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October 02, 2007

Using TFS and PowerGen to build PowerBuilder

Over 10 years ago, I cut my OO teeth on a language called PowerBuilder. It had a really cool object called the DataWindow which was very similar to .NET's DataGridView class. This was back in the heyday of waterfall, CMM, big hunking fat clients and script based procedural installs as Windows Installer wasn't invented yet. At some point I became the Build/Install lead on a very large military client/server system and I was introduced to a wonderful tool called PowerGen. You see, natively PowerBuilder only had a `project object` for interactivly building your code. There was also an API called ORCA that you could use ( and later OrcaScript ) but that really sucks. PowerGen had a project file, GUI editor and command line interface that turns it all into child's play.

To make a long story short, I thought I was done with PowerBuilder back in 2003. Then I took a job about a year ago that involved Build/Install work for a TFS/.NET SOA system that was headed in the SaaS direction. After taking care of that I was asked to see what could be done with their legacy PowerBuilder system. I was somewhat shocked to see that they were checking PBL's ( PowerBuilder Libraries... large binary source files that consume tons of space, slow down the VSS client and can't be diff'd ). Worse, they had a completly manual build process.

Fortunately PowerGen once again came to the rescue. After a little custom wiring along the lines of going out of process to build a VDPROJ project, I was able to come up with a solution that incorporated TFS and TeamBuild as the source control repository and build platform. I've since contributed a set of sample scripts that should be able to help point other PowerBuilder/TFS users in the right direction.

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