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January 2011 Servoy Newsletter for VFP Developers from Ken Levy

Ken Levy is the president and founder of MashupX, LLC based in Kirkland, WA, specializing in consulting for software development, multimedia content, community strategies, and technical marketing. Formally the product manager for Visual FoxPro at Microsoft, Ken is now a Servoy Alliance Member (SAN-Developer) and contributor to the servoy.com/foxpro webpage. You can follow Ken on Twitter at @KenLevy.


Webinar: Tuesday, January 25 at 11am PT/2pm ET/ 8 PM European mainland
Register here (free)


I will be presenting an all-new free webinar presentation on Servoy, focusing on working with data in Servoy from a VFP developer perspective.

This demo-centric webinar will include a detailed overview with example demos of the DatabaseManager, Foundset, and other Servoy objects used in databinding and data manipulation. Form data source with control databinding will also be included, various ways to connect to existing VFP data including a preview of the upcoming enhanced DBF driver, and using Sybase Advantage Database Server connected to DBFs. Also included in the data-centric demos will include calculated and aggregated fields as well as table relations.

Click here to register to join me in this webinar showing how Servoy can be used to access, bind, and manipulate data as a first class citizen in Servoy similar to how FoxPro developers are use to and enjoy in VFP.


Last Fall Newsletter Redux

In case you missed it, I previously posted a August 2010 newsletter which contains a bit of history in how I got started with Servoy a year ago plus news and activities from this past summer.


Servoy is the Logical Evolution for Visual FoxPro

Below is a quote I created for for the http://servoy.com/foxpro landing page which summarizes the messaging and enthusiasm I've been sharing with VFP developers about Servoy:

"Servoy is the ideal dynamic and data-centric development platform for Visual FoxPro developers. Beyond a great platform to evolve Visual FoxPro applications, Servoy also offers cross-platform (Windows, Mac, and Linux) for development and runtime, cloud computing scenarios, and cross browser with mobile web development. Servoy is the logical evolution for FoxPro applications and VFP developers into the next decade." - Ken Levy, former Microsoft Visual FoxPro product manager


Servoy Event Tour from October/November 2010

Last month I was in Europe for about 11 days which included a one day workshop I presented to VFP developers in Paris, associated with the http://atoutfox.org/ user group in France. I also presented several sessions on Servoy at the VFP DevCon conference in Frankfurt, as did J¸rgen Wondzinski, aka "wOOdy". Almost a decade ago, when I took over as product manager for VFP at Microsoft, I created something called the Lifetime Achievement Award for select VFP developers. The VFP community has continued this tradition since I left Microsoft and since VFP support as ended, and wOOdy was one of the people recently honored with that award from the community.

When I presented a Servoy workshop in Zurich last July, wOOdy attended that event. And soon after he decided to take the path of becoming a Servoy developer including community activities educating VFP developers in Germany and other parts of Europe about the technical aspects of Servoy from a VFP perspective. In October, wOOdy spoke to about 100 VFP developers at VFP user groups in Hamburg, Cologne, Stuttgart, and Salzburg. He and I spoke to over 60 people in our Servoy sessions in Frankfurt at DevCon, about half of all conference attendees. He and I talked to several VFP developers who attended the conference specifically to learn more about Servoy. wOOdy and I presented an evening bonus session that went over three hours non-stop with about 35 attendees, all of who stayed until the end and each had a cold beer courtesy of the folks from Servoy. I think it's the first session I've been in over the past 20 years that included everyone drinking beer during the presentation. The interest in Servoy among VFP developers has increased significantly this year, and next year is lining up to have many more VFP developers added to the Servoy community.


Servoy Elevator Pitch for VFP Developers

Servoy was a sponsor and exhibitor vendor at both the SWFox conference in Phoenix this past October and at the VFP DevCon in Frankfurt last month. From the conferences, there was a flyer handed out in the Servoy exhibitor booth about my sessions on Servoy which included a brief Servoy overview which I help create, specially for VFP developers brand new to Servoy. This text below which may be useful and of interest to those reading and haven't read or seen much about Servoy already:

Servoy is a development and deployment platform based on a powerful data-centric application server combined with a productive open source developer tool. Servoy's professional development and deployment environment has been proven to be the fastest and easiest way to build rich business applications deployed both locally and on the Internet. Visual FoxPro developers appreciate Servoy's dynamic programming features and rich data model functionality. Servoy Community Edition includes a free copy of Servoy Developer, the Servoy Application Server, and 5 free concurrent client licenses. A free JDBC DBF driver is available for using Servoy with Visual FoxPro DBFs. Visual FoxPro developers who have learned to develop with Servoy have found it easy and beneficial, with a growing number of VFP developers learning and adopting Servoy.

"I'm quite pleased with the progress we've made, considering I had no experience in web development. One of the best features is that you can develop a sophisticated application that looks like a desktop app, with multiple independent windows, and all kinds of nice interface features, and still run it in a web browser. It does some nice things with data handling and concurrency, and data broadcasting that automatically refreshes displayed data that has been changed, something that has never been available in VFP." - Mike Sedita, MS Health Software Corp.


Demos with the Servoy Development Team

The week after the Frankfurt DevCon, I presented another all-day Servoy workshop to VFP developers, this time in Amersfoort in the Netherlands, which is the same town that the Servoy BV headquarters and development team is located. The day before that workshop, I spent a couple of hours with the key Servoy developer team members receiving private (NDA, non-disclosure) demos on that significant and cool new features coming in the next version of Servoy (version 6). I then spent the rest of that day showing various VFP features to Servoy for their consideration to possibly add to future versions of Servoy, including visual class inheritance (beyond visual form inheritance already supported by Servoy), VFP's OOP model, Class Browser, VFP's implementation of anchoring compared to Servoy's, grid control, command window, and many more areas of designers and programming.

One feature in VFP that I had previously shown the Servoy dev team is the ability in VFP to save a runtime form to design mode using the form .SaveAs method. I have already received confirmation from Servoy that this feature will be included in Servoy 6, which is great for productivity tools, conversion tools, and other special scenarios. There are many other areas of VFP being considered for future features in Servoy, which I'll talk about more in 2011 as details are able to be made public.


dSUG - Forum of the German Servoy User Group

There is a new online user group site recently created in Germany, partly based on the outcome and interest in Servoy from wOOdy's user group tour there this past October. Here is the German language text from the website which I translated using translate.google.com: This German-language forum is purely private in nature and is not supported by Servoy BV operated. The official English-language forum, visit the Servoy http://forum.servoy.com.


Java-4-Ever (Java vs. .NET movie trailer)

This fake movie trailer on .NET vs. Java video on YouTube. Itís a Norwegian video with English narration and subtitles. I've shown it in every Servoy workshop I've presented as well as sessions I've done at various VFP user groups and conferences (over a dozen this year). The video always goes over well, and I often get asked to provide a link to it.


Visual FoxPro Strategy at Microsoft

This is a link to a blog post of mine from a few weeks ago where I go into detail on the history of Microsoft buying Fox Software in 1992, with some insights into how Microsoft evolved VFP, the path to the end of evolution of VFP, and a summary of the state of VFP today. This is a topic I've spent some time on in various Servoy workshops I've presented, since it addresses various questions I often receive on topics such as: VFP 9.0 support which ended January 2010, the possibility of Microsoft making the core VFP code base open source, why Microsoft didn't evolve VFP longer, etc. Often the state of VFP is questioned more by decision makers and marketing managers than it is by VFP developers.


CodeCast Episode on Servoy Development

This is a link to a recent episode of CodeCast on the topic of Servoy development. This link takes you to another page on servoy.com where you can directly download the MP3 for this podcast episode. You can also go directly to the CodeCast #91 page to download or play on demand within the page or subscribe to the show via RSS. I've been the co-host as well the editor/producer of the CodeCast podcast (associated with CODE Magazine) since it started just over two years ago, with episode #100 to be online within a week. I recently had the opportunity to interview and discuss Servoy with Sean Devlin, a Senior Technical Engineer at Servoy.

This podcast discussion covers the architecture and product suite offered by Servoy to deploy solutions towards users either as a zero-deployment, native smart client, or a browser-based web client. Servoy applications can be deployed either on premise, hosted or in the Cloud, or as a service (SaaS). While Servoy is Java based, most programming is done via JavaScript with Java programming optional as needed or preferred. Servoy client forms and web forms run from the same UI/code base and all logic executes on the server. This podcast discussion covers the architecture and product suite offered by Servoy to deploy solutions towards users either as a zero-deployment, native smart client, or a browser-based web client.


FmPro Migrator ñ Visual FoxPro to Servoy Conversion

.com Solutions Inc. has recently announced an new version of  their FmPro Migrator product and service that now includes automated migration functionality for Visual FoxPro to Servoy, including forms layout and other features. I've been consulting with .com Solutions on the development of their product to add support for VFP, which significantly saves developers and business time in converting forms/controls layout and other parts of VFP apps to Servoy. It can also assist in helping webify an existing VFP app for Servoy, when a web form is needed based on one or more existing VFP forms. FmPro Migrator is an optional product and service for those companies who need to save time and money to help migrate various parts of a VFP application to Servoy or take existing forms to create web forms in Servoy. Having a product and service like FmPro Migrator exist also helps send a good message to companies with VFP applications who are interested in Servoy, so they know that optional conversion and migration tools do exist and are evolving.

There will be a formal announcement about FmPro Migrator with additional details from .com Solutions coming in early January, and I will discuss this topic in more depth in next month's newsletter. Until then, below is a list of feature highlights on FmPro Migrator for VFP currently listed on the http://fmpromigrator.com/foxpro web page, with additional details listed on that page.

ï Fixed-price service, keeps your Visual FoxPro migration project affordable.
ï Quickly and economically test 5 different development environments - including for Apple iPhone/iPad.
ï Automated conversion of Visual FoxPro Forms/Reports to multiple development tools.
ï Copies .prg file FUNCTION/PROCEDURE code as commented code.
ï Data bound fields and grid controls are converted into equivalent SQL database data bound controls.
ï Persistent Visual FoxPro relations are converted into SQL database relationships (if needed).
ï Custom ComboBox lists are de-duped and centrally located as Value Lists.
ï Transfer data from locally stored DBF files into 11 SQL databases.
ï Converts pageframe form controls into Tab Controls including embedded objects.
ï Saves many hours of manual work converting each Form/Report.


Servoy University (ServoyU)

If you're interesting learning Servoy quickly or become more advanced from what you already know, the 3rd party Servoy University, or ServoyU for short, is an online portal providing Servoy training videos and certification. ServoyU has gathered all the existing videos and put them all nicely together in one spot and versioned and tagged for convenience. ServoyU is created and hosted by former key Servoy employees Scott Butler and Bob Cusick. ServoyU also includes a new optional certification program/exam. More information is available at http://servoyuniversity.com, which is a website that is built on the Servoy platform.


Servoy Alliance Network (SAN)

The Servoy Alliance Network (SAN), with details at the link above, is a great program for developers and businesses to work closer with Servoy and benefit from being a more formal member of the Servoy ecosystem. J¸rgen Wondzinski recently had is company wOOdy-Soft added to the SAN Developer program. My company MashupX, LLC is now a member of SAN. Iíve started helping companies with VFP developers and applications evaluate, prototype, adopt, and get started using Servoy for both adding web applications to existing VFP applications and migrating VFP solutions to Servoy.


Servoy Pricing

Recently I read a tweet posted by J.D. Mullin (@jdmullin), who is the development manager at Sybase for Advantage Database Servoy (http://sybase.com/foxpro), in which he said: "Remembering today the old tidbit that Linux is only free if your time has no value. ;)". This is a meaningful comment relative to the cost of software licenses (or free software/runtimes) compared the cost of development, testing, and deployment of an application.

As an independent developer and consultant, I don't work for nor represent Servoy. And while I don't focus on technical aspects of Servoy rather than marketing/sales, I am frequently asked by VFP developers about Servoy's licensing model since it does not include a free runtime like VFP. Often when developers and business managers review pricing for developer tools, they don't include the cost of time of learning and development involved beyond just the software licensing. Servoy is not just a stand-alone developer tool/IDE, it's also a full application server. Products like Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange Server, Sybase Advantage Database Server, etc. all have runtime licenses either based on users or processors/servers. So Servoy has to be thought of as a platform, an active running server. There is a great deal of functionality that is included in the active application server that does not need to be coded in the custom application created, and the application server is evolving with many new features on a regular basis - thus evolving the applications based on the Servoy platform.

Servoy's application server is an active running platform which provides a great deal of functionality that reduces the time and cost of creating and evolving/enhancing a database application. Businesses generally save a fair amount of cost overall with Servoy, with the total cost of licensing being less than it would cost to develop with .NET or create from scratch on the Java platform or other. The Servoy platform (IDE developer tools and application server) evolves in a regular basis, much faster than Visual Studio and previous versions of VFP, and all new versions are free (no upgrade costs for new versions).

Servoy says they recognize that Servoy's widespread adoption can be widely attributed to it's out-of-the-box productivity and features, built-in SaaS support and frameworks, and hybrid deployment capability from a single code-base. They have also recently said they realize that their enterprise pricing for the Web Client has prevented some of their customers from using Servoy for smaller projects. Therefore, Servoy recently decided to change the pricing for their Web Client significantly, detailed at http://servoy.com/pricing. Servoy also comments that they are confident that this change will be very appealing to both prospective and current Servoy clients. The number of organizations using Servoy technology to create standards-based applications continues to grow rapidly each year, and this new lower pricing is expected to greatly accelerate that trend, which also helps the Servoy development community and overall ecosystem.


Servoy 5.2 Documentation

If you've downloaded Servoy already or just want to browse through the online developer documentation, this link is for is the home (top node) reference point for Servoy version 5.2x, the latest version at as of this newsletter.


ServoyWorld

While the ServoyWorld conference the first week of February in Amsterdam is the 6th international Servoy conference for developers and ISVs, it will be my first one to attend, and I will also be a speaker along with J¸rgen "wOOdy" Wondzinski. This Servoy conference is expected to be the biggest and best one ever, as the momentum and growth of Servoy and the developer community has grown significantly since their last conference. I'll be posting more details next month about my involvement at the conference and activities of interest to VFP developers who are attending. wOOdy will be presenting a general introduction to Servoy session, while he and I will have fun presenting a special session together for VFP developers, described below. I already know of a fair amount of VFP developers who plan to attend, so it should be a fun and educational event, not only for the sessions but the business and social networking in person as well.

FoxPro Night at ServoyWorld ñ Ken Levy and J¸rgen Wondzinski
Session with more of a technical focus for developers, mostly demos and less slides, for VFP developers and ISVs interested in understanding more deeply how various VFP type features and programming is done in Servoy, as well as powerful Servoy features that are not native to VFP. Demos include how Servoy can use VFP based DLLs to exchange data, key to Servoy+VFP integration. Goal is to have developers receive a detailed tour of the Servoy IDE and object framework, especially from a data-centric and form designing perspective, and have questions answered removing any fear or confusion they have in order to have them move forward in learning and developing with Servoy. This is somewhat of a part two session from the intro session above, but the intro session is not required and may not be needed for those already familiar with Servoy, seen webinars, or are already starting with Servoy. Additional details can be found on the FoxPro Night agenda page.

Below is a partial list of topics included at the ServoyWorld conference (from the ServoyWorld sessions schedule web page), including details in the upcoming major new version 6 release:

ï Servoy 6: What's new?
ï Servoy Forge - Servoy Open Source projects
ï What it takes to do SaaS
ï Unit Testing -- You know that Servoy supports it, but what is it exactly?
ï Developing for Mobile & Tablets
ï Coding for performance
ï Servoy Commons FrameWorks
ï SutraCMS, open source CMS system built in Servoy
ï Agile development & Servoy
ï UI Design
ï PostgreSQL
ï Document management in Servoy
ï Web Services & How to create an API
ï Developing for portability
ï And more!


Servoy Screencasts for VFP Developers

You can view (or download offline, MP4 format, usually 1024x768) various screencast demos I've created and posted on the Servoy hosted at http://screencast.com/users/Servoy/folders/Servoy-KenLevy. There will be a series of new screencasts posted on a regular basis over the next month. You can also subscribe to the screencasts series via the RSS or iTunes feeds.


servoy.com/foxpro

There has been various updates throughout the servoy.com/foxpro page recently, so if you haven't visited that part of the servoy.com website recently, you may want to visit and scan the page to know what links and information is there. The primary sections of that page that will change frequently is the upper sections on news, announcements, and resources for VFP developers. When new content is posted there I will tweet about at @KenLevy. I will also be posting about Servoy, like technical examples and tips, news, community, etc. on my blog at http://mashupx.com/blog, then summarize some posts with links in my upcoming newsletters here. If you have questions about Servoy as a VFP developer or a company who has an existing VFP application, feel free to contact me (my email address is on my mashupx.com website), contact Servoy, or post a message http://forum.servoy.com.

The next two months will include a great deal of activity at events and online by me and others about Servoy. Within the next month there will be new technical content online about Servoy for VFP developers, and my newsletter next month will summarize those details and other news. I will also go into more details about the plans at ServoyWorld of interest to VFP developers. Another area I will talk about is the http://servoyforge.net highlighting various extensibility components for the Servoy ecosystem, most of which are free. In February I plan to post a detailed newsletter after ServoyWorld summarizing the big announcements there and the various VFP developer community activity from the event. If you plan to attend ServoyWorld in Amsterdam, feel free to let me know in advance of the event and say hello in person during the conference.

With a growing number of VFP developers adopting and using Servoy, it should be interesting in year in 2011 to see how more developers in the VFP community join the Servoy developer community and events. Plus, I expect to see more features taken directly from VFP that are added to upcoming versions Servoy. Myself and others from the VFP community who are now developing with Servoy will continue to offer new technical content, tools, training, expertise, and community participation specifically for VFP developers who are evaluating, adopting, learning, and using Servoy.


To follow news and announcements from Servoy, refer to @Servoy on Twitter and the blog at http://blog.servoy.com.

For additional information and registration links for any of the Servoy events and webinars mentioned above, visit http://servoy.com/events.

For additional information and resources about Servoy for Visual FoxPro developers, visit the FoxPro developer page at http://servoy.com/foxpro.

Ken Levy
http://twitter.com/KenLevy