Monday, 5 October 2020

Learn C# Programming - FREE!

If you've subscribed to my YouTube channel you'll know that I have lots of lessons on programming C, Java, Delphi, Ruby and more. Over the past few months I've been posting a series of videos to help people get up to speed with C# programming. These lessons can be followed in order if you are new to C# or you can just jump in to watch whichever lesson is of interest. This is the latest video...

The complete course is called The Little Course Of C# and you can view all the lessons (more to be added later on) HERE.

To be notified whenever I add new lessons, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Learn Recursion in Java

Recursive programming is surprisingly hard to learn for something that, in essence, is really quite simple. A recursive function is one that calls itself. So, you might have a function called x() which somewhere inside its code calls itself x() rather than some other function such as y()

Recursion is a very valuable technique when you want a function to do an operation a certain number of times until it’s run out of things to do. For example, if you want to count all the files in a set of subdirectories you can use recursion to keep looking for more subdirectories until there are no more subdirectories (or subdirectories of subdirectories) to recurse. Then you can count the files in each subdirectory. This sounds like it should be easy to do – and in essence it is. But unless you really understand how recursion works, it can be tricky. 

I teach a whole course on recursion and I also have a book. Either one will teach you all you need to know to understand recursion – what the stack is; how frames are added to and removed from the stack whenever a function is called; how to save values from recursive functions; how to return values; how to avoid infinite recursion and more…

My course normally costs $45 but if you click this link you can enroll for just $19 (plus any local taxes applicable):

(Valid until end of October)

Alternatively, you can buy my book, The Little Book Of Recursion, from Amazon:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Or search for its ISBN: 978-1913132057

The code examples in the course and book are mainly given in C and Ruby. However, recursion works in a similar way in all mainstream languages. To prove this, I’ve translated most of the C code into Java. You can get all the free source code (C, Ruby and Java) just by signing up to my mailing list and I’ll send you the download link:

Meanwhile, here’s a short lesson explaining how to write just about the simplest possible recursive function in Java…

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Can’t Upgrade Delphi RADStudio from Embarcadero

Why I used to love Delphi – but not so much now…

So I loaded up Delphi (Community Edition) this morning and I saw an unhelpful dialog box telling me that the software had expired and prompting me to enter a valid serial. I found my serial number, entered it, but it wasn’t accepted. What was I to do? The damned dialog box didn’t give me any other options.

Time to Google. Lots of other people had the same problem. Advice was to go to the Embarcadero site and download a new copy of the software: 

I did that. Or tried to. Every effort I made to log in failed with a warning that my session had expired. Maybe my browser (Chrome) was the problem? OK, so I tried in Firefox. Same error. In desperation, I tried the Microsoft Edge web browser. Amazingly, this time I managed to log in.

I now had to download the latest version of the software, uninstall my old version, install the new one, wait for a new serial number, enter that… anyway, eventually the installation went again successfully.

Look, I like Delphi. I’ve used its Object Pascal language ever since Delphi was first launched and before that I used its predecessor, Turbo Pascal, since the early 1980s. But, come on, chaps, this download-and-install palaver is nuts. You provide a free edition of Delphi (good) but you make it bomb out after a year and then you go to some lengths to make the reinstallation as painful as possible. It’s a positive incitement to use the open source Object Pascal alternative, Lazarus instead:

The history of the free edition of Delphi is an odd one. From the launch of Delphi 1, way back in 1995, I was the Delphi columnist for PC Plus Magazine in the UK. I wrote Delphi programming columns every month for over ten years and readers could follow along using the free copy of Delphi that its developers, Borland, supplied on the PC Plus cover disk. Whenever a new version of Delphi was released, we had a new free copy on the cover disk.

Then the Borland programming team split away to form a company called CodeGear and they were quickly bought up by another company called Embarcadero. Sadly, Embarcadero didn’t seem to understand the importance of providing a free edition. I asked for one so that I could teach a course on Delphi. And for the first time ever, my request was refused. So I based that course on Lazarus.

In the meantime, Microsoft had decided that it would be a jolly good idea to provide free copies of its IDE, Visual Studio, to anyone who wanted one. Visual Studio doesn’t support Pascal as standard but it does support C# – a very good language that was created by Anders Hejlsberg, the man who had previously been responsible for Delphi before Borland made the unfortunate error or losing him and other members of his team to Microsoft. 

Now let me be ruthlessly honest. Delphi/RADStudio is a fine programming environment. But it’s not as good as Visual Studio. Visual Studio is simply the best. Embarcadero must have noticed that the Delphi market was dwindling while C# was very much in the ascendant. Rather (too) late in the day they decided to release a free Community Edition of Delphi. OK, so better late than never.

But then they go and implement this incredibly infuriating expiry, download and update mechanism. This doesn’t stop you carrying on programming with Delphi after one year is up. All it does, is make you very annoyed with the software and the company for making the update process as inscrutable and infuriating as possible. I have no idea why they do that. It’s bad PR, it’s bad marketing, it’s just really bloody annoying.

OK, so I finally have Delphi reinstalled. But I now feel so ill disposed towards it that I think I’ll spend the rest of the day programming in Visual Studio!

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Program Adventure Games with the BIFF Framework

As a passionate adventure game player and programmer, from the 1980s onwards, I’ve decided that the time has come to help other programmers embark on the noble quest of developing retro-style adventure games. I’ve already taught a course and written a book (available on Amazon US, Amazon UK and worldwide) on writing adventure games in C#. But if you’ve never written a game before you might still find it hard to implement all the features needed. Wouldn’t it be great if someone had already written a library of classes that encapsulated all the essential behaviour needed for a game – a parser to interpret text commands, Rooms to create a map, Treasures to create objects, actions to let the player look at objects, take, and drop them or put one object inside another one?

Welcome to BIFF!

BIFF is short for The Bitwise Interactive Fiction Framework. I’ve spent much of the last year writing this framework in Java and now I’m starting work on translating it into C#. The Java version of BIFF is currently more complete – it can handle reasonably complicated commands such as “Put the small golden egg into the big carved wooden box” or “Unlock the treasure chest with the magic brass key”. I will make BIFF for Java freely available later in the year.

Since many people have already read my C’# book or followed my course, I decided that, rather than wait until the C# release of BIFF has all the features in the Java version, I would release BIFF for C# in incremental stages so that existing readers and students can carry on developing their games using the new features. This necessarily means that the early releases will always be substantially incomplete. However, if you want to deepen your understanding of game programming, this is a great opportunity for you to try to modify the latest release by adding on additional features. You are free to modify BIFF as required as long as you leave my copyright notice in the comments of the source code.

To download the code of my C# adventure game book (whether or not you’ve actually bought it!) as well as the current release of BIFF for C#, juts sign up to my mailing list at Meanwhile, here is a short introduction to BIFF…

Friday, 28 August 2020

Adventure Games In C# – the next step

If you’ve read my book or followed my course on adventure game programming in C#, you will already know how to create a map of linked rooms which the player can wander around in order to take or drop treasures. You will be able to communicate with the game using simple English language commands such as “Take the sword” or “Put the coin into the box”. 

But what happens if there are several swords in the current location? In that case, when the player enters: “Take the sword” you want to game to reply:

“So you mean the gold sword, the silver sword or the Elvish sword?”

And when there are multiple coins boxes here, the player should be able to enter:

“Put the small silver coin into the big carved wooden box.”

In order to do that, we need adjectives – “big, small, gold, silver, carved, wooden” and so on. To implement that I’ve begun to extend the code that was supplied with my book. My aim is to create a reusable game framework of ready-to-run classes that you will be able to use to program your own games. This code is in its very early stages at the moment. The main new feature is the addition of adjectives to the parser. I have not yet defined properties to match those adjectives for the treasures. That is, while you can say “take wooden box”, the game doesn’t yet check if the box you want to take really is wooden. I’ll add that in a future update.

The game framework is called The Bitwise Interactive Fiction Framework (BIFF) for C#. I’ll also shortly be releasing a version of BIFF for Java. To keep up to date with developments and download the source code for BIFF (and for my any of my books and YouTube tutorials), just sign up to our mailing list on:

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Camtasia 2020 Broken Backward Compatibility

In my recent review of the screencasting suite, Camtasia 2020, I said that “The latest release of Camtasia is less focussed on adding big new features than making the existing features easier to use”. Since writing that review I’ve become aware of one feature that makes Camtasia harder to use – well, for long-time Camtasia users at any rate. Because the new release no longer supports old Camtasia file formats. That means that if you made some recordings a few years ago and you want to load and edit them with Camtasia 2020, in all probability you won’t be able to do so.

Put simply, Camtasia 2020 no longer supports older Camtasia project files (with the extension .camproj) nor screen recording files (ending .camrec). I Googled for help on this and the only solution I found (in the Techsmith forums) was to use Camtasia 2019 to convert .camproj files and then load those into Camtasia 2020. But even if you do that, the individual clips (.camrec files) are invalid so in effect the conversion fails. I contacted Techsmith to see if the company had a solution to this problem. This is what the Camtasia project manager replied:

“You are correct that both camproj (projects) and camrec (recording) formats were retired in 2020. We replaced both formats many years ago (I believe TREC was introduced sometime in 2014 in version 8 of Camtasia) to introduce cross-platform project and recording support between Windows and Mac. You are also correct that the solution for opening camproj files is to open them in 2019 and then convert them to the tscproj format. Unfortunately, there was no easy or fast method of handling this for camrec to TREC format. We investigated to see if this would be worth the investment, but only a very small percentage of imports (something like 0.05%) were camrec format.

“Probably the easiest workflow for getting these older videos into 2020 will be to install Camtasia 2019, which will install the camrec shell extension. With this, you can right-click on camrec files in the Windows File Explorer and extract the video as an AVI. You can then bring this video into Camtasia 2020 (note that this will not include any cursor data though; if you need the cursor, you will have to produce the video from Camtasia instead).”

Friday, 31 July 2020

Medieval Knights and YouTube

Mediaeval history is not a subject that I often discuss here but I am going to make an exception to that rule because I've discovered the best history videos I've ever seen (and that includes those made by TV companies such as the BBC or The History Channel). They are all freely available on YouTube and if you have the slightest interest in how knights managed to go into battle wearing armour, how they trained their horses, what they ate, how their swords were made - in fact, if you have any curiosity about what the Middle Ages were really like (not what they look like in the movies), I have this simple advice: subscribe to the Modern History channel today!

This is just one of their videos...

This channel is the creation of Jason Kingsley, the founder and CEO of the Rebellion computer games company. When not running his business, he lives the life of a mediaeval knight. His channel is one of the great gems of YouTube. He really brings history to life. He goes to an armourer to see how suits of armour were made. He puts the 'shield wall' battle strategy to the test. He has sword fights, he jousts. He doesn't just talk about things - he actually does them. I am blown away by this channel. It deserves to be much better known.