yoy.be "Why-o-Why"

Another store from the trenches: GDI vs PDF

2018-07-06 18:31  gdipdf  coding dagboek delphi werk  [permalink]

One of the great things about Delphi is this object-oriented way of manipulating things called the Visual Component Library. There's much more to it than that, but in a sense you could describe it as a wrapper around Windows API's. One of these is GDI, it's old but it's still there and used for graphics and text-layout. It was born, way back when, from the idea of What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) taken even further and that the same program logic could work for display on screen and writing to a printer. Delphi's VCL declares the TCanvas class you can use to design the output, and wether you pass a Printer.Canvas, Screen.Canvas, Form.Canvas or Bitmap.Canvas shouldn't really matter. This works great for forms and reports.

But in the printing business, there's much more than forms and reports to put on paper. Over there the PDF reigns supreme. It performs a similar task, but originated out of a very different set of parameters. A big module we created of the production software at work generates them according to specifications. How this works is very different as the components that make up a PDF document are constructed one by one and this doesn't look like the work you normally would do with a TCanvas instance.

But now and again these two worlds need to bridge over to eachother. One day I had to keep automatic PDF archive copies of some reports, and discovered the great SynPDF project from the same people that created the mORMot framework. It offers a TCanvas instance (TPdfDocumentGDI.VCLCanvas) that you can pass to code that knows what to with a TCanvas reference.  It works great.

I haven't needed to think about crossing the two the other way round, but recently I noticed a collegue did, and he also found a simple straight-forward solution for the problem: You can just ask the PDF reader on the system to render a PDF to a printer. It's as simple as starting a process with:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Acrobat Reader DC\Reader\AcroRd32.exe" /n /t "<document to print>" "<printer name>"


"C:\Program Files (x86)\SumatraPDF\SumatraPDF.exe" -print-to "<printer name>" "<document to print>" 

This works just great and even doesn't add too much code to your program. You may need to include the PDF viewer installer with your installer, but that's a minor issue and perhaps not even required as most people have a PDF reader installed by default.

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Delphi project and subversion: set the build number to revision number

2018-06-09 09:37  dsvnbuild  coding delphi werk  [permalink]

At work, we have a number of interrelated projects in a single subversion repository. We've agreed to change the build number in the project's version properties to the current revision number of your work folder. And specifically not the revision number you might predict your changes will land in when you commit them.

We're currently a rather small team so it may be tempting to assume you'll just get the next revision number, but we stress newcomers to ignore that urge. As long as we're a small team, this works manually, but if we grow we should move over to scripted version resource entries and commit hooks that update the build number automatically.

So with a major and minor version of 2.0 for example, and a release number of 8, the full version could look like "".

This way of working has a number of advantages.

The binaries that get used in production, but exert a bug in their behaviour, show with their full version number (and the previous version number from before the bug occurred) the vicinity of revision numbers that introduced the code change that may lay at the cause of the bug. To get the exact revision number, you need to look up the SVN log (or blame) of the .dof or .dproj file, but it's quite sure it's a number closely above the number in the version. We've stressed second line support personnel to list this number when reporting the bug, which helps when researching reproducibility.

But even long before that, when it happens two (or) more of us inadvertently make changes to the same project, we either started from the same revision number in the work folder and see when comitting that something has to get merged and it does so automatically or we get a merge conflict; or we started from different revision numbers and get a conflict right away or a message that we're over due for an update to or work folder.

As I said we're a small team for the moment and it rarely happens so it saves us an update task with risk of conflict before we commit, and in general we can split the work that needs to be done between us so we shouldn't make changes to the same projects.

Then again, if the team would ever grow to something like really big, we would probably have to switch to something else than subversion, or even repositories per project, who knows...

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GMail: make the labels list compacter

2018-06-08 10:32  GMailLabelsCompacter  coding internet werk  [permalink]

If you remember from before, I have so much labels in GMail that I didn't like that the box to change the labels on a message with, is so small. Stylus to the rescue.

Now there's this new GMail design, and even in compact display, the list of labels on the left doesn' fit my screen. Also I don't like the font the subject line is rendered in. So a bit of inspection later, I add these lines to my overrides:

.z0 {
margin: 0px;
height: 32px;
padding: 0px 0px 0px 64px;
.ha>.hP {
font-family: "PT Sans", sans-serif;
.aim {
height: 18px;
.J-N {
padding: 0px 12px 0px 32px;
padding: 0px 12px 0px 48px;

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AES v1.0.1

2018-05-21 20:18  aes101  coding delphi freeware  [permalink]


I noticed something was wrong with the key generation schedule in my AES implementation. I had a close look with the FIPS 197 example vectors at hand and fixed it. I still should make some time to run it under pressure and see how it relates to reference implementations and popular implementations.

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HTTP+HTML+Delphi authentication (how xxm does it)

2018-04-13 14:26  xxmauth  coding delphi internet freeware  [permalink]

Daraja Framework: HTTP+HTML form-based authentication

Jikes! This is strange. Yes you could go ahead and have a page with a login-form, that posts onto a handler that checks your password, and throws a 401 when it fails. But is that really what you need? I thought 401 is there to elicit the user's HTML-client (a.k.a. browser) to show a modal form asking for a password before re-posting the request. Just like xxm's Basic Authentication demo does, and it does this right at the center of the project, before your request is routed to any page or resource, so that all requests to the project need authentication. Also this way you don't need to code a check IsAuthenticated on every page or resource.

But — again — is this really what you need? The public nowadays doesn't respond well to systematic authentication like that, and also makes it impossible to do anything on the website while not being authenticated (yet). It's better form to welcome new users with a nice 'create new account' button (More about that here.) and perhaps more information on what's on offer, next to the logon form for existing users (with extra options like 'stay logged on on this station' and a 'forgot my password' link). There's an example in xxm's Session demo: The opening page has a log-on form, and Login.xxm does the rest. It doesn't really check user-account and password here as it exceeds the purpose of the demo.

To show you a working demo, you should have a look at tx: It has a central redirect for any page request from a user that should authenticate first; the logon-form with extra options to show users as a normal web-page; checks the entered password agains a properly salted hash and then redirects you to the page you came in for originally...

And there's much more to tell about authenticating users. I've tried to make a list here (it's in Dutch though), and that doesn't even scratch OAuth(2) yet...

Before I forget, did I mention xxm comes under a permissive MIT license? So you don't need to buy a commercial license!

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Do I also need a four-letter-acronym to be cool these days?

2018-03-30 22:47  xx4la  coding delphi internet  [permalink]

→ Reddit: Any drawback to using Wordpress in front of a MERN application?

MERN?! What's that?

MERNMongoDB Express React node.js + Redux WebPack

Oh, I get it! It's one of those four-letter-acronyms that describes your software stack. The first one, and as it happens also the one I started on was:

LAMP: Linux Apache MySQL PHP

But trying things out on my own, I didn't get a hang of that Linux bit. I still blame the folks that sneered me off with "start with typing man man at the prompt". So I got stuck being a


but later regained my poise and sting with

WASP: Windows ASP SQL Server PHP

which worked great for a while, but I moved on. Not quite with the hot and happening new one:

MEAN: MongoDB Express Angular node.js

but closer related to other desktop application work I was doing in Delphi. Having done some raw networking, and some raw HTTP, but also the IIS APIand implemented Internet Explorer's IInternetProtocoland FireFox' nsIHttpChannel (before they chucked XPCOM somewhere after version 3.6 and starting the rapid release schedule), and something something HTTP.SYS, I decided to start something to model all the common bits into one single interface so you could easily switch between implementations and environments. And hot-swap a binary without taking down the webserver/webservice. And do that after an automatic compile when you changed a file and refreshed your browser. And have a mix of HTML and server-side logic into the same files like PHP and ASP (and Cold Fusion...) And still have full response streaming, and not a big hard templating thing churning on a request first before being able to spew out the response in one go... And have a few of the basic things in place to help you with security to prevent malicious requests.

So I created xxm. And websites with it. Such as tx. So I guess I should invent suitable fout-letter-acronyms as well, then:

XIMR: xxm IIS MongoDB (over TMongoWire!)  Redis

XXJP:  xxm xxmHttpAU jQueryUI PostgreSQL

XESVxxm nginX (over SGI) SQLite Vue.js

Hmm, doesn't really sound all that great... Never mind then. I'll just enjoy it if xxm could serve as a solution for anybody in the very small niche of people that do both high-level server-side stuff with Delphi, and high-level dynamic-web-stuff, and want the two closely knit together...

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Best practices for user account management

2018-02-27 11:17  i3036bis  coding internet  [permalink]

Google Cloud Platform Blog: 12 best practices for user account, authorization and password management

Bon, ik moet dringend de lijst die ik hier opgesteld had nog eens bijwerken met de hedendaagse methodieken...

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A thin wrapper around SSPI SChannel.

2017-12-30 22:57  schannel1  coding delphi  [permalink]

I thought, if you already have something that does work over a network socket, can you have it encrypted of a TLS connection? If you search, you van find a lot, mainly using OpenSSL. If you read on a bit, you learn about LibreSSL, but if I understood correctly, Indy can't use that since it needs specially patched DLL's, that are stuck on some old version sadly enough...

But, I always keep searching for the thinnest possible wrapper. If there's a way to carry less bloat, or use an even thinner library, then yes please.

So I thought, Windows by itself, or at least some Microsoft things, make calls to the outside world over a TLS-line from time to time. So there has to be a DLL that does all the work for those. It would be strange if it exists, but it's not opened up. Some more searching leads to the realisation it's this SSPI thing that keeps turning up. There's a thing called SChannel you apparently need, but it's not as easy as just replacing your connect/recv/send calls...

Once there was a time when Microsoft wasn't quite planning to keep the 'network subsystem' to themselves, leaving the option open to get some from a different supplier. (Once there was a time it wasn't the matter of course that networking plays over TCP/IP/Ethernet, but that's another story altogether.) You still see that in the SSPI story. You're supposed to call a central function first to see what's available (by which vendor). Once you've tracked down the DLL you need (secur32.dll), you see it just has all you need right there in the exports table (and even just patches them on through to sspicli.dll, at least since some recent Windows version). So in the hope to have some simplification, I think I have now a basic minimal wrapper around the required calls to make it work, added to the minimal things I had in there to talk to WinSock2:

github TMongoWire commit d2c99a...

I hope this performs as expected, as I still have to put it through some more testing in different conditions, but that'll be for another day. And as the current season would have it, perhaps for another year. If you find anything, feel free to launch github issues or pull requests. Happy New Year.


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DirDiff v2.0.3.512

2017-10-27 00:19  DirDiff512  coding freeware  [permalink]

DirDiff v2.0.3.512

Fixed issue with UTF-8 sensitive characters in ANSI file.
Fixed issue with Ctrl+Shift+Up/Down past start/end of files list.
Enable switching checkboxes on tree view with space key press.

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2017-09-26 10:39  momoa  coding  [permalink]

We've had XML. We've had JSON. There's a thing called YAML. And then there's Protocol Buffers and Thrift and a number of others.

And still, with each there's something is not quite right. So here is yet another proposition, humbly offered for adoption:

Binary. Why binary? Parsing speed matters. There's a belief that binary is not human readable, but:

ASCII control codes. Why ASCII control codes? They're out of use. Except 0x0A (and 0x0D) for new lines and 0x09 for tabs. I've come across a 0x0C and 0x1B when talking to printers, but that's it. And all modern editors know what to do with them. Best case may even be they show them as something foreign, but still they're visibliy right there with the other text.

A list of keys and values. It's tempting to provide structure and clearly indicate which is what, but it's unneccessary. A parser is smart enough to know these come two by two, and to pair them up when handing over to something for processing.

Types of values. A value has a preceding byte denoting what it is, and what rule to follow for the succeeding bytes.

0x02 string: read the string up to the next type byte. If a type byte needs to be actually part of the string, escape it with 0x07

0x03 number:  read a string up to the next type byte and convert it from text notation to something numeric. Depending on the context it may be something specific or variadic. By using the text notation we retain some human readability, and also get an acceptable storage to information ratio (smaller numbers take less bytes)

0x05 boolean true: with nothing more

0x06 boolean false: same as above but with opposite value

0x01 embedded key-value list: treat the following sequence of key-value pairs, delimited by a 0x04 closing type byte, as an embedded list

0x08 array: treat the following as a sequence of values only, delimited by a 0x04 closing type byte

There's no specific type byte assigned to null or undefined, but can be encoded as a single 0x03 without data following it.

Keys are themselves values, typically of type string (0x02). A possible permissible exception in specific contexts may be to encode sparse arrays as an embedded list (0x01) where all keys are of type number (0x03).

And now for a name for it... I know, let's type Jason into IMDB... Sounds nice, and serves as a tribute to the artist. So let the file extension be ".momo" and the MIME type be "application/momoa"

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Why I choose Delphi

2017-08-15 22:49  whydelphi  coding dagboek delphi  [permalink]

Strange, all these Why I choose Delphi articles lately:

Keep them coming! It's good to see it stressed that it's really a myth that there's not enough Delphi talent out there. Rember, Delphi's debugger by itself is so strong, a decent developer should be able to learn both Delphi and an existing code-base that works just by stepping through the code with the debugger and see what it does. Yes, the language is a little verbose; yes, it's perhaps even older than C/C++; but remember, so is COBOL, and I would almost say that's not cross-platform or a systems language, but those just had other meanings back in the days. (Did you know there's Delphi for AS400?)

So, why do I stick with Delphi? The answer is pretty straight-forward (and perhaps a little sad): give me any kind of computing problem, and I'll find a way to tackle it with Delphi. I've done so much different things, and still found a way to get a great system I enjoy working on, and still have a Delphi project that its compiler happily churns into a binary executable that performs really well. Yes, you could do that also in C/C++/Rust/D/Java/(etc.) but I can't, and don't really want to. There are always up-sides and down-sides,  but it feels like with Delphi you don't meet much of any down-sides, and if you do some-one else knows something to do about it.

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Idea: assembly that flags when to release virtual registers

2017-05-31 23:52  asmvrr  coding computers  [permalink]

I just had a fragment of an idea. I want to write it down, just to let it go for now as I've got other things to do, and to be sure I can pick it up later exactly where I left off.

First situating what it's about: I have been reading up on WebAssembly, and to my surprise the intermediate representation is stack based (just like Java's JVM and .Net's CIL). I'm not sure why because it feels to me this makes registry assigning when constructing the effective platform-dependent instructions harder, but I may be wrong. Finding out objectively is a project on it's own, but sits on the pile 'lots of work, little gain'.

I also went through the great set of MIT 6.004 lectures by Chris Terman which really gives you a good view of 'the other side' of real assembly since it's actually born out of designing these processing units built out of silicon circuits. It prompted me to make this play thing, but again pushing that through with a real binary encoding of the instructions made it a 'lots of work, little gain' project, and I really don't have access to any kind of community that routinely handles circuit design, so it stalled there.

Before that, I read something about hyper-threading, and what it's really about. It turns out modern CPU cores actually handle two streams of incoming instructions, have a set of instruction decoding logic for each stream (and perhaps branch prediction), but share a lot of the other stuff, like the L1 cache,  and especially a set of virtual registers that the logical registers the instruction stream thinks it's using is mapped on to. Mapping used registers freely over physical slots makes sense when you're making two (or more?) streams of instructions work, but it's important to know when the value in the register is no longer needed. Also if the register is only needed for just a few instructions, pipelining comes in to play and could speed up processing a great deal. But for now the CPU has to guess about all this.

When playing around with a virtual machine of my own, I instinctively made the stack grow up, since you request just another block of memory, plenty of those, and start filling it from index 0. It shows I haven't really done much effective assembler myself, as most systems have the stack grow down. What's everybody seems to have forgotten is that this is an ugly trick from old days, where you would have (very!) limited memory and use (end of) the same block for the stack, and with more work going on the stack could potentially grow into your data, or even worse your code, producing garbled output or even crashing the system. (Pac-man kill screen comes to mind, although that's technically a range overflow.) Modern systems still have stack growing down, but virtually allocate a bit of the address-space at the start of that stack-data-block to invalid memory, so stack-overflows cause a hardware exception and have the system intervene. It's a great trick for operating system (and compilers alike) to have checks and balances happen at zero cost to performance.

The consensus nowadays is that nobody writes assembler any more. It's important to know about it, it's important to have access to it, but there is so much of it, it's best left to compilers to write it for you. In the best case it may find optimizations for you you didn't even think about yourself. But this works both ways. Someone writes the compiler(s), and need to teach it about all the possible optimizations. I can imagine the CPU's instruction set manual comes in handy, but that's written by someone also, right? I hope these people talk to eachother. Somewhere. Someday. But I guess they do as with x86-64 they've kind of agreed on a single ABI... and they've also added some registers. Knowing about the virtual registers allocation going on behind the scenes, it could be that that was just raising an arbitrarily imposed limit.

So this is where I noticed a gap. When performing all kinds of optimizations and static analysis on the code when compiling, and especially with register allocation, it's already known when a register's value is no longer relevant to future instructions. What if the compiler could encode this into the instruction bits? If I were ever to pick up where I left, and have a try at a binary encoding for a hypothetical processing core, the instruction set would have bits flagging when the data in registers becomes obsolete. Since this would be a new instruction set, and I guess it's more common to need the value in a register only once, I might make it the default that a value in a register becomes obsolete by default, and you'd use a suffix in assembler to denote you want to use the value for something extra later as well.

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Delphi, the shrinking island.

2017-05-09 21:48  delphitrend  coding delphi  [permalink]

Is there a language that has a single word for 'the feeling of being on a shrinking island'? Anyway, this is somewhat sad to see, especially that the few most recent Delphi versions gave the impression there was a new uptake with more people getting persuaded, but it doesn't show in the curve.


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'Relax' scripting vs xxm

2017-04-22 13:12  relaxxxm  coding delphi internet  [permalink]

Delphi Relax Web Scripting (Marco Tech Blog)

I'm sorry but I feel I must react. In general I keep silent, in the hope people by themselves will know better, but as I'm getting no input what-so-ever that that is the case, I feel tempted to write something about this.

First about what's at hand. I see this bit of code:

@foreach (var emp in employee) {
  <li>@emp.FirstName @emp.LastName (@emp.PhoneExt)</li>

and it looks kind-of OK. To the untrained eye it looks good and may even look tempting to write more in this syntax. This is a straight-forward example of a template that works with a templating engine that no doubt has many more capabilities and features. And then I thought, learned from practice, what I typically would get asked is to not show " ()" when the PhoneExt field is empty. I would not know how to make that happen in that template syntax. That's mainly because I know nothing about the template syntax. If I look into the documentation, I might find an @if predicate to make it happen, but let's move on:

This is what it could look like in xxm:

[[!var emp:TEmployee;
foreach emp in FDMemTable1 do
<<li>>=[emp.FirstName,' ',emp.LastName,' (',emp.PhoneExt,')']<</li>>

Looks roughly simlar. A little more like Delphi syntax. And in fact it is. If you know [[, ]], << and >> get translated into Context.SendHTML() and Context.Send() calls behind the scenes (full details are here),  you know this code will result in the same output. Without templating engine! Streamed to the user's client! Perhaps even while the data is streaming in from the database server, in case it's a longer list, and in case there is a database server, Marco uses a memory-table for his example.

What I find important is that there's less going on between the native compiled logic and getting the data to the user launching a request. Not only a templating engine looks superfluous, this entire ORM thing is something I don't get. If it's a gigantic database model with so much tables that you clearly benefit from code-completion, then I agree, but I haven't come across something remotely close to that in web projects.

Also the HTTP-server itself is something I think that values extra attention. I've seen platforms and frameworks that offer you a wealth of capabilities and features, but hastily slapped on something that listens on TCP port for basic HTTP requests, in some cases on port 80, but more often 8080 or something else in the thousands. In real web environments, the server(s) has/have a lot more going on: load-balancing, reverse proxies, firewalling, authentication. Since we're in a Post-Snowden-era nowadays, we're all responsible to think about protecting privacy and get that HTTPS in order with the proper certification and encryption... Not to mention HTTP version 2 that's heading full steam towards being generally accepted/expected.

I can image the web-admin responsible for all that, isn't happy with your request to add this newfangled separate thing that's doing its own handling of HTTP requests. ISAPI DLL's or Apache modules play much nicer with existing IIS or Apache installations. (FastCGI is on the table, but for now xxm has SCGI available for other servers.) Even if your 'Delphi HTTP framework' of choice is specifically designed to tap your ORM of choice and offer a REST-API for your data-layer needs, it will still be one more stop along the way between the user's browser, and the delivery-setup, and the front-end, and the page-template, and the data-layer, and the database, and what the user actually needs or wants. I think of this in the postal office when there's twelve people in the queue in front of me.

I don't expect to convince much people of this way of working, but it works great for me. I remember the days with early PHP and ASP and how simple and straight-forward everything was. Knowing these work on scripting engines, I kept worrying about lost performance. This was the core reason to start xxm: employ the speed and power of the Delphi compiler to have a native library serve my websites. And it turns out that Delphi code looks quite nice between HTML to handle server-side logic, if I may say so. It took me a few years to make this happen, but I couldn't do without it any more. And people kind-of appreciate that for using this new application, all they need is their trusted browser and a URL.

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HTML: label, no more "for" for me!

2017-04-13 22:44  htmllabelfor  coding internet werk  [permalink]

If only I had known sooner! I forgot where I picked this up, but apparently if you put <label> around an <input>, typically of type checkbox or radio, browsers automatically know the label is for that control. Before, I would write my <input id="x"> first, then a <label for="x"> after. To keep code neat, I would put it on a separate line, but the EOL inbetween would not be clickable to actuate the control. This is a really minor issue, but still. Now that I know you can just write this:

<label><input type="checkbox" name="Toggle1" value="1" checked="1" /> Toggle1: clicking text after a checkbox should toggle the checkbox!</label>

Because, there are two kinds of people: those that click the box to switch a checkbox, and those that click the text right of the checbox. You might not even know that you do, but you do don't you. If you're of the latter type, it's just one of those minor frustrations, that a click on the text-label sometimes doesn't do what you expect, and you have to:

  1. first pick up that's this that's going on, possible because you've selected a bit of the text
  2. align your eyes to the checkbox
  3. align the mouse-cursor over the checkbox
  4. click the checkbox, confirming the previous one or more click are actually wasted

But there you have it. Heaven has great UX. Here we need to make do with what we get. (And need to make sure it's the way we like it for those bits that we have control over.)

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A story about two task-keeping-applications.

2017-03-18 17:22  s2tka  coding delphi werk freeware  [permalink]

Let me tell you a story of two task-keeping-applications. Once there was a team that was struggling to keep track of the work it was doing, had done, and still had to do. It was frustrating to work on the team, hard to schedule things, almost impossible to estimate when things where going to get done. And since clients are what they are, changing requirements and additional requests would cause much more disruption than expected of a team that calmly and firmly is determined to deliver the best of market solution.

An internal brainstorming-session about what to do about it, ended in two opposing visions about what decent issue-tracking should be about, and how a system that (co-!)operates with the team members should be structured internally, should behave, and which duties it should perform either by itself, or by effect of using its rules and restrictions correctly as designed.

In an attempt to get to the best solution, two teams were formed to develop each a project based on one of the two views. An evaluation would follow determining a winner, or if would it be possible to synergize the best parts of both into a single system.

A side note: from a managerial point of view this is a very tough decision. Allocating a lot of resources to work on internal structure, takes resources away of the work that brings in revenue, and such undertakings typically risk getting frivolous or spinning out of control. But I guess it's normal that all stop rowing to help keep the boat from sinking. So, apart from being intrinsically aware of the exceptionality of this opportunity, coordinators were given instructions to keep to a strict schedule in these projects and a determined focus on delivering a workable proof-of-concept quick. Sounds like a good work-ethic to apply generally, if you ask me.

A few weeks later progress was made, and the prototypes were already being used to keep track of the issues of these new task-keeping-applications and other projects. The main difference between design visions became apparent soon enough.

One application centered around the list of work items. Care was taken the entry form was extensive enough to have fields for all of the details about a work item, its categorization, its relation to the project, an outline of the projected outcome. An overview would show the current list, possibly filtered for those items assigned to you.

The other application was centered around getting information out of the system, especially structure and relation between items. Users would enter small specific reports, and add them to the best suitable node in a tree-structure, optionally marking relations with other items over branches. The overview showed an expandable structure starting at the root items. It also could have a filter applied, but would potentially show you an entirely different structure of the same data, when using a different relation type.

Having two working prototypes, attention gradually reverted back to the serious work and some of the frustrations of before were abated. After a few months an evaluation was undertaken.

One application had rendered itself useless. The first weeks of usage, a lot of entry happened, but without consensus about categorization, the list was enormous without a clear way of grouping relevant items. Duplicate entries and ambiguous task-descriptions were unresolved, causing confusion.

The other application was doing better. It needed work, but offered a good view of what had to get done.

Enough about the story. Reality, of course, is much more bleak. As no sane manager would make such a shift in resources of a troubled organization, the 'two teams' actually stand for the existing team using an off-the-shelf something badly administered on one side, and on the other side, well, just me, toiling on something potentially better, in my off-time.

I started — like many — with a plain text-file, then a spreadsheet. Then I took the step to design a database for it, but wanted something to do entry and retrieval with roughly the same ease-of-use that a spreadsheet would offer. Working with tree-structures for some other projects, I wanted a single structure to serve as the basis to store data in. Specifically with projects and tasks — as projects tend to have sub-projects, and tasks split into sub-tasks — using branches of a tree would enable to keep this distinction conveniently vague. If you add representation for entities like users and clients into this tree-structure, and relation between nodes over branches, you've got a richness to model much more of the world, and keep track of its changes, past and future.

From there it grew slowly, over years, into what it is now: tx. First versions suffered a notoriously bad interface, but I hope that has improved. For long I was its only user, but some cooperation features have been added since. What's left for me is to keep improving tx where possible, and demonstrating it to people what it's about.

Though entry and structure is important, where a task-keeping-system can really shine is helping to keep an overview. A cleverly designed filter can limit your view to exactly these items that are relevant to you, but in tx you get the additional option of having these items display with exactly those sections of the tree-structure they have in common. Also, I personally feel the most important items on any list, as long as it may be, should be on top. So when tx displays a list of items, they get ordered using their weight, determined by a combination of factors such as task-type and current status. As a task progresses from an active state to a final state, it may move down the list or even fade from view into an archival state.

And there's much, much more I could talk about, but it's all created out of necessity and designed adhering closely to a central vision of what a task-keeping-system should be and what it should be doing for you in order to be able to depend on it.

In conclusion, and for those people that — like me — skip long stories to the last paragraph, it's so very important that information systems succeed at keeping an up-to-date model of reality, and offer you the freedom and easy to update it's view of the world. Especially so with task-keeping software you depend on to keep track of the progress you make with projects, and to help stay on top of what's important. All of that served as the basis for developing tx.

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Am I an "old hand"?

2017-01-18 09:23  oldhand  coding dagboek delphi  [permalink]

Am I becoming an 'old hand'? Every time I see someone that doesn't have done as many years of work in Pascal, ask something about generics, I'm troubled again by this generics thing. I don't use it (much). I don't need it. I've been perfectly fine all of this work without them. Yes there is some hype nowadays about functional programming, but there's a grand glacial movement at the base of it: stong type systems. It all started even on the big metalwhere some bright minds had the sense of taking writing logic into a domain of itself with a gentle nod to mathematics, statistics and other adjacent domains. And a lot of great work was done in this domain. A lot. Some great names that now stand on their own came forth.

A recurring theme throughout of it is type systems, or the lack thereof. Or having it bolted on at a later stage. So by the time K&R came along, they took what they needed, what they could make work for them, what they needed to summon the Unix spirit from the depths. Pascal existed at the time, but C, like JavaScript much later, was born out of necessity. Created by the people there and then that needed a new wrench to tighten the new bolts of a new machine. With personal selections here and there, and careful considerations that copy a bit of the zeitgeist of the time.

What's left for us to do is try not to repeat ourselves too much. One way is keep a look-out for patterns and in new projects, know when to apply which one. Or even better, when to switch to another one. This, I think, is where it's starting to get really tough for the younger generation. There's a lot of base-knowledge to cover, some of it is superceded or obsolete, but we can't replace it with studying patterns. I've seen newbies take it on as lawas if it's forbidden to deviate from the design even just a little. Attacking establishments on the base of their deviations from a pattern. There's something to say about attacking the establishment, but blind fury will get you nowhere.

So this generics thing...  It also is in danger of being percieved as a rule, getting over-applied. As if the one true way is using it everywhere or as often as possible. Which is strange from where I stand, since I still see it as a convenience, where you can save on writing bits of code that would otherwise be painfully similar anyway. In operation the work would get handled by this extension to the type system, checking things for you in the background, making sure everything fits. But in the end the things that need to happen, occur much in the same way as if you would have written all those specialisations out in full.

That's why, as it turns out, I don't use them all that much. Perhaps it's also because of my fading belief in the object-oriented way. That too was presented some years ago as the way to go. Everything was supposed to be objects living on the internet. But it too kind of degraded in my view to a convenience, only one of the ways to manage the things inside of your program. Luckily before any of the ORM craze could tinge me. It makes you look around the horizon, in the past where you did more with arrays and pointers, and sideways where others pass messages around all the time. For now I feel like I'm stuck here, waiting for the ground to crack open and offer a new middle ground between interfaces, pointers, traits, channels, monads, and all of the above.

But that's just my humble opinion. I can't tell for sure what the next 60 years of programming machines will bring us.

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TIL: 'method modifiers' are not reserved words.

2017-01-05 21:17  TILdirrw  coding delphi  [permalink]

Thing I learned today: 'method modifiers' are not reserved words. Apparently the Object Pascal parser 'consumes' these as labels that just happen to be there or not. Which means in other contexts they're free to use as identifiers, and so they're not reserved words... Strange but OK I guess as this keeps the tokenizer that does its job right before the parser, a little smaller... (How I stumbled upon this is a different story altogether, but one I may be sharing sometime soon...) I searched the documentation a bit and there they're called directives: Fundamental Syntactic Elements: Directives which I thought were things like {$XXX+}, but those are compiler directives...

So these variable names are accepted by the parser/compiler (it doesn't mind the smell at all):

procedure test;

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Consider Advice (restored)

2016-12-16 21:15  i1459bis  coding dagboek werk  [permalink]

Consider Advice

I just noticed these went missing since I converted this website to a 'static blog' kind of thing. So I delved up the old backups and fetched these back from the old mdb, and put them up here.

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Another Multi-User Dungeon

2016-12-08 23:15  amud  coding delphi freeware  [permalink]

I wanted to make an extra demonstration of WebSockets from/on/with an xxm project. What I also have dreamed about is making a multi-user game where players would navigate a virtual realm and manipulate the objects in it. Problem is that I don't have too much experience with playing existing multi-player online games, and that animated graphics design is not one of my strong points. But still, I wondered if combining the two would lead to something that somehow works.

So I started a project and set out to get something working, without losing too much effort on anything non-essential. Not even on a name for it, so I called it "Another Multi-User Dungeon". I've put the source up on github and host a running version on this computer at home I use to run my xxm projects (so don't shoot me if it's not available, it's not an always-on full-fledged web-server, but it also shows xxm projects don't ask much of a machine to run stabily). Feel free to have a try:

The view shows, from top to bottom:

Anything you type into the entry box, when you press enter, is passed on to your in-game persona to speak into the room it is in. Click on items or people to get a list of actions you can do with it or them. Some actions use the last statement that was spoken by your in-game persona, for example 'make a note' from the NoteBloc object (ask for a NoteBloc from the hotel's receptionist). Click on an item again to select it, and in some cases extra actions are available on other items, for example the 'give' action to pass something from your inventory to someone else in the room. Most 'door' objects have a 'go' action that will move your in-game persona to a different room, unless you don't have the key to its lock or the room is fully occupied.

For now I haven't put too much up into the virtual realm. By default you enter the world in the first free room of the Sunburst Hotel, and apart of a welcome leaflet there's not much there. I thought a decent virtual realm would have computer-operated agents you could interact with, so I remembered ELIZA. A lot has changed in the world of chat-bots since then, but I thought it would be nice to have just that in there. It turns out the syntax of the bot-script at its base serves nicely for other roles as well, so I fashioned a receptionist for the hotel that answers back to some questions (and for now can provide you with a NoteBloc if you ask politely). At the city hall, there's a registry office where you can change your display name, and perhaps leave your e-mail address into the internal database, I might make it required for some operations later or if someone wants system support. There's also money you can pick-up and drop, but nothing else you can do with it (yet!).

Under the hood, it's heavily based on a single WebSocket, your 'feed' through which you get information about the virtual realm, and through which you can send commands back. The set of commands is limited and any extra requests lauched by the client-side script use a personalized single-use key based on your personal authentication key stored in LocalStorage. (I could have gone with a cookie, but if the WebSocket were hosted over TLS, LocalStorage offers slightly better security.)

I'm not sure where to take it from here. I've been thinking about creating a shop you could use money to buy things, but then you'd need something you can earn money with... And transporters that could move you to locations further away. But I guess designing more of a city will take some effort already... Perhaps I've got what I wanted: to create a platform that has the basics to build a game on. Only the idea for a specific game isn't there yet. And thinking up a thrilling plot of an exploratory adventure isn't one of my strong points either. If you have ideas please let me know in an issue on GitHub. Perhaps I could hand out a few RoomMaker objects to people and see what they do with it...

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DirDiff v2.0.0.460

2016-11-13 21:04  dirdiff2  coding delphi freeware  [permalink]


It feels like this was a very long time in the making, but all the little bits of time here and there probably still amount to a recent number of man-hours... It took a couple of attempts to get "An O(ND) Difference Algorithm and Its Variations" by Eugene W. Myers in an implementation of my own that performed to my liking. I've chosen to use xxHash to speed things up. Once I got that, I continued the grand re-work of DirDiff so it would accept, not 2 files, but n files (or folders); handle the work in background threads, and have both the folder-overview (and XML three) and content in the same window. In case anyone would like to have a peek inside, I've decided to open-source it as well, under the MIT license on github

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I've open-sourced my productivity tools

2016-11-12 16:49  tools  coding delphi freeware  [permalink]

I've finally decided to open-source a set of my home-made tools, some of which I use almost every (working) day. Some may be very taylored to my personal taste, others may be easier to use by the broader public. Most are missing documentation, but the typical operation should be self-explanatory. (Except for handy hidden features, should make a list of those somehwere sometime soon...)

These tools have been available here for download in binary form since long, but by putting the source code in a public repository I hope I can inspire anyone that would like to know more what's going on behind the scenes to have a look, and who knows perhaps get someone to make improvements or additions.

→ github.com/stijnsanders/tools

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RethinkDB: here to stay or on the way out

2016-10-07 23:23  RethinkDB-in-or-out  coding delphi freeware  [permalink]

I'm worried and confused.  The news these days is that RethinkDB is shutting down, at least the company.  The database itself may live on.  I had been attempting to write a really-thin Delphi wrapper for RethinkDB a number of times before, but got diverted into writing DelphiProtocolBuffer first, because it was used for the base of the server protocol and I couldn't find the Delphi support I was looking for (I'm sorry, but I'm a bit picky). Later it looked like they were planning on dropping this in favor of something else, but I wasn't able to investigate further at that time. In the mean time, I did a CouchDB, PostgreSQL and a MariaDB/MySQL wrapper, and a neat way to tie them together, and kept TMongoWire working, which turns out to be the one in the series of DB connectors that has the most success to date. (And which envolved learning all about PBKDF2...)

So now I'm confused about wether to keep RethinkDB on my to-do list? Or drop it? Or move it up to have a look sooner... Just like MongoDB, it may be that I won't really have a full-grown project anytime soon that is based on RethinkDB, but demand for a thin Delphi wrapper is out there and makes it worth it, I don't know. (Please let me know.)

And I'm worried about this new tale of an open-source-but-also-corporate endeavour going sour. It's only natural that when the projected sales don't appear to manifest, a project is best to get ended cleanly (as I recently witnessed over at the day-job). So I'm rooting for the open-source project to find a good new home. That the eco-system of volunteers may survive the orphanization. That the real-world users may carry enough weight to force the project into a viable after-life.

It's important to have a good climate to have entrepreneurs get enticed to take the step and start a company, but with this series of high-profile undertakings going bust, and aqui-hires where users get left in the dark, it starting to look like it's running out of control. Some people may called it a bubble, but I find the image of a pendulum swinging more appropriate. Is it swinging back already? I'm in no position to tell accurately. But I am worried.

For the record, I have had no economic gain from my open-source undertakings what-so-ever (up till now?) though OpenHub estimates about half a million went into xxm up till now. Not bad for a hobby...
But about RethinkDB, I guess I'll have to wait a little until the dust settles down...

Update 2017-02-06: RethinkDB's assets have been bought from RethinkDB Inc. By something something Linux Foundation, and a re-license to the Apache Public License. Sky is clearing up.

Update 2017-03-06: I've given it another try, and partly because there's a downloadable Windows executable that works, I've got something working. TRethinkDB appears to be able to perform all the basic functions you could require from a driver, but may need some more testing.

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Delphi and MySQL or MariaDB

2016-09-15 21:12  libmysql  coding delphi freeware  [permalink]

Tadaa! I added a wrapper around libmysql.dll (to connect with MySQL or MariaDB) to my collection of really (really!) thin wrappers around things like ADO, or LibPQ (to connect with PostgreSQL) or now libmysql.dll. I also had the idea to align them as much as possible into almost the same interface. It's specifically not my point to have them be exactly the same, but very much almost so, just in case when I use this for a project and need to switch database back-end later on, the work that goes into that is minimalised and can concentrate around the different in SQL dialects. (for example the postgres branch here)



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AES, DES (TripleDES)

2016-09-09 23:08  aesdes  coding delphi freeware  [permalink]

→ md5

I've added AES and DES. DES may be deprecated, and Triple-DES may be soon, in any way it's cryptographically superceded by other ciphers, but still in use by some systems. I should do some work extra and change array[0..7] of byte into record l,r:cardinal; end;  or even int64 but I needed it only for something small and this works, so I'll leave it at that for now.

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