My App’s now full of Bugs :)


BugSo, I am a week into my OpenInsight 9.4 to OpenInsight 10 (OI10) conversion which is basically just playing around with the interface and I really like how things are going.  I have a brand new colour scheme and ripping out loads of code.  I was keeping a tally, but I’m about 2/3rd of the was through and nearly 2,000 lines of cobbled together code have been deleted in favour of setting properties and thereby using professionally written code to run my application.

Last night, I managed to introduce a long overdue and much longed for Progress Bar which runs whilst my data grids are loading during system startup.  A trivial task for most of my blog readers, but quite a result for me all the same.  It’s nice when you manage to achieve something after a struggle and this is one such case.  It does put a smile on my face every time I launch my OpenInsight 10 application, so it’s well worth it in my mind.

Progress Bar

Using graphics in OpenInsight to build some really nice interfaces is child’s play now.  the key is having a good graphics library to pull from and I’m extremely lucky to have access to Icon Experience‘s graphics library.  With nearly 3,000 images in the library that I’m using, and they have several libraries and numerous sizes of each image in each library, they have a graphic (.png and .ico) that just about meets any requirement when building an application.

Anyway, I’m pleased to now be 100% OpenInsight 10.  Since rebuilding my computer, I have found no reason to install OpenInsight 9.4 and I’m now both developing in OI10 and using my Revelation Contact Manager on a daily basis running under OI10.

Great job guys.

I cannot produce any videos of my progress thus far because I’m working with live sensitive data.  However, once this project is done, I will look to put a video or two together using the old Clinic application that I used for the OI9.x tutorials.  Watch my blog for more information and video links as I begin that project.

If you are an OpenInsight WORKS subscriber, you can get the OpenInsight 10 Beta 4 software from the WORKS area on www.revelation.com.   If you are not a WORKS member, please drop me a line and I’ll be pleased to arrange a time to talk a little more about OpenInsight 10 and the supporting WORKS subscription service that underwrites the development suite.

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I’m often asked who is a typical OpenInsight developer and . . .


Mike at last years conference.
Mike at last years conference.

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.

OI10 Milestone Reached


OI10logon

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.

Performance


z4OK, so yes, I did go a little mad the other weekend.  I’ve hankered for a roadster for many years and this little beauty presented itself and I took the leap. She’s garaged and only comes out at the weekends. However, that does not matter because she puts a smile on my face whilst she’s standing still as well as when I behind the wheel, feeding that 2.5 litre straight six and pushing her on through some sweeping bends.

Whilst modern she retains some glorious traditional lines, she looks fast when she’s standing still and when you open her up she’s as responsive as you like and she just flies.

OpenInsight 10 (OI10), for many of us has been a project that has seen the interface chance considerably. Whilst hugely functional, the old desktop interface was looking aged and not overly intuitive for new users. For experienced developers, the interface required a fair amount of clicking down through layers to achieve things or, at best you needed to know the shortcut keys. OI10 delivers a brand-new interface that is way more intuitive to use. There is no more clicking down through layers, so much more is right there in the interface or one click away and so, so much more has been exposed in the way of new controls, properties and more.

Whilst the O4W interface is still pretty new, it’s early releases were based around a two-column approach but OI10 opens up an array of new possibilities with multi-column design and drag and drop development.

I’ve played with the latter Alpha releases and I’m now getting more and more into the beta to convert my personally written contact manager that I use on a daily basis at RevSoft. I’m fast learning that OI10 all adds up to an easier to use interface with productivity gains to be found everywhere. I cannot believe how much code I can now remove from my forms by just setting one simple property in the Property Panel – that’s usually a case of inserting a single value (numeric or text), or making a picklist selection or toggling a property. OI10 is making our application developer easier than ever and introducing standards that will no doubt deliver better applications through consistency, stability and refined code.

So, the interface enhancements are nice, the O4W design options are more powerful but people still want better performance and on more than one occasion recently I’ve had discussions about indexing large files.

At conference last year, Bob spoke about the way that the conversion tools will optimise your tables. It is still work in progress but Revelation are mastering the dark art of balancing file-sizes with thresholds and a whole load of things that I really don’t understand. Bob’s also worked on caching things and using memory better and Andrew at Sprezzatura continues to explore ways to better configure the system for Linear Hash and find performance gains.

Some people don’t think that Revelation are taking performance seriously and listening to their customer base. I know for a fact that this is not the case. You only have to sit in the car with Mike on the way back from a User Group meeting to know that he personally takes customer needs and requested extremely seriously. On more than one occasion (in fact on many occasions) I’ve been driving him across the UK and he’s bashing away on his keyboard like it’s going to give up on him in the next ten minutes. We get to our destination and he shows me an example of something a client has suggested or requested and with a big smile on his face, he tells me that I can let my client know that it’s in the next release – subject to testing and quality control of course. It’s the little details like this that have kept me loyal to Revelation for the last 20 years, in a sales role that would normally have seen half a dozen sales people come and go.

Like the motorcar currently sitting in my garage just a few feet away from me, OpenInsight is maturing into one of IT’s classics which continues to deliver on the needs of the modern application developer. Not only does it look good and it’s wonderful to work with, hidden under the hood are a number of highly sought-after enhancements that are set to deliver some of those performance gains that the OpenInsight community have been asking for.

Just yesterday, after yet another call with a client looking at index performance on files with 500,000 plus rows, Andrew told me about some more of Bob’s enhancements to OpenInsight. Well, I just had to get some highlights from the man himself and, as a teaser, this is his reply:

“I have re-written index builds and updates. The high points are:

  • Rebuild uses in-memory hashtables and removes 64k workarounds which were in the legacy build.
  • Rebuild all for a table rebuilds all indexes in one pass, rather than individual passes
  • Update_Index is rewritten so that there is less contention on the root of the index. I made changes to SI.MFS as well.

…”

I don’t fully understand indexing but Bob tells me that the current system has to make numerous passes. One test that he undertook had to make six passes through a system with 500,000 rows. His greatly refined solution now makes just one pass through 500,000 rows, rather than having to work through 3,000,000 rows. He therefore has a very high level of confidence that the rebuild process work well and performance gains will be experienced across the board. I don’t have the figures, but he tells me that the 500,000 row rebuild was much faster and that’s good enough for me.

Other enhancements include a brand new update process that makes use of multiple sessions updating many tables at the same time. This has proven to be robust and fast during internal testing and we look forward to hearing the results obtained by our beta testers in the real world and running against real databases with hundreds of thousands or millions of rows.

I’m looking forward to getting out in the Z4 with Joanna, putting the convertible roof down and enjoying the wind in our hair. In the same way, I’m looking forward to working with the fresh looking OpenInsight toolset, modernising my applications and sharing this new gem of a toolset with the wider MultiValue community and the application development community in general.

We now have a fully integrated, highly functional toolset that is easy to use, powerful and fast. I can’t wait for the official OI10 release and to hear what Mike, Carl, Bob and the team have in the pipeline for OI11.

It’s going to be a great ride for the foreseeable future.

When is a bug not a bug…


… when Martyn is playing with the OpenInsight 10 Beta and his knowledge of the new system is lacking <lol>.

OI10Beta

As many of you will know, I have been working with the OpenInsight 10 alpha for sometime and I recently downloaded and begun playing with the official OI10 Beta which was released a week or so ago.

I’d reported a good number of issues to RevUS during the Alpha program and I’m pleased to see many of those issues resolved in the Beta and a mountain of other things now working and working really nicely.

OI10 is a massive change from the old 9.x versions.  It is so much easier to use and massively more developer friendly.  I’ve only really played in the forms designer (image above), popup designer and scripting tools but it is a brand new world compared to the old interface and tools.

For example, the Main Application Manager window lists your recently accessed entities, making access to those entities a day or two later super easy.  Once in the forms designer, you can now have multiple forms open and you can work on them all at the same time – although I’ve confused myself on numerous occasions and found that the tab bar gets a little full.  However, I absolutely love the ability to have a form open and then scripts and Quick Events open for that form, popups associated with that form, graphic files associated with that form and more – it’s just so intuitive and super, super easy to jump between entities.  No more closing things, drilling down to find new entities and opening them – it’s just a massive, massive time saver, let alone more organised.

Then you have the properties and events readily available at the side of the interface.  I usually have the Properties panel open because there are just so many properties that have been exposed to make life even easier for developers.

I used to write loads of lines of code to handle row shading, window positioning and the like, now it’s a value in the properties window.  This makes for exact positioning, the creation of some lovely looking windows, better graphics handling and much much more.

As I get more into OpenInsight 10, I find that it is the little details that are making all the difference.  For example, when compiling a form, I get an immediate notification of an issue in the output panel at the bottom of the window in red text.  So  much more is delivered right to the developer in the interface.

All of the usual tools are in the toolset, although just about everything has had a makeover or some level of enhancement.  The changes within the toolset are huge and massively beneficial.  The only downside is that there is going to be work for all of us moving existing OpenInsight applications to OpenInsight 10 but the benefits will be well, well worth the time and effort.

As for non-OpenInsight developers.  Well, Revelation are now delivering one of the few fully integrated application development suites for both super rich desktop and amazing web based applications.  We now have a very intuitive toolset that developers using other tools will be right at home with and which features form design tools, coding tools, debugging tools, reporting tools and much, much more for both desktop and web, right on one comprehensive toolset.

Another massive leap forward is O4W.  This ground breaking toolset, that I used some time ago (as a non developer) to build a proof of concept application and which was finished by the VAR and now used by the employees of some of the Internets biggest names (no need for me to say who), used to be based on a couple of columns and creating more complex interfaces was not overly easy.  With OpenInsight 10, all of that has been addressed and O4W10 (not it’s official name) has really matured into a brilliant piece of technology for those of us who don’t want to learn HTML5, Javascript and the like.

I might be more than a little biased, but I am totally and utterly blown away by what Revelation are now very close to delivering to the OpenInsight development community, the MultiValue development community for widely and business in general.

The beta program is currently open to all OpenInsight WORKS subscribers.  If you are reading this and you are not a WORKS member or you are new to Revelation Software, please contact your nearest Revelation office and we’ll be pleased to assist you in any way that we can.

I was told sometime ago that OpenInsight 10 was set to be a game changer.  I now know why that person said that to me and I can’t wait to learn more about converting my applications and building new systems and proof of concepts for clients and prospects.

ITMS Uses Revelation Software to Stay Ahead of the Curve


usersThe February 14, 2017 issue of Database Trends and Applications features an article written by Stephanie Simone titled ITMS Uses Revelation Software to Stay Ahead of the Curve.

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.

Innovation with Revelation

Recently, ITMS/OPTO and Revelation collaborated on adding RESTful application programming interfaces (APIs) to ITMS/OPTO’s platform. The new capability allows the company to plug into modern web platforms such as Salesforce.

Moreover, the use of RESTful APIs means that ITMS/OPTO doesn’t have to do heavy manually coding to add capabilities as it did before, Bolton explained. Using RESTful APIs will enable integration with the increasing number of best-in-class cloud-based, mobile, and niche applications.

“Before, if we needed a CRM system, we’d have to ‘be’ the CRM system,” Bolton said. “Now, we can just plug into the world’s best CRM system.”

This has been a key step in the right direction as OPTO looks to integrate more web-based products, and to allow third parties to connect into its systems.

Opto gets requirements from customers and can build what they need, but in the past, Opto would be constrained, said Bolton. “What we want to do is make it so that any third party can pick it up and do an order.”

The company already utilizes integration in the cloud effortlessly, according to Bolton.

“Integration in the cloud becomes much easier, that’s one of the big benefits you get from RESTful APIs,” Bolton said. “Cloud-to-cloud products integrate almost seamlessly. From a customer’s point of view, the backups just get done.”

Previously, the company experimented with OpenInsight for Web (O4W), a user friendly web development environment that allowed the company to run its platform on a handheld device. Though it worked well, the company eventually needed a heavier mobile development environment and implemented a third-party connector, moving toward Revelation’s RESTful API tools.

Looking Ahead to the Future

The feedback from ITMS customers for over nearly 20 years has uniformly excellent, according to Bolton.

“Some may actually know that Revelation’s OpenInsight is platform the underlying our product, but many do not know, and this is in fact a benefit as the platform is transparent to the customer so they can focus on the business outcomes,” Bolton said.

As the manufacturing business changes, Bolton says Revelation continues to help his company stay ahead of the curve.

“There’s a complexity that we solve that very few other organizations can,” Bolton said. “Revelation helps us do that in agile manner.”

According to Bolton, Revelation also continues to deliver enhancements to OpenInsight in each release that keep the platform relevant and up to date.

“There are a series of features that are coming in the next release with OpenInsight 10  that we believe we will be able to use in continuing to deliver successful business outcomes to our customers,” Bolton said.

 

MyESS goes mobile


myess-mobileIt has been quite sometime since I first helped to take Ardbrook’s data onto the web with a fledgling O4W based application to illustrate an idea.  Bill and the team took what I had built, developed it further and commercialised it as a product ready for release to their customer base and new clients.

With numerous extremely high profile clients now using the ESS system, the team at Ardbrook have taken the solution one step further into the mobile world.  They have now released a wonderful mobile application that runs on your Android or iOS based smartphone.

The application enables employees to gain access to their current payslip from anywhere and at any time.  Furthermore, the solution provides access for past payslips and also copies of the employee’s P60, both going back over numerous years.

This is a really nice looking solution that empowers employees, whilst at the same time reducing admin for the Human Resources departments.  It is also perfect for payroll bureaux’s and large or small businesses alike.

If you would like to know more and see the application in action, please click here for their short demo video (includes sound).