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Today's Niakwa News

In this Issue:


NEW! NPL Certificate of License and Authenticity

In the past, Niakwa provided all NPL RunTime software on a Gold Key diskette (or comparable medium). Whether a new sale, an enhancement, or an increase in users, a new Gold Key was shipped to the customer to meet the new set of functional requirements. In addition, the Gold Key always served as the singular “proof of purchase.”

We are now at the early stages of introducing an improved method of supplying changes to existing Gold Keys, without requiring an exchange of Gold Keys. Current users of Revision 4.21 have the ability to increase users to a higher user level right now by means of an authorization code provided by Niakwa. The program which does this is the LIMITS procedure which is documented in the Revision 4.21 Addendum (section 1.6.5).

The authorization code which provides for an increase in users is not unlike the RESET program introduced in Revision 3.20 of NPL. By means of entering the correct code into the LIMITS program, an existing Gold Key can instantly support a larger number of users on the same system, with the same serial number. No delay in awaiting a new Gold Key, no installation of a new Gold Key, and no return of the original Gold Key required. While this new LIMITS feature has already proven very valuable by those resellers who have had the opportunity to use it, it did present one dilemma... the Gold Key diskette no longer reflected the correct user count of the installed system.

Our solution is the NPL Certificate of License and Authenticity. The new certificates will be supplied on card stock, printed with a foil Gold Key, and will reflect the new number of authorized users, serial number, platform, revision, and any other relevant information. This card has been designed to fit inside the same envelope that all Gold Keys are distributed with, allowing it to be easily stored and retrieved for future reference as proof of purchase.

This is just the start of our commitment to make NPL software changes easier. In a future release of NPL, new functionality will likely allow using the LIMITS procedure to further extend the capabilities of Gold Keys in the field (such as adding Windows or 386/DOS-Extender support.)

The new cards become available in early 1997. It’s the same “type” of license certificate you are used to seeing from companies such as Microsoft, Novell, SCO, etc. Niakwa will continue to maintain the existing user limits and fees associated with user level upgrades.

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In the Works: 32-Bit NPL for Windows

In response to a flood of requests, the Niakwa R&D office in Winnipeg, Canada, has been hard at work actively developing a 32-bit version of NPL for Windows. This release will offer one immediate benefit: Your programs will be able to use arrays greater than 64K in a Windows environment (previously, you needed our Phar Lap DOS Extender version to make use of variables bigger than 64K.)

Beyond that, other potentially greater opportunities loom. Because support for assembly-language-based software is waning in the Microsoft world--tools are becoming scarcer and less apt to keep pace with operating system capabilities--we’ve chosen to write this version of NPL in Microsoft C. This will allow us eventually to make rtiwin an MFC (Microsoft Foundation Class) compatible application, which offers many Windows-specific benefits (such as integrating smoothly with OLE controls).

The beta release is targeted for the second Quarter of 1997, with the final release expected about 90 days following. Our plan is for the initial version of 32-bit NPL for Windows to operate on the Windows NT (Intel) platform, with a subsequent version for Windows 95. We’ll keep you posted as our work progresses.

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NPL Product Update

Here’s a brief update on a few of the many projects currently in the works at Niakwa:

Visual NPL 2.0 (Vinny)

Vinny 2.0 is our state-of-the art Visual NPL edition for working with Visual Basic 4.0 and OCX/OLE functions to achieve that true Windows look and feel your prospects expect. Lots of new features, enhancements, examples, and in depth documentation. Entering Beta Test in December.

Release 4.22 for DOS and Windows Platforms

This release takes the No Return Upgrade several steps forward with a new “Universal Upgrade” which will be much easier to use. It corrects many of the problems encountered in the 4.21 upgrade, and has a very intuitive upgrade interface. We’re sure you’ll like it! Some language additions are also included for all new RunTimes, including enhanced editor functions. Entering Beta Test in December.

Release 4.22 for UNIX Platforms

This release brings all Intel UNIX platforms up-to-date with 4.22 changes including adding the RESET ability for UNIX, as well as the new Universal Upgrade. Entering Beta Test in December or January. RISC platforms (RS/6000, HP 9000, and SUN) will follow soon thereafter.

32-Bit NPL

Important for those developers who utilize variables larger than 64K, 32-bit NPL will make use of the additional functionality of today’s 32-bit platforms like Windows NT and 95. This is a big effort, but an important one. Work continues in our R&D lab. See separate article in this newsletter.

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SALES NOTES .....

$ $ $ Better Prices $ $ $

Have you ever wanted to get a better price on your Niakwa RunTimes? Normally people assume that Gold Distributor RunTime pricing is the best pricing possible - which is usually true. However one quick way to improve your pricing is to buy in quantity. Just like any other product, the economics of selling NPL allow us to charge less per item on larger orders. For this reason, as the number of new RunTimes increases on any single order, your discount also increases. The price breaks are at 11, 26, 51, and higher numbers of new RunTimes. Call for an exact quote TODAY!

The Demo RunTime

Want to get a prospect hooked? Let them use your software for a little while! The NPL Demo RunTime allows you to give a prospect a copy of your software which will only run a limited number of times. The new 4.21 Windows Demo RunTime has an A:SETUP, is hardware installable, and runs with Windows 95 and NT! They’re not expensive, so give it a try!

Do We Have Your E-mail Address?

Please help us communicate better with you. Send us the E-mail addresses for your:

Executive Contact(s)
Sales Contact(s)
Technical Contact(s)

And to help you with ours, we have included a specially designed business card with our E-mail addresses for Sales and Support. (Additional copies available upon request.) If you wish to reach an individual, all you need to know is their initials (all three) followed by niakwa.com. Example: clp@niakwa.com.

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Interoperability: the Next Challenge for NPL

by Alan Green, Director of R&D

Like many of you, I believe that dissimilar system connectivity will be a defining issue for NPL in the years to come.

We’ve conquered cross-platform portability… but interoperability will be a giant step beyond that. When an NPL application on a Windows PC (with a Vinny GUI) can drive NPL programs in real-time running on a UNIX server, we will have achieved true platform independence.

And when the same functionality can be triggered remotely (and asynchronously) over, say, the Internet, then NPL applets will deliver everything Java promises but with the richness that 20+ years of application development provide.

Most of the pieces are there already. For example, NPL (like Java) uses a p-code interpreter to run the same code on many different kinds of machines. But we’re still fleshing out some of the details… how to structure NPL to support application partitioning (a client running NPL triggers an NPL procedure on a server), for instance.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this topic. How would interoperability help you? How should we go about implementing it? What tools are already out there waiting to be adopted? Please e-mail me at abg@niakwa.com.

Along those lines, let me share with you excerpts from a message recently sent by Donovan Burkhart, president of Business Data Resources in Seattle, who recently teamed up with Chris Cummings to form AFX, LLC. and launch SideFX, the Windows front-end for SPEED systems.

Donovan’s message was to a developer who wants to use SideFX to add Windows functionality to his UNIX-based SPEED application. I was struck by how clearly and elegantly Donovan pointed out the pitfalls and opportunities present in that equation:

“We're pleased to announce that we have a prototype version of SideFX up and running on SPEED v2.5. At present, only the (promised) menus are operating. Chris is taking a run at adding file maintenance within the next few days, but we can make no promises there. We do need to arrange how to deliver this demonstration copy to you for your upcoming show. You will need a Wintel Pentium100 or better, 16MB of memory, Windows95, and Niakwa's latest version of their Windows RunTime to effectively demonstrate your software in the SideFX RunTime GUI environment.

“I have been talking with Jason Dederich at Niakwa, as well as [two technicians] in your organization, and believe that there exists a fundamental misunderstanding as to the operation of SideFX. As I understand it, your usual configuration consists of a Unix host with mostly dumb Unix terminals (non-PCS) with the possibility of a smattering of some Windows PCs. SideFX would have to somehow transform these dumb, character-based terminals into a Windows look-alike to be of use to you. We definitely do not do that.

“In talking with [a technician] at your company, he indicated that wherever PCs are used as terminals, the connectivity scheme utilized is a Telnet session into the Unix host using terminal emulation software. Under this connection scenario, the emulator product controls the screen, and when the user runs your software, they are in fact executing a Unix version of Niakwa's RunTime product. SideFX will not operate under these conditions. SideFX is a Windows product. It requires Microsoft Windows and a Windows version of NPL (RTIWIN) to function. Those are the prerequisites.

“So now that I've told you that SideFX cannot be used under your present method of configuration, allow me to offer you a connection scenario where it can. The requirement of RTIWIN means that only filing systems that Windows understands are supported, and for now that is just the standard DOS/Windows FAT system. In order to access Unix (or any other filing system for that matter) a filing system translation layer is necessary. As a Novell guy, I know for a fact that Novell's NFS/DOS Gateway product is one solution. This product dynamically maps a Unix NFS volume structure into a DOS structure, allowing DOS/Windows systems access to the volume transparently. In this way, a DOS/Windows system can run RTIWIN and access the (binary compatible) NPL program and data diskimages residing on a Unix host. I recently validated this by mapping ($DEVICE) an NPL programs diskimage residing on a Unix host through Novell’s Gateway running NPL for Windows on the network. No worries.

“The near-term solution, then, is to come up with a NFS - DOS filing system translation software package that will run on standalone PCs. Save for the above example, I cannot at this time produce a specific name, but believe firmly that we will find multiple options in this software category. On this your help would be appreciated. We are not very Unix savvy, and believe that your Unix gurus have a better chance of coming up with more options on this front than we do. For our part, I have contacted both ftp software and Firefox (now a subsidiary of ftp), posing the question. Unfortunately their phone response is less than helpful, essentially suggesting that their web site has all the answers we need. Perhaps, but I have not yet had the time to spend on that research. My guess is that ftp will have such a package. As I said above, if not, I'm certain that someone does.

“In a longer view, if you wish to embrace the Windows interface for your customers, then I believe you should investigate Windows system networking via either Novell or NT as your optimum solution (and a new revenue opportunity). The connection of multiple PC workstations to Unix hosts is so much simpler if the host becomes merely another network resource (application server in today's parlance), and the connectivity is established through a central secure point (gateway) on the same physical medium (one wire does it all). I see more and more of this level of integration between dissimilar systems, and it clearly is the direction that everyone's headed. It allows the Windows camp access to the powerful and battle-hardened Unix transactional engine, and conversely allows the Unix camp to offer their customers industry-wide Windows spreadsheets, word processors, presentations, and (of course) the very latest developments in swimming fish screen savers!

“So this is our mutual challenge, the fulfillment of which will get your customers a Windows interface. Thus enabled, they become potential users of our SideFX product…

One additional note: Chas. Knox at NSG recently made us aware of a product by the J. River company (http://www.jriver.com) named ICE.NFS. It purports to mount an NFS volume onto the Windows desktop. While we haven’t tried it ourselves, it would seem to offer the necessary filing system translation layer required, without a network.”

Nicely put! I look forward to hearing from anyone else with views on this or any topic.

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Banish Those Boot File Blues

by Al Gorithm (no, they didn’t just make me up)

Well, I just had a POBE.

For those of you not familiar with that particular acronym, it stands for Positive Out of Box Experience, which is the feeling you ought to get when you fire up most software for the first time (and generally don’t).

I was complaining, you see, to my brother Log Gorithm, about how tired I am of the Boot File Blues… all the grief you go through when you have lots of different boot files all over the place to get you into this or that NPL application with this or that set of switch settings.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” I grumped, “to have just one central switchboard where you could create, edit or run any NPL boot file?”

Log retorted, “Well, duh! Haven’t you heard of Ken VeArd’s Boot Manager?!! It not only does all that, but also lets you choose which version of NPL — rti, rtiwin, rtp, rtpwin — you want to run. Plus you use radio buttons to set command-line parameters like /D, /X or /G. And let’s say you want to display a NotePad text file when you launch NPL. Just add NotePad to the supported programs list and the Boot Manager takes care of it.”

“Wait a minute,” I shot back. “You said Ken VeArd. Don’t you mean Tim VeArd, the father of AIMS?”

“Well in this case I mean Ken VeArd, the son of Tim VeArd,” he replied. “I guess that makes him the brother of AIMS.”

So I downloaded a copy from Niakwa’s web site, and you know what? It not only looks great — lots of that steel-gray GUI stuff my mouse and I love — but it works great too. Gone is all of the boot file clutter, and in its place, simplicity. What a concept!

There was also a nice bonus. Included in the file was VCR’s NPL Environment Editor, a set of tools to edit NPL’s Windows environment: color palette, start-up icon, window caption, active font, and files triggered by function keys. Although VCR’s logo appears on several screens, Ken will substitute yours for a token registration fee.

Want a copy for yourself? The price is right (it’s free!) Just download file vcrtools.exe from ftp.niakwa.com/pub/misc/vcrtools.exe, and if you too have a POBE, let Ken know at vcr@digital.net. See you next time.

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New “Voices” at Niakwa

We’re very happy to report we’ve had quite a few additions to our staff this year, and it’s time we brought you up-to-date with who you may be talking with on the phone.

To begin with, the first voice you will hear is that of Connie Federowicz who has been our receptionist and administrative assistant since Michelle moved to Milwaukee, WI, in July. She is definitely a multi-tasking specialist!

If you have an order to place, or need a Reset, we would like to direct your attention to Leona Swieton. We first met Leona during a Volleyball season, and liked her so much we jumped at the chance of hiring her! She comes to us with plenty of experience as a customer service representative.

If you have “special” needs, you can always speak with your sales representative (Jason Dederich or Cyndee Philyaw), or Debbie Benson who is the “voice of experience” and is equally prepared to discuss the latest basketball stats.

On the technical support side, you may soon be speaking with Alan Woods (not to be confused with Alan Green....), who joined us in September and is ready to assist you with your NPL questions. He joins Rich Lindas and Kurt Skaronea in our Chicago support office.

Up “North,” we have added Reid Cutler who fills another important seat in our Winnipeg office. Reid’s been doing software development for 12 years now on everything from mainframes to PCS (sound familiar?) He’s also well versed in Windows based development, so we have no trouble putting his talents to good use for our many product releases mentioned earlier.

We’re very pleased with our new additions and think you will be, too.

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Internet Update - Your Niakwa Home Page

The press is riddled with stories about how the Internet isn’t producing revenue for companies that hoped it would. So what is it good for?

Our home page has at least two goals: One is to supply our developers with tools and information that make it more efficient to use and sell NPL. The second is to bolster our developers’ own Internet efforts. Our page should be a place where you can get useful information and where potential end users can solidify their confidence in NPL, Niakwa, and therefore you.

To that end, we have implemented a number of enhancements to our home page. We hope that you can refer your prospects and customers to it, and that it lends assistance to your efforts.

Please browse through it at:

    http://www.niakwa.com

Notice some of the new sections. One of particular interest is the Library Forum, Demos, and Shareware section. It is intended to be a resource where developers can share useful pieces of code with each other. For example, the free general purpose ASC Toolkit is available now, and a trial version of Mr. Clean from SSC, a powerful tool for making NPL code more efficient and easier to read, will be there soon. Please contribute!

If you believe there is any helpful change that we can make to our page, please let us know at our E-mail address: sales@niakwa.com.

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SPEED CORNER:

QUASAR

QUASAR/SP, the high-performance data manager specifically designed for use with SPEED-I is now available in final release for SPEED v2.5, v2.6 and all v3.x sites. SPEED files are converted to the industry standard Btrieve data format for enhanced performance and reliability, plus open data access.

SPEED-I resellers are encouraged to join SSC’s QUASAR/SP Reseller Program by calling Craig Freeman at 213/PRO-GRAM or FAXing 310/642-7515. Demonstration software, including real-time “movies”, may be downloaded from the Library section at Niakwa’s Web Site.

SideFX

After an extensive beta period, AFX recently announced the release of SideFX for SPEED-3.x. This release requires NPL version 4.22, which will soon become available from Niakwa. Until 4.22 is final, AFX will continue to offer and support its open beta cut which runs under NPL 4.21 and is available at their web site.

AFX has spent considerable time developing its web site into a full-fledged information center. Readers are encouraged to access the site. Included are online tutorials intended to assist resellers in modernizing their product offerings. One describes the issues and process of making the jump from NPL DOS to Windows. Another deals with problems, gotchas, tips, and lessons learned programming in NPL Release IV. Yet another describes various known quirks and issues pertaining to SPEED programming and operation. Links are provided to all known major players in the Basic2 community.

Fire up your browser and visit AFX Online today!

NIAKWA

A reminder that Niakwa can help you obtain your SPEED and FourD orders at the same price as when you order from NSG directly. In addition, if you have other NPL needs, we can provide one stop shopping for NPL, SPEED, FourD, QUASAR, and SideFX. We will help facilitate your orders and questions, and offer the convenience of a centralized payment site for you.

For orders or questions, please contact Cyndee Philyaw (E-mail clp@niakwa.com.)

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Last updated: Monday July 21, 2008.