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Messages - JohnFredC [ switch to compact view ]

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Put it right up there with such classics as Stand on Zanzibar

Wow, a reference to Stand on Zanzibar!  That's by John Brunner.  What a book.. had a big impact on me.  Prescient.  Highly recommended.

General Software Discussion / Re: Fold
« on: June 14, 2011, 06:02 AM »
Enabling "display full path in title bar" did tile the first Explorer, but not the second.

Disabling taskbar autohide tiled the second Explorer (of my pair) so now it works!


I guess I've just never actually seen a good Access based application. *Shrug*

I've seen a couple of good ones.  The problem is, with any enterprise, once something is *good* they want *better*.  Which in most cases means *bigger*.  The road to hell, and all that...

Agreed, it usually goes something like this:
Brass: This thing is great, but can we...
IT: oh shit.

...Been there. :)

Unless told, a user would have a hard time detecting that any of my applications were written in Access... certain characteristics of how graphic controls are rendered and the occasional scrollbar appearance might tip off an expert, but mine run resolution-independently in full screen and look exactly like tools focused on specific tasks, not "databases".

And my answer to management requests such as described above was typically either, "it already does that, let me show you" or "is a week quick enough for you"?  To the same questions, DP usually responded with "can't do that, not possible" or "how about next year?" and "we'll have to add staff so your cost center better budget for it".  Those responses made my living, thank you very much.

However, the comments about database scaling are right on.  Many years ago I wrote/sold a telemarketing app in Access that pushed almost 2 million records per table but behaved quite properly, and that was in the days of 486s and 1Mb of RAM.  But even with today's incredible (from an old coot's perspective) PC hardware, beyond that scale, or for a distributed environment with hundreds of data entry clerks not geographically local to each other all sharing the same data, or for any real-time environment scaling larger than a small group, a server-based approach is the only responsible thing a consultant should recommend, not Access.

But there is (or used to be, at least) a middle (and lower) ground, especially for individual efforts, for small businesses, or for entrepreneurial groups within larger organizations, where the long term management of the data and processes is less important than an accurate, quick solution to an immediate need, one that requires no maintenance whatsoever and just "works".

My point is: don't blame Access the tool, but rather the person who uses it inappropriately (aka the non-professional tyro) or the inappropriate contexts it sometimes is offered for (bad consultant).

I might also add that anticipating the user's true needs (the ones he hasn't or can't express or, frequently, doesn't even understand yet) and addressing them "gratis" at the core of the app from the beginning saves much headache later.  This requires an understanding of systems in general, not just programming and data structures.

Always deliver an 11/10ths product, tolerate no less of yourself.

That's it from me.  Apologies again for being so long-winded.

Cheers, everyone.  :)

Access with an Access backend (mdb) is wonderful for single person apps and good for small workgroups with a handful (say, less than 20) of simultaneous users.  Access as a front-end to SQL server or Oracle is a wonderful tool, plain and simple.

Some more "pithy" remarks:  8)

Friendly, powerful development tools and data do not an application make.  Good software is more about the UI metaphor, efficient data structure designs, data integrity, etc, etc. 

Access's brilliance is that it leverages any moderately intelligent person into data-driven application development. 

Access's downfall is that it leverages any moderately intelligent person into data-driven application development, even those who know nothing about application development.

DP departments most particularly hate it, because end-users tend not to be app-development savvy.  Give them Access, though, and they can make something that is functional for their department very quickly.  Then management wants DP to take over maintenance, extend the functionality, convert the app to a robust client/server environment.  Typically the original developer didn't know about relational forms, data integrity concepts, or efficient query structures, many-to-many tables, inside vs. outside joins, or what have you:  DP inevitably finds errors in implementation of major proportions.  Further, the kinds of functionality that Access enables with such ease (self-modifying reports, for instance, see my post above, or real-time self-populating pick-lists) are much more involved to create in the kinds of tools that DP uses and with the kinds of expertise that DP hires, adding to the budget needed to replicate the end-user designed functionality. 

So DP lobbies against end-user ownership of the data (and, by association, application development) via various (sometimes draconian) policies that restrict the use of end-user tools such as Access.  App development professionals who are qualified in other, DP-sanctioned tools are hired by DP, absorb the "bad" press, and repeat it without a second thought.  The result is that the line-of-business is stuck without the (sometime extremely simple) tools it desperately needs and in the fast-paced modern world, opportunities to enhance shareholder equity pass by.

Fortunately for developers like me, the more astute line-of-business management can see through the DP posturing toward the benefit of hiring a professional who can produce badly needed robust solutions very quickly (of course having DP miss its own deadlines over and over again doesn't hurt).

I've been in the business for 30 years on both sides of the fence: in-house corporate database development and delivery (very large unnamed bank) and subsequently as an outside (and successful) purveyor of those very apps built in Access.  We could debate the politics and best practices issues in another thread, but...

For the sorts of things that superboyac is inquiring about, Access is like a dream come true.

Whew, sorry for such lengthy opinionating!  :-\

General Software Discussion / Re: Fold
« on: June 13, 2011, 03:41 PM »
It's noted in the Readme that AutoHide has to be disabled for the utility to operate.
:-[ Sorry, I tend not to read readmes very closely.
edit: I'm curious. How many folders are you trying to open?
Just two.

I'm afraid there will be a few parts of the book where I'm going to want to manually move this diagram or question a little to the left or something, and I don't know how that kind of fine-tuning will work within the Access workflow.  Can you advise on that?

I noticed in the online page-flipper that your diagrams and answers sometimes nearly overlap or perhaps might get in each other's way.  A couple of approaches would be:

1. Standardize the layout of each question/answer/diagram group so that overlap never happens.  This might cause an issue with larger diagrams, or may not be space efficient, but is definitely the easiest solution.

2. In Access, each band in a report can have VBA event code behind it.  Put some "OnFormat" or "OnPrint" VBA code behind the record (the report "band") on the report itself to move/resize the diagram under certain circumstances you define.  For instance, a question will be a tuple (ahem, record) of a query that joins fields from several different tables: Questions, QuestionTexts, QuestionAnswers, QuestionDiagrams, etc.  If you have created a boolean field in the QuestionDiagrams table called [MoveMeImTooBig], then you can have the question record inspect that field during the printing and act to reposition or resize the diagram (or the question text or the answer radio controls group or whatever) anywhere on the report surface based on the value stored there for the diagram (or even something that occurred in the previous record when it printed).  

What does indesign offer me as far as typography that Access doesn't in a report?  Are the fonts, letters, paragraphs going to look better in indesign?
If your concern extends to adjusting the kerning between letters or point by point adjustment of line spacing, then Access cannot do that.  A critical publisher of art books might find the Access output a bit coarse due to its inability to adjust kerning and line spacing increments.  I'm betting your customers won't notice any difference.

or does it refer to the ability to move things around and place them exactly where you want?

VBA code in an Access report band can do that based on criteria it finds in the tables you design.

Do this:  open Access, start an empty database, use the automatic wizards to generate one of the built-in table structures, a query based on that table, a form based on that table, and a report based on the query.  Then open each object into design mode, display the properties window, click on various controls/elements, and browse through the properties supported, including the events.  If that doesn't get your creative juices flowing...

I expect that the legibility of the whiteboard image is very important.  This means that contrast needs to be enhanced, gamma adjusted, extraneous "ghosts" of partial erasures need to be suppressed, perhaps some routinized cropping needs to performed...

Take a look at the free application: XnConvert MP.  It is an interactive tool for building sequences of image edits, then saving them as "batch" files to re-apply to subsequent images either singly, or in groups.  Very robust, many nice features, runs on many platforms (not just Windows).

XnConvert is a member of the XnView family of image tools, all of which are free and of the very highest quality.


do you think my initial idea was a good one?

Indeed I do!  8)

If I re-state the obvious in the following, please pardon me.  But the obvious is often forgotten and IMO deserves restatement ad naseum.

After turning pages, perusing your book in the viewer at that link (assuming here that the page-turning viewer itself is not part of your project) I can say unequivocally: yes you can use Access to reproduce the book as either an interactive user interface for a person to take the exam with, or as a published document (that is, on paper), or any other output you conceive.  The beauty of Access is that it is ONE tool that can do all of what you need, efficiently.

But understanding what you need is crucial.

If I input all the elements of the book into Access: questions, answers, solutions, tables and all that, can I then create a report which would look like the sample that is shown on our website?


The design, implementation, and distribution of the book is a relatively trivial task.  Step back a bit from the presentation of the book itself (though obviously that is your end-product) and observe that the book (design/layout, publishing channel, what-have-you) is not the real asset, but only derivative from the real asset. 

Instead, as you apparently already understand, the book (however it is distributed: print or electronic) is actually just one view (of many possible views) into a "sea" of data.  That data is the texts, the rules, the diagrams, the organization, the answers, the formatting, etc. This data is your asset, not the printed book.  All processes and systems associated with collecting, maintaining, and expressing this mass of data are costs.  Your goal should be to minimize these costs while at the same time leveraging the asset (the question data) into future opportunities.

What you need are routine tools and processes for collecting, managing, editing, connecting, presenting this data.  Address these tasks first, then you can slice and dice the data into a book (or books), as a website, as executable tests, as anything your little heart desires.

An application (or applications) for managing the data behind your book (oh and incidentally, preparing the book itself) sounds like a fun, straight-forward, Access project.  Access supports solutions that could run on a single disconnected workstation of minimal spec, to a full-blown groupware environment with shared data on a server... or both at the same time.  No other tools or expertise (beyond Access and VBA) needed.  Very cost effective and, might I add, future-proof, because you can always migrate the data, process, and gui to some other system, either all at once, or piece-meal.

A caveat is that such applications and data structures need to be properly designed to work as effectively as I describe.  But that is a requirement of any solution environment, not just Access.  The systematic structures of data and tasks are independent of the tools you use to instance a solution.

Who is your user?

General Software Discussion / Re: Fold
« on: June 13, 2011, 08:28 AM »
I tried the latest version of your Fold tool.  It successfully opens the Explorer windows but does not tile them.  Same behavior whether using an FLD file or simply listing the folders on the command line.

XP, 1920x1200, taskbar auto-hidden on left.

I spent 15 years of my professional life making my entire living as an independent Access developer so please bear with me.

No offense intended to anyone here, but those who poo-poo Access probably haven't used it professionally.  EDP staffs hate Access because skilled developers can create in 6 weeks what they quote management will take up to a year or more in SQL Server/Oracle (but only if management will approve additional staff  ;) ).

If you need: password sign-in, boiler plate texts and objects, input validations, progress/completion management, score tracking, custom user interface that looks like a unique application, perhaps a kiosk mode, reporting and statistics, simultaneous mixed data stores, export to other tools... then Access can be your "man".  And if your deal is web, an Access application can even auto-generate boiler plate web page components and post websites (though not my personal expertise).

Some of my sites have had 15 simultaneous users on a shared Access backend on a server w/o problems.  Other sites use SQL and Oracle back-ends.  

Users don't need to know they are using Access:

If your deal is to collect, use, and report data, esp. in the business workplace, don't discount it for your project without a thorough look-see.

Living Room / Re: Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading List
« on: May 05, 2011, 04:42 PM »
Of all the works on that list, IMO The Diamond Age is the most “prescient” for modern times...  what do others think?

Lists like this one both frustrate and excite me because so many worthies are listed, but so many ignored, too.

I’ve been avidly reading SF since 1961 (3rd grade, starting with Andre Norton).  Here are a quick three not on the awards list:

Edgar Pangborn: A Mirror for Observers
M.A. Foster: Morphodite
Cordwainer Smith: The Rediscovery of Man (anthology)

You’ll have to hunt for the first two.  See Wikipedia for more about these authors.

After starting with ThinkTank and growing up on GrandView and PCOutline (both DOS), it has been difficult to find a workable pure outliner that runs in Windows. 

PCOutLine for Windows (Google it up) was a project with promise, but Version 1.0 was very buggy and the project appears to have ceased long ago.  If it had worked, I would have adopted it.

To make potentially long and frustrating story short (I've been using/seeking software outliners for 25 years) it looks like the Windows component of Natura Bansai might do the trick.  Check it out!

Developer's Corner / Re: ImageEN Questions
« on: May 29, 2010, 11:15 AM »
Thank you!  I've been looking, but somehow missed that.

Developer's Corner / ImageEN Questions
« on: May 29, 2010, 11:01 AM »
I have begun experimenting with the ImageEN component used in Mouser's ScreenShot Captor and I must say... it is a very robust component set, generally very easy to use, and the example code mostly self-explanatory.

I've started this thread hoping that others are using the component and can advise about it.

My first question is:

How do I control the color of the thumbnail text?

My environment is Delphi 5, though that shouldn't make a difference.

Thanks in advance for any help offered!


My favorite is MHSoftware's InfoStore...

It's paradigm is an hierarchical tree of folders, notes, and data tables.  Not the most full featured of tools, but fantastic at quick and dirty which, honestly, is what I need mostly.

As a programmer/developer, I can honestly say that InfoStore's keyboard interface is the best I have ever encountered.  In the beginning I was put off by it for reasons you will understand if you try the software, but after a while I acquired a taste for it.  The design is minimal-key-strokes-necessary... most of you understand how hard that is to architect.

Highly recommended.

I used SQLNotes (now InfoQube, I guess) and wanted to like it so much... but it does not support the hierarchical organization of tables and documents... a serious failing, IMO.

The best tool for these kinds of things is MS Access, though.  An experienced software guy can do this sort of thing relatively easily:

The problem is that if you are not a developer experienced in building application GUI's, even though Access is easy to use, you still end up with the Access interface which, post Access 2003, frankly sucks.  Access XP is the best, IMO. 

How did the Visual Studio RAD environment paradigm succeed anyway?  I hate it.

I may have been to the exact spot in those photos.  Looks like Mendanhall glacier in Alaska...

The second pane is a waste of space for me.

Simple solution to that:

Drag the TC panel divider all the way to the left or right margin and proceed.  All dual-panel commanders support single-panel mode in addition to dual-pane mode.

The major reason for me not to use TC is the lack of a single-pane mode. I tend to do a bunch of file operations within the same directory.

Why not set up both sides at the same folder and use dual-panel mode that way?  There are operational/task efficiencies even when both sides display the same location in the navigation hierarchy.  Give it a chance and you will discover them.

One benefit of two panels looking at the same folder is that you can use the panels to scroll to different locations in the folder.  Admittedly this is only useful if you have lots of files in that folder.

If you use many custom metadata columns in detail view, horizontal (instead of vertical) split mode would be good too, again pointed at the same folder in both panes, but perhaps scrolled to different locations.

That's the great thing about the commander-style interface: it is a superset of the single panel mode and supports any method of working you desire, including the rather limiting single-panel mode.


A very interesting approach to tagging images is employed by Viewer2.  I really like it.

Amazing to me that no one has mentioned XnView!  It is free and very powerful/configurable.  Pierre (the developer) listens closely to user requests and bug reports.  Quite a refreshing and polite forum, as well. 

DesktopCoral / Re: Corral has 2 r's
« on: December 02, 2008, 07:54 PM »
and "rs" is not a possessive but a plural, thusly no apostrophe.   ;D


It is gratifying that proper punctuation and grammar ain't kicked the bucket for some of us, at least.

DesktopCoral / Corral has 2 r's
« on: December 02, 2008, 03:58 PM »
I just wanted to point out that "corral" (as in the fenced enclosure) is spelled "corral".

"Coral" (one "r") is the sea creature familiar to NatGeo fans and us scuba/snorkel dudes.

Screenshot Captor / Reqst: Thumbnail panel background color option
« on: November 11, 2008, 08:17 AM »
I use Screenshot Captor every single day.  Wonderful tool!

Please consider a setting in the options dialog to enable a user to choose a background color for the thumbs panel.

Thanks for listening!

General Software Discussion / Re: Windows 7 -- ribbons for everyone!
« on: October 08, 2008, 11:12 AM »
Johnny-come-lately here, but...

There are so may reasons the ribbon is bad GUI it's hard to find a place to begin.  Maybe I'll write an in-depth post some day. It's not about resistance to change, or the newbie vs. experience dichotomy.  It's simply about poor attention to human factors.

For one perspective, consider that toolbar/ribbon icons are targets for mouse movement... almost like ducks in an arcade shooter game.  Which is easier to locate and hit... one duck in a (one-degree of freedom) row of ducks (aka toolbar) or one duck in a crowd (two-degrees of freedom) of similar ducks (aka "ribbon")?

The ribbon slows your targeting down by requiring additional cognition (and additional clicking compared to a toolbar or menu: try both methods and count your clicks) to find the tool you need, then makes it more difficult to actually hit that icon by crowding other icons into the circle of confusion for mouse movement, increasing the chances you'll click the wrong icon by accident.

The most aggravating thing is that MS completely abandoned what I considered the best toolbar metaphor around: the Office toolbar system.  It's insulting that they didn't offer the ribbon as an alternative, but instead it is a total replacement for something many of us have habituated for years and liked!  They said: all of you loyal users (such as myself) who have been buying office for 2 decades because of its excellence: screw you.  You don't matter.  You don't know anything about your own productivity.  Custom toolbars?  Who needs those?  We don't, therefore you don't.

And the funny irony is that even Microsoft itself calls the one remaining toolbar in Office the "quick access" toolbar.

Sorry about the rant.

Screenshot Captor / Reqst: Hide bottom panel
« on: July 30, 2008, 12:06 PM »
I love Screenshot Captor but I never use the loupe or the naming tools in the bottom panel.  Perhaps a future version would allow me to hide that panel?

Thanks for listening.

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