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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Friday, July 20, 2012

What does the Titanic and icebergs have to do with the market expansion being caused by Tablets?

As you may know, the very talented team of developers at  Alpha has been burning the midnight oil in order to bring a truly exciting platform to the market for rapidly building cross-platform data-driven mobile apps based on the Alpha Five foundation.

As you might expect, we are talking to customers and analysts continously to better understand the needs of customers, and we read a lot on the topic.

It was then with a certain element of surprise that we came across an article comparing the tablet to the Titanic that went beyond statistics and dry MBA-speak and in very clear and compelling terms summed up why the tablet is so important; important not really as a replacement of the desktop/laptop, but rather as an instrument of market expansion!



"Most tech pundits are confused about the Tablet computer. They compare the abilities of the PC (traditional notebook and desktop computers) to those of the Tablet and find the Tablet wanting. They can’t understand how the Tablet can be so dog gone popular when it makes for such a terrible PC.

"What they don’t understand is that the tablet isn’t trying to be a PC (unless it’s the Microsoft Surface). Tablet sales are exploding because the Tablet is competing against…nothing. The Tablet is going where the PC is weak and where the PC is absent. There’s virtually nothing standing in the tablet’s way."
The author does a great job in explaining his theory of why the tablet is truly a game changer and I think it will give you some ideas for applications you might want to build. These are truly exciting times to be in the application development business!

I hope you enjoy reading the article.

Friday, July 13, 2012

How to write a charting application from a Web service

Alpha Software used to position its products as database application development tools. The way our Ajax Grid and Report engine are designed, that was largely true: you couldn't get much built unless you had a database, be it SQL or DBF.


That's no longer the case, however. In the two videos we're going to discuss, Selwyn Rabins shows you how to build a stock charting application that uses a REST Web service call to Yahoo! Stocks to populate a high-low-close chart, without sending the data by way of a local database. Now, it's not that there's any dearth of Stock Charting applications in the world, but think about it: a high-low-close chart (or any other form of time-series chart) is also useful for other data that varies with time, be it daily factory production yield ranges or minute-by-minute patient blood pressure range readings in a hospital setting.

Selwyn starts this video by demonstrating the application, and then lifts the covers to show you how it was done. It is best viewed full-screen.


The key code discussed above is:

dim url as c = "http://ichart.finance.yahoo.com/table.csv?a="+month+"&b="+dayNumber+"&c="+year+"&s="+ticker
dim data as c = http_get_page2(url)

'data returned by yahoo is chr(10) delimited, not crlf delimited!
'data is returned with newest data on top. we want oldest data on top, so sort the data.
data = word(data,2,chr(10),999999)
data = strtran(data,",","|")
data = sortsubstr(data,chr(10),"A")

Basically, all we have to do is to construct the correct URI for the stock we want, get the page associated with that URI, and massage the data a little so that it is in the correct format for the chart.

In the second half of the video, Selwyn debugs through the call and lets you see the data, then shows you how the ticker name is retrieved from the drop-down and put into the chart to implement the dynamic title.


How cool is that?


You can download the component used for this application from here. Once you have it, copy it into an Alpha Five v11 web project and modify it to your heart's content.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ALPHA SOFTWARE DELIVERS SIGNIFICANT UPDATES TO ALPHA FIVE V11

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:
Cathy Caplener
Be Cause PR
1-310-428-7476
cathy@becausepr.com

Alpha Software Contact:
Richard Rabins
Richard@AlphaSoftware.com

ALPHA SOFTWARE DELIVERS SIGNIFICANT UPDATES TO ALPHA FIVE V11

Developers can now integrate sophisticated charts, graphs, analytics, and dashboards
into data-driven business applications

BURLINGTON, Mass. - July 11, 2012 -  Alpha Software, a leading innovator in development tools and platforms to create data-driven business web applications, today delivered a substantial update to its award-winning Alpha Five v11 development platform.  Developers can now integrate a wide array of sophisticated charts, graphs and analytics into business applications quickly and easily. The comprehensive dashboards that can now easily be built into Alpha Five v11 applications empower managers to summarize critical data trends, improving management decisions and the bottom line.
  
Alpha Five v11 enables developers to create the many diverse web and mobile business applications that organizations require today, without blowing the budget. Developers can build these applications once and then run them on any PC, tablet or smartphone, which dramatically improves time-to-market and significantly reduces the costs of developing, deploying and maintaining the applications.

“Alpha Software’s top priority is to provide developers with a platform to build robust business applications with the web and mobile functionality that their users demand,” explains Richard Rabins, Co-Chairman and Co-CEO of Alpha Software.  “Today’s update to Alpha Five v11 significantly increases developer productivity and also helps customers enhance their decision-making ability with charts and graphs, powerful analytics and comprehensive dashboards in their applications.  With our latest update the developer is the champion who helps the company be more competitive and profitable.”

“The latest Alpha Five release contains industry-changing features that will increase developer productivity and creativity,” says Thomas Ritter, IT Director of the Newark Group, a leader in paperboard manufacturing for every industry with dozens of locations throughout the US, Canada, and Western Europe.  “The new Chart Control feature solves a major requirement in building modern applications by enabling the developer to produce graphical dashboards from their data.  The Documentation Viewer built directly into the development tool allows developers to access documentation regardless of whether they are connected to the Internet or not, which is a huge time saver.  And as always, the beauty of Alpha Five is that a novice user can produce applications without any coding, and at the same time a more experienced user can get under the hood to write any custom code they want. At this point in time I see no limit to what can be done with Alpha Five.”

ABOUT THE CHART CONTROL
The new Alpha Five Chart Control allows developers to base any of ten types of charts on any of seven types of data series and display the charts in a dialog using customizable 2-D and 3-D styles. The charts, chart styles, and data series can easily be defined using graphical builders, and can be enhanced and animated through interfaces to JavaScript and Xbasic. Multiple charts can be displayed in a single dialog to create dashboards. A series of 20 tutorial videos located at http://ow.ly/caxo2 demonstrates how developers can use the charts and data series, and a single web page at http://ow.ly/caxsm demonstrates 100 different sample charts.

PRODUCT AVAILABILITY INFORMATION
In addition to the charting, graphing, analytical and dashboarding capabilities mentioned above, there are other significant enhancements that are included in this major update to Alpha Five v11. For all of the details, go to http://ow.ly/caxF2 .

ABOUT ALPHA SOFTWARE
Alpha Software empowers developers to quickly create and modify robust, data-driven business applications that run on any PC, Tablet, or Smartphone quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively.  Its flagship and award-winning product, Alpha Five, is a rapid application development platform that enables developers to build and modify any business application once and run it anywhere.   The product increases developer productivity with a shorter learning curve providing companies with a shorter time to market product cycle.   Alpha Five is used by millions of user.  Alpha Software, founded in 1982, is privately held and is based in Burlington, MA.  For more information go to http://www.alphasoftware.com and http://blog.alphasoftware.com.

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Monday, July 09, 2012

Do we value our own data privacy?

by Jeff Kalwerisky, Vice President and Director of Information Security and Technical Training, CPE Interactive


Data privacy! Stolen credit card numbers! Lost social security numbers! Protect your personal information! Beware of online fraudsters and scammers! Nigerian 419 get-rich-quick schemes!

The list goes on and the warnings are becoming ubiquitous. We’ve all heard about the lost or stolen laptop containing unencrypted payroll, human resources, or medical information on dozens, hundreds, even thousands of innocent people. 

Yet it appears that that we don’t really value our own privacy. For most of us, this has become a case of information overload, resulting in a general attitude of “So what? Who could possibly be interested in my data?”  A recent research report found that a majority of people will give up sensitive data, such as email addresses, cell phone numbers, even their email passwords (!), in return for small rewards like candy bars or something “free”. How often have you been offered a “free” report or Webinar, in return for which you must fill out a screed of “required” personal data – all irrelevant to the ostensible reward? Despite Websites’ protestations that “We will never sell or share your data”, once you provide this useful contact information, be sure that targeted ads will soon be coming to your email and phone. 

You don't have to give up your information

The solution to these requests for your information is simple: don’t give it up so easily! If the phone number and address fields are “required”, just enter garbage. Remember that even a valid ZIP code may allow the marketing experts to track you down, so just type in any old ZIP code from any other state. [Ed: But don't enter garbage when the results matter to you: for example, don't enter a false email address if the vendor is going to use it to send you a download link, and don't make up a mailing address if it's legitimately needed for a shipment or to authenticate a credit card charge.]

And, of course, the amount of personal freely provided on social media sites like Facebook and Google+ is a treasure trove for criminals. Ominously, human resource departments have also climbed onto this particular bandwagon and are using social media data in making hiring and firing decisions. Some of them are even demanding that applicants provide their Facebook passwords, an egregious invasion of personal privacy.

Until now, the main threat to our privacy has seemed to be human stupidity (the lost laptop with unencrypted personal data), criminal activity (emails or Websites with malware designed to gain control of your computer), or our naïve offering up of our personal data. 

Big Data is a big threat

A recent disturbing event shows than there is an even bigger threat to our privacy: so-called Big Data. Big Data is the term du jour for massive databases accumulated by virtually every large company. As predicted ominously in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, Big Brother is indeed watching us. But it turns out that Big B isn’t from the government; instead he resides in otherwise benign companies with which we may do business. The data analysts in companies from Google and Amazon to your local supermarket and pharmacy chains have started to figure out how to use their databases to identify sensitive information about us merely from our normal purchasing and browsing activities. 

Targeted!

In an especially egregious example, recently Target – normally a trusted name – figured out how to identify which women customers were pregnant, without even talking to them. By computer crawling through masses of purchase data, they identified around 25 products that allowed each shopper to be assigned a “pregnancy prediction” score. They could also fairly closely estimate the woman’s due date and even the baby’s sex (e.g., blue booties)! This allowed Target generously to send the customer “targeted” coupons timed to specific stages of her pregnancy. 

The story broke when an angry man complained to Target in Minnesota that his high-school age daughter was receiving coupons from Target for maternity clothing, nursery furniture, baby clothes, etc.  It turned out that what the company knew but the father did not was correct. Still, this takes “customer service” to a new low. 

And Big Brother now knows more about you and your family than you may know yourself.  

Perhaps we should return to paying for retail purchases in good old-fashioned cash.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Innovation and manufacturing in America is alive and well




For the last decade or more there have been endless reports in the press about the decline of
manufacturing and innovation in America.

This has always bothered me since what brought me (and my brother Selwyn - who heads up the development team at Alpha) as a 22 year old student to Cambridge, MA and MIT in the first place was the the well deserved reputation of the USA for innovation, industriousness and manufacturing.

So with the July 4th holiday coming up, it was very gratifying  to see this blog post by my friend, columnist and tech industry watcher David Strom http://strom.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/henry-ford/

The spirit of innovation, research and discovery that David Strom describes are certainly alive and well at Alpha as we continue on our quest to make Alpha Five the leading product for the rapid creation of business apps for the web and mobile devices.

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