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Breck Carter
Last modified: August 16, 1998
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L. A. Diary: Powersoft Conference '98

Saturday, August 8, 1998 - On The Movie Set
Sunday, August 9, 1998
Monday, August 10, 1998 - Day One
Tuesday, August 11, 1998 - Day Two
Wednesday, August 12, 1998 - Day Three
Thursday, August 13, 1998 - Last Day
Followup Q&A: August 16, 1998

Saturday, August 8, 1998 - On The Movie Set

Los Angeles really is Movie Central. In Toronto it's a hugely complicated and hugely inconvenient affair when a street is blocked off to shoot a scene for some cheesy TV show.

In Los Angeles, on the other hand, it's no big deal to miss a couple of green lights because a huge Panavision-wielding truck is sailing around the corner and down Wilshire Boulevard to track the action for a major motion picture. At least, it appears to be no big deal because the cab driver appeared unconcerned, the pedestrians weren't paying much attention, and there were no crowds of the curious.

At the Team Powersoft dinner the tables were set up well away from the big doors to the street. Right outside, a tanker trunk was parked diagonally across West Seventh Street, and many dozens of movie people were milling about. It was clear that even for Los Angeles, a Big Deal was about to begin.

Indeedy - doo, when they blew the thing up you could feel the blast heat on your face through the glass doors and the flames and noise sure looked like the real thing. (The Real Movie Thing, that is, because the real real thing would have left the coroner with many autopsies to perform.)

It's clear they know what they're doing... the curbside potted palms weren't even scorched, and the private unmarked fire truck rolled up within seconds to douse the tanker's burning tires. (What was that, a "private unmarked fire truck"? Yes, this is Movie Central.)

Sunday, August 9, 1998

Richard Nixon was once criticized for turning up the air conditioning in the White House in the summertime so he and the family could use the fireplace. My feeling was, "If you're the President of the United States, and you aren't allowed to have a fire in July, what's the point?"

Last night we got to enjoy the White House Fireplace Experience at the Inter-Continental Hotel here in Los Angeles: a cozy fire in one of the bars, with the air conditioning blasting away to beat the searing August-in-LA heat outside. Very decadent, very cool.

Monday, August 10, 1998 - Day One

(I know a bit about what's coming... and a reaffirmation of Powersoft's commitment to PowerBuilder is part of the story. PB is still better than Java when it comes to programmer productivity and that ain't gonna change anytime soon.)

Dear Diary: It was an exciting day on Monday, but I don't have time (yet) to write anything here.

That's because writing An Open Letter To Steve Benfield seemed more important.

Dear Diary: OK, I'm back now. Here are some of my conference notes from Monday.

Sybase is the market leader in embedded and mobile database marketplaces.

Strategy: Take point technology and bundle them into integrated product sets:
1 - Enterprise data management
2 - Data warehousing studio
3 - Embedded and mobile computing - SQL Anywhere Studio
4 - Distributed architecture and applications for the internet


1 - Sybase Enterprise Application Studio

Everything for distributed, client server and web applications:
- Enterprise Application Server
- PB
- PowerJ

PB is still an absolute top priority with Sybase
- they reaffirmed support for PB
- they're embracing the web, extending support

There will be seamless support for moving between PB to Java.
You will be able to mix PB and Java.
Open Tool support will work with other Java, C++ tools.
They are focusing on the shift to distributed architecture.

2 - Enterprise Application Server, for deployment

Windows, Java, pure HTML clients
COM, Corba
PB, Java
PowerDynamo, Jaguar CTS, Distributed PB are coming together

Sybase EA Server will offer native support for PowerBuilder NVOs, 
with PB 7.

3 - Immediate availability of PowerBuilder 6.5

First customer shipments end of last week.
Build and deploy to web...
...all of Powersite has been rolled into PowerBuilder:
- Wysiwyg HTML editor
- Edit and debug Javascript
- PowerDynamo included
- App Modeler for physical and generation of web applications 
     - PowerDynamo
- JavaBean proxy generator

"Coming soon" - Web Deployment Kit 
- publish 2 or 3-tier PB app to web 
- The UI only on the client
- similar to Citrix

4 - Immediate availability PowerJ 2.5

Same stuff as PB, different language
1.1.6 JDK support, tested against 1.2
JFC/Swing support

Questions and Answers...

What is the future of Power++?
- Maintenance release before end of the year
- No long-term investment
- Market usurped by Java
- Will reevaluate in 3 and 6 months
- (that's code for "fade away". - Breck)

Will Adaptive Server Anywhere Version 6 ship with PB 6.5?
- No, it will be SQL Anywhere 5.5.x

PFC for Distributed and Web PB?
- Riverton HOW has OpenFrame for PB
- The direction for PFC is not clear
- (is that more code for "fade away"? - Breck)

What will happen to the stability of PB?
- 6.5 will be more stable than 6.0 because of all the fixed bugs

Web Deployment Kit - is it a thin client solution?
- Uses a Java piece on the workstation
- Only the UI part of the PB app deployed
- Similar to Windows Terminal or Citrix solution

Web Deployment Kit - Does it use Javascript editing on client side?
- No, just very simple stuff like mousemove handling

Java in Adaptive Server Anywhere: how much market interest is there?
- Java in the database is an absolute requirement
- There's a lot of interest in Java classes for embedded databases
- (Java in ASA is what will get ME to start learning Java! 
     - Breck)

How does Jaguar CTS compare with Microsoft Transaction Server?
- Platform, component model, development tools...
     - Windows and Unix, versus Windows
     - JavaBeans and Corba and COM, versus COM
     - PB and Java, versus VB

How are PB and Dynamo coming together?
- Just product bundling for 6.5

What about XML support?
- Some XML support exists in Dynamo now
- Dynamo 2.02 coming with PB 6.5

Tuesday, August 11, 1998 - Day Two

Dear Diary: I've attended several great sessions that I haven't even told you about. There's only time for...
...some random thoughts:

I feel like an inhabitant of a two-dimensional universe 
who has just been exposed to the third dimension. 
It's gonna take a bit of getting used to.

They were right when they said morale is getting better.

"Rich Client" is the new, improved, more socially-acceptable 
term for "Fat Client".

jBridge works better than it has any right to, but it will 
never scale to an airline reservation system.

With Citrix every mouse move does a round trip to the server... 
can you say "bandwidth"?

PowerDesigner is getting a compare-PDM-with-actual-database facility. 
This is more useful than just a competitive checkpoint (ERwin 
does it now). When you generate a physical database it is possible 
to have messed up the generation options; by always doing a compare 
between what you THINK you have generated (the PDM) and what you HAVE 
generated (the actual database), you can find your errors before the 
programmers come screaming 'round the corner.

PowerDesigner 6.1.1 (coming in 4Q98) will have much better 
trigger support, with the ability to modify and add template 
code. This is good.

It will also have support for MSS 7, ASE 11.5, ASA 6 (but not 
Java classes until PD7), DB2 Universal Database and AS/400. 

Did I say Java classes in ASA 6 are cool? Yes, they are. I
am a huge Waterloo/Watcom fan, they do things the way they 
should be done, and I will never get tired of saying that 
(and I'm quoting someone else).

The PowerDesigner Metaworks database is getting a rework, which 
is a good thing (even if all they did was make the table and 
column names longer). And the documentation that has always 
been available on-request for various obscure things (like the
Metaworks database, the ProcessAnalyst import format, etc.) 
will be put on the CD where it belongs. Yes, it will. Trust me.

I met one of the core PowerDesigner developers, a truly nice 
person. He was wearing a truly nice tshirt. I am truly hoping 
that by writing nice words about PD, I will get one of those tshirts.
It might be self serving and shallow, but it's true (the good 
things about PD, that is). I've been using ERwin for a few 
months (after using PD for a long time, and before that, ERwin), 
and PD is starting to look like fun again. Don't get me wrong, 
ERwin is a fine tool (and thank you, Leo Tohill, for pointing 
out some ERwin features without making TOO much fun of my ignorance).

But I'll bet PD will get support for Java-Classes-In-SQL-Anywhere 
long before ERwin. 

Wednesday, August 12, 1998 - Day Three

Dear Diary: Thank you, David Yach (pronounced "yaw") and all the folks at Watcom, for another great idea: the Ultralite technology described in the session "Developing a Database Application for Deployment to Small Handheld Devices".

I don't care much (right now) about developing databases for the Palm Pilot but Ultralite has features of interest for all databases. Here are two:

This thing is going Beta in 3Q98, and it might ship before the end of the year.

I want the Analyzer to build frozen, encapsulated databases to store as objects (components?) inside applications... and maybe inside other databases (as Java classes stored as columns in ASA 6+ databases?). Don't, however, expect THAT any time soon.

Anyway, understand this: the Application Specific Databases might have frozen the schema but not the data... you can still do updates, and I saw a 3-table database update program running on a Palm Pilot, and it used 56K of RAM.

I also want the Automatic Synchronization because it makes more sense than Publish Subscribe for a large class of applications.

Thursday, August 13, 1998 - Last Day

Dear Diary: I haven't had time to tell you all about every session. If you want to hear more about any of the following, send me an email:

Followup Q&A: August 16, 1998

Q: I'm a PB developer and I like the product. Several months ago I went to a conference where a speaker was giving a presentation on the future of PB. Well, basically he said there is no future. He claimed in 3 years we won't be doing PB development, we'll be doing Java instead. Has he ever heard of COBOL?

I think we all realize that software tools have a finite lifespan. The problem with him saying this is that this can become a self fulfilling prophesy. If enough of the PB gurus say PB is dead, people will start using other tools for no good reason.

A: Folks in this industry are often guilty of exaggeration to make a point; I know I am. Having said that, Java is getting converts from 3GLs like C++ and VB, not products like PB. Java is the name of the language; when it gets a good tool wrapped around it (like PowerJ V3, perhaps), it may compete with PB. After all, we use PowerScript (a 3GL) but we don't say "we are PowerScript programmers" like the Java folks say "we are Java programmers." PowerJ V3 is getting the DataWindow, which will make it look 80% like PowerBuilder (and that, perhaps, is also an exaggeration but I stand by it).

Java is better than PowerScript in the Elegance Department. But that doesn't matter... what counts is The Java Steamroller. Powersoft is right in making PB and PJ look (pretty much) the same, to let people use both, together, and switch back and forth.

As for me, I've tried to learn C++ and then Java, on more than one occasion, and I've given up... life is too short for that kind of crap (can you *print* from Java? I didn't think so :) But Java in Adaptive Server Anywhere procedures and Java classes as columns is gonna get me to learn it at last. And then there's PowerJ 3, coming next year(?)... maybe I'll actually DO something in the beta program.

If you spend your time learning the DataWindow then the future is bright. If you waste your time counting how many NVOs can fit on the head of a pin (i.e., futz around with the PFC) then it may not be so bright.

Ooops, did I turn this into a Service Based Architecture rant? Sorry.

Q: Great idea - this diary! It's precious info for unfortunate ones like me who could not make to the conference. So please enlighten us with what you saw, heard and understood about...

1. Java Inside Adaptive Server Anywhere. What would I do with it?

A: Use a better language to write stored procedures, AND directly reference object instance variables AND methods in SQL statements, as in WHERE table.column.method ( arguments ) = value, where an object is stored as a column.

Q: 2. New Adaptive Server Enterprise Features and PowerBuilder / PB and Jaguar. Will PB be able to use CORBA objects? Will other CORBA clients be able to use PB NVOs?

A: I'm ORB-challenged but there's all sorts of stuff present in PB6 and coming in PB7... I might write more on this later, but I'm just learning it. Like "Jaguar is a Corba ORB", whatever that means :)

Q: 3. Sybase Developer Network. Hmmm... haven't ever heard about this one before.

A: Check out The page won't be around for long, it's just a test site now, final version coming in future. Send your suggestions to That's Lynn Caruso, tell her you heard about it from Breck. Folks have a real chance to influence how it works.

Q: Could you explain why PBDJ has banned free lance authors?

A: To stop other authors from daring to write for the competition. I don't think they ban folks any more, but they did, and it worked.

Q: PowerBuilder Developers Journal editorials have been quite pessimistic about PowerBuilder ever making it to the Web or distributed computing. I don't agree. How do you feel about this after the conference?

A: Personally, I think Powersoft and Sybase are concentrating on the right things. They have cut back (dropped?) development of PFC and Power++ and concentrated on making PowerBuilder and PowerJ look the same except for the syntax and class libraries (and who knows what form the libraries will take). In particular, PowerJ will get the DataWindow. Jaguar also looks very cool, in the next version. Other products like PowerDynamo, web.pb, etc., are being rolled into PowerBuilder and PowerJ, starting with PB6.5 and PowerJ 2.5 which are shipping now (at least, PB6.5 is, and they handed out eval copies of PJ 2.5 at the conference).

I think Sybase has a 50-50 chance of avoiding Borland's fate. It might be better than that, I'm an overly-pessimistic kinda guy.

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