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Today's Niakwa News

In this Issue:

The VINNY TOO Report

by Alan Green

A year ago we delivered Visual NPL (Vinny) a visionary GUI development environment which combined an industry standard GUI-builder (VB) and a world-class logic engine (NPL). Not bad, but there was room for improvement. And so we improved it. A lot!

For starters, Vinny2 is standardized on VB4, not VB3, allowing it to use the latest OCX/ActiveX technology (as well as existing VBX’s). We widened the NPL/VB pipeline to facilitate cross-environment development. We re-vamped Visual NPL from start to finish, but preserved backward compatibility for Vinny1 applications. A major improvement is that controls-on-the-fly now allows much easier inclusion of controls at run-time. A very useful new features is event-driven programming from either the NPL or VB side, each calling procedures in the other environment.

The biggest advances, in fact, are in the inter-operability of the two environments. An NPL statement may call any VB method (program routine) using the new NPL function ‘VnMethod, for example:


Similarly, VB statements may trigger NPL procedures in response to VB events using the new VB function VnCallProc.

This offers NPL developers the opportunity to modernize their software using an event-driven development model, with enhanced two-way communication between NPL and VB.

Not only is the product news about Vinny2 good, but so is the story of how the software was designed and crafted. From the beginning, Vinny2 was developed based on feedback from the development community. You told us what you wanted, and we put it in Vinny2.

But we at Niakwa had help. The designer of the UniForm app-gen, Associated Software Consultants founder Mike Liston, was an early proponent of significant development for Vinny2. To make sure of it, he rolled up his sleeves and helped, co-writing the design specs for the new version and then diving in and writing much of the new NPL and VB code. His UniForm screens will benefit dramatically from the new capabilities in Vinny2, especially controls-on-the-fly.

Vinny2 is a strong system. You can put a bright new Windows face on your existing app, or develop a new one from scratch with a built-in GUI-driver. In addition to the OCX and two-way event handling features, here are some other benefits of the new version:

  • Vinny2 is 3 to 10 times faster (in throughput) than Vinny1. This includes getting and setting control properties, and exchanging data between NPL and VB;
  • enhanced property access so that any type of property (for example, pictures) can be retrieved or set from NPL, in addition to the number and string data types of Vinny1;
  • font translation for foreign languages, such as automated $TRAN-like translation between Icelandic (for example) and Windows English via ‘VnGetTran and ‘VnSetTran;
  • enhanced demo programs showing most existing and new Vinny features;
  • a simplified file structure featuring the important modules combined into a single directory; and
  • VB4 will allow Niakwa to later build a 32-bit version of Vinny (the current version is 16-bit.)

Whether you’re an experienced Vinny developer or just starting to GUI-ize your application, Vinny2 gives you the right toolset to add sizzle to your software. We will soon be recruiting Vinny2 beta sites.

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Features and Benefits for Upcoming Revision 4.21 Platforms

With summer at it’s peak and NPL 4.21 for all MS-DOS platforms out the door, you may be wondering what’s next? Well in a word, UNIX. Niakwa is currently alpha testing NPL Release 4.21 for Intel UNIX and expects this product to enter beta testing within the third quarter of this year.

The NPL 4.21 Intel UNIX platform includes all previously implemented features and bug corrections found in the current MS-DOS implementation of NPL. The most notable of these features are:

  • Century Date Module provided
  • Mouse Support implemented
  • Improved Remote Terminal Performance
  • Field Level Resets implemented
  • Field Level User Updates implemented
  • Local Printer support for ANSI terminals
  • $DEVICE Clauses extended

Once beta testing on the Intel UNIX side of things is under way, Niakwa will begin alpha testing the first Release IV versions of all NPL RISC platforms (IBM RS/6000, HP9000, SUN). These platforms will be released to beta upon the final release of NPL 4.21 for Intel UNIX. In addition to those items mentioned above, developers currently running in supported NPL RISC environments can now look forward deploying the same full featured, Release IV structured coding techniques currently available on all NPL Intel based platforms.

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Release 4.21 MS-DOS & Windows Update

It’s now official... Release 4.21 of NPL for all MS-DOS, 386/DOS-Extender, NetBIOS, NetWare and MS-Windows (including Windows 95 and NT) platforms has been shipping since June 10, 1996. This release replaces all previous Release IV versions for this platform. New features include:

  • A:\SETUP Procedure (Windows versions)
  • A:\UPGRADE (No Return Upgrade)
  • “Pass Through” Printer Support for MS-Windows
  • Mixed Network Support
  • New LIMITS Procedure for Increasing User Limits
  • Improved User Count Handling
  • New Startup Search Procedure
  • All Revision 4.20 Features

Release 4.21 comes in two very distinct Runtimes types. The first type is the full Serialized runtime, a.k.a. “Gold Key” (Black Diskettes) which has been our standard issue for all types of RunTime orders whether new, upgrade, replacement, or user level increases.

With Release 4.21 we are introducing a second completely new format.. the NPL Upgrade Replacement Gold Key, a new “non-serialized” RunTime (Blue Diskette) which takes on both the external serial number and internal #GOLDKEY of any serialized RunTime which it replaces. The purpose of this new Upgrade Replacement Gold Key is to allow you to easily upgrade an existing system:

  • without having to change serial numbers
  • without having to change #GOLDKEY (for those Resellers who tie their security to Niakwa’s #GOLDKEY, including SPEED/FourD users)
  • without having to return the OLD Gold Key to Niakwa!

When you place an upgrade order (from Release III or IV), all you need to do is provide the original serial number, platform, revision, and user level - then tell us what you want! Complete and correct information at order time will insure you receive the proper upgrade. Then simply run the A:\UPGRADE procedure to start the self-prompting upgrade program which turns the NPL Upgrade Replacement Gold Key into your new RunTime Package.

As an added measure of safety, the upgrade allows a 30 day grace period for you to choose whether to CONFIRM or CANCEL the upgrade process. During this 30 days, you can operate under the previous or the new RunTime Revision. Once you are satisfied with the upgrade, simply return to the UPGRADE routine to CONFIRM the upgrade and complete the process. (You should dispose of the original Gold Key since it will be rendered inactive.) If you do not want or need the 30 day grace period, you can CONFIRM the upgrade immediately.

We want to make upgrades as easy as possible, and Release 4.21 is a big step in this direction!

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Al Gorithm’s Tech Corner

Hi! Al Gorithm here with some exciting news from two long-time NPL resellers: Dave Neubrech (ERGO Systems) has released KFAM, faxing and toolkit utilities, and Craig Freeman (SSC/Vistar) is giving away free VB software for NPL!

First the news from Dave Neubrech, who reports that ERGO has modified KFAM-7 to accommodate up to 256 active terminals. They also have modified both KFAM-7 and the SORT-4 Utilities to permit 3-byte addressing. Other enhancements to KFAM include expanding the maximum key length to 40 bytes, increasing the maximum index levels to 10 (allowing over 1 billion records per file, depending on key length), and numerous record and file management improvements.

Dave also has announced a set of fax-handling routines that operate from within NPL utilizing $SHELL calls. These routines allow you to fax a cover page and the contents of any DOS text file. The recipient’s name, company name, number of pages and fax number may be directly converted to the cover page. In addition to this software, ERGO Systems has considerable expertise with fax server and network hardware, and serves as both a distributor of and a consultant on this type of equipment.

Finally, Dave has announced the availability of an NPL-based Programmer Productivity Package, a toolkit containing global search, replace and cross-referencing features. Example: let’s say you need to make changes involving a given string to a group of programs. Provide ERGO’s toolkit with the filenames, the string and the change to be made and the utility does all the work. Changes may be done manually or automatically (using a custom script).

For more information on any of these products contact Dave Neubrech, ERGO Systems, 11903 Enid Drive, Potomac, MD 20854; Phone: 301-983-8245; Fax: 301-299-6206; E-mail:


For his part, Craig Freeman writes, “A while back I wrote RGB.EXE which permits NPL users to change their display colors...

“The problem is that software designed for Vinny2 will require using VB4--and VB4 requires a minimum of two diskettes worth of files just to do nothing. So...I worked out a way that a reseller can ship the required VB files once and only once, then send his Visual NPL code later with a minimum of trouble. Here’s how:

“Check the latest upload at Files RGB1.ZIP and RGB2.ZIP provide a 2-diskette set that includes the following:

    1. The minimum set of “required” VB4 programs (about 2MB) including basic controls, the VB data manager, and an “A:SETUP” installation utility that end users can run without assistance. Once these files are installed, new Vinny programs will usually fit on a single diskette!

    2. Program RGB.EXE which provides end users with the ability to edit the 16 NPL display colors to suit their individual tastes (hot pink on canary yellow, anyone?)

    3. Program VB4FAST.EXE which, when added to a user’s Windows start-up list, will preload VB4 for instant response to $SHELL commands and Visual NPL start-up.

    4. A README.TXT file on the second diskette that explains how to take advantage of the software and lists the VB files provided.

“For a dollar’s worth of diskettes and a few stamps, you can make a visual improvement to your NPL/Windows code that end users will appreciate. And when the time comes to deliver future Vinny programs, they’ll cost less to prepare and ship.”

Thanks and a tip of the Vinny sunglasses to Dave and Craig.

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Imaging - Lessons Learned

By now you have no doubt noticed the Imaging Solution (by SSC) flyer enclosed with the newsletter. You may be wondering how this fits in with other imaging products related to Niakwa.

To put things in perspective, there historically are basically two types of imaging products. One type attempts to provide a completed solution in the form of a package (providers include Wang, Filenet, and Optika). The other type provides a set of tools that can be used to build a solution (providers include Accusoft, TMS, and Diamond Head).

Some time ago Niakwa introduced a link to an Edefsoft imaging tool kit - the second type of product. While this solution provided the functionality that many people needed, there were those with greater requirements. Thus Niakwa embarked on a journey to produce a combination of the two types - supplying a potent imaging solution and the tool kit used to create it. We affectionately termed the project Roll Your Own.

While this project was in process, the world of imaging changed. A new type of product emerged - the imaging component. The prime example of this is the Wang Image Viewer contained in Windows 95. All of a sudden, people should find it much easier to use components such as these to build applications. So we stopped working on Roll Your Own.

We believe that most imaging applications will treat an image as just another data type, and that the links to the necessary components are relatively easy - whether through DDE links or through Visual NPL connections to VBX / OCX technology.

SSC has done much of that work in their Imaging Solution referred to in the enclosed flyer. It is a perfect example of linking NPL to enough imaging power to handle many customers.

For the occasions where such a solution may not be strong enough, Niakwa is happy to share our experience with you. Through our own imaging efforts, we have gained significant knowledge in production level imaging systems, including complex issues such as using OCR/ICR for back file conversion of a large number of documents. Please feel free to contact us.

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FTP Site Additions

Niakwa has continued to update its FTP site with the latest patches and updates. Generally, the files available are the same as those on the Niakwa Bulletin Board System, but are more readily available to those with Internet access. No longer is a long-distance phone call required!

Currently, the FTP site is divided into four directories. However, everything that is publicly downloadable is in the /pub directory. Underneath /pub are product directories. In addition there is a docs directory. Below the product directories are platform subdirectories, which vary by product. For example, in /pub/421 there are subdirectories dos, win, and unix. Just remember /pub/<product>/<platform> and the location of just about any patch should be predictable. Remember, most development files and documentation for MS-Windows are the same as for MS-DOS, and would be found in the dos subdirectory. Our Technical Support web page ( also has many hypertext links directly to these files. Simply click on a link to download the file.

The newest additions include all NPL Revision 4.21 update files. This includes the Development Update files (previously shipped to all active Release IV developers via diskette), On-Line Documentation, and RunTime Update files. Niakwa will be continuing to add new files as they become available.

NOTE: All RunTime Update files require that a Revision 4.20 or greater Gold Key is installed.

All new update files are Revision 4.21.05, unless otherwise noted. Here is a listing of the new additions:

In /pub/npl421/dos

term421.zipTerminal Support Files
dosdk421.zipMS-DOS BESDK
386dk421.zip386/DOS-Extender Supplementary Files
dos42105.zipMS-DOS RunTime Update 386/DOS-Extender RunTime Update

    NOTE: Be sure to upload the MS-DOS RunTime Update even if you are running under MS-Windows or 386/DOS-Extender!

In /pub/npl421/win

win42105.zipMS-Windows RunTime Update
windk421.zipMS-Windows Supplementary Files

In /pub/docs NPL 4.10 Addendum
add420.zipNPL 4.20 Addendum NPL 4.21 Addendum NPL 4.21 Installation Guide
dosug4.zipNPL 4.21 Upgrade Installation Guide
rn41002.zipNPL 4.10.02 Release Notes
rn41016.zipNPL 4.10.16 Release Notes
rn41023.zipNPL 4.10.23 Release Notes
rn42007.zipNPL 4.20.07 Release Notes
rn42105.zipNPL 4.21.05 Release Notes

Editor’s Note: You can also see the beginnings of Niakwa’s Library Forum on the Internet. The forum will include past library products and a host of new library products being offered by several prominent VARSs. Some new and exciting add-on products are already listed, with several additions coming soon!

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SPEED Users Get a Breath of Fresh Air with Windows, and a Wide Open Door to Off the Shelf Windows Products

A segment of long time NPL developers have built some or all of their software based on the application development environment known as SPEED (Originally developed by TOM - The Office Manager.) For these developers, there is now a way to take existing SPEED applications and instantly provide them to their customers in a modern Windows environment. A new Windows user interface named SideFX is offered by AFX. In addition, Software Systems Company has developed Quasar for instant linking to a wide array of industry standard products. The most amazing thing about both of these new offerings is they are PLUG-in solutions requiring up to a maximum of one line of coding on your part. That’s what’s called PLUG and PLAY!

THE FRONT END STORY: SPEED Users Get a Breath of Fresh Air with SideFX Windows

SideFX by AFX For Windows Style Input Screens

SEATTLE, WA -- May 2, 1996 -- AFX announces the impending availability of its software product SideFX, which seamlessly grafts an MS Windows interface onto SPEED-based applications. SideFX requires no modifications to either SPEED or the underlying programs to realize a fully functional graphical user interface (GUI). Once so enabled, the application automatically becomes “mousified”, utilizing buttons, scroll bars, and many other graphical objects normally associated with a

GUI. A package’s look is modernized and transformed into today’s standard, yet the content and logic flow is preserved. This allows thoroughly tested and operational legacy systems to retain their unique strengths and capabilities while acquiring a much-needed facelift.

“The ability to add a GUI interface without the imposition of a programming requirement is the crucial element of this product,” said Donovan Burkhart, President of AFX. “There are so many superior applications out there which suffer an image problem simply because they lack a Windows interface. Now these tried and true products can be instantly and effortlessly modernized to better compete in the open market. SideFX will extend the life of the entire SPEED product line.”

According to Chris Cummings, Technical Director. “My experience as the product manager of SPEED showed that seemingly insignificant programming changes can cause problems. This product avoids that potential pitfall. Combining Niakwa’s high-quality NPL product with Microsoft’s Visual Basic is a potent mix, yielding a solid foundation upon which various building blocks can then be assembled into truly appealing and useful products.”

SideFX is licensed by simultaneous user. It may be ordered in any configuration and does not require you to conform to either NPL or SPEED user counts. For additional information, contact AFX at or 206/749-0852.

In conjunction with this product announcement, AFX is acquiring the technical assistance and support responsibilities recently offered by Business Data Resources Ltd. to the VAR marketplace. AFX now offers this same comprehensive support and service for SPEED-based systems. AFX represents over 30 years of combined experience in both SPEED and NPL, and significant Novell exposure (Master CNE).

THE BACK END STORY: Open the Door to Truly Open Data with QUASAR!

Quasar by SSC For Data That Opens New Doors

CULVER CITY, CA -- July 22, 1996 - Software Systems Company announces availability of QUASAR/SP, a high-performance data manager specifically designed for use with SPEED-I. A single program is used to convert existing SPEED files to the Btrieve data format.

Thereafter, Btrieve responds transparently (and at a much faster rate) - requiring no changes to your SPEED applications!

Btrieve files may be accessed by such popular software as Crystal Reports, MS-Access, Visual BASIC, and many others. This “open” architecture permits resellers to add value to their applications using inexpensive third-party tools.

After installing QUASAR/SP, you can design custom reports with multiple fonts and graphics, export data to spreadsheets and word processors, FAX and e-mail reports, and more. In short, an “open” data base creates unlimited opportunities.

A complete QUASAR/SP demonstration is available by downloading from Niakwa’s Home page. This demo (requiring the Adobe Acrobat Reader) not only steps you through the QUASAR product features, it also has actual several 3-minute “movies” to show you just how easy it is to move and manipulate your data into a wide variety of reports, charts, etc.

Craig Freeman (SSC) and Russ Fairchild (TREC) combined their 40+ years of programming talent to develop "QUASAR/SP For SPEED".

This "dynamic duo" will soon release other "QUASAR" products including QUASAR for Non-SPEED developers, Image Viewer, Printer Font Manager. If you're looking for the ultimate in output and data storage options, give these folks a call.

QUASAR/SP is priced on a per-workstation basis. Detailed licensing and product information is available upon request.

For more information concerning QUASAR, contact Craig Freeman at 213/PRO-GRAM (FAX to 310/642-7515).

Are You a FourD, SPEED User or VAR?

by Bruce Dill, PSI

If you are a FourD or SPEED user or a VAR for FourD products, you’ll be glad to know that a VAR council was established during the 1996 NSG Conference in Seattle. The purposes of the group are to provide informaiton and support to other VARs, be a gathering point for information regarding desired enhancements and changes, and to provide a place where FourD and SPEED products can be marketed.

If you would like further information regarding the group, please send you E-mail address to

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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.


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