Shareware Beach

Monday, 5 March 2007

How to Get Your Pet Delphi Bugs Fixed

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 8:15

Being a Spacely BetaBlogger, I started a discussion on the topic in a private ASP newsgroup. One of the things that came out of the discussion is that many Delphi developers are frustrated with their inability to get Delphi bugs fixed. Though there’s no magic formula, there are a few steps you can take to increase the odds of having your pet bugs fixed.

In fact, not taking these steps is almost a guarantee they won’t get fixed. Delphi is a huge product. CodeGear doesn’t have the resources to hunt an obscure bug that’s only affecting three developers in Upper Mongolia. They have to prioritize.

If you want any issues that could be considered bugs in Delphi to be even looked at, you need to start with searching for an entry in QualityCentral that describes it. If you can’t find it, create your own. Anyone can do so. Make sure to include detailed steps and a sample application, so it can be reproduced easily. As a developer, I’m sure you know that figuring out how to reproduce a bug is 90% of the effort to get it fixed.

If the QC entry’s status is “Reported”, email me the number and I’ll get it opened. “Reported” means the entry is in QC, ready for other developers to be looked at. “Open” means the entry was promoted to CodeGear’s internal bug-tracking system. I cannot open QC reports myself, but I can verify if the bug still occurs in Spacely, and raise a flag during the beta test.

Voting for QC entries is also important. You can cast up to 10 votes, and you can cast all 10 for a single entry if you want. These votes do matter. 10 votes by 10 developers (one vote each) carry more weight than 10 votes by one developer, so ask your friends to vote. Once your issue was fixed, or if you’ve given up hope, you can move your votes to another entry.

The main problem with the voting system right now is that not enough people are using their votes. Right now, a Delphi bug needs only 29 votes to make it into the top 20. If you don’t know what to vote for, feel free to vote for my pet peeve. It only takes a minute.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Delphi 2007 for Win32

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 21:24

When Borland announced that they weren’t going to sell their Developers Tools Group after all, but operate it as a wholly owned subsidiary called CodeGear, many feared that nothing had really changed, as Borland is still in control at the end of the day.

But in the space of only a few months, I’ve seen quite a few changes in the way CodeGear does business. They seem to be far more interested in hearing customer feedback and adapting to it. One result of that is the imminent release of Delphi 2007 for Win32. Many people are still using Delphi 7 or earlier because they simply don’t want the extra personalities (Delphi for .NET, C# and C++) in Delphi 2006. Delphi 2007 is for them. It’s a full Win32 Delphi, unlike the Turbo Delphi releases in 2006, which don’t have all the features of BDS 2006.

CodeGear also seems to be more open as an organization. Under Borland, beta tests were always very closed, with no prior information available other than what Borland’s marketing department published. This morning, however, I was surprised to get an email from Nick Hodges (Delphi’s product manager) inviting me (among a few others) to talk about Spacely, the codename for the beta of Delphi 2007. I don’t get anything in return for doing so, other than perhaps a few extra readers.

If you’re still using Delphi 7 or earlier, Delphi 2007 looks like an excellent opportunity to upgrade. You get the new IDE, which I discussed in my Delphi 2006 review. CodeGear touts the 2007 version to be more stable and faster. I’ll hold my judgement until the final release, as I haven’t used Delphi 2007 on production projects yet. That said, Delphi 2006 is quite stable, and runs just fine as long as your PC has at least a gigabyte of RAM.

Delphi 2007 will also be the first version that will install and run properly on Windows Vista. The VCL will have new components and properties to make your applications integrate better into the Vista UI. For shareware authors, this will likely be the main selling point of Delphi 2007. It is possible to create Vista-compatible applications in Delphi 2006 and even Delphi 7. In fact, I did so myself. But to take advantage of new UI features like the new open and save dialogs (which JGsoft apps don’t), you’ll need Delphi 2007.

Hopefully I’ll have some more time to show some of the new features later this week. Feel free to leave a comment if there’s anything in particular you’re curious about.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

The Value of OS Disk Images

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 13:56

Whenever I get a new computer, the first thing I do is to repartition the hard disk, so I can have a separate partition for the OS and applications, and another for all my data files. In fact, I have multiple OS partitions so I can boot multiple versions of Windows, but that doesn’t matter for today’s topic.

The key benefit of the separate OS partition is that I can easily make a backup of the whole system by making an image of the partition. Personally I use Paragon Drive Backup for this. Norton Ghost is another popular hard disk backup utility. The real benefit is that I can restore the OS partition to a known good state in about 10 minutes.

Every time my system is working fine, I make an image of the OS partition. Usually I do that a few days after installing something new, when I’m sure all went well. I save the last backup on the data partition. I also burn the backup to a DVD-R. I keep all the backup DVDs for the life of the PC, so I can go back to a previous installation if I have to. Restoring the backup only takes about 10 minutes when using the image on the data partition as the source. Restoring from DVD takes longer.

I’m still surprised that many shareware industry professionals don’t have a solid backup strategy. Take Dave Collins. In the latest issue of his Competitive Edge newsletter, he recants how he wasted 8 hours reconfiguring his system after an Office 2007 installation went awry. With proper backup procedures, he would only have to waste a few minutes to start the restore process, which could then run unattended for the next 10 minutes or so.

In fact, with a proper backup system in place, you don’t have to be afraid of messing up your system. I don’t use any anti-virus or anti-spyware software. If my system starts acting up, I’ll restore the backup, and have a guaranteed clean system. No spyware remover can beat that. If I want to play with beta software, I don’t have to inconvenience myself by running it in a virtual machine. I do use VMware for testing my applications on clean installs of Windows. But when beta testing new versions of tools I use for development, I want to test them in my actual development environment rather. When the beta expires, I wipe it off by restoring the OS backup.

My data files remain untouched during all this. For those I have a separate backup strategy, which involves keeping them synchronized with a backup computer (my laptop) and keeping rotating backups on DVD+RW discs.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Windows with a View, or Not

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 18:02

Now that Windows Vista is generally available, the question many people are asking is if they should upgrade.

The past two months I’ve spent quite some time using Vista, primarily to make sure all JGsoft products are compatible with it. There were no serious issues, and the latest versions of all our products are now fully compatible.

Windows Vista is a nice operating system, and Microsoft seems to have put a lot of work in making things more self-explanatory and user-friendly. E.g. instead of showing a message box with a question that needs to be answered with a click on Yes or No, most actions that require an answer now show a big dialog that lists several options and their consequences. You click directly on one of the actions to take that action. E.g. an overwrite prompt appears when dragging and dropping a file in Windows Explorer into a folder that already has the file with the same name. In Windows XP, you click on Yes to overwrite the file, or on No to do nothing. In Vista, you click on “Move and Replace” to overwrite the file, on “Don’t move” to do nothing, or on “Move, but keep both files” to automatically rename the moved file. Very nice. In fact, I’ve been doing this in a limited way in JGsoft products for a long time. E.g. if you close EditPad with an unsaved file open, you get a more or less typical message box, but the buttons are labeled “Yes: Save”, “No: Don’t Save” and “Cancel Close” instead of just Yes, No and Cancel. This may seem trivial, but it really helps people unfamiliar with your software come to grips with it quickly. If the buttons show just Yes and No, I’d have to read the message to check if Yes means to save or to abandon changes. Now, I just read the button.

Though Vista looks and works great, it’s no quantum leap from Windows XP. And it does seem to be far more hungry for system resources. While it runs just fine on my Pentium D 820 with 2 GB of RAM, I’m going to stick with Windows XP for the time being. All my applications run just fine under XP. I have no desire to waste a day getting them all set up on Vista. I doubt that will change in the near future. I’ve always lagged behind in adopting the latest OS. I tend to prefer to use the latest OS for testing only, and the one before that for actual development. Yesterday’s OS always runs much more smoothly on today’s PCs than today’s OS. It’s only been a little over a year since I switched to XP. In my behind the scenes post two years ago, you can see Delphi 7 running on Windows 2000.

That said, if I were to buy a new PC, I’d definitely get one with Windows Vista, and make sure it’s powerful enough to smoothly run all of Vista’s bells and whistles. Maybe in 2008.

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