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Q&A with Maryland Access Visual Basic User Group (mAVBug)

Maryland's unofficial state motto is "Fatti maschii, parole femine," which loosely translated means "We love VB." No, I'm kidding of course, it actually means "Manly deeds, womanly words" and refers to the strong but gentle nature of Marylanders. SearchVB visits with Stephen Rosenbach, president of the Maryland Access/Visual Basic User Group for this month's user group interview. The annual celebration of Maryland Day also takes place in March, so get in the Maryland spirit as Stephen explains what mAVBug can offer to Access and Visual Basic developers.

Stephen, I searched the mAVBug Web site for some background information on your group but came up empty. Would you provide our readers with a brief history of mAVBug?
Sure, Brent. You might say mAVBug was born in May 1994 as Central Maryland Access Users Group (CMAUG.) Our first meeting featured a preview of Access 2 just a few days before it was released - pretty exciting stuff for those days!

In those early years, we mixed homegrown show-and-tells with presentations from Microsoft and FMS, Inc., an outstanding supplier of Access and VB utilities.

In mid-'96, we decided to open the group to VB developers, renaming it mAVBug at that time. In the process, our membership has shifted from a mix of Access beginners and power users to mostly VB and Access developers. Why would our readers wish to join mAVBug? Can you list specific ways in which mAVBug membership benefits Visual Basic developers?
The obvious benefit is that mAVBug helps its members keep up with topics that are important to Access and VB developers. Beyond that, anyone who attends a mAVBug meeting has the opportunity to plug into a network of really great people, some of whom are outstanding developers in their own right. Chatting or even just listening to conversations before or after the formal presentation is often a source of invaluable information. How would you describe mAVBug's mission?
I see our mission as threefold: First, there is the typical user group duty of simply being informative - that is, putting new topics, techniques and products in front of our membership.

Second, mAVBug often acts as a matchmaker. We provide a relatively informal (and cheap!) means for employers to find qualified and motivated developers and for developers to find good career opportunities. I can think of several cases where mAVBug had a hand in landing someone a job or even bringing two members together in a partnership. I'm particularly proud of this part of our mission.

Finally, mAVBug provides a way for members to get together socially and have fun! Stephen, I like to ask the folks we interview to walk us through a typical meeting from start to finish. What can our readers expect at a mAVBug meeting?
Our meeting room is open at 6:30 p.m. to allow people to network and socialize before the formal part of the meeting. I case you had to rush over and skip dinner; we always have some nutritious cookies, pretzels and soda [grin].

Then around 7:00 or 7:10 p.m., we call the meeting to order and go over some announcements and bureaucratic stuff. Our main presentation usually starts about 7:15 p.m. and typically goes until 8:30 p.m. or so. Many of our speakers bring door prizes, which we'll raffle off to paid-up members at this time. Many members stay around afterwards to talk to the speaker or just to chat with other members. The facility where we meet has a very nice lounge and bar, so some members repair to the lounge to schmooze over a cola or beer. mAVBug has managed to attract some great presenters. I couldn't help but notice that the meetings over the last six months seem to favor Visual Basic topics, as opposed to MS Access topics. Would it be correct to say mAVBug is focusing more on VB than Access these days?
Well, as the Official Microsoft Access Poster Child for Central Maryland, I have to reluctantly admit that is true [grin]. Although a lot of our "VB" presentations also contain some information useful to our Access-oriented members, the mix has been lopsided lately.

We are trying to address that - for example, we recently had a session on using Access Data Projects (ADPs) with SQL Server. This is a "stealth" technology, in that although it has tremendous potential, there isn't much information available, even from Microsoft. We plan to do a follow-up on ADPs later this year as well as a preview of Access XP. Now explain how mAVBug will be helping prepare its membership to meet each of these key issues.
We've already had two overview presentations this season - one dealing with .Net in general, and one specifically with VB.Net. We plan to continue to feature .Net as it goes through its beta stages and into general release.

Also, we've had some sessions dealing with software development techniques, including one on Extreme Programming ("XP"), a lightweight methodology that looks to be a good match for VB. We'll continue to have sessions on these topics. Briefly tell us what you consider to be the three most important concerns facing Visual Basic developers during 2001, and why.
Microsoft's .Net initiative is, I think, the biggest concern for VB developers in the near future, and it's full of challenges and opportunities. It brings the promise of liberation from "DLL Hell" and simplification of deployment. On the other hand, we'll need to learn and incorporate new language elements and coding practices for our VB development - all at the same time continuing to code in and support VB 6.

In fact, I think .Net is such a big issue that it deserves both the number one and number two slots on this list!

The last concern is a perennial one - software engineering. Because of the very nature of Visual Basic and the need it grew out of, VB developers as a whole have a reputation for not understanding or following good software engineering practices. These practices change over time, and you have to keep up with developments in this field, just as you have to keep up with your other software tools and techniques. Stephen, I've enjoyed our interview. Thank you for taking the time to speak with SearchVB.com. Do you have any last words for our readership? You've got time for one final plug for mAVBug. [grin]
Thank you, Brent. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to talk about mAVBug.

I'd like to tell your readers this fact from my personal experience: I've been involved with mAVBug now for seven years, and I've always gotten much more out of it than I've put in.

If you live or work near us (editor: adjacent to Baltimore-Washington International Airport) and haven't tried mAVBug yet, please come to one of our meetings. I don't want you to miss out on the benefit and enjoyment that I've experienced! FOR MORE INFORMATION:


Maryland Access Visual Basic User Group (mAVBug)

Focus:
Providing a forum for local Microsoft Access and Visual Basic users and developers to meet regularly and become better acquainted with each other, learn from each other, and discover useful products and valuable techniques.

Meeting Location:
Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies
Training and Conference Center
5700 Hammonds Ferry Road
Linthicum Heights, MD 21090

Meeting Date/Time:
2nd Thursday of every month from Sept. through June
Schmoozing and refreshments begin at 6:30
Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. and last about 2 hours

URL: www.mAVBug.org/


About Stephen Rosenbach:

President of Maryland Access/Visual Basic User Group
Senior Programmer/Analyst at Light Industries

Steve Rosenbach worked in the electric power industry for 27 years, first as a mechanical engineer, and later as an information technology analyst and developer. He has also worked as an independent database consultant. Steve is now a Senior Programmer/Analyst with Light Industries (www.lightindustries.com), a software development and network services company in Millersville, MD, where he works with Access, Visual Basic, SQL Server, ASP, and COM+.

Steve discovered Microsoft Access 1.0 just as it came out in late 1992, and claims that the event changed his life. His passion for Microsoft Access led him to co-found the Central Maryland Access Users Group (CMAUG), the forerunner of mAVBug, in 1994. He has contributed articles to Access/Visual Basic Advisor magazine and is a frequent presenter at mAVBug meetings. Steve is an enthusiastic and unshakable supporter of all things Microsoft.

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