Southwest Fox on the FoxShow–special offer

Listen to Andrew MacNeill interview Rick Schummer, Tamar Granor, and Doug Hennig about Southwest Fox 2014 on the FoxShow #79. If you haven’t registered yet, be sure to listen for a special offer in the show.

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Less than a week until Super-Saver deadline!

We’re not sure how it happened, but it’s less than a week until the end of June and the Super-Saver registration deadline. If you haven’t registered yet, what are you waiting for?

Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ take place October 16-19, 2014 in Gilbert, Arizona and we really hope you can be there. We would hate to see you miss out on the $125 discount, the FREE pre-conference session, and an opportunity to win a scholarship or a license of Stonefield Query SDK (a $6,000 value).

If you’re still deciding whether to come, check out our list of amazing speakers and dig into our session tracks for VFP and Xbase++. Follow the news about the conference on this blog.

If you’ve already registered, we thank you. Can you help us remind your fellow developers who have been procrastinating about the looming deadline by sharing this blog post or tweeting about it?

By the way, if you sent in your registration and haven’t received a confirmation, please contact us to see what happened. Everyone gets a confirmation when the registration is processed. As promised, we are not cashing checks or processing credit cards for new registrations until the middle of July.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in Gilbert in October.

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Registration is open!

Registration for Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ is now available. See the website for a list of speakers, VFP sessions and Xbase++ sessions. Super-Saver Registration, which saves you $125, is available only through June 30th, so don’t wait.

Putting on a conference is a risky endeavor. Conference centers require a guaranteed minimum income to block the dates of a conference; for a conference like Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++, that minimum is in the tens of thousands of dollars. We have to commit to the conference center by July 2nd and need your support by July 1st to make that commitment. We will not do “We need your help” appeals this year so please do not wait, get registered by June 30th! We know most of you like to wait until the last minute to avoid the credit card bill arriving too soon. We will not charge any attendee credit cards or cash any checks until sometime in the second half of July or early August (once we’ve committed to going forward), so this no longer is a reason to wait.

We look forward to seeing you in October!

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Speakers and sessions announced for 2014

Speakers and sessions for both Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ 2014 have been announced. The list is available on the conference website.

Speakers
Southwest Fox sessions
Southwest Xbase++ sessions

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Session Proposals due this Friday, March 21

Just a reminder that session proposals for Southwest Fox 2014 and Southwest Xbase++ 2014 are due by 8 AM EDT this Friday, March 21. If you’re interested in speaking, please download the Call for Speakers (http://swfox.net/CallForSpeakers.aspx) and submit your proposals using our online application at www.geekgatherings.com/submission. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Call for Speakers 2014

We’ve issued the Call for Speakers for Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ 2014. If you are interested in presenting at either conference, please check out http://www.swfox.net/callforspeakers.aspx.

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Why doesn’t Southwest Fox/Xbase++ move around?

Every year, at least one person writes on the conference evaluation that we should move the conference to a new location. This year, one attendee wrote “MUST CHANGE LOCATIONS! There are so many other possibilities.”

So why don’t we do it? Personally, there are still about a dozen states I haven’t visited, and I’d love to use the trip to Southwest Fox to work on that list.

But there are a number of good business reasons why we stay put.

First and perhaps most important is that moving would be very expensive for us, both in time and money. In order to move the conference, first, we’d have to decide where to go, or make a short list of possible locations. Then, we’d have to identify hotels in those locations that have the appropriate facilities for us.

Then, one or more of us would have to visit whatever city (or cities) we were considering, and inspect the possible sites. Assuming we found what we needed, we’d then have to negotiate a deal that keeps the conference affordable.

In fact, finding appropriate facilities isn’t that simple. One of the great things about our current location is that we are a “big fish” there. We’re one of the largest conferences they hold every year, and the last two years, we’ve pretty much filled the hotel. Being able to do that makes us really valued customers, and gets us some very nice price breaks. (As we’ve written in the past, food is the single largest expense for any conference.)

Finding a hotel small enough that our group would be VIPs, but with a large enough conference facility to host our group is a non-trivial task. We know that because we’ve done it twice before.

When we first took over Southwest Fox, Rick spent about 80 hours identifying and visiting hotels. Then, when our original location went under in 2010 and we needed a new location fast, he spent about 60 more. In addition, Rick spent a week in Texas a few years ago, looking at options.

Once we chose a new facility and negotiated a contract, we’d still have to put in more hours to ensure that the facility understood our needs. That leads to the second big reason for not moving.

We’ve developed a strong relationship with the DoubleTree/Elegante personnel and we’ve worked with them to make things better each year. Both little things and big things.

The first year we were there, I was very unhappy because all the carafes used to provide hot water for tea had previously been used to serve coffee. As any tea drinker knows, that’s no way to make a cup of tea; the coffee flavor seeps into the carafe and the hot water pulls that flavor out. The water is brownish and tastes like coffee. At our closing meeting with the hotel (yes, we sit down with hotel representatives before the conference to preview what will happen and make sure they have it all right, and afterward, to review and discuss any issues), we reported the problem, and they promised to fix it. Sure enough, they bought a set of carafes in a different color that are used only for hot water.

They’ve worked with us on bigger problems, too. One of them is WiFi. Not surprisingly, our group taxes the hotel’s and conference center’s WiFi like pretty much no other group. We’ve worked with them each year to resolve the problem, but it kept getting harder, as more and more of us came with multiple devices that wanted WiFi. Finally, this year, they replaced the entire WiFi set-up for both buildings with a new one, with much greater capacity. For the first time since we’ve been running Southwest Fox, there were no complaints about WiFi capacity.

No question that this year’s biggest issue was the temperature in the meeting rooms. It swung wildly between way too cold and unpleasantly warm. Many people commented on it, both at the event and on their evaluations. We were glad to hear at our closing meeting that this is a planned focus for the coming year. The system will be reviewed and changes made as needed.

If we move, we start all over, dealing with issues like these. And if we move every year, as some would like, we have no leverage to solve this kind of problem. While moving would solve whatever problems one facility has, we’d have no way of knowing what problems the next facility would have.

There are other, less significant, reasons we don’t move. If we move out of the southwestern US, we have two issues. First, we’d have to re-brand the conferences. It’s hard to call a conference “Southwest” anything if you hold it in Boston or Atlanta.

On a related note, weather in other parts of the US is somewhat unpredictable in October. The Northeast and Midwest can be rainy and cold, while the Southeast is still in hurricane season. Frankly, the three of us all live in places where winter is dark and cold and we enjoy the chance to visit the desert before that kicks in.

The ease of getting to Phoenix is also a consideration. For almost everyone, it’s no more than two flights, and prices tend to be reasonable.

The bottom line is that we already put hundreds of non-billable hours into Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++, and there would have to be a real benefit to moving, for us to invest the additional time and money it would cost. We know that disappoints some of you, but we hope it won’t keep you from joining us next year.

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We’re streaming the keynote … and PolarFox

Once again this year, Geek Gatherings is streaming the Southwest Fox/Xbase++ keynote presentation, Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time (Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time). In addition, we are streaming the Project PolarFox: Sneak Preview session, Saturday at 5:15 p.m. Go to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/swfoxtv to watch the videos.

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We’ve gone mobile!

Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ have gone mobile! We’ve created a conference schedule on Guidebook, a popular mobile guide for events. Simply install the Guidebook app on your mobile device, then load the Southwest Fox/Xbase++ 2013 guide. You’ll be able to see complete session descriptions, view the conference schedule, see speaker photos and biographies, create to-do items, and best of all, create a customized schedule of sessions.

See http://swfox.net/Guidebook.aspx for details on how to set up our guide on your mobile device.

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Early-Bird Registration deadline is August 31

One last quick reminder: you can save $50 by registering with the early-bird registration discount. The deadline is this Saturday, August 31st. Every registered attendee gets admission and white papers to all regular conference sessions.
Here’s what a couple of our speakers have to say about their session.

A few words from Doug Hennig about his session “Fix Problems Fast with Advanced Error Handling and Instrumentation Techniques”:
“My company’s main product is unusual for a VFP application: it doesn’t have a fixed database structure that it works with or even a fixed database engine. It may have to work with a SQL Server accounting database, a MySQL customer relationship management database, or a VFP medical billing database. When a problem occurs, we sometimes ask the customer to send us a copy of their configuration files and application database so we can reproduce the problem, but that isn’t always possible. So, many times, all we have to go on is what we can log at the time the error occurred. As a result, we’ve had to become very good at generating detailed log information and analyzing that information to determine and fix the problem. Thanks to these techniques, there are very few problems we can’t track down quickly.
This session discusses the code we use for error handling and instrumentation as well as techniques for quickly tracking down and solving problems. feel free to use this code as is or adapt it to your own applications as you see fit. ”

A few words from Eric Selje about his “Unit Testing 201: Testing Our SQL Server Backends”
“I have received so much positive response from this session in the various SQL Saturdays and User Groups where I’ve presented it. The timing is really right for database developers to start exercising the same discipline of unit testing they’ve been doing for their code to their databases as well. What does this mean? Come to my session at Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ in October and find out! ”
Don’t miss this chance to learn from the best and mix with your peers.

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