Keep Threading in Mind

In my interview with Martin he talked a lot about the importance of performance, which is one of the reasons he uses Delphi for his real-time lighting control systems. He said something along the lines that if you are not programming with threading in mind then you are never going to get good performance. That is good advice. Even cell phones have quad-core processors in them these days.

Keep Threading in Mind

 

Delphi includes a great Parallel Programming Library which I really like. There is also the ever popular OmniThreadLibrary. They both make parallel programming much easier. I just learned about a new helper library to make parallel programming even easier.

CocinAsync: A Delphi library to simplify coding and improve performance of asynchronous and multithreaded applications.

It includes a number of different units and helpers. According to Jason Southwell, the developer, he has found a “100 to 150% improvement in performance over equivalent generic container wrapped in a critical section.” So how does it do this? If you look at the page the first thing you see is a brilliant couple helpers: QueueIfInThread & SynchronizeIfInThread.

We all know it is important to make sure certain code is synchronized into the main thread, unfortunately we end up with multiple code paths some and some code could be executed in the main thread via one call, and a background thread in another call. Using this helper only performs the synchronization if the code was called from a background thread.

That is just one of the helper classes included in CocinAsync. Take a look at it and keep threading in mind.

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The Niagara Falls Lighting Episode

Martin SearanckeThis episode is extra special in that it include a case study of the software behind the lights for Niagara Falls. Nick and I spoke with Martin Searancke of Dream Solutions, Ltd. in New Zealand, who is the architect of the Light Factory software used by the Niagara Falls Illumination Board to illuminate Niagara Falls.  After you listen to the podcast you can read the case study write up here.

The software uses both VCL and FireMonkey. The backend control software is written in VCL and the frontend user interface side is written in FireMonkey. It also uses components by Mitov Software, TMS Software, and LMD Innovative.

A few links we mentioned

Here is a little documentary about the new lights at Niagara Falls. It mostly focuses on the hardware side of things, but you can watch it knowing the software comes from your favorite development tools.

Niagara Falls Lighting Software Case Study

Introduction

The decision to upgrade the lighting that illuminates Niagara Falls seems as though it should be the main story but, it’s not. The part of the project we are interested in is the one where the Niagara Falls Illumination Board (NFI) added a requirement to build a more flexible color illumination scheme to replace the old guillotine color-changing scheme that had been in place since 1974. The guillotine color-changing synchro-server mechanical system was to be replaced by a digital color control system and the twenty-one 4000w Xenon lights were to be replaced by 1400 digital-friendly nine-light LED modules in which the LED’s would be multi-color rather than having to place a filter in front of the white light of the Xenons. The LED system of lights would be software controlled from a 22-inch touch screen from over a 2000 foot distance from the falls.

Niagara Falls LEDs Powered by Delphi

The Solution

The technical and engineering challenges to a project of this scope and magnitude were significant right down to the last task of choosing the lighting controller and connecting it with the 1400 LED light modules. The software that drives the system is housed in the controller and is built using Embarcadero’s Delphi Powered by Embarcadero DelphiIntegrated Development Environment (IDE). The FireMonkey (FMX) application development platform is used to create the front end functionality, and the Visual Component Library (VCL) is used for the back-end services. FireMonkey and VCL are both integrated elements of the Delphi IDE.

The lighting controller was a commercially available machine marketed by Philips Strand Lighting as part of their NEO line of lighting consoles.

NEO Console running Martain's software

The existing software code in the NEO lighting console dated back a few years given that the console had been sold commercially before the Niagara Falls lighting project was even considered. The first challenge to overcome was to review the technical and performance requirements needed to accomplish the vision of the NFI and update the FireMonkey and VCL code to meet the required functionality. Then, came the customization of the code to accommodate all the connecting equipment that would drive the LED modules and the end user interface, the 22-inch touchscreen.

The overall objective of the new control console and software code within was not to try and upstage the majestic beauty of the falls but rather to organically enhance visual images of the falls at night when it couldn’t be seen otherwise. So, special effects such as strobing and other awe and wow factors were ignored in favor of techniques such as backlighting the falls to reveal hidden beauty in addition to a penetrating forward color-changing illumination. The results were nothing less than magnificent requiring new software profiles due to the color changing properties of the LED modules. The final result was ten preset modes for each side of the Falls (American and Canadian) encompassing color schemes to match naturally occurring, organic events such as the aurora borealis, sunset, sunrise, waves, and color gradients.

One unique capability that was requested to be programmed into the FireMonkey and VCL code was a user interface the allowed operators to use a touch-sensitive color-picker button on the screen to change scenes instantaneously. The LED lighting modules instantly responsive making these color changes dramatic and inspiring. A mobile interface module and application was created using FireMonkey to allow visitors and tourists to be able to manipulate the solid color palette and see the changes appear right before their eyes.

Conclusion

The Niagara Falls Lighting Project brought to light one of the real values of Embarcadero software. In this case, the Delphi IDE and its integrated parts (FireMonkey and VCL) is life-cycle engineered so that code developed years ago can be updated and reused to create an entirely new, cutting edge capability for new technologies such as LED lighting modules. This fit the Niagara Falls Illumination Board (NFI) requirements perfectly. The design of the system was mandated to done such that in the future, changes and additions can be easily accommodated. Embarcadero and its Delphi IDE proved its worth and was demonstrated to be able to meet future requirements as the Niagara Falls lighting system evolves and new technologies come online.

Niagara Falls Lit by Delphi

Posted in Audio podCast, Cool Apps, FireMonkey, podcast, TMS, VCL | Tagged , | 1 Comment

MVVM-MVC-RAD Architectures with ColumbusEgg4Delphi

Loosely coupled is good. We don’t want our business logic and data access all mixed together, that makes our code harder to maintain. But we all love RAD and being able to create our applications quickly. Drop some components on the form, set some properties and write a little code and we are done! Unfortunately we usually end up with tightly coupled code.

Most architectures I’ve seen for keeping everything separated results in needing to write all the data binding manually. You still get to design your forms with the visual designer, but missing the data binding kind of sucks.

Modern Delphi Architectures

That all changes with Daniele Teti‘s ColumbusEgg4Delphi. It lets you build loosely coupled applications where the business logic, data access and user interface are all kept separately, but you still get to use all those great RAD design tools. Daniele did a Modern Delphi Software Architectures webinar where he introduced ColumbusEgg4Delphi and explained how it works. You can catch the replay here . . . .

The first 10 minutes explains the need for ColumbusEgg4Delphi, then after that he explains how it works and shows a great example and answers questions.

Is ColumbusEgg4Delphi perfect? I don’t know, but it is a huge step in the right direction.

Check out Daniele Teti’s blog and his company site, his MVC framework, as well as his books.

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Advanced HTTP Hacking Webinar Code

You can find all the code from my HTTP webinar in my special HTTP folder.

[Project source code] [YouTube Replay]

This is the script I use to demonstrate HTTP Range requests through Telnet. Just copy and paste each block of code (including the trailing blank line) into a command window and it will run telnet and make the HTTP request. You can view the test file here. Read HTTP Status Codes (including 418), Methods, Headers, and Access Control (CORS).

telnet delphi.org 80
HEAD /http/httptestfile.txt HTTP/1.1
Host: delphi.org
Connection: close
telnet delphi.org 80
GET /http/httptestfile.txt HTTP/1.1
Host: delphi.org
Connection: close
telnet delphi.org 80
GET /http/httptestfile.txt HTTP/1.1
Host: delphi.org
Range: bytes=0-77
Connection: close
telnet delphi.org 80
GET /http/httptestfile.txt HTTP/1.1
Host: delphi.org
Range: bytes=115-154
Connection: close
telnet delphi.org 80
GET /http/httptestfile.txt HTTP/1.1
Host: delphi.org
Range: bytes=78-113
Connection: close
telnet delphi.org 80
GET /http/httptestfile.txt HTTP/1.1
Host: delphi.org	
Range: bytes=115-154,127-127
Connection: close

This last one stopped working because of a change on the web server.

Here are the images. They all are available as both JPG and BMP and are 640×472 in resolution.


original.jpg

blue.jpg

green.jpg

red.jpg

purple.jpg

teal.jpg

yellow.jpg

Here is the code I used to stream all 7 images into one image. HTTPClient is a TNetHTTPClient and HTTPReq is a TNetHTTPRequest on the form. The reason it uses Bitmap images is that they are an uncompressed stream of pixel data, so are easier to recombine into one image.

const
  baseurl: string = 'http://delphi.org/http/';
  files: array[0..5] of string = ('red.bmp','green.bmp','blue.bmp',
    'yellow.bmp','purple.bmp','teal.bmp');

procedure TForm34.Button1Click(Sender: TObject);
var
  resp: IHTTPResponse;
  chunk: Integer;
  mem: TMemoryStream;
  I: Integer;
begin
  resp := HTTPReq.Head(baseurl + 'original.bmp');
  chunk := resp.ContentLength div 12;
  ProgressBar1.Max := resp.ContentLength;
  resp := HTTPReq.Get(baseurl + 'original.bmp');
  mem := TMemoryStream.Create;
  try
    mem.LoadFromStream(resp.ContentStream);
    for I := 5 to 11 do
    begin
      ProgressBar1.Tag := chunk*i;
      if I < 11 then
        httpreq.CustomHeaders['Range'] := 'bytes=' + IntToStr(chunk*i) +'-' + IntToStr(chunk*i+chunk-1)
      else
        httpreq.CustomHeaders['Range'] := 'bytes=' + IntToStr(chunk*i) +'-';
      HTTPReq.MethodString := 'GET';
      button1.Text := files[i mod 6];
      HTTPReq.URL := baseurl + files[i mod 6];
      resp := HTTPReq.Execute();
      mem.Position := chunk*i;
      TMemoryStream(resp.ContentStream).SaveToStream(mem);
    end;
    Image1.Bitmap.LoadFromStream(mem);
  finally
    mem.DisposeOf;
  end;
end;

 

 

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FireDAC MemTable Editing – New in 10.2 Tokyo

One of my favorite new features (beyond Linux) is the ability to edit the data in a TFDMemTable at design time. You could already edit the field defs, to set it up. This makes the TFDMemTable, which was already super flexible and powerful, even more flexible. You can use it to capture some small data at design time and then use visual live bindings or data binding to connect it to visual controls.

Edit TFDMemTable

Holger Flick has a great blog post on the topic too. Here is a video I made with Sarina that shows it in action.

What is your favorite new feature in Tokyo?

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Delphi Tokyo 10.2 Wallpaper

I’ve had a few requests for my Delphi Tokyo 10.2 wallpaper that I made. I found out that while this is a picture of Mt. Fuji in the background, this photo is from the Kyoto side, not the Tokyo side. I got the photo from Pixabay, which is a great free clip art site. They have many more Tokyo, Japan and Mt Fuji themed images if you want to make your own wallpaper.

Delphi Tokyo 10.2 WallpaperI purchased the sunglasses wearing spartan penguin from a different clipart site. The tattoo and scary eyes came from our internal creative team. I forget which one, but I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of him. You can download my Photoshop file for this wallpaper if you want to tweak it.

Here is another collection of logos I put together for the T-Shirt contest. Pixabay also has pictures of speed, power, and success. I especially like this one:

Code Monkey Need BananaWhat terms do you use to describe Delphi, C++Builder, RAD Studio and the new 10.2 release? I’d love to see your wallpapers too!

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Meet HOSOKAWA Jun, our Japan MVP

I wanted to share a little about HOSOKAWA Jun, our Japanese MVP. He blogs at qiita.com/pik and you can follow him on Twitter @pik.

HOSOKAWA Jun and Jim

When I was in Tokyo I got to meet HOSOKAWA Jun. We have a lot of great developers in Japan (and I met a lot of them at the event there), but many of them work at a company that doesn’t allow them to also be an MVP. Luckily Mr. Hosokawa works for SerialGames and they are happy to have him as an MVP.

HOSOKAWA Jun

Don’t let his boyish good looks fool you, he is a senior software developer who started programming with Delphi in University. He’s worked with artificial intelligence and currently has an interest in virtual reality and mixed reality. While I was talking with him at dinner he showed me some components and development tools he’s created to make mobile app development a whole lot easier.

He was involved in the development of the Saitobaru Archaeological Museum of Miyazaki Prefecture BeaconFence powered app too.

Here is a little interview I did with him so you can learn more about him (translated from Japanese)

What I do

I develop applications and games. I use mainly Unity for game development, however I develop tools, components and plugins with Delphi & C/C++.

Recently, I am often doing more innovative development beyond games and applications. For examples, I am developing applications for VR/MR (Virtual Reality / Mixed Reality) devices such as Oculus rift and HoloLens. Also developmenting more technically complex algorithms and libraries.

Where I work

GiGO, a Sega arcade in Akihabara

I work for SERIALGAMES Inc. located in Akihabara, which is a state-of-the-art city of techno pop culture.  We hope to convey cutting-edge excitement by having our headquarters there.  

[Akihabara is a shortening of Akibagahara (“autumn leaf field”) after Akiba, a fire controlling deity. It is nicknamed Akihabara Electric Town (Akihabara Denki Gai). It is considered by many to be an otaku cultural center and a shopping district for video games, anime, manga, and computer goods.]

My background in development

When I was a junior high school student I started programing for the first time using BASIC. I started using Turbo Pascal 5.0 in a high school computer room. It is around this time that I also started working in assembly language and C / C++. When I entered university I studied artificial intelligence and produced evolution simulation of virtual life. I remember that Delphi 1.0 was released around this time, I was absorbed in programming. Of course, my artificial intelligence and other projects were developed in Delphi. Also, like many students, I love games and playing games when not sleeping.

And now, I am at a game production company where I can use state-of-the-art technology with artificial intelligence and virtual life technology.

What sort of development I am interested in

The technology I think that is particularly interesting recently is HoloLens / Windows Mixed Reality. When you can create HoloLens applications in Delphi there will be a lot of great apps.  

What I am excited about in the future

I think mobile devices such as Android and iOS are transitional technologies.

Ten years ago, as we could not imagine the iPhone. New hardware, software, and technology will surely appear in the next decade that we can’t imagine today. And I will be very happy to develop for it with Delphi.

HOSOKAWA Jun

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The Sarina DuPont Self Driving Car Episode

Talking to Sarina DuPont about her role with Embarcadero and the future of RAD Studio and the evolution of technology with automation and self driving cars.

Here are a few links discussed in this episode

[SoundCloud] [Download]

Posted in Audio podCast, podcast | Leave a comment

What’s In a Name and Advocacy Defined

When I started at Embarcadero, David I. asked me what I wanted my title to be. I went with Developer Evangelist since that was David’s title, and then he added Engineer on because of my years as a Software Engineer. I traveled the world and The cool thing is I’ve gotten to contribute a few pieces of code to the best development tool on the planet since joining too, so I made good on the Engineer title.

Lead World Wide Developer Evangelist and Engineer

As a Developer Evangelist I’ve alway described my job as mostly education related. My job is to help developers be awesome by educating them on our tools and the craft of software development. I figure if I can help our developers be awesome then the rest will take care of itself.

I find I am frequently educating both ways though. Sure, I focus on creating educational content for our developers, but also I’ll be in a planning meeting and I bring feedback from all the developers back to the product management and R&D teams.

So I was thinking, Evangelism is kind of a one-way thing. Sure, it is an important part of what I do, but I want to focus more on conversations and the two-way communication. So to that end I am changing my title.

Chief Developer Advocate and Engineer

In my mind Advocacy is a better description of what I do.  I’ll continue to play the Embarcadero Drum like I always have (even before joining Embarcadero) but I’ll also focus on being an advocate for our developer community within Embarcadero. The more I can do to improve that two way communication the better it is for everyone.

Luckily I’m not alone in my advocacy role though. All of our Software Consultants and Support Engineers spend their days talking to you, our community, more than I do. They are regularly bringing your feedback to meetings and making suggestions. Our Product Management team is also out on the front lines, talking to customers and doing what they can to incorporate the needs of developers into our products.

A few other titles that were suggested:

  • Agent of Awesome Developer Technology
  • Master Chief Advocate
  • Geek Guru
  • Developer Rockstar
  • King of the Geeks
  • Top Nerd
  • Community Coordinator
  • He Who is Always Online
  • Mr. Overflowing Inbox

All of which I love, and are fairly accurate (especially the last two).

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Meet the Tokyo Engineers & MVP

I got to sit down with some of the engineers in Tokyo to talk about C++Builder, RAD Studio and Delphi. C++Builder is big in Japan. Maybe even bigger than Delphi (which is saying a lot.) It was great to put faces with the names of these great guys who I’ve only corresponded with over email or social media before.

Aiso-san, Mohri-san & Inoue-san are all software consultant engineers. Aiso-san and Inoue-san where part of the presentation #0315inTokyo with Fujii-san and I. The 4th engineer in the back of the photo below is Kenji Umeda, a support engineer that isn’t on Twitter for me to link to.

Kazutaka Aiso Haruyuki Mohri Kazuhiro INOUE
Kazutaka Aiso Haruyuki Mohri Kazuhiro Inoue
Tokyo Engineers

And here is a picture of Fujii-san and myself . . . . in the back you can see HOSOKAWA Jun, our MVP in Japan.

Fujii-san

Here is a couple better pictures . . .

HOSOKAWA Jun and Me

Including one from when we went to dinner . . . with Fujii-san and Aiso-san.

HOSOKAWA Jun

Here are a few more pictures of our fantastic dinner too, if you are into that sort of thing . . .

Dinner in Tokyo Dinner in Tokyo  Dinner in Tokyo
Dinner in Tokyo Dinner in Tokyo

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