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Program Progress

I have been writing computer code since I was 10, pounding away on the keyboard of my dad’s Atari 800 back when BASIC came on a cartridge, and programs were stored on audio tapes. Computers and programming have always made sense to me, and I’ve been blessed with a unique capacity to discern what applications are doing. I exercise that ability every day in my job, diagnosing problems with SAP which (more often than not) are the result of users not understanding or misusing the system rather than the sytem doing something unexpected.

Visual Studio 2005 IDESo why the history lesson? Because I suprised myself recently, or more specifically the power of Visual Studio 2005 suprised me. For months I have been struggling with how to implement some design environment functionality for the BrewzNET software I’ve been working on for over a year. In fact, I took a several month hiatus during July-Oct and have not written a single line of code in that time – until this week. It is amazing what happens when you walk away from something and come back to it with fresh eyes. The primary concepts I struggled with (and prompted me to walk away) were how to implement the component and property list functionality when setting up a sculpture interface – namely how to make them look similar to the VB2005 IDE, which I feel is fairly user friendly and intuitive. I could write mountains of code and build custom components to do that, but the effort involved did not seem worth it.

PropList DemoFast forward to Tuesday evening, when I was bored and playing around, only to discover a standard out-of-the-box component I was not familiar with – The PropertyList. It is exactly what I needed, and is (I believe) the same component that the VS2005 studio uses. SCORE! So how hard is it to use with my already-developed display classes for pipes, tanks, labels, etc? A single line of code implemented 75% of the functionality I was looking for – and the remaining percents are due to poorly designed object design on my part (and relatively straight-forward to resolve). The result speaks for itself – a flexible and professional looking property editing list. It works very well with the control-point functionality I had already implemented, and seems to update itself automatically when properties change.

Toolbox DemoInspired by my newfound functionality, I endeavored to unlock the secrets of the component toolbox list. A quick SPY++ look at the VS2005 component list yielded the class name of “TBToolBox”. At first that didn’t mean alot to me, and I checked for a “toolbox” component hoping for a similar eureka! moment as with the PropertyList. Alas, it did not happen. Instead, I reanalyzed the name, and realized that the “TB” at the beginning of the class name stood for “Toolbar”. Voila! 10 minutes later, I had a prototype component list that looks strikingly similar to the VS2005 one.

So with some hesitation, I declare “GAME ON!!” for my control system development again. I hope to have a screen design environment completed by the end of the year, perhaps with some of the event model code completed as well. I have a short overnight business trip to CII scheduled for early November, so I may have time to code while en-route and Thursday evening. 5 1/2 hours in the air each way to Austin – YUCK.

Categories: BrewzNET, Tech geeks
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