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August 2011 - Posts

  • Getting your ideas across, face-to-face (Message from the CTO, newsletter 53)

    This message was fun to write and to record. Since it’s about non-verbal communication, it naturally lent itself to a script format and to video.

    Getting your ideas across, face-to-face

    (JULIAN IS COMPLETELY STILL. HE IS READING FROM A SHEET OF PAPER, HIS FACE LOOKING DOWN AND SLIGHTLY HIDDEN. HIS VOICE IS A MONOTONE.)
    JULIAN: In the late 60s and early 70s, Albert Mehrabian was researching how we perceive information presented to us verbally. His investigation centered on three areas:

    • The actual words being spoken
    • The tone of voice used to present the information
    • The body language, or non-verbal cues

    (AMANDA TAKES OVER. HER VOICE IS ANIMATED, PASSIONATE, BUT SHE'S LOOKING OFF LEFT (RIGHT) AND NOT INTO THE CAMERA. NO EMOTION/BODY LANGUAGE -- SHE'S AS STILL AS JULIAN WAS.)
    AMANDA: He came to the conclusion that all three parts had to be "congruent" in order to effectively present the information being imparted. If one part is out of whack, the communication of ideas is strongly decreased.

    (NOW FULL ENGAGEMENT WITH THE AUDIENCE. HAND GESTURES FOR EMPHASIS, THE WORKS.)
    JULIAN: Furthermore, he assigned a percentage to each part to describe how effective it was. This became known as the 7%-38%-55% rule. Incredibly enough, non-verbal cues are the most effective way to get your message across.

    (THE SAME.)
    AMANDA: Although Mehrabian's research centered on ambiguous communications where the subject of the experiment was asked to like or dislike the speaker, or otherwise evaluate their feelings about the speaker, the conclusions are applicable to verbal communications in general.

    (NOW JULIAN AND AMANDA ARE ENGAGING WITH EACH OTHER AS WELL AS THE AUDIENCE.)
    JULIAN: Although possibly not with the same percentages.

    AMANDA: So next time you have a presentation to make in front of an audience, be it just one person or a room of people...

    JULIAN: Engage that audience with your words, tone of voice, and non-verbal cues.

    AMANDA: Pay attention to your body language. Open up, don't close down. Be passionate.

    (STILL AGAIN, READING FROM SCRIPT. MONOTONE.)
    JULIAN: Or you will sound like this. And no one will remember or care what you had to say.

    You can get the full effect by watching the video here.

  • DevExpress VCL team has just released v2011 vol 1.6

    In case you have a hyper-sensitive junk mail blocker that loves false positives and dumped our announcement email, the VCL team have just released v2011 vol 1.6 of the VCL subscription. All customers with active subscriptions are encouraged to download and install this latest release.

    You can find the What’s New here. Mostly resolved issues, but a couple of suggestions have also been implemented.

  • RAD Studio XE2 – what we’re doing about supporting it and when

    If you’re one of our die-hard VCL customers, I dare say that you’ve already noticed the news coming out from Embarcadero about the next version of RAD Studio. David Intersimone and his band of Merry Developer Relations Men are on a tear at the moment, flying around the world, spreading the news about the new features.

    Architectural plansAnd what great features they are too. There’s certainly a palpable sense of excitement in the Delphi air; more so than any previous new version for a while. I’ll certainly be playing around with it when I get a copy of the released version.

    Naturally, we are starting to get some questions about what we are going to do with regard to this next version with our VCL subscription. Given that some of the finer details about XE2 are still under wraps, I shall have to be fairly circumspect and general at the moment.

    Will DevExpress support compiling to 64-bit? Duh, yes, of course. The code already compiles and we’re in the midst of some rigorous testing. If you are old enough to remember (like I do!) you’ll recall the issues encountered going from 16-bit Delphi 1 to 32-bit Delphi 2. Sounds easy enough, but the devil is in the details. I’m going to predict that we will make the 64-bit capable code available as a beta before we actually release it. So if 64-bit floats your boat, buy Delphi XE2 and ask us for the beta when we announce it.

    Will DevExpress support LiveBindings™? (This is the ability to “connect any visual element to any type of data”.) Still investigating. Obviously it would make sense if we can, but we do have an entire data controller layer already in place.

    Will DevExpress support the new VCL styles? To be honest I doubt it; at least not in the initial version. We already have a full-featured robust skinning engine for VCL that we’ve been shipping for several years. Adding support for some other engine might bloat the code and at a minimum cause breaking changes.

    Will DevExpress support FireMonkey™? This question is perhaps the hardest of all to answer definitively. First of all, some background. FireMonkey is the new cross-platform run-time for Delphi that allows developers to write code that can target both Windows and Mac OS X. It is not the VCL. It has been written from scratch to be able to use the GPU for speed and to target the two completely different operating systems. So, the first implication is that our controls, as written, will not compile with FireMonkey. We would have to rewrite them, especially since we use the Windows API directly and extensively (and that’s not going to work on the Mac). The other problem is that, to be perfectly sanguine, we’ve been down this path before. There is some history here—ancient it may be—but, like it or not, we have been badly affected by it. Consequently, we’re going to take a long term view for our support for FireMonkey. We will not support it immediately. Instead we will experiment to see what is involved in converting our controls to use it and will also monitor feedback and the market for it in order to make better informed decisions next year.

    Does adding support for Delphi XE2 mean that DevExpress will drop support for an older compiler? Yes it will, and note that I already announced this in March. We will drop support for Delphi and C++Builder 2009 in v2011 vol 2 of the VCL subscription. By then we will have added support for RAD Studio XE2. Again, because it bears repeating: if you are using RAD Studio 2009, make plans to upgrade now.

    To my mind, RAD Studio XE2 will be the version of RAD Studio to upgrade to. The IDE getting better every time, 64-bit support, the ability to do cross-platform development are all great reasons to upgrade. And, remember, if you have an active subscription for one or more of our VCL products, you will get our Delphi XE2 support for free as part of that subscription.

    So, are you planning to move to XE2 given what you’ve heard from Embarcadero?

  • Compilers. Compilers? (Message from the CTO, newsletter 52)

    Just realized that I hadn’t put last week’s Message from the CTO up as a post. Maybe it was because I was so excited that we’d managed to record it as a video! (And, yes, there are now several videos in the pipeline…)

    Compilers, compilers?

    Back in the days of yore, pre-Internet, you knew where you stood with compilers. You'd write some code in some quasi-mathematical English, and then you'd let loose a compiler on it to produce a nice object file containing machine code that you then linked with other obj files into a program. Easy, huh?

    That must have been some time ago -- I'm showing my age here -- because we've had interpreters for a while where the code gets compiled on the fly into macro instructions that a state machine can execute. We've even had compilers that produce some kind of intermediate language that gets executed by a run-time virtual machine, which is after all a glorified state machine.

    But just recently I've been looking into another type of compiler altogether, one that compiles your code into another programming language. Because of my natural bent at the moment, I'm particularly interested in compilers that compile to JavaScript.

    One example is Script# which compiles C# code written against a special run-time to the equivalent JavaScript code. The interesting thing about this one is the conversion of a strongly-typed language into a dynamic language.

    That's possibly the most extreme case, however there's another that's just as powerful: CoffeeScript. What this one does is it abstracts out all the nasty things about JavaScript, adds a bunch of syntactic sugar, and compiles to very clean JavaScript. Companies like Google are now starting to add debugging information to the compiler output so that you can debug CoffeeScript directly.

    I often hear that some people find it hard to write client-side code in JavaScript. I think we're getting to the point where it'll no longer be necessary. JavaScript is becoming the assembly language of the web: write in some high level language, compile to JavaScript, and deploy the files produced as part of your site.

    You can watch the video here.

    For fun, here’s the CoffeeScript code we showed in the video:

    wrap = (originalHandler) ->
      (event, pos, item) ->
        if item
          dataPoint = item.series.data[item.dataIndex]
          originalHandler.call this, event, pos, item  if dataPoint[2]

    It’s the equivalent of the last bit of code from this recent blog post of mine.

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