Professor Smiley's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
Q1. I've stumbled onto your site by the Yahoo search engine. I would like to find a site where as a programming enthusiast who needs to ask someone now and then can get some answers to specific topics. I've done a lot of practice and reading. I've also made half a dozen visual basic programs. They all work! Except...
When I install one of my programs on other computers, with different screens, or resolution most of the controls show up out of place.
example: Lines, images, labels, textboxes, etc...
I would like to know of a property, or program or procedure that would make my programs come out ok on any computer screen or resolution. Hope you can help me or refer me to a site for help.
Thank you for your help
A. Check out this site
and search for the Olectra Resize control. It will do exactly what you need.
Q2. This is a career question.
I am a 41 year old family guy in the process of making a major career switch.
I have been a project engineer in the medical industry in Florida (I am stuck here for personal reasons for awhile) for the past 5 years and have decided that I want to be a computer programmer. I have decided this based on my previous but limited experience in programming, and the fact that I enjoy the analytical and mathematical aspect of it. This is something that has been missing from my last few jobs.
I have a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and some programming experience only from college and home study (C, Basic and Fortran).
I have been studying Visual Basic 6.0 on my own for several months now and have gotten through a couple books, but I do not want to go back to school again for another degree. I have considered the Microsoft Certification Series (MCSD) and am planning on taking Visual Basic I and II to start the required course sequence.
I do not want to wait 1-1/2 years or whatever to receive a certificate to get a job in the programming field, however.
What is a good way for someone like myself to break into the computer programming field and get some real job experience, so that I can decide what type of programming I will enjoy, and what skills will be a good bet for future opportunities.
A. My standard advice is to take and pass the Microsoft Certification test in Visual Basic. Everything you do should lead to that. Passing that test will certify that you know Visual Basic, and according to the people I talk to, get your foot in the door somewhere.
As far as real job experience, why not do some volunteer work. Contact a local business, and offer to write a VB program for them. Nothing will get you real experience faster.
By the way, I'm not sure that you need the full MCSD.
Q3. I really enjoyed your sneaker projects, do you have anymore that I can look at. I seem to learn more from the code in the projects than I do from the snippets in the books.
A. Professor Smiley has a number of projects available on his Web Site. I just took a quick inventory, and here are the links:
VBFair, 4th Quarter 1999 Projects http://www.johnsmiley.com/vbfair/1999-4/vbfair1999-4.htm
VBFair 1st Quarter 2000 Projects http://www.johnsmiley.com/vbfair/2000-1/vbfair2001-1.htm
Sneaker Project Submissions from my students http://www.johnsmiley.com/sneakers.htm
Fran's Flowers Project Submissions from my students http://www.johnsmiley.com/flowers.htm
Shareware submissions http://www.johnsmiley.com/shareware/shareware.htm
Q4. Can I buy an autographed copy of your books?
A. Yes you can. Follow this link:
Q5. How can I get VB certified?
I am really learning a lot from your book. I am interested in getting certified on VB. What steps would you recommend?
A. VB Certification is not easy---I think beginners tend to underestimate the effort that is involved in becoming certified in Visual Basic. The exam is difficult, and I believe it's a real feather in your cap to get it.
On the other hand, I don't want to discourage anyone--beginners can become certified in Visual Basic, it just takes a plan.
I recommend that you give yourself at least one year of study before attempting to take the Certification test. What should you do during that year?
One roadmap is to read three of my books in this order: Learn to Program with Visual Basic, Learn to Program Objects with Visual Basic and Learn to Program Databases with Visual Basic.
Will this give you all the knowledge you need to get certified?
In theory, you'll have about 60% or so of it---after that, you should pick up a good Certification textbook (I have recommendations for one on my Bootcamp Web Page), and consider joining a study group or Bootcamp in preparation. One other thing to consider is the purchase of Transcender, which is an exam simulation software package that is excellent. I sell it via my Transcender Web Page.
Q6. I noticed on the back cover of your first book published by ActivePath there is a reference to a book titled "Learn to Program VB on the Web" but it is not listed on your home page. Is this one of yours?
A. ActivePath has basically gone out of business. That book, which was planned for the 2nd half of 2000, has not been written. I recommend this Wrox title as a suitable substitute.
Beginning Active Server Pages 3.0
Q7. I am interested in Visual Basic. I am teaching myself VB. Thus far I have designed forms, dialog boxes using the Active x controls. Retrieved components, know how to customize the properties for the controls. Familiar with menu editor, data types, understand the objects and events in the coding window. I truly, truly enjoy what I've learned so far.
I also took a class for my job where VBA was the scripting language for the class. The book that I am teaching myself from is - Jesse Liberty's VB from Scratch, QUE - Bob Donal and Gabriel Oancea authors.
I have been an Administrative Assistant for 17 years now and eager to change my career. I have learned over 20 computer applications throughout My career from working at various companies. I want to be proficient in VB and become a developer or programmer. I find VB quite easy to learn.
I have a few things on mind in order to make this a reality. I would greatly appreciate your opinion.
1.) Continue teaching myself VB and try to find a company that I can volunteer working for in order to get some experience. Would you happen to know of any companies or how I could find out of any companies that would allow a person to volunteer to gain experience in the Los Angeles area where I reside.
You should read my Career articles on
I suggested volunteering to gain experience, and received quite a few negative emails. The bottom line is that I don't know of any companies like that anywhere.
2.) Try to get an entry level VB job (but I'm not sure if I have enough knowledge to get started). Would you happen to know of any companies that will hire someone with my knowledge in the Los Angeles area?
Once again, check out my Career articles on
In them, I mention a company called
It's the only company of its kind anywhere--they may be willing to accept you into their 1 year program--but they're located just outside of Manhattan.
3.) I also would like to know the difference in the titles Visual Basic developer and Visual Basic programmer. When I am searching for a position I'll know which to put down especially when I'm searching the internet.
There really is no difference--just semantics.
4.) I was going to sign up for a beginner VB class at Cal State but the instructor advised me not too because what he was going to cover I already know.
That's the problem with College Courses. Once you get beyond the introductory level, for the most part you're stuck.
Once again, check out my Career articles on
I have quite a bit of advice out there for you---in short, get certified! See Question #5 above.
Q8. What is the difference between the Working Model of VB and the Learning Edition?
A. The Working Model of VB, supplied with my Learn to Program book, allows you to create a Standard.EXE project--but not to generate an executable for distribution.
The Learning Edition comes with a compiler and the Package and Deployment wizard which allows you to distribute your program in the form of a setup program.
Q9. What is the difference between the Learning Edition and the Professional Editions of VB?
A. The Professional Edition comes with a bunch more controls--although the basic functionality is the same.
Q10. What is the difference between the Learning Edition and the Professional Editions of VB?
You have some good experience under your belt already.
2.) I wonder if IM ready to take the boot camp?
What you didn't mention was pure VB skills. VBA is great--and your SQL and Oracle is a great skill to have also---but the Bootcamp does presume that you have some VB experience. Your success in the Bootcamp will be dependent upon those skills.
3.) I have an extreme passion for computers and programming in general. All of my current VB knowledge and VBA knowledge comes from being self-taught.
Nothing wrong with self-taught--that's how I learned, and how most of my fellow consultants learn.
4.) But I question if my knowledge is good enough to learn what I need to, to take the exam and further my career in VB.
Since your goal seems to be certification, visit my Certification page
and start by downloading a sample exam from Microsoft. This will give you an idea as to whether your current skill set puts you in the ballpark for passing the exam.
5.) If this is not the ideal choice for me and I need to expand my knowledge of VB more in detail I ask where?
I suspect that the Bootcamp (or at least the Certification process) is your next logical step. From what I hear, it sounds to me as though you have the proper background for the Bootcamp.
6.) I see that your are a professor and it appears you teach at Penn State. I'm guessing the Abington campus. Are the classes there ideal for me? IM
That's right, I teach at the Abington campus of Penn State.
We have some VB courses there--Intro, Intermediate, Objects and Databases. However, I suspect that you may be able to pick up the skills necessary to take you to the Certification level on your own.
Since you know you want a tech career, concentrate on getting the Tech Skills.
7.) Do you suggest taking any classes at a community college and maybe obtaining one of those programming certifications?
I think with your experience that a Community College is not necessarily going to advance you--and I'm not a big believer in Programming Certifications. You have a job, you have some skills---a Certificate isn't going to do a lot for you.
8.) Or maybe there is an online teaching that would better suit me.
The problem with Online training is that you may not be able to find the courses you need to increase your skill set. We have some good courses at the venues for which I teach
but I think it's most important to determine what you need to learn. Go to my certification web site and download the sample test.
Better yet, consider purchasing a Transcender simulation test for the VB Desktop Exam. I can offer that to you at a discount if you wish by following this link:
Q11. I'm considering the MCSD track and would appreciate any tips that you might have for an MS Excel expert with 2+ years of solid experience.
A. Sounds like you're in good shape. VB Programmer with backgrounds in Excel usually do well in their VB studies. I would start by pursuing the VB6 Desktop Examination---depending upon your background, it may be a year before you're ready to take the exam, or it may be shorter because of your Excel experience. Of course, my bootcamp
is something I would recommend. Once you've passed that exam, you need 3 other exams for the MCSD (personally, at that point, I'm not sure I would go any further).
Check my Certification Page for more information on the exams and the MCSD track
Q12. I am in the process of writing a Project and have ideas on three others. I believe I have a good understanding of VB6 (all down to you), but I struggle with the logic of the language. I know what I want to achieve, but I find it difficult to put this into Code.
What can you suggest? Is there a Reference Book available either by your good self or any other author?
A. I think the problem you're describing is pretty common---starting a program may be the most difficult part of all. Please realize that you don't have to hit the nail on the head the first time around. There's plenty of experimentation and iteration that goes into writing a program--I still do it all the time. Practice and experience will help there.
As I indicate in my books, start with the user interface first. Try to figure out what, if any, controls you need, place them on the form, and then fill in any code.
If what is causing you the problem is determining what code to write--that's a different story. If you know what you want to do, but don't know how (or if it's even possible in VB), that can be frustrating.
For instance, last year I needed to be able to determine the user id of a user logged into a Novell network. VB has no way of doing this. I thought of the Windows API--finally went out to the Novell web site and they had a control out there (for free!) which when placed on a form retrieved the user id---that took me about two days of research to find.
Start with the VB6 library (Programmer's Guide, Language Reference)---I have a link to these on my books page
I've been really confused lately about my future.
I'm 18 years old and I feel that by the time I graduate with a 4 year degree in computer
programming that I may already be obsolete.
So many get-taught-quick-make-it-rich-now computer programming certificate programs seem to good to be true to me, and I have always been taught that when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I've completed 1.5 years of college already and I have taken only 1 course in computer programming, Intro to VB 5.0. I've been interested in programming since I took QBASIC in 11th grade and I've always been at the head of my class with it.
My question for you is: Should I attempt to complete a certificate course while I am attending a Junior College/University so that I can perhaps get an entry-mid level job while I am still in college or should I just concentrate on school and not worry about the state of computer jobs until I graduate?
I know that questions like this cannot always be answered on a personal basis but as of right now I have not received a single bit of help on all these questions I have except for your website, and I figured that you have probably run across this question several times but I just don't know what to do.
A. That's a great question, and you've basically answered it yourself.
Believe it or not, I had this very same discussion in Amsterdam last summer at the Microsoft TechEd Conference. That is, how are students of 4 year traditional curriculums expected to compete with students who have elected not to attend college, but have gone through a training program and are now certified.
On a fundamental level, my feeling is that colleges and universities need to ensure that a Computer Science Major has been saturated with computer courses during their four years---personally, I'd like to see at least half of the college credits devoted to the major, with a lot less elective courses permitted to count towards the degree.
I've taught students who have just completed their last programming class in their Sophomore year---and therefore have two years to go without being required to take a single programming course. This situation is even worse with evening students, who could spend the last four years of their average ten year evening degree without a programming course.
Your suggestion to pursue a Certificate while still in school is an excellent one---in fact, I've had students do that, and spend their last year or so in school 'moonlighting' and programming on the side. Many of them landed jobs with employers through these 'side' jobs---some in fact, were making more money programming on the side than some of their professors.
I know that Microsoft is trying to help out with this problem at academic institutions also. I'm going to pass your email onto one of my Microsoft contacts, and see what advice they may have for you. But for now, follow your own good advice---learn VB, C++, Java on your own if you need to---and take and pass as many Certification exams as you can.
I was web surfing today, and looking into some computer programming courses, (Visual Basic). 6 months ago I took the first 3 courses for
Microsoft's MCSE course, and don't see any future in it without a 4yr college education. However I do have an
Associates degree in Electronic Enginerring from a tech
school. And 4 yrs NAVY. My question is, do you have to take C++ nowadays, or start in
Visual Basic first. And get a real job as a programmer. When I
look in the help wanted adds, I rarely see networking jobs, but plenty of programming jobs.
A. My advice would be to take Visual Basic. For the money, you can't beat ZDU (now SmartPlanet).
Check out my ZDU site for more information.
Then, if you want to pursue programming further, take C++.
However, I'm of the opinion that you can get a job with just VB, and passing the VB Certification test. Passing the test gives you the Microsoft Certified Professional Status, which may be enough to get your foot in the door. In my business, results are what matters. I like to see people pursue the College Degree for the many benefits it gives you, but there's no reason you can't be pulling in good money working as a programmer while you do it.
I know you're very busy, but I'm
kind of in a bind for guidance and really need your help. I am currently a registered nurse who is burned out on
nursing. I love spending time on my computer and feel I would like to get into the computer field as a new career. I have talked to my brother who is
a computer analyst about whether I should enroll at a major college and pursue a second degree in computer science or if taking courses like your
class at ZDU would help me land a programming job.
I want to write computer software (gaming software) as well as develop healthcare related software. Would you please nudge me in the right direction. Your help is greatly appreciated.
A. I've had quite a few nursing students in my classes who are in the same boat ---and are now pursuing high tech careers in computers. To me, your backgrounds and likes seems a perfect fit.
Many of my nursing students are hired by Health Systems company in my area either to do programming or Systems Analysis---so I think you're a perfect fit.
Taking a ZDU (now SmartPlanet) course is a quick way to get your foot in the door of the programming world, particularly if you pass the Microsoft Certification Exam in Visual Basic. Once you're hired doing work you enjoy again, pursuing a second degree in MIS would be a good idea.
John, can you give me an idea of what types of courses I should concentrate on for a Database Management career?
I have taken classes on Access 97 and SQL. The SQL was through ZDU and just touched on it. I have a meeting with our IT Director to help plan a career path for me. Any suggestions would be great.
A. This question isn't quite as easy to answer as some of the others I've received. And it's influenced by whether you are currently employed in an IT position or not. If you are, then it's just a matter of taking a few courses in the Database package your company is using, plus some others. If you are not currently employed in IT, then my answer is drastically different.
Many years ago, I was a mainframe Database Administrator---and I really got that job because no one else wanted it.
Database Administration jobs are difficult to get---it's the old Catch 22 that employers want experience before they'll hire you---but how do you get the experience to begin with. Obviously, if your employer is willing to consider you for such a position, that's great.
You can check my Education Web Site
for some thoughts on courses that a prospective Database Administrator should take---C++, SQL for sure, some courses
on Oracle, Access, or SQL Server. Some of these courses are available cheaply (i.e. through ZDU), and others are more expensive.
Let's start by agreeing that in today's market, you'll probably be administering either an Oracle Database, SQL Server or some others. Get started on getting certified in those Databases. Both Oracle and Microsoft have programs leading to certification. Like all certifications, getting certified can get your foot in the door.
John, I was wondering, along with
Visual Basic, what other courses or tutorials would be helpful? I've taken tutorials in Excel and Access, but I also saw
HTML mentioned in some posts.
A. Try not to spread yourself too thin.
Learning VB, at this stage, should be your primary concern. After you feel comfortable with VB, I would take a course in SQL and HTML. SQL will be helpful with future VB work. And HTML seems to be valuable no matter what you are doing.
At that point, you'll need to re-examine your situation and decide where your IT career is going.
Right now, my hot technology list includes
I want to pursue a career in programming with VB. But every company wants 2 or 3 years experience.
The old catch 22---How do you get experience?
A. Several of my readers/students have programmed for nothing--- i.e. volunteer work.
You'd be amazed at the excellent experience you can get (be sure to hold
onto the rights to market and distribute the book), plus you can take the code with you to interviews. Remember, it's not so much the number of years that counts when
you go to the interview, it's convincing the person doing the hiring that you can "hit the ground running." You can do that with 0 years of paid experience.
A couple of people I recall programmed some applications for their church, one or two for their employers on their own time, and one for a soup kitchen in Detroit---very successful, and very marketable.
Hello, I am a 33 year old, part-time college junior studying communications.
One year ago, I was offered the position of Assistant to the MIS Director.
With little computer skills, my boss taught me some basic steps so that I could understand the IBM System/36 (the system we currently use). My boss suggested that I change my major and study computers. He said I could get a lot of hands on experience working with computers on my current job. The compliment was great but I lack confidence. It's easy for him to say, he studied engineering plus he has 20 years under his belt.
What type of jobs are available if I studied computers? I want to know what else is available besides programming. I need some suggestions. Can you help?
A. There are many types of computer jobs available besides programming positions, although programming positions are generally the ones that people think of when you say that you work with computers.
Other types of jobs available are:
to name a few.
The school that you are attending should be able to provide you with some guidance on future jobs (or perhaps a faculty member working in the field can).
I'm a new college
student, my major is computer programming. I don't have any background in this field and I'd like to buy a very
useful, easy book
which can help me to learn about logic, Visual Basic. This semester I took logic & SQL
classes, and I'm going to take visual Basic (version 5) and
HTML and ....
But as I mentioned I'd like to learn more to get ready to understand programming better, (especially object-oriented programming like Java), and NOT something related to C or C++ or Cobol or Pascal.
What book do you recommend that I buy?
A. I may be a bit partial, but I think that my Visual Basic book will be best for you---you can check it (and my others books) at
Reviews have been very positive and I use it in my Visual Basic classes at Penn State.
I am contemplating two things:
Give up Visual Basic programming or spend $1500 on training for 6 days. Its not easy. I have purchased your Examples book, How to use Visual Basic 6.0 in full color and How to program Visual Basic 6.0 by Deitel.
I need a book that helps you create a difficult program using everything that Visual Basic has to offer creating the program from the start and going through it to the end.
If you know of a VB Book that is focused only on creating one or two projects but uses everything Visual Basic has to offer please let me know.
A. First, I wouldn't give up VB Programming. I think you are rushing things a bit---you can't learn Visual Basic only from reading books, or from completing a single difficult project---learning takes time and practice.
Secondly, I wouldn't spend $1500 for 6 days of training. That won't give you want you want either.
What you need is real world experience---and if you check this page and other parts of my website, my best advice has always been to do volunteer work to get it. Check out this Web Site for potential volunteer work
I think you'll find it interesting.
As far as books, what you are asking for is something that I envision writing somewhere down the road--but at the moment, I'm not aware of anything out there that does the trick.
The problem with such a book is that it fills a very narrow need---there are lots of books for beginners, some books for advanced programmers, but no real books for the person about to go off to a job interview or start work on Monday.
Another possibility is a VB Programming Contest such as the ones sponsored by
which will give you a chance to go to town, so to speak, with a project of your own.
I am pursuing a career change to VB programming. Currently I am in the Biologics industry with a BA in Biology. I have no professional
experience in programming, but have taken both of your Intro to VB6 programming part 1 and 2 on ZDU. Those classes were a great start in my
learning process. I am also registered for VB6 database programming which commences Nov. 1st.
I have been in the workforce for 3.5 years. I'm not having too much luck starting my career change so far. I've been searching for a entry-level VB job everywhere.
My goal at this point is too get my foot in the door somewhere. Just wondering if you have any advice in helping me out with this.
A. It seems that just about every other question I receive revolves around the same issue: How can I get hired as a programmer if I don't have VB experience?
Courses are a great start. However, the 4th quarter 1999 hiring market is slow, and will be that way until after the Y2K hoopla. Once hiring picks up again, hiring managers still look for people with experience first, followed by people with a Microsoft Certification.
Therefore, my recommendations are these;
1.Take and Pass the Visual Basic Certification Test
2.Somehow get real-world experience, either by writing a dynamite Visual Basic Application for nothing on a voluntary basis or by entering a Visual Basic Programming contest such as the one sponsored by
For those of you I know personally, and whose work I've seen, my personal recommendation can open some doors. But my recommendations are not easy to come by, and in large part begin with asking you your Microsoft Certified Professional Registration Number.
Q23. What happened to your volunteer group---I thought it was a wonderful idea.
A. My volunteer group was a great idea
Unfortunately, nothing seemed to be able to solve the distance problem---people working on a single project that are geographically dispersed have some big hurdles to surmount.
I've read recently about a similar program, however, and I think they're doing a better job of administering the program than I had the time to spend. Check them out at:
Q24. Is there any way to get an IT job without experience? What about Internship programs?
A. That depends greatly on your background--both in IT and what you can bring to the table in terms of business background and experience.
One company that I recently discovered that I think provides great hope to those with no experience is Setfocus
It requires a one year commitment on your part. If you are accepted into their program, you will undergo an intensive 3 month course of study, and then for the next 9 months, you will work as a consultant for Setfocus---working with a senior consultant at companies in and around the New York City area.
Q25. Will you be writing a book on ADO?
A. Right now I'm busy updating my Learn to Program with VB6 for VB.NET. After that, I'll be starting my Java book, and most likely after that, I'll move onto a C# book.
Most publishers these days are not showing much of an interest in what I call 'beginners vertical VB' books--that is, books aimed at beginners that cover advanced topics in my unique style. Because of that, I can't really take the time to produce this kind of book, although I have produced some pretty decent tutorials and lessons that arise out of my bootcamps, particularly my ADO Bootcamp.
For now, that may be the best I can offer.
Q26. Where is Appendix C of your Database book?
A. The ActivePath printing of my book is missing Appendix C. You can either download it or view it on the errata page for my book at:
By the way, all of my books have errata pages---just substitute the ISBN for the book in the URL above and you'll find it.