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Mike Yeager's Blog

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
VFP is certainly not dead yet.

Microsoft officially announced last night that there would be no Visual FoxPro 10. The product is being sunsetted. It reminds me a lot of when they announced the same thing for Windows NT. But like NT, VFP will not go away today or tomorrow. There are a LOT of VFP applications in the world. I'm surprised nearly every day to come across them. Some of these are BIG applications. Mission critical applications. Dozens of man-years invested. We're talking huge. I know a lot of organizations that still have those NT boxes running in the server room (Some of them now run as virtual machines on a big, bad, brand-new box).

I still work in VFP A LOT! On average, I spend several hours a day in the FoxPro IDE. I'm comfortable with Fox, I'm good at it and I expect to be working in Fox for at least a couple more years. There are a lot of mature, robust VFP apps out there getting the job done every single day. I maintain a few of them myself. I also spend part of my typical day creating tools to help people converting from VFP to .NET and part of my day working exclusively in .NET.

Do I think Microsoft is right? Not that they asked me for my opinion mind you <s>. Having worked with .Net since the first beta, I can tell you that in versions 1.0 and 1.1 I still missed Fox a LOT. In 2.0, I missed it sometimes. With 3.0's WPF and WCF I still miss some things. When LINQ arrives with the Orcas release, I'll be ready to let go. A lot of features developed for FoxPro have made their way into .NET. Many of the FoxPro Team at Microsoft have moved to the .NET teams over the past several years and taken some of the best ideas with them. In some ways, .NET is just now catching up with Fox (Language INtegrated Query? We had that in DBase!). In other ways, it is way ahead. Just looking at some of the new WPF interfaces blows me away. SQL Server has also grown up a lot. Back in version 6.5, I think you'd have been crazy to dump DBFs for SQL, but compared against even the FREE version of SQL Server 2005, DBFs have lost a lot of their appeal. VFP still has some advantages over .NET. Two years ago, I could name a dozen very big advantages. Today, I can only name a couple and from the previews I've seen, those will disappear soon too.

Fox is a great tool and I expect to be working with it for the forseeable future. Am I going to start a new project in Fox? No. Am I going to uninstall Fox from my machine? No. I have versions 6, 7, 8 and 9 loaded along with dozens of projects on my disk and in source control. Some of these apps will live a long time in Fox, others will be converted to C# or VB, others will be retired - eventually.


Posted @ 9:02 AM by Yeager, Mike E. (myeager@eps-software.com) - Comments (9)

Monday, March 05, 2007
A good day at the rink

My son's mite hockey team won their playoff game on Saturday and got to go to the championship game on Sunday. It was an odd scene because the rink is in the middle of a shopping mall on the west side of Houston! The facility was very nice and the ice was good. The kids were stoked. My son's team was playing against the leading team in the league and they hadn't lost a game all season. The closest they got to losing was a tie. Our team had improved steadily all year and was ranked 3rd. The kids played their hearts out in a nail-biter! There was one bad call against our team when the refs didn't see the puck hit the back of the opposing team's net and called no goal. We were down an goal at that point and really needed that score. Several minutes later, the refs made a similar call in our favor - that evened things out at least!

With about 2 minutes to go one of my son's teammates scored the go-ahead goal and the last two minutes contained some intense hockey. In the end our team won by a goal. It was interesting talking with some of the parents cheering for their kids. Emotion ran high and there were a lot of parents yelling for thier kids to do this or that - backseat coaching! Later, after the game they announced that there would be a family skate the following week at the same time as our practices had been. A chance for the kids and the parents to just come out and skate together. I was talking with some of the parents and was surprised how few of them were planning on coming! It seems that the more vocal the parent, the less likely they were to get out and do it themselves. After all of the coaching, it turned out that most of them didn't even skate. These were the same parents yelling, "forecheck! forecheck! how many times have we been over this?" <G>

I see this a lot in kids sports and I see it a lot in the professional world. One of my goals as a parent and as a professional is to avoid that kind of behavior in myself. I'm not always successful, but I'm working hard on it. As a professinal coder, it's easy to look at someone else's work and criticize it. We often forget our own code written many years ago in another place and time. We often forget that if the programmer who wrote this piece of code years ago had known what we know today, that they probably would have done it differently. When I started writing code there was no such thing as n-tiered applications. There was no such thing as object oriented programming. We grow and learn. I shudder to think what someone ten years from now will say about the code I'm writing today. I wonder what the next paradigm will be. I can't wait until I look back and shake my head dismissively and mutter, "what were we thinking?".

Software development changes daily. Usually those changes are good. Sometimes the changes come so fast that it feels like you're drinking from a firehose. Sometimes, we just wish it would stop for a while! We all get to yell our opinions from the back seat. I'm OK with that. Dialog is how we learn. What I have a problem with is yelling from the back seat without being a driver yourself. There is a phrase, "contempt without investigation" that I just love because it describes so well what I hear from developers all the time when new ideas come up. "That's stupid, why in my language we can do that with X". I'm OK with being proud of what you know, but until you take the new method for a spin - really look at it from another viewpoint, I'm not going to pay too much attention to you. To me, you're a lot like that parent who's never skated yelling, "forecheck!". Unless we're a little more willing to look at those things we don't understand, it's going to take us a long. long time to get to that next paradigm. Bill Gates is widely credited with bringing the phrase, "good artists borrow, great artists steal" to the software industry. I've never thought of Mr. Gates as the greatest visionary of our time. In my opinion, he's a guy who's smart enough to take advantage of the ideas that are already out there and to apply them without hindering himself with the details of where they came from! He's done pretty well with that! To me, he's the guy who watches the game and then gets out on the ice himself and applies what he saw for his own team.

See you at the rink,
PS My adult team won our game later that evening - and I'm proud to say that my forechecking was very good for a change <s>. All I told my son was that I was very proud of him.


Posted @ 9:38 AM by Yeager, Mike E. (myeager@eps-software.com) - Comments (15)

Friday, March 02, 2007
You're kidding! - A shortage of Visual FoxPro programmers?


Every business is cyclical in one some way. Our company has a special expertise in helping other companies move from Visual foxPro to .Net. In the last few months there has been another big surge in this part of our business. Suddenly, (again) huge conversion projects are starting up all at once. We're in another cycle and oddly enough, the cycles seem to keep getting bigger instead of smaller.

I believe ours is the only company in the world with 2 MVPs in BOTH VFP and .Net. Our professional relationships allow us to double that number if the demand calls for it. That's not even counting the rest of us, many of whom have certifications in VFP, SQL Server and/or .Net and have extensive experience with these platforms. We get a lot of calls asking us to help out on a conversion project, to do training, to provide tools or to actually do the conversion and in most cases we're asked if we can recommend prospective employees who are familiar with VFP, SQL Server and .Net. You wouldn't think that would be a tough question. After all, just about every VFP programmer I ever knew had SQL Server experience and most of them have started working in .Net. So where are all of those people? Working!

The pool of available people with this unique blend of skills is surprisingly small and with very few new developers getting into VFP the pool is steadily shrinking, but the sheer number of mature, stable mission-critical VFP apps still out there in the world continues to amaze me. This has caused an unexpected shortage of workers with a select skill set and that acually seems to be driving up prices. It reminds me of Y2K when COBOL programmers were suddenly coming out of retirement because the job offers were just too good to pass up. For the next few years at least, it looks as if .Net developers with a VFP background will actually be in demand. We all know that the "good" people with these skills are going to be even harder to find.


Posted @ 9:42 AM by Yeager, Mike E. (myeager@eps-software.com) - Comments (26)

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