Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Which programming language should you learn first?

There is a huge range of programming languages and a beginner may wonder where to start? Java, C, C++, C#, Python, Pascal, Ruby, Go, etc. The choices are overwhelming. In this video I give my thoughts on which languages would be good to start with - and which ones you should avoid!

Monday, 9 March 2020

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

How to Attach Notes to TreeView Branches in Delphi

Here's my latest video on programming a collapsible outliner using Delphi. In this one, I associate text notes with the branches (nodes) of a TreeView.

To watch this series of videos from the start, go to the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZHx5heVfgEtHeS6O2ePOkr3f-agvPxi6

Friday, 28 February 2020

The Little Book Of Delphi Programming (Object Pascal)

I’ve been programming in Delphi for over 25 years. What? Can that really be true? It doesn’t seem that long but Delphi’s just had its 25th birthday so it really must be. It was launched in 1995 and I was using the pre-release beta some months before that. I wrote the review of Delphi for PC Plus Magazine and for more than ten years after that I wrote the monthly Delphi programming columns for the same magazine.

Delphi was the successor to Borland’s hugely successful DOS-based Turbo Pascal and its less successful Windows Pascal (even I can hardly remember that – I think it was called ‘Borland Pascal With Objects’ or something equally unmemorable). At the time, Delphi was, in my view, far the best visual (drag-and-drop, design-and-code) environment for Windows. Its only real competition was Microsoft’s Visual Basic. The trouble is that no matter how visual you make Basic, it’s still Basic. Whereas Delphi used a very nice version of Pascal that had a reasonably modular unit-based system, good Object Orientation and also had low-level features for anyone who might be missing C.

Anyway, Delphi is still going strong. It’s owned by Embarcadero these days and you can get a free copy here: https://www.embarcadero.com/products/delphi/starter/free-download

To celebrate Delphi’s 25th birthday, I’ve just released a book for new or intermediate Delphi programmers. It’s called The Little Book Of Delphi and it’s available in paperback or as a Kindle eBook from Amazon.

The book covers:

  • Fundamentals of Delphi
  • The Object Pascal language 
  • Object Orientation
  • Variables, Types, Constants
  • Operators and Tests
  • for loops and while loops
  • Procedures and Functions 
  • Parameters and Arguments
  • Arrays and Lists
  • String Operations
  • Case Statements
  • User-defined Types
  • Constructors and Methods
  • Creating and Freeing Objects
  • Inheritance and Encapsulation
  • Virtual and Overridden Methods
  • File-handling
  • Text files and Binary files
  • Streaming and Serialization
  • Errors and Exceptions
  • ...and much more

Here are the links:

Amazon (US)
Paperback: https://amzn.to/37ZJqHF
eBook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0854D12GJ

Amazon (UK)
Paperback: https://amzn.to/392AJxm
eBook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0854D12GJ

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Download Classic Adventurer Magazine FREE

There’s an interview with me (Huw Collingbourne) in the latest edition of the Classic Adventurer Magazine (#8) which you can download free here: http://classicadventurer.co.uk/ 

In the interview, I discuss everything from The Golden Wombat Of Destiny – the game I wrote back in the '80s – to my recent book, The Little Book Of Adventure Game Programming. There are numerous other articles in the magazine that should be of interest to anyone interested in retro/classic ‘Interactive Fiction’ games.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Ruby Programming - Instance Variables

What the heck is an 'instance' and why does it have its own variables? My latest YouTube video for Ruby programmers explains all...

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Program an Adventure Game in Java

Regular readers will know that I am passionately keen on retro-style adventure games. Not only are they great fun to play but they are also great fun to program. Don't be fooled into thinking that an adventure game is a trivial program to write, however. It isn't. It requires you to use a very broad range of programming techniques: creating class hierarchies, overriding and overloading methods, generic lists, serialization to save and load networks of mixed data types. And much more.

I've recently started a YouTube series on programming games in Java. This complements my book, 'The Little Book Of Adventure Game Programming' which uses C# as the primary language.

Anyway, here's the latest video.

To follow the course in sequence, go to the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZHx5heVfgEvT5BD8TgLmGrr-V64pX7MD

To make sure you never miss a video, subscribe to the Bitwise Courses YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/BitwiseCourses?sub_confirmation=1

And if you want to buy my Adventure Game Programming book, here it is:

Amazon.com     https://amzn.to/33M6sQ4
Amazon.co.uk   https://amzn.to/2YtaBrj

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Deleaker Review – finding memory leaks in C++ and Delphi

Deleaker https://www.deleaker.com
From $99

Memory leaks are some of the trickiest things to track down when you are writing programs. Somewhere you allocate a chunk of memory and then later on, that memory isn’t freed when it’s no longer needed. Small memory leaks might not be a problem but when a program allocates huge amounts of memory, you can run into trouble. In a long programming career, I’ve seen people spend weeks trying to track down obscure memory problems. It’s usually quite easy to track down problems that cause your program to crash every 10 minutes. But once every ten days? Not so easy at all.

Of course, in modern garbage collected languages like C# and Java, memory leaks are no longer a problem – or are they? It’s certainly the case that garbage collection makes life a lot easier. In general, you don’t have to bother about freeing up memory – it’s done automatically. However, you can still get problems if you call system APIs or libraries written in another language where memory is not managed.

If you have (or think you have) a memory leak problem, then a tool to track down the source of the leak might be  useful. One such tool is Deleaker. This comes with a 14 day trial period where you can use the full functionality of the tool. Deleaker helps you find and fix memory leaks in your C, C++ or Object Pascal programs developed using either Microsoft’s Visual Studio or Embarcadero’s RAD Studio/Delphi.

This is Deleaker’s own video showing integration with RAD Studio.

When installed, Deleaker can either be run from a menu item in your chosen IDE or it can be run as a standalone application so that it is available on a PC without the IDE installed. The licence allows a single user to run Deleaker on multiple PCs which is convenient if you need to use it both on your desktop computer and also on a laptop.

Here I have docked Deleaker into the Delphi IDE. You can keep its window ‘free-floating’ if you prefer.
Deleaker has a very nice integration with Visual Studio and Delphi and most of the time it works smoothly though it did crash Visual Studio on one occasion. You can also use it in  standalone mode from the console – Deleaker attaches itself to the process you specify so as to perform its magic.

We tried it out on some very simple programs with a couple of memory leaks and it worked great. At the end of the run, Deleaker will identify the leaks and indicate the source of the leak. However, it doesn’t (and can’t) tell you where you should have freed the memory. But it’s a good start and with some extra coding diagnostics, you should be able to track down memory leaks reasonably easily.

In my experience, though, simple memory leaks are not the huge problem that they are sometimes made out to be. First, from my own experience early on in my programming career seeing other programmers get in real deep trouble, I’ve been absolutely fanatical about memory allocation. Because of that I’ve never had a serious problem. The other memory problem that Deleaker can’t help with is where you have accidentally reused some freed memory: you have two pointers to the same memory address and you’ve forgotten about the second pointer when you called free on the first. These can be very tricky indeed to track down.

But where Deleaker does score is keeping track of system resources such as GDI device contexts, handles and the like. It is surprisingly easy to lose track of these because they tend to exist for a long time in the program and the effects of not freeing handles are not obvious – you don’t see memory creeping up and your program slowing down dramatically until the whole of Windows starts to seize up.

Here Deleaker has produced a report of some leaks in a Visual Studio C project.
Overall, Deleaker is a nice, simple tool that fits in well with Visual Studio and Delphi and makes tracking down memory leaks much easier. It’s not a cure-all for poor programming practice, though. If you have a badly written program, it will tell you that you have a leak and the line that allocated the memory, but it’s up to you to find out where you should have freed it.

At the end of the day, while you have been careful about memory allocation and resource tracking (and in my case paranoid about it) – how you do you know that you have no memory leaks? Without something like Deleaker you won’t - and here Deleaker does shine in acting as a quality check keeping track of memory and non-obvious system resources: it’s always a lot cheaper to fix bugs before releasing software and any tool such as Deleaker that helps produce bug free software is well worth the money.

For this review Dermot Hogan reviewed Deleaker for Visual Studio (Huw Collingbourne tested it with Delphi)