Delphi-Treff interview–In English

I recently did an email interview with Martin Strohal of the Delphi-Treff Team. I got permission to publish the original English version (Since my German is a little rusty…) Delphi XE2 will be published this year. What are the key features of this new release? (Is this the release named "Pulsar"?) Customers will now be able to target Windows 32bit, Windows 64bit, and Mac OSX 32bit. XE2 introduces a new cross-platform GUI-centric, GPU accelerated component framework called, FireMonkey. VCL also received an extensive upgrade with the introduction of Styles. New in XE2 is LiveBindings. This provides a powerful and flexible system that allows binding any kind of data source to any property or properties. The data source can be nearly anything, including other properties. There will be a new framework called FireMonkey. Can you tell us, how FireMonkey works and what’s is job? FireMonkey is designed from the ground up to be cross-platform. It, by design, isolates all platform specifics into an independent platform layer. While FireMonkey extensively uses components, how it actually renders to the GUI is significantly different from VCL. While VCL uses independent, self-contained components that all render using their own techniques or even wrap existing Windows controls, FireMonkey manages the display of content using compositing. This allows for significantly more flexibility in GUI-design. Animation is built into the framework in order to allow very interactive and advanced user interactions. Like animation, filters and transforms are also built in which allow the who UI of portions thereof to be manipulated. For instance, a small modal popup could be displayed and rather than merely disabling the main UI, you could apply a blurring effect to the UI behind the modal popup giving it more depth of field. This blurring effect is applied while compositing the UI and is independent of any rendering of the components/controls. Is FireMonkey a replacement for the VCL or an addition? VCL was first and foremost designed to be a relatively thin wrapper to make Windows programming simpler and more accessible. VCL effectively embraced many Windows programming concepts and made them intrinsic to the framework. This certainly made Windows programming a far more productive and pleasant experience. It also inextricably tied VCL to the Windows platform and all its unique characteristics. We had several goals with FireMonkey. First of all we wanted a framework that allowed for the creation of very rich, interactive, modern UIs. We also wanted a framework that wasn’t hog-tied to a given platform. FireMonkey is not intended as a replacement for VCL; rather it is intended as a whole new way for customers to embrace the emerging market for richer, more interactive desktop applications along with the burgeoning mobile space. If I want to run an existing Delphi application under Mac OS X. Do I have to convert it to FireMonkey first? Will there be a converter? VCL and FireMonkey share common RTL and database components such as dbXpress and DataSnap. While you will not be able to simply recompile your VCL based application for Mac OSX, you will be able to take all your code which exclusively uses the RTL and DB components. As for converters, I know that at the time of this writing there are several third-parties offering VCL->FireMonkey converter products. What are your future plans for FireMonkey? More platforms and mobile. FireMonkey is how we’re keeping relevant in the emerging heterogeneous mobile and desktop platform world currently emerging. Throughout most of the ’90s and early ’00s, the mobile computing space was non-existent or very niche. Apple and the Mac OS were actually in the decline and many weren’t sure they’d be around to see 2000. What a different world we’re in now. The desktop Mac OSX is making significant inroads into the enterprise, and the mobile space is anything by niche. Tying Delphi strictly to the Windows platforms ignores huge opportunities for both Embarcadero and all our Delphi customers, new and old. With FireMonkey, XE2 is positioned to be the only /native/ cross-platform framework that targets both major desktop operating systems and one of the dominant mobile operating systems, iOS. Expect to see FireMonkey become more powerful and even easier to use and target even more mobile platforms in future releases. The applications cross compiled for OS X are native. Is there the new Delphi compiler on duty? And will it be used for "normal" Win32 applications in future? There are three new compilers introduced with XE2. Delphi Windows 64bit, Delphi Mac OSX 32bit, and C++ Mac OSX 32bit. All of these compilers are derived from the existing codebase. They all essentially share the same respective "front-ends", the part of the compiler that translates the source-code into an intermediate form in preparation for generating machine code. The existing 32bit Delphi and 32bit C++ compilers are still very much in business. We have some research projects in progress for targeting even more platforms and CPU architectures. If new compiler: Is the new compiler fully downwards compatible? Or are there some functions abandoned? For XE2, the current compilers were employed in order to ensure maximum backward compatibility. Looking to the future, we’re currently researching new directions for both a compiler architecture which allows for quicker targeting of new architectures and looking at adding more advanced, and even more modern language features. This may mean eschewing some older features of the language. Are there some new Features in Delphi XE2 for people who will only develop VCL-Win32-Applications? As evidenced by XE2, VCL is still very much a key part of the product. With the addition of Styles, the programmer can take their existing VCL based applications and update and modernize the look and feel by using the new Style engine. The third-party component support remains one of, if not the best for all independent development tools on the market. VCL is still the fastest and easiest way to develop*Windows* applications. Also, with XE2 and now being able to target 64bit Windows, most VCL applications can now be merely recompiled for 64bit, subject to the normal 32bit->64bit caveats. Will there be a new Starter edition again? And do you have any plans for a free Delphi (for getting more new blood in the Delphi community)? Starter edition is very much a key part of our product line. When you compare the price point of the Starter edition taking account of inflation with the price of the original Turbo Pascal coupled with the vastly superior capabilities of Starter compare to Turbo Pascal, I think you get far more value than the price. We also have very competitive offerings for the educational markets, where one can get nearly 80-90% off of all the products. As for a free edition, we’re always looking at ways to grow the community base without the potential for harming our existing, very strong and growing market. At this point we feel that the Starter edition provides a good balance of price, capabilities and value. Starter is positioned directly at the new customer by including features that most new customers would need right away to in order to both learn the environment and begin to develop commercial applications. Share This | Email this page to a friend
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Flotsam and Jetsam #46

  • I will be speaking this year at CodeRage 6.  I’m giving two talks, one on Dependency Injection, and one on Unit Testing.  Please attend.  I think my talks in particular will be really good.  But maybe not as good as all the other stuff you can learn there
  • Are you aware of the fact that FireMonkey, RAD Studio, and Delphi all have spanking new pages on Facebook?  I wasn’t.  And they do.
  • Holy crap!  Allen Bauer is alive!
  • I’ve been trying to write some more example applications for the Delphi Spring Framework, and so I was researching the Factory Pattern to see if I could find a good illustration to build an example for (TFoo and TBar can only take you so far….) and I ran across a nice article on MSDN that describes it nicely.  It actually has a nice example of a “Computer Factory”, and I’ll likely riff of that to create a “real world” example of a physical object.  But the part that caught my notice, and caused me to write this entry was a quote at the beginning:  “When was the last time someone asked the designers of the Empire State building to add ten new floors at the bottom, put a pool on the top, and have all of this done before Monday morning?” And the answer, of course, is “never”.    Anyway, it just was another data point in my ongoing contention that software developers are not engineers. 
  • This is a pretty amazing and thorough tutorial on LiveBindings.  Live Bindings is one of those cool features that I need to learn about and that appears to be cool now, with the potential to get a lot cooler in the future.

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DSharp Bindings vs LiveBindings

I think it's finally time to compare these two things and see which one may fit you better. This is my point of view that may not be completely objective.When I noticed that there was actually no language support for LiveBindings I was very disappointed. I think without language support you cannot create anything that works much different from how DSharp Bindings work. And actually LiveBindings don't. I could not just change the VCL source code so I had so come up with some "hack" (using the interceptor pattern by including the VCLControls unit that subclasses the supported VCL controls). Of course the guys at Embarcadero had the power to change the VCL classes and that is why they implemented the observer pattern into TComponent I guess. Did you notice that is not that easy to connect simple TObject descendants with LiveBindings? Another thing is that you cannot just connect your Edit to some other component, set up the binding and it works. You still have to write code into your OnChange event because the observer only is activated when you use TBindLink. And this will usually set your edit to read only unless the SourceComponent implements some specific interface. I am very sure the whole BindLink part of the LiveBindings was only for enabling data sensitive controls for FireMonkey (something I have not looked much at yet).In my opinion for simple bindings like displaying some address or customer Data the point goes to DSharp. It "just works" instead of having to write extra code which should not be required because that's the purpose of bindings.So what about more complex data like displaying a list of objects in a grid? DSharp does not support any grids yet but it got support for listview, treeview and the virtual treeview. Supporting the stringgrid is on the list and will definitely come. How does it work? Well you just connect your list to the view property of the supported control and you specify a data template that needs to be written in delphi. In fact it turns out to be a bit more complex sometimes. When using the virtual treeview and the treeview presenter you want to specify the columns and then you can bind these columns to the properties of your objects in the list. Have you tried yet to bind a list to some listview or stringgrid using LiveBindings? I have and I failed. To be honest I gave up very quick because this was just so cumbersome and required several string based expressions. Did I mention that the documentation on the new features in XE2 especially LiveBindings sucks? Well yeah my documentation does as well, but I don't have a documentation team working for me, right?Again DSharp Bindings are focused on doing simple things very easily without locking you out when you want to do more complex things. LiveBindings are very unintuitive to use. I think this point also goes to DSharp.What about connecting your dataset to some controls? This is something I haven't done since ages (except when working with a grid) but this is where LiveBindings got their power - as I said earlier I think their major task is doing exactly this. Unfortunately the designtime support for this is only enabled in FireMonkey but in VCL you have the DB controls anyway. DSharp just does not support this. I have thought about implementing it but I don't see the point. If you want to use datasets just use db controls which have been working for ages. In FireMonkey you just connect your edit to a field with a few clicks.Point for LiveBindings.As you may know there is some expression engine sitting below the LiveBindings that can do some nice things like calculating, concatenate strings and much more. There are built-in functions that can be used (like UpperCase, Round or FormatDateTime). I am happy to tell you that DSharp got an integration with DWS just yesterday. So you can basically use everything that DWS can do in your bindings. From making your text capital letters to doing complex calculations or even evaluating business rules if you like. Since DWS is a real scripting engine you have way more power than the LiveBindings expression engine..I am very sure with this latest addition this point goes to DSharp.If you don't trust open source because it may not be continued in the future or does not give you the feeling of safety you may use LiveBindings. Also LiveBindings are ahead regarding designtime support - even if it is kind of cumbersome setting them up sometimes.For being the "official solution" LiveBindings deserve this point.So the final score is 3 to 2 for DSharp in my opinion. Again I have not been digging through tons of samples and documentation and since Embarcadero always just shows tons of fancy stuff in FireMonkey, other platforms and so on the documentation on this feature is not very present. I like simple solutions to simple problems. I totally hate full blown over-engineered solutions that are a pain to use in your daily business. And I have the feeling LiveBindings are over-engineered and not well designed. Otherwise they would be easy to use like throwing an edit and a button and the form and make them work, right?If you like using data bindings in any Delphi 2010 or newer you should definitely take a look at DSharp. Also there is much more in it than just data bindings.
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October 17-19, 2011 – 3 day Delphi XE2 Seminar in Oslo

In 4 weeks from now (Oct 17-19, 2011), I'll be doing an in-depth Delphi XE2 seminar in Lillestrøm (Oslo), Norway, covering new features like 64-bit Windows development, cross-platform development for Windows, Mac OS X and iOS using the new FireMonkey GUI framework and LiveBindings, enhancements in DataSnap, IntraWeb and much more. See for more information or for the overview of the topics I'll be covering in these three days.
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RAD just keeps on growing!

Yes, this is my first blog posting since I joined Embarcadero in early 2009 (way too long!), and I’m thrilled to talk about our just launched RAD Studio XE2 release.  How this release happened and what the future holds is a very exciting story, let me tell you more.  The enthusiastic reception of Embarcadero Technologies’ RAD Studio XE2 makes it the fastest selling Delphi release in years. Its marketplace acceptance is due in large part to increased R&D investments that are generating both sales and market growth records. Embarcadero has increased R&D investment in Delphi/C++ every year since acquisition from Borland, and has been a key driver in our sales growth each year. XE2 was no exception, with the largest R&D investment increase to date, benefitting from double digit growth in R&D …  in people, technology, and team acquisitions. But we are not stopping here.  There are many new exciting things in our roadmap, so we are again increasing our investments in Delphi/C++ to support our current and future releases. Embarcadero is a global company, and over the next six months we are increasing our investment, this time adding to our 70 member Delphi/C++ R&D teams by 25% to support our current and future releases. To focus our resources appropriately and reorganize for high growth, much of these increases will be in our European development centers.  This means some positions will be transferred among our four development facilities.  In fact, we have tripled the size of our office space in Spain to accommodate this growth.  Our Spain center has more than a decade of IDE experience and innovation and will be supported by the US team.  In the US, we are funding new platform compiler/debugger initiatives, initially for iOS, Android, and other platforms, and are also expanding and accelerating our next-generation compiler initiatives for C++ and Delphi. We will continue investing in our development capabilities to deliver to our customers the best tools in the industry. Tony de la Lama Senior Vice President, R&D
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Gateway Ticketing Needs Developers

My company, Gateway Ticketing, is hiring. Things are going really well, and we need to expand what we are doing. We are looking for developers -- Delphi developers specifically, but we are mostly interested in smart people that know what they are doing when developing high-quality software.  We love Delphi and C#, but in the end, those are just languages and we know that it doesn’t ultimately matter what tool you know, but whether you really know how to write clean code. We also need Automated Test Engineers who want to help enhance our products  to be the highest quality software in the business. Here are some reasons why you should consider working for Gateway: We are a great place to work.  I love it here.  That this is a great place to work was so obvious to me that I moved my whole family clear across the country to join this team.  We are serious about being serious about software development.  We aren’t messing around here.  While we have a large legacy code base, we are all about doing the right thing the right way with the right tools.  We insist on unit tests for your code.  We insist that you keep up with the latest innovations in writing code.  We insist that you view coding the same way that Rembrandt viewed painting.   We are not messing around here. We love Delphi, and we live and  breathe it here.  We are doing cool things like using the Delphi Spring Framework and other fun stuff. We use C# and ASP.NET for our eCommerce solution and all the cool stuff that goes along with that. We are located in beautiful Boyertown, Pennsylvania.  This a great place to live and raise a family.  We are close to everything but have that great small town feel.  I love living here, and you will too. Our customers are some of the greatest and most fun places on earth.  We sell systems to the largest amusement parks, zoos, water parks, and museums all over the world.  This is a cool industry.  Who doesn’t love a good amusement park? Okay, look – everyone says they want to hire “rock-star developers”.  Shoot, even we do it.  That’s all well and good, but the bottom line is that we are setting our standards really high.  And if doing that scares people off, well so be it.  We don’t want people who are scared off by high standards.  We want people who are looking for places with high standards.  We expect and demand your very best – anything less and you should find a job writing VB code. We really are creating a world-class place to build software, and we want folks like you to be a part of it.  You are up for that, right? Relocation assistance is available. And of course, here are the obligatory caveats.  We are definitely looking for people to live and work here in the Eastern Pennsylvania/Greater Philadelphia area.  We aren’t currently considering remote workers.  Naturally, you must be eligible to work in the United States We can sponsor H1B visas.  We don’t care where you are from or who your parents were or what color your dog is or anything like that.  We are really only interested in what you can do.  And of course, we want you to know what we can do for you, too. If that sounds like something good to you, please contact me.
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Flotsam and Jetsam #43

  • Is your currency the Euro?  Well, now you can buy your RAD Studio from the inestimable and indefatigable Dr. Bob.  Bob has expanded his reach of dedication to the product and the customer to the entire Eurozone.
  • You guys know that I don’t think that Simon Stuart is really human.  Instead, I think he is some kind of android, sent here from the future to code something (in Delphi) that we need to save the world, and he’s just biding his time writing things for us in the Delphi community.   Simon has produced a prodigious amount of cool stuff for us Delphi developers, and is a tireless community member.   It doesn’t seem like too much to ask to help him release Lua4Delphi before Christmas.  I made a modest donation.
  • We homeschool our kids, and my wife came to me showing me the stuff for the starting school year.  It presented an interesting choice:  All things being equal, should our kids spend their time learning to write cursive, or to touch type?  I voted for touch typing.  It occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything more than a note on a ToDo list. I almost never write letters or anything involving using a pen or a pencil for extended periods.  And even when I do, I don’t write in cursive.  But I’ll tell you what – I type A LOT.  (I’m doing it right now!)  Anyway, I guess we’ll have to put cursive writing up there with reading the newspaper.  I mean who does that anymore?  I realize that we could do both, but that would mean giving up something else, and I see the two as similar enough that we should choose between the two. 
  • The TIOBE Index is out for September, and Delphi comes in a #13 with three down arrows.  Interestingly, though, if you put “Delphi” and “Pascal” together, they are in the Top 10.
  • Embarrassed that I Didn’t Know it was There Class of the Week: TAggregatedObject – very cool little class

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