Calling all PowerBuilder developers… for the first PB12.NET scorecard

If you’re a current or former PB developer, thank you very much for stopping over. ¬†If you aren’t, thank you too, however be aware I’m offering some information, I’m also soliciting it too. ūüôā ¬† I’m sharing my experiences and asking my fellow PB friends for their experiences and thoughts about PB12.NET. ¬†I’ll republish a summary of my comments and those of others. ¬†Comments are open.

I’m not being paid or working for PB or any of the competition this is purely about learning and sharing information. ¬†If you are interested, I’ve posted a new article about my experiences converting an existing PowerBuilder application to Microsoft C Sharp .NET with WCF RIA Services and Silverlight 4. ¬†I was pretty impressed with the results! ¬†If you have a PB application needing conversion to the web let me know, I can offer my services at a very competitive rate for a short time.

Notice the “not being paid” part, when I said that I meant nothing as I am¬†was on the bench between contracts and not earning any money. ¬†Check my about page if you need a talented developer with good communication skills. ¬†In the interest of ¬†full-disclosure¬†I admit receiving compensation from ad revenue (Google Adsense) on this site but you can barely call it revenue at under one dollar per month.

This paragraph was added in Nov 2012, the original article was published Aug 2012: ¬†¬†I have been off the bench for a while and wanted to thank everyone who sent job listings or who referred me. ¬†Also I wanted to update this because the Adsense revenue part has changed, it has been increasing steadily since the article was written from under a dollar a month to over a dollar a day. ¬†This is still very low, and my click through rates are embarrassingly low but at least moving in the right direction. ¬†I have learned a lot about how to maximize ad revenue and at the same time this site has become more popular (thank you for reading). ¬†If you ever wanted to blog for cash or are just interested in the subject I’ve written several articles on Adsense, blogging for cash¬†and a¬†Google Analytics¬†primer.

PB12.NET has had plenty of time in the real world — everyone is wondering was it the magic-bullet or too little, too late

A quick note about me

I’m pretty much the definition of a career PowerBuilder developer. ¬† My career started with mainframe, Cobol, MVS JCL, and CICS but one year after that I moved into PB version 3.0 and have Rich PowerBuilder Developer, Java Developer, WaveMakerbeen¬†working primarily in PB against every major DBMS till now. ¬† PB has been fully object oriented (okay C purists might say, “no multiple-inheritance”, what do I need that for?) with the exception of dataobjects which are too specific GUI/DBMS/Layout and don’t lend themselves to OOP. ¬† The OOP and legendary datawindow are the core features that many of us long-time PB developers would agree are what set it apart from all the competition. ¬†My last real-world experience was with versions’ 10.5, 11 & 11.5 which were rock-solid, ultra powerful client-server development tools. ¬†I wrote a RPG front end using PB10.5 that was the first non-business application and PB (see Mafia Manager)

First Impressions of PB12.NET – by a career PB developer

It doesn’t feel that familiar…

I don’t have any professional PB12.NET experience, but I’ve used the beta, and used the evaluation license on several personal applications. ¬†My first impressions about PB12.Net are that it is significantly different than the classic PB. ¬† This is important because when using the PB12.Net, I feel somewhat out of place, like when using other tools new to me such as Java or some of the Microsoft languages.

IF I have to put significant effort into learning, I think I should go with higher probabilities?

Granted there are similarities but things are ¬†different enough and IF I’m going to need to take the time to learn new things I don’t think PB is where I should be investing my time/money, I mean it’s a business decision I have to weigh out the chances of future PB work with other tools no matter how much I love PB. ¬† Learning WPF was new to me, and I love what WPF is and offers, it wasn’t a no-brainer to start making cool WPF applications. ¬†So I caught myself thinking, why not just bite the bullet and download Visual Studio 2010 which is basically free, or free if you get the express edition.

It feels new… buggy new…

I’ve had quite a few crashes of the IDE, which you have to expect considering it was re-written from the ground up, but the crashing was significant enough to hamper my efforts. ¬†For

PowerBuilder Bugs

Dang Bugs

example, I wanted to try converting a website of mine that is built using a popular PHP link manager program and MySQL. ¬† Connecting to the MySQL was something new for me, coming from the corporate environment it was always Oracle, SQL Server, or something corporate. ¬†The MySQL connection wasn’t a problem, but when I created a dataobject from one of the tables (xxx_LINK), it would constantly crash upon previewing or retrieving any of the columns defined of type TEXT, which I believe are like BLOBS in Oracle. ¬†I had to remove all columns of that datatype from the dataobject so that the IDE wouldn’t crash upon previewing data. ¬† This was disappointing and brought back memories of PB3 crashing too often.

I figured/hoped the crashing was just something about MySQL, maybe it’s a crappy database or something compared to what I’m used to. ¬†Well not much later I performed the same effort in converting this web app, but using a brand new, up and coming tool called WaveMaker and low and behold, ¬†I was able to connect to MySQL easier and most importantly was able to import the entire table and all columns with no crashing or hiccup. ¬†WaveMaker would retrieve the data from all datatypes flawlessly. ¬† It was at this moment I began to really second guess where I should be putting my efforts.

It feels like a retrofit

I noticed that when working with new WPF objects that the number of properties in the properties pane is daunting. ¬†It’s like there are tons of attributes for PB, and then those for WPF many of which cover one aspect of the design. ¬†Why are there PB X & Y coordinates and WPF? ¬†Am I misunderstanding? ¬† I realize Sybase had to consider conversion of existing applications into the IDE and because of this there is lots of duplication, and with that comes confusion. ¬†Which am I supposed to use? ¬† ¬†I didn’t expect a learning curve. ¬†I’m a PB loyalist and if I’m thinking this what are others thinking.

The one thing Sybase got right, is that they kept the visual inheritance, giving us something not only mighty Microsoft could offer.  Yes, visual inheritance of WPF windows or visual objects, now THAT is the power we are used to, that with some leg-work will facilitate rapid development using pre-developed tested ancestor code.   This reason alone is one that makes me think about trying to figure the PB.Net questions out.

The price is crazy in days of free or open-source software

This is a sticky one… PB is one of the most expensive programming IDE’s I’ve ever used. ¬†In the day of free software, Sybase is demanding thousands of dollars. ¬†And this program is locked down solid, they’ve done their homework and if you didn’t pay you aren’t going to do anything with that tool. ¬†Bad marketing in my mind, but I’m a programmer so you professional marketers can laugh at me if you want. ¬†I’ll take my money (and clients) elsewhere, little do you know our clients respect our recommendations.

Call me old-fashioned, but does Sybase marketing have a clue?

Old Fashioned?

Old Fashioned?

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve been a PB developer for 20 years, many of the people at Sybase or Powersoft have heard my name. ¬†I mean – I’m the definition of a PB developer and no they don’t owe me anything, but is it too much to ask to make me feel like my opinion matters, or give me more than a 14 day extension on evaluation software?

I have never been good at asking for help. ¬†I don’t like being a bother, my father expected me to do everything myself without help, and when I have to email Sybase marketing for an evaluation extension of PB12, it just sucks. ¬†But then after I do it and am granted a full 14 day extension I am like, what the hell, I might as well not even start anything and I didn’t. ¬†The PB12.exe sits in the corner of my hard-drive all alone.

Are there other companies that value my opinion?

And not to sound like a WaveMaker salesperson, but I mean… all I do is show an interest in WaveMaker and all of the sudden, I feel like a valued customer. ¬† I haven’t even purchased anything yet and I don’t have a job yet I’ve had email conversations with two people in the company including the CEO, who knows how to treat customers or potential customers. ¬†I’ve got Sybase where I have to pull teeth for a 14 day evaluation extension, and WaveMaker asking how they can help me with my project.

Hello Sybase, give WaveMaker a call and see how it is done.

Misc. ramblings about giving up PB

I’ve been spoiled with PB, and there are few features that I have a hard time living without, namely object oriented programming (visual and non) and the datawindow. ¬†WaveMaker has functionality vaguely similar to the datawindow, but once it’s generated you’re kind of on your own.

I like so many other PB developers have such a hard time switching to ANY ¬†tool that doesn’t allow us to easily leverage the advantages of object oriented programming , it’s like back to the future of the Visual Basic days where you’re writing templates and copying windows/blocks of code all over the place.


My PB12.Net experiences aren’t glowing, but I would love to hear from other developers and see if my first impressions are whack.

Please comment, email me, whatever, but let us know your experiences. ¬†I’ll post them verbatim, anonymously, whatever you ask, within reason of course. ¬†If I get enough information I’ll take the time to write up the REAL PB12 scorecard.


Rich (aka DisplacedGuy)

9 Responses

  1. Hi Phylis,

    As Adam so nicely offered, this site is quite simple, it is made with a free open-source product called WordPress.

    If you like the look and feel of this site then follow the link for Prosumer below, it is the theme I’m using. I use the Prosumer theme for this blog and my Orlando blog ( ) and so far it’s my favorite theme. It took a little work to customize the theme.

    If you need someone to help with your blog – I will help you get started and install Prosumer for you along with set it up for you for a very fair price , say $10/hr, a fraction of my last corporate rate. I can do a lot in half a day and can get you set up very nicely in a day.

    Hit me up at rich at
    Take care,

    p.s. Thanks Adam. ūüôā

  2. Perhaps now that Sybase has been bought by SAP things will get better, I think if SAP invest in Powerbuilder rather than ABAP they will have thousands of new developers to work for their clients.

    • I wondered the same thing. It could be a niche that keeps them in the game a while longer for sure. I don’t know enough about ABAP, but the code I’ve seen is pretty bad, reminds me of the old days of COBOL and mainframe coding but that may have been client specific. If ABAP is as bad as I saw then PB would be a major improvement.

  3. (Ignoring 5/7 of the above)
    I find PB 12 to be basically identical to PB 9 in code and functionality. The new datawindows are a plus and the web forms feature is a definite step in the right direction.

    Still incomplete/lost as far as help files go beyond the basics.

    I get the feeling like the boys in the PB department are a little over the heads as far as getting whats needed and wanted in the hands of developers. But as soon as Sybase figures that out they could considerable expand their code into Visual Basic’s realm.

    But I smell a merging/discontinuation coming on. I’m already learning VS and VB anyway. Doesn’t hurt to know both.

    • Thanks for the feedback John.

      You said, “Still incomplete/lost as far as help files go beyond the basics.”

      I couldn’t agree more, the documentation is weak and that is a major negative in my opinion. In the last month I’ve put significant effort into using WaveMaker, PowerBuilder 12, and Visual Studio 2010 (focusing on WCF RIA Services, Silverlight 4 using C# and Entity Framework) and they are all very capable tools but only one stands out when it comes to documentation, help files, samples, and freely available tutorials/videos. Microsoft is years ahead of the competition in both volume and quality of documentation. I’m talking about documentation only here, the underlying technologies are quite different and each has their own strong benefits and weaknesses.

      If you are a developer needing to learn a new skill, and you agree that Microsoft development tools will remain competitive in the marketplace then it is hard to not default to Microsoft development tools because of their extensive documentation. In my humble opinion, Microsoft dominates (beyond comparison) in every category related to documentation. They have extensive help files, robust code editors with amazing intelli-sense, and MSDN. The dot net technologies have matured nicely and in the meantime volumes of documentation has accumulated out on the web in the form of technical blogs, video tutorials, user groups, and sample programs.

      I’m definitely not anti-PB or anything like that it is still an amazing technology. PB still dominates with the datawindow and everything that goes with it… I find myself going back to PB to use the DB Painter and/or Pipeline objects all the time no matter with development tool I’m using. I miss the strong object orientation, namely visual inheritance all the time too. Anyway, I used to be a self proclaimed PB evangelist, but now just developer who sees it as one tool in the arsenal of quality tools available.

  4. While I haven’t had a chance to use yet, I have no desire to.
    Certainly the classic compiler and runtime sucks for a number of reasons;
    – no compiler or runtime optimisations whatsoever
    – lots of missing basic operations, like bitwise ops, string building, replace all…
    – no threading, without jumping through hoops, and even then you often hit buggy poorly tested code.
    – leaky memory management in system functions like RegistryValues
    – slow interpreted byte code, like the early JVM
    – difficult to integrate with other languages
    – basic comp-sci failures, like blobmid passing the source blob by value
    And I can understand Sybase wanting to do something to remain relevant, while leveraging the strengths of their datawindow control.
    But I’ve also felt that PB’s move to .net was a poor choice.
    I would much rather see them rewrite the classic back end to use something like the LLVM compiler framework, either for JIT or ahead of time optimised compilation.
    Actually I’ve worked out enough of the internals that I could hook into the interpreter to run my own JIT. Or pre-compile a class from a pbl into a pbd/dll while looking to PB like PBNI or an internal system class. But I lack the time right now to follow up on these ideas.

  5. […] The Displaced Guy | Calling all PowerBuilder developers… for the … I don't have any professional experience, but I've used the beta, and used the evaluation license on several personal applications. My first impressions about are that it is significantly different than the classic PB This is important because when using Perhaps now that Sybase has been bought by SAP things will get better, I think if SAP invest in Powerbuilder rather than ABAP they will have thousands of new developers to work for their clients. […]

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