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NEWS V6 #2

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Release 4.21 is Coming Soon!

Release 4.21 is an updated 4.2 release of NPL for all MS-DOS, 386/DOS-Extender, NetBIOS, NetWare and MS-Windows platforms to complete our planned features additions for Release 4.2. Release 4.21 will be made available in the following ways:

  • As a new RunTime version replacing our current 4.20 version for new sales
  • As a newly enhanced “No Return Upgrade” for current NPL Releases 3.20, 4.0, and 4.10
  • As a copyable update for current NPL 4.20 installations

“What?”,.. you may be saying, “We’ve only recently started using Release 4.20!” That is true. Release 4.21 is the “second half” of Release 4.2 which will fill a long requested need of many Resellers.... the elimination of 90% of Returned RunTimes!

“Really? But how is this?”, you must be asking. By means of a new “No Return Upgrade” product which significantly improves the former upgrade procedure with the following benefits:

~ The 4.21 No Return Upgrade updates your user’s site to a full 4.21 Gold Key, thereby replacing the user’s existing Gold Key. This feature eliminates the need to maintain the original Gold Key plus a separate Upgrade diskette for future exchanges.

~ The 4.21 No Return Upgrade maintains the original serial and #GOLDKEY numbers from the previous version - preserving existing security codes tied into these numbers. This saves both time and money.

~ The 4.21 No Return Upgrade has been automated to simplify the process for Resellers installing the Gold Key at the customer site or by phone.

~ The 4.21 No Return Upgrade allows the user a 30-Day Window to access either the old or new version to insure a smooth transition to 4.21 with the new installation. The reseller or user determines when to make the upgrade permanent within the time period provided.

~ The 4.21 No Return Upgrade can be ordered for versions starting with Release 3.20 up through 4.10.

~ Release 4.20 RunTime Packages can be easily updated by obtaining the new Runtime executable files from Niakwa’s BBS or our new Home Page on the World Wide Web:

~ The 4.21 No Return Upgrade allows you to add Users to your existing Gold Key.

~ The 4.21 No Return Upgrade allows you to add Windows, 386/DOS-Extender (or both) to your existing Gold Key.

    And the best news of all....

~ The 4.21 No Return Upgrade turns itself into your new Gold Key and deactivates the old Gold Key, meaning you no longer need to return the old Gold Key to Niakwa!

Release 4.21 Enhancements

While the “No Return Upgrade” is an exciting enhancement, Release 4.21 includes many other important enhancements.

The following is a high level list of the additional new and improved features that will be available in Release 4.21.

New A:SETUP Feature (Windows versions)

    A newly automated setup routine is available by running A:SETUP from MS-Windows. NPL security may also be directly installed by running the MS-Windows new NIAKINSW.EXE command. The Windows install automatically creates Install/De-install icons to simplify this procedure.

Improved Support for Windows Print Manager

    Release 4.21 now provides developers with a method for passing printer control codes directly to a printer from the Print Manager. (No more need to bypass the Print Manager!) This new capability is implemented in the form of a new device clause option "XPA=Y" when combined with a printer driver in the device clause. For example:

    $DEVICE(/215)=">(HP LaserJet Series II,HPPCL,LPT3:)XPA=Y"


    $DEVICE(/215)="LPT1 XPA=Y"

    While all printer drivers are not required by Microsoft to support the PASSTHROUGH escape option, most do. Developers need to insure this option is supported by their printer driver for the XPA option to work. (This will make a lot of Windows users much happier!)

New Startup Search Procedure

    As of this release, NPL will now search for it's startup files in the directory that RTI.EXE (or RTP) was executed from. The path used is then stored by the RunTime in a new system variable, "$RUNDIR". This new startup behavior will, in most cases, eliminate the need for setting the NIAKWA_RUNTIME system variable.

User Limit Upgrades Now Available

    Release 4.21 of NPL now allows developers to increase the RunTime User License in the field by performing a user limit upgrade. The process is similar to the popular RESET feature which was introduced in Release 3.20 and allows the developer to add a higher user count to a current 4.21 RunTime license. To do this, the developer needs to run the program LIMIT (which will be supplied on all new NPL RunTimes), provide the information displayed to the Niakwa Sales Department (or your NPL Distributor), and enter a verification code provided. Ordering procedures will be outlined in the upcoming Release 4.21 marketing bulletin.

Mixed Network Support

    On networks that contain both Novell and non-Novell file servers, NPL will now attempt to determine whether a file request is directed at the Novell server so that (the more efficient) Novell locks are directed to a Novell server. Files on other servers will be locked using the more transportable (but less efficient) SHARE type locks.

Improved User Count Handling

    Release 4.21 of NPL has been updated to allow multiple GoldKeys to coexist on the same Network. The RunTime will now maintain unique user counts for each GoldKey, thus eliminating past problems of user limit conflicts between GoldKeys.

Release 4.21 Platform Roll-Out Schedule

We have not overlooked NPL 4.21 on the other popular platforms. The next 4.21 roll-out, in fact, the next NPL product roll-out, will be on 4.21 for Intel Unix platforms, followed by 4.21 for the RISC based platforms (RS/6000, HP 9000, & Sun SPARC.) We’ll keep you informed as the dates approach.

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And the Survey Says.....

This is the promised “thumbnail sketch” of the results of our 1996 Developer Survey sent with the April newsletter. We received an excellent response from both North American and International developers, many of whom took the time to attach multiple pages of useful insights and suggestions. For this article, we compiled the top choices from each returned survey on both the NPL language “wish list”, and platforms of importance to NPL resellers. The results are below.

NPL Language

The six most-requested projects for Niakwa to complete are (in no particular order):

  • 32-Bit NPL for Windows: NT Server support, variables greater than 64K
  • Full Screen Editor/Debugger: a modern GUI editing environment for NPL
  • Visual NPL 1.1: Vinny for Windows 95 with VB4 compatibility and OCX support
  • Open NDM: ODBC compatibility for the Niakwa Data Manager
  • Client/server NPL: true client and server functionality built into NPL
  • Imaging: image processing functionality callable from NPL


The top ten NPL platforms as selected by respondents are (in order):

  • 1. Novell NetWare (the clear favorite of the vast majority of respondents)
  • 2. Windows NT
  • 3. Windows 95
  • 4. Windows 3.0/3.1
  • 5. Intel UNIX (many resellers who selected this rated it as their number one choice)
  • 6. MS-DOS
  • 7. DOS-Extender
  • 8. RS/6000 AIX
  • 9. LANtastic
  • 10. Windows for Workgroups


Here is a random sampling of comments we received regarding the strengths and weaknesses of NPL:

“(A key strength of NPL is support of) all operating systems; (with) one code for all.”

“(Another key strength is) stability. (We) can usually identify (any) problems.”

“(NPL has) world-class debugging, robust 3GL, reliable BCD math, extensive data conversion”

“Imaging is an upcoming major requirement.”

“The Visual Basic and NDM Opportunities are very important to us.”

“I really like the debug Window.”

“(The) biggest weakness is lack of a screen editor -- critical.”

“(The) biggest strength is stability of product.”

“The next area of interest for us will be integrating images with our main application, networking and Vinny.”


From the number of responses we received, it is apparent that members of the NPL community feel they have an opportunity (and perhaps an obligation) to influence the development of the language.

In turn, Niakwa looks on this as an opportunity (and an obligation) to drive NPL in the direction that its developers say they want it to go.

Some of the requested enhancements to NPL are already in the pipeline. Others will be shifted so that they are completed sooner than they otherwise would have been. And we’ll spell out the details of this to the NPL community in an upcoming Open Letter II from R&D Director Alan Green.

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No More Bull; No More IQ

Catchy title, isn’t it? But what does it mean? My advice is not to read between the lines - the meaning is purely literal. The time has come to make another clean-up of our product line-up.

Niakwa is discontinuing RunTime sales and support of the Bull and NCR Tower (Motorola 68000 chipset) line of NPL RunTimes due to lack of new activity for the past several years. We checked with previous purchasers of these lines and found no interest in continuing sale of these platforms, making it a fairly obvious decision. We have stocked a small supply of software to handle replacements which might appear in the future, but we recommend progression away from these platforms.

Niakwa no longer supplies or supports the IQ report manager product. This decision was made for us when we became independent from Bluebird Systems. The IQ agreement was made between Bluebird and IQ, and Niakwa was unable to achieve the favorable pricing we were getting as part of the original agreement. However, it should be noted that IQ is still a viable inquiry product for use with NPL whenever NDM has been incorporated. It is one of a number of add-on third party products which can add function and value to end-user applications with a user oriented reporting tool. IQ can be obtained from authorized IQ dealers worldwide. Contact IQ for a dealer near you at phone (404) 446-8880.

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Project Phoenix - Part II

by Craig Freeman

Last month's article on "Project Phoenix" was a wake-up call for NPL programmers. This month, we'll tell the story behind this extraordinary development effort by two well-known Niakwa resellers. The fruits of their labor serve to broaden the market for both SPEED-based and proprietary software. We encourage all Niakwa resellers to investigate its potential.

Kentucky-Fried Phoenix

Back in 1981, my company (SSC) contracted to produce a "School Attendance & Grading System." Every class had a teacher and several students, each student attended several classes, every teacher taught several classes, and students might miss or attend a particular class on any given day. The specifications called for inquiries by student, teacher and class -- for a total of 30+ custom inquiries and reports. It was a classic problem in relational database management.

About the same time, our two best programmers were putting the finishing touches on an experimental data manager called "QUASAR" (Quick Access Storage And Retrieval). Although we had written QUASAR for a wholesale distribution system, it's ability to access information along multiple key paths made it ideal for the school's application.

With only preliminary documentation at hand and a weekend to spare, I scratched down file layouts for Teachers, Students, Classes, etc. Next, I jotted down the various and sundry ways in which the data was to be accessed: which students are in a class, which students have a particular teacher in any class, what classes each student attended, what grades the student received in a particular semester (report cards), and grade point averages for students, teachers and classes.

QUASAR's Data Dictionary Editor led me step-by-step through the process of entering field names and establishing relationships with indices. About an hour later, the design was completely entered, checked for the inevitable typos and corrected -- with QUASAR-printed record layouts as proof of my effort. With some trepidation, I requested "Create Files" from the QUASAR menu and -- Voila! -- my relational database was created in minutes. I was so pleased that I took the design programmers to dinner and gave them both a raise.

Interestingly, there wasn't a single 'sort' in the entire system and most of the reports required only a screen or two of custom code. And, despite the fact that there were hundreds of classes, dozens of students in each and hundreds of attendance days in a year, QUASAR made fast work of the "Perfect Attendance Report". All this on a Wang 2200 with the processing power of a 1 MHz 486! I delivered the entire project in less than two weeks, demonstrated it to the client and got paid. Nicer yet, when the customer subsequently decided that new features were required, we used QUASAR to add fields and indices without tedious programming.

With this success under my belt, it seemed that QUASAR was the answer to a programmer's dreams. Talk to the client, determine required fields and relationships then let QUASAR do the work. It was like "money in the bank".

That is ... until the fateful day that our lead programmer took a stab at job security and stripped all the REMark statements from every copy of the source code! In one afternoon, three man-years of work hit the bit bucket. Without a way to negotiate through QUASAR's complex algorithms, it would be next-to-impossible to maintain the software -- rendering it useless for future development. The programmer was fired and QUASAR stayed on the shelf -- until now.

Two For The Price Of One

We stumbled along with a 'hash indexing' data manager (similar to that used by SPEED-I) until 1994, when our clients and prospects started seriously converting to MS-Windows. They wanted access to our data with report writing and graph-drawing tools, client-server data management for enhanced performance and graphical, mouseable programs. At the same time, we still had DOS users with ancient PCs to support. With almost 1,000 programs to upgrade and several different operating systems to support (DOS, UNIX, etc.), it took the better part of a year to find a practical solution.

Our answer was to write not one but two data management 'engines', each with the same interface to our application software. By using the 'engine' concept, a program statement such as GOSUB'FindNext(File,KeyID,KeyValue$) yields identical results regardless of data manager or operating system. QUASAR's proprietary engine is suitable for all NPL-supported platforms while Btrieve provides enhanced features such as "transaction tracking" for Windows and DOS/Pharlap.

All that we needed was to find a genius capable of putting the REMs back into QUASAR.

The Phoenix Rises ...

Russ Fairchild is an extraordinary man. He single-handedly coded "FourD" (from NSG), is possibly the best BASIC-2 programmer on Earth, and one heck of a nice person. I spent a few days with Russ at a Niakwa retreat and, when the time came to modernize QUASAR, his was the only name that came to mind. Convincing him to take on the project was a pleasant challenge...requiring a full day of serious drinking, eating and talking about 'the old days' before we came to an agreement.

Russ proceeded to enhance QUASAR to handle billions of records spanning terabyte platters, unlimited fields, record sizes and numbers of indices. While he was at it, he tossed in support of both catalogued and native O/S files, automatic reuse of deleted records, and several other sophisticated features.

When he delivered the updated QUASAR engine, I was shocked to discover that it was nearly 600KB in size. To my pleasant surprise, I also found that he had REMmed the entire technical manual into the code! After a quick compilation, the program shrank to require only 60KB of memory --- small enough for real-mode, 640K DOS users. QUASAR was alive and well!

Next, he wrote an interface to the Niakwa Data Manager (NDM) that would provide identical functionality with identical calls. Finally, he interfaced both engines with my aging data manager subroutines so that I wouldn't have to change a single line of application software code.

And then, he rested.

A SPEEDy Database Manager

When the timing tests came in, with frequently-used functions as much as 10 times faster than SSC's old data manager, we knew we had a winner. After mulling the possibilities, I suggested that we make QUASAR available to other resellers. But where to begin?

As fate would have it, the next day's mail contained a newsletter announcing that Niakwa had obtained the right to resell SPEED. I immediately called Alan Green and asked him if he would be interested in having us interface SPEED to our high-performance data manager capable of running on anything from 286 PCs to AS/400s. After about two seconds of deep thought, Alan dubbed the project "Instant NDM" and asked how QUASAR would affect the market for SPEED.

I explained how QUASAR's "engine" could be plugged into SPEED to transparently replace NSG's proprietary data manager with industry-standard Btrieve files. A fully automated conversion program would read SPEED's data dictionaries and automatically convert the user's data. So, with a minimum of fuss and trouble, the market for SPEED-I would expand to include new hardware platforms and technologies such as "client/server" networks, IBM's AS/400 and more. Industry-standard report writers like Crystal Reports would become "plug and go". A user's MIS department could access data using MS-Access or even "C" if they liked.

Resellers could also use Visual NPL to design graphical, Windows front-ends for their custom applications (using VB's "bound controls" to speed up the process). With a minimum of effort, text-mode code could be made substantially more marketable. For NSG resellers who have yet to make the leap to "FourD", QUASAR would be a Godsend. And, an ever-increasing revenue stream from new SPEED-I sales and workstation upgrades would flow to Niakwa , to NSG, and, most importantly, to the SPEED-I resellers.

We agreed to make this "win-win-win" situation a reality (as you read this, we're putting the final touches on the interface we'll be demonstrating "live" at the May NSG conference in Seattle!)

It's a Big World Out There

For the other 90% of the BASIC-2 world that doesn't use SPEED, QUASAR can be equally effective. If your current software uses an "I/O" buffer like SPEED, SHISAM and HIKAM, you can be QUASARing with a one-time investment of about two day's work. Even KFAM-based applications can be upgraded using ASC's Toolkit (and some future goodies that will make the enhancement process a whole lot smoother).

Whether you want to run your applications on new platforms, go graphical, or gain the ability to mark "yes" in every box of a prospect's RFP, QUASAR is the answer.

How Much And When?

QUASAR will be distributed as a low-cost, "retail" product licensed on a per-user basis with substantial reseller discounts. For exact pricing, you'll have to wait until the May, 1996, NSG Conference where we'll be presenting our first public demonstration. See you there!

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Spirit of Cooperation at NSG Conference

The NSG conference is May 2 - 4, and Niakwa is going to be there to show our support of the SPEED and FourD products. Many NPL developers have a made a long-term investment in these products, and we would like to show you how to get even richer returns from your efforts in a minimum of time.

Toward that end, Niakwa’s presentation room will be highlighting some very exciting innovations (ala Project Phoenix, and other equally exciting tools) which all SPEED developers will want to see. In fact, many of you will be astounded at the sight of these developments! Please be sure to look us up in the main upstairs conference area, the Southcenter room, where these spectacular demonstrations will be given. (You may even be able to order a copy.)

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VCR Offers Swimming Lessons....

The NPL Developer/Reseller network has been a source of hundreds, no thousands, of solid, dependable, flexible programs that solve real world needs for end-users world-wide. VCR has been an important part of that history with their long running AIMS system and their more recent Enable and API products. Their latest release, AIMS-6, is full of new features and enhancements that all AIMS users will want to take advantage of. But swimming lessons? It’s no joke. It is a clever play on words. What VCR is really offering is a jump on using their products by offering a variety of “lessons” in late April and in June.

Beginner/Intermediate Swimmers

    This class will stay in the shallow end of the pool. The focus will be on AIMS concepts, Operate, File Design, etc. This class is ideal for any resellers interested in learning more about the AIMS database systems, or current AIMS system users with new employees.

Advanced Swimmers

    This class ventures into the deep end of the pool with a review of the beginner/intermediate topics. But the main focus will be on Custom Overlays, Advanced Features, API design and Enable.

If you would like to learn more about the most recent AIMS-6 release, or swimming lessons, please feel free to contact VCR directly at phone (407) 722-0220, or Email to

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Al Gorithm’s Tech Corner

Hi! Al Gorithm here with a True Story sent in by one of our readers. So, without further ado I give you:

The Tale of the Fat Guy, the Snowflake and the Mouse

I. The Fat Guy

“Maybe you guys have already figured this out, but I got to thinking after our conversation that it's nice to have somebody to call when it gets out of hand around here. There are nine very competent people in our organization fielding calls from almost 200 customers, but somehow I always seem to be the big fat guy at our end of the tug rope.

II. The Snowflake

“This is no lie - we got a call at 4:55 yesterday from a woman who was FRANTIC and ABUSIVE because ‘there was a SNOWFLAKE on her screen covering up the account number!’

III. The Mouse

“Of course, it was her dang mouse cursor and boy did she feel stupid. Something tells me she'll be calling again soon. Anyway... I appreciate your help. Pass it along.”

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Niakwa Internet Update

After some delay, Niakwa’s web site has finally come on-line!! The Niakwa site provides product information and support to anyone with access to the World Wide Web. Any preferred Internet browser software that supports HTML 2.0 or better can be used. To access Niakwa’s Home Page, set your URL (Universal Resource Locator) to:

The Niakwa Support Department has created pages to link to important support information. Currently, recent Niakwa Technical Notes are on-line, as well as a list of current product revisions, and links to popular files and patches for downloading. A link can also bring you directly into the FTP site. Coming soon are: improved Technical Notes (links added), Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, and on-line documentation. The Technical Support home page can be reached by selecting the “Technical Support” link on the home page, or access directly using the URL:

The Niakwa Sales Department is working on adding information and resources to the “Product Information” section of the web site. Currently, on-line versions of the Niakwa data sheets are available. Coming soon are on-line marketing bulletins and promotions. Future plans may include on-line ordering and a newsgroup-style discussion forum. To access the Sales & Marketing area, select the “Product Information” link on the home page, or access directly using the URL:

As with most sites, Niakwa’s pages are a “work-in-progress”. We will continue to evaluate new features to add to our pages. As improvements are made to the page functionality, features may be developed with Netscape 2.0 (HTML 3.0) extensions. These requirements will be posted as the features come on-line. We welcome any suggestions for improvements or new ideas.

With the WWW site, the FTP site is slowly-but-surely being built. The FTP site has been created to provide access to updates, patches, and other files. Files are located in subdirectories based on platform type and revision. Currently some utilities and patches are available for downloading. The goal is to provide the same resources as the Niakwa BBS without a long-distance phone call being required.

To access Niakwa’s FTP site, set your FTP client software to use the following:

Host Name:
User Name: anonymous
Password: (your email address)


Alternatively, some web browsers allow anonymous access to an FTP site directly. Set your browser’s URL to:


The FTP site will be updated monthly, or as new product patches are released. Future plans include an upload directory that allows developers to upload programs or files of their own.

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Today’s Niakwa News

Today’s Niakwa News is published periodically by Niakwa, Incorporated, 1850 W. Winchester Road, Libertyville, Illinois, 60048. Phone (847)816-7400. Fax (847)816-7420.

Comments, questions and suggestions are welcome and can be directed to the Editor, Today’s Niakwa News, Niakwa.

Copyright 1996 - 2000 by Niakwa. Printed in the USA. All rights reserved. All product names, company names and/or logos are property of their respective companies.