Developer day in Marlow

I have just returned from Marlow, a quaint little village on the river Thames to the west of London. Like Edinburgh, I can’t afford to buy a property there.

Marlow isn’t a developer Mecca, so why was I there?

Well, Delphi’s chief architect and one of Borland’s Chief Scientists, Danny Thorpe came over to talk about Delphi 7 and 8. Danny gave us a great overview of the people processes behind Delphi 8’s language implementation and how he/they are trying to work out what’s best to do for Win32 Delphi: we were entertained when Danny related a story about typeless var parameters and discussions with Anders Hejlsberg. Anders asked Danny: “what are you doing going there?” to which Danny replied “we didn’t start this thing”! For non-Delphi readers, Anders designed/built Delphi; he then moved to Microsoft where he became the Lead Architect for C#. Obviously Danny and Anders still talk to each other!

Brian Long also gave us an introduction to ASP.NET using Delphi 8. Brian’s session concentrated on building a simple authenticated web-site with two pages. This was sufficient to demonstrate how ASP.NET’s “roundtripping” to the server works and how HTML pages can maintain their state (e.g. the contents of listboxes) using ASP.NET’s notion of “viewstate”: a simple hidden <input > element that stores information about the page. This raised an interesting question about security: viewstate is obscured but not secured. Brian now works for falafelsoft – these guys don’t have blogs, they have flogs. It was this idea that made me think about calling my blog a slog. I still might.

Bryan Crotaz arrived traditionally late, unflustered despite an installation problem at the BBC (how difficult are TVs getting to install? I dunno). Bryan talked about ModelMaker and Bold in a Win32 (Delphi 7) environment. Model Driven Architecture (MDA), that was the focus of the session. As usual Bryan made it look very easy, however I suspect my mileage will vary when I sit down to go through it.

Borland’s Jason Vokes (blogless at the time of writing), gave us a whistle-stop tour of “what’s in the box” for the various Delphi 8 editions. This wasn’t really what I was expecting – having been privy to some of the “ideas” bouncing around the Developers Group, I took this to mean “provide more than just an explanation of what was on the CDs” (sorry Jason, honesty gets the better of me!) I was expecting/hoping for an overview of each product and the chance to see the product in action. As an aside, the June issue of The Delphi Magazine will be publishing my review of ProDelphi, which you’ll find on the Companion CD!

Overall it was a good day, good food and good people…if I had a digital camera I’d show you the free mug we all got. But, I don’t, so I can’t!

It was particularly good to catch up with the Team DCon, folks I expect to see once a year. However because there is no DCon 2004, :-(, I’ll have to make do with this trip, so far.

Sadly, Team DCon is one member short: Jon Jenkinson, 1963-2004.

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A bang at 10000 feet

I flew from Luton to Edinburgh on Wednesday 5th May 2004.

I was lucky to get there early enough to be issued with easyJet boarding pass no. 22 (easyJet’s free seating policy means we are boarded in four groups: 1-30, 30-60, 60-90, and 90+, I know that doesn’t really work on the perhiphery conditions, but it’s not a science). Whilst waiting to board, we who were in the 1-30 group had a clear view of our aircraft.

An easyTech van appeared, two blokes climbed out…then they climbed in the port side engine. Two pairs of feet and two backsides inside a jet engine: it looked funny. They waved their arms, pointed their fingers, heads rolled, there was much umming and awwing. Then they climbed out of the engine and drove off.

port side engineSeconds later, another easyTech van appeared. The driver de-camped carrying nothing more than a cloth and some spray. He went over to the port side engine, sprayed what looked like polish on the outer perimeter of the engine and proceeded to polish the engine. And he did a nice job of it too. He returned to his van and drove off, a job well done.

Still not sure what he was doing, perhaps it was a bird strike? Perhaps airlines don’t like their passengers seeing bird blood on engines?

We boarded and a few minutes later, took off.

Five minutes into the take-off there was an almighty bang…from the port side of the aircraft. Accompanying the bang, the loudest I’ve ever heard, especially at 10000 feet, was a dazzling flash and what appeared to be a puff of smoke.

Now, if I was the pilot, I would have immediately pulled my stick left, perhaps pushing it forward at the same time. And I’d be screaming “we’re going down” through the tannoy system. Our pilot, perhaps luckily for the other passengers, wasn’t me and didn’t do this: probably because he’s a professional pilot and I’m not. Instead, he chose to say nothing. The stewardess remained calm, the passengers considerably less so.

Many moments of silence passed, nobody really knowing what on earth (or rather in the sky) had just happened. I was sitting on the starboard side ailse seat – for some odd reason we all felt much safer than our fellow passengers sitting on the starboard side. As if that’ll make a difference if the portside engine goes off on a tangent of its own. Heck we’ve got the starboard engine, we’ll be alright…yeah right.

Then the seat belt sign went off. Enter easyKiosk: a trolley service offering “over-priced drinks” (for real, the stewardess had a comical streak) appeared. And they did rather well, selling an awful lot of alcohol…something that I’ve not seen happen in the past. An Act of God helping easyJet marketing and profits? It seems so.

It would seem that we were hit by lightening…did I forget to mention that the weather at Luton airport was stormy?

The last time I was in an aircraft during a lightening storm, sparks bounced along the wings…and I was aged about 8, with no fear. Now that age is getting the better of me, there was an element of fear: once we landed and I got home, I was straight on Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 with “damage” settings taking the port side engine out.

It’s amazing how much these 737s can take: one engine is enough…

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Craig Murphy: author, blogger, community evangelist, developer, speaker, runner