Outsourcing

A friend of mine recently suggested I check out ODesk and Freelancer as a way to market my Delphi skills. I tried to sign up on ODesk once and they have you take this so-called “proficiency test”. It seemed to me like a bunch of “trick questions” designed by folks more interested in your “hacking” skills than whether you understand programming design and efficiency. About 1/3 of the way through, I quit and sent a nasty email to their support desk. I haven’t been able to login since then.

There’s a small middle-tier php app I’ve been trying to get developed since August of last year.
It’s not all that complicated, in my mind. Continue reading

I’m an Embarcadero MVP!

I was recently nominated to become a member of Embarcadero’s MVP program (click here for more info), and was invited to join last week! WOO HOO! It’s truly an honor to be recognized for the technical chops I’ve developed around Delphi  — I’ve been working with it since it was released nearly 20 years ago now. In fact, Delphi’s 20-year birthday is coming up on Valentie’s Day next month. Continue reading

Uber, Lyft, and Market Disruptions

To make a little extra money, I decided to check out Uber and Lyft, a couple of ride-sharing services here in Phoenix. I’ve been driving for Uber since the beginning of September, and Lyft since the beginning of October. Overall, I spend about 20 hours driving each week and typically pull in over $400 net (after they take out their 20% commissions).

I find these services fascinating on several levels. Continue reading

Apple Refresh Cycles

About 18 months ago I bought a “fully-loaded” MacBook Pro from the Apple Refurb store. It’s a 15″ retina mid-2012 model with 16GB RAM, 768GB SSD, and a 2.7 GHz quad-core i7 chip. It kicks ass!

I was wandering around Fry’s Electronics the other day, which I don’t do as much as I used to, and I noticed there are lots of these “4k” monitors starting to appear. Their prices aren’t very good, typically over $500 still. But I was curious how many 4k monitors my “fully-loaded” MacBook Pro can handle.

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The New Apple Watch — What’s The Big Deal?

Someone posted a rant on FB about why companies like Apple insist on focusing their might on such trivial and non-essential products like the Watch that they just announced yesterday (9/9). There are two contexts this person is missing, IMHO.

First of all, when the economy takes a nose-dive and average disposable income drops significantly, you might as well be asking why cosmetics and gadgets targeting people’s egos takes less of a hit than things you might consider more significant to peoples’ basic survival instincts? Apple seems to thrive in such an environment. So what? Ego-driven marketing is a huge business.

A better question to ask is Continue reading

Interacting with Forms in Delphi – Part 4: Initialization Methods

In the previous post, we examined four traditional ways of initializing objects such as forms in Delphi. There are two more approaches we’ll examine that aren’t used as much but result in much less coupling than the others: initialization methods, and call-backs. In this installment we’ll look at the former, and in the next we’ll look at the latter.

Remember that we’re discussing how to initialize objects here, including forms. It’s not always the case that you have data available in an easily accessible database table, so we’re doing this manually, which is not all that uncommon. In fact, I maintained a rather large application a while back that used a NOSQL database where we had to do the data queries outside the forms and pump all of the data into and out of the forms exactly like this, which is where I got the inspiration for this series of articles. In that code, I found virtually all of these approaches used to interact with their forms; there was not a lot of consistency throughout the project. (Actually, this is all leading somewhere inasmuch as I hope to present a simplified way of interacting with forms that can reduce the amount of “plumbing” code required to get data in and out of them.)

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Interacting with Forms in Delphi – Part 3: Initializing Forms

In the last post we started discussing selection forms and I stopped at the point where we were encountered a dilemma: the form is constructed with the form.Create() method but there’s data that’s not loaded into it yet. So how do you get the data into the form?

I’d like to take a slight detour for a minute and discuss something called dependency injection.  Wikipedia defines dependency injection thusly:

Dependency injection is a software design pattern in which one or more dependencies (or services) are injected, or passed by reference, into a dependent object (or client) and are made part of the client’s state.

Any time you need to pass data into an object, it represents this design pattern. Some folks might quibble about whether the dependencies can only be “services”, or whether they need to be “passed by reference”. For this discussion, it doesn’t really matter — the point is, you have some data (fields, objects, or services) that needs to be injected into the object (a TForm in this case) and it affects the state of that object. When a form opens and you want the user to be looking at a bunch of fields already populated with data to select from, that is the initial state of the form.

So the question is, what’s the proper way of interacting with the form so it is initialized properly when the user sees it? Let’s look at our options within the context of the dependency injection pattern. Continue reading

Chrome Extension: The Great Suspender

Anybody who uses Google’s Chrome browser needs to download this extension NOW: The Great Suspender. As you can see below, they tout how it reduces the memory footprint of Chrome. I don’t care about that. What it REALLY DOES is tells hidden tabs to STFU!

If you’ve got pages open that have lots of ads and flash crapola on them, they just keep going and going and going … they suck the life out of your CPU and nobody is even watching them!

When this extension “suspends” a page, it’s as if the browser window is closed and replaced by a simple screenshot. It’s not always a good screenshot, which is fine by me. The point is, the page effectively goes to sleep once it’s suspended. All you have to do is click it and it reloads.

Also, if you’ve ever had a bunch of Chrome windows open with lots of tabs on them, and your machine crashes, when you re-open Chrome there’s a button that say it was shut-down prematurely and asks if you want to reload all of the pages. If you click it, it can totally swamp your machine for several minutes while it’s reloading everything.

With this extension active, the suspended pages are all reloaded in a fraction of a second. So restoring a bunch of Chrome windows and tabs happens very quickly.

This plugin is a Godsend if you work with tons of open windows and tabs in Chrome. Seriously. Get it. It’s free,too!

BTW … DOES ANYBODY KNOW OF A SIMILAR EXTENSION FOR SAFARI?

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Interacting with Forms in Delphi – Part 2: Selection Forms

This is the second part of a series I’m doing on the topic of interacting with forms in Delphi. This time we’re going to focus on a particular kind of form that I’ll call the “Selection Form”.

BACKGROUND

There are tons of simple selection forms that we encounter on most programs today: font selectors, brush selectors, date selectors, directory and file selectors, etc. The most common ones have standardized representations that become familiar to us fairly quickly, either because they’re a standard part of the operating system, or because the app developer came up with his/her own versions. These aren’t the kinds of selection forms we’re interested in.

The selection forms I’m talking about are used by an application when the programmer needs to find some kind of reference key for locating data for the user, often through a database lookup operation. Databases normally use integers as keys, called “IDs”, and their exact values are irrelevant. All you know is that any given ID lets you find one specific record.

So as a programmer, when you’re presented with a situation where you need to find a database record by ID and you don’t know what it is, you … ask the user. This is typically done with a selection form. They’re also called “lookup forms”. They’re usually displayed as pop-up forms displayed modally, which means they hold the focus until you close them.

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Interacting with Forms in Delphi – Part 1

This is the first of several articles I expect to write on the topic of (programmatically) interacting with forms in Delphi. This is a look “under the hood” at some stuff that a lot of Delphi Developers take for granted. I’ll survey a variety of approaches I’ve seen in working with forms, some recommendations I’ve got, and hopefully lay the groundwork for a new way to approach dealing with forms. Along the way, we’ll also take a look at how LiveBindings can play a role in this effort as well.

For those who don’t know, Delphi is a programming environment released in 1995 (Valentine’s Day, if I recall correctly).  I’ve been using it ever since. It supports a language called Object Pascal, and it grew out of a very popular compiler called TurboPascal, the product that launched a company known as Borland, Inc., way back in the early days of home computers (back when they still ran MS-DOS).

(You can learn more about Delphi from the Embarcadero website.)

In the last article I posted, I made an effort to describe what the future of programming might be like if we’re to have any kind of quantum leap in the productivity of programmers. The software industry has revolutionized virtually every other field except our own. Today we employ the same edit/compile/debug form of iterative programming that has been used for over 50 years. That has got to change. We need something that’s more designed around dropping little logic blocks on a form and connecting them with lines that represent data flows. And it must be done in a way that allows the resulting diagrams to be executable.

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