Saturday, August 5, 2017

Why My Next Software Product Will Be Windows VCL Only

I started this blog back in 2009 as I slowly emerged from a severe case of burn-out. From that first day I've been consistently saying I'm working on an update to one of my software products. And I'm still saying that today. I'm like the Rip Van Winkle of Delphi programming. I basically dropped off the face of the Delphi coding world, woke up from an 8 year technology nap, and have been in a learning fog ever since.

I have been procrastinating at every turn, about every tool, and every methodology. The bottom-line is... I can't make a decision. Check out this common theme among some of my posts going back quite some time.

How do you get past the Analysis to Paralysis when working on a new project?
https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/155621/

What is The Best Database for Delphi Desktop Applications that Supports Stored Procedures?
https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1619887/

I Took A Little Walk-About - But I'm Back (Shit or get of the pot)
http://capecodgunny.blogspot.com/2011/08/i-took-little-walk-about-but-im-back.html

Last week I heard about Warren Buffett's 25-5 Rule.  I've never heard it put quite that way before. Anyway, it got me to change my attitude about decision making.

For example:

Should the new release of my Zilch software be Windows?
Windows and Mac?
Windows, Mac, iOS, Android?
What about the Web version?

ENOUGH!

I'm going Windows VCL Only! Period. I made the decision and it's final. Making decisions is so liberating.

  • I am the most proficient with Delphi VCL.
  • I have a distribution channel and payment gateway for Windows already in-place. 
  • I have 25 years worth of Windows customers I can market my software upgrade to.
  • I can use the current development tool chain I already have.

2017 is the 25th anniversary of my original product launch. I need to get busy working on the things that matter most and ignoring everything else if I hope to get it released this year.

I don't care if the Warren Buffett story is true or not. It's a good thing. I encourage all of you to have a look at it.

Cheers!

Semper Fi,
Gunny Mike





Error: Cannot Restore Form State--No TRzRegIniFile Component Specified

It's been a while since I fired up Delphi, about three months. And you know, it's true what they say "If you don't use it you loose it". I love my Raize Components now called Konopka VCL Controls, they make a lot of things very easy. For example, automatically remembering the size and position of form windows. I've used this dozens of times. It's a no-brainer.

So today, I was playing around with the DBGrid, trying different things. I created a new project with a Form and a Data Module. Added a lookup field to the grid. Just having fun and experimenting with stuff. One of the things I wanted to do but haven't got around to yet, was save the column widths of the grid after they've been resized. I find it annoying always having to resize the columns every time a program runs. That will be for another day.

Anyway, I decided I wanted to start by saving the state of the Main form window, just like I've done in the past. Drop a RzRegIniFile component on the Data Module. Drop an RzFormState component on the Main form. Set the RzFormState.RegIniFile property to the DM.RzRegIniFile component. And Voila... Done! Right!

NOT!

I kept getting the following error: "Cannot Restore Form State--No TRzRegIniFile Component Specified".



I'm going back and forth like a madman, checking things on the Data Module and the Main form. I tried dropping and re-adding the components. Nope. I started googling the error... nothing. Then it hits me. It's got to be a timing thing.

Yup! I opened the source file for the project and sure as shit, the Data Module was being created after the Main form.
begin
  Application.Initialize;
  Application.MainFormOnTaskbar := True;
  Application.CreateForm(TForm4, Form4);
  Application.CreateForm(TDataModule5, DataModule5);
  Application.Run;
end.
I moved the creation of the Data Model before the Main form and bingo... works like a champ!
begin
  Application.Initialize;
  Application.MainFormOnTaskbar := True;
  Application.CreateForm(TDataModule5, DataModule5);
  Application.CreateForm(TForm4, Form4);
  Application.Run;
end.
I'm amazed how quickly I lost sight of this little detail. I was only away from Delphi for maybe three months. Gee Whiz.

Enjoy!

Semper Fi,
Gunny Mike

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Program to an Interface and not an Implementation

I have been struggling with trying to understand what it means to "Program to an interface and not an implementation." Nick Hodges said if he could teach new developers one thing it would be "program to an abstraction, not an implementation". This is the same thing. (https://goo.gl/GVbaoU)

So I asked Hodges to explain this to me. Instead of trying to regurgitate some sort of answer that might come up short of what I was looking for, he sent me a link to a fascinating thread on StackOverflow (https://goo.gl/PNq7bY). This really is a great read. After reading it I was close to understanding but still not getting all of it.

I have recently started reading Head First Design Patterns by Eric Freeman & Elisabeth Robson. This book does an absolutely fantastic job of describing the GoF design Patterns that Uncle Bob so bluntly told me I need to understand. To be quite honest, I never would have bought this book solely based on the cover. (Not buying this book would have been a mistake.)



Amazon: https://goo.gl/MVybeZ

On page 11 of Head First Design Patterns they point out Design Principal #2: "Program to an interface and not an implementation." They do an excellent job of explaining what this means. My ability to understand what they mean... "Not so much". This is even after reading page 11 three times and reading the entire SO link Hodges sent me.

Why am I so dim?
How come everyone else gets it but me?

Ah ha, it hits me.

Each Delphi Unit has an Interface section and an Implementation section. In Delphi these sections are like Public Scratch Paper and Private Scratch Paper. (https://goo.gl/B7U5RR) All Delphi noobs are taught to stick stuff in the Interface section that you want to share with other units and stick stuff in the Implementation section that you don't want other units to have access to.

That is NOT what it means to "Program to an Interface and not an Implementation."

I had to unlearn what I had known about Interface and Implementation because of my 25+ years of Turbo Pascal/Delphi. And relearn that there are different meanings associated with Interface and Implementation. Sometimes it takes the light bulb a long time to go on

My end goal in all of this "new learning" is to understand Dependency Injection and how to put DI to use when I design/redesign software. I'm slowly getting there. Delphi's Interface and Implementation sections have different usage and meaning than the OOP Design Principle: Program to an interface not an implementation.

So, what does it mean to "Program to an interface and not an implementation"?

You have to figure this out on your own. I'm not trying to be a smart ass here. Once you get it, you'll get it. Asking someone for a quick 5 minute explanation won't do it. You'll have to dig and keep trying until it makes sense for you. In learning this concept some people use widgets. Some use sprockets. Some use ducks. I like chess.

Think about the simplest piece in a chess game. The Pawn.

What's the same about every pawn?
What's different about each pawn?
If you forget about color, how many different pawns are there? 8, 1, 3, 4 ?
What about the pawn to the far-left?
What about the pawn to the far-right?
What about the pawn that reaches the last row?
How many different moves does a pawn have?
Do all pawns have the same moves?

Trying to understand what it means to "Program to an interface and not an implementation" requires a different way of thinking.

Here is my completely oversimplified chess example:
+--------------------------------+
| PawnMovement (Interface)       |
+--------------------------------+

+--------------------------------+
| PawnMovementImplementations    |
+--------------------------------+
ForwardOne 
ForwardTwo
AttackLeft
AttackRight
EnPassant

So to me learning how to "Program to an interface and not an implementation" means making sure your pawn has movement not what the pawn's movement is.

Think this:
Pawn1.PawnMovement.ForwardOne
Pawn1.PawnMovement.ForwardTwo
Pawn1.PawnMovement.AttackRight
Pawn1.PawnMovement.EnPassant

Don't Think this:
Pawn1.ForwardOne
Pawn1.ForwardTwo
Pawn1.AttackRight
Pawn1.EnPassant

Enjoy!

Semper Fi,
Gunny Mike

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gunny Meets Uncle Bob - Part 1

The last few days have been very interesting. It started when my friend Jon Aasenden posted a link to a you tube video called "SOLID Principles of Object Oriented & Agile Design" by some guy named Uncle Bob. This wasn't the first time I heard about Uncle Bob. Nick Hodges made a reference to something called SOLID in his book which is supposedly Uncle Bob's principles of object oriented design.

I bought Nick Hodges book "Coding in Delphi" over two years ago. I actually bought two copies. My first purchase was the printed edition. I went back and purchased the pdf version a couple months later after I decided I didn't want to type the examples if I could cut and paste them.

Anyway, I made it to page 28 and no further. I had a mental block about something and never worked through it. It's been sitting on my bookshelf unopened for over two years. It's amazing how fast time goes by. I have since learned that Nick has two more books. "More Coding in Delphi" and "dependency injection in delphi".

So after watching the Uncle Bob's video I decided to buy three of his books; "Clean Code", "The Clean Coder" and the yet to be released "The Clean Architecture".

I came home from work yesterday and "The Clean Coder" had been delivered. I was so excited. I couldn't wait to read Chapter 1.

BOOM!

I haven't felt this inadequate in a long time. Thank you Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin. In less than twenty pages you humbled this US Marine.

I went on Facebook and whined about how inadequate Martin made me feel. To my surprise a couple of highly respected friends mentioned they too had felt the same way after reading his stuff.  That was a little comforting but I still felt like crap.

According to Martin I'm supposed to give my employer 40 hours a week and then spend another 20 hours a week on my career. Learning, reading, practicing.

I'm also supposed to understand and describe the 24 patterns in the Gang of Four (GOF) book plus have a working knowledge of many of the patterns in the POSA books.

I scrambled around and googled for the 24 GOF patterns. Found a clean, concise 8-10 page pdf. Read it real quick. Check - That's done. I'll do the POSA stuff tomorrow. It's late. I'm tired. I'm going to bed.

Day Two:

I woke up this morning a little early because I had to pee. I came back to bed and tried to fall back to sleep. But I couldn't get Martin and what he said out of my head. I kept thinking, "I haven't got time for all this crap, I need to learn Dependency Injection. That's what started this whole thing anyway."

Then it hit me.

I started thinking about chess, and how Jimmy O'hara used to kick my ass every time we played chess back when we were both twelve years old. That was forty-six years ago. He'd take my queen within the first four to five minutes. Oh did I get pissed when that happened. I now had to play without my strongest piece.

Then I thought. Wow, chess was a really complicated game. It took a long time to learn how to move them 16 different pieces around. Wait a minute there aren't really 16 different pieces there are only 6 different pieces. I spent a lot of time learning how those 6 pieces moved.

Then it dawned on me.

If I want to be good at my craft I have to identify the chess pieces of my craft and learn how to move them. Wait a minute. Didn't Martin just tell me last night that I need to understand the 24 GOF patterns. He did. Aren't those the chess pieces of my craft? They are.

How can I expect to be good at my craft if I only give a casual glance at the chess pieces I need to use in my craft. I can't. Bingo.

Then it hit me again.

What about the POSA books and those designs?

I like to play golf. I started playing golf when I was twelve. Yup forty-six years ago. Learning golf was hard and it took a long time to get good at it and to learn how to use of each club. Hey wait a minute. I see a pattern here. Why can't I treat the patterns in the POSA books like golf clubs. If I want to be good at my craft I have to learn what each club does and how and when to use each one of them.

But wait there more. What about SOLID? Hey Gunny, how do you reconcile SOLID like you did using chess for GOF and golf for POSA?

JJDIDTIEBUCKLE The twelve leadership traits.

I spent twenty years in the Marine Corps. It's all about leadership and leadership traits. I lived, breathed, taught, and honed those twelve traits. I need to do the same thing with SOLID.

This works for me. You need to find a way to make it work for you.

Gang of Four Patterns = Chess
POSA Patterns = Golf
SOLID = JJDIDTIEBUCKLE

This journey I'm taking with Uncle Bob is not in the least a passive journey. If I want to fully embrace my craft (software development) I need to dedicate myself to it the same way I did for chess, golf, and leadership within the Marine Corps.

Time to strap it on.

Enjoy!

Semper Fi,
Gunny Mike








Saturday, March 25, 2017

Google, Mobile, and You. Are You Good?

I put my Delphi development on hold a few months ago so I could work on creating a responsive website for my software. The hardest part for me was trying to find a layout I was happy with. I took a little inspiration from the Embarcadero Communty website. I settled on a Bootstrap 9 X 3 layout. And now it's done and I can move on.

It's only been a couple days but I have already seen a 300% increase in traffic to my website.

Dave Collins from Software Promotions has put together a 5 minute video that talks about Google's big shift toward mobile first indexing. I strongly encourage you to watch this video. Mobile-friendly isn’t necessarily mobile-friendly

I'm just an Independent Software Deveopler like many of you. I felt compelled to share what I have learned over the past three months. We all love Delphi and the opportunities it gives us to create software and apps. You can have the best software or app out there but if people can't find it, it's not a good thing. Don't let this happen.

I look forward to getting back at it. It feels good to know thay my development efforts will have a fighting chance.

Semper Fi,
Gunny Mike
zilchworks.com