editing. Well, now you can customize that. We created the onwriteconflict event that lets you customize the write conflict messages.

The message that initially appears is the system message that Alpha Five generates. But with this new level of customization, you can design the error message to pinpoint the exact location of the error. Pretty neat, right?

Take a look at the video and learn how it's done.

Friday, April 23, 2010

DRUM ROLL PLEASE! The winner of the free netbook is ...

In honor of our 500th post we asked you to share what this blog has meant to you and how we can improve it. And you delivered! All the sand has run through my hourglass, which means the contest is over and it's time to announce the winner of the free netbook.

Instead of just typing the person's name in a post, we thought we'd have a little fun with it. Melissa, an Alpha Software blogger, printed everyone's name on a piece of paper, folded them up, tossed them in a fish bowl, and just before she grabbed a name, she grabbed her webcam to record herself picking the winner. (Hey, Selwyn isn't the only one who can make videos!) So if you want to find out if you won, you have to watch the video. I'm tickled with excitement!

Congrats to our winner!!! THANK YOU to everyone who submitted a comment. Free netbook or not, don't ever hesitate to share your thoughts about this blog with us. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

From desktop to the Web, revolution required

"You say you want a revolution, well, you know. We all want to change the world ..." Why am I singing a Beatles song to you? It's because Peter Conway reminded me that it is time for a revolution, Alpha Five style.

Moving from the desktop to the Web requires a mind shift in how data works on the Web. It's sort of like when cell phones came along. You didn't have to be connected to a land line. When the laptop came out, you didn't have to be chained to a desk all day.

Now is the time to stop getting stuck on the desktop, and start experiencing the freedom that the Web gives you. You don't even need your own PC. You can log on from anywhere, anytime, even from your smartphone.

As I told you before, Peter Conway has been exploring Alpha Five Version 10's ability to create contemporary user experiences. In his last video he showed us his transparent windows, shadows, curved edges, and more that he was able to create without writing any code. It is impressive.

I think he outdid himself with this new video. He embraces the freedom that the browser gives him to do whatever he wants, wherever he wants. By using Alpha's Web design and development capabilities, your applications are no longer restricted by HTML and desktop limitations.

Now is the time to lead your desktop apps into the Web era. Get off the desktop and into the cloud, man. Watch Peter's video and see the sleek user interface he designed and possibilities that exist when you put some extra elbow grease into the look and feel of an Alpha Five Web application.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Digital Media Buzz abuzz about Alpha Five

Digital Media Buzz gave Alpha Five Version 10 a great mention on its website today. Along with a rundown of its features, they highlighted our extensive library of video tutorials. Thanks guys! Click over to see what they said.

DIGITAL BUZZ MEDIA: Alpha Software's latest iteration

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Alpha Five builds Web apps "easier and faster" according to iTWire

ITWIRE: Build Web apps easier and faster with Alpha Five
I compare Alpha Five with its competitors all the time. Part of my job is to make sure we keep Alpha Five ahead of the other guys' products.

When iTWire, a leading IT website in Australia, reported that, "by using Alpha Five Version 10 they [customers] can build web applications in 10% to 20% of the time taken when using tools like PHP, Perl, Visual, Ruby and Java," I know we're doing something right.

I want to say thanks to the editors from "down under" for a great review. Read the full article now and see what else they say about moving apps from the desktop to the cloud.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Alpha Five Version 10 Feature Peek #48: User-defined Ajax callbacks

An interesting fact about Alpha Five Version 10 is that the application development capabilities scale as well as the applications themselves, from the novice developer to the enterprise pro. I mentioned this a few weeks ago. Soon after, I received some feedback from developers asking me for more tutorials aimed at advanced Alpha Five users.

So this one's for you -- the advanced developer. Four videos aimed at those who are creating and writing their own Ajax callbacks in Alpha Five Version 10's Grid component. It's more in depth and technical than some other feature peeks, so we broke it up into four parts.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Is this technical enough for you? Should I go deeper? Post a comment to let me know what you think.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Final day to win a netbook!

I asked you to share what this blog has meant to you and how we can make it better. We got a bunch of responses, but we would certainly like to have more feedback. Honestly, I'd like to hear more criticisms. Just telling us we're great isn't good enough. Tell us what we could do better.

Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment so far. For those of you who haven't ginned up a comment yet, time is running out!

You have until 11:59 p.m. EST TODAY to post a comment on the original blog post to be eligible to win a netbook.

VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure you leave your name and an e-mail address where we can contact you if you win. If you don't leave it and we pick your name, you will not be eligible to win. One winner will be randomly selected from the pool of applicants and will be announced on the blog next week.

The clock is ticking. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to migrate from ASP.Net to Alpha Five without rebuilding your entire Web site

GOODBYE ASP: Hello Alpha Five
We've had a system in place for years to collect customer e-mail addresses whenever they downloaded a trial version of Alpha Five. The sign-up form we used was originally written using ASP, Active Server Pages from Microsoft. Not anymore. We've migrated from ASP to Alpha Five and I'm going to show you how we did it.

When the sign-up system was put in place in 2001, the Alpha Application Server didn't even exist. So, we had to write it from scratch with ASP and tie it to a Microsoft SQL Server back end, which meant a lot of coding. And every time we needed to make even the smallest changes to the page, there was coding to be done.

Like you, I don't have hours to write code. I have work to get done. I need to focus on the business objectives, not writing functions. That's why we developed Codeless Ajax. And now that Codeless Ajax is here, we can use it internally as well. We decided to ditch ASP.Net and rebuild our sign-up system in Alpha Five.

One problem. The rest of our Web site still uses legacy ASP.Net, which means it's tied to Microsoft's IIS Server. We're not ready to convert the entire site to Alpha Five. It's just a bandwidth issue, which I'm sure you can relate to. Right now, we just want to tackle the sign-up system.

So, our objective was to make certain that we could leave the IIS Server running. As it turns out, IIS and the Alpha Five Application Server play nicely together. They just need to use different ports. The process was quick and easy. It only took about a day rebuild the system, and the result is that our Web site now runs both Microsoft ASP and Alpha Five pages side-by-side. It's transparent to the end user.

This also answers the question, "Can I add some functionality with Alpha Five without having to redo my whole Web site?" The answer -- a big yes! Watch the video by our own Dave McCormick to see how we migrated the sign-up system from ASP to Alpha Five without disturbing our ASP assets. If you have questions about how to do this on your own Web site, send me an e-mail or post a comment.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reminder: A netbook for your thoughts

I know I'm good, but I'm not that good. There has to be something we could be doing better on the blog. And for the chance to win a free netbook, I would even participate if I was allowed to.

We hit the 500 blog post mark here last week and I want to give you the chance to win a free netbook! In case you missed it, here's what you have to do to enter: Share what this blog has meant to you and how we can make it better in a comment on the original post.

You can leave a comment saying how you enjoy my posts about Clifton, but you want more of them. Or you could tell us how you enjoy our feature peeks, but want more videos for advanced developers. I just gave you two ideas, it's that easy. Let's hear the rest of them!

For all the details, go to the original post. We'll pick one winner randomly from all submissions, and award that person a new netbook after April 16. Good luck!

Master the Alpha Five report writer with 18 free tutorials

I call it one of the crown jewels of Alpha Five Version 10: the report writer. And I have 18 reasons why. That's the number of videos we have showing you how to master it. We didn't leave a single detail out.

The report writer is a powerful tool capable of handling millions of records, combining data from different sources into a single report, performing calculations, and more. Frankly, it takes your boring spreadsheet-style report and turns it into a stunning display.

If you want to take advantage of the reporting strengths of Alpha Five Version 10 in both your desktop and Web applications, pour yourself a cup of coffee and take a gander at the videos. These free tutorials take you from the ground up. And when you're finished, share with me what you were able to create and we'll put them on the blog.

Already a master of the report writer? What would you like to master that you haven't? Let us know. We're always looking for new video ideas.

Friday, April 09, 2010

How to switch from Microsoft Access to Alpha Five

ALPHA FIVE VERSUS ACCESS: Alpha's new micro site
It's all about the Web. You either get on the bus or get run over by it. Increasingly, Microsoft Access developers feel like a deer in the bus's headlights. We've covered the reasons before.

Within the past year, we've seen an exponential increase in the number of MS Access developers jumping ship to Alpha Five. The evidence continues to pile up in our sales database. Every time somebody downloads or buys Alpha Five, we ask them what tools they are presently using. That's one of the ways we know where our new customers are coming from.

And we think we know why Access developers are jumping ship. We put much of this knowledge into Alpha Five Versus Access, a new micro site that's integrated with our main site. It's designed to help Access developers decide whether Alpha Five is right for them.

If you're an Access developer and you're worried about your future, Alpha Five is a great way to ensure your relevance in an increasingly Web-centric world. Hit the Alpha Five Versus Access Web page and decide for yourself if Alpha Five is the right fit. If you have any questions, feel free to write to me.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

eWeek's Jeff Cogswell says Alpha Five "quickly and easily" builds Ajax apps

EWEEK: Steller Alpha Five review
Two months ago, eWeek named Alpha Five Version 10 a product to watch. Then eWeek Senior Editor Jeff Cogswell got his hands on Alpha Five and wrote what I think is a knock-out review. And I'm not alone. Clifton sniffed it and gave a bark of approval.

Jeff provided what might well be the most extensive test drive by a reviewer yet of the product. He even went so far as to produce a slide show of Alpha Five in action. If you don't have a lot of time to read the whole article, here is one point I don't want you to miss.

"The developers of Alpha Five have done an excellent job of anticipating where you would likely want to add your own custom code, and they give you places to do it rather than forcing you to hack apart the pages and insert your JavaScript code yourself, while hoping you put it in the right place. When I followed this best-practices approach, everything worked beautifully. In the end, I had a full-featured application."

I won't spoil the rest for you, so click over to the read the full review. Don't forget to view the slide show!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Alpha Five Version 10 Feature Peek #47: Controlling pop-up Ajax window positions

Once upon a time, many many months ago in the primordial versions of our Codeless Ajax technology, pop-up Ajax windows always appeared in the center of the Grid component. Developers started to use it, and developers saw it was good.

Then developers saw that there was a problem. They had no control where the pop-up Ajax window appeared. And developers prayed for more control. And Alpha Five's development team heard their prayers and responded.

Watch parts one and two of the videos below to see the window positioning options that have been added to the Grid component: in-view, center, absolute, and relative. Go ahead, see the goodness of these new options!

PART ONE: Controlling pop-up Ajax windows

PART TWO: Controlling pop-up Ajax windows

Friday, April 02, 2010

Mass High Tech features Alpha Software's donation to TechSoup

MHT: Local techs lending a hand 
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about our latest donation to TechSoup Global. The editors over at Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology shared our news with its readers. I wanted to say THANK YOU to them for including Alpha Software in the "Local techs lending a hand" article.

Click over to find out what other local tech companies are doing to support their communities.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

We're celebrating 500 blog posts with a free netbook!

Crack open a bottle of Jolt. Order a truckload of pizzas. It's time to celebrate the 500th blog post on the Alpha Software blog! It's hard to believe that this blog is in its third year, and that we have produced over 500 posts in that time.

When we started this, we really weren't sure what to do. We knew blogs were an important way to stay in touch with customers. But we're software writers, not literary writers. We weren't sure if we would be able keep it up, what we would really talk about, and whether or not it would be a good use of our time.

But there was one thing we were certain we wanted to do, and that was not to use this blog to post meaningless marketing dribble. It's something we've never really aspired to in any of our communications.

Whether it's on our message boards, Web site, and even our advertising or e-mail marketing, our mission has always been to be frank and informative. We do this because we believe in our product. We believe the truth sells better than any marketing hype.

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