Tuesday, September 07, 1999


Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

Whoa - I can't believe how fast time flies! It's been five months since my last column... For those of you who read this column (bless you all!), I sincerely apologize for the long delay in getting "back into the swing" of things.

A lot has happened in the past few months:

  • ClickWare merged with Stratisoft

  • I've been shuttling back and forth between the Stratisoft headquarters in London

  • I've been busy honing my skills with Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, ASP (Active Server Pages), IIS (Microsoft Internet Information Server), ColdFusion, Lasso 3.5... well, you get the picture.

Besides all of the great technology stuff I've been working with - I've had the pleasure of meeting tons of new FileMaker developers all around the world. It's extremely exciting to meet people from Holland, Australia, England, France, Sweden, South Africa, etc. and talk about the ins-and-outs of FileMaker. It's amazing that everyone I've spoken to has the same problems/workarounds and basically the same feature requests: faster, better, and SOON! More on that subject in a moment...

Also, I had the opportunity to speak at this year's FileMaker Developer's Conference in San Diego. I believe the official attendance was around 1,500 people (almost DOUBLE last year's attendance)! It was a truly amazing sight. Wall-to-wall FileMaker enthusiasts from every walk of life. I personally spoke to policemen, firemen, school teachers, state government officials, in-house corporate developers, well-known FMP developers, new FSA members all gathered in one place - AWESOME.

I spoke on several subjects - Beginning Web, Intermediate Web, and "16 FileMaker Pro Secrets You've Just Gotta' Have" (co-lead with famous and fabulous Marc Norman of Prefix). We had near standing room only crowds for all the sessions - and I HOPE everyone who attended any of the sessions learned something new and/or cool.

In addition to the conference sessions, I also co-taught a Stratisoft post-conference training session on ODBC with the Jan Aleman (better known as Taff) of PDM the makers of the ODBC Plug-In for FileMaker. After resolving some initial technical snafus - the class went well. I even learned something from Jan about the ODBC plug-in that I didn't know before! In the class we learned all about the plug-in technology; ODBC and how it works; and we even built a fully-functional, cross-platform user interface in FileMaker that searched, added, updated and deleted data in a SQL Server 7.0 database running on a NT machine. Cool stuff!

Enough about me. The absolute highlight of the show for me was when FMI demonstrated the new 5.0 version. Unlike other NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) sessions that were held in the past, FMI really delivered the goods in regards to 5.0. They showed the new Web Companion and all the groovy technology that it supported, as well as the new features of the 5.0 application, they even showed (via video) the new FileMaker Pro 5.0 Server. Now, since that entire session was under non-disclosure, I can't really go into heavy details about what was said - but if you read the rumors floating about on Mac The Knife or you were lucky enough to catch the stuff posted on the Apple Insider before it got pulled... all I can say that there was that and more.

On a different note, for those "propeller heads" (techno-geeks) out there - I find the new technologies supported by IE 5.0 (especially on the Windows platform and coming "in fall" to Mac OS) especially interesting. The new buzz is XML and if I were interested in using some cutting edge technologies - I'd run out an get a book on XML. Although only IE 5.0 on Windows (at the time of this writing) supports a XML parser on the client, there are ways to use XML with IIS and ASP to deliver HTML out to any browser. Since FileMaker 5.0 will support being a ODBC datasource (see the public beta of the new FMP ODBC drivers at: http://www.filemaker.com/products/odbc/preview.html) I predict that we'll all be seeing many more uses for XML in the days and months to come... so you might want to start learning about it SOON.

Tuesday, April 06, 1999

Thunder Down Under

Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

G'day mates! I just got back from a trip to the land "down under", and let me tell you - there are some extremely excited FileMaker folks there.

Before I get to the details - let me apologize for the length of time that has elapsed since my last column. Between my newly minted Oracle skills and a whirlwind travel schedule, I allowed outside distractions (like keeping the lights on!) distract me from updating this homespun rant. I pledge to keep the updates coming on a more timely schedule in the future.

As I was saying, my wife, Brenda, and I just completed a two week adventure to the lovely land down under. After an extremely trying plane trip (3 movies, 4 sitcoms, 2 meals, 3 snacks and 14 hours) we arrived (at MIDNIGHT) to find out that the hotel was not expecting us for another three days. In typical Aussie customer service-driven fashion they leaped tall building in a single bound to accommodate us. We were granted a room with a hot shower (a GOD SEND) and a comfortable bed (chocolate mints on the pillows).

After sleeping a whopping five hours, my wife and I awoke to the full moon splendor of Darling Harbour (yes, I know - but that's how THEY spell it!). We walked out of the plush hotel (Park Plaza) across the street to the newly remodeled harbor boardwalk for a preliminary look-see. We were greeted by over 150 young people exiting a nightclub (quite sober - drinking WATER) at 6:00am and we instantly fell in love with the beautiful, tranquil city of Sydney. We walked around for about an hour, then had an "interesting" breakfast at a local eatery. When we asked for coffee, we were assaulted (in a nice way) by the dozens of choices ("short black, tall black, short white, capuccino, capuccino with milk, etc., etc., etc.). Being the Aussie "newbie", I asked for "just plain coffee". I received a nice steaming mug of... well... mud. I mean this coffee could strip paint! Normally a black coffee drinker, I doused my beverage in fresh cream and sugar (in neato pixie-stick-like packaging), and even then I was bouncing off the walls.

Being the consummate "tourista" we proceeded to the Sydney opera house, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the trendy boutique neighborhood "The Rocks", finally settling at the FABULOUS bay side restaurant "The Oyster Bar." We enjoyed a Lobster Salad (I mean fresh-off-the-boat 1/2 a Lobster and some salad) with an exquisite bottle of Australian white wine, a beer, coffee and dessert (about $50US), returned to the hotel and crashed.

We were met my by our most gracious FMI representative (Steve McManus) at the airport at 6:15 am and were on the plane to Melbourne at 7:00am. We arrived in Melbourne and were whisked away via hired car (a taxi with no sign on top) to our hotel (the All Seasons Premier Grand Hotel). I put my bags down, and caught another taxi to a customer meeting (with our friends at "Customers for Life" in Cantebury). From there it was back to the hotel for a quick in-room rehearsal and then off to the Melbourne FSA meeting at yet another BEAUTIFUL hotel in downtown Melbourne (the Rockmans Regency Hotel).

WOW. What a meeting! Let me tell you - these FSA members were dressed for success. FMI provided pre dinner cocktails (VERY nice touch!) in the hotel lobby bar and the INCREDIBLE PR team from Kinetics Pty Ltd (THANK YOU Jody Lennon and Matina "don't call me Matilda" Mrakovcic) set up our computers and arranged all the last-minute details that combined to make the evening a terrific success. There were over 30 hard-core FMP developers in attendance and we all had a very nice time.

After the meeting it was back into a taxi, back to the hotel (around midnight), and up the next morning for two FileMaker Inc Conferences at the Melbourne Convention Center. As I awoke at 5:30am in preparation for a 7:00 am rehearsal, I was met in the lobby by the tireless Steve McManus as well as the ever-ready Aussie Webmaster Steve McDonnell. These guys were FRESH and READY to go. I mean, my gosh, you would think they had 10 hours sleep...

We did two seminars in Melbourne - one at 9:00am, and one at 2:00pm. I was only one tiny part of the team - there were four presenters in all. I talked about ODBC connectivity (using my G3 PowerBook I imported data from an Oracle 8 Enterprise database and Excel to create a mail merge letter, and showed some graphic tips and tricks), I was followed by Steve McDonnell who showed off FileMaker to Web connectivity (using Instant Publishing and HomePage 3.0 - truly an INSPIRING DEMO!), followed by a "tea" break (coffee, tea, and cookies... ummm... I mean "biscuits"), then the trainer extrodinare Ardsley McNeilly and the talented CD-to-FMP team from Debrany's in Singapore.

After returning to the hotel at 7:00pm we took a taxi to the airport for the 8:15pm flight back to Sydney. Wednesday night I did a seminar at the Apple Headquarters in Sydney along with the presentation team - and fell into bed at 10:00pm on Wednesday night. I was at the Powerhouse Museum at 8:15am (I was supposed to be there at 7:00am but I had a BAD sore throat and head cold) only to find out that the AV completely screwed up (couldn't project the computers to the screen). Thanks to Jodi Lennon and her team from Kinetics Pty Ltd (AGAIN!) they had a cab waiting to get a projector from a local dealer (along with a technician) and got us back on track - all before the 9:00am deadline.

After a rip-roaring two seminar sessions (ending at 5:30pm), we got in yet another taxi, and went to yet another beautiful hotel (the Park Hyatt Hotel) for the Sydney FSA meeting. These folks are FIRED UP about FileMaker! I met a lot of fun, interesting, and TALENTED developers who were (and are) true FileMaker fanatics. We had a wonderful pre-meeting cocktail hour, followed by yet another great presentation by Jodi Lennon and Steve McManus. Then it was my turn.

In typical style, I was a bit BRASH (I know, it's hard to believe), but I hope the presentation was relevant. Many thanks to Bob, Charmaine, and Patrick of BCP Distribution (the outfit that fulfills all the FileMaker orders in the Pacific Rim) - you were all incredibly good sports and I thank you for the great conversation and your incredible hospitality. At the end of my Robin Williams inspired diatribe, Steve McManus was kind enough to present me with an EXTREMELY COOL FileMaker watch. Needless to say, I was AGAIN completely blown away by the kindness, hospitality, and excitement from both my hosts and the FSA members. After a quick nightcap at the Marriott bar next door it was back to the hotel and a good night's sleep.

The next day (Friday), I wasn't feeling my best, but Brenda and I "managed" to have a great lunch at a local pub (don't order a burger with "the lot" or they'll put an EGG on your burger!!) and then explored a local casino. Las Vegas - look out! This air-conditioned mecca (which is why we even bothered in the first place) is very much like Las Vegas - except you have to pay for drinks (even when gambling) and the slot machines (called "Pokies") are DIFFICULT to figure out (even for a programmer!) - we had a great time. Brenda even won $350 AU! Cool!

From there, we were the guests of Steve McManus (and family - including dog "Buddy") and I was fortunate enough to be part of the crew for the final yacht race of the season (Steve is a HUGE sailing fan). WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! Two minutes of hell (when we "tacked" into the wind, or put up the big "kite" sail) and ten to fifteen minutes of heaven (sailing between the course pylons).We came in 4th (out of 32 boats) and FIRST in Steve's club - which was good enough to earn him the club championship! Boy, what a FANTASTIC experience!

As soon as we got back to the dock, Steve and I jumped into the car and met our wives at the "Footies" (Football or "Rugby" as my Aussie friends refer to it). Now, I must tell you - this is a no-holds-barred ballroom BRAWL! This makes the NFL look like a game for WOMEN. Basically - you get 6 "downs" and there are NO TIMEOUTS or breaks. Once you get tackled (and I mean TACKLED! - there was literally blood flowing from heads, knees, lips and arms!) you immediately pass the ball to a team mate and they then get their asses kicked, and so on and so on. What we call a "touchdown" is not as easy. You have to PLANT the ball in the endzone - no plant, no "TRY" (touchdown). WOW.

The beers were COLD and the pies (like Swanson Pot Pies - just no tins) were HOT, and the action was great. The only wrinkle was that the entire event was sponsored by Pepsi - and in typical YANK fashion - they overdid the sponsorship bit (i.e the sky divers at half time and the Pepsi cheerleaders with painted-on uniforms and a Pepsi logo on their asses...).

On Sunday we went on a "Bushwalk".. and I thought it would be a nice nature walk of a mile or so... but NO! It was a LONG walk (took 4 1/2 hours!!) and I was bushed. On Monday morning Brenda and I flew to Coolangatta (an hour north of Sydney) on the Gold Coast of Australia. Steve and his wife (name concealed to protect the innocent) graciously lent their timeshare condo to Brenda and I for the week. WOW!! Now I can't tell you the exact place we stayed (I'm under strict non-disclosure for fear that everyone in the WORLD would mob the place), but I CAN tell you that the bay we overlooked was FABULOUS. The water was 78 degrees and crystal clear. The surf was 4 to 5 feet and was excellent. I can also report that the food, surf, wine, local beers and Steve's EXTREMELY tolerant and FUN friends were without question the HIGHLIGHTS of the trip.

In conclusion, if you haven't been - GO TO AUSTRALIA - it's lovely! To my new mates down under - good onya and thanks for a fair dinkum time!

Friday, January 01, 1999

Out With the Old, In With the New!

Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

Happy New Year!!!

As the pre-Y2K festivities around the world begin in earnest, and every single show on television features its Year-In-Review episode, I too wanted to take a moment and reflect on the past, revel in the present and prognosticate on the future.

1998 brought a lot of change:

As the winter leaves fell from the trees, so Claris dropped all its consumer products and became FileMaker Inc. (FMI), and FileMaker Pro became 4.1. Along with the new name and logo came many new faces, and lots of changes within the organization. The painful transition caused quite an upheval in both the developer community as well as marketplace. Seeing many of my friends and cohorts at Claris being laid off by the dozens was very difficult. However, the resulting company is now focused on a single product, and, in theory, should be a lot more responsive to the developer community and the general marketplace. I caught a small glimpse of this new focus at the HUGE turnout for the third annual Developer's Conference in Monterey. The conference goers were (and are, from what I can tell) enthusiastic and the mood was optimistic about FileMaker's future (both the company, and the product).

The Web - basically everything changed. From tools for developing content to servers, to mergers (AOL and Netscape - who knew?), to Mr. Bill being center stage in yet ANOTHER Federal probe, the only thing consistent about the Web in 1998 is that it was (and is) a constantly changing landscape.

At ClickWare, we left behind our "terrible twos", released our most popular product to date - ClickStats Pro, created the ClickWorld web site, folded the ClickWorld website into this site, completed the technical editing of the first year of the FileMaker Advisor Magazine and in general, had a great year.

1999 will continue to be a year of change:

The merger fever of overvalued Web companies will continue, as well as the bevy of newly incompatible browser versions.

FileMaker Inc is rumored (according to MacTheKnife - http://www.mactheknife.com) to have a new release in the works - including a new Server version and a new Developer Edition. Hopefully, FMI will "lift the kimono" a bit higher at the upcoming MacWorld in San Francisco, to give us all a glimpse of what the new version will look like.

Hopefully, 1999 will see XML will catch on and the good folks at FMI will give us a way to use XML with FileMaker. Again, hopefully, FMI will also provide more ODBC functionality (i.e. FileMaker as an ODBC data source, FileMaker WRITE OUT SQL, etc.)...

ClickWare has a number of new products in development - slated for release by early summer. We are also on verge of becoming an Oracle Certified Applications Developer - so watch for more SQL tips and goodies (also contact us if you need Oracle and/or FileMaker Pro custom development).

And finally, I want to thank the thousands of you who continue to visit this site, and for all your great suggestions and comments. We want to continue to be a leading resource for FileMaker information in 1999 and beyond - thanks for your continued support.

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