Level: Advanced

Interview with Ray Cologon

Today it’s my distinct pleasure to present an interview with Dr. Ray Cologon, whose contributions to the FileMaker community over the last decade and more have been invaluable, and whose DevCon sessions are always packed. To add your name to a priority list for future or alternate Master Classes, complete the online expression of interest form at the NightWing Enterprises site.

You’re currently offering FileMaker Master Classes in a number of locations, including two within the US. How did that come about?

The classes being offered presently are in a sense a sequel to two classes that were offered in 2014 in Berlin and London. The original impetus came from Egbert Friedrich of FileMaker Mentoring in Berlin, who invited me to consider presenting developer-oriented material for a Berlin class. It really grew out of that.

I was interested in the idea because my own experience has been that there has been very little available to take people beyond the basics and the levels of ability required (for example) for certification. There are a few DevCon sessions each year that are listed as advanced, and there are some online resources (of which filemakerhacks is one, in fact) that delve into deeper issues. But there has been no coherent framework to address the concepts and challenges that advanced developers face.

What I think essentially sets these events apart is that the content is broad-ranging, and the topics are inter-related. It’s not taking a specific area such as user interaction or interface design in isolation. Those things are definitely under discussion, but as part of a much wider agenda.

So the Master Classes are intended for advanced developers. What does that mean, and who would you consider to be at an appropriate level to take the class?

Yes – this is three days straight of advanced content, with a pretty densely packed list of topics. It really assumes people don’t just know all the basics already, but that they’ve built and deployed some sizeable systems and have a sense of the complexities and challenges that go with that. Continue reading “Interview with Ray Cologon”

Level: Advanced

Blurring the Distinction between Schema and Data, part 1

The other day I had the privilege and the pleasure to give a POE presentation entitled Runtime Code, a.k.a. Blurring the Distinction between Schema and Data, in the room behind this window at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon.

poe-600

The overall goal of the presentation was to explore various ways one might move business or presentation logic out of its normal location in the schema layer, and into either a) the data layer, or b) some other, non-standard, schematic realm. An example of the former might be to store object names or calculation syntax as data in a table; an example of the latter might be to change the behavior of an object (e.g., a field or script) simply by renaming the object itself. Continue reading “Blurring the Distinction between Schema and Data, part 1”

Chart, Level: Advanced, Version: FM 13 or later

FM 13: Virtual List Charts, part 2

Picking up where we left off in part 1, today we’re going to take a look at examples 2 through 6 in the Virtual List Charts demo file (the demo has been updated since part 1, so I recommend downloading a fresh copy).

5-16-2014 4-08-08 PM

We covered example 1 and most of the general concepts last time, so today we’re mainly going to touch on specific points of interest, but to briefly recap… Continue reading “FM 13: Virtual List Charts, part 2”

Chart, Level: Advanced, Version: FM 13 or later

FM 13: Virtual List Charts, part 1

4-20-2014 11-18-24 AMToday we’re going to look at applying the virtual list technique to FileMaker charting with the goal of producing a reusable chart “object”, or rather, a series of chart objects. We’ll need more than one because while certain attributes (e.g., chart title) can be set programmatically, others, including type (e.g., column or line), must be hard-coded into the chart object.

We’ve already explored Bruce Robertson’s virtual list on this site a number of times, but briefly, you create a utility table in your solution to facilitate non-standard viewing, reporting, etc., and pre-populate it with “more records than you’ll ever need”. The records in this table will derive their data “virtually”, by parsing it from an array — typically one or more $$variables.

Well it turns out the technique can be applied to charting as well, and today we have a demo file, Virtual List Charts, that contains six examples: three for Web Visits…

4-20-2014 2-03-32 PM

Continue reading “FM 13: Virtual List Charts, part 1”

Chart, ExecuteSQL, Level: Advanced, Version: FM 12 or later

Weekly Sales Comparison Charts

If you are responsible for helping business decision makers analyze data, you are probably familiar with questions like:

  • Are we on track to meet or exceed last year’s sales totals?
  • How is our sales team doing now, compared to this time a year or two ago?

Today’s demo file, weekly sales comparison charts, v3, can help answer these questions. It consists of an Employee table with 20 records, a Sales table with approximately 40,000 records, seven chart types, and an option to chart weekly amounts either individually or cumulatively.

6-23-2013 11-46-18 PM

When we look at the weeks individually, it’s clear that Zola Buchanan’s sales figures are mixed so far this year, compared to 2011 and 2012. But what may not be immediately apparent is whether overall she’s doing better, the same, or worse.

Continue reading “Weekly Sales Comparison Charts”

Level: Advanced, Version: FM 12 or later

Radical Separation, part 4

Disclaimer: This article contains speculative and experimental techniques that are in the proof-of-concept stage. Use at your own risk and test thoroughly.

FYI: In March at the Portland PauseOnError un-conference, Matt Navarre and I had a freewheeling Separation Model discussion, a podcast of which has just been posted as episode 85 at FileMaker Talk.

Welcome to the fourth and final installment in our series on Radical Separation. Today’s article assumes familiarity with part 1, part 2 & part 3, and continues in the direction we were headed at the end of part 3. Specifically, we will finish up our exploration of “virtual calculations” by examing an intriguing approach suggested by Barry Isakson to a) reduce the field count, b) solve the “define more fields than you’ll ever need” problem, and c) accommodate summary fields, and I invite you to follow along in today’s demo file, Virtual Calculations, Part 4, if you are so inclined.

6-9-2013 4-10-10 PM

Continue reading “Radical Separation, part 4”

Level: Advanced, Version: FM 12 or later

Fast Grid Displays on a WAN

Last October I began a series on Outer Joins, which explored a number of different ways to display summarized information in a grid, and at the time I concluded that the “fastest” method was to leverage the FileMaker relational model. And it was plenty fast, locally… and not too bad on a LAN… and technically, it was the fastest method on a WAN but only because the other methods we looked at were even dog-slower than it was.

I like to test solutions on a WAN, even if they’re only going to be deployed on a LAN, because it’s a great way to uncover performance bottlenecks. But recently I needed to deploy a summarized grid on a WAN, and was incentivised to come up with something faster… and after a bit (well, okay, a lot) of trial and error settled on the approach we’re going to look at today. To cut to the chase, with a million records in the test file, the previous best grid rendering time of 11 seconds on a WAN has been reduced by a factor of 10, to just over one second.

5-28-2013 11-11-16 PM

Continue reading “Fast Grid Displays on a WAN”

Level: Advanced, Version: FM 12 or later

Radical Separation, part 3

Disclaimer: This article contains speculative and experimental techniques that are in the proof-of-concept stage. Use at your own risk and test thoroughly.

Today we’re going to delve further into the concept of virtual calculations, picking up where we left off last time, and with the assumption that readers are familiar with the material in part 1 and part 2 . We’ll look at some ways to make this technique less brittle (prone to breakage if objects are renamed), and also less opaque to DDR analysis tools such as BaseElements and Inspector. We’ll also see if the technique can be applied to auto-enter calc fields, and finally, we’ll explore some ways to make the technique easier to implement.

5-10-2013 10-41-51 AM

Demo Files:

Continue reading “Radical Separation, part 3”

Level: Advanced, Version: FM 12 or later

Radical Separation, part 2

Disclaimer: This article contains speculative and experimental techniques that are in the proof-of-concept stage. Use at your own risk and test thoroughly.

In part 1 of this series, we defined radical separation as a separation model scenario in which the developer no longer has access to a data file once a solution had been deployed. Updates to the solution are delivered in the standard separation model manner: by swapping in a new interface file.

We explored the concept of “virtual calculations”, where certain (unstored) calculated fields in a data file derive their definitions from syntax stored as data in a special table in the interface file. The advantage of this being that calculation logic can be redefined programatically by the simple expedient of replacing the interface file.

5-2-2013 9-09 PM

In the six weeks that have gone by since I posted part 1, I have made a couple improvements to the technique, one of which which we’ll examine in today’s demo file: Virtual Calcs, Part 2

Continue reading “Radical Separation, part 2”

ExecuteSQL, Level: Advanced, SQL, Version: FM 12 or later

Radical Separation, part 1

Disclaimer: This article contains speculative and experimental techniques that are in the proof-of-concept stage. Use at your own risk and test thoroughly.

Earlier this month I had the honor and the privilege to do a presentation on the topic of Radical Separation at the PauseOnError un-conference in Portland, Oregon, which included a demo file resembling this one: virtual-calcs-part-1-v2

3-20-2013 2-54-43 PM

Before the conference I posted a pseudo-F.A.Q. which included the following…

  • Q. What’s your experience with the Separation Model?
    A. I’ve used it heavily over the last seven years, for a variety of vertical market applications, custom projects and, recently, on a vertical market FMGo app.
  • Continue reading “Radical Separation, part 1”