Saturday, October 23, 2010

Southwest Fox 2010: Pre-Conference

We had an early start on Thursday because registration opened at 7:45 and pre-conference sessions started at 9:00. Thanks to a streamlined registration process we came up with last year, registration was fast and easy. This year, in addition to the conference bag, sponsor materials, conference t-shirt, and other goodies, attendees could take any or all of three books generously provided by Hentzenwerke Publishing: Debugging Visual FoxPro Applications, The Software Developer's Guide, 3rd Edition, and FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software. Registration is a fun time for me, as it’s a chance to meet new attendees and renew acquaintances with previous attendees and friends. We spent most of the day in the registration center, catching up on emails or chatting during slow times. Our first taste of the conference center food was a simple lunch of build-your-own sandwiches and salad, which was very tasty.

After the last pre-conference session ended, we met all the speakers at 4:30 for an orientation meeting. Many people were wondering how I was going to get even with Craig Boyd after his only mildly provoked Nerf gun assault on me last year (if you haven’t see it, look for “hennig swfox” on YouTube for one of the several videos available). For a variety of reasons, including the fact that he and I have both had a fairly challenging year personally and that his was about as close to the perfect prank as it comes and would be tough to top, I decided not to do much to him this year. In fact, he was quite concerned about what he thought I had planned, and that by itself seemed like fun. However, one surprise I had for him regarded the speaker shirt. Rick told him that due to his getting on board as the keynote speaker after we’d submitted the order for shirts, we didn’t have one for him. That, of course, was not true. We placed a special order of pink t-shirts for the female speakers this year, and included one for him in the order (we also ordered a regular shirt for him). It was fun seeing his face when I handed him his pink “speaker shirt”. Fortunately, Craig is a great sport and immediately agreed to wear it at the keynote.

After a quick bite to eat, it was time to get the conference started. We started the keynote thanking attendees for coming and pointing out that there were 99 attendees from 16 different countries this year, about a 15% increase from last year’s 87 from 7 countries. We then introduced the speakers and thanked sponsors and other folks who helped us out. After going over some logistics for the conference, I invited Cathy Pountney up to the front, where she presented Rick with the trophy for being the #1 ranked speaker last year. Even better, she filled the trophy with Rick’s favorite snack, Ding Dongs. Rick is a very humble person, so he was embarrassed and immediately pointed out that the difference between first and last is fractions of a point, sort of like the hundredths of a second that separates the fastest runners in the world at the Olympics.

After a few more logistical things, Rick presented the VFPX Administrators Award to Jim Nelson and Francis Faure for their contributions to the VFP community through their projects on VFPX. We then introduced the 2010 Ceil Silver Ambassadors, Bernard Bout and Cesar Chalom. As I’m sure is the case for many others, I was thrilled to meet them both, Cesar for the first time (Rick and I had previously met Bernard at OzFox 2007 in Sydney, Australia).

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for: Craig Boyd’s keynote. Rick introduced Craig while a couple of funny pictures of Craig, one in bunny ears and the other in a headdress, showed on the screens. In fact, here they are in case you missed them:

image  image

Craig did not disappoint. He was his usual manic, hilarious self, showing doctored photos of Tamar as a warrior princess and Rick as an astronaut. However, he saved his best stuff for me, doing a twisted “This is Your Life” presentation. Rather than trying to describe it, it’s probably better if you just watch it: He then got into the real meat of his presentation: the value proposition of VFP. As a vivid demonstration of “value”, Craig and several volunteers blasted the room with thousands of pieces of paper, some of which had prizes written on them. The prizes ranged from an MSDN subscription worth almost $12,000 to “hug from Doug”, which several people did collect on and many of which are hoarding for future reimbursement. Craig did this to point out that although the paper was worthless, there was enough value in the prizes that everyone scrambled to pick them all up. He went on to discuss that although there are alternatives to VFP, you can still make a great living and create great solutions for your clients using this product we know and love. Thanks, Craig, for the best and most entertaining Southwest Fox keynote ever!

Afterward, we all congregated in the adjacent ballroom for the trade show reception. It gave everyone a chance to chat with the exhibitors, a couple of which (Christoph with his Guineu and AFP and Thierry Nivelet of FoxInCloud) were new this year, and hang out with new and old friends. A good-sized group then moved to the bar and pool area for the first of several nights of socializing. I packed it in about midnight after a very long day.

Southwest Fox 2010: Getting Ready

As per usual, Rick Schummer, his wife Therese, Tamar Granor, her husband Marshal, and I arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday, Oct. 12 to get ready for this year’s Southwest Fox conference. We spent Tuesday doing our usual errands: picking up shirts (speaker shirts, conference t-shirts, and polo shirts for those who’d ordered them), picking up sign boards for the rooms, etc. We also met Harold Wong of Microsoft to pick up some giveaways he offered us: a wireless keyboard and mouse, a copy of Windows 7, pens, etc.

While it seemed like we were doing our usual things this year, there were some differences. The main one is that I was keeping a big secret from Rick: while I’d previously told him that Lisa Slater Nicholls was the recipient of the 2010 FoxPro Lifetime Achievement Award, I didn’t tell him that he was also a recipient. This lead to a little bit of anxiety for me: I ordered the awards for the Lifetime Achievement recipients but also for the VFPX Administrators Award, which he was going to hand out. All of our materials are shipped to Frank Perez Sr. (the father of Frank Perez, one of Rick’s employees), who lives in the Phoenix area. Frank Sr. usually delivers the items Tuesday night. Last year, Rick didn’t call me when Frank Sr. arrived and instead loaded everything into his room. I was worried that Rick would see the awards box, open it, and spoil the surprise. Fortunately, Rick and Therese’s room was pretty full with boxes of shirts and materials they’d brought, so I innocently volunteered my room to hold the stuff Frank delivered. Besides, I told Rick, I needed to inventory the raffle prizes sent by the various sponsors.

I was also planning to keep it a secret from Therese, but a golden opportunity presented itself: Rick’s parents, Phil and Carole, were also in Phoenix so they could go to Sedona with Rick and Therese after the conference. It would be perfect if his parents could be there when I presented the award to Rick, so I told Therese about it and she promised to make sure they were at the closing session.

With all the plans in place, we went for a great dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (becoming a Tuesday night tradition with us), including Rick’s parents and Rick Strahl, who was in town for his pre-conference West Wind Web Connection training. As usual, we all turned in early because we had a long day; in Rick’s case, there was no Monday night as he didn’t sleep at all getting ready to leave.

We started Wednesday with a very nice breakfast at the hotel, then met the hotel staff for a briefing. I was a little nervous (which as you may start to realize was an ongoing thing for me this year) because we’d changed hotels very late in the game due to financial problems at our previous location. We’d been at the Arizona Golf Resort the past three years and their excellent service and commitment to ensuring things were perfect for us set the bar very high. That coupled with the fact that the new location, the Legado Hotel and SanTan Conference Center, had only been open for two months and we were their first large conference made me wonder how things would turn out. However, I was impressed at our meeting with the staff: in addition to the people we’d be dealing with daily (Monique, the head of catering, Keith, the operations manager, and the chef whose name I unfortunately forget), the general manager of the hotel and the owner of the property were both there.

We then started organizing for the conference: getting binders put together (we only needed 25 this year because most people went for the green option: the online conference guide), getting projectors set up, assembling bags, going over the opening and closing session contents, and so forth. We also discovered the first benefit of the new location: it’s very close to a large mall with a ton of restaurants, and there’s a free shuttle to and from the mall. We had a very nice lunch at the Paradise Bakery, which specializes in sandwiches, soup, and salads.

We spent the afternoon continuing our preparations, and started to see how committed the staff was to making sure things went well for us. In fact, over the next few days, we discovered that many of the staff worked longer hours than we did. We joked that they must have cots set up because we’d see Monique and Keith before 7:00 a.m. and after 10:00 p.m. at the conference center.

That evening, we met some of the attendees and speakers who started to arrive for the pre-conference day. We ended going out for dinner with a fairly large group at the Brio Italian restaurant at the mall. The meal and company were excellent. Thanks to Dave Hanna for being a good sport, making multiple trips between the hotel and mall with his car to accommodate all of us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

2010 VFPX Administrators Award

The VFPX Administrators Award is an annual award given by the VFPX Administrators (Craig Boyd, Rick Schummer, and Doug Hennig) to recognize those people who made outstanding contributions to the VFP community through their projects on VFPX. The nominees this year were:

  • Jim Nelson for his work on PEM Editor, Code References, and FoxChart Tools (add-ons)
  • David Holden for SubFox
  • Andrew Ross MacNeill for Code Analyst
  • Emerson Santon Reed for Themed Controls
  • Francis Faure for the VFP 9 SP2 Help file and VFP 9.0 Localization in French

At the keynote for Southwest Fox 2010, the awards were given to Jim Nelson and Francis Faure (to be delivered by Thierry Nivelet). You can watch a video of the keynote at

Congratulations to both Jim and Francis and thanks for all your efforts in making VFPX the future of VFP.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

It was my great pleasure to announce at Southwest Fox 2010 the recipients of the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award: Lisa Slater Nicholls and Rick Schummer. The stars must have been perfectly aligned because Lisa’s husband, well-known FoxPro guru Colin, and Rick’s wife Therese and parents Phil and Carole were in attendance. I obviously had to tell Lisa in advance so she could come to Phoenix but Rick was taken completely by surprise. In fact, I’ve never seen him speechless before.

Congratulations, Rick and Lisa; I can’t think of more deserving people and in Lisa’s case, long overdue. Hopefully we'll have some video uploaded soon that shows them receiving their awards; check

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Southwest Fox is Next Week

Southwest Fox 2010 starts next Thursday, October 14. However, I’m actually heading to Phoenix on Tuesday, as are Rick, Tamar, and their spouses Therese and Marshal, because we have lots of set up and finalizing to do. I’m going to be quite busy during the conference: in addition to my sessions A Deep Dive into the VFPX ThemedControls and Cool Controls for Your Applications, I’m also hosting a Stonefield Query Developer Meeting on Friday night at 8:30, showing some cool new features we’ve planned for version 4.1, and am showing a new VFPX project, FRXTabs, at the Show Us Your Apps session Friday afternoon at 5:15.

I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, attending sessions, giving sessions, talking to this year’s Ceil Silver ambassadors, handing out the 2010 FoxPro Lifetime Achievement Award, and generally having a great time. See you there next week!

Final Thoughts on Looking at Stonefield Query

George Jensen of CustomerFX has concluded his series of posts about his experience learning Stonefield Query. Check out his articles: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7.

Friday, October 01, 2010

MVP Award for 2010

I am once again honored to be named a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), for the 15th consecutive year. Congratulations to the other 14 award recipients (down significantly from previous years, I’m afraid); see for a complete list of VFP MVPs.