Martyn's blog for the Revelation Software community, sharing ideas, news, views and more. NOTE – Views and opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent those of Revelation Software.
OK, I lie ever so slightly, the new Examples application is the old examples application but with a slightly enhanced user interface but it certainly feels new.
I have now converted a few applications from OpenInsight 9.x to OpenInsight version 10 and I’m always pleased with the results. It started with me cutting my teeth on the EXAMPLES application and then I moved on to my larger RevSoft UK Contact Manager. The later benefited from a couple of weeks of evenings working on the user interface before I deleted the old 9.4.2 version and moved 100% OI10.
So, a few people have asked me to produce a video of the conversion process and I’m pleased to announce that both that video and a look at an early version of the new examples application is now online and copied below.
Please note that this is a relatively new YouTube Channel. I decided to drop the old one with the old 9.x videos in order to provide a clean break between the two and avoid confusion. For this reason, please subscribe to the new YouTube channel for periodic updates as I produce more OI10 videos.
I’m often asked who is a typical OpenInsight developer and why? I pause for a moment, take a look at the current user base and this usually has me thinking back many years and to ‘why, those people chose to use Revelation Software’s products in the first place’. That tends to be the more interesting question to answer.
When I look back, I see countless Value Added Reseller (VAR’s) and end users with growing systems and small teams of developers and in most cases one key individual. That person may not have started out as a software developer, in fact, they are very frequently not a trained software professional at all and they usually come from a totally different background.
I could use numerous individuals as an example, people that started out in a profession, became frustrated with the software solutions available to them and who went on to build their own solution and then to begin offering their solutions to the benefit of hundreds of others (friends and customers). I don’t paint myself in the same light, but I will use myself as an example.
When I joined Revelation as an ‘Internal Sales Engineer’ (some 15 years ago), I was given Lotus Notes to use. It came to the end of its useful life within our business and we moved to Act, that was not up to the task and we tried Goldmine, that was too difficult to get data out of and we moved to Maximizer. I then began to learn about developing the Maximizer interface to give me the data views (datasets) that I needed to support my job role. All was good for a time and then the authors decided to go the MS SQL Server route and I found myself facing a five fold price increase with decreased functionality – actually, it got so bad, I found myself looking for another solution.
Enter a little plug in for Outlook and once again more frustration. All seemed to be pretty good initially and then it crashed Outlook, resulting in a restore and time setting everything back up again and lost work hours. A second occurrence, and then a third. I used to fly (a Cessna out of RAF Henlow as a work bonus) and I was reliably taught that when three things go wrong, you don’t fly. I live by that rule even now, so three strikes and the Outlook plug-in was out.
So what next???
Unsurprisingly, the solution was staring me in the face. It often is in life. You just need to open your ideas to something new. I had access to OpenInsight, I had access to some of the best OpenInsight developers on the planet and I had begun to dabble in my own product demonstrations, building simple databases, forms, reports and the like.
So, like many people before me, I was that individual with a need. A need for a software solution that worked with me and which supported my job role. I knew my job, I knew what I needed to support that job role and I just needed to get on and build my own system. And, that is just what I did. Over the next couple of weeks, with the help of my colleagues (usually Aaron fixing things up in the car whilst I dropped him home from London to Northampton, or Mike on one of our long UK road trips between RUGs and client meetings) I wrote a basic contact manger for RevUK and I have gone on to add to that as it has grown and evolved with our business – much like just about every other Revelation based system that has been running for any length of time.
So why the long and protracted story?
Well, I guess that I’m finally proud of what I have built. In fact, I knocked up a comprehensive system to manage our archery club (Andrew helped me to build a wicked tournament module that saved a lot of time collating results for multi-round tournaments) and again to manage a small photography business I dabbled with for a time – I wrote that one totally on my own.
But, the real reason is to outline Revelation’s traditional application developer. Yes we have developers join us and our clients teams who have studied computer science, obtained degrees and can work in one of many different programming languages. But, this posting is about the individual entrepreneurs, business leaders and department staff members that have the vision and who have used ARev and/or OpenInsight to help them to realise that vision and build that perfect application.
It is those people that take OpenInsight, build solutions and enhance their working lives and who then often go on to enhance the working lives of their colleagues and then their clients.
Furthermore, it is OpenInsight that sits in the middle ground between the lower end fully integrated database tools that are designed for the individual and which are not really scalable and which have their limitations, and the professional software development suites that need degrees and expensive training to master them. These large systems often need knowledge about; third normal form, inner and outer joins, record locking, working with datasets, how to write and debug code and how to bring several disparate technologies together. No small undertaking for an individual in an organisation with little time on their hands, but who needs a solution quickly to support their work function.
OpenInsight sits right between these two categories of products. It’s is fully integrated with everything you need in one toolset – desktop and web development tools, database, user interface, reporting, data warehousing tools and more. Plus, it is scalable and we have systems supporting hundreds of users over LAN, WAN and Web (mobile) environments.
Better still, with the upcoming release of OpenInsight 10, Revelation are once again providing application development tools that anyone can take to build solutions. It is amazing how much can be done without having to write code, and how you can then take those systems and easily deploy them to end users, and then how you can further enhance those systems WITHOUT the need to re-engineer your system all of the time.
Interestingly, the team have done so much to enhance the application development process in OI10, I now find myself deleting thousands of lines of cobbled together code in my contact management system, in favour of simply setting a property or two in the designers property panel. For me, the benefit is setting one option or typing in a value (into a property) to use professionally written code and a better, more optimised and robust solution.
Yeah Mike, I’m giving OpenInsight 10 a double thumbs up as well.
OpenInsight WORKS subscribers can get their hands on the OI10 Beta right now, just log into OI WORKS and locate the OI10 Beta Gateway on the main WORKS page on www.revelation.com. If you are not a WORKS subscriber, please get in touch and I’ll be pleased to see how we can help you to get into OpenInsight.
As many of you will know, I have been diligently working with the OI10 Alpha releases and more recently the Beta’s which include the internal releases and those released to our WORKS subscribers.
My initial aim was to assist the development team at Revelation, working mostly with the Forms Designer and it’s ossociated tools, in catching as many issues as possible before we go to a final release. When I saw the conversion tool, I began to dare to hope for a one click conversion, at the same time knowing that such a thing is usually far from possible.
However, with the release of the Beta 4, I am alot closer to that elusive one click conversion. In fact, I’m ‘alot closer’ than ‘alot closer’.
Like many of you, on Friday, I downloaded the Beta, ran through the install, created a new application and waited expectantly as the system ran through the conversion of my contact manager that I use at Revelation day in and day out. The new conversion tool wizzed through the entities, with lines flashing up on the right side of the new conversion window and the categories of items to be converted were slowly and steadily checked off . . . done, done, done, done.
I had a couple of red categories, but a quick check of the log showed that these were items that I did not have to worry about. Legacy items that I really ought to have deleted prior to the conversion, but easily deleted in OI10.
So, how did we do?
Much, much, much better than I had hoped. Sure, my splitter bars no longer work, but I knew about those and I’ll blog about them later. My legacy and poorly written code is fighting OI10 in one or two areas but I’ll be removing hundreds (if not thousands) of lines of my cobbled together code in favour of OI10’s professionally written code that will be better optimised and correctly error trapped. So those issues are not really issues for me and they don’t stop the application from running.
So, as of Friday afternoon, I was both developer and user of my system under OI10. I’ll be removing code and changing some of the interface components (for example, my combersome three state buttons and associated GOTFOCUS and LOSTFOCUS code, in favour of the new Glyph buttons), so further developing the converted application. Plus, I’ll be using the application to support my job role. Something that I thoght would be a little way off and following a hefty conversion task (project).
The guys are doing an outstanding job with OI10 and the project really has turned a corner. So many things are finally coming together and it looks like some of the technologies that the guys have had to wait for, are now available to them and the toolset is going forward in leaps and bounds right now.
They are also cracking on with the reported bugs, leaving wishes for later. For example, I have cleared down no end of officially reported bugs in the OI10 bug tracker. But, what you don’t see is the internal emails and reports that I send to the guys. Carl had a ten page report for the conversion tool for my system at the initial internal release of the new conversion tool. By the final release of the beta 4 (in you are a WORKS subscriber, that is the one you can get your hands on), this was down to six items and a couple of new ones that I have found. [Edit – Oneof those items was user error and another related to my code].
Remember, we are still in beta so issues will remain, but I’m blown away by what OI10 is proving to offer developers.
I’m often asked who is a typical OpenInsight developer and . . . Well, lets leave that for another posting, I’m keen to get back into working on my brand new user interface – or should I rephrase that to, “the old one simply reworked” – but it feels brand new.
OPTO Software, part of iTMS Software Pty Ltd, provides manufacturing inventory software, including ERP solutions, to a wide variety of industries. Customers span the fields of manufacturing, mining, civil, fabrication, and engineering as well as distribution, retail and wholesale, construction, and importing and exporting.
Based in Brisbane, Australia, Opto has been providing ERP, material requirements planning, manufacturing and inventory software solutions to Australian businesses since the early 1990s, and in turn, these software solutions have enabled smaller manufacturers to close the technological and competitive gap between their business and larger-scale market leaders.
Used by hundreds of clients across Australia, Opto prides itself on being small enough to be highly flexible but large enough to deliver the latest technology trends to its customers while shielding them from the underlying complexity. Providing steadfast support, Opto seeks to guide customers through every phase of their installation, from evaluation and feature selection to technical support and help desk enquiries.
OpenInsight at the Core
“Our focus is on the manufacturing technologies you use to build things. Surrounding that, we also plug into accounting systems,” said Jeremy Bolton, managing director. “Revelation Software’s OpenInsight is the heart of our business; our whole product is based on it.”
According to Bolton, a key differentiator for ITMS/OPTO is its deep understanding of the nuances of manufacturing. Revelation supports that agility, ensuring that OPTO platform is easily configured.
“We’re very good at making software fit into many applications with the ability to deliver it quickly and cost effectively, while also making it easy to understand,” Bolton said. “What sets us apart is the ability for the OPTO platform to be easily configured to precise customer requirements.”
The company’s partnership with Revelation was forged after OPTO’s CEO sought to build an effective and simplified system to solve manufacturing issues.
Ability to Adapt Revelation has made OPTO’s platform very adaptable. It’s simple to build on and it supports both emerging and existing applications, according to Bolton.
Because it runs on a MultiValue database, OPTO can add new capabilities to its platform without affecting the data model.
“If someone needs something with Revelation, the architecture of our product enables us to add the new capability without changing the underlying data model of every other customer,” Bolton said. “Our software can fit in many applications.”
MultiValue database technology can be quickly tailored to unusual requirements and it can talk directly to the CRM copy machine, Bolton explained.
“When we are talking to people about layout, normally we have to get spreadsheet, but this technology allows us to do a layout quickly and effectively,” Bolton said. “Revelation gives us the flexibility we need when responding to customer requirements.”
Built for the Future Reliability and compatibility are also why OPTO has stayed with Revelation for more than 20 years.
The technology helps OPTO support its customers by providing them with a platform that delivers better customer outcomes, quickly, and cost-effectively.
The MultiValue aspect of the platform make it possible to process requests from customers quickly and with a speed that relational database management systems can’t provide, according to Bolton.
“Running Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle didn’t make any sense,” Bolton said. “There is nothing else you can find to handle so much data.”
Additionally, the cost to customize the platform for a customer was “astronomical,” whereas using Revelation makes the platform cost-effective for the client, Bolton explained.
However, if customers do need to utilize relational database management software, the OPTO platform can integrate to any part of the database that’s necessary, he noted.
There has been a lot of talk about REST and Restful APIs in recent months. Don spoke about SRP’s use of RESTful APIs in his conference presentation last year and I noticed that other MultiValue vendors are starting to support the technology – it’s seems to have now moved beyond the latest must have.
In addition to SRP’s pre-conference blog posting RESTing before RevCon 2016, SRP have just published a follow-up blog article which talks about why they released their SRP HTTP Framework and also about their new version of the toolset (Version 3).
You can read the full blog article on their blog – here. If nothing more, the postings and the Powerpoint presentation will give you a good grounding for the technology and how it can be exploited in OpenInsight. You won’t be caught out when providing a demo and you are asked about support for REST and what it might mean for you and your application.
OK, so this posting is more as a reminder for me going forward than anything else. Last weekend I was working with the OI10 Alpha and I wanted to copy things from one instance of OI10 to another. However, I was blocked because I was only permitted to use one engine and it was being used by the first instance of OI. I thought that this might have been a restriction but I reported it anyway.
It turns out that this is another setting in the new .rxi file that is used by OpenInsight when first launched. I have a couple of .rxi files on my system, so the first challenge was to work out which one I needed to change. This is pretty easy to work out, you just follow these rules:
If the RX switch is used in the shortcut, you’ll use that .rxi file.
If none is defined then OI10 will look for a .rxi file with the same name as the application that you are loading with the /AP switch.
If there is no application defined using the /AP switch, then Oi10 assumes SYSPROG and it’ll use that .rxi file.
So, after a quick check, I’m using SYSPROG, or the SYSPROG.rxi file in my bin32 folder under the OI installation.
I initially guessed that my issue was the <singleInstance> entry which was set to 1, but Carl quickly put me straight and told me that heading will shortly be changed. In the meantime, he’s told me to look at the <serverName> entry in my .rxi file. Because I have a serverName set, I am effectively trying to use the same engine as the first instance and Oi behaves correctly and stops the session. All I need to do is clear the entry by setting it to nothing and then OI will launch as many instances as my license count permits.
Starting OI10 is fully documented in the ‘OpenInsight 10 Presentation Server Object Model’ documentation. This is a work in progress document that is already into 272 pages but today has been yet another reminder of the numerous options that the guys are exposing to developers when launching OpenInsight.
Consider the .rxi file as a more powerful OInsight.ini file and you won’t go far wrong. Just don’t do what I did and blindly dive in. Please take some time to better understand the .rxi files as noted on Carl’s OI10 blog and also in the paperwork when eventually published and released.
For now, I’ll be back into my OI10 Alpha project later today for more learning.
Whilst everyone at the conference we talking positively about the changes that are coming, and rightly so, it is always nice to see what people decide to put into writing following the event.
If you have a blog article that you have written and which relates to the conference, or anything OpenInsight related, please let me know and I’ll gladly add a post onto my blog which has a growing reach.
Today, Sprezzatura have published their viewpoint on the conference. Entitled ‘A view from the Rev Conference 2015‘ the posting make for a good read AND it includes a screenshot of the new OpenInsight 10 IDE that the guys are working on, plus some details about how Carl put that amazing login screen together without the use of html or fancy image manipulation.