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, September 30, 2010

Hidden gem in Alpha Five can improve performance up to 100 to 200 percent

Before I get into this, I just want to ask you for one favor. If you run into me at a trade show, don't hit me for keeping this great function a secret from you. I, myself, only just found out about it when it showed up in Alphapedia, our wiki-based, context-sensitive help system.

Confused as to why this particular function was never documented before, I enlisted Clifton to sniff out who was responsible. His nose led me straight to Dr. Martin Heller who was able to provide a detailed explanation: Oops, we forgot. For that oversight he'll have to share part of his lunch with Clifton from now on. ;)

Now, let me tell you what you've been missing. The compilestringtemplate() function can double, triple, or quadruple the performance of your Web application, depending upon the complexity of the template. Now, if you're using the standard Ajax Grids, then this won't help you because the function has been used internally since it was written.

This function helps developers who are generating their own HTML programmatically. That's because they usually want a lean, mean, and speedy display and don't need all the editing features of the Grid. Developers coding their Web applications by hand sometimes create a database query and then generate some HTML content to send to the browser. The HTML content is often generated by merging data from the database into an HTML template. The evaluate_string() function is used because it's ideal for merging data into a template.

However, in a case where the HTML content is constructed by looping over the records in the query and merging data into the template for each row in the query, using the compilestringtemplate() function can be more efficient. With it, you can compile the merge code once and then run it against multiple data rows. And the more complex the template, and the more iterations there are, you could easily see an improvement of 100 to 200 percent.

I'm not going to repeat what's in Alphapedia, so head over to the entry for a full description. Then give it a try yourself and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Set a date to integrate some JavaScript into your Alpha Five app

I've talked before about how Alpha Five is extensible using JavaScript and how it can also do Web services. Then I told you in my previous post that I was going to show you some demos of Mike Scholin's USMON Pro 2 Web application he built with Alpha Five Version 10.5.

As you might have heard in the podcast, Mike bought Bob Moore's jQuery calendar to use in his app. So Bob put together a short video demoing the calendar's functions in USMON Pro 2. Hit play and you'll see how JavaScript add-ons can work in Alpha Five Web apps.

Monday, September 27, 2010

'Doctor doctor, gimme the news, I gotta bad case of lovin' Alpha Five

OK, I think I'm going to officially declare a trend: Doctors are rushing to embrace Alpha Five. What makes me say that? Well, I'm partially kidding. I don't have any data that shows thousands of doctors are embracing Alpha Five. But doctors enamored with Alpha Five are coming out of the woodwork recently and contacting me. We certainly haven't been marketing directly to them. But for some reason, these docs are telling us how Alpha Five is helping them simplify medical reporting.

You don't have to have the initials M.D. after your name to know that medical reporting can be complicated. On top of keeping patients healthy, doctors have to carefully record every checkup, diagnosis, procedure, and so on. A lot of doctors choose Microsoft Access to track their reporting because it's easy to learn. But doctors aren't always at the same computer or on the same network day in and day out.

Dr. Michael Scholin found himself in a similar situation a few years back. He's a doctor of audiology who works in IntraOperative Neurophysiological Monitoring (IONM). His company, US Monitoring, LLC, monitors certain neurological functions of the central or peripheral nervous system during surgical procedures.

Mike (yes, he prefers to be called Mike, not Dr. Scholin) used Access in the past for medical reporting, but in this field of medicine, technicians and surgeons aren't all located in one place. He needed to develop a Web application that could be accessed on any computer that would speed up and standardize the reporting process post surgery.

Using Alpha Five, Mike built his application USMON. It lets medical technicians enter patient data, testing data, and results in a standardized format. This then lets Mike create a reporting system that easily generates professional medical reports.

Since USMON's inception, it's only grown in popularity in the IONM community. Mike's about to release USMON Pro 2. It takes advantage of the Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature packs, external integration with Web services support and Javascript add-ons, such as scheduling, chat functions, and more.

I found out about Mike's app from Alpha developer Bob Moore. Mike purchased Bob's calendar program and helped him interface it with USMON Pro 2. Bob told me about what Mike was building and it piqued my interest. So I gave him a call one Saturday morning to find out more.

Impressed with what he built, I asked Melissa, the voice of the Alpha Software podcasts, to interview him for a podcast. She hopped on the phone with Mike to talk about his progression from doctor to developer.

Mike goes into more detail about his profession to tell Melissa the story behind his application. Melissa also asks Mike why he chose to use Alpha Five and not another platform, how USMON Pro 2 is able to comply with HIPAA regulations, and much more.

Flip your speakers on and listen to the podcast. If you don't have time to listen to the whole interview, I'll be posting the transcript shortly.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wequassett Inn rises to the occasion as my iPhone sinks to the bottom of its pool

Every once in a while I need to come up from my keyboard for some fresh air. So over the Labor Day weekend my wife and I went up to Cape Cod for some R&R.

We booked a room at the Wequassett Inn, where we frequently stay. I was sitting on the edge of the pool reading a book with my iPhone 4 next to me. Out of the corner of eye, I saw a girl stumbling in my direction. I thought nothing of it, except that it was a little too early to be throwing drinks back so fast (in my opinion).

I went back to my book and seconds later, said girl knocked into me, but she knocked even harder into my iPhone. It was headed straight into the pool. And to my dismay, I watched my brand new iPhone sink to the bottom.

She jumped in the water, and I thought she was about to rescue my iPhone. But instead, she just swam off barely mumbling the word sorry. I was still picking my jaw up from the ground when my wife came over to me and told me to get that girl's information because she should help replace my iPhone.
My wife called the girl over. She proceeded to tell us that her name is Samantha Jones and gave us a California phone number.

I'm not saying that I watch the show "Sex and the City," but I do recognize the name Samantha Jones as one of the leading characters. I'm not as much of a geek as you think I am! :)

A little spat ensued between us and the girl. Meanwhile, a manager at the inn was watching as everything unfolded. He came over to us and could see how upset my wife and I were. He said to us, "Look, I don’t want you to be worried about this. Get a new phone, send us the receipt, and the hotel will reimburse you for the cost of the phone."

If there was word to sum up the feeling of OH MA GAH, that's how I felt. The hotel wasn't responsible for this girl's actions. But because they cared so much about the comfort of their guests, they went above and beyond to turn a bad situation into a good one. It was a more than generous gesture that I will never forget.

This has nothing to do with Alpha Software, but everyone I told this story to was amazed at how accommodating the hotel was when they didn't even do anything wrong! The least I could do is tell all of you about what a wonderful organization the Wequassett Inn is. If you're ever in Cape Cod, I strongly recommend booking a room there.

Thanks again to the wonderful staff at the Wequassett Inn!

It's a wrap! Alpha Five Version 10.5 training classes are a success

Alpha University class of 2010
The Alpha Five Version 10.5 training classes in London wrapped up last week, but not before I was able to take a group shot of all the attendees (all in matching Alpha Software hats, of course!).

On the final day, instructors Steve Workings and Jay Talbott covered the remaining coursework. But a good amount of time was spent on answering questions and solving real-life situations attendees were dealing with in Alpha Five.

As a class, they tackled the situations together to come up with solutions. It ended up being a very helpful and instructive time for everyone. In fact, Steve told me that he and Jay thought it was so useful that they plan to formally incorporate this kind of work into the Alpha Five desktop course in Boston later this year.

Lastly, Richard Rabins and Martin McSweeney made a special appearance during the final hour to talk about Alpha Software's plans for the future. It was an exciting week in London and I'm glad I was able to share it with you here on the blog.

Until next time, cheers!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Alpha Five feature pack of the week: Export to Excel and ASCII

Get that data outta here! And into Excel, ASCII files, or custom formats with the Alpha Five Version 10.5 Export to Excel and ASCII feature pack. It lets developers put an "Export to Excel" button in the Grid toolbar that will export data from a Grid component to an Excel file. It can then be downloaded from the server to the end user's computer.

You can also take it one step further. Use Action Javascript to build more powerful buttons that will export data to ASCII files and custom formats. You can also give your user a highly customized experience when downloading the exported file by using the client-side events.

What you're able to export really isn't too restricted. You can export all of the data in the Grid, records in a current Grid query, all or selected fields in the Grid, data from another table, data in any user defined format, and so on. Plus you can limit the number of records that are included in the exported file to prevent users from downloading files with massive numbers of records.

Bill Griffin, who we interviewed in podcast last week, has already put the Export to Excel and ASCII feature pack into action. Listen to the podcast to hear how he's taking full advantage of the time-saving capabilities it offers.

We've covered all the bases about this pack in the four videos below. And if you need more detail after watching them, give our release notes a gander.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

Monday, September 20, 2010

Unix and Alpha Five: the podcast transcript

You heard how Alpha Five and Unix can play nice with each other. But if you're more of a reader than a listener, here's the transcript of Melissa's interview with Bill Griffin. Find out how the Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature packs are helping extend Bill's Unix application, save him time, and much more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unix and Alpha Five: The new odd couple

Alpha Five might be a Windows app, but that doesn't mean it can't play nice with its cousins. A developer, Bill Griffin, who is the CTO of Parkell Inc. in N.Y., shot us an e-mail thanking us for releasing our most recent round of feature packs for Alpha Five Version 10.5. Here's the rub: He's a Unix guy!


He has a major, character-based Unix application called EZgen. Bill's invested a lot of time building it over the past 20 years. So he turned to Alpha Five when he needed to do some sophisticated, graphical reporting. Thanks to the broad import, export, and programming capabilities of Alpha Five, Bill found he could easily import and export data from his Unix system into Alpha. Once there, he was able to slice and dice and present that data in contemporary format and much more.

The reason Bill wrote to us is because he was effusive about the time-saving benefits of the new feature packs, specifically File Upload, Image Upload, File and Image Download, and Export to Excel and ASCII. Even though his title is CTO, like so many others, he's really a one-man IT team. Here's the unedited message he sent to my brother Selwyn.

Selwyn,

Just wanted to thank you for opening up a world of possibilities with the feature packs, most notably, the excel/ascii export and the upcoming file/image upload/download packs. I am really excited about taking on some projects that we just not feasible before V10 and the feature packs arrive(d). This will really help with our document/image management (which we basically do not have yet) that I have wanting to do for years, but have put it off due to time constraints and coming up with a nice, clean, simple way for users to upload and download documents/images. I really appreciate all of your efforts to make A5 one of the best, coolest, innovative products I have used. Just when I think it can't get better, it does (time and time again).

Thanks again,
Bill

That note motivated us to want to know more. I asked Melissa, the voice of our Alpha podcasts, to produce a podcast with Bill. In it, he told her about his developing background and how the Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature packs are helping him save time by adding functions that facilitate collaboration among his company and its users, and more.

One of the things that's exciting about being in the business of developing and marketing a programming platform is that you never know how it's going to be used. When we provide the raw materials, it's just like giving a bunch of painters a palette of color. You don't know what kind of artwork they're going to create.

Here, the artwork is an integration process that lets a 20-year-old Unix application remain relevant and a revenue generator for a company. They can now do things with that application's data that they simply couldn't conceive the requirements for 20 years ago.

Rather than having to rebuild this proven business logic that's embodied in Bill's EZgen Unix application from scratch, they can focus on the new requirements that need to be met while leaving what's working alone. If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- extend it with Alpha Five.

Beyond that, it also speaks to the power and capabilities that we hoped and wanted the feature packs to bring to developers. So if you're on the fence about the features packs, listen to how Bill's using them. The things that they're doing for him in Unix apply equally well in the world of Windows.

Checking in from Alpha Five Version 10.5 training classes, day three

Jay Talbot on point with one attendee
We're not missing a beat over here in London. The third day of Alpha Five Version 10.5 training began with Jay Talbott introducing Xbasic to the class. The attendees were invited to participate in an interactive session that was interesting and had the attention of the entire class.

As I observed attendees learning more about Xbasic, I was pleased to see their faces light up, and on some instances, almost as if a light had been switched on. I heard a couple of "aha's" here and there. Surely these are all signs of good instruction.

I took the liberty and asked Jay to show the class how to correctly report any Alpha Five bugs. I also asked him to demonstrate and emphasize the importance of sending in the files and/or to duplicate the error when reporting such bugs.

It's important for Alpha Five users to know that while they suspect they might have found a bug in the software, in order for Alpha to fix the problem, the development team needs the files in order to duplicate the problem. Only then can the bug be fixed.

After our first morning coffee break, we went right into the reporting segment with Steve Workings. I had one attendee, Alan Owen from Spaulding, United Kingdom, come to me and say that he had just learned three new reporting functions in the span of two hours that could have saved him about a week's worth of frustration. Of course, that was music to my ears.

Lunch is always welcomed, although after a three-course meal one tends to be a little more lax in motion! Steve introduced the SQL section of the course, and found that he had to slow down just a little. Some were experiencing more of a learning curve than others, but overall the day ended with some very satisfying comments.

This is not all free swimming in a bed of roses! There are some serious learning curves for some. But not one attendee ever walks out of this training feeling frustrated or unsatisfied. This is thanks in part to Jay Talbot as our assistant trainer, who is constantly visible at the back of our classroom and ready to help anyone that needs it.

What really brings value to these live Alpha training classes is that during the course of the day no one is ever left behind. Jay walks from attendee to attendee making sure that everyone is on the same page. Steve constantly reminds attendees to stop him at any point if they feel they are not up to his speed.

At the end of the day we are all here to learn. To learn to produce an even higher quality of applications developed in Alpha Five. But now it's time for me to catch up on my rest. We have two days left of training and we have a lot to cover. More from me tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Martin McSweeney will head Alpha Five business development efforts in the UK

If you're at all familiar with Twitter, then you know about Follow Friday. And you might have heard about Terrible Tuesday and "Manic Monday." Well it occurred to me that there's just nothing out there for Wednesday. So I'm officially declaring today as Welcome Wednesday, the day that we will announce new people and partnerships going forward. To start off -- Martin McSweeney.

We opened a new office in the U.K. and appointed Martin to lead our business development efforts. If you're a frequent reader of the blog you know that Martin is the Head of Development at CMITS.net and has contributed plenty of guest posts, including the series, "A developer's thoughts on Microsoft Access 2010." Here's the press release we put out today detailing Alpha Software's new partnership with Martin. I hope you join me in welcoming him!




Martin McSweeney, Founder of CMITS.net, Will Head Business Development Efforts in the UK

BURLINGTON, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alpha Software announced today that it has opened an office in the U.K. to respond to strong growth and demand for consulting services around its Alpha Five Version 10 development platform. The company has appointed Martin McSweeney, Founder and Head of Development at CMITS.net, a data management solutions company, to lead its business development efforts. McSweeney will provide support and resources to developers in the U.K. and Europe who are migrating from another database system to Alpha Five, who are already using Alpha Five, or who have enterprise application requirements for Web-based, high-performance applications.

“Martin has proven experience in helping developers migrate complex business applications from obsolete platforms, such as Microsoft Access, to contemporary Web, cloud, and mobile applications powered by Alpha Five,” says Richard Rabins, Co-Chairman of Alpha Software. “Martin’s belief in the Alpha Five development platform is backed up by the migration of his own successful Parliamentary Case Management Solution, which is used by many senior political figures, from Access to Alpha Five. It’s an excellent example of mission-critical legacy database application that is being moved from MS Access to the cloud using the power of Alpha Five.”

McSweeney’s partnership with Alpha Software began when he downloaded the free 30-day Alpha Five Version 10 trial and was viewing content from an Access back end database on the Web within hours. He was impressed with the platform’s ease of use, performance, and desktop-application feel that Alpha Five’s Codeless AJAX delivered. McSweeney contacted Alpha Software expressing his desire to migrate an application to the Web using Alpha Five.

Coinciding with that was the growing momentum of developers embracing Alpha Five Version 10 as a preeminent development platform for building Web, cloud, and mobile database applications rapidly and easily. In fact, Alpha Five Version 10 was recently ranked as the #1 rapid Web development tool by InfoWorld and a PC Magazine review awarded it four out of five stars.

“I’m very excited to be joining Alpha Software to share what I’ve learned about migrating Access and other platforms to the Web seamlessly using Alpha Software’s world-class technology,” says McSweeney. “My role will ensure that this ground-breaking development platform becomes an instinctive choice for U.K. developers and to have businesses understand that taking their data to the Web does not have to be a long and stressful process.”

For more information on Alpha Software or Alpha Five Version 10.5, visit the Alpha Software blog, website, or contact Richard@AlphaSoftware.com.

ABOUT ALPHA SOFTWARE

Since 1982, Alpha Software has been providing developers with award-winning tools that make it easy to build business applications. Today over 1 million developers and tens of millions of users rely on Alpha Software’s Alpha Five. The company is privately held, and based in Burlington, Mass. Alpha Software can be found on the Web at http://www.AlphaSoftware.com. The company’s blog is located at http://blog.AlphaSoftware.com.

PRESS RESOURCES

Review copies, reviewer’s guide, and training available to press and bloggers.

Press kit: http://www.AlphaPressKit.com

Website: www.AlphaSoftware.com

Blog: http://blog.AlphaSoftware.com/

Contacts
for Alpha Software
Alicia Buonanno, 610-228-2096
Alicia@GregoryFCA.com

Checking in from Alpha Five Version 10.5 training classes, day 2

Day two of the Alpha Five Version 10.5 training classes is finished and it was another great one! As promised, I asked some of the attendees for their feedback and Stewart Harris of South Africa was kind enough to write me this.

Hi Theresa,
Traveled from Johannesburg South Africa, via Dubai to London ... longggg flight pretty much 24 hrs travelling..(:-) but the course was well worth sitting in cattle class (economy) Seat for so long!!!!!

I had not really used Alpha5 in vengeance before. I spent more years than I care to admit developing on mainframes in many different programming languages and environments varying from assembler to Uniface and just about everything in between. I have picked up the concepts and IDE of Alpha5 very easily and I am really impressed with a lot of the features and the way things just work (Whoop Whoop Whoop specially for you Steve)

Stu

Thanks for your input Stewart! As I get more feedback I'll be posting it here on the blog.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Checking in from the Alpha Five Version 10.5 training classes

Day one of Alpha University in London
Hi, it's Theresa! I'm not on the blog often, but I wanted to share what's happening at the Alpha Five Version 10.5 training classes in London. We kicked it off yesterday with a fantastic day! Registration worked out smoothly and everyone was here about five minutes ahead of the start time.

The attendees are a great mix of people and are the most receptive crowd I have seen yet. I started with a four to five minute welcome from Alpha, and introduced myself as well as the instructors, Jay Talbott and Steve Workings. After a short intro I went through all the times and breaks and information about the training itself.

Steve and Jay did a fabulous job. The three of us make a really great team! We all get together, get it done, and have fun doing it.

We finished the day a few minutes early since the crowd was well on top of each topic. The first day is always long and we don't want to over do it. And the Hilton London Heathrow hotel has been wonderful too. As of now, there is nothing else to report.

Keep your eyes peeled to the blog for more updates from London and some attendee feedback as well. Cheers!

Friday, September 10, 2010

In case of emergency use Alpha Five

I routinely post e-mails from users telling me about their experiences developing with Alpha Five. Well the other day I got an insightful e-mail from Lee Taylor-Vaughan, who manages a cardiac surgery intensive care unit by night and teaches critical care education by day, explaining how he rediscovered Alpha Five after many years of using Microsoft Access.

I've pasted the e-mail below, verbatim, but if you don't have time to read the whole thing, let me give your a quick overview. I'll start off by saying that Lee is not a full-time developer. This is something he does in his spare time to make managing his work easier.

Lee used Alpha Four Version 1.1 when he was just 15 years old working at one of his first jobs in the U.K. But when he moved to the U.S., his new job gave him no choice but to switch to Microsoft Access. After using Access for 15 years, he reached the end of his rope with it when he needed to build a professional-looking Web application where doctors could register for his classes online.

He decided to use Dreamweaver to design the new website, but when Lee was searching for videos on Dreamweaver, he stumbled upon an Alpha Five video. After remembering the simplicity of using Alpha Four, he wondered if it was the same platform he used so many years ago. He discovered that it was and bought it. After only a few hours of familiarizing himself with the tool, he was able to start building!

That's only a taste of what's below in Lee's e-mail. So take a few extra minutes today and read his entire message, especially if you're looking for a way to get your MS Access application to the cloud. Thanks Lee for taking the time to write this up!


Currently, I run a very busy cardiac surgery intensive care unit-Critical Care Nurse Practitioner, at night, and during the day I have my own business teaching critical care education courses. I needed a website to automate all the back office operation for my teaching business, I.e. registrations, payments, receipts, contact hours certificates, etc. all of which I originally built in access; regardless of the access applications abilities, it still requires a great amount of time to sit and input the information (i.e. registration/payments/course status of students etc) in to the DB as there is no web pages that come with MS Access that are easy to implement-hence a huge amount manual data entry.

Years ago I learned A4 v1.1 (when I was 15!!); I used it in an office that imported steel-strip into the UK. My job was to communicate between the Italians, Germans, and English. Back then A4 was saved me heaps of time when it came to the data management side of things. I worked there for a year or so before going on to run my own Gymnastics School in Barnsley UK: Athersley Gymnastics Club. My exposure to A4, from my import/export job, pushed me to create a database of the all the gymnasts and their progress and payments etc. I still have the application and I seldom revisit it just to see what I did at such a young age.

In 1995 I moved to the USA; I worked for a summer camp that solely used access for its office applications. I was told that there was no way that we could use A4, no matter how much I pushed, so I learned Access-any mostly self taught. The last 15 years or so I've struggled with access. I written 20-30 applications, mainly as a hobby, using basic features, and more advanced coding in VBA; regardless of a developers skill level access has never been easy to 'get the job done'. Often many features are a work in progress especially with my access DB that maintains my Critical Care Education (CPR/FirstAid/PALS/ACLS) business (www.EmergencyCardiacCare.com).

It holds lists of clients from the last 10-12 years totaling approximately 23,000 students, and well over 40,000 registrations. I have longed to have a system that allows me to EASILY create web pages to perform many backend functions, but I've never had the time to sit down and learn HTML/ASP/PHP-simply put I've been too busy. 3 years ago, I tried posting a project on Elance, multiple times, and spent close to $7,000 in development fees-all of which was wasted as the development companies couldn't do what I wanted.

Alpha Five feature pack of the week: File and Image Download

You've heard me tell you all about File and Image Upload feature packs the past two weeks. Now it's time for me to give you the lowdown on the downloads. The File and Image Download feature pack makes it easy for developers to define an action for an event in their Grid that will download a file from the server to the end-user's machine.

For example, you can now define a button that will let the end user download an image, embedded object, or file from any location on the server to their machine. Watch parts one and two of the video to get a quick demo on how to define various download buttons, or give our release notes a read through.

Here's an extra tip before you hit play. If you combine this feature pack with the File and Image Upload feature packs, you'll be able to build document repositories, image sharing, and content management Web applications much faster.

Part one

















Part two

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

How to move a Grid row button to the navigation bar or a free-form edit region

The long holiday weekend is over folks. And I thought I'd start your late return to the work week with a nifty little tip to get your Grids looking tighter when it comes to inserting buttons.

When you place a button in a Grid row, it will appear in every row. While that can be beneficial in some scenarios, it can begin to look cluttered if you have a lot of rows. Watch the video to learn an easy way to place the button in the Grid's navigation bar or in a free-form edit region. When you do this, the button now only appears once, reducing the amount of buttons on the screen.


Thursday, September 02, 2010

The secret power feature you get after you install the File and Image Upload feature packs

I've schooled you on the Image Upload feature pack and File Upload feature pack, which allows developers to easily add file or image upload functions to their applications. It also lets end users upload files or images into their databases. Each feature pack specializes in either images or files, but I didn't tell you about the bonus feature you get when you install both. It's kinda like what happens when you mix Mentos and a bottle of Diet Coke.

Putting both of these feature packs in your system gives you the ability to do something really special: Include images and embedded links to files right in the HTML memo field. Your end users then can upload a file directly from an HTML memo field and store the image in the database/grid or link to the image/file in one fast step.

It's a great way to share files that are related to a record. And as I described in the File Upload post, this makes for powerful collaborative applications. Customizing both is as simple as going into the memo field in the Grid, turning on the HTML editor, and enabling the file upload and image upload properties. But enough talk, it's time to see it for yourself.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Common questions from Microsoft Access developers migrating to Alpha Five

The other day we got an e-mail from Philip Samuel, President of Performance Mastery Institute. He is migrating from Microsoft Access to Alpha Five Version 10 and had a list of questions that needed answering. We put Dr. Martin Heller, our VP of Education and Technology, on the case to get his answers squared away.

After Martin responded with the answers, I realized that this would be a really great e-mail to share. For developers mulling over how to get off Microsoft Access, and whether Alpha Five is the right way to go, this e-mail will be particularly helpful. Here is Martin's e-mail (unedited) back to Philip with the answers to his questions. And if you have any other questions feel free to write to me or post a comment.



1. Currently, all of my data resides in Access (mdb) tables. I can easily convert them to SQL Server prior to developing my application in Alpha Five. Is that the preferred methodology or should I convert them to some other format?

Please see the white paper. You can work directly with MDB tables, and seamlessly transition to any support SQL database without losing any work at any time, using our Portable SQL. That said, I usually upsize from Access to Microsoft SQL Server early in the process, so that I have the freedom to push functionality to stored procs.

2. Are applications that I design with Alpha Five suitable for large-scale enterprise environments?

Yes, with load-balancing of the web servers and clustered SQL boxes.

3. Scalability: Are applications written with Alpha Five limited to a certain number of users, tables and/or records?

No limits, other than hardware. Note that the A5 web application server is currently bound to a single core; if you want to run a big server you need multiple instances that are load-balanced. Hyper-V works well, but you can run multiple instances simultaneously without it.

4. It's important to me that the end user sees a completed menu-driven "application"… does Alpha Five allow me to "compile" the program so that when the end user opens it, it looks like a complete database application?

Yes

5. The IT Group will ask me in what "language" will my application be programmed. Is it Java, .Net or some other language that they'll be able to support with their folks or must they use Alpha Five for all programming and/or revisions? Is there a "documenter" program that I'll be able to supply to the client (even if there's an additional cost) to help them read the application/database layout?

Xbasic and JavaScript. We will shortly be releasing an interface from Xbasic to .NET assemblies.

6. I'm pretty technical, but I don't understand how I will "deploy" the application(s) to users. They all work on workstations in a networking environment (in some departments, they work in a Citrix "virtual" environment). All users would have access to the SQL Server and/or the company's intranet (Internet Explorer is on every workstation). Knowing that, will I be deploying "desktop applications" using the "runtime" program? Do I need the "Runtime" program or the "Application Server" program or both (one of the special offers includes all 3, so that's not an issue)? How will the application(s) communicate with the SQL Server tables? You can see that I'm entering some new ground and I have to be knowledgeable before I get the commitment to go ahead from the IT groups.

For web applications you need the Application Server. For desktop applications you need the Runtime. People often combine the two, for example implementing back-office functionality on the desktop and consumer and partner functionality on the web.

We use ODBC and our own AlphaDAO layer to communicate with SQL databases.

7. My last question has to do with "Security" (a real concern to the banks). Do we build the security into the Alpha Five application OR do we use the security built into the SQL Server's Active Directory? What do most programmers do?

We're about to release a product that links the two very tightly, which is what most financial institutions want.

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