TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Nov 00 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Viewpoint

4D/WebSTAR Summit 2000

By William Porter, POLYTROPE, Houston, Texas

An exclusive MacTech report

The 4D/WebSTAR Summit was held October 4-8 in San Diego, California. The weather in San Diego was uncharacteristically gloomy throughout the Summit, but inside the U.S. Grant Hotel, the atmosphere was sunny and warm.

This was the largest gathering of 4D developers ever. According to Mike Erickson of Automated Solutions Group, co-sponsor with 4D, Inc. of this year's Summit, there were almost 450 developers in attendance, from two dozen countries. A dozen third-party vendors displayed their products or services during the Summit. The three-day program consisted of over 70 sessions. Some of these were presented by personnel from 4D, Inc. or WebSTAR and a few were given by third-party vendors who discussed their products. But most were presented by the several dozen independent developers who ensured that the program was grounded not in marketing but in practical problem solving. Best of all, there were more new users than ever before. There was a special track for 4D beginners and a free one-day seminar taught by Liz Delgado designed to bring newbies rapidly up-to-speed.

4D, Inc., president and CEO Brendan Coveney, in his keynote address, reported that the state of the company was good indeed. NASA recently purchased an agency-wide site license for 4D. Projected revenues for fiscal year 2000 come to $28 million, with operating costs of only $6 million. Revenues have grown 80% in the last two years. Increased expenditures on marketing are paying off: 4D, the oldest RDBMS for the Mac, is once again a visible and respected presence in the world of Mac OS database development.

WebSTAR

The acquisition of Starnine, makers of WebSTAR, in March 2000, overnight made 4D, Inc. a major web player. If you weren't paying attention at the time, WebSTAR is the software that the U.S. Army moved its web site to a year ago, after it dumped Microsoft IIS because of its weak security. Exactly how WebSTAR will play into 4D's long-term product strategy remains to be seen. While 4D already has outstanding proprietary tools for web-serving databases, it seems reasonable to expect closer integration between 4D, Inc.'s database and web-server products in the future. But C.J. Holmes, formerly of Starnine and now 4D, Inc.'s director of engineering for WebSTAR, assured me that WebSTAR is not going to be absorbed into 4D as a component, or vice versa. And in an exclusive interview with MacTECH, Brendan Coveney confirmed this, saying that 4D, Inc. remains an "open-systems company" and that WebSTAR will continue to work well with all databases on the Mac. This will be good news for FileMaker Pro developers using Lasso or the FileMaker Web Companion and for users of other back ends like Valentina or PrimeBase.

No release date was given, but attendees were given some hints about what to look for in WebSTAR 5. It was described as a well-behaved application with an instinct for self-preservation; if a child process dies for any reason, the parent process will start a new process automatically. WebSTAR 5 will ship with a bunch of new features, including support for Perl; support for multiple processors; more plug-ins and services such as calendars, forms processing, etc. Tests run with WebBench show spectacular improvements in speed: WebSTAR 4.x runs around 50 connections per second. WebSTAR 5 has been tested at over 420 connections a second or 37 million connections a day. These are some serious web-serving numbers. Finally, they have WebSTAR 5's core features running under OS X already as a BSD application.

In honor of the company's new product, there was a special track devoted to WebSTAR and other issues of interest to web administrators; about 50 attendees registered for that track specifically. One web administrator attending his first Summit told me that the presentation on WebSTAR Mail DNS Settings had been worth the price of the Summit in itself. Other presentations in this track were of a more general nature, dealing with XML and Perl and a detailed technical discussion of the Internet's infrastructure. I attended an excellent introduction to XML by developer whose company publishes a server-side XML interpreter. Why wait for browser support? he asked. Why indeed?

4D does the Web, too

Almost a third of the presentations at the Summit dealt with the Web. On the 4D side of the Summit, there were several presentations devoted to the new web features in 4D 6.7 (forthcoming), especially the Web Assistant, the first of the 4D "components." The Web Assistant makes it easier than ever to build Web sites using 4D alone. The keynote showed a demo of another component, a tool for building online stores, code-named "Yapee." (One rumor had it that this is the name of the French developer.) 4D 6.7 supports SSL. A set of extensions for Macromedia Dreamweaver are in development right now, to give 4D developers the ability to use Dreamweaver's outstanding web page-design tools to build pages that will display data dynamically drawn from 4D databases. In our interview, Brendan Coveney told me that 4D, Inc. is deeply committed to the Web's future, which lies with dynamic, database-driven web sites.

Other presentations delved into topics like "4D as a WAP Server" and "e-Commerce with 4D." The latter was presented by the maker of Web Server 4D (WS4D), a remarkable off-the-shelf web serving and e-commerce application which proves almost better than anything else how powerful and flexible 4D's programming language is: WS4D—in many ways a competitor of 4D now—is itself programmed entirely in 4D! In the "beginner's track," I presented a well-attended session on using 4D as a backend for Lasso-driven sites. Not in the beginner's track, 4D maestro David Adams gave an advanced full-day seminar in 4D Web techniques after the main part of the Summit.

4D 6.7 and OS X

In the keynote, Brendan Coveney played a snazzy little game called Time Matrix, written in 4D by the folks at DataCraft. (DataCraft is the publisher of Foundation, a brilliantly designed shell widely used by 4D developers.) Time Matrix was run first under OS 9, then it was run again, under OS X beta. In view of the obvious complexity of the underlying code, the remarkable thing was not that the second demo sported the Aqua look, but that not a single line of code had to be rewritten.

The folks at 4D, Inc. are committed to (if not downright obsessed with) making sure that old systems don't break when new ones are released. I was assured by several different developers on different occasions that it is possible to open a 1987-vintage version 1.0 database in the year 2000 under 4D version 6.5 and that it will in all likelihood run fine with few or no changes. After demonstrating that the core 4D application itself will make the transition to OS X without a hitch, Coveney went on to tell developers that 4D, Inc. is working very hard to make sure that it is as easy as possible for plug-in developers to port their products to OS X.

AreaList Pro is dead. Long live PowerView!

I am not an old-enough hand with 4D to know the story first-hand, but I have heard it many times from experienced developers. They sit down and get a far-away look when they start to tell you about it, the way veterans do before talking about The War. It goes something like this: There used to be a third-party plug-in for 4D called AreaList Pro, which was relied upon by every serious 4D developer. AreaList provided a set of life-saving functions not built into 4D, all of them derived from its central trick of displaying arrays on screen. AreaList was a VBD (very big deal).

Then one dark day, the company that had been publishing AreaList and several other crucial 4D tools decided that its own business plan no longer included 4D and that it would stop developing and supporting these tools. To hear the old-timers tell it, it was like waking up tomorrow to discover that you could not buy gasoline for your car—anywhere.

At last year's Summit in Chicago, 4D, Inc. promised developers that it would solve the problem caused by AreaList's death, and this year, they delivered on the promise by announcing PowerView, a new tool in 6.7 which combines the features of ALP and 4D Chart (4D's spreadsheet plug-in). The demo of PowerView showed it to be fast and flexible. One part of the demo consisted of a ballet of formatted table cells that Brendan Coveney had to assure the audience had not been done in Flash! Several developers I talked to thought that, while the preview of 4D running under OS X was good news, the announcement of a replacement for AreaList Pro was the news that mattered most to them.

To me as a rookie 4D user still spending most of my time on the bench, it was interesting to discover that there are still companies brave enough to make promises and at least equally interesting to see a company actually keep them.

Everything Else

The rest of the program was nicely diversified. One presenter in the WebSTAR track warned his audience that his talk was going to get a bit geeky. He needn't have bothered. The entire conference was unashamedly geeky. The level of discourse among the attendees was consistently high. Even the beginners track included presentations likely to make expert FileMaker users like me sweat a little, such as "Parameter Passing and Generic Code," "Accelerated Text Parsing with BLOBs," "Pointers on Pointers," and "Multi-Process Programming." Other presentations on 4D were similarly diversified, dealing with memory management, interprocess data transfer, and localization of applications. I was not able to attend the latter, but its presence on the program reminded me of 4D's international character. 4D, Inc. in the U.S. is a wholly-owned subsidiary whose parent country is in France. 4D has long provided extraordinary support for international users, including full-support for double-byte languages like Chinese and Japanese.

A few of the sessions were bleeding edge. I attended a session on using speech-recognition and synthesis as a replacement for the conventional UI. The session was fascinating, especially when the presenter's demo behaved as expected. I left feeling that I might personally wait a year before worrying about this subject again.

Because you have complete control over the UI (including menus) and because you can compile your code into double-clickable programs, 4D is a great tool for developing vertical market applications. A couple panel sessions provided detailed advice for commercial developers from those who have already been there and done that. I personally learned that we at Polytrope have been doing almost everything wrong.

Windows?

The casual observer could easily have gotten the impression that this was a convention attended exclusively by Macintosh users. C.K. Hahn, Senior Director, Developer Technical Services, Apple Computer, Inc., spoke briefly during the keynote to give Apple's blessing on 4D, Inc.'s commitment to OS X. Apple sponsored the wonderful Internet café for Summit attendees, complete with an Airport base station. Many of the sessions dealt specifically with the Mac OS. My completely unscientific guess is that a good eighty percent or more of the attendees would consider themselves primarily Mac OS users. And yet 4D is a cross-platform product. More than that: Brendan Coveney told me that roughly 75% of their sales are for the Windows platform (mainly 4D Server for NT boxes)! This paradox leads me to two observations. First, it appears that developing 4D databases on the Mac and deploying them under Windows is easy and reliable. If there were a lot of problems in this arrangement, I would have expected to see at least a couple presentations like "Pot-holes to avoid with the Windows compiler" or "Memory Management under Windows NT." Second, the market — not just 4D, Inc.'s market, but my market, the developers' market — is Windows.

The Big News

On the last day, I asked everybody I talked to what the big news of the Summit was. Some said it was the acquisition of WebSTAR by 4D, Inc. Some mentioned PowerView. Some pointed to the web features of the forthcoming 4D 6.7. Many talked with excitement about seeing 4D running under OS X. But when I asked Brendan Coveney what the big news was, he did not hesitate to give me the low-tech answer that I think is the best of all: "The big news of the Summit is that the 4D community is alive and growing and the atmosphere is tremendously positive."

Credits and More Information

Many thanks to those credited above and to many others not credited for speaking to me. Special thanks to John Steele of Elucidata in Fort Worth for his clarifications with regard to AreaList Pro. The official 4D Summit web site is at <http://www.4DSummit.com>, but you need a password to get into the really useful pages. No password is required to get into developer and Summit presenter Bryan Green's unofficial celebration of the Summit: <http://www.4DSummitnotes.com>.

 
AAPL
$102.50
Apple Inc.
+0.25
MSFT
$45.43
Microsoft Corpora
+0.55
GOOG
$571.60
Google Inc.
+2.40

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Path Finder 6.5.5 - Powerful, award-winn...
Path Finder is a file browser that combines the familiar Finder interface with the powerful utilities and innovative features. Just a small selection of the Path Finder 6 feature set: Dual pane... Read more
QuarkXPress 10.2.1 - Desktop publishing...
With QuarkXPress, you can communicate in all the ways you need to -- and always look professional -- in print and digital media, all in a single tool. Features include: Easy to Use -- QuarkXPress is... Read more
Skype 6.19.0.450 - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
VueScan 9.4.41 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Cloud 3.0.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.1.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
SlingPlayer Plugin 3.3.20.505 - Browser...
SlingPlayer is the screen interface software that works hand-in-hand with the hardware inside the Slingbox to make your TV viewing experience just like that at home. It features an array of... Read more
Get Lyrical 3.8 - Auto-magically adds ly...
Get Lyrical auto-magically add lyrics to songs in iTunes. You can choose either a selection of tracks, or the current track. Or turn on "Active Tagging" to get lyrics for songs as you play them.... Read more
Viber 4.2.2 - Send messages and make cal...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device,... Read more
Cocktail 7.6 - General maintenance and o...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rhonna Designs Magic (Photography)
Rhonna Designs Magic 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to sprinkle *magic* on your photos? With RD Magic, you can add colors, filters, light leaks, bokeh, edges,... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: August 25-29, 2014
Shiny Happy App Reviews   | Read more »
Qube Kingdom – Tips, Tricks, Strategies,...
Qube Kingdom is a tower defense game from DeNA. You rally your troops – magicians, archers, knights, barbarians, and others – and fight against an evil menace looking to dominate your kingdom of tiny squares. Planning a war isn’t easy, so here are a... | Read more »
Qube Kingdom Review
Qube Kingdom Review By Nadia Oxford on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: KIND OF A SQUARE KINGDOMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Qube Kingdom has cute visuals, but it’s a pretty basic tower defense game at heart.   | Read more »
Fire in the Hole Review
Fire in the Hole Review By Rob Thomas on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: WALK THE PLANKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Seafoam’s Fire in the Hole looks like a bright, 8-bit throwback, but there’s not enough booty to... | Read more »
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwi...
Alien Creeps TD is Now Available Worldwide Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Dodo Master Review
Dodo Master Review By Jordan Minor on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEST EGGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Dodo Master is tough but fair, and that’s what makes it a joy to play.   | Read more »
Motorsport Manager Review
Motorsport Manager Review By Lee Hamlet on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: MARVELOUS MANAGEMENTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Despite its depth and sense of tactical freedom, Motorsport Manager is one of the most... | Read more »
Motorsport Manager – Beginner Tips, Tric...
The world of Motorsport management can be an unforgiving and merciless one, so to help with some of the stress that comes with running a successful race team, here are a few hints and tips to leave your opponents in the dust. | Read more »
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Add...
CalPal Update Brings the App to 2.0, Adds Lots of New Stuff Posted by Ellis Spice on August 29th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple now offering refurbished 21-inch 1.4GHz...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 21″ 1.4GHz iMacs for $929 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $170 off the cost of new models,... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more
Save up to $300 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $300 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
The Rise of Phablets
Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, a businesses and technology consulting firm focused solely on the financial services industry, has released an infographic depicting the convergence of... Read more
Bad Driver Database App Allows Good Drivers t...
Bad Driver Database 1.4 by Facile Group is a new iOS and Android app that lets users instantly input and see how many times a careless, reckless or just plain stupid driver has been added to the... Read more
Eddy – Cloud Music Player for iPhone/iPad Fre...
Ukraine based CapableBits announces the release of Eddy, its tiny, but smart and powerful cloud music player for iPhone and iPad that allows users to stream or download music directly from cloud... Read more
A&D Medical Launches Its WellnessConnecte...
For consumers and the healthcare providers and loved ones who care for them, A&D Medical, a leader in connected health and biometric measurement devices and services, has launched its... Read more
Anand Lal Shimpi Retires From AnandTech
Anand Lal Shimpi, whose AnandTech Website is famous for its meticulously detailed and thoroughgoing reviews and analysis, is packing it in. Lal Shimpi, who founded the tech site at age 14 in 1997,... Read more
2.5GHz Mac mini, Apple refurbished, in stock...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2.5GHz Mac minis available for $509, $90 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free. Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.