MVP Profile – Tony Toews

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TonyToews Between grade 8 and 9 Tony Toews took a free two week course on programming given to local high school students at the local community college. He was hooked. He is a self employed database developer and has been designing and creating business solutions for almost thirty years. He first worked with punched cards but fortunately missed the era of paper tape. Access 1.0 came out in 1992 and he’s been greatly enjoying working in it ever since. Tony has been active in online communities since 1987 with an 80286 running DOS and a 2400 bps modem. Microsoft first recognized Tony as an MVP in 1999.

What does being an MVP mean to you?

This is a tough one. Even if there wasn’t an MVP program I’d still be posting newsgroup answers, posting blog entries and working on my website. It’s very nice to be recognized but practically it hasn’t made a lot of difference in the real world.

If you could ask Steve Ballmer one question about Microsoft, what would it be?

I’ve already asked Bill Gates about keeping NNTP/newsgroup support so that’s good enough for me. Besides I’ve sent Steve Ballmer several emails and have received either a very prompt reply or a long detailed response from a VP responsible for that product.

What do you think the best software ever written was?

Windows. I like Access obviously. But Windows is a massive project. I’m amazed it works as well as it does. An unsung significant part of that though is the Error Reporting and Windows/Microsoft Update. When I first had Windows XP installed on my last laptop I was getting the occasional Blue Screen of Death on boot up. Then I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been getting those for quite a while. I can only assume a service pack or driver update solved the problem.

If you were the manager of Access, what would you change?

I spend most of my time in VBA so I’d make the VBA IDE more efficient for hard core developer types like me. I look at some of the screen shots of the features in Visual Studio and other IDEs with a certain amount of envy.

What are the best features/improvements of Access?

Which version? <smile> Access works and works well. It allows me to give my clients good solutions. That’s the best feature. I haven’t used Access 2007 a lot yet as my clients are still using Access 2003.

What was the last book you read?

Yesterday or last week? I read a lot of books. Non fiction – The Unthinkable - Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—And Why by Amanda Ripley. Fiction - my sister in Sri Lanka introduced me to Jim Butcher so I’m reading Storm Front.

What music CD do you recommend?

I love Gregorian monk chants. Any folk music, classical, some opera or old time country is also good. Oh, what specific music CD? Umm, ok - Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

What makes you a great MVP?

I feel guilty when there is a tough question in the newsgroups that isn’t answered and for which I don’t have an answer. And I feel I should be helping them.

What is in your computer bag?

Laughs. The most important thing is a small 2 cell AA flashlight which will get me out of a dark building if the power goes out. Why, yes I am a paranoid pessimist.

The rest of the stuff is divided into three categories. MVP products received as part of the award gift, Microsoft products and other. The bag is a Swiss Army backpack with the MVP logo on it. Inside are a very nice zipped leather folder and a leather CD case both with the MVP logo on them. Also is a MP3 player with the MVP logo on it. An MVP logoed USB flash drive.

MS Optical mouse and MS fingerprint reader. (I love the MS fingerprint reader as I can log into websites using my fingerprint.) Other includes a small mouse pad, spare batteries for the MP3 player and a keyboard for my Palm.

What is the best thing that has happened since you have become an MVP?

Going to the MVP summits and meeting the folks in the Access product group and especially my fellow MVPs. I’ve gotten to know my fellow MVPs over the years in the newsgroups and it’s great to see them in person.

Larry Linson and I first met on Fidonet in about 1993 or 1994 in an Access echo (equivalent to a newsgroup or forum.) It was a pleasure to meet him in person at a recent summit after about twelve years of electronically running across each other.

What is your motto?

“It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” R. Adm Grace Hopper. I was privileged to hear her speak in the 1980s on the topic of nanoseconds.

Who is your hero?

John Isaak. A long time manager in my twenties while I was learning computer, human, and client relationship skills. And who helped me deal with my father’s illness at the time.

What does success mean to you?

Tough to say. Enjoy myself doing what I love doing for a living. This is one of those nebulous questions that the beauty queens manage to flub up so I’m not sure I want to think about this one too much.

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  • I was randomly chosen to be profiled as the MVP of the month by Microsoft Canada at the beginning of