Our first interview of 2006 is with Chuck Edwards. Chuck is a long-time FileMaker user, and is the president of the New York FileMaker Developers' Group. Read on to learn more about Chuck, and to get his first-hand observations about this year's MacWorld conference.
How did you get started in IT?
Good question. I suppose it was while I was attending the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, during my internship with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When the computers went down, our research vessel didn't sail. A ship almost always sails on time, you're only required to wait for a radio officer. I'd done well in computer courses by that point, and realized it might be wise to consider a future shore-side job in computers.
Back at the school, I was voted president of the Academy's computer club. Later, I went on to get my Master's in Computer & Information Systems at Dartmouth. My first job in systems was with J.P. Morgan in New York.
How long have you been using FileMaker, and how did you get started with it?
I've used it since... 1988, I think. Wasn't that Filemaker II? I used it first for an alumni group I was asked to run, later I talked my employer into buying an upgrade for conducting hardware and software inventories for my corporate IT job.
In what ways are you using FileMaker today?
My current projects include a system for placing teachers in private schools, a database for a landscaping business, and enhancing a system tracking donations for a non-profit. I have my own contact and invoicing databases, but they're awful -- the cobbler's children are the last to get shod.
What do you like best about your job?
More so than naming my hours, I suppose I really enjoy seeing clients. Their gratitude sometimes makes me feel I could forgo the pay. Um... probably shouldn't let them read this!
How are you involved in the New York FileMaker Developers' Group?
I'm the president of the group. I've been a member of NYFMP since our first or second meeting, I believe.
What are your favorite new features of FileMaker 8?
There are so many features. You know, despite sitting in so many presentations and briefings, I just found "disable script" last month. It's funny how something like that can be so helpful. Data Viewer's pretty slick. I also appreciate the improved graphics in defining Relationships.
If you could add one new feature to the next version of FileMaker, what would it be?
Hmm. A calendaring function, even though there are other add-ons one can have, would remove the remaining unfavorable comparison I've heard with other apps still around.
What's your favorite tool, plugin, or technique for developing FileMaker databases?
The plug-in I've used most was a Scanner one years ago. And honestly? I'm not using so many these days. "Advanced" is a leap above what we'd had with Filemaker Developer, so maybe I should stick with that. Right now my best tool is a clean sheet of paper and several colors of pencils or pens with the client nearby.
What advice do you have for someone that is just getting started with FileMaker?
Join a developers' or users' group. Even if you can't fathom most of the discussion, you'll catch up by osmosis over time. It'll serve you well for more contacts to bounce ideas off of. Even the most neophyte members can offer useful contributions to the community.
What technology has most changed your life?
I suppose my Palm. I was dragged to the device by a colleague, when I finally got a Palm III. Was soon stymied by having to juggle a mobile phone and PDA separately on the streets of San Francisco -- dropped one and it went sliding down the hill. I decided it was time to get the VisorPhone, or the next smartphone they came out with. I'm now on my third generation of the Treo. Clients and friends find I'm even more useful to have around for directions, recommendations, and such.
You were one of the lucky ones who were able to attend this year's MacWorld. How was it?
I finally missed one last year, so the 2006 one gave me a good perspective. I was amazed at how packed the hall was and how many new exhibitors there were. After an exhaustive run of the hall on day one, I was ready to head off to the opposite hall. Friends thought I was joking, then told me it was only one hall this year. That made the density more understandable. The PC expos are so barren compared to Macworld these days.
Blackberry was there. There were all sorts of cars displayed as "iPod ready". Very strange. On the whole, it was sort of the iPodWorld Expo. That cheap little consumer device has clearly brought a lot more people into the fold, too.
Likewise for the Mac Mini. Who'd have thought we'd see so many car manufacturers showing they're ready to bond with an Apple product? Good design sells.
Any thoughts on the Intel-based Macs?
They look nice. I'd like one, though I'm not buying right away. I'll more actively consider one in the next quarter.
What impact do you think this will have on the Mac community?
After years of trumpeting the superiority of the RISC-based chip, distributing "InSnail Inside" stickers, and some might say we are now being lead into Orwellian newspeak. The new Apple (embracing Intel) ads have an edge of humor, thankfully. Otherwise I'd fear being accused of thoughtcrimes from remembering the war with Oceania.
And that's as a long-standing member of the Apple Consultant Network.
Separately, as a shareholder, I think it'll expand the market share quite measurably. I'm responding to you from Arizona, where I just had an evening with relatives and their rather conservative corporate (no one got fired for buying Microsoft) exec neighbors. An Intel chip makes this laptop brand something they now safely express interest in.
Of course, most weren't aware of the A-I-M (Apple, IBM, Motorola) initiative in steering away from Complex Instruction Set Chips. Motorola was big here.
What impact do you think it will have on the FileMaker community?
A lot of pre-Version 7 folks will finally have to upgrade their Filemaker, if they'll be running on current Apple machines or operating systems. More revenue streams for many folks.
For more information about Chuck and his company, visit his Web site at http://www.ctedwards.com/. And to learn more about the New York FileMaker Developers' Group, visit http://www.nyfmp.org/.