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We're Committed to SPEED and FourD!

Last year, we came to the NSG Conference with an open mind--and ears.

Even though we had new products like Vinny (Visual NPL) and our own version of $DECLARE to tell you about, our real mission was to listen.

You see, we view the SPEED and FourD community as one of the pillars of the NPL language. You probably know that we were in the application business long before we launched BASIC-2C/NPL, and the tools we used in our apps were SPEED and that other great app-gen AIMS.

So it matters a good deal to us what the SPEED/FourD community needs. And at last year s conference you told us that you needed true Windows compatibility, industry standard data storage and an evolving language.

This year, we re back to report our progress on your “wish list”... and to listen some more so that we can start planning for next year s conference.

True Windows Compatibility

When we showed you Vinny, you loved it! In fact, the only thing you didn t like about it was that it wasn t plug-compatible with SPEED.

“Hmmmm,” we said. “Maybe we can fix that.” To find out, we turned to a couple of solid SPEED citizens: Chris Cummings (author of SPEED 3.x and former SPEED product manager at TOM Software) and Donovan Burkhart (longtime Seattle-area SPEED developer).

It turns out they were way ahead of us... and we quickly mapped out an ambitious development project that Chris and Donovan would undertake to bring SPEED into the world of Windows.

Niakwa helped a little bit, with some GUI advice, some security routines, and mainly with a good NPL 4.2 development environment. Chris and Donovan did the heavy lifting though (a solid year straight through), and the resulting product “SideFX” shows the seriousness and creativity with which they approached their goal.

SideFX gives you the best of both worlds: a drop-in true Windows version (you only need to add one line of code to “SPLOAD”) which can be toggled by the user to run in “expert” (text) mode for occasions when heads-down data entry is required.

Industry Standard Data Storage

You also told us that you d like to see an alternative to the existing SPEED data-storage methodology.

It s not that you found fault with SPEED s file system, in fact far from it. We all recognize that SPEED s advanced hashing and retrieval mechanisms are as good as anything else out there.

But the problem has been that SPEED s data storage system is proprietary, which is to say that only SPEED developers may access it, and then only through SPEED-based tools working in a diskimage-style environment.

The alternative that you told us that you wanted was an “open” system, providing data storage in industry-standard structures that off-the-shelf tools like Crystal Reports can access. This would give you the best of all worlds: your logic engine is still SPEED-based but the files which hold the system data are manipulable by common toolsets.

So, once again some high-profile SPEED citizenry rode to the rescue: Russ Fairchild (author of SPEED 2.6 and FourD, and former NSG guru) and Craig Freeman (big-system application developer and tool visionary).

Using QUASAR, an advanced data-management engine originally developed by Craig s company, the pair crafted an open migration path for SPEED data. Their solution provides an auto-convert capability that transforms proprietary data structures into “open” files, yielding building-blocks that seamlessly interface to other components, such as off-the-shelf report writers.

Evolving Language

Also high on your list of must-haves was for your language to evolve. In some respects you were specific, naming particular verbs or functions that you wanted to have us make available.

Of even greater importance, though, was for us to climb up into the crow s nest and let you know what we see over the horizon, and to shape our language to fit the events that we see coming.

Just as Niakwa is committed to SPEED and to

FourD, we are committed to growing NPL to keep it at the forefront of software technology. Some of that effort manifests itself in products like Vinny, while other pieces will emerge later this year as part of a grander plan for NPL.

In either case, NPL is a language on the grow and the beneficiaries of that development thrust will be you and your customers.

A Company That Listens

All of this should make it clear that we see ourselves as good craftsmen who serve our market well because we listen to our customers.

And we also feel that our commitment, in turn, places a responsibility on you. We and our

partners have toiled mightily to provide new products to help you. We strongly encourage you to test them out and to challenge us with new needs for which we may provide you solutions.

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Introducing SideFX a revolutionary software product from AFX

Universal MS Windows™ interface for SPEEDŽ applications without programming or modification.

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 program to realize a fully functional graphical user interface (GUI). Once so enabled, the application automatically becomes “mousified” and contains buttons, scroll bars, and many other graphical objects normally associated with a GUI. The package’s 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.”

“This particular design represented quite a challenge,” said 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. It certainly helps to have high-quality tools available to make such a thing a reality, and by that I’m referring to Niakwa’s NPL product. Combining it 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).

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The Phoenix Project - Part III

Custom SPEEDTM Reports And More ...

We recently got a preview of QUASAR/EXTM For SPEED -- an exciting, new SPEED-I enhancement product. In a recent demonstration, Craig Freeman (SSC) accessed a standard SPEED-I "demo" system and converted the entire database to BtrieveTM in less than a minute. In a few minutes more, with the help of Crystal ReportsTM, we watched him create the report at right:

The report was saved and then quickly converted to an ".EXE" file that no longer required either QUASAR or Crystal (thoughts of SPEED reports moving over the Internet danced in our heads!)

With a few more clicks, the original report became an Excel spreadsheet:

Then, as if by magic, the zero-balance vendors were eliminated and a 3-dimensional graph appeared:

Certain that the reporting and inquiry needs of the most demanding user could be satisfied, we turned our attention to meeting the needs of larger users with in-house programming staffs. Although we knew that NPL and Visual NPL could handle these NDM-compatible files, what about MS-Access, Delphi and the rest? A minute later, we had our answer -- in the form of an MS-Access screen like this one:

Craig went on to explain how, several years ago, he had developed similar software for use with his proprietary real estate software. In an extraordinarily successful upgrade campaign, nearly half of SSC's existing clients paid upwards of $1,000 for a "report writer" bundle (including the export software plus a $90 copy of Crystal Reports.) Helping resellers like you to repeat this success seemed like "the right thing to do."

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

This "dynamic duo" will soon release other "QUASAR" products including a high-performance replacement for SPEED's proprietary data manager (with full client/server support), UNIX support and versions for non-SPEED developers. If you're looking for the ultimate in output and data storage options, give these folks a call.

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

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Why I use NPL for my SPEED / FourD Application

We recently asked some experienced SPEED and FourD developers why they use NPL for their installations. The common theme in these conversations revolved around Niakwa’s dedication to quality. The result is a truly cross platform product which is always stable, reliable, and well supported.

It seems many developers have tried a competing product, with substantially similar results. For example, the president of one company said:

“Yes, we tried [a competing product]. What we found was a very incomplete product. The technical and user documentation was less than adequate. It took three shipments to receive everything we should have gotten in the first place. We were very unclear as to whose responsibility it was to handle our support calls. When we did finally get through to the correct person, the call was never resolved on the first try. Our time is too valuable to be hunting down the core components.”

“What we receive from Niakwa is a complete solution. Well packaged... completely documented... no ‘gotchas’. Support calls (few and far between) are handled promptly and with respect. At no time do we hang up feeling that any time was wasted. The language is flawless. As far a stability, NPL in beta form surpasses 99% of other software companies’ final releases.

“We tried [a competing product]. Please don’t fault our ignorance.”

Another vendor told us that “we billed one installation $25,000, but it cost us $75,000 to implement because of problems with [a competing product].” He then proceeded to herald NPL’s reliability and true upward compatibility between versions, along with Niakwa’s excellent support and “zero defect mentality.”

Our commitment to delivering quality products that SPEED and FourD resellers need to succeed is again evidenced by the demonstrations presented in our room at this conference. The next time you are faced with a choice of development environments, we hope that you will consider these factors in your decision, and choose NPL.

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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.