All posts by Adrian Gosbell

Responsible for the product management of Uniface. (second time around). Also have responsibility for product marketing this time. Back in the role after 5 years in Brisbane, Australia, where I worked at Aurion, a large Uniface customer, and also at Lockheed Martin, which was an awesome company to work for.

Windows XP – another nail in the Coffin

I recently read this article about Chrome 50 stopping support for some older operating systems, and the mention of Windows XP caught my eye. 

From a Uniface perspective, we stopped supporting Windows XP in May 2014. Purely from a technology perspective, it freed us up in regards to choices on MS Visual Studio and even how to implement certain functionality. I’m sure in the Uniface source code there is still code that states ‘if Windows XP’…! 

Getting out and about, talking to customers, I’ve had a few conversations about Windows XP, mainly in the context of browser support and Internet Explorer 7, as in the big WWW, it’s pretty well out of control what OS, and what browser an end user can use. (Although I do remember this article about an Australian online retailer who was going to add an IE tax for their transactions.) 

Something that has come up during conversations has been customers who are doing business in China, where there is still a significant amount of Windows XP use. I’m assuming that this is related to how easy it was to bypass the MS licensing model and the availability of older specification hardware which might struggle to run a new version of Windows. 

I’m expecting that with Chrome soon to stop supporting IE, that will start to accelerate the move away from Windows XP, and I’m guessing some of the hardware manufacturers will be rubbing their hands with the anticipation of a peak in new hardware sales, and the recyclers are preparing for more obsolete hardware to be stripped for precious metals. 

And on a personal note, it appears I need to buy a new Mac for use at home, as I’m also impacted by Chrome 50 not supporting my version of Mac OSX! 

Uniface 64 bit deployment for Windows

During the deployment session from the Uniface Lectures, we covered Uniface 64 bit deployment for Windows in the morning session (not in the afternoon because it took to much time, the videos are available to watch on our YouTube channel though). 

We had a few really interesting questions, I’ve worked the answers into the text below and I dug up an old posting from the old Frontline site, and used that as the basis. 

The oldest Uniface PAM (Product Availability Matrix) I could find was from Uniface 6.1, and with that old version we  delivered 64 bit support on DEC Alpha hardware with Uniface 6.1. OpenVMS, and DEC Unix ports of Uniface. I remember seeing one of the DEC Unix workstations here in the Amsterdam Lab, running the Motif GUI and thinking how advanced it was, how fast it was and I wanted one. Always dangerous to wish for more, I ended up with a Mac on my desk a week later. 

For a number of releases we focused on Uniface server versions for 64 bit, think IBM AIX, HP-UX, Intel Titanium hardware and so forth.  

It was in 2012 that we delivered a 64 bit Windows server version, delivering it in Uniface 9.5.  

It took us a long time, and to be honest, I recall have a few conversations on the topic over the years, and from an out and out technical perspective, the view was that there were few perceived benefits when compared to the 32 bit version to justify the investment to make it happen. I should mention that we had done some clever things with compiler switches to enable memory addressing for a number of releases. 

A Windows 64 bit Uniface client was a different story, and was quite a significant project.  Clearly there were overlaps with the Windows Server (technically they share a lot of common source), but the GUI layer needed a lot of work. We had to refactor a lot of code, as we had a lot of legacy (technical debt) from older versions of Uniface. The name Uniface originated from Universal Interface, and it was possible to develop one Uniface app and deploy it on those old GUI platforms which we used to support thanks to the Uniface specific widgets such as the unifield.  (I’m sure some of us who have been around Uniface for a long time remembers Uniface on Mac, Motif, OS/2 and Windows 3.x.)  There was a lot of old code to clean up and/or remove, and we also have to keep those legacy widgets operational. 

A few additional challenges included our use of automated test tools which didn’t support 64 bit platforms, which also forced our journey to replace them and use Ranorex for our testing. (I’ve covered this in the forums and talked at a few user groups on this topic.)  

We delivered a Windows 64 bit client with Uniface 9.6 in December 2012. We’ve had some good feedback, I recall talking to a customer in the UK, and their comment was that it just seems more ‘fluid’. I talked about this with one of the architects, and the view is that this is probably as a result of the refactoring, possible the additional memory capabilities, but it’s great to get positive feedback. 

It’s available for deployment rather than development, as we have a few external pieces of functionality in the developer, for example the DSP Editor which are not available as a 64 bit product. 

The HTML control we delivered in Uniface 9.6 is also currently restricted to 32 bit. But this will change, it’s based on Chromium (sometimes know as CEF) from Google, and the sources were (finally) updated to 64 bit and we have been working on getting that into Uniface 9.7, and will be part of the Uniface 9.7.02 update which we are finalising. That was a challenge to get working, changes to threading models and API’s meant some rework and lots of testing, but it’s pretty well code complete. 

The Uniface 10 IDE uses that same HTML control extensively, so the move to CEF3, now opens the way to deliver a 64 bit developer. There will be a significant Uniface 10 release in September, but this is something for another posting next month.    

 

Uniface Lectures Webinar Series: Sharing Technical Information

Uniface Lectures Webinar Series

We are about to launch a new webinar series initiative to help share Uniface technical knowledge called the Uniface Lectures.

Once a month there will be an evening session held here at our office in Amsterdam on a particular topic.  Using the latest version of Uniface we will be showing functionality, tips and tricks with the goal of sharing technical knowledge.

Now obviously this is only useful for customers who are able to get here to attend, so we will also repeat the sessions as online webinars, and finally they will be recorded and posted on YouTube. Different Uniface technical experts will be delivering the webinars and we’ll be doing about one per month making sure to cover both East and West time zones.

At this time,  we have the following topics planned. 

  • February – Modernization
  • March – Deployment 
  • April – JavaScript Integration
  • May – Mobile 
  • June – Integration using REST 

We’ll probably take a break for the summer period, but we then intend to restart the sessions in the fall timeframe with new topics. 

We would be interested in ideas of topics to cover, please add suggestions and ideas below in the comments.  What would you like to see covered? What do you want to learn more about?

Further details, and how to register for the Lectures can be found here.

Uniface Lectures

Re-inventing the Uniface customer events

Our Uniface customer event season has just started, and several of us have been busy preparing content which we will be delivering at various events around the world. We have decided to make some changes to the events which we (Uniface) run ourselves although we always make the content available to the various independent user groups such as Face to Face in the Netherlands and UnifaceBenutzerGruppe, or UBG in Germany

The thinking started last year (2014) at the US Event in Las Vegas, where we ran the ever popular ‘Speed Networking sessions’ which are a cross between round table discussions and speed dating. One of the topics was ‘The Future of the NAUUG’, chaired by Zulayka. (NAUUG being North American Uniface User Group). 

The feedback we got was interesting, and we’ve taken a lot of it onboard. The primary points being that there was a desire for the content to be more technical, and code, techniques and techie stuff is the most interesting. (We also see that technically oriented blog posts on Uniface.info are generally the most popular.)

Uniface
Uniface

The result is that this year, the user events that we are running are Developer Conferences, with a focus on the technical content. We’ve also been working hard on the technical content, which will cover a variety of topics, such as UX, integration, development techniques, etc and will include getting into the code, with the source code being made available for future reference, use and enhancement. The sessions are delivered by various members of the Uniface technical team, and it should add up to be a really compelling reason to attend the events. 

We have Developer Conferences already scheduled for the UK, France and the US which is always our biggest event over three days, and this week a few of us are in Japan, with one event in Tokyo and one in Osaka (both of which are sold out), and I’m sure we will have more events in 2016. The technical content is available to be used at the other customer events which we don’t run ourselves, for example some of the Uniface team are in Israel this week and we usually have events in Latin America and Australia, although we’ve not booked anything at this time. 

Using Agile Beyond Development

Those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know that I recently traveled to Brazil on what turned out to be one of the busiest trips I think I’ve even done, but it was also one of the most inspirational for a couple of reasons. The most pertinent being a trip to see Bravi in a city called Florianopolis in the south of Brazil. Bravi currently provides outsourced Uniface services, but the thing that really struck me wasn’t anything related to Uniface, it was their use of the Agile methodology throughout their entire company. We have used agile for a number of years to develop and maintain Uniface, we’ve presented it both at Uniface and (non-Uniface) industry events, and as a product manager I’m really a fan of what it brings.

Uniface

I’d never contemplated using it elsewhere, but I can really see the value it brings from a flexibility (agility?) perspective, and also the visibility it brings within the organization to help make sure people are aware and informed. I really like that it means information, status, etc, are available and those that are interested have the information available.

IMG_1190
Bravi’s kanban board they use for HR

Next steps, we’re going to start using it in a couple of departments, we’ll start by keeping it quite simple, using kanban boards, probably one financial year will be a sprint, and a whole lot more to think about yet. We’re planning on changing our internal systems this year, and once done, a phase two could be to move to online systems. Some interesting times ahead.