REDMOND, Wash., March 14, 2005 — Before WASP (Wireless Apprehension Solution Project), law enforcement officers in Shelby County, Tennessee needing information on fugitives had to work from hardcopy printouts of arrest warrants. Whether making an arrest, performing a routine traffic stop or checking suspicious persons, officers would only have access to a photograph if they had printed one from the department’s intranet, or requested one from the photo lab.
Since the Sheriff’s Office used Microsoft Visual FoxPro version 9.0 to build WASP early this year, officers can remotely access warrant-related data in a matter of seconds — information that can literally save lives.
Available since January, Visual FoxPro 9.0 can be used to create all types of database solutions.
“Knowing you are dealing with a gang member before the physical encounter is an asset,” says John Yancey, an Inspector in the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
In January, Microsoft released Visual FoxPro version 9.0 — a development tool for creating database solutions of all sizes — and the Tennessee law-enforcement agency is one of several customers already reporting successful results with the most advanced and reliable version of the tool.
“The WASP computer system has doubled officer productivity,” says Yancey. “It allows them to spend much more time in the streets because they have so much information at their fingertips.”
The department’s challenge was to build a user-friendly system that communicates using thin-client and fat-client technologies; is fast, easy to maintain, easily updated and highly effective. The department also published a Web site of warrants — also built with Visual FoxPro version 9.0 — and posted 16 billboards throughout the county to advertise the site.
Arrests on warrants are also made by several other agencies in the Memphis metropolitan area, but information is not readily available to them except via radio communication with a dispatcher. If an agency is not using WASP and an officer from another agency attempts to make an arrest, there is no guarantee that information on his attempt will be captured in the system. In addition, officers not on the WASP system must complete the arrest ticket manually, which is time consuming.
The WASP system has made their operation much more efficient. Any agency using WASP can save money by not sending cars to make an attempt at unverified locations because the system will flag those warrants. Savings have been realized through reduced printing costs, increased officer productivity, and providing officers real-time information and mug shots has enhanced officer safety.
“The new features added in Visual FoxPro 9.0 allow us to incorporate some useful features,” says Lt. John Harvey, chief architect and developer of WASP. If an officer has closed the lid on a laptop or if the battery is running low on power, the WASP program can close any open tables to prevent data corruption, and reopen them when the system is restarted.
A new report writer’s multiple detail band feature will present data from multiple sources and output either to HTML or using third-party software to produce Adobe Acrobat PDF files. “The report writer has also been enhanced for graphics display which will allow us to present reports from within Visual FoxPro 9.0 that are much more elegant than in the past,” Harvey says.
Backward-Compatible with Existing Applications
Microsoft customers are finding that upgrading to Visual FoxPro 9.0 is easy and rewarding. “Many developers are telling us that Visual FoxPro 9.0 is the best update since the update from Visual FoxPro 2.6 to Visual FoxPro 3.0 that occurred 10 years ago,” says Ken Levy, Visual Studio Data Product Manager at Microsoft.
The most advanced and reliable version of FoxPro ever released, version 9.0 is 100-percent compatible with version 8.0. Developers can even create applications with Visual FoxPro 9.0 and deploy them using the Visual FoxPro 8.0 runtime, as long as no new commands and features are implemented in the distributed application. This allows developers and teams to upgrade to Visual FoxPro 9.0 and benefit from the wealth of new productivity features, while transitioning existing applications to the newer runtime engine.
“In less than two hours, we have upgraded our entire Universal Thread infrastructure to Visual FoxPro 9.0,” says Michel Fournier, President, Level Extreme Inc. of www.UniversalThread.com, a high traffic online community web site based on Visual FoxPro 9.0. “Our front line product uses Visual FoxPro at various levels such as standalone EXE, COM servers, schedulers and monitoring tools as well as coexisting with .NET for various other needs. The product and its high-performance data engine are as solid and fast as prior versions.”
According to Microsoft’s Levy, Visual FoxPro 9.0 is a great tool for building database solutions of all sizes, with its local cursor engine, tight coupling between language and data, and powerful features. Its data-centric, object-oriented language offers developers a robust set of tools for building database applications for the desktop, client-server environments, or the Web. Developers will have the necessary tools to manage data–from organizing tables of information, running queries, and creating an integrated relational database management system (DBMS) to programming a fully-developed data management application for end users.
For developers, new important feature areas in Visual FoxPro 9.0 fall into four areas:
Data-Handling and Interoperability: Developers can create .NET-compatible solutions with hierarchical XML and XML Web services, and exchange data with Microsoft SQL Server through enhanced SQL language capabilities and newly supported data types.
Extensible Developer Productivity Tools: Developers can enhance user interfaces by using dockable user forms, auto-anchoring of controls, and improved image support. They can personalize the Properties Window with favorite properties, custom editors, fonts and color settings.
Flexibility to Build All Types of Database Solutions: Developers can build and deploy stand-alone and remote applications for Windows-based Tablet PCs, and create and access COM components and XML Web Services compatible with Microsoft .NET technology.
Reporting System Features: An extensible new output architecture provides precision control of report data output and formatting, while design features make possible multiple detail banding, text rotation and report chaining. Output reports supported include in XML, HTML, image formats, and customizable multi-page print preview window. Reports created with Visual FoxPro 9.0 are backward-compatible with existing reports created on earlier versions.
Atlanta-based dbx-Technologies, Inc. resells Microsoft Visual FoxPro 9.0 worldwide via its online e-Commerce site at www.FoxToolbox.com. “The FoxToolbox.com site itself is written in Visual FoxPro 8.0, with plans to upgrade to newly released version 9.0 by the end of the first quarter of 2005”, says CEO Jim Eddins. dbx-Technologies has utilized Visual FoxPro as its main development platform, along with other Microsoft developer technologies, to develop state-of-the-art Web sites for several very large companies.
Visual FoxPro 9.0 Opens New Doors with Increased Extensibility
Doug Hennig, the lead developer for Stonefield Query, a powerful query builder and report writer made by Stonefield Software Inc. of Regina, Canada, says he chose Visual FoxPro 9.0 for its powerful object-oriented features, extremely fast built-in database engine and querying language, and an interactive development environment focused on developer productivity.
“Visual FoxPro 9.0 is the biggest upgrade since the product was first released,” Hennig says. “There are three main areas in Visual FoxPro 9.0 that make Stonefield Query a better and more powerful product: enhancements to the reporting engine, extensibility, and improved support for XML and databases such as SQL Server 2000. Since Stonefield Query is heavily dependent on the Visual FoxPro reporting engine, the enhancements in the reporting engine in Visual FoxPro 9.0 are extremely important to us.”
Among the new features Stonefield Query takes advantage of are multiple detail bands, a much cleaner and more intuitive user interface, design-time captions that insulate the user from having to understand data structures, and customizable Report Designer dialogs. These features allow Stonefield Query to create new types of reports it couldn’t before and provide an easier-to-user Report Designer to inexperienced users.
“Microsoft blew the lid off extensibility in Visual FoxPro 9.0,” says Hennig. “We have complete access to events in the reporting system, both as reports as being designed and as they’re being run.” Stonefield Query uses the extendible reporting engine to provide features such as dynamic formatting of report values, drilldown reports, and more flexible types of output.
Another extensibility feature Stonefield Query takes advantage of is IntelliSense at runtime. Stonefield Query supports client-side scripting through its Configuration Utility. This powerful feature allows developers, system integrators, or technical users to override or enhance the behavior of Stonefield Query to suit their needs. With Visual FoxPro 9.0, scripting is much easier because the complete Stonefield Query object model is available through IntelliSense. “With its extendible IntelliSense engine, Visual FoxPro 9.0 allows us to greatly improve developer productivity. No more checking the documentation to see what properties are available or what parameters to pass to a method; with IntelliSense, that information is presented dynamically right therein the script editor.”
Many of Visual FoxPro 9.0’s new features make it much easier to work with database engines such as SQL Server and Oracle. For example, there’s full support for Varchar, Varbinary, and Blob data types. Also, the new CAST() function makes it easy to coerce data into the exact data type and size required for a query. Visual FoxPro 9.0 also has better support for XML coming from a variety of data sources. This feature makes it possible for Stonefield Query to retrieve data from many different types of data sources, including .NET applications, XML web services, and SQL based queries over HTTP.
“We are very excited with the enhancements Microsoft has made in Visual FoxPro 9.0,” adds Hennig. “They make our product easier to use, more powerful, and a lot more flexible than ever before.”