Monday, April 27, 2015

Delphi XE8 / RAD Studio XE8 New Features

Another 6 months, another (expensive) Delphi Release

Embarcadero keeps pushing out new Delphi versions

Yes, there is already another Version of Delphi / RAD Studio available — the XE8 Version!  If it seems like Delphi XE7 was "just released", that is because Embarcadero is pushing new versions of the Delphi programming and development platform out at the rate of approximately one new version every six months or thereabouts!  That is absurd!  Clearly these "new versions" are what should be released, in my opinion, as a free point-release to existing license holders of XE7 (or perhaps earlier versions still).

How is any small developer supposed to afford keeping up with this??  I suppose "software assurance" or some such perpetual-payment (to this Borland / CodeGear successor) model is recommended?   Rather than adopt such a money-sucking strategy, I stopped using Delphi for the simple reason that the software would bankrupt me if I bought ever darn version they release.

I would have highly considered adopting the Delphi XE  release series when the new FireMonkey stuff emerged, and I would have called it a "major release" at that point IF it was truly finished when it first came out.  I really like the idea of scalable vector-graphics controls and all the extra customization these controls may offer.  But, every time I look at it, FireMonkey still appears to be lacking commonly-used features the original VCL offered.

A full FIVE Delphi XE versions have now had this FireMonkey technology in it, and I am still not convinced it is on feature parity with the pre-Firemonkey VCL controls.  Case in point (quoted from the Delphi What's New web page):
  • New in XE8! ImageList component for FireMonkey
Seriously!?  An ImageList control is just now some new feature for FireMonkey after five versions of Delphi XE?  OK, fine... but do not charge me for all these incremental updates to the technology!  If I could have purchased Delphi XE4 and known for sure that all these future upgrades — upgrades that are still bringing FireMonkey features up to parity with the VCL — would have been available to me as free updates, I would have bought it.  But, there is no way I am paying for half-finished control sets over and over and over.

Furthermore, what is with the fact there are now so many Delphi features that are not even available on WINDOWS anymore?  Cross-platform may be great and all, but Embarcadero has gone a bit iOS crazy with what used to be a Windows-only product, and a lot of the newest features are not even implement for the Windows platform now/yet (oh, I guess that will be yet another paid-upgrade "version" of Delphi XE9, XE10, etc).   And, in what seems commonplace in most releases over the past few years, is seems that many new "features" are just tools and add-ons that Embarcadero has purchased from other companies to add into the Delphi environment and call them "features" —  that does not strike me much as REAL innovation that each paid version is including.

To be fair, there are some rather intriguing new features in Delphi XE8 (refer to that what's new page for details), but then again, along comes the next concern...

... Delphi XE8 Price!

You have to love this quote from an article The Register had regarding this XE8 release:
"RAD Studio XE8 has become somewhat expensive. It comes in four editions: Professional at $1,954, Enterprise at $3,244, Ultimate at $4,325 and Architect at $4,866."   
To that I say: "somewhat expensive"... OUCH, that is more than "somewhat"!  
Unless some (near magic) circumstance occurs where a paying-client wants to use Delphi so badly that they are not only willing to have me write Delphi code for them, but also are willing to pay for the latest and greatest XE8 license(s) for the privilege of using a language hardly any job openings exist for, I doubt I will ever get a chance to code in Delphi anymore.  Embarcadero has priced me out of the market and their push toward iOS and such has only further convinced me that I have better options available elsewhere.

Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming articles (including useful free / OSS source-code and algorithms), software development insights, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Delphi, Nvidia CUDA, VMware, TypeScript, SVG, other technology tips and how-to's, plus my varied political and economic opinions.

Friday, April 17, 2015

EE Free Power Bar may NOT be so "free"...

"FREE" EE Power Bar Offer Warning

EE recently launched an offer for a free power bar (external battery) to its customers in the United Kingdom (UK).  Everywhere this offer from EE is displayed (online, email campaigns, texts, etc), the word FREE is very prominent and there is no obvious mention of additional hidden costs you may incur if you choose to take them up on this "free" exclusive offer.

Get Ready to Pay if...

I figured there must be a catch — it is essentially a given in this world of liars, cheats, and thieves that push the boundaries of the law by using small print and legal terms and conditions to hide the true cost of things.  One could certainly describe such advertising as opportunistically misleading (a nice term for skirting the edge of legality and blatantly hiding details that may encourage a customer to NOT take them up on such a "Free" offer).

I am so sick of seeing products and services, whether on the television or in print or whatever, that boldly state "FREE" everywhere with perhaps an asterisk or such that leads you to the small print that might as well state "NOT FREE" — and yet such advertising is commonplace and apparently no regulators are willing to step in and tell a company that it is unacceptable to state "free (* not free)" in such shady ways.

Well, EE is the latest to do the FREE BUT NOT REALLY FREE marketing campaign (while only, of course, featuring the first word — FREE — everywhere while never making clear what the true cost of taking them up on that "free" offer is.   EE does mention the fact it will cost you £20 if you lose the power bar (battery gizmo) in the general text on that page I linked to, but beware of the fact that you also must RETURN THE POWER BAR at the end of 18 months (or such) or face a penalty charge of £5.

OK, so how is this "free" if I must PAY to keep the thing past a certain duration? That is a good question!  This is typical bullshit marketing at its best where you, as a major company, can essentially state "FREE (but not free, via the small/hidden print!)".  I say "hidden" because you must dive into the full legal terms and conditions (EE's PDF) to find the following:

"2.7 When this agreement expires or terminates (for mobile or broadband customer this will happen automatically if you chose to cancel your agreement with us for mobile or broadband services), you must return the Power Bar to an EE store within 60 days. If you don’t you’ll have to pay a charge to compensate us for replacing the Power Bar. Currently this is £5. For mobile and broadband customers, this will be applied to your bill. If you’re not an existing customer, we’ll contact you using the information supplied to us when you joined EE Power and we’ll issue a bill for the cost of replacing the Power Bar that has not been returned. "

Am I the only one that is sick of the fact such misleading advertising is allowed? Gee, how about at least putting this fact in the "FAQ"  for the offer? (surely it has to be a FREQUENT question when it was the first one I asked when I went into the local EE store — and no worker knew if there was a charge or not either!)

The external supplemental battery (aka, power bar) was interesting to me, but not if I have to be concerned about what it will cost me if I forget to return it, lose it, or otherwise have issues with it.  You will have to decide yourself it the "free" (with potential costs) is still free enough for you.

Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming articles (including useful free / OSS source-code and algorithms), software development insights, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Delphi, Nvidia CUDA, VMware, TypeScript, SVG, other technology tips and how-to's, plus my varied political and economic opinions.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Elon Musk, Satellite Broadband, Space Internet, Mars... quantum entanglement?

Elon Musk talks Satellite Broadband

Musk's Semi-Futuristic Plans

When I read a recent Bloomberg article about Elon Musk (of SpaceX & Tesla fame) and his newest ideas / plans to launch a vast network of communication satellites, I was both intrigued by his plans for a dual-altitude network of satellites but also a bit let down that he did not also go a bit further "out there" with some long-term technology visions like he is known for.

He mentioned being able to using SpaceX to help launch a vast array (thousands) of satellites that would comprise this new space Internet / network.  He also mentioned why the dual-altitude plans make sense — including facts about reduced latency between the ground user and the lower-orbit satellites, coupled with the higher speed of light in a vacuum (e.g., space) vs. speed of light through fiber optic cables (that can be 40% lower).  As anyone with current satellite Internet technology knows, latency (i.e., lag time) is currently a big issue and makes the service not even remotely usable (compared to terrestrial Internet connections) for gaming, real-time communication (e.g., Google Voice), etc.

The planet Mars enters the picture next as Musk envisions connecting another set of Mars-orbiting satellites back into to Earth-orbiting network at some point in the future.  This will truly be needed if humans make any serious push to explore Mars (with "boots on the ground" especially), but why stop with Mars?  Other targets in our solar system seem perhaps even more hospitable than Mars — like the dwarf planet Ceres, or Jupiter's moons Europa and , or Saturn's moon Titan — and, presumably we will need network connectivity there also.

But, a network of satellites surrounding Earth needs to be connected to those other satellites on Mars, and with current technology this implies absolutely massive latency due to the distance between Mars and Earth.  When you have a light-speed minimum (one-way) distance of 4 minutes between Earth and Mars when the two planets are closest in their orbits (and a maximum of 24 minutes one-way when at their furthest), it does not take long to see the huge issues that will follow.  Who wants to wait up to 48 minutes for a "ping" to return??

As such, Elon Musk has some great ideas for the near term, but how about some very forward-looking prognostications about the technology that will make nearly the entire (satellite-based) scheme (hopefully) obsolete in the future?

Seriously Futuristic Plans : Quantum Entanglement Networks

Zero Latency.  Distance irrelevant.  Latency between New York and London: zero.  Latency between Earth and Mars: zero.  Quantum entanglement makes this a possibility (at least in my semi-educated opinion), and whatever company commercializes this and takes it big-time is going to be worth more than every other communications and networking company put together.  What would you pay for truly "instant" communications between any two points at any arbitrary distance apart?  Lots.  And, it would fundamentally change all sorts of industry.  That aside, let me get back on point...

Quantum entanglement or QE (aka, "spooky action at a distance", per Einstein), which allows two entangled particles (electrons and photons, e.g.) to "share state information" instantly at any arbitrary distance, is not just theoretical, it has been demonstrated in very real experiments.  I expect these varied experiments to yield a practical (data-communications) application within the next 2 or 3 decades.

There is still considerable debate about whether FTL (Faster-than-Light speed) communications are truly possible using QE — in fact plenty of information out there says it is impossible — , but, if it is and if some brilliant scientists figure out a way to communicate data at FTL speeds (i.e., "instant" regardless of distance), everything changes.  Mars, Europa, Titan... here we come with instant connectivity to our home-planet Earth!

Apparently Elon Musk did not want to sound crazy by suggesting deploying a series of quantum-entangled network switches, so I did it here for him.  Keep in mind: these do not need to be located on satellites: they can be placed on the ground anywhere on Earth, on Mars, etc... the entangled particles should not care where they are located.  Thus, the need for satellites could be removed instantly if this type of communication is achieved.

I may ultimately be wrong in thinking that the final frontier in communications must be a fully FTL quantum-entangled network backbone, but I prefer to hold out hope for something that will once and for all solve the latency problem that plagues both Earthbound and inter-planetary-body communications currently.  Maybe Google could help fund making a QE solution a reality?

Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming articles (including useful free / OSS source-code and algorithms), software development insights, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Delphi, Nvidia CUDA, VMware, TypeScript, SVG, other technology tips and how-to's, plus my varied political and economic opinions.