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Build your own CLR

By Richard Morris, Posted on March 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Open source code is all the rage these days, everyone is doing it, even Synergex.  For some years now CodeGen and Symphony Framework have been open source.  They are both available on www.codeplex.com.  What this gives you is the ability to see inside the classes and programs to see, if you are interested, exactly how they are doing what they do. Even Microsoft are joining the open source band wagon – the .NET Framework is open source and the CLR is following!  Where PSG lead, others will follow (LOL – I think that means laugh out loud, so my kids tell me).

Does this mean you are going to grab all the code, build your own CLR and tweak it to make the blue windows green? No, not at all.  What it does mean is that people can now see what’s happening inside the ocne “black box” and move this code to other platforms.  And this obviously helps us Synergy .NET developers.  We can already take advantage of other platforms because of the availability of the .NET framework and CLR components on non-windows platforms.  It’s how we can deploy your next application to that fancy new Android or iOS phone.  It’s how you can take your good received code you wrote 10 years ago, bundle it up into a tablet application with signature capture and have real time “proof of delivery” built into your systems.

Aside from the conference topics there was an interesting question on the Synergy-l list last night.  The request was to display multiple coloured boxes on the screen.  Sounds simple – and using Synergy.Net inside Visual Studio it was!  20 minute later….

boxes

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the UI elements (colour, values, images) come from a data bound repository based structure so you could load the contents directly from your ISAM files.  The actual colours and images are selected through switches inside the XAML code based on the values of your synergy data.  I don’t think I’ll be demonstrating this simple example at the DevPartner 2015 conference, but there will be lots of great examples to see, and of course tutorials to step you through how it’s done.  It’s the last day of DevWeek tomorrow which means I’ll be driving my car around the M25 car park trying to get out of central London for hours.  So I’ll make this my last blog from the conference.  As always the conference has been enlightening.

 


Colour my World

By Richard Morris, Posted on March 25, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Apparently UI design is more than just picking colours for you controls – who would have guessed it.  Now if the Senior Director of Design @ Infragistics is telling you this then I guess it’s time to listen.  I’m all for a good UI design – but in our world sometimes it’s just too easy to take the “take what we have and make do” approach.  If you have a cell-based or even a UI Toolkit screen cluttered with fields, drop-downs, lists etc. then surely that’s what the users want to see in your shiny new app right?  Well maybe, but then you struggle with new prospects because your UI looks, well, wrong.  The functionality of the application beats the competition hands-down, but often it’s not good enough to even get your foot in the door.  And for all you in-house developers who don’t have a system to “sell” – don’t look away now as your users are just as important to keep happy as the next sales prospect.  Imagine if you had to write that cool new app using “notepad” – no intellisence, drag and drop didn’t exist, only one edit buffer available, the list is endless – but in a nutshell you’d leave and go program somewhere where they provided the best tools for you to do your job.  And so it is the same for your users – give them the tools to perform at their best.

And then we come back to the age old problem – ten-key.  You just can’t beat data entry on a cell based system.  While this is generally accepted as true, there are ways to improve the process.  Reduce or in many cases eliminate the chrome around the application (I think the cool term today is “flatten”).  Does every other field have to be a comb-box – why not let the user enter the “known only to them” code and provide the newbies with a clickable button to “find” the one they want – you’ll soon find them entering the code!  Choose a colour scheme that matches the environment. If you application is for office based people then make the screen light and bright – it’s easier on the eyes in a bright open office.  Or maybe your application is being used in a dark control room – no windows or natural sunlight, so make the application darker and milder to reflect this.  Align your controls, prompts and buttons to a gird like structure.  Don’t overdo the font types and sizes.  And of course there is the 1.617 rule!

It’s interesting that many of the sessions this year are more about making your apps look right and not actually making you aps.

 


Secure the Bridge

By Richard Morris, Posted on March 24, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Today is actually the first “real” day of the DevWeek conference.  As a member of the DevPartner team at Synergex I tend to look at more than just the agenda content when I attend conferences like this – the venue has to be right.  DevWeek this year is being held in a church!  it’s a fully-fledged conference venue, but it’s still a church.

The opening keynote was a dual affair.  The first half was about trees (not the green leafy variety) followed by a presentation about how “estimates are a complete waste of time, effort and resources” – something I can certainly agree with!  If you consider that all estimations are based on guess work, why waste time guessing how long something may take just to get it wrong.  There are other more accurate ways to plan out a project – the biggest challenge is convincing the customer.

Not everything presented at this conference is directly related to coding – and it’s the same at DevPartner 2015. This year we are bringing in people from outside of Synergex to present a different perspective to developing software outside of just “typing Synergy code”.  This will include experts in the field of UI design considerations – so your Synergy applications can sparkle.

One area I’m working on at the moment is security.  The new Symphony Bridge is a web-service architecture that allows direct access to your code and data from any client.  Unlike a traditional Web Service the Symphony Bridge does not expose all your methods and data structures, which is a security concern for old legacy implementations.  It exposes a single point of entry that accepts a single input stream – there are no external indications as to what that entry point is or the format of the input data.  This helps to protect the service from those hackers out there that just want to get into and behind your service.

The security 101 session today was both informative and reassuring that Bridge is doing as much as it can to protect your back end server systems from attack.  I’ll demonstrate some of the built in security features during the “Serving up Success” session.


Conference Time

By Richard Morris, Posted on March 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Day one and a 9:30 start, which is quite early for a Monday morning – and I have just hustled my way through the London underground commuter traffic!  Front row seat for the Xamarin multi-targeting apps workshop, and the presenter is a fellow “Evangelist” so things are looking good.

My goal for today is to squeeze as much knowledge from James, the Developer Evangelist from Xamarin, to ensure everything we are doing at Synergex is going to take us down the multi-targeting utopia highway.

DevWeek in London is an annual conference I try to attend because over the years it’s given me many thought provoking ideas that have made their way into Synergy, Symphony and the applications I write and assist on.  I’m especially looking forward to this year because everything is no longer just about C#, it’s now about multi-platform targeted development – you know, just like what we have been doing with Synergy for 30 years!!

Today it’s a pre-conference Xamarin workshop showing how to provide true native applications on android, iOS and Windows without compromising the UI or having to duplicate your application code across multiple development projects.  The trick is Portable Class Libraries (PCL’s) – once you have these you can plug them into your chosen UI project (Android, Windows, iOS).  Of course Synergy allows for the creation of these PCL’s so out-of-the-box your development team have the tools to “go mobile”.

Many years ago Synergex developed the UI Toolkit – and I know many people reading this will still have applications running using it.  It provided a single source for UI design that targeted multiple platforms.  You could write your UI pieces into a script file which would be “compiled” on the target platforms and the same Synergy code would run and display according to the host environment – OpenVMS and UNIX was “green screen”, Microsoft Windows was just that, native Microsoft Windows.

Today’s multi-targeting tools come from Xamarin and are built into Microsoft Visual Studio and Utilise the Microsoft .Net Framework – just like Synergy.  It provides developers with the ability to write-once-deploy-many across all the latest must-have devices including iOS, Android and Windows Phone and Store.  And did I mention Google Wear?

As a Synergy developer you are perfectly placed to take full advantage of these opportunities.  As well as being able to build new applications from Synergy templates, built into Visual Studio for Android and iOS, you can also plug in your Synergy Portable Class Libraries directly into Windows Phone and Store applications.  You could even be sending push notifications to the latest Google Watch technology on your wrist, if that’s what your application needs.

We will be showing you just how easy it is to create great cross-device apps using Synergy and the latest Xamarin tools at this year’s DevPartner 2015 conference.

And if you want to get right up to speed on all things Synergy don’t forget to sign-up for the pre and post conference workshops.  These workshops will take you from zero to hero when it comes to building great Synergy applications using all the latest tools and techniques, and understanding what all the buzz words and jargon mean.


Symphony Bridge

By Richard Morris, Posted on March 19, 2015 at 1:51 pm

For more than 30 years Synergex has enabled developers to take advantage of many different computer operating systems, hardware environments and networking topologies.  Today there are a number of different options to enable connectivity between client applications and services and the Synergy application logic and data.

If it’s a simple case of data on one machine and Synergy application on another then xfServer is the technology of choice.  One quick change to your environment variables and off you go – data being served on a plate.

If you want to move the execution of Synergy logic onto the server where the data is to improve performance while doing complex data searching and analysis, or need to access the application logic from non-Synergy environments like C#/ASP.NET/Java, then xfServerPlus is the perfect fit.  It takes a little more configuring, but is proven and reliable.

Both of these “server” technologies required a certain configuration of your network and are only recommended for use on your internal LAN.  So getting data and logic accessible to clients on the wrong side of your firewall, in a standard and secure way, requires the use of other tools or software.  The general approach is to create a web service to expose all the methods you would like the client to be able to consume.   Once you’ve written this web service you then need to run the Synergy application logic and data access.  You can call back into your traditional ELB’s via xfServerPlus or you could write the server in Synergy.Net and use xfServer to access the data – but stop!  If you do this you run the risk of running out of channels, different processes crashing your common data and other issues. 

Welcome to the Symphony Bridge Server and the Symphony Harmony namespace.  Symphony Bridge provides a RESTful web service layer that allows you to execute your native Synergy.Net application logic and data access from any Synergy supported client consumer.  The Symphony Harmony namespace provides the ability to access your applications database files using SQL syntax and to make remote procedure calls to execute Synergy application logic, without the need to build a web server of your own, because it uses the Symphony Bridge.

We’ll be presenting the new Symphony capabilities at DevPartner 2015 and you’ll get your chance to try them out by working through one of the self-paced tutorials.  You can also sign up for the post-conference workshop to utilise these new capabilities to build a complete client-server application end-to-end.


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