Shareware Beach

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Underscore vs Dash

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 9:40

Dave Collins wonders about the difference between the underscore and the dash. In particular, he wonders why search engines treat “my_page” as one word, and “my-page” as two.

Easy. Search engines are developed by programmers, and programmers generally treat the underscore as part of a word or identifier, but not the dash. In most programming languages, an identifier can start with a letter or an underscore, which can be followed by a number of letters, digits and underscores. The dash is used as the substraction operator. In other words, “my_page” is an identifier, while “my-page” substracts “page” from “my”.

In regular expressions, the short-hand character class w matches letters, digits and the underscore. While the actual set of characters matched by w is implementation-specific, it always includes the underscore. The difference is in matching non-English letters and digits. So if a search engine programmer uses w+ to get a list of words, “my_page” is matched entirely, and “my-page” matches twice as “my” and “page”.

While I’m sure search engines differ in the way they treat the underscore, it’s a safe assumption that most of them will treat underscores as part of the word, while a dash connects two separate words.

Monday, 18 July 2005

Microsoft and Shareware

Filed under: Conferences,Shareware Industry — Jan @ 12:14

It’s interesting to see the shift in Microsoft’s attitude towards the little independent developers. Three years ago at the SIC in Saint Louis, Microsoft did send a representative. But all that guy did was tout the .NET framework and Visual Studio.NET, like he probably does at numerous developer conferences.

Last year, and again this year, Microsoft provided the ESWC with a free booth at their Tech-Ed conference in Amsterdam. They’re also sponsering the ESWC itself.

This year, Microsoft sent three representatives to the SIC. They showcased the “Microsoft shareware starter kit”. Basically it’s an open source package that .NET developers can use to turn a piece of software into a try-before-you-buy shareware package, complete with registration/activation and payment processing. While I’m not convinced of the usefulness of the kit, at least in its present state, it’s good to see Microsoft is again paying attention to the little guy.

I also like the fact that Microsoft doesn’t shy away from using the word “shareware” instead of contrived terms like “micro-ISV”. The representatives mentioned several times during the sessions how Microsoft “is and has been in the shareware business” since forever, citing Windows XP as an example shareware product. Technically they’re correct. I did get a 120-day trial of Windows XP around the time it was first released.

Microsoft even won two awards at the annual Shareware Industry Awards, announced at a banquet at the end of the SIC. MS Office 2003 won the people’s choice award for best business application, while Windows Media Player won the industry award for best multimedia application. I still wish the SIA would promote the little guy.

Hopefully other tool companies, like Borland, will take notice. While Borland has changed its name back from Inprise, they still seem to be mostly focused on enterprise sales. The reason they gave for their latest earnings warning was that they increasingly depend on million-dollar-plus deals.

However, I’m not going to ditch Delphi in favor of Visual Studio just yet. The main reason is that the Windows monopoly is showing cracks. Linux has a strong presence in the server market. Mac users are envied rather than ridiculed. Apple’s move to switch to Intel chips may shake things up. The odds that Borland is going to support these operating systems are still better than that Microsoft will, even if Borland has pretty much abandoned Kylix.

SIC 2005

Filed under: Conferences — Jan @ 11:29

While I’m writing this, I’m enjoying the benefits of an unsecured wireless network. For a thrifty shareware author who doesn’t like to pay $9.95 per day to connect to the “hyatt” network, it’s really nice that somebody left their “linksys” network open. I can also see a “msftwlan” and “ibg_wavelan”, but those need a password.

I’m indeed staying a couple of days in Denver following the 2005 Shareware Industry Conference. Getting here was a 30-hour trip door to door from Bangkok, so I didn’t want to fly out immediately. I’ll be here until Wednesday.

It’s been an interesting conference. The quality of the sessions was very high. The most important thing I learned is not to sign up to be a speaker at the 9 AM session on Saturday. That’s way too early if you’ve been chatting till almost midnight the previous day. Fortunately, I managed to be awake enough when the session started. It went quite well.

Like every year, the socializing before, during and after the conference was the best part. It’s nice to finally be able to put a face to people like Brandon Staggs, Dexter Bell, Mitchell Vincent, Mike Stevenson, Sue Pichotta and everybody else I’m forgetting right now.

My wife, who came along for the shopping and sightseeing, was quite charmed by Michael Callahan. Thanks for another great conference, Mike!

Thursday, 9 June 2005

Mac Pentium

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 21:07

I almost bought a Mac Mini a couple of month ago. I didn’t because I wanted to wait until I could get one with the Tiger release of OS X. I guess I’ll wait some more now, until I can get one with Intel Inside.

No, I don’t have any plans to port any JGsoft products to OS X. But I do want to keep an eye on the Mac market. Apple has been getting a lot of good press lately, and the geek in me likes to stay on top of such things.

We do get regular requests for Mac versions of our products. Unfortunately, since Borland Delphi is not available for the Mac, that’s unlikely to happen. Maintaining two separate code bases is not worth it given the Mac’s small market share. I also don’t know of any development tool (cross-platform or not) that is significantly superior to Delphi, making a switch of tools worthwhile.

I do think that switching to Intel is a good move for Apple. I’d be very interested in buying a Mac if it could triple-boot OS X, Windows and Linux, or maybe even run OS X and Linux in a VMware session on Windows. Then I’d have one set of hardware for both bread-and-butter development work (on Windows), and for experimentation on the niche platforms.

But I think the real opportunity for Apple is to court the development tool vendors like Borland. It’s understandable that Borland doesn’t want to rewrite Delphi’s whole compiler and debugger back-ends for a CPU architecture with a tiny market share. But once the Mac runs on the same CPU everybody else uses, it’s only a matter of APIs. Delphi already supports various APIs: Win32, WinForms (.NET) and Borland’s own VCL in Win32 and .NET flavors. Adding Cocoa should be feasible. The IDE could remain Windows-hosted, cross-compiling to the Mac. Maybe I’ll need two computers for that after all.

Whatever happens, these surely are exciting times. It’s good to see the two major industry players, Intel and Microsoft, are facing some serious competition. Even while Apple switches, IBM’s “Power” line of CPUs is gaining ground on Intel, as it will power the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And the same switch has the potential to make OS X a stronger contender to Windows. If Windows can be installed on a Mac (which obviously comes with OS X preinstalled), buying a Mac is suddenly a whole lot less risky.

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