Feeds

Born Again Delphi

A word in CodeGear's shell-like

High performance access to file storage

So with all this talk about smart pointers, I guess you are agin garbage collection? OK, I admit it. Garbage collection is in general a great liberating thing. But I don't think it is right for native Delphi.

Delphi Object Pascal is surely supposed to be a 'as close to the metal as is sensible without being rust' sort of language. This is what differentiates it from C# and Java, which emphasise portability and safety, but run in vast, cosy-but-stifling, virtual machines that arrive (in one case) as gargantuan downloads and (in the other) seem to need updating every 10 minutes. When you do garbage collection, you are handing off a piece of control that by rights belongs to the obsessed, micro-optimising programmer. This is not the Delphi way.

Remember: we already got some Pascal garbage collection in Delphi.NET - and that didn't work out brilliantly, did it? Also, if we get GC in native New Delphi, will it not introduce hideous data sharing problems with Olde Delf modules, like managed and unmanaged code in Visual C++?

On the other hand, the smart pointer design I cited back there was the work of one Barry Kelly. Mr Kelly is one of the doubtless vast team that CodeGear has assembled to work on the compiler, and he seems to be pro garbage collection (and points out, amusingly, that Jeff 'Coding Horror' Atwood apparently believes that stack-allocated items are garbage-collected), although we cannot know what he thinks in this specific case.

Mr Kelly is rather well placed to have an opinion on this matter; if he were to produce it and it ran contrary to mine, I would be happy to consider it seriously. I am sure he is very relieved to hear that.

In real life, the issue of memory management does not arise as much as you'd expect in practical Delphi code, because of the ownership system in the VCL framework.

Ah yes - what about the VCL? Ok, not actually a compiler issue per se, but in Delphi the twain are intertwined.

The VCL was a miracle of its time. It was eight trillion times better than MFC. It got things right about delegation and event handling and resource storage and organisation that are still regularly being got wrong. The VCL hierarchy is perhaps a little deeper than is fashionable nowadays... but so what? The thing works, and works a treat.

But.

You will recall the design principle called 'separation of concerns', which says it is a good idea to minimise dependencies between different functions of your program. The VCL doesn't really 'do' separation of concerns. Its leanings are more towards consolidation of concerns into one honking big woe.

The solution to this, it seems to me, needn't be painful. The VCL is an excellent tool for implementing the 'V' part of the 'Model-View-Controller' pattern, and should be left alone.

All that is needed is a new, separate library to do the concern separating. And there is already an extremely elegant, compact and multi-lingual open source library called PureMVC. Although initially targeted at ActionScript and Flex, it already supports a dozen or so languages and platforms. I see no technical reason why New Object Pascal could not be added to the tally.

Among other advantages, it would mean that if CodeGear were to create a Delphi cross-compiler for, say, the Palm Pre, then they would not need to port the VCL at the same time (a highly desirable outcome in view of the Kylix and Delphi.NET fiascos, where many dollars were spent creating unsatisfactory re-implementations of the VCL). CodeGear could create a new front-end library specifically appropriate to the Pre device, and not backwards-compatible with anything, and they would be done.

Sure, users would have to rewrite the front-ends of their MVC structured programs - but realistically they would have to do that in any case, because a PC UI does not work well on a smartphone (don't believe me? Ask a Windows Mobile user). Everybody would be happy.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.