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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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Filemaker Application gets moved to the Web rapidly with Alpha Five v11


I recently received this email from a new convert to the world of Alpha Five development by the name of Dion McCormick from www.gkrsolutions.com 

Dion is a very talented and successful developer who has been building database applications for many years, but like many readers of this blog, was getting frustrated by the amount of time taken to build robust, secure and scalable business apps for the web until he discovered Alpha Five.  Here is the email  from Dion.


I was having lunch with an associate of mine who told me about a client of his who had an interesting business challenge.  This company had identified an untapped market that could be serviced by them IF  they had the right technology delivery system.

The background is that they had developed an in house solution using FileMaker.  This solution was being used by about four employees and worked well for their purposes.  But when they identified the business opportunity which involved providing the data and services they had developed internally to a larger audience in the outside world, they ran into a serious road block.

Specifically, there was no way they could take the in house FileMaker solution and provide it to a wider (and more diverse) audience on a cost basis that would make the business case work.  They looked at the newer releases of the Filemaker  but they just couldn't get the functionality that they wanted and numbers (costs) simply would not work out.

They also had another issue, they knew that the target user would need a native web experience.  The user experience that they had with the FileMaker worked fine for the highly trained internal staff, but it would be a nightmare to try and ramp up with a lot of "casual" users.  They also felt that the external users wanted to have a more native experience with the system.

The last key item….speed.  In the different tests they did with their current solution, they just couldn't deliver a speedy user experience over the web.  It just came across as clunky and frustrating.

They looked at a number of different ways and technologies to deliver the solution.  They received a bunch of bids, but the costs remained too high.  Not only were they finding the development to be very expensive, they also found that the time frame to create the solution was just way too long.

I knew I had a potential solution to their problem.  Alpha Five v11.  Not only did the Alpha Five platform have all of the necessary components to create the web user experience they were looking for, but it also had the upcoming mobile components that would open up a whole new avenue for  delivering their  solution to mobile users.

It took about one week to create the first prototype that duplicated the key features from the in-house system and another week to polish it and add some key elements they desired for the end user. 

They were blown away with what I did in Alpha Five v11.

 They didn't realize how much functionality could be delivered in such a short time and on a web platform that was immediately scalable.  (MySQL and Alpha Five Application Server).  All of the estimates they were getting were going to take months to deliver even the most basic of functionality they were desiring.

The system is now in beta testing with a select group of users that are providing feedback on the user experience.  This information is being used to drive new features and capabilities into the solution.  One huge benefit is that because it is a cloud based application, we are able to do quicker and smaller releases on an ongoing basis so the users can see their ideas in action.

The customer is very excited about seeing the application migrated to the web and  multiple mobile platforms  They love the fact that they won't have to hire developers for each platform to deploy the solution and that the core logic/functionality won't have to be touched when the mobile platforms are deployed.

        Click here for a video  of  a couple of the features of the prototype system.



Workspace application types

On the Alpha Software message board, we have long segregated questions about Web development into different forums than questions about desktop development, primarily to avoid confusion. Now that we're hearing from many of our customers that they only do Web development and rarely use Alpha Five's desktop functionality, we've made it easy to simplify your user interface in the Alpha Five development environment.

This feature is currently in prerelease builds.

When opening Alpha Five, you will see a new dialog asking you what kind of applications you plan to build. Note that you can change this selection at any time.


If you check both boxes, you'll see all options, just as you used to:


If you check only the Web box, we won't show you the desktop-only sample Workpaces:


We hope this makes your development life easier.

Alpha Five v11 vs. design software like Dreamweaver




I recently came across a question that had been sent to Brett Johnston our head of sales and service in which the customer was trying to understand understand under  which circumstances he might use Alpha Five v11 instead of Dreamweaver. I thought it was a common enough question that justified providing Brett's reply in a blog post. So here goes..


Reply to Prospective Alpha Five customer



Thanks for the e-mail.

You don't actually have to choose. You can still incorporate what you create in 
Dreamweaver  into your Alpha Application. (Obviously Dreamweaver is not a data
driven application development tool, so you do not have that functionality in it.)

Take a look at these articles + videos and also check out the very cool new
CSS3 style builder in Alpha five Version 11.

Also check out:  

Regards
Brett Johnston
Alpha Software, Inc.




Monday, May 28, 2012

Portable Career and Alpha Five. What is the Link?


"Portable career" is a term that I first saw when reading a blog post http://strom.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/portable-career/  from a person, that I have known and respected for many years, who has been  following the computer industry by the name of David Strom.  

In his post,  David points out that as a writer and analyst he is able to simply unplug his computer and move, to accommodate family needs, and he can continue operating from pretty much anywhere in the world that has good connectivity. 

This blog post got me thinking that anyone who has built proficiency in building applications in Alpha Five has also created a portable career for themselves.  

It really does not matter  where in the world they are based, because of the web and collaboration tools that exist, they can continue working  without skipping a beat. If you are one of these folks then I would congratulate you for having the vision to choose such a "portable career."

The more I thought about this, the more I realized how true this is in the Alpha Five developer community. I can think of at least at least five Alpha Five developers (that I personally happen to know) who have moved in the last few months,  to accommodate a career opportunity for their spouse or to be closer to family, and they have all indicated that their clients could not care less where they are located, because all they cared about was being able to continue to  work them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Alpha Five Workspaces

Historically, Alpha Five master projects were called "databases," because historically, Alpha Five was oriented around Dbase-compatible DBF databases. It has been a long time coming, but we've finally changed the terminology, mostly to help new users feel more at home in the IDE.


Alpha Five now has Workspaces, giving it terminology that is consistent with many modern development environments. It's a small change, but you'll see it throughout the product.



If you are really attached to the old terminology, you can change it back in your copy.


We'll try and update the documentation to reflect this change as soon as possible.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Of Moose and Llamas

In the next week or so, look for an enhanced schedule of Alpha Software blog posts, featuring tutorials and tips that will help you use our products, case studies and videos about successful Alpha developers, and some less serious stuff. If you have suggestions for blog postings that you'd like to see, email them to me or Richard (pattern: firstname + "@alphasoftware.com").


Meanwhile, some less serious stuff:


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Alpha Five developers are taking on the world and winning!




Over the last few days we have spoken to a large number of customers who have built or are building some really cool applications in Alpha Five version 11.

What all of these conversations have in common is one thing -  Alpha Five v11 customers are building applications in their industries and markets that are poised to take on the entrenched players and win!


For the team at Alpha, the greatest payback of being in this business is when we empower our customers to fulfill their mission or dreams. As a result, these conversations have been incredibly exciting and gratifying for us.

Rather than keeping these conversations private we thought it would be a great idea to share these stories with the world and help our customers get their story out there.

So, if you have built, or are building an exciting application with Alpha Five and would like to be featured in a video like the one below, please contact me at richard@alphasoftware.com and we will arrange for a professional videographer to come to your place of business so we can help you tell your story.

                                                        Click here to Play the video

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Note from India

Recently, my daughter Moriah and son-in-law David did a month's medical rotation at the Christian Medical College and Hospital, in Vellore, India. One weekend, to Richard's delight, they took in an India Premier League cricket game, and Dave wrote about it on the blog they've been maintaining throughout their trip. (They are back in New York now.)


I'll let Dave take it from here. -- Martin Heller

Yanks in cricket heaven, Chennai Super Kings vs the Rajasthan Royals

Even though Moriah and I are in India, baseball rudely started the season at the beginning of April. Luckily we have been able to make due with baseballs older and distantly related cousin, cricket.

As we detailed in an earlier post, I played a bit with some of the locals, and it is pretty much always on tv. Today we joined a British fellow medical student, Steve, on a trip to see the Chennai Super Kings, which if you ask me is just about the most awesome name in all of sports (aside from the Yankees of course. Wait, are there Super Yankees?). To make it even better, they were playing the Rajasthan Royals, luckily not the Super Royals.

Cricket shares some things in common with baseball, but there are some important differences:

Field=pitch
Pitcher=bowler
Catcher= wicket keeper(also the only guy who gets gloves, though oddly enough they use baseball gloves during warm ups to protect their hands)
Batter=batter (likewise for bat)
Ball=ball
Out=wicket
Run=run
Outrageous drunken fans=outrageous sober fans (no alcohol allowed in the stadium, and no bars near it.)

And the fans really were outrageous. They cheered constantly, even counted down the seconds till the end of a time out. The men in the crowd were especially fond of the cheerleaders, who we learned were from Russia, flown in to provide cheering related services. And of course, "We Will Rock You" was blasted at full volume before the Super Kings came to bat.

A quick version of the rules 

The bowler takes a running start, and throws the ball overhand towards the batter, and generally has the ball bounce a few feet in front of the batter in an attempt to hit the stump (three sticks behind the batter) to knock over the wicket (two small sticks placed on top of the stump). The batter tries to hit the ball, and unlike baseball, can hit it in any direction, even directly behind him. Also unlike baseball, he is under no obligation to run after he hits it, he can do so only if he thinks he can make it to the other wicket before the other team can knock it over with the ball.

You score runs by running between the wickets. If you hit the ball to the boundary on at least one bounce, you get 4 runs. If you hit it over the boundary on the fly (like a home run) you get 6.

In any version of cricket, the batter continues to bat until the opposing team makes a wicket, which can be done four ways: the bowler hits the stump and knocks over the wicket, the batted ball is caught in the air, or the batter is thrown out while running (the fielder has to knock the wicket over with the ball before any part of the batter crosses the line). You can also be called out if a ball that will hit the stumps hits your shin guards before hitting the bat.

There are three varieties of cricket played professionally, and differ by how long they last. The original version lasts up to five days! (played all day) and is probably thusly named because it is both a test of the players' stamina as well as the fans ability to pay attention to a game for 8 straight hours for five straight days. Each team gets two innings to bat, but in a sharp deviation from baseball, an inning isn't determined by how many wickets, rather all 11 players bat around. And as I said, they each get to keep batting until they make a wicket, in which case they have to go back to the bench and sit down, probably take a nap or do their laundry until it is time to start the next inning, which may be house or days away. So there is really no incentive to try to take the cover off the ball, because if you miss, its a long wait till your next chance. So you get a lot, and I mean a lot of defensive swings at the ball, occasionally they decide to run back and forth to score runs, and rarely they will hit it hard enough to reach a boundary. Unless the game is drawing to a close and they are behind. Then they get more aggressive and smack the ball around a bit.


In an attempt to bring the sport to those who are unable to watch/play a game for five full days, 50/50 cricket was invented, this lasting a mere 8 hours. In this version, each team gets to keep batting for only 50 "overs" or six balls (300 balls), or until all 11 men are out.

In another refinement, they invented 20/20, where each team gets only 120 balls. The game starts with a coin toss to determine which team bats first. One team bats through all their overs, then the other team tries to top the score to win. Teams will usually only go through 4-5 batters, and because of the limited overs, this version is much more aggressive, favoring teams that swing for the boundaries early.

Not having 5 days to do nothing but watch cricket, we saw a 20/20 match. The Royals won the toss, and elected to bat first, forcing the Kings, excuse me, SUPER Kings, to play the field first. Steve thought this was deliberate to make them spend their time in the field during the hottest part of the day, topping 102 F with near 100% humidity. 

They Royals started out quickly, hitting lots of 4s and 6s, but after 10 overs they slowed, going through a couple of overs without scoring at all. Only three batters lost their wicket, but they put up a relatively disappointing score of 146 runs after their 20 overs. The SUPER Kings took the pitch in excellent shape.

But unlike the Royals, they were not aggressive early, and seemed to lack intensity both batting and running. They had hit only a few boundaries through 15 overs, and were settling for one run when two appeared possible. With only 5 overs left they were several runs off the pace, and it appeared their chances of winning were dim.

Then, as if a switch were flipped, they shed their defensive batting and running, and began to score. Still not many boundaries, but they squeezed two points out of one 4 balls in a row, and scored at least one on every ball. 


They still looked like a long shot heading into the last over, down by 10 runs, needing almost 2 runs per ball. And instead of swinging for the fences, they patiently hit solidly, and stretched to get two. With one ball left, they were down by only one run, needing two to win, having clawed their way back from a deep hole. 



I still don't really know what "deep backwood square leg" means, but apparently that is where the batter hit the final ball, with just enough juice to again squeeze two runs out for the win. The stadium erupted, and our first cricket match was a tension packed resounding success. 

Cricket, at least 20/20, wins my approval. I won't be giving it up for baseball anytime soon, but it was a very exciting day and well worth the trip to chennai. 



Dave


A postscript from Dave, posted the following Wednesday:

All week many people have mentioned that they saw me on television during the cricket match. Moriah found the clip on YouTube, where the entire match can be found. If you go to 3:35:40, youll see me talking to my friend Steve about the match. I probably said something incredibly insightful about cricket, and definitely didn't ask "what's the pitcher called again" for the fourth time.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Powerful Charting in Alpha Five v11

Preview of upcoming feature pack for Alpha Five v11 - Chart Control in the Dialog component.


This feature pack will be free to subscribers of Alpha Five. 

Alpha Five v11 apps will soon be able to include powerful dashboards with extremely flexible charting.  To see some examples, please watch  video 1     video 2  




                                           


A very broad range of charts is supported. See below for a complete list of types of charts.

A chart can include data from as many data series as you want. Each data series on the chart can have it own chart style. So, for example, the chart you show in your images could have two of the data series formatted as line charts and the 3rd as a bar chart.

Alpha Five v11 uses a CSS style set of attributes to control the appearance of the chart which is both very powerful and also very 'readable'.


CHART TYPES.

  • Bar Vertical Grouped
  • Bar Vertical Stacked
  • Bar Vertical Overlaid
  • Bar Horizontal Grouped
  • Bar Horizontal Stacked
  • Line
  • Area
  • Spline
  • SplineArea
  • StackedArea
  • Radar
  • Pie
  • Doughnut
  • Funnel
  • Pyramid
  • Stock
  • Candlestick
  • Bubble
  • BoxPlot
  • Scatter


We would be very interested in your feedback. Please  pass all comments onto marketing@alphasoftware.com


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Advanced new Documentation and Help system helps unleash the power of Alpha Five v11

                           
           
Alpha Five v11 has evolved into a powerhouse for the rapid development
of data driven web applications for developers and a large and growing number of companies


As power has been added, we set ourselfves the task of building an advanced
new Help and Documentation system for Alpha Five v11 so that its built in power and productivity
can be unleashed in the most efficient and effective way by developers of all skill levels.

We are proud to preview the new system in the videos below and we would love to get
feeedback from you at marketing@alphasoftware.com .

The new Alpha Five v11 Help and  Documentation System will be available very soon!

Video 1    Video 2    Video 3    Video 4    Video 5    Video 6

Another PHP developer switches to Alpha Five v11 because of productivity

We have been talking a lot about MS Access developers moving to Alpha Five, but we wanted to share with you a verbatim exchange on our message board from a PHP developer.

pettechservices   Chris Sutton

A reason I'm happy I purchased Alpha Five
I recently switched to using Alpha Five from a PHP Code Generator. I am happy that I made the switch. Not only is the software and its capability wonderful, but I submitted a bug yesterday to tech support, and they were able to verify it, and fix it, with a response today.

Understanding no software is perfect, nor is any company, but when I've submitted bugs to Alpha Software, so far I have gotten a response and resolution the next day. I do realize that may not always be the case, depending on the nature of the bug, but you know what? I'm happy. And its great that the owner (or one of them?), who I have not actually dealt with personally, but have seen in the forums numerous times, responding to people with resolutions.

In this case, it seems that tech support is actually faster at responding to issues than the sales department. Not too often you get to say that.

Anyway, I'm happy. :)

-- Chris



bobalston Bob Alston

Re: A reason I'm happy I purchased Alpha Five
Just curious, which PHP CODE Generator and what are the advantages you are finding with alpha Five?

bob
Bob Alston

pettechservices  Chris Sutton

Re: A reason I'm happy I purchased Alpha Five
I had used ScriptCase ... although it is a nice product, support is horrible (difficult to communicate with), and latest release was full of bugs. Deployment was really bad, and not very flexible with templates and layouts... although it looks like it is from a distance. Only plus to PHP is it is more portable than a Windows based software.

A5 is soooooooo much more flexible, between functions, and layouts, and so much built-in functionality. I was able to achieve so much in a few days with A5, and it generates full applications, not just shells. I was able to pick up the XBASIC stuff quickly, between my past knowledge of Visual Basic (and even basic from DOS days), and all the video help files and wiki information available.

And the very active message forums are awesome.

There are a few things I'm not excited about with A5, again dealing with WAS, but those are supposedly being addressed. I'm not a subscription subscriber, because of getting married next month and I cannot afford it right now, but eventually I hope to become a subscription member. So, those fixes/changes I'll have to purchase unless I can get a subscription. But aside from that, I love the abilities of Alpha Five.

Chris

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Building Secure HIPAA Applications with Alpha Five V11

As Alpha Five v11 is getting deployed more and more widely by 
businesses and organizations of all sizes, we have been getting a lot 
of questions about building HIPAA compliant health care applications.

So we asked Jerry Brightbill from Alpha Software who has 
built  large HIPAA compliant applications in hospital settings
using Alpha Five Version 11 to share his thoughts.

The HIPAA regulations have many requirements.  My suggestion is to
contact a security expert who is familiar with the HIPAA regulations
to get a profession interpretation of the requirements.  Some of the
requirements are fairly clear cut, while others are open to judgment.
There are a couple gray areas that different analysts may give
different suggestions.  An expert in that field can also assist in
developing a strategy for documentation and rules on using the final
product.

The biggest impact of the regulations will be in the design of the
systems, data structures, and layouts.  The need to limit access and
track the access will drive the basic system and database design,
regardless of the programming tool used to actually construct the
project.  For example, you may not want to show any PHI (personal
health information) in any lists, but only show such data in a single
record view, such as a grid detail view or a single record page.  A
single record view is easier to restrict for access and makes saving
log information for capturing who viewed the data and who edited the
data much easier. In most cases, list views are used just for viewing
and selecting purposes, not for editing.  The requirements make
searching for records challenging as well, as often PHI data is used
for searches.  The developer and end user must decide what search
criteria is required and how it can be limited if needed. If you
examine existing solutions, you will find many incorprate similar
structures and design elements as many developers have reached simliar
conclusions about how to organize the data.

Some of the requirements are fairly clear cut, such as a need to
encrypt data and restrict physical access to the data servers.  Most
solutions use some type of SQL database engine such as MS SQL Server
as they include many inherent security features.  The Alpha Five
native dbf table construction also provides encryption methods, but is
an older data format and doesn't provide security as granular as a SQL
based system. Alpha Five includes very robust methods to connect to a
SQL based data structure and we have done extensive project work with
such structures.

Alpha Five provides a number of tools to assist a developer in meeting
the requirements such as a sophisticated web security system that is
built into the server technology.  The web security system can limit
access to various elements by user role, which is a very critical
element in the regulations.  The web security can limit access to
whole pages, individual fields on a grid or form, and the ability to
insert, update, or delete records.  The security is applied in the
server for every file request and therefore is very secure.  For
example, by default all pages and files are not allowed unless
specifically set as always allowed or requiring login.  If they
require login, only members of assigned security groups will get the
file back from a request.  The security is even applied to every
image, css, and JavaScript file.  Alpha Five Version 10 introduced
security at the component level and now every Ajax call to the server
is checked against the security settings as well.

When the security system restricts access to a field in a grid, the
field is not simply hidden, it is completely removed from the server
response and therefore the data never reaches the client computer.
This allows using a single construction for multiple user roles as
needed and access can be limited by role.  The system includes a built
in method to identify the current logged in user, as well as various
processes to get additional information about the user.  This can be
used to filter data based on the current user with relatively simple
coding.

The Alpha Five grid construction includes a number of server side
events that make tracking changes to data relatively easy to track.
For example, when a record is updated, a system server side event
includes which fields were updated, as well as the data before and
after update.  This data can then be saved into some log file to
record the action.  Some developers using SQL server and similar SQL
backends will use code in the actual database to record editing
actions instead of using the Alpha Five features.

The Alpha Five events also make it possible to capture which data is
being presented to the user for viewing.  Most experts will conclude
you must track who views PHI data and what data they have viewed.
Code can be added to the events to meet this requirement.

Alpha Software has also done considerable work with a third-party
company that specializes in very secure data storage.  They provide a
lock box type system where sensitive data isn't even stored in your
databases.  Instead, they are stored in their very secure servers with
only cryptic security keys to identify the data.  Your local database
only stores a special key value in the secured fields, no actual data.
 When an operation requires the secured data for some need, the key
(and other information) can be used to recover the data stored in
their servers as required.  The lock box system is very secure and
transparent to the end user.

The success of such a project hinges on good basic design and the
right tool to implement the solution. I think you will find that Alpha
Five is a very effective tool to built to the design requirements of a
secure system.

Jerry Brightbill
jerry@alphasoftware.com 

A business owner with dreams gets her wish with Alpha Five Version 11


Wendy Welton  a professional architect had a dream and she decided she wanted to take advantage of the web to market her home plans.

She tried some alternatives first but found the solution in Alpha Five Version 11 because of the combination of usability, power and productivity.

We saw her comment on the Linked in group for Alpha Five and thought it captured the essence of Alpha Five in a uniquely clear way and decided we wanted to share it with you here on our blog

"and I'm not a professional developer - just an business owner with
dreams."

Here are some links from Wendy's new data-driven site built in Alpha Five v11

This site uses the Alpha Five v11 "Power Search for Grids in Dialog Components Feature Pack"
(The feature pack allows you to create a Power Search module to find
and filter records in a grid that has been embedded into your Version
11 dialog components.) http://afhp.alpha5host.com/Search.a5w

And - here's another link
http://afhp.alpha5host.com/HomeownersGuide.a5w. If you click on any of
the options on the left, it will send you to the Search page and
prefill the appropriate check mark.

And she  also used the new Image Gallery feature
http://afhp.alpha5host.com/Galleries.a5w.


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