In the future . . . .

Discussions on the future of databases, computing , the meaning of life ........

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In the future . . . .

Postby John Middleton » Mon Oct 01, 2007 11:19 am

My MSDN magazine dropped through the letterbox recently. Amongst the articles is a description on employing “parallel LINQâ€
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Postby Pete Tabord » Thu Oct 04, 2007 2:36 pm

I'm not really convinced that excessive object orientation is a great help - the reason the Ffenics UI is quasi-OO is because Windows is quasi-OO, not because its necessarily a great model for a database system.

On the specific point, yes, some improved method of guiding the user through the development of a script would be desirable. However, the method used in DFD was totally dependent on the characteristics of a CUI environment, and was discarded in DFW for that reason. We have had thoughts along the lines of wizards etc, and something will happen in due course, I'm sure.

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Postby Madis Meinberg » Thu Oct 04, 2007 7:24 pm

Pete,

"We have had thoughts along the lines of wizards etc,..."

- isn't this kind of feature usually called "code complete" or "auto complete" which tends to be a standard feature of every decent application building software nowadays?
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Wizards...

Postby Graham Smith » Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:26 pm

Madis,

A lot of programs have wizards of one sort or another, and so does both Ffenics and DFW if you think about it. You build a forms and fields with a wizard as opposed to writing code like "create table as..." You build reports with a wizard called "Query By Model". You do layouts with a wizard. Etc...

But I suspect you are talking about more than that. So let me address what I think you are referring to. There are a lot of programs out there that have wizards that will do most anything you want, as long as you are willing to have it done their way using one their pre-defined templates. The moment you wander off that trail, you are faced with a very steep learning curve.

That's why everyone that uses QuickBooks produces invoices that all look alike. That's why this forum and the new DataEase forum look just like most other forums that use the same software.

Like most things, Wizards are a two edged sword.
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Postby Madis Meinberg » Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:42 pm

Graham,

"The moment you wander off that trail, you are faced with a very steep learning curve." -> I totally agree with you here but remember that John has referred to "idiots" i.e. persons that are currently "on the trail".
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Postby Graham Smith » Fri Oct 05, 2007 12:17 pm

Madis,

I have not looked at LINQ so I cannot comment on it directly but I have used some other code generation tools from MS, Borland, Sybase, etc and have been underwhelmed for the reasons mentioned above.

So, let me just make one comment here about the practical aspects. MS can and will throw $5 million at a project without blinking and if it fails, just throw more money at it until it either works or they change the spec and declare victory or they finally give up. I don't see that happening with Ffenics in the near future :wink:

Let's worry about making sure that what we have now is as clean and bug free as practical before concerning ourselves with too many new features. After all, ignoring that is what got DataEase 7 into trouble.
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Postby Madis Meinberg » Fri Oct 05, 2007 4:16 pm

Graham,

"Let's worry about making sure that what we have now is as clean and bug free as practical before concerning ourselves with too many new features."

but...but...but - this is the "Philosophical Discussions" section ... :cry:
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Postby Graham Smith » Sat Oct 06, 2007 12:33 pm

Madis,

Philosophical not= Fantasy :lol:
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Postby Pete Tabord » Sat Oct 06, 2007 4:02 pm

philosophically....

I don't actually like Wizards for precisely the reason Graham gives - in a way they actually _prevent_ the user from learning the product.

It's surprising how little the various helper tools that we supplied with DE used to get used - for example how many people made use of the fact that you can create your procedure as a QBM, convert it to DQL and then just add the processing statements?

With DFW there was also the problem that any auto-complete method introduced would have to be at least as powerful as the DFD one. Which was not easy.

Ff however is a new start, and we will try to design something that is both useful and educational.

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Postby John Middleton » Tue Oct 09, 2007 12:03 pm

Wizards?

How did we get on the subject of Wizards

A recent review of Database products in Pc Magazine described Access as :

Access still shows its developer-centric roots, but new wizards and ease-of-use features help put it in reach for the technically aware business user and power users.


And Alpha 5 ver 8 as :

Powerful wizards let even non-experts create database applications with new e-commerce capabilities, improved reporting and e-mail support.

Alpha Five is extremely "beginner friendly". Complete novices can quickly and easily define and manage databases and create practical and powerful applications without the need for programming. With Alpha Five's Action Scripting, Genies and point-and-click Web Components you can focus on building your solution, not the programming details.


MySQL is treated to

Administering MySQL will require some in-house database expertise. Although there is a simple GUI administration console for viewing and tweaking database options, MySQL uses a command-line interface, to run queries. Luckily, via ODBC, you can easily use another query tool, such as Microsoft Excel. Fall 2007 release promises new wizards to further aid non-programmers.


And FileMaker Pro 9

Advanced features, such as scripting tools and scalability options, are not as full-featured as those of MS Access. Impressive ease of use; improved relationship support; helpful library of templates; easy Web deployment.

FileMaker's ease of use remains its signature feature. Sophisticated wizards successfully hide much of the complexity that can daunt novice database users and be tedious even for experienced developers.


The magazine’s reviewer either had ‘wizards’ on the brain, or considers them to be an important feature!

John
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Postby Graham Smith » Tue Oct 09, 2007 1:11 pm

While I don't disagree with the need for some wizards, I find that many of them are largely sales and marketing tools. Consider, for example, the gimmick found in some cars that allow them to "auto parallel park", It actually does work if you have the right conditions (non of which are likely to be found on a busy downtown street), but won't work outside of those conditions. Still, it's a start, and will likely get better as time progresses.

I've actually been rather impressed with the form wizard in OpenOffice Base. It does a respectable job of creating a form even to the point of creating a subform. But like all wizards, it will only go so far and the big issue is, "how easy is it for a user to pickup where the wizard leaves off".

To be perfectly honest, what I would really like to see added to Ff is some kind of RAD form creation tool for advanced users. Rather than plunking down fields one at a time on a form, I would like something akin to the SQL table creation tools found in some products. But, see, here I am trying to decide what would be good in the product based on 35+ years of computer experience. That's not what novice users are likely to want.

The main problem I have with most wizards is that they are like a new coat of paint, they make things look nice and bright while hiding whatever lies beneath. In the short run, that's not bad, but in the long run it may be.
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Postby Pete Tabord » Tue Oct 09, 2007 1:47 pm

I guess you also need to define what you think a wizard is. For example, why couldn't we call the document creation process in Ff the 'document wizard'? (I'm not suggesting we do!)

IOW, what characteristic is it of a wizard that makes it a concept rather than a meaningless buzzword applied to any sort of user-friendly process (in which case our whole product is a Visual C++ 'wizard' :))

Also, although Ff is intended for people who may be new to creating database apps, it is not intended for computer novices.

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Postby John Middleton » Tue Oct 09, 2007 4:21 pm

Wikipedia defines “ A wizard is a user interface element where the user is led through a sequence of dialogsâ€
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Postby Pete Tabord » Tue Oct 09, 2007 4:33 pm

But the Wikipedia definition would of course apply to lots of things that aren't wizards. My point was - what distinguishes a Wizard from any normal sequence of dialogs, or are they all wizards?

I use MS Intellisense. But it's biggest problem is that it is unreliable - it 'forgets' valid options etc. So you have to double check manually (or know exactly what you are doing and when it is wrong). As what I hope by now is an advanced user, I do find it helpful from time to time, but if I was a less experienced user it might lead me in wrong (or at least inefficient) directions.

Oftentimes you will ask to retrieve all references to an object and it will return some, none, or a lot of duplicates :) So off I go to the DOS prompt and grep again! If I didn't have some idea of what to expect (which of course involves knowing what's in the codebase anyway without its help) then I could get fooled totally.

And sometimes its database locks up entirely...

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Postby Simon Brown » Wed Oct 10, 2007 12:38 pm

Just my 2 cents, I started life many years ago using datease 3.12 (ish) for DOS. As a newbie at the time to anything database orientated I found the suggestions/wizard extremely helpful, and it didn't STOP me from learning how to write code it actually learnt me how to as after time I got used to the syntax.

After a long break I came to need a database again so went back to dataease and looked down the windows route. Even now I wish it was used as all to often I will type:

modify records in TABLE
order_num = order_num + 1 .

Instead of the correct syntax
modify records in TABLE
order_num := order_num + 1 .

The old dos reminder/wizard suggestions helped me to remember the formatting of code, the windows method of "error, your code's wrong mate, have a ganders and see if ya can find wot you did wrong!" is less helpful!

It's not an essential tool but I feel it would help newbies a great deal as it makes writing basic code relatively simple right from the start and shows what you CAN do and ultimately learnt me the grammer and formatting of writing DQL's.

So it can help newbies a great deal in learning grammer and formatting of code, and that is probably why everyone else appears to have these wizards, to show newbies how easy it is to write their own database and make it do reports how they want. Bit early to introduce to ffenics I believe but deffinately something to consider in a version or 2 down the line, code allowing of course.

A newbie will choose something intuitive not something complicated, I'm sure even people moving on from other things like filemaker or access would benefit as it would help show them the coding concept in ffenics and help them adjust from one coding style to another.

That's my thoughts on the topic, something I feel quite strongly about as experience with it is why I'm here at the ffenics forum today! Without wizards and the like I'd of bought a prebuilt database that I couldn't customise for 20 quid from a local supermarket!
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