Nice way to start the week


Network ErrorWhen starting a brand new week, with new challenges and goals, there is nothing better than opening your email, clearing out the spam (and I get ‘a lot’) and finding a really nice positive message from a client.

This morning was one of those days.

The Universal Driver (UD) 5.x was originally only planned for release with OpenInsight 10, but because of customer needs Revelation decided to roll it back to support OpenInsight 9.4 and we now have customers upgrading their sites for the brand new reconnect (failover) and Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) capabilities.

Last week, I supplied a key for Aaron to upgrade one of Sprezzatura’s clients who are upgrading their UD 4.x licenses and their UDH 4.x to the UD 5.0.0.4 for VSS and failover.  On checking my email this morning I found the following email, the client’s name has been removed for confidentiality reasons.

“Just to let you guys know, Company is installing the UD5 on their main servers and we’re just in the middle of basic testing now.  Initial impressions from Company are:

  1. With encryption, it seems faster than the UD Heavy.
  2. They dropped server connection for 10 seconds and it stayed connected.
  3. They like the look of the new UD manager over the old one.

All in all, everyone there seems really impressed with it so far.   Good job guys.”

Like I said, it is always nice to come into the office and receive nice positive statements from clients (end users) who are feeling the benefits of what Revelation do.

The blog postings just keep coming


With postings from Carl regarding OI 10, SRP and Sprezzatura, it looks like the blogosphere is getting busy in the Revelation world right now.

Recent postings include:

  • OpenInsight 10the blogs most recent post touches on enhanced OLE control (OCX) integration and support for OLE.  One of the main objectives is to provide the ability for developers to register OLE controls with the IDE and bind then to the database.
  • Sprezzatura have just posted a technical posting which discusses just about everything that you wanted to know about HTTP headers.  The posting discusses the need for developers to query HTTP headers sent by the client and that are not included in the default information passed forward by OECGI3.  This blog article is relevant to developers who are using O4W or calling OECGI3 directly.
  • SRP Computer Solutions have just posted a reminder of how modules can be tied to the old Application Manager UI in OI 8.0 and later.  Using their System Editor as an example, the blog posting includes full details of linking buttons and there is a free download for the companies Side Bar Images.

Please click on the links at the beginning of the bullet points to view the whole blog postings.

SRP and Sprezzatura Blog Postings


Both SRP and Sprezzatura have recently released a couple of very interesting and useful blog postings:

  • The SRP Update has posted a new article called, ‘The Case of the Jittery Java’.
    Java. It is that program that is always installed on a system and is always asking to run updates.  We don’t even consider it when troubleshooting an issue, but maybe we should…  Recently, a client requested for us to come out and give a tutorial on how to use their new smart barcode scanning units.To read the rest of the article, please visit the following link: http://blog.srpcs.com/the-case-of-the-jittery-java/
  • Sprezzatura’s latest blog posting is entitled “Using concatenated arguments – a warning.”
    Regular OpenInsight users will know that calls to SET_PROPERTY and GET_PROPERTY can be made more efficient by passing @rm delimited arrays to the routines rather than making multiple individual calls.   Although using the @rm concatenation method can lead to improved performance you need to be aware of how it is actually implemented, otherwise it can lead to some subtle bugs that may be hard to track down.To read the rest of the article, please visit the following link: http://sprezzblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/using-concatenated-arguments-warning.html

#RevCon13 – Revelation X & High Availability


Revelation Software 2013 Conference LogoOK, so we all know that OpenInsight has high availability inherently built in but it is interesting to bring the two initial session titles together in such a way.

With the opening addresses now done and dusted, the conference is getting down to the technical side of the proceedings and one of the main and many reasons why OpenInsight developers from all over the world have taken the time to be in Nashville this week.

Carl Pates (Sprezzatura) and Jared Bratu (Revelation) go head to head in this first breakout session. Carl will be talking about Revelation X (OpenInsight 10) and Jared will be taking on the topic of High Availability, Network Design for O4W websites.

Revelation X
Carl Pates (Sprezzatura)
Those of you following the “Building OpenInsight 10” blog will know that the next generation of OpenInsight is well on its way. During this first public presentation about this new and exciting version of our toolset, Carl will be demonstrating some of the new features and enhancements to the Presentation Server. Those people attending his talk will finally get to see that the enhancements shown on the blog are really REAL and not faked as vapourware in Photoshop!

During his talk Carl will touch on topics that will include: The New Graphics Engine, New Controls, New Tools, What’s changed (and why) and what is yet to come.

Attendees to Carl’s talk will be encouraged to offer suggestions for further enhancements for features that they would like to see in the toolset from version 10 onwards.

High Availability: Network Design for O4W Websites
Jared Bratu (Revelation Software)
Going up against Carl and such an exciting presentation as his on version 10 will be no mean feat. However, with more and more O4W based solutions going live and into the cloud, web, internet (whatever you wish to call it today), this is sure to be another popular breakout session with the attendees.

Taking on the form of a tutorial, Jared will educate his audience on the implementation of a high availability website cluster and frontend proxy server for O4W websites. Attendees will learn how to identify key items of the cluster configuration for integration with an existing site. Jaren will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of moving the OEngine server service off of the database server and scaling it onto multiple webservers. Attendees will leave this session with valuable PowerShell scripts that will enable attendees to deploy configurations across multiple servers.

Regardless of whether you need to scale your website or you just want to understand some options that are available for the future, attendees will find out how an Open Source front-end proxy server can add capacity without making any code changes. Attendees will also gain knowledge of Open Source tools that are available to help to test a site’s capacity and then to benchmark any changes made to the site.

If you have ever wondered how many users your site can support (a question that I am asked during just about every pre-sales O4W discussion), how it can scale to support more visitors, or you are looking for improved site reliability, then you will definitely benefit from this session and walk away with knowledge that is certain to get you started on the right path.

With a schedule like that, I can see many delegates hovering outside both doors pondering which session is the must see. For me, well I’d sit in on one with a stethoscope to the wall listening to the other – they are both just too good to miss.

Reporting just got a whole lot faster.


A couple of weeks ago Sprezzatura blogged about their new report viewer which is now part of S/List and which dramatically reduces the time taken to produce reports for preview.

I had a nice little demo in which i could show the difference between running a List statement in the OpenInsight .net print engine and the new Sprezzatura Viewer. However, to get even more speed S/List is now configured to only operate with the new Sprezz Report Viewer.

Fortunately, I was so amazed by the results I took a video of the comparison and I’ll gladly take you through the video using a WebEx session if you drop me a line.  We can then also try running one of your reports (List Statements) against your data file and see what a difference it makes.

The new version of S/List is now being tested by a couple of key S/List users and reports that are coming back are more than favourable.  For example: “WOW!!! S/List Express is fast. For example in a 6000+ employee database one report that previously took 2 min 57 sec now runs in 43 sec!”.

If you are running OpenInsight version 9.x (sorry S/List Express does not work with version 8.0.8 and prior) and you’d like super fast column based reporting then drop me a line and we’ll see what S/List Express can do for you.

Revelation Conference 2011


Bryan Shumsky presenting the O4W API talk.
Bryan Shumsky – Chief O4W Architect.

Wow – I landed back in London on Saturday morning and my head is still spinning from my whirlwind trip to Las Vegas last week for the latest Revelation Users Conference. Those of you that followed my week on Twitter (#mdprevcon) will have had just the tiniest taster of what was going on, what people were learning about and the absolutely amazing things that Revelation and OpenInsight developers are doing with the OpenInsight tools at the moment.

Before I get into some of the highlights, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone that made the conference such a success. Mike, Nancy and the team at RevUS put on a flawless event, although sunny Vegas became a cold wet soggy sort of place whilst we were there. That said, the presenters brightened up the conference centre with some very well delivered and highly informative talks and the food was just amazing. I’m not so sure about the unusual attempt to heat up one of the Rio’s towers during the conference though ;). Hopefully, those in the tower affected were only inconvenienced and nothing more.

The conference got off to a flying start for me at the welcome reception on Tuesday evening. This was only a couple of hours after I’d flown in, so after a shower and change it was off to the conference centre. My time at the welcome reception is usually taken up by working the foor like a tyupical salesperson, but on this occasion it all turned topsy turvey.  Instead, I had plenty of people (new faces and familiar ones) finding me and wanting to talk about my blog and the videos that I have been producing since the last conference and to make some requests. Retreating towards the door for a quiet few minutes to catch up with Bryan, I met a couple of gate crashers from the RV conference going on in one of the adjacent rooms. An initial Q & A about what each of us did, established that they were Unidata users/developers who provide a web based solution and who are unhappy with their front end design tool of choice. Well, red rag to a bull or what!!! On came the OpenInsight and O4W pitch and they were quickly hooked on the idea of exploring OI. Better still, whilst Bob Catalano spoke to one of them about the tools and piled on even more sales pitch, I diverted into an F1 exchange with the other. It is always nice to have multiple interest points.

Following the welcome reception, the conference got off to its real start on the Wednesday morning. Mike opened the conference promptly at 09:00 with his welcome address. This consisted of the usual product update review since the last conference – so 9.2, 9.2.1, UD & UDH 4.x and of course what would be the star of this show – O4W. Mike went on to explain that O4W has now replaced WebOI and the Sierra Bravo dashboards in OI and those technologies are no longer officially OI supported products. He also highlighted that the current development resources are working on 9.3, which is currently in beta, and ‘relaxed development’ on version 10. He then turned to the main topic of his address, being future developments for the Rev team.

These futures centre around five key areas being The Cloud, Portable Devices, Windows 8, Connectivity and 64-bit OpenInsight. So as to not bloat this posting too much and to keep the more pertinent topics more easily accessible, I’ll touch on those topics one at a time over the next few days.

Following the welcome address the conference split into the usual two track technical session format, with a difference. One of the main highlights of this conference would be O4W and attendees were to be treated to two three hour training sessions that would cover both the wizard interface and the O4W API separately. Owing to the importance of this new technology to every OI application developer, these sessions would be single tracked giving everyone the opportunity to attend. Bob Catalano took the first session in the morning on Thursday and then Friday morning was handed over to Bryan Shumsky to cover the API. More on those later. Otherwise, there was only one change to the published schedule. Owing to Carl Pates’ lost voice (well Vegas is a big place to find lost things don’t you know), Mike would be covering the Banded Report Writer as my first session, replacing Carl’s postponed talk on Cloud Computing.

I had been privileged to have a one on one sneak peek at the Banded Report Writer with Mike a few weeks ago, but I was still surprised to see how functional it is and I’m now even more convinced that it will quickly become the reporting tool of choice for developers AND end-users running version 9.3 and later. The interface is very new and fresh, but better still it is one that most users will be familiar with and happy to use. There are countless properties available and these can easily be viewed and set using the exposed properties panel – very nice for power users creating their own reports. The BRW supports multiple fonts, barcodes are built in and you can utilise all of the standard image formats and graphing within our reports. The BRW also features report groups and sub reports. Mike showed the power of embedding a sub report in a main report and grouping reports to be printed as a collection is a great feature for many managers and people running end of month reports and the like. In addition to all of the usual power afforded to developers through LIST statements, the BRW includes super easy to use wizards to make the tools even more attractive to end users. Could this replace third party reporting tools like Crystal reports with OI – I think that it just might!!!

Whilst I was listing to Mike, Jared was educating system administrators in the Practical Guide to OpenInsight Applications. Reports from attendees of that session during the break were extremely positive with many people picking up new tips and best practice advice. Let it not be said that Rev’s conferences are only for the hardened OpenInsight developer – the team really does cater for everyone.

Session two saw Alexander Holliday taking on the topic of Thorny Problems with UTF8, but I dived into Aaron’s (Sprezzatura) talk on MFSs and BFSs. A topic that I knew I would struggle with, but with these terms coming up more and more these days I wanted to at least conceptually understand the hype. I’m glad that I did attend, as the presentation was easily followed by someone of my limited ability, even if I’m never going to fully understand and apply such things.

Following lunch, we all headed off to another single track presentation during which during which Mike would look at the new features in 9.3, another must attend session, so I was glad that I did not have to choose between topics. Many of the new features have been, or will be, covered on this blog and elsewhere, so I’ll not go into details. Needless to say, the highlights were over 1000 new or enhanced entities, updated exe’s and dll’s, new .net features, the BRW, O4W mobile features and Data Encryption at Rest. Oh and Mike also touched on the new Google Visualisations in O4W – what was it he said, oh yeah – “They are wicked, wicked cool”.

Prior to the lunch break, I joined Jody Summers for a review of what they have achieved with O4W for their eTraumaBase application. From some plain html beginnings, they have used O4W to create a very nice looking and functional system. Learning that they had a proof of concept in just three days and then a working prototype in less than three months, left attendees of this session with no misunderstanding that O4W can deliver and very quickly. Whilst Jody was talking Don Bakke (SRP) was presenting the first of a two part session on the Art and Science of Form Design, Kevin would then complete part two following the lunch break. I’d have liked to see these two sessions, but my afternoon was spent in the company of Bob Carten learning more (at least conceptually) about the art of integrating .net into OI applications.

The evening was then consumed by a busy Vendor Fair during which I found little time to eat and surprising little alcohol was consumed by everyone at the event. Are we all becoming more conservative in our drinking habits these days, or were we just overcome by all of the great things going on and the opportunity to share successes with friends and colleagues? Working the Sprezzatura stand, the main interest was in the new Sprezzatura Framework (to be rebranded and commercially released soon) and Carl’s wonderful Engine Server Farm. With a rapidly diminishing voice, Carl spent most of the evening spawning engines and watching them elegantly disappear off of the screen ready for them to respawn as needed again.

Day two began with the first three hour marathon session with Bob running through the power of the O4W wizards. During the session he looked at using the Engine Server in debug mode (a must when developing), creating forms, lookups, reports and dashboards. All super easy stuff that any power user can take on with a little training or self tuition using the Quick Start Guide (or my O4W video series).

After lunch, I headed off to another of Bob Carten’s talks during which he would run though the complexities of Data Encryption at Rest – a new feature in 9.3. This new technology is important for anyone working with sensitive data, but even more so if you are in the USA (or selling systems for use in the USA) as there is new legislation coming online on January 1st and which requires data to be encrypted at rest. A quick show of hands demonstrated that most application developers are not ready and are unlikely to be ready for such changes, but this DER technology in 9.3 will help those people ho need to comply. The session was a little heavy for someone of my skills, but DER should be easy for anyone with any application development knowledge. However, whilst the DER functionality built into OI 9.3 gets your started, the whole topic of DER is much larger and Bob recommended some useful resources that touch on the wider topic of user education.

Whilst Sean spoke about the Commuter Module during the first afternoon session, I headed off to Andrew’s (Sprezzatura) session during which he would undertake a live presentation (no PowerPoint needed here) looking at Special FX. The lack of PowerPoint use quickly became obvious when we saw windows sliding open or moving around the screen and other animations taking place. Then again, whilst Andrew reviewed the reams of code (I exaggerate a little) needed to make these stunningly visual effects. Whilst some work is needed, these wonderfully pleasing user interface techniques really can be used to bring your applications into the 21st century and, better still, help to set you apart from your competition.

Following the lunchtime break I headed off to listen to Stefano Cavaglieri share with us the Management of Multifunctional Information and how OpenInsight has helped him to manage multiple languages and other multifunctional requirements within his sound archives application. Meanwhile, Don from SRP shared with his audience how to “Go All In” using a Framework to develop winning OpenInsight applications.

Following the formal part of the day, proceedings took a more leisurely turn and a few hours where I personally learned a lot and had more than enough fun. The lunch room had been turned into part seating dining area with a superb buffet and part casino with craps, roulette, poker and Black Jack tables around the far and side edges of the room. I’m pleased to say that I was quickly a good few hundred dollars up playing Black Jack with Kerry and Vickie. Then, following a bite to eat, I headed off to the poker table to learn how the betting side of things worked. I had a rough idea of the hands, but the betting side had always eluded me. Time to find out. Well almost, I was fine with the blinds and betting process, but I got somewhat lost when going all in and various pots being shared out – a few more lesson needed I think before hitting the tables for real. Anyway, playing with the dummy chips provided, I quickly amassed a nice little stack before going all in at nine o’clock and what I thought would be the last had. Surprise, surprise, the stack increased significantly, but then Mike looked over the table and called one last hand. Damn – all to do again. We’d all decided to go all in with Kevin (SRP) and I having a fair old stack of chips in front of us. I started with a Jack and another card (can’t recall what), but the river (hope I have the term right) threw up another two Jacks leaving me with a healthy three jacks. So, all in again Las Vegas Casino style and it was Sprezz versus SRP. Kevin followed suit and a reveal of the cards had Sprezz beating SRP (woo hoo – all in the best spirit of course), but wait!!!! Quietly down the other end of the table a full house was produced and all my lovely chips disappeared down the other end of the table. Well Kevin, I guess that you had the last laugh and I learned a lesson that there are plenty of surprises when gambling. I’m glad I don’t try it for real and that I’m never tempted to.

Friday morning came around far too quickly. The second of the two marathon O4W training sessions and this time Bryan would leave me behind as he waded through the power of using the O4W APIs to create dynamic custom web forms. I kept up with Bryan until the break, but the one message that I took away was that the real power of O4W is hidden away in the power of those APIs and that developers can easily use their Basic+ skills to weave some wonderful online database driven solutions using OpenInsight.

The conference was closed by Mike with a hint of the next conference being held in about 18 month’s time. The venue is yet to be decided and Mike outlined the parameters that make the decision and called for suggestions. We saw some of the photographs taken during the show, the vendor fair prise was handed out and the sponsors were thanked. With a shuttle scheduled at the close there was only time to grab my t-shirt and conference CD, say a few far too hurried goodbyes and I headed out the door for the airport and left a highly successful and well run conference behind me.

Finally, I’d just like to thank everyone that took the time to find me and comment on my blog and mostly the videos that I produce from time to time. The videos do take some time to plan and put together, but it was great to learn how useful some of you find them and I will keep them coming as I come across topics that are within my capabilities to do justice.

Ardbrook & Merit Software Embrace Social Media


For sometime, I have been an advocate of social media for getting more company and product exposure online.  Many of you will know that I use Twitter for just in time snippets of news, this blog for larger articles (news items, technical info, etc.) as they come to my attention, LinkedIn to get the Revelation brand noticed, alerts to see when people are talking about Revelation and OpenInsight, etc.

In recent months, we have seen many of the key online social media resources opening up opportunities to host company and product pages.  Revelation have several such pages, Sprezzatura has been running a tech blog for a while (providing a more technically deep resource than I could ever hope to achieve) and I’m pleased to find my alerts flagging up some of our VARs first steps into using social media.

Just recently, I have had alerts for Ardbrook’s (Ireland) LinkedIn company and products pages and also those for Merit Software (Wales).  Ardbrook are also making good use of their blog for news items

Both companies have also begun using Twitter, with Merit just announcing the forthcoming launch of their new website and with Ardbrook announcing their new LinkedIn pages as they were published.

Many organisations of all sizes are seeing the business benefits of these resources and it is good to see some of our clients embracing these new opportunities.  Oh, and it does not have to take over your life as there are a wealth of monitoring tools available to bring all of the information together.

Please comment below if your organisation uses any social media resources: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, a Blog, a YouTube channel, etc.