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July/Aug 2016

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FileMaker DevCon 2016

John, Joe, and I attended DevCon in Las Vegas this past July. This year’s event consisted of three days of sessions, each broken up into four one-hour chunks, with plenty of time for lunch and breaks. This more relaxed schedule was great, as it allowed for time to decompress and digest the wealth of information in the sessions.

At this year’s DevCon, I wanted to focus more on JavaScript and WebDirect. I have been extremely excited about using JavaScript in FileMaker - it is making some incredible things possible in FileMaker. I went to several sessions that referenced JavaScript.

Before I jump into the sessions, I want to mention one of the reasons I have been so excited about JavaScript. I integrated Seedcode’s DayBack Calendar into a customer solution a few weeks back, and what is so cool about DayBack is how they have redone their entire calendar display in JavaScript. It is much more fluid and smooth than their previous calendar solutions. They have worked really hard to provide some great features and it shows. One of those new features is a really nice update function that allows them to push new advances and bug fixes. Because it is JavaScript, it doesn’t require layout adjustments, it is merely an update to the JavaScript that creates the layout. This is nice because it doesn’t require redeploying an entire solution in order to add the update.

Although SeedCode didn’t have a big presence at this year’s DevCon, they made sure to release an update the weekend before. The release adds maps and directions to the pop-up calendar event. This is a very cool addition and had me looking forward to updating that on my return. SeedCode is definitely part of the reason I have been so interested in JavaScript and FileMaker.

I attended a great session called "JavaScript is Eating the World,” hosted by Todd Geist from Geist Interactive. During his session he demonstrated how to configure and integrate node.js with FileMaker’s Custom Web Publishing. He used some very interesting tools that are fairly common to JavaScript developers. Some of them were new to me, so I wanted to share the list.

For his IDE, he was using WebStorm. To help write in ECMAScript2015 spec, he usedBabel, a JavaScript compiler, and Webhack, an implementation of Nethack in JavaScript.

Other tools mentioned included:

  • Bootstrap - JavaScript compiler
  • React - JavaScript library for creating user interfaces
  • node.js - JavaScript runtime
  • jQuery - curated set of user interfaces
  • Now - real-time instant deployment for node.js
  • Express - fast minimalist web framework for node.js
  • Feathers - for creating web socket APIs like REST
  • feathers.FileMaker - API for FileMaker, created by Todd Geist

I also attended a couple of sessions hosted by Mike Beargie. (Mike is a great presenter, and he has played a large and helpful role on many of the forums. His commitment to the FileMaker community was acknowledged on the last day of the event, when he was presented with an award.)

One of his sessions - "Integration Innovations with FileMaker WebDirect” - had some really cool nuggets of information. He talked about the release of an iPhone app, CoreScope, that provides a custom URL scheme to allow FileMaker Go developers access to retrieve metadata related to an iOS device.

This allows you to get things like battery state and information about the carrier, screen, system, disk, etc. into your FileMaker Go app. He plans to have an API that you can add on to your solution if you use FileMaker Go to build an iOS app.

Mike also talked about integration with FileMaker’s Custom Web Publishing and showed a jQuery plugin called jQuery.dataTables.  This provides a very fast table that can be sorted, searched against, and paginated. You need to gather the data that you want to display and convert it into either a JSON or HTML table, but once you do that, it is very quick.

In addition, he demonstrated a great way to do SMS. His demo worked with Nexmo SMS and their API to send and receive text messages. He noted others, like Twilio, were also available.

All in all, it was a fun developer conference. The people I met as well as the community are what makes it such a great event. I look forward to more opportunities like this to share and learn.
~Xandon Frogget

Losing an iPhone

My mom recently lost her iPhone. It was in her purse, which got placed on the top of the car, where it stayed when the car was driven off as she and my dad went home. There’s no way to know where it ended up. I spent a couple of hours helping them reset passwords and figure out how to deal with the situation.

My siblings and I have been pretty proactive with getting my parents online and connected. They’re both over 70, but also both have iPhones. My dad has a MacBook Air and my mom has an iPad. They share an iMac in their home office. For my mom in particular, this level of connection is a real blessing. She is stuck in a wheelchair most of the time, and so being able to communicate with everyone via phone, email, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. is a huge improvement in her ability to connect with her family on a day to day basis.

There were a few lessons from this event:

  1. All of your devices, whether iOS, Mac, or another platform, should require a passcode or password to access the device whenever you want to use it. This may be a minor hassle, but if the device is ever lost or stolen, you will be very, very glad you had this in place. The security problems my mom had would have taken twice as much time to deal with if the phone hadn’t required a passcode.
  2. All devices should absolutely be logged into an iCloud account. This gives you some ability to interact with them when lost or stolen.
  3. Given the above two points, if the phone is lost or stolen, don’t do what my parents did and call the carrier to cancel the account. As soon as they did that, we couldn’t use iCloud to locate or lock out the phone. It would have been preferable if we could have used iCloud to do this, but since AT&T had already canceled the phone, we couldn’t.

In my opinion, the technology industry has failed so far when it comes to user authentication. Making my parents try to keep track of a dozen or more passwords for their various accounts does not work. They are not technical enough to use anything like 1Password, and yet keeping track of passwords on paper has its obvious security flaws. I hope Apple extends Touch ID to the Macbook and iMac product lines and that developers integrate it into their authentication mechanisms to reduce the need for passwords.
~John Newhoff

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Portage Bay Solutions is a database development firm based in Seattle, Washington that's been working with organizations of all sizes for over 20 years. Our customer service is top-notch; we answer and return calls promptly, stay within budget, and provide quality support to our clients during all phases of the development process.

  • FileMaker Pro & 4th Dimension upgrade and development
  • FileMaker Pro & 4th Dimension integration with other data environments
  • iOS app development
  • Web/Database integration
  • FileMaker WebDirect
  • MS Access to FileMaker conversions