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Thread: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

  1. #1
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    Default Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    An open letter to the Alpha Software Development Team:

    In the beginning Alpha Five v1.0 couldn't match the flexibility, useability or speed of Alpha 4. As I watched Alpha Five grow from 1.0 to 5.0 I was still disappointed that it still couldn't do some of the things I was getting Alpha Four to do. And if my memory serves me even the programing paradigm of the early versions was different. Finally after all these years I have set aside my romantic desire for an easier (24x80 column screen) time and taken up the mantle of a WINDOWS PROGRAMER.

    My choice of course was Alpha Five version 6.0 - I thought I had a head start because I had been programming since 1988 with Alpha Four, I had written over 20 different programs scattered all over Chicagoland all successfully working (with minor adjustments) from DOS and Windows 3.1 through XP. Now the big step into the wonderful world of event and object based programming. Surely, I thought, Alpha Software has beaten me there, done all the up-front work, worked out all the hassles - they had, at least, a 10 year head start.

    By the time I actually started programming in Alpha Five (Oh! goody-goody) version 7 was out and I upgraded and tentively stuck my toes in the water. What optimism I had thinking of all the new frontiers I could conquer with a truly windows based programing language and environment.

    Now after a year and a half trying my best to wrestle Alpha Five (now v8.0) to the ground I have come to a simple and unmistakable conclusion: Alpha Five needs to let go and Alpha Six needs to be started.

    The basic problem I see with Alpha Five can be summed up in two words "no consistency". While most of the problems (I estimate 60% or so) found on this wonderful forum are programmer error the rest are casued by Alpha Five itself. Often said by other programmers are the phrases, "...this is how I work around that...," "...I don't use that function because..." and my favorite "...try this...try this... and if that doesn't work you might try this...".
    After reading myriads of posts in search of answers to my own questions I think I can safely say Alpha Five sounds like and feels like a dear old car patched with bondo and held together with coat hangers and duct tape.

    So my request: Please start new, rethink the paradigm, retool the factory and give us Alpha Six. A streamlined, efficient, consistent and modern programming tool. We have stood by you through all the development and handed over our hard earned cash. We have rethought our strategies to the umteenth time and reworked every piece of code till we got the right work-around. Isn't it time for something truly better not just a version number and a set of patches?

    Sincerely and respectfully,
    John Turner
    Alpha Programmer since 1988

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    Volunteer Moderator Steve Wood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Some may agree, but I think you are off base; I like their approach and it would unhinge hundreds of existing users/developers to change course. At the same time I suffer from some issues they have not addressed, at least as of yet.

    Maybe an approach is a fresh wish list and a fresh bug list; top 10 of each perhaps, and then ranked by the developer/user community. That plus a commitment from Alpha to address those issues, or at least give them an evaluation and a response, possibly a timetable where warranted.

    As a developer, I WANT nine ways of doing something, even if six of them are considered 'workarounds'. The workarounds are where you get to apply your innovation and come up with something completely better than the 'established' protocol.
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    John,

    What an articulate posting! Hallelujah!

    I have been working with A5V8 and V9 for a little less than a year now, and find working with the package increasingly frustrating.

    But Steve is also right. Alpha Software has been, in my opinion, "sloppy", and as a result, developers have adjusted for their sloppiness, and now if Alpha should actually clean up the design, all existing objects would have to be changed.

    See my posting today on the wish list of two fine examples of this. I did so just for the record. Alpha's record on getting it right the first time is not good; happily, they are reasonably responsive in fixing errors but totally seem to ignore design flaws.

    Does Alpha have the guts, let alone the resources, to reinvent the product?

    Alpha Six must have three requisites:

    1. Most importantly someone on the design team who understood what software quality is about and how to design it into a product. Perhaps someone with experience with an outfit like Carnegie Mellon's Software Enginneering Institute in Pittsburgh. They help developers design quality into a system, large systems including major projects for the Department of Defense, who can not tolerate Alpha like quality.

    2. Someone on the design team with an eye for visual design. Some people are tone deaf. Some people are color blind. But for all the members of a design team to be as design blind as Alpha is a sure guarantee of a mediocre, compromised product. I've said it before, they need a makeover in the worst possible way: web site, product packaging, collateral materials, icons, the works.

    3. A partnership with a good ActiveX controls software firm. I doubt Alpha can ever deliver commercial quality controls the likes of which are easily available on the market today from firms like dbi-tech, codejock, infragistics.
    They seem to me to have a not invented here philosophy and are loath to cross license. Funny you never hear Alpha Software and strategic partnerships in the same breath. Alpha Five advertises ActiveX compatibility, but in my experience, it is limited to a fairly few simple graphing tools. Using a commercial grade "Outlook style" calendar to replace Alpha's homemade calendar convinced me that Alpha has a very long way to go with ActiveX controls. And to quote John McCain, "my friends", if your application can't employ modern controls, you're application is not competitive.

    Bob McGaffic
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Last edited by rmcgaffic; 10-24-2008 at 08:20 PM.

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    Volunteer Moderator Peter.Greulich's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Quote Originally Posted by John Turner View Post
    ...Alpha Five sounds like and feels like a dear old car patched with bondo and held together with coat hangers and duct tape.
    Hhhmmm...A little over the top, I think.


    So my request: Please start new, rethink the paradigm, retool the factory and give us Alpha Six. A streamlined, efficient, consistent and modern programming tool.
    ...
    Isn't it time for something truly better not just a version number and a set of patches?
    John,

    No offense, but I think you might be whistling in the wind. I'm sure there are many who would agree with your sentiment, but it ain't gonna happen. At this point, Alpha is so complex, has so many moving parts, and so much functionality, there is no way they can do what you suggest. No more than they have been able to fix even the inconsistencies that you refer to. And no more than their inability to provide the capability to generate a compiled exe application that many have requested over the years. The latter, no doubt, would require a major rewrite from the ground up. Your sentiments are met with sympathy, but are not realistic - at least IMHO.


    Quote Originally Posted by rmcgaffic View Post
    Does Alpha have the guts, let alone the resources, to reinvent the product?
    Robert,

    I'm not sure about the "guts" part of your statement, but don't expect them to reinvent the wheel. It ain't gonna happen. But I think they should take your many helpful suggestions and bug reports seriously. Sometimes I get the feeling that Alpha becomes stubborn when someone makes repeated requests to fix an obvious flaw. Hopefully, reason and common sense will ultimately prevail. A more obvious and more realistic wish would be for Alpha not to abandon older versions the minute a new one comes out. The fact that there are no patches for v8 or v7 is irritating to say the least. Attempting to "force" sales by abandoning previous products wins them no friends, I think. But given past history, I don't hold out much hope for even that modest wish.

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    I'm gonna throw my 2 cents in here and go along with everything Steve Wood said on this one. I would definitely like to see more emphasis put into the quality aspects of A5 but not at the expense of starting over.

    John and Bob, you definitely have some good points. However, starting from scratch would wreak havoc with a lot of people's hard work out there. It would probably also result in a whole host of new problems as Alpha tried to work through all the new stuff they would be trying to accomplish.

    I also noticed that John has recently switched from A4 and Bob only started using this message board about a year ago. Perhaps more experience with A5 will change your outlook somewhat. Yes, I think one year still qualifies as recent because A5 is so different from A4 that you basically have to learn everything except "database basics" all over again. (Try switching to Access and you will find the same problem - and plenty of other issues as well. Been there, done that.) I remember my time converting from A4 to A5v1 and it was very difficult. Even after all these years, I still feel like I learn something new every day. Sometimes I'm amazed when I look at something I did 6 months or a year ago and wonder why in the world I did it that way. When I look at stuff I did 10 or more years ago, I'm sometimes amazed that it actually worked.

    Back to Steve's comments: I think a rating system might be worth trying although I'm not sure how well it would work. Let's say there is (a) an issue that has a very simple work-around and 1000 developers are having a problem with it and (b) another issue with no work-around that is causing A5 to crash but only two users are currently having a problem with it. Which one should have more priority? I'm guessing the two guys with issue 'b' would think theirs should because there is no work-around. And, who knows how many other developers will eventually run into the same problem? On the other hand, since 'a' has a simple work-around, maybe the fix would also be simple. If that one could be fixed in one hour, it should probably be fixed before they spent 20 hours on 'b'. So, a simple vote may not be the best final solution but it would at least provide some input into the decision making process.

    I've often wondered if Alpha isn't in a situation where they need to produce something "new and improved" in order to keep up the cash flow. Perhaps that is cutting into their ability to fix all the "little things" which sometimes aren't so little from the developers' viewpoint. Or, perhaps it's just a matter of viewpoint/focus. Maybe if they had one person dedicated to "quality issues"?? Personally, if they came out with version 9.1 and it fixed all those "little" things, I'd happily pay a $100 or more upgrade fee for it. The amount of time it would save me in work-arounds would be well worth it. (I'm only trying to make a point here. A separate "we fixed all the issues" version isn't very practical.)

    I don't fault them for having issues. They will never go away completely. But I think some of the things are reaching the point where they are becoming a negative factor for Alpha's sales. The "serious developers" that are coming from other platforms see some of the inconsistencies - both visual and programatic - and decide not to use it. In their minds it isn't "professional" enough. And, in some cases, I have to agree. (On the other hand, v8 and v9 are much more modern looking than the previous versions.) For one thing, I think the functionality of the xdialogs is great but the alignment of text labels with fields is terrible and the fact that some "one line high" fields are different heights than others can be very distracting. They work; they just don't look professional enough.

  6. #6
    "Certified" Alphaholic Mike Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    I am with Peter on this, the reality of things, and especially the support for old versions. Just at look at what happened to Microsoft and Vista, and their having to backtrack from a new version (Vista) to old (XP) to develop the next version (forgot what the name is supposed to be). The auto industry has a legal mandate to support autos with flaw fixes and parts for 10 years. Can one imagine such a concept with updates and corrections in the computer program industry?

    I like Steve's suggestion about polling the users/developers for the top 10 needs and at least address those.
    Mike W
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Steve, Peter, Cal, MikeW,

    AGREE!! I think the points made are right on and something that Alpha had better start seriously looking at for future sales. That is, the issues that are bothersome to most (especially potential customers) and the ones that actually are bugs should be addressed and WE should be made aware of any that Alpha is looking at and kept apprised of the status of each. (maybe a list of some kind?)
    Mike
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    Volunteer Moderator Steve Wood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Don't take my relatively short comment to mean I am totally happy with Alpha. As a Developer I am NEVER satisfied! I still send in bug reports and occassionally 'remind' them of previous issues. But I also know (as was said below) they are working crazy on AJAX and other enhancements for V9 and my reminders are not effective right now. Major fixes tend to go in waves.

    I don't know how much their involvement in actually developing or managing product development for end clients is cutting in to their own product development work. But that new business plan may let them see the issues first hand.

    I suggested polling and creating a list because it serves two purposes: 1) it creates a tangible list Alpha can work from or at least comment on, and 2) it gets us all together on the same page, which has its own benefit.
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    LADIES and GENTLEMEN:

    IF what you are really saying is that the current development line of Alpha Five is the only road to take because we have traveled its serpentine path for too long a time, then think back to Alpha Four. There was little hesitation for Alpha Software to stop development on it and put their efforts into a new product. Why should the development baggage of this product forever be a stumbling block to the development of a new, smartly crafted tool.

    Maybe most of the readers here started in Alpha Five and are worried about the future viability of their applications, trust me when I say "fear not". You will be able to write the programs you are writing today with the product you have today for a long time to come. Remember, I still have Alpha Four programs running and running well in the real world. Or maybe they are use to Alpha Five's idiosyncracies and have come to love spending their time working around the tool instead of spending that time developing their software. What ever the reason, I feel the sentiment is misplaced. I know I deserve a better tool and I think you do too.

    So, if it's a fact that Alpha will never redevelop this product so that they can easily maintain a stable, predictable and cohesive code base then the "writing is on the wall", the future does not belong to Alpha it belongs to the next company who sees the benefit in writing a development tool for non-programmers. Or dare I say it, changes their current tool to be more accessible to non-programmers.

    Offered most humbly,
    John Turner

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Maybe most of the readers here started in Alpha Five and are worried about the future viability of their applications, trust me when I say "fear not". You will be able to write the programs you are writing today with the product you have today for a long time to come. Remember, I still have Alpha Four programs running and running well in the real world. Or maybe they are use to Alpha Five's idiosyncracies and have come to love spending their time working around the tool instead of spending that time developing their software.
    John, neither of these apply to me, nor I dare say, to most who are writing applications for customers with Alpha Five. You do great disservice to us, even though your words are clothed in humble tones. No one, especially developers who are working for customers, enjoys "spending time working around" a tool's shortcomings.

    I find myself using Alpha Five because even with its warts and freckles I am able to be much more productive with it than with other tools. No one who writes code for others should be wedded forever to a single tool. Choose the right tool / language for the job. The tool that helps you be more productive. If Alpha is missing a feature that's critical to your customer's application (bitmap images that bleed to the edge of the display come to mind) don't use it. Simple as that. No tool is perfect for every job. Use the tool that meets your customer's needs best. To argue that now is the time to abandon the current version and "start over" strikes me as naive.

    -- tom

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Hi John,
    Not disagreeing necessarily but just want to clear up a bit of what you are asking of Alpha (or whatever RAD tool for that matter).

    When you say
    benefit in writing a development tool for non-programmers
    this can mean different things to different people. What constitutes a "non-programmer" ??

    Is it:
    ....someone who simply cannot or does not want to write xbasic code?
    ....someone who has no knowledge of a database whatsoever?

    And how far should this go in difficulty??
    ....have the above type users be able to develop a basic application? (which begets the question of "what is a basic application?")

    ....have the ability to write a complex application?? (And where exactly do you draw the line as to the amount of difficulty that is to be accomplished without code?)

    To a degree all of the above can now be done with Alpha with no xbasic.


    Another aspect that has to be considered....is part of the criteria of being for non-programmers that of having a small learning curve??
    ....again, this brings up the question of what is small?
    ....and what may be a steep learning curve to one user may be small to another! Who is going to set this standard?
    ....And as even the most experienced Alpha users here are STILL learning, it just shows that with everything learned, the learning curve never really ends.

    So is one month or one year or two years....acceptable to know enough to be able to call something a RAD tool for non-programmers?

    =========

    Obviously I think that Alpha can be used by non-programmers and programmers alike. And I also believe, from my own experience, that someone who has absolutely NO CLUE as to what a database is or not having ANY knowledge of any other programming language, can develop applications and become, at least somewhat skilled, at programming with Alpha Five...it took me just 2 years to do so. Is that a steep learning curve?---I don't think so considering how many years of courses would you have to take to be able to develop in a complex programming language? A very large part of my choosing Alpha was the point that I felt I could learn how to program without having had any schooling in regard to programming and to do so in less time than going to a school.

    This rant is by no means an attack on anyone here--please don't take it as such. I simply felt the need to try to clarify and give another point of view.

    Just my 2 cents (or so!) :)
    Mike
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    MAY I ADD...

    Please take no offence to this thread. I mean no disrespect to anyone here (or there). There are certainly people in this forum more fluent in xBasic than I and more accomplished in Alpha Five but I think with 30+ years of programming experience, in several languages, I can, with some degree of confidence, detect a product's fundamental weaknesses.

    Things I do believe.

    1. As we converse, Alpha Five is one of the BEST RAD tools available.

    2. In a relatively short period of development/learning time non-programmers and programmers alike will learn to appreciate it as I do.

    3. Any programming language can be coerced into any type of program. I've done it. The problem here is not "is Alpha Five right for the job?" but is "is Alpha Five right?"

    4. I believe in the superlative nature of the idea of Alpha Five but I also believe it's development has been haphazard and that it suffers from this and that patching it up is not the solution to those ills, i.e. most of the problems with the Windows operating system stem from an initial poor design to the task and a constant update to that poor design to add functionality. Apple got it right, when they set down the old Mac OS (1-9) and redeveloped the product as Mac OS X. By the way, that wasn't the rich Apple of today and it lead to Apple's billion dollar rise.

    and finally...
    Every week I get solicitations from the marketing arm of Alpha Software to upgrade from V8 to V9, then I read the posts here and ask, "what am I getting for my next $800?", "am I getting a more stable product?", "have the issues I uncovered in the current version been addressed?", "do I need to rework my work-arounds?", "is Alpha more responsive to their customers?", and when I think about the time it has taken me to get to a marketable program is it worth the possible hassle of up-grading?

    My fear: if Alpha doesn't address the fundamental code flaws in A5 in the near term (next 3 years or so) it will be overtaken in the marketplace and a new business opportunity may arise, that of supporting a then defunct product.

    Posted most sincerely,
    John Turner

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    I sympathise with your comments John. I am considering returning to MS Access after about 18 months of Alpha - at least until I see what improvements the next release brings (fingers crossed).

    A total rewrite would be going round in circles but as Bob mentioned Alpha needs to get some quality assurance people in. Another idea would be to hire a bunch of developers from Foxpro, MS Access, 4D & Filemaker ect. and watch them learning, comparing praising and critizing Alpha Five. It could be an insightful exercise as IMHO Alpha have become introverted and put too much emphasis on feature lists to out market the competition.

    Regards

    Chris

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    I really hate to re-ignite this thread, but I too have to agree with John Turner and I have been using Alpha Software for a very, very, very long time.

    Instead of fixing a version and getting it to work correctly, it's on to the next version! Let's get the versions fixed before throwing out another version for a change. So far, the only solutions brought to us by Alpha Software have been new versions, many of which have the same bugs or similar bugs in them.

    I for one am tired of spending endless $$$$ for new versions only to discover that they are "a little nicer", but just as if not more unreliable.

    Does anyone have a time table on version 5.5 thru 9? I know I have purchase 6 about 1 1/2 years ago, received 7 for free since it was going into RELEASE soon. Now we are at version 9! I'll take a guesstimation that from 5.5 to 9 it was 3 years maximum?

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Quote Originally Posted by semoore View Post
    I have been using Alpha Software for a very, very, very long time.
    Too bad we never see you around...

    Does anyone have a time table on version 5.5 thru 9?
    ...
    I'll take a guesstimation that from 5.5 to 9 it was 3 years maximum?
    Not quite:
    My dates (which are not necessarily accurate in terms of when the product first came out) are roughly:

    v.5 7/02
    v.6 8/04
    v.7 9/05
    v.8 2/07
    v.9 3/08
    Last edited by Peter.Greulich; 02-12-2009 at 12:23 AM.

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter.Greulich View Post
    Too bad we never see you around...
    Thanks Peter....

    I used to be around a whole bunch back in the late 90's and early 2000's. I even know who you are! LOL I think at one time I even used to have your email address. I lived in Germany at the time, maybe that will ring a bell?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter.Greulich View Post
    Not quite:
    My dates (which are not necessarily accurate in terms of when the product first came out) are roughly:

    v.5 7/02
    v.6 8/04
    v.7 9/05
    v.8 2/07
    v.9 3/08
    Thanks for that information too. At any rate... we have had 5 version in less than 6.5 years, which is one of the points that I'm making.

    The other point I'm making is the simple fact that Alpha Software never did fixed any of those versions completely before moving to a new version and basically abandoning the previous version.

    As I have said before, don't misunderstand me... I love Alpha Five and it is in my opinion "the best database software" around. I'm just asking for Alpha Software to FINISH a version completely for a change!

    Thanks!

    Shane

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    Volunteer Moderator Steve Wood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    There is no such thing as "finishing a version". The version is what it is, bugs and all. There are developers on both sides of this fence. I personally don't care about the bugs that much, there aren't that many and I find workarounds if something gets in the way. And if I find something, I turn in a bug report. I'd rather have the cool new features that normally come with a new version. Its like this, with bugs I have to work a little harder but if my primary software development tool does not keep up with other modern tools, I become irrelevant as a developer.

    I suggested this below, and here it is again. If you want something fixed, you have to raise it to the attention of the Alpha engineers. You can do that through bug reports for normal stuff, or you can rally the developers to get a consolidated list of bugs/complaints along with evidence and justification. If you presented Alpha with a researched list of "top 10 things to address" with justification for each, you would get somewhere.
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    Volunteer Moderator Peter.Greulich's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Quote Originally Posted by semoore View Post
    I used to be around a whole bunch back in the late 90's and early 2000's. I even know who you are! LOL I think at one time I even used to have your email address. I lived in Germany at the time, maybe that will ring a bell?
    Sorry, Shane, I don't remember you. Maybe it will come to me.


    Thanks for that information too. At any rate... we have had 5 version in less than 6.5 years, which is one of the points that I'm making.
    I would argue the opposite. Many of us, over the years, have clamored for Alpha to hurry up and get out the latest pending release. In the past, when some releases took 2-3 years, it seemed like forever. I also agree w. Steve that Alpha's bugs are not insurmountable. Just a fact of life. OTOH, I agree that they shouldn't abandon older versions when a new version comes out. That is a serious mistake IMHO. But Steve is right, there is no such thing as "finished", it's an endless process.

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Thanks Steve for your opinion.

    However, I have to ask a question to go along with it. So, you would be perfectly OK with buying a new Microsoft Operating System every year as long as it had a new feature you liked, regardless of bugs or security flaws?

    And you would be okay with them dropping all support, bugfixes, security updates, and development on the previous operating systems after the new one was released?

    That's what I am driving at. I love the new features and I love the new, more conformative look too. However, at the same time, I'm not willing to dish out the $$$$ approximately every year just because of that either, unless it is a FEATURE that I cannot live without. Then, it is MY CHOICE to go with the new product and not stay with the old one. Here in A5 world it just FEELS that if you don't go with the new one, you are stuck with whatever bug ridden one you purchased at the time because development and patching has ceased because the NEW ONE is in the works.

    Thanks Peter... Oh, it was a long time ago. I can't remember the exact year, but I'm thinking late 90's as in 98 or 99. You helped me with a couple of programming issues I was encountering at the time which I dearly appreciated too.

    I agree with you too Peter. If they wouldn't totally abandon their previous versions, it wouldn't be nearly as bad. As you and Steve stated, yes, there is usually a work around that can be found to deviate from the issues, but at the same time if it's not a total rewrite on the program, I'd expect it to be corrected in a patch or update, not a new version only.

    I do understand the "pushing" for a the new version too! No doubt, if there is a new set of features that some want, they don't like waiting either. Been there and done that too!

    I'm not ragging on Alpha Software because they like to develop new stuff and features, that's great. I'm ragging on them for abandoning their previous versions without providing much needed fixes and support; hence forcing you into the new version or just deal with what you got in the first place.

  20. #20
    Volunteer Moderator Steve Wood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    If Alpha was to continue support and patches for previous versions, I would not benefit or even know about it because I would be using the latest version.
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Wood View Post
    If Alpha was to continue support and patches for previous versions, I would not benefit or even know about it because I would be using the latest version.
    Now, that's the ALPHA SOFTWARE attitude that I'm talking about! LOL It's all good and I have dealt with it for years and years now. Just thought I'd give my 2 cents worth in on this after spending major $$$$$ over the years.

    I've learned a lot from all of this and I'll treat Alpha Software as I do M$$$. Wait until all the special pricing comes out and get it super cheap then I won't feel so raped as the ones who paid the really big $$$$$ for it. However, with M$$$ it is easier to do since they do support and patch their older OS's and I can comfortably wait out the major fixes in the new OS. I.e. I'll continue to use XP until VISTA is patched up and working somewhat stable for a change, then I'll move to it when XP is no longer "officially" supported. By then Windows 7 will be out and VISTA will be the older version.

    Steve, just a personal question here.. Do you force all of your customers to get the new version and leave them without support after you sell to them because they are not using the new version?

    That's not a personal attack either; I'm just trying to show you that if you did that to your customers (like Alpha does) then you'd probably be losing a lot of them in the future.

    Thanks and I really do appreciate your points and opinions!

    Shane

  22. #22
    Volunteer Moderator Steve Wood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Your opinion is appreciated, I have no problem with it. Yes, I am on the high end, as I said all developers are on different sides of this. Yes I would request/force a returning client to go to the latest version if they wanted any significant change. That is, if minor, no problem. But if significant, yes they would have to move to the latest version. I tend to support the 'old' version for about six months after a new one is out. If I have work in progress, I may or may not require moving to the latest, it just depends on where the project is at that time. I've never met a client that didn't want to move to the latest despite the added cost.

    But I also was a bit flippant with you because you keep referring to Alpha as 'bug ridden', which is an overstatement at least. The problem with your comparison with MS is that MS's Win2000 base probably feeds them a billion dollars in support each year. Alpha's older versions pay them close to zero. You going to pay them $1000 a year for support on your version 7?
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Steve.. thanks and I'm glad to see you support after change. You reasoning is fair too.

    Comparing version 7 of Alpha Five to Windows 2000 isn't a fair comparison. Alpha Five v7 was only out for about 1 year and a couple months as opposed to Win2K which was out a lot longer, patched and support for almost 7 years after being released without being charged for any of it. In which case, it is fair for M$$$$ to charge for support and development on software that has been retired and out for a longer period of time. Plus, there has been 2 versions of Windows released since then, both still support and patched without charge. Then on the server side, they support NT4 for many years after releasing Win2K Server and Server 2003.

    And for my final statement/question for you... You never did answer my question about what you would do if you were required to purchase a new operating system every year or be stuck with what you originally bought without support, patches, security updates, or anything else.

    The reason I picked M$$$ was because many people complain about them when they are forced to buy a new OS version and that is usually the case about every 5 to 7 (maybe more) years. Not 5 versions in 6.5 years.

    As to bug ridden... Well, it actually is bug ridden. It may not be as drastic as it sounds, but when you strip the bells & whistles out of BUG RIDDEN it simply means that the software has issues that were not designed to be there. Some BUGS are good things, known as FEATURES when they are good, and some BUGS are bad things, known as well.. bugs.. when they cause you headaches, lost data, corrupted files, computer lockups, and so on. Have you or anyone else found BUGS in VERSION 9 or VERSION 8 that existed or came up in any of the prior versions or were in both 8 & 9?

    I still think Alpha Five is the best relational database on the market, no doubt.

    Thanks!

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    OK, I just can't stop... Sorry, I'll post this one last thing on BUGS and then I'll go to the regular place. I was developing a simple database using A5V9 2005-3252.

    When I go to define my lookups from a table, I select the lookup table, when I go to select the fields, A5 displays the table I am creating the lookups for and not the actual lookup table.

    See that attached pictures, look closely at my defined lookup table, then look at the table name it presents me with for selecting the fields.

    So, either I have one seriously corrupted installation of A5V9 or this version has more problems than I first realized. Please note, I just purchased v9, removed v6 from the system (could this be it?), and installed v9.

    I also stumbled onto some interesting things with this version or with my installation. It seems that there is an issue with MEMO fields. I created my forms, nothing special on them, just the default ones, not many fields at all, then when I launched them in FORM VIEW mode, I couldn't enter any data at all in any of the fields and my FIELD NAMES are displayed in the input fields instead of being blank. Pictures of this are also attached.

    I have an application that I created in version 6 that will 95% of the time freeze up when you are working in a MEMO field. So, I'm slowly thinking it's a MEMO field issue, but haven't played with it enough just yet.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Item one can happen if you orignally selected Associates for the Table, then changed your mind and selected or manually entered a value in Table where the table does not exist. I can tell your Table is at least in a directory other than the project directory because it still has the full path to the table. If the table exists, the full path is removed and only the table name show. Or maybe it is a Passive or Active link table where the connection is not current, therefore table not found at the moment you are creating the lookup.

    I've seen number two before, it was when I deleted or messed with underlying table without correcting the Form to match. Not sure if that is what is going on in yours.

    There used to be lots of complaints about memo fields. I know I used to lose record or get cross-linked contents in memos. I've not heard about any issues lately.

    Is your test database one you moved from V6 or somewhere, or that you created in native V9 in order to test?
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    Thanks Steve.....

    Since I was having so much trouble with the database & memo fields in my originally developed (A5V6) application running under A5V9, I decided to create this one purely in V9.

    The table was selected from the dropdown list in the pictures. This was a 1st time select, nothing every changed or modified. The table does exist in that exact path displayed. Nope, no passive or active link at all. The dbf, all tables, indexes, and so forth are all stored in the same subdirectory. It’s a simple desktop application, nothing special, no variables, no calculated fields, no functions, no scripts, or anything like that YET.

    As to the second one, nothing was ever changed on the underlying table, the form was created using the DEFAULT form, the only thing I did to the form was extend it’s physical size by dragging it a little wider and a little longer.

    This really isn’t anything complicated, at this point; it is just 10 tables most of them only containing 4 to 5 fields as you can see by the picture posted of the form.

    Unfortunately, I did install and license the runtime, just the other day. The bad thing about it is… I cannot remember if my original A5V6 application had problems with the MEMO fields before this or not. I think it did, but it didn’t FREEZE the system up prior to the runtime, it just did some weird stuff like wouldn’t really save – as in if you edited the memo field in the popup editor, it prompted to save, select yes on prompt, then when you wanted to save the record it was as if it had not been edited or changed; no save icon available.

    I am tracking all the problems I have with this version. I also have about 20 virtual machines and another 10 or so laptops/computers that I can install A5 on to see if the problems can be duplicated on each of them or not. Of course, none of these have A5 installed, so I’ll have a clean install to run it on also.

    Thanks and have a wonderful day!

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    As I don't use v9, I can't speak to those problems w. respect to v9. However, standard memo fields (as verses RTF memos) can and do work flawlessly if they are handled correctly. Again, I own v6, but never used it. But memos in v5, 7 & 8 all work the same and w/o problem. The secret is to isolate the memo using two mechanisms:

    1. NEVER, EVER allow the user the ability to navigate away from the record with the record in change mode/new record mode.

    2. This one is optional: Isolate the memo in a separate table with just two fields: parent_id + memo.

    3. And, ideally, use an xdialog (use a5_memo_editor() ) to edit/enter a memo. That way the memo is never in change mode, just a quick save when you commit.


    The key is no. 1 above. I use and have used memos all the time and they always work. No problem, ever.
    Last edited by Peter.Greulich; 02-14-2009 at 12:24 PM.

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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    The memo fields that I use are standard memo fields. RTF ones are NICE looking, but I can make that happen if the user decides to print something out using either a report or a letter; the nice looking part that is. I have always “stayed away” from any type of memo field except the standard text ones.

    In all of my works, #1 is definitely being enforced. If not STRICTLY enforced it’s because I’m just playing with it and no one else has access. I.e. intentionally wondering away wouldn't happen.

    # 2 isn’t a bad idea and I have used that in the past; at the same time I would think that if I am having MEMO issues, that accessing a second table would complicate the issue even more, maybe, maybe not.

    #3 I’ll have a look at one day in the future.

    I don’t have any of the issues in V6 at all. The issues I am experiencing are in V9 only; as noted earlier, the V6 application will lockup in V9 nearly all the time at one point. The application (the play project that is) created in V9 was only to see if the issue was something I did in V6 that V9 didn’t like or if it was indeed V9 causing the questionable behavior.

    I didn’t want to make this a PROBLEM thread… I just wanted to point out to STEVE some of the behavior that I have experienced in V9 that didn’t happen in V6.

    I’ll continue to play with V9 to see if I can narrow it all down. I’ll post any resolutions in another thread if I find them or even reasoning for the behavior.

    Thanks!

  29. #29
    Volunteer Moderator Steve Wood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    I'm sure V9 behaves different than V6. In the world of bugs there are real bugs and there is personal experience. An individual developer can uncover issues based on their approach, their installation, particular environment and other factors. What you point out below may or may not be a bug; I've never seen it and I cannot reproduce it*, but I'm just one guy. But if no one else has ever seen it and no one can reproduce the issue, then I suspect one of those alternate issues rather than a bug. Can you show me how to reproduce the problem, because it keeps coming out right.

    * I did try. I even used a dash "-" in my project name like yours to see if that was an issue.
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    Default Re: Dear Alpha Software: It's Time to Start Fresh

    It seems to me that Alpha Software is not any different than any other software company when it comes to creating something "new" and then supporting or not supporting the "old" product. To me, it's just the way it is. Market forces dictate that sales must be made. Either a "new" product or "support" for an older product. The revenue has to come from somewhere and the software company must respond to the marketplace in a manner consistent with growth.

    Many of us here are business people. We have to make many of the same type of decisions that Alpha has to make, or Microsoft, or Apple, whoever. Our goal is to be around tomorrow, and next year, in the next ten yers, etc. (Assuming our goal is not to sell the company but to build it). The decisions we make must always be reflective of what is happening to our market. We may also decide to expand our marketplace and try to attract customers not previously inside our market area.

    Customers who get left behind when we make decisions to move forward are NEVER happy. I know that. And when I make a decision to no longer support an old product I know I am going to lose customers. But I make that decision because I am betting on picking up new customers and new sales for new products from my older customers. What we wrestle with is where to draw the line. How long shall we support our old product? At some point it becomes a drain on resources and ceases to be profitable. Profit is the driving force for our decisions. The business must remain viable or we starve.

    It makes perfect sense to me that Alpha, or any other company, should drop support for old products as they produce new, and better products. Should they decide at some point to move on to Alpha Six, they will do so because it makes good business sense. In the meantime, will they be able to generate enough revenue building Alpha Five version 9, then 10, etc. so that they remain viable and ultimately put themselves in a position in the future to move on to the next level. How far back must they support their older products before it becomes a drain on new product developement?

    I see Alpha Four still for sale and a support forum on this web site. Alpha Five version 7 through 9 are actively discussed every day on this forum. Alpha clearly prefers that everyone who can move on to the latest version. But they have not completely abandoned their previous versions. This is commendable in my opinion.

    When a customer of mine asks me to repair their 20-year old stove, that was discontinued by the manufacturer 10 years ago, I tell him no. I then have to bear the wrath of that customer. They will either leave me or buy a new stove from me. I hope I have treated them fairly over the years and they decide to buy from me. But many do not. I had a customer just this week opt to buy a stove from a competitor instead of me because my price was higher than they wanted to pay. That's business. I will make the same decision the next time because I am building for the future and planning for growth. I know I have a market for my higher prices and new products and I will continue to groom that market, even though some long-time customers may decide not to pay my higher price and go elsewhere. The risk is that I'll lose too many customers. But I've studied the risk and I know my costs. I make the decision because it makes the most business sense. It hurts to lose a long-standing relationship. I'll try to convince my older customer to stay and upgrade. But I know I'll lose many to other sources for what I am selling.

    I'm sure that the Alpha Software principals will listen to everyone's opinion. But some of us will not be pleased with the decsions they make in the future and some of us will. In the meantime, I think Alpha has a better product for my purposes than anyone else. It's the best in it's class as far as I can tell. And, it is moving in a direction I have not been ready to adopt yet. I am still focused on the desktop databases and still use mostly the built-in DBF tables, etc. But I see the need to move toward SQL and web applications. Alpha Five is allowing me to experiment with SQL and web apps while at the same time keeping my day-to-day busniness running on the desktop. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

    Good thread and I appreciate everyones opinion. Good stuff.
    Sean

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