Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh MySQL, where art thou?

You’ve probably heard by now that Oracle has offered to buy Sun Microsystems for something north of $7 billion. The actual cost to Oracle is more like $5 billion when you consider Sun’s balance sheet. Sun is very receptive and its shareholders are expected to approve the deal. Sun’s continued existence has been on the minds of a lot of its customers, so this is happening at a good time and Oracle is getting a lot of great technology at a very good price. Sun’s hardware and operating system are a very popular platform with Oracle’s customers and Oracle has been trying to control their entire technology stack for a long time. This was the reason that Oracle became so enamored with Linux. If there’s a bug in Linux, they can fix it, not so with Windows or Mac OS X. And of course it gives Oracle the ability to sell the customer even more of the solution which not only makes Oracle more money, but also helps lock its customers even more firmly into Oracle’s solution.

This, of course, is not a marriage. Oracle, with a market cap of $97 billion dwarfs Sun whose market cap as of today is just under $7 billion. This is an acquisition and that means that Sun will disappear and Oracle will be calling the shots when it comes to all the technology they just bought. Since Monday’s announcement, Oracle has talked about Sun’s hardware and operating system, but it seems clear that Java is the most important part of this acquisition. I’m not saying Sun’s hardware and OS aren’t great too, but Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said, “Java is the single most important software we've ever acquired.” I think that says it all.

Statements that public companies make, especially when they are making an acquisition, are done very carefully. What Oracle said is important, but what they didn’t say is equally important. Oracle has made no mention of MySQL, which was acquired by Sun early last year. In fact, when the Wall Street Journal recently asked an Oracle Spokeswoman about the fate of MySQL post-acquisition, she had no comment. Since everyone is speculating, I’ll join the party. I see three possibilities:

1) Oracle has no idea what it will do with MySQL. This seems unlikely. Larry Ellison is a genius-level tactician. He always knows his next move.

2) Oracle has plans for MySQL that will benefit the MySQL community. This is possible but Oracle has never struck me as a company that waxes philosophic about how it can make the world a better place. Open source is only interesting to Oracle when it can make them more money. Larry Ellison has more money than he could ever spend at this point but he’s still #3 on Fortune’s 2008 list of the richest Americans. Larry wants the number one spot that is currently held by his arch nemesis, Bill Gates. MySQL appears to be generating a few hundred million in top line revenue per year. I don’t know how much profit they generate but even their top line revenue is peanuts compare do the $22 billion Oracle generated last year. MySQL is not going to help Larry get to #1, at least, not with anything close to its current annual revenue.

3) Oracle is going to do something with MySQL that the MySQL community is not going to like. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about all the reasons why Oracle wouldn’t kill off MySQL but they mostly sound like wishful thinking. If Oracle had plans to use MySQL to compete against Microsoft SQL Server in the mid-sized business market, they would probably have said so. They certainly wouldn’t announce they were going to kill it off prior to the acquisition being completed. That doesn’t serve them. And all this speculation is just more free press. Even if they plan to kill it off, they would likely just let it die a slow death.

In the long run, possibility #3 seems most probable to me. However, I can see ways in which Oracle might use MySQL to its advantage. But those ways all seem out of character for Oracle. There was a day when I could see Larry Ellison using MySQL to drive Bill Gates crazy, but Bill Gates is becoming increasingly distant from Microsoft, so product wars are just not going to have the effect on Bill they once did.

Many REALbasic and REAL Studio developers build cross-platform database applications. In fact, in a survey we conducted last year, cross-platform and database access were the two most popular reasons why users said they choose REALbasic. MySQL was the number one database server in that survey as well. In a recent post I discussed why we stopped supporting MySQL for a while so I won’t repeat that here. But we are supporting it once again because so many of you have asked us to do so. And now we are supporting both the Community (free) and Enterprise (commercial) editions.

With the fate of MySQL up in the air, I just want to let everyone know that as long as so many of you want us to support MySQL and the technology is available to allow us to do so, we will.

Since database applications are clearly important to REALbasic/REAL Studio developers, we have our own database server. Next week, we will ship a major new version REAL Server. This new version is as simple to install and administrate as ever and can handle a few orders of magnitude more users than the current release. REAL Studio comes with a license for REAL Server so that developers can build in-house client/server database applications without any additional cost. If REALbasic/REAL Studio developers that use MySQL should need a new server at some point in the future, REAL Server will be there. And of course, you don’t have to be REALbasic/REAL Studio developer to use REAL Server. I think REAL Server is better than MySQL in many ways but I’m obviously biased. You can check out the new release and decide for yourself.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making debugging a bit easier on Windows

In 2008r2 the compiler was altered so that it will create both an exe and a directory to hold the dlls if needed for Windows applications. When this happens, it puts the whole thing in a directory.

One of the difficulties with this has been that when you put your support files in that directory, the directory gets removed when your debug session ends and your support files are gone along with it.

You can use Run Paused to give yourself time to copy things to the directory created to hold your application. Or, you could use an IDE script to copy files into that directory every time you run.

A third option is to make it so RB never deletes the directory until you want it to.
How ?
Debug your application.
When REALbasic creates the directory where your debug app will go create a new text file in there. I call mine LOCK FILE just so I know what it is. There does not need to be anything in it. Change it's properties to "READ ONLY"

Now when REALbasic quits it will not delete the directory.
So that's one step down.

If you have a bunch of files that your application relies on to run properly, put them in the directory and also mark them "READ ONLY" - THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT because REALbasic will remove anything NOT marked read only AND because your application should NOT modify anything in the locations where the application is installed anyways as you or your end user may not have privileges to do so. Marking all these items read only makes it so that IF you try to write to one you should get an error of some kind.

That's it. Set this up the first time you debug and keep moving files in that you need and making them read only.

Thanks to Daniel Taylor on the NUG for the idea 

Pro Users: How to Upgrade to Studio

Current Pro users still have until May 14th to upgrade to Studio for free - new licenses or licenses that have been renewed since April 14th are not eligible. Just a reminder that to upgrade your key log into your account on our website and go to My License Keys. There will be an option next to your key to Upgrade to Studio. You Studio key and REAL Server key will be available immediately. Also please remember that if you do upgrade to Studio when your renewal period expires your renewal price will change to the Studio-level pricing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

REALbasic 2009 Release 2 Available Now!

REALbasic 2009 Release 2 is now shipping. In addition to more than 70 improvements and 18 new features, including COM automation support for Windows and support for MySQL, this release also introduces the new edition of REALbasic, REAL Studio.

COM Automation Support: Applications can take control of any other Windows application that supports COM automation.

"I really look forward to being able to use COM on Windows, since this will make my programming work a lot easier," commented Dirk Cleenwerck, a REALbasic user. "Because of the features REAL Software adds, I am able to develop much faster in REALbasic than any other programming language."

MySQL Support: The Community Edition (free) of MySQL is now officially supported.

REAL Studio Edition: To recap, REAL Studio includes:
- A license key that can be installed on any number of computers or operating systems for easier development and testing.
- The code profiler for optimizing code performance.
- IDE Scripting for build automation.
- A REAL Server unlimited connections license.
- Priority technical support.

To download your very own copy of REALbasic 2009 Release 2, please visit today!


Monday, April 13, 2009

Last Chance Reminder!

Just a reminder to everyone: We will release REALbasic 2009r2 and REAL Studio tomorrow, April 14th. Though, you can upgrade any current (not expired) REALbasic Professional license to REAL Studio until May 14th, new REALbasic licenses or licenses that have been renewed after today are not eligible for the free upgrade to Studio after today.

So if you want to renew and take full advantage of the Professional to Studio upgrade you must do so today before Midnight CST! Feel free to write us at for more details or specific assistance.

Friday, April 10, 2009

MySQL: The Sequel

For a long time, we provided direct support for MySQL in REALbasic via a plug-in. Then, due to some concerns about the way MySQL is licensed, we decided to leave the MySQL plug-in to the community to avoid any unnecessary complications. Since then, many of you have made it clear to us that you really want us to directly support MySQL. We looked into the licensing issue and came up with a solution. Support for MySQL will return with REALbasic 2009 Release 2.

For those of you wondering what the license issue is, allow me to explain. There are two editions of MySQL: the MySQL Community Server and the MySQL Enterprise Server. The MySQL Community Server is the free edition of MySQL. It is open source and falls under the GNU General Public License or GPL for short. Basically, if code is released under the GPL, it means that anything that uses that code is also automatically GPL'd. Our new MySQL Community Server plug-in communicates with the MySQL Community Server via the Community Edition library provided by MySQL. That library was released under the GPL which means our MySQL Community Edition plug-in is also GPL'd. That also means that if you use this plug-in in your application, most likely, your application will be GPL'd and you will be required to provide the source code to the public. I'm not a lawyer, so before you make any decisions, you should check the MySQL web site for details, read over the GPL and consult with your attorney.

The MySQL Enterprise Server is NOT released under the GPL and it is NOT free. It's a commercial product. Soon we will be releasing a separate, non-GPL plug-in specifically for the MySQL Enterprise Server. If you want to use MySQL and want to make sure that you don't have to GPL your application, you will probably want to purchase a license for MySQL Enterprise Server. Again, I'm not a lawyer so you should check the MySQL web site and discuss this with your attorney.

To be clear, this is not a REALbasic or REAL Software licensing issue. This is strictly a MySQL licensing issue. The libraries they provide for use with these editions come with the restrictions I have summarized above. MySQL is very popular and part of the reason is that people believe it's free. As you can now see, that's not 100% true and it's not 100% false either. It really depends on your situation.

Warning: Shameless Plug Ahead

If you are building an application and need a database server, another consideration is our REAL SQL Server that has as one of its advantages, crystal clear licensing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A threat from Time Warner Cable that requires your attention and action

The Internet was invented here in the United States, but regrettably we don't have the best Internet access in the world. In fact, we are far from it. Many other countries have much higher speed access than we do. At home my Internet connection is faster than most, 20 megabits/second for downloading and I pay Time Warner Cable about $50US per month for Internet service. Contrast that with what users in Japan get for their money. In Japan you can get 20 megabits for far less than $50 and for about $100 per month, you can get 100 megabits/second. That's fives times faster for only about twice the price. Korea has even better Internet than Japan and is one of the most wired countries in the world in terms of broadband Internet access. Users in France can get up to 24 megabits/second Internet plus 60 channels of digital TV and free phone calls to anywhere in France and something like 70 other countries for 35 euros per month (or about $50US). And some of the providers even give you a wifi router at no extra charge. These are countries that have much smaller populations so they don't have anything like the economies of scale we have here in the US.

So our Internet in the US isn't great but it may be about to get a whole lot worse. Time Warner Cable, the 3rd largest Internet provider in the US, has been testing capping bandwidth in Beaumont, Texas and recently announced that they plan to put these restrictions in place here in Austin and San Antonio, and a few other cities as well. It is only a matter of time before these caps are rolled out to all Time Warner Cable customers around the country. What does a bandwidth cap mean? If you have their highest priced plan (like me), you would be capped at about 40 gigabytes of bandwidth per month. That sounds like a lot, but with streaming video it's really not all that much these days. That's about 4 hours of HD video per month. And that's for people like me with the highest priced Internet package. If you have a lower priced package, say $30US per month, the cap will be a paltry 5 gigabytes per month. And what happens if you exceed your cap? According to the Time Warner Cable representative I spoke with, you'll pay $1 for every gigabyte you use over the cap. Comcast, the second largest Internet provider in the US, already has a bandwidth cap in place but at least it's 250 gigabytes per month. You can read about it in the New York Times. I don't like the idea of a cap at all but 5 to 40 gigabytes is ridiculous.

So why is Time Warner Cable doing this? If their costs are going up due to an increase in bandwidth usage, a small increase in the rates would perhaps be justified. But that doesn't make sense. I believe the answer is that people are spending more and more time on the Internet and less and less time watching TV. Time Warner Cable,as well as Comcast, makes a lot of their money from TV. By capping bandwidth they are effectively blocking competition from on-line services like Hulu, YouTube and iTunes. They don't want you watching a movie or TV show on the Internet when you could be watching TV and increasing what they can charge for commercial time. If you're watching Hulu or downloading shows from iTunes, perhaps you'll cut back on your cable TV plan.

How can they do this? How can a company the size of Time Warner Cable be less competitive than much smaller companies in much smaller countries like Japan, France and Korea that provide better service for less money? They can do it because in many markets they have little or no competition. They are not announcing that this change will affect all of the cities they serve. I would be willing to bet my cable modem that they are only doing this where they are reasonably certain most customers are not going to switch to a competitor. In Austin, Time Warner Cable might say there is competition from AT&T and Grande Communications. The problem is that there are many places in Austin that are not serviced by these two companies. In places where there is no competition, Time Warner Cable effectively has a monopoly and they are abusing that power to block your access to their competitors. The time to act is now.

If you are a customer of Time Warner Cable in any city, please write to your state Attorney General and ask them to take action regarding Time Warner Cable's anti-competitive practices. If you don't know who your state Attorney General is, here's a list of them with contact information:

There is power in numbers. Call or email your state Attorney General and ask them to investigate Time Warner Cable's attempts to block your access to their competitors. If you're not sure exactly what to say, I'll make it easy for you. Here's what I wrote in my email to them. You can just copy this message:
Subject: Stop Time Warner Cable's anti-competitive practices

Dear ,

I'm writing to you because I have heard that Time Warner Cable is planning to put internet bandwidth caps on customers. Regardless of what they call it, this is effectively an attempt to block competition from sites such as Hulu, YouTube, iTunes and other on-line services by forcing users to limit their usage of these sites with arbitrary bandwidth caps. They are abusing what is effectively their monopoly status with regards to high-speed Internet access.

As a citizen of , a taxpayer and a voter, I urge you to do something about this.

You can also call or write to Time Warner Cable and complain about this. I wrote to my local Time Warner Cable office and told them that if these bandwidth caps are put in place, I will switch my cable TV and Internet service at the first opportunity.

Also, please forward a link to this blog post to anyone you know that might be a Time Warner Cable customer.

Make sure your voice is heard. You really can make a difference.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A new platform for REALbasic

I don't need to tell any of you that a big part of the appeal of REALbasic is how easily you can support a new platform. Well, we have been working for a while now on supporting a new platform. I'm not talking about Cocoa, which you all know we are hard at work on. There's a device that has had millions and millions of users, has been extremely popular amongst both individuals and corporate users and yet has surprisingly little support in terms of development tools. And supporting it has been one of the most requested features from our customers. I'm talking about of course, the Palm Pilot.

There was once a lot of development tools available for the Palm Pilot but most of them are gone now. And the few that are left are focused on the Palm Treo. Don't get me wrong, smartphones have their place but there are still a lot of Palm Pilots out there and they're not all in landfills. I think the reason there hasn't been much new software is that the development tools have mostly gone away. It's a huge potential market that no one has tapped into in years. While those that are still using Palm Pilots these days tend to be what Geoffrey Moore referred to as "laggards" in his book, Crossing the Chasm, that doesn't mean they won't buy software. It's just going to take a different kind of approach. Consider John Scherer, the CEO of Video Professor. He does those commercials on late night TV where he offers a free CD that teaches you how to use eBay. I think that kind of approach would be very effective for selling new software titles to Palm Pilot users. And consider this: these people haven't bought a new software application for their Palm Pilot is years! So their interest level in something new could be quite high!

The key to this approach will be to get an app store application onto these Palm Pilots. That will make the marketing and purchasing process a lot easier. We will provide the App Store application and the commerce system that will drive it. To get the app store application onto these Palm Pilots, we will be doing some direct mailings using some mailing lists that Palm oddly enough, was quite happy to give us for free. We are also going to partner with the folks that make the Snuggie and the ShamWow as our research shows that a lot of Palm Pilot users also buy these products. Strange, but true. Now of course the Palm Pilot has no direct Internet connectivity. But a lot of Palm Pilot users are not that comfortable with the Internet anyway. So the app store application will simply present a telephone number they can call where they can speak to a real person that can tell them about the apps that are available, take their order and then send them a disk with the software. The disk will then come with a number they can call should they need help installing the software. I think this kind of hand-holding is not only essential but will be quite appreciated.

Once our support for the Palm Pilot is ready, we will need you to develop some cool apps. But it is going to require some additional attention to detail as most Palm Pilots only have about 8 megs of RAM and many don't have color screens. Also, we only plan to support the Palm V and newer models as we have to draw the line somewhere. If you don't have a Palm Pilot, you can pick one up on eBay since Palm only sells the Treo these days.

So start thinking now about what your first Palm Pilot app will be!