Make your Source Code more Readable When Passing a Boolean.

Suppose you have a C++ function declared as follows:

void UpdateDisplay(bool WithDelay);

and somewhere later you want to use this, calling it without the delay.

You could write:

UpdateDisplay(false);

But a simple way to make your source code more readable (and hence more maintainable by yourself and your team in the future) is to write:

const bool WithDelay{false};
UpdateDisplay(WithDelay);

When you compile this code for release the local variable “WithDelay” will be optimised away so this improvement to source code readability incurs no performance cost penalty.

RAD Studio 10.4.2 Is Alive ! and Wonderful

The latest version of Embarcadero RAD Studio is 10.4.2. and the upgrade to this version is definitely worthwhile. The user experience of the IDE has been smoothed out / polished up significantly. It’s a joy to use!

New users can download a trial by clicking here https://www.embarcadero.com/products/rad-studio

Existing users can download 10.4.2 by going to https://my.embarcadero.com/#login

RAD Studio 10.4.2 Is Here !

The latest version of Embarcadero RAD Studio is 10.4.2. This was promised in the most recent Embarcadero road map for “first half of 2021”.

It’s available now !

https://blogs.embarcadero.com/announcing-the-availability-of-rad-studio-10-4-2-sydney-release-2/

For those that missed the “what’s in 10.4.2” webinar (see previous blog) this is now available as a replay on YouTube at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeiO2uEHlKYf

RAD Studio 10.4.2 Is Coming

RAD Studio 10.4.2 Is Coming

Version 10.4.2 of Embarcadero RAD Studio 10.4.2 (and the associated versions of Delphi 10.4.2 and C++ Builder 10.4.2) was promised in the most recent Embarcadero road map for “first half of 2021”.

It looks as if it is going to be early in the first half of 2021 as a webinar promoting this new version and describing the main new features and improvements it will include is available to all on 24th February 2021.

To register for the Webinar click here.

For more information about the Webinar, along with a summary of what 10.4.2 promises, click here.

Updating from Paradox – Handling field names containing # symbol.

I was asked to upgrade an old database system that used the BDE to interface to Paradox tables to FireDAC and MS Access.

The first job was to use FireDAC to read the Paradox tables and then move the code across to equivalent MS Access tables.

I ran into a problem because some of the paradox tables had the # symbol as part of their field names (for example “House#” for house numbers in an address). Another problem was use of the field name “Date” which caused problems as it was interpreted as an SQL type name.

FireDAC and the ODBC bridge to the paradox tables didn’t seem to handle these names very well. In particular it was impossible to update the field contents with new values.

My working solution was to use the TFDBatchMove, TFDBatchMoveDataSetReader and TFDBatchMoveDataSetWriter components to move the contents of the paradox tables into the equivalent tables in MS Access.

The TFDQuery used as the datasource for the TFDBatchMoveDataSetReader contained the following SQL statement:

SELECT “House#” as HouseNum, StreetName, Town, City, “Date” as DateEntered FROM ADDRESS

Notice the “House#” and the “Date” field names in the paradox table being in inverted commas and being renamed as part of the query, ready for the batch data move.

Making Wrong Code Look Wrong

Here’s a very good article which discusses a coding design principle “Making wrong code look wrong”.

Understanding the contents of this article will make any C++ or Delphi programmer write better code.

Making Wrong Code Look Wrong – Joel Spolsky on Software.pdf

Author Joel Spolsky is a great thinker on how to write good code.

As a C++ programmer I do feel I have to take issue with his arguments against C++ exceptions. You can regard the C++ Exception as a “goto” with an unknown destination. This does sound like a recipe for a “bad smell” in your code. But C++ Exceptions are designed for handling errors that occur in a self contained part of code that can’t know what the correct way (because it depends on the time of usage) to behave when the error is encountered. By passing back an exception it allows the calling code to decide how to handle the error condition. This is an invaluable tool when used correctly. C++ Exceptions are great for solving this design challenge. But please don’t use them for anything else. Any other use immediately drifts into the problem area discussed by Joel Spolsky in his document.

The Software is Finished – Part 2

I have customers who ask “When will the software be finished?”. I have more experienced customers who ask “When will the software be ready to use?”. The previous posting was heading to the conclusion that software is very very rarely actually “finished”.

You need a bit of software. So it must be doing some kind of useful task. Parts of the software may very well be useful in the future (even as part of a solution to a completely different task).

It’s a failure for all concerned if software has to be consigned to the “Recycle Bin” because it has become “so tangled and uncontrolled that it is no longer maintainable or useful” . If you are investing your time (or your money to pay for someone elses time) you want your investment to be worth while. This is achieved by taking time out to plan how to avoid “case b)” and to design according to you plans.

So….

Do use Unit Tests.
Do think about how you are going to test the overall software operation (and document this).
Do refactor
Do use sensible function and variable names
Do keep your documentation up to date.

Never to a quick fix “because the software is basically finished”. Never think software is finished.

The Software is Finished – Part 1

I have customers who ask “When will the software be finished?”. I have more experienced customers who ask “When will the software be ready to use?”.

Having been writing software since the days of the Motorola M6800 (Motorola’s first microprocessor, programmed in assembly language) I have completed many contracts. As a business I have to also ask “When can we invoice for the software we have written?”. But I can’t think of many software projects that were genuinely “finished”.

Software seems to come to an end when either

a) The use for the system the software is running on disappears.
b) The development of the software has become so tangled and uncontrolled that it is no longer maintainable or useful.

If you take case a) this actually rarely means the software is “finished”. Even in those early 100% assembly code projects that I did later versions of Motorola microprocessors were assembly code compatible with earlier versions (most successful being the upgrade from the M6800 to the M6809 family). Even assembly language that is not of the same family can often be manually ported across to a different CPU if it was originally well written and well commented.

The key to good software is that it must be easy to re-use. You will find it very hard to stay in business if you try to write everything from scratch. If this goal can be achieved then case a) above becomes suprisingly rare. Trying to think of an example where an actual system disappears completely is hard. Perhaps, if the oil runs out and we can’t get any fuel for any internal combustion engine then all the engine management software out there might genuinely be “finished”…..

So that means that case b) is the most common reason for software being “finished”. Case b) must be avoidable in all cases (provided there is awareness of the need to avoid it).

More to follow in next posting.

A Forum for Embarcadero C++ Users ?

As mentioned on my posting of 16th Nov 2020, Embarcadero have shut down the invaluable forum that used to be at https://community.idera.com/

I’ve been alerted to the new branch on the Delphi-Praxis forum site that is devoted to Embarcadero C++ users. This has been set up in response to the Embarcadero closure.

You can reach this new forum by clicking on https://en.delphipraxis.net/forum/41-general-help/

Embarcadero Publish Updated Road Map

Embarcadero have just published a new developer tools road map.

The actual road map can be viewed by clicking here

There is a blog offering more information about the proposals, by Marco Cantu and David Millington available by clicking here.

The great news is that C++ 64 bit for Android is still up there, albeit a tantalising way off yet…..

The improvements to the IDE, C++ debugging and additional VCL controls also sound great !