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>.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OmniOutliner Pro 4.2 - Pro version of th...
OmniOutliner Pro is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
VLC Media Player 2.2.1 - Popular multime...
VLC Media Player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, OGG, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It... Read more
Nisus Writer Pro 2.1.1 - Multilingual wo...
Nisus Writer Pro is a powerful multilingual word processor, similar to its entry level products, but brings new features such as table of contents, indexing, bookmarks, widow and orphan control,... Read more
Tinderbox 6.2.0 - Store and organize you...
Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It stores your notes, ideas, and plans. It can help you organize and understand them. And Tinderbox helps you share ideas through Web journals... Read more
OmniOutliner 4.2 - Organize your ideas,...
OmniOutliner is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
Things 2.5.4 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more
NeoOffice 2014.10 - Mac-tailored, OpenOf...
NeoOffice is a complete office suite for OS X. With NeoOffice, users can view, edit, and save OpenOffice documents, PDF files, and most Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. NeoOffice 3.x... Read more
iPhoto Library Manager 4.2 - Manage mult...
iPhoto Library Manager allows you to organize your photos among multiple iPhoto libraries, rather than having to store all of your photos in one giant library. You can browse the photos in all your... Read more
Web Snapper 3.3.8 - Capture entire Web p...
Web Snapper lets you capture Web pages exactly as they appear in your browser. You can send them to a file as images or vector-based, multi-page PDFs. It captures the whole Web page - eliminating the... Read more
TeamViewer 10.0.41404 - Establish remote...
TeamViewer gives you remote control of any computer or Mac over the Internet within seconds, or can be used for online meetings. Find out why more than 200 million users trust TeamViewer! Free for... Read more

Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night has...
It's time to put the Darkness back in its place now that Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night has officially made it to iOS. | Read more »
A World of Ice and Fire Lets You Stalk 2...
George R. R. Martin’s A World of Ice and Fire, by Random House, is a mobile guide to the epic series. The new update gives you the Journeys map feture that will let you track the movements of 25 different characters. But don't worry, you can protect... | Read more »
Gameloft Announces Battle Odyssey, a New...
Battle Odyssey, Gameloft's newest puzzle RPG, is coming to the App Store next week. Set in the world of Pondera, you will need to control the power of the elements to defend the world from evil. You'll be able to entlist over 500 allies to aid you... | Read more »
Fusion - HDR Camera (Photography)
Fusion - HDR Camera 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Fusion creates HDR (high dynamic range) photos by capturing different exposures and then combining them into one... | Read more »
Sago Mini Toolbox (Education)
Sago Mini Toolbox 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Come build with the Sago Mini friends! Use a wrench, try a saw, or hammer some nails. From sewing hand puppets to... | Read more »
You Should Probably Grab Hitman GO While...
Hitman GO is a surprisingly cool (yet also incredibly drastic) departure from the Hitman series. It's well worth playing for any puzzle game fans out there, and at the moment you can get your hands - or garrotte if you will - on it for a mere $0.99... | Read more »
IFTTT is Bringing Do Button and Do Note...
IFTTT has announced Do Button and Do Note for the Apple Watch. Do Button lets you make your own personalized button that can connect to things like your Google Drive, control the temperature in your home with Nest Thermostat, or turn the lights on... | Read more »
How Many Days, Hours, and Minutes Are Le...
Countdown, by Yves Tscherry, is now available on the App Store. The app keeps track of countdowns to your favorite things such as someones birthday or days till the New Year. You can display the time in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months,... | Read more »
The All-New Misfit 2.0 App is Available...
Misfit has just given their app a complete overhaul. Misfit 2.0 now has a brand new interface with a sleek design and is easier to navigate. You'll be able to sync your Misfit device and look up health and fitness information faster than ever before... | Read more »
Halo: Spartan Strike (Games)
Halo: Spartan Strike 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Delve into 30 challenging missions through cities and jungles using a devastating arsenal of weapons, abilities and... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

TigerText Introduces First Secure Enterprise...
TigerText, a provider of secure, real-time messaging for the enterprise, has announced the launch of TigerText for the Apple Watch. TigerText for the Apple Watch enables users to securely send and... Read more
The Conservation Fund Partners with Apple To...
The Conservation Fund has announced that it will partner with Apple to help protect working forests in the United States. The Apple initiative will conserve more than 36,000 acres of working... Read more
Clearance 13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pro a...
B&H Photo has clearance 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1099, or $200 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 13-inch Retina MacBook...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $400 off original MSRP, starting at $979. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
iMacs on sale for up to $205 off MSRP, NY tax...
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $205 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 1.4GHz iMac: $1019 $80 off - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $1189 $110 off - 21″ 2.9GHz... Read more
Sale! 16GB iPhone 5S for $1 with service
Best Buy is offering 16GB iPhone 5Ss for $1.00 with 2-year activation at a participating cellular provider. Choose free home shipping and activation, or buy online and activate during in-store pickup... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available starting at $679. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free. These are currently the... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2349, sav...
 Adorama has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac in stock today and on sale for $2349 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $150 off MSRP. For a limited time, Adorama will... Read more
Save up to $380 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac – $2119 $... Read more
iFixIt Teardown Awards 12-IInch Retina MacBoo...
iFixIt has posted its illustrated teardown of the new 12-inch MacBook Retina. They note that this new MacBook is less than half the thickness of the last Apple notebook called just “MacBook” back in... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Watch SW Application Project Manager...
**Job Summary** The Apple Watch software team is looking for an Application Engineering Project Manager to work on new projects for Apple . The successful candidate Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail 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
Technical Project Manager - *Apple* Pay - A...
**Job Summary** Apple Pay is seeking an experienced technical PM to…manage the on boarding of new merchants for the Apple Pay platform in the US Within this role you Read more
Senior Identity Architect - *Apple* Pay - A...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior identity architect to join the Apple Pay Engineering team. You will Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.