How we spent our family winter vacation: at a Visual FoxPro Conference in Hawaii!

Well, if I had told my family that I was going to a conference on FoxPro, they would have disowned me. Ah, but I was clever. I prefaced my introduction with a statement about a weeklong trip to Hawaii. That went over great. Then I mentioned something about getting a discount rate if I also signed up for the upcoming Double Impact Mega Event - five days learning all about the newest, latest and greatest Microsoft architectures, and brushing up on some of the basics which I'd long since forgotten.

The conference began with first with a warm-up session, Markus Egger reviewed the basics of OOP in VFP. My ten-year-old son, who loves to program in VFP, asked if he could join me. Sure, I thought - it would be good for him. Little did I know that from that point on, all he'd want to do was return to our hotel room and practice all the cool stuff Markus had lectured about. I can still hear him, “Please, Dad, can't I stay up just a little longer? I almost have my subclass inheriting the form the way I want.” Luckily, he discovered the beaches on Sunday.

The keynote was nothing special from my point of view - the usual introductions and fluff, “We're going to… blah, blah, blah” - until Markus explained how the Mega Event was laid out. As he spoke, I realized that this conference was a natural progression of knowledge, building from session to session. This would be a conference where the sessions did not conflict with overlapping times, and where the first session on a topic was the introduction, with the more advanced subjects coming later. Seems logical, doesn't it? I wonder why more conferences don't offer this sort of schedule.

On the second day of the conference I decided to cut class, leading to my biggest disappointment of the trip. Although I spent the morning at Hanauma Bay snorkel-diving with the family, I missed out on Alan Griver's talk on DNA. Having never heard him speak before, and assuming that DNA was just another marketing acronym for something I was already doing, I blew it off. That afternoon, I looked in on the conference and found Randy Brown of the FoxPro Development Team lecturing on some of the more advanced DNA Middle Tier Component Services (MTS/MSMQ).

Even though Randy is a very good and knowledgeable speaker, the subject matter went right over my head. However, I did note (as did everyone else in the room) that Randy's version of VFP had features never before seen, and towards the end of his talk he took time to answer questions. We learned that he was working in VFP7, which includes TEXT...ENDTEXT to output into a, and IntelliSense, which gives a programmer the valid syntax as he types a command line. Intellisense support is everywhere, supporting internal VFP objects, command history and autocomplete, as well as support for COM objects. VFP7's support for Intellisense is deeper than in most other tools drilling into COM subobjects and even dynamically, returned objects.

After meeting up with the family for dinner, I returned to the conference for the bonus session. It was a chance for the speakers to pat themselves on the back by showing off their products. Markus Egger displayed a really cool EPS tool for rapid development of web pages (Editor's note: The tool is "Visual WebBuilder*"). * Everything was an object in a container and stored in a database table for reuse at another time. It is too bad that source is not included - there are probably a lot of great examples of how an OOP expert does the job right.

Rick Strahl stepped up next and showed just how easy it is to use West Wind's Web Connection application framework. He not only covered how it works, but actually built a dynamic server right in front of us - and it worked! The VFP source code is included with this product, which, by itself, is an excellent example of Object-Oriented Programming. I'm convinced. I have a copy and I strongly recommend it for anyone thinking of putting data onto the Web.

After being blown away by Rick's bonus session, I invited him to join us for a one-day trip to the North Shore. Our family planned to rent a car and head out the next day, but we were delayed a bit, with Rick needing to give his sessions on ASP and ADO. But we set off just after lunch to check out the waves with Rick, looking for VFP tips and tricks along the way.

A big storm had washed away a large portion of the road at Waimea Bay. You may remember seeing the old “Bikini Beach” movies with the 60 foot waves in the background ? well, this was the spot where they filmed the backdrops. Too bad for us, the waves were 6-10 feet and, for the most part, very poorly shaped. On the way back our Waikiki hotel, we took a detour to the Dole Pineapple plantation, which is also the home of the world's largest living maze. As we entered the maze, we quickly realized that if we wanted to get back to the hotel before nightfall, we had better help my kids navigate the passages. So, with his authoritative voice, Rick explained to my kids how to read the secret map. Well, what can I say? For a guy who can program circles around most experts, navigation is not his thing!

Once back at the hotel, we had just enough time to get ready for the Hawaiian Luau that was included as the conference banquet dinner. Ellen, the event planner, had arranged for everyone and their families to attend. It was great - complete with a whole roasted pig, a singing/comedy act, and hula dancers. And, in case you have never tried poi, the purple glue-like staple of Hawaii, I suggest you don't. Wow, what a conference party!

The next morning, we all regrouped for another day of sessions. Rick showed off his Web Connection application framework product. The room was packed. His presentation was focused on implementing the demo code that anyone can download for free from his web site ( and look for the link for the evaluation copy). I found the introduction and demonstration of the Shopping Cart Web Store to be the highlight of the entire week.

There are so many advanced but simple features in this product, that it's hard to comprehend. But, let's see if I can describe a few. First, there was the business object which Rick created as a VCX class to handle all of the record movement on his forms - no big deal, right? But when it's included on a form that is then instantiated as a named object and passed back to an HTML request over the web… well, that's pretty powerful stuff. Another cool feature was the offline application that manages inventory and sales, and verifies customer credit before emailing them their order tracking information. This used the same business objects, but this time it was compiled into an executable. The offline application communicates with the online application via XML documents seamlessly persisted from the business objects and/or result cursors with just a handful of lines of code. The message here was reuse, reuse, reuse the same code and share the object data over the Web using XML.

The Hawaii Mega Event was just right for those wanting to quickly advance their understanding of these subjects. The conference is small compared to all the others, which gives it a very personal feeling. (Editor's note: The number of total signups is limited to less than 100*.)* And, in this format, I felt that I could get close to the speakers ? not only as mentors, but as people. Also, eating lunch under palm trees on Waikiki beach is a truly unique experience. My recommendation to anyone thinking of attending, is to pick the most exotic place you can and, like the song, “Whistle while you work”.

Hawaiian Mega Event 2001

The next Hawaiian Mega Event has recently been announced. Even though an exact date has not yet been disclosed, it will take place near Valentine's Day in February, 2001. The event hotel will again be the Outrigger Reef Hotel on Waikiki Beach, a truly fascinating and enjoyable facility. More details will be announced soon on the Double Impact web site: