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Microsoft to Open Source FoxPro 172

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the better-than-the-circular-file dept.
rah1420 writes "Microsoft has announced that it will open-source the core portions of the Visual FoxPro DBMS software to its CodePlex community development site. At the same time, Microsoft has announced that it will no longer be making new versions of the FoxPro DBMS."
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Microsoft to Open Source FoxPro

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  • Umm, no. (Score:5, Informative)

    by dudeman2 (88399) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @01:30PM (#18431195) Homepage
    See first comment in the article by a Microsoftie:

    NOTE that the released part is Sedna and NOT VFP nor VFP core elements!

    Sedna is a project Microsoft has been working on for the past year or so. Sedna is built using the extensibility model of VFP9 and provides features like better connectivity to SQL Server, integration with parts of the .NET framework, wrappers for Vista APIs to make it easier to write applications that run on Vista machines, as well as better support for VFP data in Visual Studio.
     
    • Re:Umm, yes (Score:2, Informative)

      Where does it say that in TFA? This is what I see:

      Instead of releasing new versions of FoxPro, Microsoft will release core portions of the FoxPro software to its CodePlex community development site, said Alan Griver, a group manager within the Microsoft Visual Studio team, which leads the FoxPro team.

      and then, later:

      Meanwhile, Microsoft has been working on "Sedna," which is the code name for the project that takes advantage of enhancements in Visual FoxPro 9.0. The primary goal of Sedna is to expand on the ability of Visual FoxPro-based solutions to better integrate with other Microsoft products and technologies, such as Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and Windows Vista.

      No, it really looks like Microsoft is open-sourcing VFP, or at least its core components.

      • Re:Umm, still no (Score:5, Informative)

        by sweatyboatman (457800) <sweatyboatman@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:05PM (#18431859) Homepage Journal
        The article is vague and misleading. Alan Griver (who heads Microsoft's VFP team has been talking alot on his blog about it). Here's the straight-dope [msdn.com]...

        How about open sourcing the core product too?
        We've been asked this for years. That's not going to happen. The main reason is that there is too much intellectual property in the VFP core codebase.


        That seems pretty definitive to me.

        For clarification: Sedna (the stuff that's going into CodePlex) is not now (nor was it ever intended to be) the next version of Visual Foxpro. It's just a set of VFP-based tools intended to help current VFP developers to make better use of new features in Vista/SQL Server/etc...

        Meanwhile, VFP 9 is getting a final service pack and then that's it as far as Microsoft is concerned. There's certainly no plans to open-source the IDE or the VFP engine because, frankly, Microsoft would never do that. Some of the technology (and people) from VFP is going towards the LINQ project, but .NET is still a long way from offering the kind of streamlined data-oriented programming that Foxpro offers.
        • "...There's certainly no plans to open-source the IDE or the VFP engine..."

          Microsoft released their free VFP OLEDB driver last year. It pretty much allows all the .NET, VB, Delphi, VC++, etc. developers to write apps that talk to legacy FP/VFP systems without being tied to the VFP IDE or having to have VFP installed. The VFP OLEDB driver seems to be a huge improvement over the older VFP ODBC driver and (for a Microsoft product) has a rather small footprint.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by killjoe (766577)
          There is an open source project inspired by VFP but based on python. It's called Dabo http://dabodev.com/ [dabodev.com] . Check it out if you are interested in getting on board with something that isn't obselete.
          • And here's what the Dabo people have to say about Microsoft and VFP. Interesting comment that reflects some of the posts here.

            "An incredible, powerful and grossly under-marketed tool for developing database apps that run in Microsoft Windows only. Its cursor engine is second to none in terms of power, speed and utility. VFP is a fully object-oriented language, with the ability to design classes both in visual tools as well as code-only. Despite neglect from Microsoft, which makes more money selling less cap
          • At one time there was software that could translate FoxPro (for DOS) code to C or C++. That would be a good way to transition from old FoxPro programs to something else.

            Does anyone have a link or information?

            (Note that, contrary to what the Slashdot story said, Microsoft is not really releasing any source code of value.)
  • I wonder if this will include the previous ports that ran under Mac and Linux.
  • by wandazulu (265281) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @01:34PM (#18431297)
    Will the Rushmore technology that was so attractive to Microsoft in the first place be included in whatever they release? The way I understand it, Microsoft bought FoxPro from FoxBase to get Rushmore to add to Access 2, and then they wanted to dump FP. Apparently there was such a vocal outcry that they've kept FoxPro going, until now.

    I'm curious because I really want to know what made FoxPro the speed demon it's always purported to be. I read somewhere that it was the first dbase-class database program that used bitmap indexes, but that was contradicted by another article from somewhere else.
    • I was told that one reason that FP was so much faster than access was that the data was separate from the application - as opposed to Access lumping it in one ever growing file.

      That wouldn't explain how it was faster than dBase though...

      • by 70Bang (805280)

        heard ?

        Mind you, I didn't read this in a tabloid. Some of the stories and|or facts may have are as far back as fifteen years ago. Some of it might have been made up in order to make things fit together a bit more.

        IIRC, Access was released on Nov 15, '92: for $99. No one knows how many copies were shelfware, but it was selling as fast as shrinkwrap could be shrinked ;) I'm thinking the (total) number was in excess of 1M within two or three months. Oh, I almost forgot: Access wasn't their first go 'rou
    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:06PM (#18431873) Homepage Journal

      I'm curious because I really want to know what made FoxPro the speed demon it's always purported to be.

      It's not. It may be quick for the common case of a small table (10K lines) on a local drive, but move outside that and it's horrid. FP supports multi-user access by putting the data files on a network drive. If you want to query it, your machine has to read to entire file, throw out the lines it doesn't want, and present the results. My company has about 40 people using the same legacy FP database from a RAID 1+0 system over gigabit ethernet, and it's still hundreds of times slower than running similar queries via SQL to any "real" database.

      Let me put it this way: I wrote a program to export our FP tables to tab-delimited text files and then import those into PostgreSQL. This takes about 25 minutes, and we run it hourly - and it's still worth the pain. Reports altered to query PostgreSQL instead of FP typically see speedups of several hundred times, multiple users can run the same reports simultaneously, and you can actually run the reports over a slow link since only the query and resultsets have to traverse the network instead of the whole table.

      I know this will come across as flamebait, and I'd normally not say this, but anyone who claims that FoxPro is fast is a hobbyist programmer. It's simply not fast by any imaginable standard other than the trivial case of small files on a single user's drive.

      • by k12linux (627320) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:24PM (#18432185)
        FoxPro IS fast or at least was when I used it last. BUT only if you are retrieving limited datasets that are indexed correctly. If your query can use indexed columns to limit the number of records returned you are ok.

        I did the programming on a system which resided on a Netware v4.11 server back around 1993 and it had one table with somewhere around 3 million records. Queries were lightning fast if you didn't match too many rows and the query was optimized to work with your indexes. Queries which couldn't utilize indexes, however, were painfully slow.

        Having said all that, however, I can't think of any legitimate reason to use DBASE style databases these days. With free DB servers like MySQL and PostgreSQL why bother?
        • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:36PM (#18432395) Homepage Journal

          Queries were lightning fast if you didn't match too many rows and the query was optimized to work with your indexes.

          But even indexed queries pale when compared to a "real" database. Since FP is file based - that is, each client has to read the files directly - even the index files have to be transmitted over the network to do those lightning fast queries. At some point you saturate your NIC, and after that all the processing power, RAM, or fast drives in the world won't make it a millisecond faster.

          Compare and contrast with any client/server system, where all those queries are consolidated into one cache shared among all clients, and only the actual requested rows have to be returned. By its inherent architecture, FP simply cannot ever hope to be as fast.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by sutekh137 (173495)
            Let's see... I just did a query against a 1.5 GB table (DBF) that has an index file (CDX) of 240 MB. I did an indexed query that returned 435 records or so, and it did it in 1.11 seconds.

            So, you are mistaken. Either that, or my machine downloaded 240 MB in under a second. Sorry, our network isn't that fast. *smile*

            I don't know much about file servers, but the entire index file does not need to come down. Not sure if that is a boon of the file server or of Foxpro, but I have been fighting that myth for

        • I agree that FoxPro as a DATABASE is obsolete these days, compared to PostgreSQL or even MySQL.

          I think the primary interest in FoxPro these days is its development environment, which was always leagues ahead of dBASE and others, and according to the Dabo people, way ahead of the rest of Microsoft's development environments - at least for application development. I have no idea if this is true since I haven't used any of them lately. I used FoxPro last back in the early nineties.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by nogginthenog (582552)
        If you want to query it, your machine has to read to entire file, throw out the lines it doesn't want, and present the results
        That is incorrect. FoxPro only reads only the data it needs.

        I know this will come across as flamebait, and I'd normally not say this, but anyone who claims that FoxPro is fast is a hobbyist programmer. It's simply not fast by any imaginable standard other than the trivial case of small files on a single user's drive.
        Another lie. I've written FoxPro apps that are used in 100
      • Meh - You want to migrate your database to a twin floppy PC running PCFILE III! ...those were the days. ...ahh CGA PRoN

        Sorry - been a long day!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mplemmons (155099)
      Yup, Visual Foxpro was fast as hell, although IMO the speed topped out around version 3. And not just fast on rinky-dink tables, as long as they were reasonably indexed. Stick the server component of a c/s solution on the same server as where the data resides, and performance was great for tables having over 1M records. It was a good on the "back end" of web servers, for example.

      More than speed though, I enjoyed the data-centric programming language. It was a joy to use and a bunch of functionality coul
    • Microsoft bought Fox to kill FoxPro as it was one of two solid database solutions for MacOS, and it was competition to Access. Within a year of the acquisition, all the Fox developers were on the bench or gone. I remember, 1997?, no one was actively on the project.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @01:36PM (#18431319) Homepage Journal
    I wish all companies would open-source or at least make available free-as-in-beer their obsolete-and-non-competing products. If they can't make it free, then make it $1.

    Except for games, which have a commercial nostalgia market, most software over 10-15 years old wouldn't be commercially viable even if it did run on the latest operating systems.

    I for one would love to fire up Windows 3.1 with a 15 year old copy of Microsoft Word and print to my Postscript printer, just to see how fast it is on my modern PC.
    • by swerk (675797) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @01:52PM (#18431605) Journal
      I heartily agree. I've been bitten many times by abandoned software, Animator Pro on DOS had a sort-of spiritual successor in Animator Studio, but it died there, lost between Windows 3.1 and 95. Blender was nearly lost to a similar fate; fortunately enough money was raised to buy out the source and release it under the GPL.

      Being at the software vendor's mercy for an application's longevity sucks hard, and it's one of the reasons I've been embracing Free and open software so passionately. As long as anyone still cares, the program will live on. Good software shouldn't die. That said, anything related to FoxPro can and should be erased from existance as soon as possible as far as I'm concerned, but surely somebody's happy about this, so good for them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I might be able to feign some interest if they'd open source Jet (db used by Exchange)...

    • Are you sure Exchange uses Jet?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Volante3192 (953645)
      I know Access uses JET, but I haven't run across anything saying Exchange uses it... If they did, I could use eseutil to fix this stupid broken Access mdb I was just told about today instead of the not-working jetcomp.exe tool.

      Apparently ESE stands for Extensible Storage Engine as well...so I'm gonna have to say Exchange doesn't use JET.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Volante3192 (953645)
        Further comments, apparently ESE was meant to succeed the Access JET, but that didn't happen.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extensible_Storage_En gine [wikipedia.org]

        So it's apparently a flavor of JET...but different.

        I could "see" them opening JET Red (Access) in about 10 years, because there are no plans to make it 64 bit, but not JET Blue (ESE/Exchange). That'd open up Exchange and MS wouldn't want to do that.
  • License (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrWGW (964175)
    I don't suppose anyone knows what open source license the software in question was released under? I looked in the article, without success.
    • Microsoft Open Source License: You can look, but you can't touch.
    • Shared Source (Score:5, Informative)

      by argent (18001) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @01:59PM (#18431747) Homepage Journal
      That was the first question that came to mind for me, too.

      The relevant part of the actual announcement on Microsoft's site [microsoft.com] reads "To reiterate, today we are announcing that we are not planning on releasing a VFP 10 and will be releasing the completed Sedna work on CodePlex at no charge. The components written as part of Sedna will be placed in the community for further enhancement as part of our shared source initiative. You can expect to see the Sedna code on CodePlex sometime before the end of summer 2007."

      Shared Source [microsoft.com] is not Open Source.
      • by Kalriath (849904)
        Parent is wrong. The Shared Source license linked to there ONLY applies to those with Windows Source Code access. The licenses you really want to look at are http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sharedsource/l i censingbasics/sharedsourcelicenses.mspx [microsoft.com] - which in two of the three flavours allow modification and redistribution for both commercial and non-commercial use. The Ms-Pl is like a BSD license - essentially "do whatever, we don't care. We also grant you royalty free non-exclusive perpetual rights to
        • by argent (18001)
          Interesting.

          The first two licenses are not GPL-compatible. They're compatible with the BSDL, but supercede it.

          I'm not sure what kind of binary distribution license either permits. They both have a term to the effect that "If you distribute any portion of the software in compiled or object code form, you may only do so under a license that complies with this license." In the case of the Ms-Cl, that seems clear enough, but for the Ms-Pl I'm not sure what this actually means.
      • by CSHARP123 (904951)
        In the Shared Source Initiative there are licenses which are Just windows related. I am not sure they have stated which SSI license they will be using. Refer this link [microsoft.com] for all the different SSI licenses.
        There is a good article about whether SSI is open source or not at this link [newsforge.com]. I am not sure if any of the license underneath SSI is classified as open source or not.
  • license?
  • by burnin1965 (535071) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @01:59PM (#18431743) Homepage
    It would be nice to see Microsoft start to open source (that is with a GPL or equivelant license) at least some of their products. But why FoxPro? This is the same software package which got Microsoft into trouble [foxprohistory.org] over copyrights. I believe all the "intellectual property" issues surrounding FoxPro have long been settled, am I right?

    burnin
  • Crazy (Score:3, Funny)

    by N8F8 (4562) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:01PM (#18431777)
    Between FoxPro and VB it just amazes me that any company can afford to repeatedly crap on it's customers and still survive.
  • Take Note! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:03PM (#18431801)
    Take note, Microsoft has (to appearances, at least, while waiting to see if they provide everything necessary to compile up and run the current FP release) done something good here. Would that all other software companies follow suit with orphaned software.
    • by iPaul (559200)
      Good question. I sometimes wonder what companies are hoping to get out of sitting on a piece of software for years, loosing the source code, and just preventing anyone from getting any use out of it? I actually had an opportunity to convert a fox-pro app to a web app, but the guy that had the app was insane and I would rather swallow my own tongue than deal with him.
  • I guess there is still hope that they will FINALLY open up the code to Bob! I can hardly wait! I'm dizzy with excitement over how I can apply this awesome technology and UI breakthrough in my Vista apps!
  • Micro$oft has stated in the past that if someone is going to pirate an OS, they would prefer it Windows, on the premise that the pirate (Arrrrrr!) could be converted into a paying user. Or at the minimum, allow Micro$oft to count the person as a user to tout how dominant their products.

    So, we have here a product that Micro$oft already had other versions of, and wishes to no longer spend money on. Sooooo, is this yet another way of keeping the world on Micro$oft software? By making the source available, y
  • Irrelevant (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:44PM (#18432501)
    Unfortunately, I would have to say Microsoft's actions are largely irrelevant. FoxPro was fantastic in its hay day but it is a bygone technology. I am not terribly familiar with FoxPro but I would wager, in its present inception, that it does not scale nearly as well as SQL. If the license is GPL or BSD, it could find a new lease on life in UNIX, FreeBSD, and Linux. I could see FoxPro being adapted as an LDAP backend or a configuration backend. But much beyond that, Microsoft is open sourcing FoxPro because there is little or no threat posed as the technology is, as the tag line points out, abandonware.

    Please don't be to harsh when you mod me for this speculation: What if Microsoft open sources this product with a different goal in mind? For instance, maybe M$ is curious to see what new ideas become of their abandonware? Perhaps, the community might give it a new lease on life and re-develop a market for it? Should that happen M$ could close the source again, if the license is not GPL, LGPL, or BSD. Just my thoughts anyway

    • I think we need to give the open source community a bit more credit. I suspect someone much more cleaver than you and I will find a way to use the FoxPro source to create something useful (or at least to make us say, "gee whiz!"). Only time will tell, but we would never have known the potentoinal if the code base was simply abondoned. I welcome this move by MS and applaud them.
  • by kahrytan (913147)

      I think Hell just froze over and a pig flew by my window. Why is Microsoft doing this? Perhaps to sponge off OSS developers then turn around and close source it.
  • DABO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JShadow (192326)
    Well there it is! I worked with VFP starting with version 6, and when version 8 came out the rumors started flying about VFP being discontinued at some point. Microsoft fired back saying that the lack of VFP in Visual Studio didn't mean anything, and they would be continuing development and supporting all the VFP code out there for some time to come. Well, looks like the rumors were right.

    And I really don't care, because when I started hearing those rumors I started searching for a replacement, just in

    • Yeah, somebody else on a previous page referred to it, and I looked it up. It looks interesting.

      The really interesting part is that's cross-platform and supports most of the OSS databases.

      Linux really needs an easy to use "Access killer". Since Dabo supports MySQL and PostgreSQL and there are migration tools from others to migrate Access to OSS databases, this could be a very valuable product.

      I haven't compared it yet to Kexi or the OpenOffice BASE, but if Dabo has the full VFP application development capab
  • I mean if someone admits to using Visual FoxPro they are usually laughed at. I think Visual FoxPro was the software least likely to be installed in the Visual Studio 6.0 and above suite of software.

    I think the DOS version of Visual FoxPro was used to create Nursing software to answer questions about becoming an LPN, but after they moved from DOS to Windows they used something else.

    If Microsoft wants to impress the open source crowd, they need to open source the core of Microsoft Access and release how the M

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