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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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Clifton responds to sniff test request

Ever since I became the Director of Sniff Testing at Alpha Software, I've received emails asking me to come out and train top dogs at other companies. This is to help them learn to execute the sniff test to ensure software quality.

But the other day, I received mail the old fashioned way. I kid you not! Here's a photo of the letter:

The letter asked for more information about my sniff test training. But since holding a pen is challenging for me (after all, I have paws), I decided to post a reply here on the blog. By the way, it's amazing what you can do with Dragon Speech! You humans might not understand me, but Dragon Speech totally understands Canine.

For sniff test training, I plan to charge two pieces of bacon and leftover pizza crust per session. Here's a look at the curriculum:
  • Wagging tail and licking product if it's ready to ship. If it's not, pushing it away with nose.
  • Cleaning up after meetings by making sure no pizza is left over.
  • Greeting customers by opening doors via jumping up and pushing with paws. Note: accessible door handles required.
  • Providing employees with lunchtime walks in the park.
  • Keeping meetings on track by barking at anything that takes you off task.

Interested in hiring me? Leave your information in a comment below, and I'll get back to you as soon as my schedule opens up.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to build advanced search into a web site in under 30 minutes with Alpha Five Version 11

What takes 30 minutes? Your favorite TV show? Pizza delivery? How about building advanced search into your web site or application? With the newest Alpha Five Version 11 feature pack, Power Search for Grids, you can cut the production time for building sophisticated search functionality into your app down from weeks or even months to several minutes. Check this out for more details.

Take a look,, or Through their search capabilities, they make it easy for visitors to their sites to find what they are looking for easily. These websites all have one thing in common: sophisticated search functionality powered by search boxes, sliders, pick lists, and a results grid that presents the results. They've also got something else in common: They would take a lot longer than 30 minutes to create using PHP, Visual Studio, .Net, Ruby, or other web development tools.  This kind of functionality can now be achieved very easily with the new  Power Search for Grids Feature Pack.

Want to know more? We thought you might, so we sent Selwyn in to create a series of videos that show how this is done. Please note, the features shown here will only be available to you if you have the feature pack installed.

So, think you can skip one episode of your favorite sitcom, or get creative while you're waiting for that pizza?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen sees major strategy shift coming for web developers

I hate to say I told you so. And I didn't enjoy writing this post one bit.

Alright, I enjoyed it just a bit.

OK, actually, I really loved writing it.

But you would too, if an industry icon just advocated something you've been advocating for years.

That icon would be Jakob Nielsen, author, researcher, and usability consultant who is also a partner to another industry icon, Donald Norman. He specializes in user interfaces, particularly user-centered methodology such as web usability and design strategy.

But as far as I'm concerned, I have some other names for him: the king of usability, the guru of web page usability, the usability Pope, the god of usability, the usability czar, the Grand Poobah of usability, and the chief of usability.

Alright, enough buildup for how awesome Jakob Nielsen is. The point is, his most recent article is in support of my advocacy, which is for HTML5 being the answer to a lot of the problems we're seeing in web development today. In Nielsen's recent article, "Mobile Sites vs. Apps: The Coming Strategy Shift," he tells us to dump the mobile apps and make the shift to open standards.

Finally! After talking about it for years, I'm in good company. (Can you tell I have a weak ego?)

He goes on to predict a major shift in strategy for developers, so it's important that all the Alphaholics read this article. It really validates our strategy here at Alpha Five, which has always had you, the developer, in mind!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Talking tablets with TabTimes

BYOD is one of the most disappointing acronyms I have ever encountered. It turns out that it stands for "bring your own device" to work, and is a catchphrase for the consumerization era. The reason it disappointed me was because I thought it meant "bring your own dog" to work, and as you all know, I'm a huge advocate of that trend.

But of course, that's not the case. And once I got past my initial disappointment, I was able to focus on the enormity of the trend. I've been tracking it for years, and recently, Tab Times asked me to share my thoughts on what most industry experts can agree on: BYOD is on the verge of mass adoption by corporations, and the device of choice is proving to be the tablet.

But BYOD poses significant problems to the enterprise. Problems that I believe Alpha Five Version 11 can help solve. Take in the article, and you'll see what I mean.

And P.S. no comments asking whether or not that's a dog in the photo!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Alpha Five's furry valentine

According to Webster's dictionary, one of the definitions of a valentine is someone who "expresses uncritical praise or affection." Who in your life fits that description? I know exactly who it is in mine!

My valentine brings me the paper every morning, without tearing his favorite sections out first. He makes a fool out of himself just to see me laugh, eats whatever I give him for dinner, and never steals the remote from me. He doesn't complain that I snore at night, and is happy to move to the floor when I complain that he's snoring.

My valentine never criticizes my appearance, job, or handiwork around the house -- he's just happy to have me around. In fact, he's content to stay by my side whether I'm sick or healthy, happy or sad. Have a guess who it is?

My valentine this year is Clifton, my dog!

And I'm not the only one who thinks a dog is the best sweetheart -- according to Recession Wire's recent study featuring 400 Americans, the majority stated that their pets’ emotional support and happy-go-lucky attitude were the key to helping them get through tough times.

Yes, we have our husbands, wives, children, and friends, but no love is quite as special as the non-judgmental, unconditional love that our dogs have for us. So this Valentine's Day, pick up a heart-shaped bone and make a date with your biggest fan. I guarantee he won't even argue about what movie to see!

And whatever you do, please don't show this to my wife!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Calling all African Alphaholics: Alpha Five Version 11 to be distributed throughout West Africa

We announced some Alpha Five news last week, but if you didn't catch the press release with all the details, I'll fill you in now: Petrodata Management Services Ltd, a West African IT data storage and management facility, is now officially our newest distribution partner, and our first exclusive distributor. Because of this partnership, Alpha products will be available to individuals, corporations, and government entities throughout Nigeria and other West African countries.

The use of technology in underdeveloped countries can help alleviate poverty and inspire societal change, and we know Petrodata can help us do that due to their long history of providing high-technology firsts to West Africa. In addition to marketing and promoting Alpha Five Version 11, they'll also be offering best-of-breed training courses, seminars, and application development services.

Selwyn and I were born in South Africa, and we feel a special connection to the people of any African country. We know that we're going to meet some talented new African developers thanks to this partnership, and we're excited to be adding more countries to the list of places that Version 11 is available!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Alpha Five: Easy enough for a novice, but powerful enough for a pro

I could have titled this blog post, "Custom coding for Ajax callbacks." But I think this post is about more than JavaScript and a HTML markup. It's about negating the age-old argument that, when it comes to development platforms, one size can't fit all.

How many times have you heard that certain languages and platforms are good for advanced developers, while others are good for novices? I suppose that's true for some other RAD tools, but one of the unique things about Alpha Five is that it's been engineered from day one to be easy enough for beginners to get started with, but powerful, strong, and extensible enough for professionals to use everyday.

We just spoke with a customer who told us how fast his junior developers caught onto Alpha Five. Now let me give you the other side of the story, which is about some tough questions that a seasoned developer threw at us, and how we helped him accomplish his tasks using the exact same platform, Alpha Five Version 11, that the novices found so easy to use.

John Landry is the former CTO and Senior Technology VP at Lotus Development and a former VP of Technology Strategy at IBM after they were acquired by IBM. He's also a developer, and was trying to execute code in script tags on an Ajax callback in Alpha Five Version 11. He contacted Selwyn, and we took to the screen to create a comprehensive video tutorial, just like our Alpha Five Version 11 feature peeks, to help him solve the problem.

John was building a content management system, the contents of which were stored in a SQL database, and displaying the content using the grid component.

As you might know, a typical field of data in the SQL database contains HTML markup. But with John's project, there was a critical additional piece of information: There were script tags that contained Javascript within the HTML markup.

By setting the appropriate filters and then opening the grid on an Ajax callback, the page was able to show dynamic content stored in the database. However, even though the HTML content stored in the database was being shown, the code in the script tags was not being executed. So we told John that the reason for this was that the code in the script tags was being ignored on an Ajax callback.

Got all that? Take a look now at the video below to see the solution that worked for John. Hint: it only took one line of jQuery code.

John's experience is the perfect example of how Version 11 provides productivity for your development team, but won't hold you back when it's time for some serious coding. John was able to sink his teeth into this like Clifton into a bone, and we were happy to hear that both the project, and John's appetite for code, were satisfied!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Superbowl, Star Wars, and symphonic dogs

What could be better? How about dogs, barking Star Wars' "The Imperial March," during the Super Bowl? Yes, that awesome combination exists, and I found it in a sneak peek of Volkswagon's Superbowl ad. Take a look. But first, here's a warning -- it's impossible to only watch once!

I have to say, (no offense to Irish Setters everywhere) I'm partial to the pug on the left that doesn't bark once. Which one is your favorite?

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