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2011, Sunday December 11

Strong-typing just rocks

To my understanding, the so-called "strong-typing" feature is one big benefit of the Delphi object pascal language.

As stated by wikipedia:

Most generally, "strong typing" implies that the programming language places severe restrictions on the intermixing that is permitted to occur, preventing the compiling or running of source code which uses data in what is considered to be an invalid way. For instance, an addition operation may not be used with an integer and string values; a procedure which operates upon linked lists may not be used upon numbers. However, the nature and strength of these restrictions is highly variable.

Some Delphi users may find this is a limitation of the language, in comparison with other "fashionable" script idioms (like Python, Javascript of Ruby). For me, runtime strong typing (alla Python or Ruby) is not true strong typing. Simon Stuart just proposed a smartstring kind of string, which is in fact a weakstring type. As far as I understood his point, he wanted to get rid of all the warnings emitted by Unicode-version of the Delphi compiler, about explicit string conversion.

In fact, I use to go in the opposite direction. For wide projects, strong-typing is one of the big benefit of using Delphi (like other main "serious" languages like Java, C, C++, Ada or C#).

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2011, Sunday September 25

Synopse PDF Engine 1.15

For our PDF generation Open-Source library, this is a small fix update.

It can now be compiled under Delphi XE2.
But it's still working from all previous IDE versions, starting with Delphi 5, and still 100% free - released under GPL/LGPL/MPL license, choice is yours.

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2011, Wednesday September 14

L10n and i18n in our framework

In computing, internationalization and localization (also spelled internationalisation and localisation) are means of adapting computer software to different languages, regional differences and technical requirements of a target market:

  • Internationalization (i18n) is the process of designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages; 
  • Localization (L10n) is the process of adapting internationalized software for a specific region or language by adding locale-specific components and translating text, e.g. for dates display.

Our framework handle both features, via the SQLite3i18n.pas unit. For instance, resourcestring defined in the source code are retrieved from the executable and can be translated on the fly. The unit extends this to visual forms, and even captions generated from RTTI.

In short, making your software open to any language is handled by the framework, from the bottom-up.

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2011, Monday August 8

Our mORMot won't hibernate this winter, thanks to FireMonkey

Everybody is buzzing about FireMonkey...

Our little mORMot will like FireMonkey!
Here is why...

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2011, Monday July 25

Close future of the framework: database agnosticism

Our ORM RESTful Framework is about to access any available database engine.

It will probably change its name (since it won't use only SQlite3 as database), to become mORMot - could be an acronym for "Manage Object Relational Mapping Over Tables", or whatever you may think of...

We'll still rely on SQLite3 on the server, but a dedicated mechanism will allow to access via OleDB any remote database, and mix those tables content with the native ORM tables of the framework. A flexible Virtual Tables and column mapping will allow any possible architecture: either a new project in pure ORM, either a project relying on an existing database with its own table layout.

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2011, Friday July 22

SynDBSQLite3: SQLite3 direct access

For our ORM framework, we implemented an efficient SQLite3 wrapper, joining statically (i.e. without any external dll) the SQLite3 engine to the executable. SQLite3 is in fact used as the DB kernel of the framework. For instance, thanks to its unique virtual table mechanism, even tables in other databases (like Oracle or MSSQL) are available as if they were SQLite3 tables.

We just made this wrapper independent from our ORM, in a new dedicated unit, named SynSQLite3.pas.

It was an easy task to let this unit be called from our SynDB database abstract classes.

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2011, Saturday July 2

Faster variant late binding

For both our SynOleDB and SynBigTable units, we allow late-binding of data row values, using a variant and direct named access of properties. Thanks to this unique feature (as far as I know in the Delphi database world),

This allows clear and valid code as such:

var Customer: Variant;
begin
  with Props.Execute(
    'select * from Sales.Customer where AccountNumber like ?',
    ['AW000001%'],@Customer) do
    while Step do
      assert(Copy(Customer.AccountNumber,1,8)='AW000001');
end;

In practice, this code is slower than using a standard property based access, like this:

    while Step do
      assert(Copy(Column['AccountNumber'],1,8)='AW000001');

But the first version, using late-binding of column name, just sounds more natural.

Of course, since it's late-binding, we are not able to let the compiler check at compile time for the column name. If the column name in the source code is wrong, an error will be triggered at runtime only. But it would not be an issue, since it would be the same for the SQL code inserted: it's only executed at runtime (this is one of the benefits of using an ORM, by the way: the ORM will generate correct SQL code for you...).

The default VCL implementation of this late-binding was a bit slow for our purpose.
Since it has to deal with Ole Automation, and because it's fun, we hacked the VCL to provide a lighter and faster version for our custom variant types.

Continue reading...

2011, Friday July 1

SynOleDB: OpenSource Unit for direct access to any database via OleDB

That's it, our SynOleDB unit seems alive and running well.

OLE DB (Object Linking and Embedding, Database, sometimes written as OLEDB or OLE-DB) is an API designed by Microsoft for accessing data from a variety of sources in a uniform manner. It was designed as a higher-level replacement for, and successor to, ODBC, extending its feature set to support a wider variety of non-relational databases, such as object databases and spreadsheets that do not necessarily implement SQL.

SynOleDB unit implementation has been made with several points in mind:

  • Tested with SQL Server 2008 R2 and Oracle 11g providers from Microsoft and Oracle; 
  • Ability to be truly Unicode, even with pre-Unicode version of Delphi (like Delphi 7 or 2007); 
  • Could access any local or remote Database, from any version of Delphi, since it doesn't use the DB.pas unit or any related part of the VCL (even the Delphi 7 personal or the Turbo Explorer editions), just for free; 
  • Handle NULL or BLOB content for parameters and results; 
  • Avoid most memory copy or unnecessary allocation: we tried to access the data directly from the retrieved data buffer, just as given from OleDB; 
  • Was therefore designed to achieve the best performance possible: most time is spent in OleDB: the code layer added to the OleDB customer is very thin; 
  • True OOP architecture, to be used with any OleDB provider (allowing custom parameters or such), and even without OleDB (in the future, direct access to any DB client could be used); 
  • Could be safely used in a multi-threaded application/server (with one TOleDBConnection per thread); 
  • Allow parameter bindings of requests, with fast access to any parameter or column name (thanks to TDynArrayHashed);
  • Late binding of column values in Delphi code;
  • Direct JSON content creation, with no temporary data copy nor allocation; 
  • Designed to be used with our mORMot ORM, but could be used stand-alone (a full Delphi 7 client executable is just about 200 KB), or even in any existing Delphi application, thanks to a TQuery-like wrapper.

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2011, Monday June 6

Synopse PDF Engine 1.13

Our SynPdf unit has been refreshed to the 1.13 version.

  • code modifications to compile with Delphi 5 compiler;
  • added horizontal scaling for GDI enumeration in case of text kerning (could occur for small fonts);
  • fixed "Save when closing with Acrobat Reader X" - thanks to Ondrej for the fix;
  • fixed clipping problems and vertical font positioning issue in GDI enumeration - thanks to Ondrej for those corrections!
Our pdf engine sounds almost stable by now.
Thanks to the feedback provided by some user of this Open Source library!

Continue reading...

2011, Thursday June 2

Fast JSON parsing

When it deals with parsing some (textual) content, two directions are usually envisaged. In the XML world, you have usually to make a choice between:
- A DOM parser, which creates an in-memory tree structure of objects mapping the XML nodes;
- A SAX parser, which reads the XML content, then call pre-defined events for each XML content element.

In fact, DOM parsers use internally a SAX parser to read the XML content. Therefore, with the overhead of object creation and their property initialization, DOM parsers are typically three to five times slower than SAX. But, DOM parsers are much more powerful for handling the data: as soon as it's mapped in native objects, code can access with no time to any given node, whereas a SAX-based access will have to read again the whole XML content.

Most JSON parser available in Delphi use a DOM-like approach. For instance, the DBXJSON unit included since Delphi 2010 or the SuperObject or DWS libraries create a class instance mapping each JSON node.

In a JSON-based Client-Server ORM like ours, profiling shows that a lot of time is spent in JSON parsing, on both Client and Server side. Therefore, we tried to optimize this part of the library.

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2011, Friday May 20

How to write fast multi-thread Delphi applications

How to make your software run fast, especially in a multi-threaded architecture?

We tried to remove the Memory Manager scaling problems in our SynScaleMM. It worked as expected in a multi-threaded server environment. Scaling is much better than FastMM4, for some critical tests. But it's not ready for production yet...

To be honest, the Memory Manager is perhaps not the bigger bottleneck in Multi-Threaded applications.

Here are some (not dogmatic, just from experiment and knowledge of low-level Delphi RTL) advice if you want to write FAST multi-threaded application in Delphi.

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2011, Saturday March 5

Open Source SynTaskDialog unit for XP,Vista,Seven

A task dialog is a dialog box that can be used to display information and receive simple input from the user. Like a message box, it is formatted by the operating system according to parameters you set. However, a task dialog has many more features than a message box.

Windows provides a generic task dialog available since Vista/Seven. But there is none available with previous versions of Windows, i.e. Windows XP or 2K.

This unit (licensed under a MPL/GPL/LGPL tri-license) will use the new TaskDialog API under Vista/Seven, and emulate it with pure Delphi code and standard themed VCL components under XP or 2K. It will compile from Delphi 6 up to XE, and is Unicode ready.

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2011, Monday February 7

SQLite3 Framework updated to 1.12 - including engine 3.7.5

The Synopse SQLite3 Database Framework was just released under version 1.12:

  • internal SQLite3 database engine was updated to version 3.7.5, and SQL functions have been enhanced;
  • now handle prepared SQL statements with a neutral automated syntax;
  • with Delphi 2009/2010/XE, you can define directly Unicode string properties in TSQLRecord (will be stored as UTF-8);
  • include some overloaded methods using Variants for direct property access (e.g. in any grid);
  • SynPdf has now direct bookmarks and links methods, can reuse any existing bitmap, and generate PDF/A-1 files;
  • internal reporting now supports bookmarks and links (with on screen navigation), and better integrates with SynPdf;
  • a lot of bug fixes, new methods and enhancements.

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2010, Tuesday August 10

Writing Delphi code for 64 bits compiler

There will be an upcoming 64 bits Delphi compiler. Embarcadero promised it.

Florian (the architect of FPC) showed a first "Hello world" program for Win64 in March 2006.
This was remarkable since GCC and the binutils don't even support this target at this time.
In fact, FPC used its Internal linker on Win32 and Win64 platforms, just like Delphi does.

Here are some points on how you could make your code ready to compile under FPC 64 bits, therefore (I hope) under future Delphi 64 bits compiler.

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2010, Tuesday June 22

Synopse PDF engine 1.8

Our PDF engine has been updated, it's now on version 1.8.

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2010, Saturday June 12

Synopse Big Table v1.8

The Synopse Big Table library has been updated to the 1.8 version.

Some bug fixes, a Thread safe way of working and a some new methods (AddFile, GetPart).

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2010, Monday May 24

SQLite3 Framework version 1.7

Our SQLite3 Framework has been updated into the 1.7 version. For Delphi 7 to Delphi 2010.

Mostly User-Interface (reporting) enhancements, and some bug fixes.

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2010, Thursday May 6

Synopse PDF engine 1.7.2

The Unicode part of the Synopse PDF engine has been updated in order to support right-to-left languages and ligatures (i.e. glyph shaping).

Therefore, our Open Source engine is one of the few PDF producer able to natively handle Arabic languages. Even most commercial engines don't implement this nice feature.

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2010, Monday May 3

Synopse PDF engine

Synopse PDF engine is an Open Source PDF document creation library for Delphi, embedded in one unit. It's used in the 1.7 version of SQLite3 framework, for creating PDF files from reports.

Among its features, you can use a true TCanvas to create the PDF, and embed True Type fonts subsets. Of course, it's Unicode ready, and licensed under a MPL/GPL/LGPL tri-license.

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2010, Sunday March 28

Mac OS X Stack Alignment, asm and trolls

In a very interesting commentPhiS spoke about the Mac OS X Stack Alignment problem, and the way asm code should be written for the future Cross Platform Delphi compiler. Here are some (hope without any Troll hidden) reflections I went through.

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