Maybe It’s Time For Virtual XDC

For many years I’ve been a huge fan of the Xojo Developers Conference (XDC). It was the highlight of the year where I could see the many friends I’ve made with Xojo developers around the world. I was also able to meet a lot to prospective clients too. I enjoyed the one-on-one experience with friends, clients, and Xojo staff. I enjoyed learning a bit about what’s coming up in future versions of Xojo.

Yesterday we learned that XDC has been postponed again. This time from October 2021 to the end of March 2021. It will still be in London.

I loved everything about XDC. Except maybe the travel, the cost, and few attendees. I helped defray the costs for 10+ years by speaking at the conference on a variety of topics and as a consultant I could write off much of it because of meeting prospective clients. But at the end of the day the attendance of the conferences hasn’t changed much in the years I’ve been attending and a good chunk of the audience are people that I’ve already met. While I like the people I’ve met as a consultant I wanted to meet many more new people.

If we’ve learned anything in 2020 and 2021 is that maybe we don’t have to go to conference. Many (most?) developers conferences decided to go virtual. That idea seemed absurd a year ago, to be honest, but now? Not a bad idea for several reasons:

a) The pandemic is still happening and travel is restricted and/or hazardous.

b) Why limit the attendance to those that can afford it? Having a virtual conference means many more people could attend and no one has to leave their home. Sure, it’s not as much fun but it could be more productive.

c) It’s less expensive to have an event. I mean, sure, Apple does professional level presentations for their major announcements but after a full year of Zoom, WebEx, GotoMeeting, and so on I think most people are fully aware of what they’re getting with online video.

Anyway, those are my thoughts after thinking about it overnight. I’m sure I’ll attend another XDC in-person at some point in my life but it would have to be the right location and timing with everything going on in my life. A virtual conference would almost certainly let me attend.

What are your thoughts?

Whither My Reviews

Someone pinged me today and asked why I hadn’t done a review of Xojo 2021 R1 or R1.1.  The truth is that doing a review takes a fair bit of time and effort and I am NOT the person that should do these reviews any more.  

First, neither my employer or myself are using Web 2.0.  I still have *a* client using Web 1.0 and, well, nothing that Xojo is doing is helping me there.  Second, I have *a* client that has a Xojo iOS project and I do minor updates about once a year but I’m barely using anything new.  Third, I’ve avoided API 2.0 for the most part.

So what is there to review?  What valuable input can I give?  I don’t know.  I spend most of my time using Xojo to create and modify desktop Mac, Windows, Linux applications and console applications for those same environments.  Not sure I have a lot to say about the latest releases other than that we’ve mostly kept up to date with them.  I’m neither excited or disappointed by them.

They fix some things, they break some things, and it takes another release to fix what they broke.  This is a cycle that’s been repeated ad nauseam for…well…ever.  I just don’t have the need or drive to be a relentless cheerleader any more.

The blog was always a way to advertise our consulting services and developer products.  Since I have no need for either at this point I wonder how long I’ll keep the blog active.

Who knows, maybe I’ll find something I want to talk about with Xojo.  Or maybe some other language.  I’ve been doing some work with Go and it’s an interesting language.  Some of the brevity of C but with the strong typecasting of Xojo/Java but with really, really good concurrency options.  But Go is certainly not Xojo nor is it intended to be Xojo.  Some things I like.  Some things I don’t.

I appreciate people reaching out asking about Xojo reviews.  I think that ship has sailed and probably won’t come back to port for the foreseeable future.

How Much Time Have I Wasted Waiting for Xojo?

Many Xojo developers use a number of plugins because they do things that Xojo doesn’t or can’t do out of the box.  My current plugin folder has 49 items and at times in my 20+ years as a Xojo developer I’ve had closer to 60 loaded.  This begs the question how much freaking time have I waited on Xojo to load and then compile plugins?  Depending on how many different projects (and thus plugin sets I have) I work on I’d bet this results in over an hour per month.

Loading large projects is slow.  Some of the larger projects I work on take minutes to load.  That’s long enough to go grab a refreshment from the kitchen and get back to my desk before it finishes loading.  And that’s for desktop projects.  The last time I used Web (granted API 1.0) our large projects took even longer. I don’t have any Web 2.0 or iOS projects to compare the loading times.

Saving projects has definitely improved in the last couple of releases but in our largest projects it’s still slow.  And don’t get me going on all the time I (and our team) spend on getting rid of property changes in git commits. These stupid property changes has got to stop because it’s pissing us all off. Same with changes with shared external code between desktop and console applications. It simply sucks and we’re tired of it.

All in all I feel like Xojo is wasting a significant part of my day just waiting for things to happen or fixing things so git isn’t overwhelmed.  Coming up with faster ways for all those things should be priority number one because it affects everyone.  I dunno about the challenges to doing this but I feel like Xojo could be doing more. You’d think with the IDE being a very large project they’d feel the pain also of many of my pain points.

Really, all I want at the end of the day is to feel like Xojo isn’t wasting my time.

ARGen Has a New Home with Tim Parnell

When you work on a product long enough and depend on it every day you grow attached to it.  It’s been years since I’ve done a normal Xojo database application because ActiveRecord makes things so much faster and safer.  The feedback we’ve received has almost been universally positive.

So when I decided to take a full-time position this spring I started shopping for a new home for ActiveRecord and ARGen because so many Xojo developers depend on it.  Today, I’m announcing that ARGen is now owned and maintained by Strawberry Software https://strawberrysw.com.  

This is great news for a variety of reasons.  First, Tim Parnell is an excellent developer and I know he’ll do an excellent job maintaining and improving the product.  He’s already shared with me some of things he plans on doing with ARGen and I’m looking forward to using it.  Second, Tim worked for BKeeney Software for years and was one of the developers that worked on ARGen so he’s intimately familiar with it already.  He’s used ARGen in consulting projects for us and is now a Xojo consultant on his own so you can be assured it will continue to be maintained and grow with Xojo.

What does this mean for ARGen users?  You’ll get an email from Strawberry Software in the next couple of days for a new download.  You’ll be able to use your existing license code and you’ll be on their license system.  Then wait for future updates.  With the updates I know about I think it will be worth the wait.

I want to thank everyone that was an ARGen user over the years.  It makes me happy that we were able to make a difference in many Xojo developers lives.

So go on over to Strawberry Software’s website and check out ARGen and Tim’s other fine pieces of software for Xojo developers.

Happy coding!

Training Site is Cancelled

It is with great sadness that I’ve finally killed our Real Studio/Xojo training web app. Ever since API 2.0 came out, and the upcoming changes to Web, iOS, and eventually Android the training app was breathing on fumes. It was increasingly obsolete and out of date. Late last year I purposely disabled anyone from creating a new subscription and no one complained. So today it was deleted and my Xojo Cloud account cancelled.

The training site was originally in Joomla and it was a major pain to administer and use. That’s mainly because of Joomla but it served its purpose – as it proved that there was a market for the training videos (albeit a small one). When Xojo for Web came out I figured it was a good fit for me and great way to learn (I remember sitting in the flat in Nigeria working on it) and I learned a lot about Xojo web apps (the good, the bad, the ugly).

At its height there were over 200 videos covering everything from the Editors in Real Studio and Xojo, to many of the major classes, most of the controls, desktop, web, and iOS applications. I even had two start-to-finish desktop application and one start-to-finish web application projects. Most of the videos came with a project file with code for people to download and use. Over 11,000 hours of video had been streamed from my Xojo web apps including a large chunk of it on Xojo Cloud. That’s not nothing.

Some people have asked why I just didn’t update them for modern Xojo. The answer is time. For every minute of video there is at least ten minutes off-screen work between creating the project and editing the recording so that viewers didn’t see the twenty minutes of me trying to figure out why there was an error in code or hear the um’s and ah’s while I was talking. Add in the fact that Xojo changes every three months and it would be a never ending project. As it is it’s been over a year since I’ve added new videos and I don’t miss it as it’s a lot of work.

The training videos were never popular enough to pay for my time but I’m glad I did them as I learned a lot doing them. One thing I learned is that people new to Xojo liked it when I made mistakes. Early on I was worried that people would be mad if the videos weren’t perfect. Instead they learned how to debug watching me figure out what was wrong and that’s something that’s very hard to do via printed material.

Early on I also learned that I used a LOT of filler words. So I joined Toastmasters and learned to enjoy the silence between thoughts. I started doing less talking while typing during the videos and this led to faster typing (or rather sped up video while typing) and then better explanation of what I had just typed. Really, record yourself someday to hear what your fillers words are. 🙂

I answered a thread on the Xojo forums a while back on why isn’t there any training videos on a site like Udemy. The answer, again, is time and money. Just for grins I started doing an outline of what I thought a really good class on Xojo would be and I stopped when I got to a hundred topics. That’s one hundred videos that would be on average of 15 minutes each (some shorter and longer obviously) and given the math above it would be a full-time job with little gain. Xojo is, after all, a small market and it changes so rapidly that it would always be in need of updating.

If you were one of the subscribers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was my pleasure creating something you hopefully learned from.

Until we meet again. Happy Xojo coding!

API 2 Bit Me This Week And I Wasn’t Even Using It

I had one of those weeks where my nearly 20 years of Xojo knowledge went up in smoke.  I started a new project and was using the classic API.  I did this because it was a database application and I’m not convinced that the major database changes with API 2.0 are tried, true, tested, and worthy of every day usage.

I was testing to see if a string was contained in another string and did this:

Dim bDoesNotHave As Boolean = sString1.InStr(kSomeConstant) = -1

Gosh, where do I even begin to explain the hot mess this is?  First, InStr (classic API) returns a zero if sString1 doesn’t contain the string kSomeConstant.  Second, the API 2.0 replacement is String.IndexOf but that does return -1 if the string isn’t there.

Thankfully, testing discovered that the code wasn’t working but I felt pretty dumb.  This is one of those areas where I think API 2.0 is totally going to mess old timers like me up.  I’ve used Instr for nearly 20 years and all of a sudden my brain tells me, oh, no, this returns -1 if the string isn’t there.  True – only if you’re using API 2 and I was not.  Which is so weird because I’ve not created ANY new projects in API 2 – just some random testing.

I’m mad at myself for not remembering and mad at Xojo for changing the rules.

BKS Tab Control – Drag Rearrange Tabs!

Lenexa, KS (February 8th 2019) — BKS Tab Control update can now drag rearrange

BKeeney Software releases a minor update for BKS Tab Control enabling users to drag and drop to rearrange tabs. Developers can enable or disable this feature using a switch in the Xojo IDE. A new event, TabOrderChanged, is raised when the user performs a drag-rearrange.

The BKS Tab Control is a set of classes that offer developers a classic “tabs control” for Xojo Desktop applications. The Tab Control can attach to any RectControl or Window, and will maintain a relationship to this parent control if and when it changes size. Tabs can be displayed in one of four directions (North, South, East, West) and individually offer options like a close button, an icon, a background color, and can be disabled.

Other features:
  • Optional CloseBox can be positioned on the left of right
  • If the CloseBox is selected a CancelClose event is fired
  • Optional Icon can be positioned on the left or right
  • Each tab can be independently styled (colors, fonts, text decorations)
  • Each tab can be disabled
  • Tabs that overflow may be accessed with an overflow popup menu
  • Works in HiDPI, non-HiDPI, and dark modes

BKS Tab Control has been tested in macOS, Windows, and several varieties of Linux with Xojo 2018 R4 and back to Xojo 2017 R1. The control may work unchanged in older versions of Xojo.

BKS Tab Control is sold as unencrypted source code and costs $75 USD. Existing customers can download the update with the original link on their sales receipt. More information and a demo project are available at: https://www.bkeeney.com/allproducts/bks-tab-control/

BKS Shorts 2.0.9

Today we released BKeeney Shorts 2.0.9.  This is a free update to all version 2.0.x users.  

Shorts is the award winning reporting tool for Xojo applications.  Shorts allows a Xojo developer to embed a report designer inside in a desktop application, view reports in any resolution on desktop or web applications, save report files to file or to a database, and to export reports to HTML, CSV, and PDF (requires the DynaPDF plugin from MBS).  Shorts works with SQLite, CubeSQL, PostgreSQL, MySQL, MS SQL Server, ODBC, and Informix (requires the SQL plugin from MBS).     Shorts comes as 100% unencrypted Xojo source code.    

New:

  • Align: Justify text! (#3627)
  • Report Designer can now copy and paste! (#3691)
  • Method to tell the DynaPDF renderer where to look for custom fonts
  • Report Designer bands with a Band Script now offer an indication in the designer (#3701)
  • Schema Zapper will remove the DB schema from the JSON for manual template changes (#3632)

Changes:

  • Running in HiDPI in Windows using Xojo 2018 R3 now shows report preview in proper clarity
  • Report Designer no longer nags about deleting items that can be undone
  • Designer window positioning suggested by container event for better scoping
  • Standardized naming on winReportDesigner
  • DesignCanvas.GetUniqueName is now more smart
  • DBWrapper.DatabaseFile is now DBWrapper.SQLiteDatabaseFile for consistency
  • ReportBKS no longer redundantly loads styles to the global styles dictionary
  • PAF_PrintKit.DictStyles is now protected for clarity in code

Fixes:

  • PreviewCC Mojave / 2018R3 & R4 graphical glitch workaround
  • Reports where the page header is empty no longer have multiple page positioning issues
  • Added Numeric and Decimal datatypes for PostgreSQL, maps to Double
  • Views now show up in the Manual Relations editor (#3731)
  • Designer window will no longer reposition if the report template positioning doesn’t fit onscreen (#3651)
  • Fixed localization mismatch in the navigator (#3851)
  • DBWrapper no longer assumes SQLite databases have a database file (#3694)

Removed:

  • PAFConfirm function, please use the modGlobals.Alert function instead
  • winReportDesigner no longer has a Placard control
  • PAF_DatabaseKit.CreateDatabaseFile function, it served no purpose in the Shorts project

For more pricing, demo versions, and training videos please visit http://www.bkeeney.com/allproducts/bkeeney-shorts/

XDC 2018 Keynote Notes

Notes from Geoff Perlman’s keynote address at XDC 2018 being held in Denver Colorado.

XDC sold out a full two and half months ahead of the conference.  24% are first time attendees.  34% are from outside of the United States representing 12 different countries.

There are over 18,000 users in the forums.  That’s a 20% increase over the last XDC.  Over 43,000 conversations and 370,000 posts.

Geoff talked about the forum and the conversion to esoTalk from the old phpBB forum software.  The original developer is doing a new forum software called Flarum and the plan is to start using it in the future.

Xojo cloud continuing to grow.  Zero configuration.  Zero maintenance.  Industrial strength security.  Recently introduced new server specs (twice the server for the same price).  Now in 8 data centers.   Now has  in-IDE server monitoring.

Xojo Design Awards:

Best Developer Tool – BKeeney Shorts by BKeeney Software Inc.

Best Specialty App – Curve4 

Best Consumer App – Alinof ToDo LIst by Alain Clausen

Best Mobile App – Packr by Jérémie Leroy

Best Utility App – Server Ranger, by Gavin Smith – Liberty App

Best Cross Platform App – LehrerOffice, Jürg Otter – Roft Soft AG

Platform Landscape:

In 2016, mobile became the most used platform.  In 2017, desktop increased a bit and now the two are running in parallel.

Windows:  Now using Direct2D for drawing and printing.  With 2018 R1 is now flicker free in Windows.

Xojo Cloud:  Faster uploads.  Caches the frameworks and only uploads what’s changed.

Linux:  Gtk3 now lets us create HiDPI applications.

64-bit builds.  One of the benefits of 64-bit: They now have an optimizing compiler and apps that use a lot of mathematical operations this can make a huge difference.  One user, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona, has spent 10 years writing an app and when compiling for 64-bit he found a 7 times improvement in performance.  This is all because Xojo is now using LLVM, an open-source compiler.

The IDE is now 64-bit.  It now allows large projects to address more RAM.

A few misses since last XDC:  Interops, plugins made in Xojo.

Communication with end users:  Xojo plans 18 months in advance.  Going to stop talking ship dates.  No longer saying when a particular feature is going to ship.  Instead going to talk about what’s ‘important’.  ‘Priority’ means that are things that are in development.  Bottom line:  no more ship dates.  No change in regular releases.

What are the Priorities?

Interops:  like declares on steroids.  Android is first.  iOS next, and MacOS eventually.  Windows is tricky and it might not make sense for that platform.  Linux is even more of a wildcard with so many distributions.

Android:  working super hard on it.  They hit some milestones recently that Travis will talk about more.

Plugins made by the IDE:  Still ‘important’.

The IDE Interface:  Since last XDC been a lot of work done.  Geoff showed a demo.  Home screen is overall project overview.  The Navigator is no longer there.  Double clicking on an object takes you into the object.  Where the Navigator was is the Toolbar.  Each tab can use the Home Screen.  Geoff didn’t show the Code Editor or anything other than the Form Editor.

Web Framework:  Web 1.0 was designed in 2009 so that’s like last century.  Windows XP and 7 were the dominant Windows OS.  Mac OS X 10.5/10.6.  JQuery was immature.  Browsers not very feature rich.  And the goal at the time was to make web apps look like desktop apps.

Web 2.0:  ground up rewrite with significant modernazations and optimizations.  This will result in far greater speed between the client and server.  Overhauling 5 controls.  10 new controls.  Improved look and feel.  99% compatible with existing projects.  One of the new controls is a charting control.  Feels more web-ish and less like a desktop app.

Xojo API’s:  The original API’s designed in 1997.  Much of the current framework is the same.  Originally started with one platform.  Accumulated a lot of cruft over the years which resulted in behavioral inconsistencies.  Making changes would break existing projects.

This all resulted in the new Xojo framework to help keep Xojo modern and keep it moving forward.  Namespaces were used to avoid conflicts with the existing API.  Behavior was consistent.  Tradeoff was complexity and also created some inconsistencies.

Guidelines:

  • When to use which case
  • Intuitive identification over accuracy
  • Avoiding abbreviations and truncations
  • Enumerations should always be plural
  • Method names who’ll be verb-noun
  • Event that fire after the vent has occurred should be past tense
  • Conventions for classes that deal with list data

Found that the new API’s don’t conflict with the old ones.

Keep the current API’s for compatibility

Add new API’s for better consistency

Replaced API’s will be deprecated.

Migrate to the new API’s at your own pace

Can mix the old and new API’s

NO NAMESPACES!  The Xojo Framework namespace is gone!  Not 100% true but for the most part it is.  To clarify developers can still use and create their own namespaces but no more ‘wall of code’.

Easier transition for Xojo and for developers.

Called API 2.0

Easy to learn.  Easier for them.  Easier for developers.  All possible via API Naming Guidelines.

They’ll release this document later on so the community can use the guidelines.

Last but not least:  XDC 2019 will be in Miami, FL.  May 1st through May 3rd.  $149/night and the rate is available 3 days before and 3 days after the conference.

More info as it becomes available.