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, March 20, 2012

What's better than a birthday bone?

Two birthday bones and some pupcakes! That's what we served this weekend at the birthday party for my uncles, Teige and Caspian. They mean a lot to me, and in fact, they're the reason I'm here today.

Capsian and Teige have lived next door to our family since before I become a Rabins. They came to visit so often, everyone eventually they fell in love with Irish Setters. The rest is history!

Here's a great video of the birthday boys chowing down on their homemade pupcakes:


We thought about going with one big cake, but because we needed a candle for each dog year, that posed some serious fire hazards.

Other activities of the day included pin the tail on the cat; smashing a bone-shaped pinata filled with, well, bones; and bobbing for bacon.

Happy birthday Teige and Caspian!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Canine customer service at its best

When I found out that the term BYOD was referring to bringing personal technology to the workplace, and not bringing dogs to the workplace, I was disappointed.

We've employed Clifton, my dog, as the Director of Sniff Testing for over a year now, and I was hoping that the trend would help Clifton meet other canine professionals. But then I saw Buddy, the furry secretary, working hard for a veterinarian's office:

Pretty impressive! Buddy, Clifton would like to know if you're interested in getting together for a bone some night after a long day of work!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Groupama Insurance wins award for administrative app built with Alpha Five

Sometimes good news takes a little while to reach us. I recently heard that Groupama Insurance won an award for an app they built with Alpha Five V11 late last year. I reached out to Dave Wyatt, IT Systems Development Manager for the healthcare division of Groupama Insurance, asking him to share his story, and he did.

By way of background, Groupama describes itself on its website as a "mutual insurance, banking and financial services group; Groupama has 39,000 employees serving 16 million members and customers."

Dave Wyatt had been working in Alpha Five on his own time when he brought Alpha Five to Groupama to see if it could solve the problem that his division had been struggling with.

The company was using Java to develop its applications in the cloud. But Dave's division found that Java was taking too long, required too much maintenance, and needed highly skilled (and more costly) Java developers.

Dave decided to attempt to rewrite Groupama Insurance's administrative system for the healthcare division in Alpha Five.

In about four months, the system Dave's division needed was up and running. When you factor in testing and deployment, the entire process took about six months.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

With Alpha Five, creating a captcha is easier than reading one

Everyone's familiar with captchas. Even if you don't recognize the word, you've encountered them.  

The captcha is that distorted image of letters and numbers that you have to type in correctly before you can enter some websites.

The captcha, invented in 2000, makes sure that only humans (as opposed to automated software) are entering a site. Most IT guys know why captchas are there.

But what does the word stand for? I found out when UberFacts decoded the acronym in a recent tweet:

I shared this with my colleagues, and found out that none of them knew exactly what it stood for. But one thing everyone agrees on is that some captchas are pretty darn hard to decode and enter correctly. In fact, if you type "captcha"  in Google, you'll find that the suggested search is "how to avoid captchas." That got me thinking. Could you create a captcha with Alpha Five? And if you can, is it just as hard for developers to create as it is for users to decipher?

It turns out that not only is it possible, but it's easier than I thought. The option to generate captchas is already built into the dialog component. You've probably even seen it before. You simply check the box that is appropriately labeled, and a captcha will be enabled for that field.

So, if you're using Alpha Five, it's easier to create the captcha than it is to read it! Did you know what captcha stood for before this post? Let us know in a comment!

Friday, March 02, 2012

What would happen if you sent an idea to Microsoft, Oracle, or Zend?

Probably not the same thing that happened when Derryn Balogh, one of our customers, sent his idea to us.

Derryn has been an Alphaholic for years, and recently tried his hand at developing apps with the new Alpha Five Version 11. After we released the feature pack on how to create slider bars in the dialog component, Derryn reached out to let me know how much he has appreciated Selwyn's videos. In addition to his feedback, he also provided a suggestion on how to enhance Version 11. Here's the unedited email he sent me:

Hi Richard,
The approach Alpha Five has taken in presenting videos with an introduction, followed by separate 'step-by-step' videos is fantastic. It gives people an understanding of what can be done, and the confidence in how to do it. WELL DONE, guys.
The slider bar feature pack will be appreciated by many. It's a fantastic input tool that will be VERY useful. Something that would make this feature pack even more valuable would be the ability to display an image dynamically, based on the input chosen by the user on the slider bar. Perhaps this could be packaged as another feature pack called the 'rating' component? Or, combined with the slider component for even more value.
One of the most common visual icons on the web these days would have to be the star image, frequently used on popular review websites and when booking accommodations, etc.
It would be awesome if the user could slide the bar to the number 2 and two stars would instantly appear. And even be able to have the option to select two criteria (as you currently have this option in the slider feature pack). For example, you could select between 1.5 stars and 4 stars. If this could be done with no coding, (much like you did with the markers on maps) it would REALLY show Alpha Five's true power, and run rings around FileMaker, Access, and the others.
Whenever I see a message like this, I automatically forward it to Selwyn. I was pleasantly surprised when, just a few days later, Selwyn sent me a two part series showing how this can be done.

Part One 

Part Two

When's the last time that happened when you sent an idea over to a company like Microsoft, or Oracle, or Zend, or [insert big honkin' company name here]? Never!

What are your ideas for Alpha Five Version 11? Leave them here in a comment. You never know -- the next video we show might be your idea!

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