Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Using The RIght Tool (Without Becoming One)

WOW. Who knew one little blog post could generate so much mail! =)

It was great hearing from some long-time (and long-time-no-talk-to) FileMaker friends from the past - and it was also great (and somewhat surprising - in a good way) to hear from so many of my Servoy friends about their concern that I "have dumped Servoy".

"Dumped Servoy?" WTF??

NOTHING could be farther from the truth! In fact, I'm working in collaboration with Scott Butler and his company iTech Professionals to create an entire video training site and Servoy CERTIFICATION Program! The project is at Servoy - and we're really excited about it!

I'm very pleased and touched that so many of you folks have reached out to re-connect, to voice your concerns and to lend support.

Just to clear up any confusion - my position today is the same as my position has been for the past 15 years…

...wait for it…


For a long time in my past I had only a single tool in my professional toolbelt: FileMaker. When you have only a single tool (and know it inside out, frontward and backward) - let's call it my "hammer" - then you tend to see everything as a nail. Every customer. Every job. Every opportunity.

There are lots of people (and I was one of the chief instigators) who did almost un-holy things with FIleMaker - and came up with some of the most outlandish work-arounds known to human kind in order to justify the (wrong) position that "FileMaker can do anything."

While it's technically true that you can FORCE FileMaker into SIMULATING almost anything you can think of or do in other tools - the fact of the matter remains that you should use FileMaker when the situation (and customer and budget and timeframe) are a good match for that particular tool.

It's exactly the same for Servoy.

Just to BE CLEAR on what I think of Servoy:

Servoy is an absolutely stunning piece of software that I personally (along with Jan Aleman, Jan Blok, Johan Compagner, Sebastiaan van Erk, Maarten Berkenbosch, Yvo Boom and Andy Rooswinkel) spent many fun, hard, exciting, bloody, glorious years turning a lump of clay in a hotel room demo into a "proper", profitable company with offices all over the world. It's probably one of the best/hardest ventures that I have been involved with in all my years in business. I believe that Servoy's rapid development, single code-base deployment to native and web, platform independence and NOW even open-source to boot - is absolutely one of THE best tools (if not THE best!) for creating GUIs into SQL databases on the market today.

The reason that I'm "officially" adding FileMaker BACK into my toolbelt - is because I don't want to fall back into the same position as I was back in "early" FIleMaker-only days - I don't want to see everything as a (bigger and more powerful and cooler) nail.

I DO appreciate your thoughts and suggestions!

(Feel free to get in touch if you want to express your opinions, have suggestions - and DEFINITELY get in touch if you have customer leads and paying work - in either tool)…

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Everything Old Is New Again

Over the last 6 months or so - I've been getting a fair number of requests to do FileMaker Pro work.

Yeah, I know! Right?

I worked on some pretty cool projects for a wide variety of customers - and found that getting back into FileMaker is like riding a bike - you just never forget.

Sure, a LOT has changed in the product over the years - and there have been many excellent improvements (can you say Script Triggers, Conditional Formatting and Functions!), and you can now specify a calculated result for just about everything in the world (yay!).

But somehow FileMaker, Inc. has managed to keep most of the "good stuff" that makes FileMaker... well, FileMaker. It's still fairly easy to use (just don't get me started on table occurrences!), the scripting engine is the same (with more and better functions available) - and the Server product is just much better than in the "old days."

After doing so many years of Servoy-only development, I must admit it was a bit of "an adjustment" getting back into developing projects in FileMaker. A lot of the keyboard shortcuts that my mind had (somehow!) managed to remember still worked. Defining fields and setting validations, global fields, auto-enter options and all the rest were just as I had remembered.

In the few times that I got stuck with a function or script (looked logical - just didn't "work") - I was able to easily find the answer in one of the many FileMaker "superstar" sites (,,,,, etc, etc.).

I found that I had to get myself back in the "FileMaker mindset" when creating scripts... where there is usually only one or two routes to get from A to B - and normally only one way from A to C. I also had to remind myself that when finding data you need to actually go to a layout that's based on the table you're data is in... but once I got back into the "mindset" - everything went as smooth as silk.

Along the way I was able to re-connect with some very old and dear friends from years past - and have had the chance to chat with people that I literally haven't talked to in 5 or 6 years (sometimes longer).

Although I was unable to attend this year's FileMaker Developer Conference in San Diego - I'm looking forward to have a beer (or two) with some old friends and looking forward to learning all the new, subtle tricks from today's "young guns."

To celebrate Clickware's re-entry into the FileMaker services/consulting/training arena - I wanted to contribute SOMETHING to the FileMaker community at large. So, I've put together a new series of 4 videos aimed at helping FileMaker developers deal with end users who may be new to FileMaker, and hopefully, reduce the amount of "How do you do a find" support questions.

The videos are FREE, and I have some other ideas for a "Developer" series as well - so if you have ideas about a FileMaker-related video you would like to see - please email me and I'll see if I can get it going.

I guess the pundits are wrong - you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! Rock on, FileMaker 11!

Monday, July 05, 2010

iPad: Now I Get It

I'll admit it: I just don't "get" the iPad.

I mean, I have a Mac laptop and an iPhone - do I really need an oversized iPod Touch as well? I can take my laptop (or iPhone) into the living room and surf while watching TV, I can stream all the content I want, control my iTunes with my iPhone... take pictures, connect to social media, Skype and IM where ever I am - so why the heck would any rational person $500-$800 for an oversized iPod Touch?

Answer: because they've used one.

This weekend my buddy Edward Callaghan (from London) came to visit - and although we gave him constant ribbing about being from "Great" Britain and for kicking England's butt in the Revolutionary war - he did bring 2 pieces of gear that I don't own: the iPhone 4 and an iPad.

I played with the new iPhone (loved it!) and also scoffingly gave the iPad a quick test drive. I mean, it was cool and all - the screen is great, it works (literally) like a giant iPhone (minus the talking bit and camera bit) - and was nice. I wasn't convinced it was $600 nice, but it was nice.

Then on Saturday morning when everyone (including Edward) was still asleep - I decided that I would give the iPad and extended test drive - and surf for the latest news, play some media files, etc.

Boy, was I surprised: that thing rocks!

The browsing is very fast (similar to my laptop's speed), the screen is beautiful and bright (like my laptop screen), the on-screen keyboard is big (and in landscape mode almost as big as a regular keyboard), it has all the same pinching and zooming and swiping controls as the iPhone (although no multi-tasking yet), and there is a special version of Apple's iWork suite that was optimized for the iPad.

I'm not running out to the store to get one (it's always good to wait for the 2.0 version of new Apple hardware) - but my kids will be needing their own computers soon - and once they get multi-tasking - I can get two iPads for the price of a single laptop.

There's a reason Apple sold 3 million of them in 80 days (and 1.75 million iPhone 4's in 72 hours)...

Looks like I'll have to dust off my "Objective C for Dummies" books and get to writing some code!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Palm: "I'm not dead... yet"

With HP's announced acquisition of Palm yesterday - the geek press is full "whoa" mode. They're busy speculating on what devices HP will put Palm's "webOS" (yeah, I know - crappy name) and whether or not they'll have an app store like Apple, if HP is going to give Apple a run for its iPhone/iPad money, etc.

Ummmm.... yeah, well... I think the bigger questions is whether or not HP can court developers to make apps for yet ANOTHER mobile operating system with it's own languages, own web store, own ecosystem, etc.

When Palm first announced its webOS in January 2009 - it was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. It's a proprietary GUI on top of a Linux kernel - that uses a "card" metaphor to switch between applications. However, the interesting thing is that developers can use HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript to create applications. There are LOTS of developers in the world that know HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript.

On the flip side, you have to be a "real" object oriented programmer to grasp Objective C for iPhone/iPad applications or Java on Android (or Blackberry) phones or C# (or C++) for Windows Mobile applications. Now, don't get me wrong - there are TONS of professional programmers/engineers that know these languages like the back of their hands.

In the past, I've tried to learn C++ but, unfortunately, my mind imploded before I could get a good enough handle on it to use it creatively to solve problems. Objective C is a little better in 2.0 with the built-in garbage collection (but not on the iPhone/iPad version!) - but there are thousands of really, really long-named functions that take a very long time to become proficient in. Straight Java is no picnic, but it's still a bit easier than C.

So where does this leave the content-expert "hobby" developer? Or the GUI-focused web developer? Sure, they can build web applications - all modern mobile platforms have browsers and Internet connections - but except for Palm's webOS - they're basically out of luck in terms of leveraging their existing skills to building native mobile applications.

There are a couple of companies that have built excellent platforms that will allow developers to use HTML/CSS/JavaScript and then either generate native C (or Java or Objective C) code and create "real" native applications, or they have native applications that allow programs to run inside of them (a native application "layer").

Two examples that come to mind are Appcelerator and Runtime Revolution. Well, since Apple has changed its Terms of Service for the Apple Developers Program in a bid to stop Adobe from allowing Flash developers to cross-compile their code to work on the iPhone/iPad - these two companies are in real danger of losing their mobile strategy in terms of the Apple platform.

At the end of the day, developers have to make up their minds on where to spend their time and money developing applications. Right now the 800 pound gorilla is Apple. Will HP's marketing muscle be enough to goose Palm's webOS into higher adoption rates? Android seems to also be picking up more devices and more steam, and Symbian has yet to unleash their open source mobile operating system... sheesh!

It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the marketplace - whether Apple can hold on to the #1 spot, or whether it will get cocky and implode or continue to dominate the consumer landscape. Because, at the end of the day, developers are just like all other business people - they tend to follow the money.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Apple Picks Fight WIth Gizmodo Over iPhone Leak

*DING* Round 1.

In this corner - weighing in at 98 pounds - we have the challenger - Gizmodo (owned by Hawker Media)....

And in this corner - weighing 800 pounds - we have the undisputed Legal Team Heavyweight of the World - Apple...


This should be interesting (in the same sick way it's cool to watch a slow motion car crash). It seems that Apple is "evaluating its options" in pursuing CRIMINAL charges regarding the leak last week of the next-gen iPhone by Gizmodo.

According to AppleInsider - Apple has contacted the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office - and the police - seeing if they have enough evidence to support a criminal investigation. The investigation seems to be focusing on the guy that found the phone (in a bar!) - as well as Gawker Media for paying $5,000 to the guy so they could get a world exclusive in blowing the door open on one of Apple's best-kept-secrets.

It seems that Apple's a bit pissed off... and while I can understand that the leak cost them millions in free PR they usually get when they release a new product - putting someone in actual JAIL over it is just plain insanity.

Jail? Really? Over a flippin' mobile PHONE that coming out in 2-3 months anyway?

Maybe Apple is believing their own press - and believing their own hype. Their stock price hovering around $270 per share - which gives them a market cap just $25 billion less than Microsoft's! Who knows - maybe the buzz of releasing the iPad hasn't worn off... or...

Maybe... just maybe... they're like that bully in grade school. They just like making people squirm. They, perhaps, just like acting like rich 5 year olds and want people to know that they don't LIKE that (stomping foot!).

Hey, everyone makes mistakes. It looks like they forgave the poor bastard who left the phone in the bar (he's still working at Apple - but jeez - I would NOT have like to be THAT guy the next day!). So, they WANT (stomping foot!) their pound of flesh - and they don't care about anything other than themselves.

As one author so succinctly put it "...let him who is without sin cast the first stone." (John 8:7)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Apple Takes Dollies - Goes Home

I know that Apple loves to control "the process" from end-to-end. They like to make their own hardware, operating system and software so that it will all work together seamlessly - and, being a Mac owner (and iPhone owner) - I like that stuff "just works."

However, their recent changes to the developer agreement for their upcoming iPhone/iPad 4.0 version (this summer) - is going a little too far.

Here's the great AppleInsider article by Prince McLean that outlines the new terms. Basically, it says that you can only make applications for the iPhone/iPad that are written in our tools - and not in any other tool that "translates" code into a native iPhone application.

What the ?

Really? I mean there were lots of cool applications that are in development (Appcelerator, Runtime Revolution, etc) that tried to make development of iPhone/iPad applications easy. To do so, they had the developer write in either HTML/Javascript - or their own proprietary language, and then it would just "spit out" a compiled application ready for the App Store.

But - here's the fly in the ointment - ADOBE was also preparing to allow their Flash developers to re-compile their flash applications as native iPhone/iPad applications - and this (apparently) went up Steve Job's bum like a hot knife through butter.

So - what did he do? What Apple ALWAYS does - it called the legal department. I mean really - I get that Apple wants to protect their App Store from all the Flash "crapware" that's out there, but honestly - they could just reject the apps that suck (which they don't want to do - since they get tons of criticism for that as it is!), or they could just welcome the 1,000,000 more developers that would create applications for their platform.

But no. Steve Jobs has to have 100% CONTROL or he goes nuts. I think that Apple needs to take a man pill - and just accept that the if-it's-not-invented-here-we-won't-let-them-play mentality needs to go away.

Objective C is an abortion that should never have seen the light of day. If they are going to effectively "ban" other companies from creating tools to make iPhone/iPad applications - then THEY need to step up to the plate with a development environment (like Appcelerator or Runtime Revolution) that makes development easier and more accessible to more people.

Man up, Jobs!

UPDATE #1: Adobe's response today: "Go screw yourself Apple" (full text)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day - Wow

So, I was lucky enough to be in South Perth, Australia for "Australia Day" - along with 100,000 of my closest (new) friends.'

Australia Day is like 4th of July, Thanksgiving and New Year's day all rolled into one.

NOTHING is open (except McDonalds - and SORRY about that) - but it's really amazing how people were lining up at 3:30PM (the time I checked into the apartment) to get a view over the harbor for the fireworks extravaganza that was to come at 8:00pm.

Luckily, I asked at reception (which closed 15 minutes after I checked in) what time the festivities would begin. Having only cereal, bread and fruit in the fridge (and two bottles of wine from the airport) - I went in search of food.

I was a total American SLACKER. I got there at 7:50pm. The shores of the South Perth harbor were packed with families, kids, drunks (not necessarily in that order) - and a strict "no alcohol" policy in place.

I didn't care about the booze - I was there for the food.

I noticed some kind of BBQ - behind the temporary fence that was erected around the "park" area. I found the entrance (no easy task in the dark - without lights or signs), and RAN to the place (the ONLY place) that had food.

It turns out it was the Rotary of Perth with BBQ'd hot dogs and fresh, soft buns (and an optional pile of roasted onions) - and they were literally GIVING them away. After I had scarfed my first one, I asked for a second and also asked if I could give them a small donation.

Their reaction shocked me.

They were in shock. They stammered something as I shoved some Aussie money into the hand of a gentleman who was 70 if he was a day - and he stammered about some general "fund" - but was actually shocked that someone would be willing to pay for a "free" hot dog.

That's so cute.

They're like the English - only the "lite" version ("....those damn Pommies... tea?)

Anyway - the fireworks were fabulous - it was like seeing the Disneyland fireworks (on a Tuesday) but only 2.9715 better! I think they said on the news - it was the biggest fireworks display in Australian history.

At any rate, it was COOL - and very "worth" the 5 minute walk down to the shoreline.

To all my Aussie friends all I can say is Good Onya Mates! And, Happy Australia Day!
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