A few weeks back there was discussion on Universal Thread requesting that Microsoft make the VFP Runtime a free download from their web site. The argument goes a bit like this:
The VB runtime is distributed to all Windows machines, so are key Visual C and C++ runtimes. The .Net runtime is a free download. Visual Studio Express, MSDE and now SQL 2005 Express are free downloads, so why isn’t the VFP runtime freely distributed by Microsoft?
The main problem appears to be with the VFP EULA in that only licensed copyholders of VFP can distribute the runtimes.
I know I must be talking in ignorance here, but why can’t the EULA be changed?
(I don’t care if the EULA has been that way for over a decade, just change it.)
Basically, the way I see it – Microsoft should charge for its development tools. But, what we build with them should run on their operating systems with minimal effort. In the case of required runtimes, this should be a simple download page on the Microsoft site. Ideally, it will be an (optional) inclusion in Windows Update.
Here’s why I think Microsoft should reconsider its position, and make the VFP runtime freely available:
2. Ease of use
3. Push to VFP9
We build web applications for clients. They are built in ASP.Net and often use VFP COM middle tier objects. We tell the client they need to install the .Net runtime and the VFP runtime on their server, and then install our app.
IT managers understand the .Net runtime since there is a Microsoft link to it, and these days it appears as part of Windows update anyway. But mention the VFP runtime and you are left explaining firstly what it is, and then second assuring them that your installer of it is not going to disrupt their server.
But if we could point to a simple Microsoft download page for the VFP runtimes we’d have a much better story. They’d know it was supported and endorsed by Microsoft.
Ease of use
Here’s a contrived scenario: I get an email from a friend (or potential client) saying ‘Hey, is there anyway I can export my complete Windows Media Player library to an Excel file?’ I say ‘Give me 10 minutes’ I build a quick exe (see here for the 55 lines of code), zip it up and email it back (all 62KB of it here) ‘Try this’ I say ‘… oh, and it also exports to CSV, DBF and XML’
My friend has no idea what I have written it in and simply double clicks the exe. It runs no problem ofcourse (since the VFP runtime was installed as part of a normal Windows update on their machine) and once again VFP has been a great tool.
Push to VFP9
Freely distribute the VFP9 runtimes and you may see a quicker move by existing developers to the latest version of FoxPro.
Ofcourse, there is much to be said (and much has been said) on this topic. A number of big names in the community made great points on UT (I haven’t named them here in case I mis-represent them) so it is obviously a topic of interest. Check out posts around 8 July 2005 on UT if you are interested in a fuller discussion.