Plus Ca Change

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Plus Ca Change

THE title for this month’s editorial is appropriate for an issue with a review of a translation package for Access. Translated into proper English, the complete phrase is “The more things change, the more things remain the same.” Or, to put it another way, my mother-in-law is on the Internet. She’s still my mother-inlaw, but now she sends e-mail. Every day.

A couple of different events occasioned the selection for this month’s editorial topic. I’m finally giving up my Geo. I loved that car. Cheap, durable, and 48 miles to the gallon. Sitting in the car with my hat on, my wife says I looked like a Mennonite farmer on his way to market. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m converting over to the retro-styled PT Cruiser from Chrysler-Daimler (another example of everything changing and not). This is an improvement. Sitting in the PT Cruiser with my hat on, Jan says I look like one of Eliot Ness’s Untouchables. In terms of my image as a hotshot software problem-solver, this is probably progress. I still feel more like the farmer raising my crop of projects, though.

The other occasion is the launch of our new newsletter, aimed at developers who are using XML in their applications (that’s you—if not now, then soon). I’ve been teaching XML for Learning Tree International in addition to using XML myself, and that’s given me a chance to see how much interest there is in the technology. A week from today, I fly to London to teach the course, from there go on to Hong Kong to teach it again, and finally (still flying East) return home, having circumnavigated the globe.

One of the things that I’ve come to appreciate about XML is how much of it isn’t new. An XML document uses the tag formatting that was developed for the Standard Generalized Markup Language used by document creation companies. All by itself, that technology is a quarter-century old. For me, the process of designing and developing XML-based processes draws a lot on my experience and training as a database developer. I’ve always felt that the skills I developed in database design would stand me in good stead, and this new tool just confirms that.

Cindy Meister is back with hardcore information on using Microsoft Word as your report writer. Somewhere along the line, the train to the paperless office got derailed, I guess. Cindy’s article makes a good companion to Stu Alderman’s article on his tool for documenting Access tables. Not only does Cindy cover how to do the hard stuff in Word, but she also provides the routines that you need to produce reports that can be bound like books. You can run off the documentation from Stu’s tool on your printer and bind it to look exactly like “real” documentation.

Having said that, I firmly believe that within five or six years most (if not all) of the Smart Access readers will be reading this newsletter on some electronic device. Does that mean that you won’t need Cindy’s routines anymore? No. By then you’ll be able to use Word to create e-documents and using “Access-with-Word” to produce output for those devices.

One final note on how things change. I use a Palm PDA and just added a package to it called AvantGo. I downloaded the software (for free) from the Web site. Using AvantGo, I can download to my handheld any Web sites that I select. You configure the sites that you pick up on the AvantGo site, which contains an inventory of already configured Web sites.

Among other sites, I’m picking up the price of Learning Tree International stock (I have options), the weather in the cities I go to most often, headline stories, book reviews, and technology news. While the delivery mechanism for these services has changed from my newspaper/TV/radio channel, the stuff that I’m looking for remains the same. When you and I go wireless (and we will, someday) I expect to see even more changes to the way that news and transient entertainment is delivered. If, for instance, everyone can pick up our Smart Access material at any time, why “publish” monthly? Why not weekly? Daily? As soon as new material is available? A publishing schedule becomes merely a convenient way of notifying readers that new articles are ready to view— and I can think of lots better ways to do that than living by the calendar.

Until then, I have a deadline to meet and I’m already late. Here’s this month’s issue.