John Kaster

Behind the Screen

Archive for the ‘EDN’ Category

Moving on

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On December 27th, 2010 I will leave Embarcadero to pursue a great opportunity for myself. Please don’t view this as a sign that I think Delphi, InterBase or any other of the Embarcadero products is in trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Delphi XE is my favorite version of Delphi, ever. I have even gone so far as to call it “my” release. It has features in it (particularly some of the new DataSnap features) I’ve been wanting since Delphi 5. Really! It has great quality and performance, and I really enjoy working with it every day. Furthermore, the next release looks like it could be the most exciting release since Delphi was first launched in 1995.

Having said this, you’re now probably wondering why I’d be leaving Embarcadero if I feel that way about Delphi and its future. That’s a fair question. I hope you give me a fair chance to answer it, by reading this post to learn why I joined the Delphi team, and why I’m now leaving.

When I graduated from college in 1985, I sent my resume to Borland, because I wanted to work for the company that made Turbo Pascal. I never received a reply. I had already started building things in Turbo Pascal for my own use before I even left college, and these tools rapidly grew into popular public domain, shareware, and commercial products, which I sold and supported. Even while working as an employee of other companies, I kept building software development tools on the side, based on my own needs. 

After a couple years of working as a PC expert, consultant, and systems analyst for lots of major organizations in the Washington, DC area, I went out completely on my own.

In 1997 (12 years after sending my resume to Borland), while deeply engrossed in running my own very enjoyable and successful one-man product development and consulting firm, I got a call from a  head hunter that ended up changing the direction of my career for more than a decade. Based on the deliberately vague description he gave me of the position he was trying to fill, I knew the job involved working on the Delphi team.

I love using Delphi even more than I liked Turbo Pascal, and I thought it would be great to be a part of the team building the product. The thought of personally contributing to its success, and helping shape the product as one of its Product Managers was very appealing to me.

On the other hand, I had my own customers, whom I liked, and my own products, which I really liked, and I was making really good money from the combination of software consulting and product sales.

I was really tempted by the offer, but I was having a hard time deciding which direction to go.

So, I discussed the idea of putting my own business on hold with one of my best friends, Ali Davachi. At a Clipper conference back in 1990, I’d met Ali when he bought two copies of one of my products (TechWriter) with great panache. In the following years, we worked together on some projects, and I have great respect for both his business acumen and technical skills. We also have a fabulous time working together.

Ali said he thought it would be a great idea for me to work for Borland for 2 or 3 years, to get some experience working as a Product Manager on a major product I loved, from an industry-leading software company.

So, I accepted a huge pay cut to “get in the door” at Borland as a Product Manager. I started working as the Enterprise and Distributed Computing Product Manager on November 3, 1997. I was responsible for everything related to database connectivity, and anything to do with DCOM, CORBA, or any other distributed technology. This included the BDE, MIDAS (now DataSnap), and a variety of other “connectivity” technology that has come and gone.

After working in that role for about 1.5 years, I went to work for David Intersimone (David I) in Developer Relations. I became an “evangelist”, traveling all around the world, launching new versions of our products. Together with David and Charlie Calvert, I also launched what is now called EDN in 1999. Ever since then, I have managed, built, and maintained services for EDN, even while traveling.

When Embarcadero acquired CodeGear, I officially became the EDN Program Manager, which is basically what I’d already been doing for over 10 years. This is still my primary responsibility at Embarcadero. I still get to use Delphi to develop services for EDN, and I am constantly in conversations with the Delphi, RadPHP, and InterBase teams about their products, how they are used for EDN, and what I’d like to see in future releases.

A few months ago, my friend Ali contacted me. He told me he was accepting a position as CTO at a great new company called Transactis, and he thought it was the opportunity we’d both been waiting for: to work together again on great technology and services for our customers. In short, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. On January 3rd, 2011, I start working for Transactis as their Senior Vice President of Development, reporting to the CTO (Ali).

I will miss the people I work with at Embarcadero, the products I use, and the EDN services with which I’ve worked for so long. It’s very hard to leave, particularly because the projects never stop. But for me personally, this is an opportunity I can’t pass up.

Delphi will be just fine with me gone. EDN will be just fine, too.  As I pointed out in a previous post, many, many people have worked on EDN over the years. Many more have worked on Delphi over the years. Even more people will work on Delphi and EDN in the future.

I’m just one person, who stayed on the team 5 times longer than I originally planned, helping support Delphi. You don’t owe me any favors, but I’ll ask one anyway: if you share my love of Delphi, don’t worry about my departure, and don’t let others make it into some huge disaster for the future of Delphi. My departure has nothing to do with how I feel about Delphi, C++Builder, RadPHP, InterBase, or any other Embarcadero product. Even though I’ll no longer be “on the team,” I’m still a huge supporter of the Embarcadero products. I still plan to use them whenever I can in my future work.

In fact, Transactis will be buying some Embarcadero products in the very near future, so Embarcadero has just gained yet another customer! Smile

Keep the faith, and I’ll see you around.

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Written by John Kaster

December 16, 2010 at 2:05 am

My registered products and downloads pages on EDN are faster

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David Clegg was able to do some performance tuning for a critical query that returns the list of products you have registered with Embarcadero with your active EDN account. The pages can now load at least 50 times faster (depending on the number of registrations you have with Embarcadero) than they did before.

You can login at https://members.embarcadero.com and click on the following links:

regdownloads

My registered user downloads brings you to your personal download page on CodeCentral.

My registered products shows all the products you have registered with your active EDN account.

Written by John Kaster

December 14, 2010 at 11:43 am

EDN developers through the years

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On November 3, 2010, I observed my thirteenth anniversary as an employee of what is now Embarcadero Technologies. This milestone has prompted me to look back on what has been my primary area of responsibility for most of this time – building, managing, maintaining, and supporting what is now the Embarcadero Developer Network (EDN).

EDN started out as the “Borland community site” back in July of 1999. It was launched at the Borland developer’s conference (BorCon ’99) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. David I used to have a  picture on his office door of the community site launch at the conference closing session, in which he and Charlie Calvert are smiling, and I am conspicuously absent, due to the slow dial-up connection I had for deploying updates to CodeCentral. (I joined the closing session about 10 seconds after it started.) Dan Miser, Chad Hower, and I did the CodeCentral updates during the conference, in lieu of sleeping. Conferences are always sleep-deprivation affairs, but 5 hours of sleep spread over 4 days is definitely not enough!

CodeCentral is the one part of EDN that preceded the community site launch at BorCon ’99. The original CodeCentral was launched in 1998 as a demonstration of MIDAS technology (now called DataSnap). I wrote CodeCentral when I was still an “Enterprise Product Manager”, responsible for database and distributed computing connectivity for Borland. It was originally intended for getting code snippets from the community, so the documentation team could use them as examples for the product documentation. (A technical writer named Nathan Tawil spent a lot of time talking with me about what CodeCentral features would help the documentation effort.)

There have been many changes, expansions, and retirements to EDN over the years. Only two things have remained the same throughout EDN’s history: David I’s tireless championing of EDN on behalf of our customers, and his internal campaigning for the resources to best support it; and my role as the architect and manager for EDN.

As can be expected from a community site originally started in 1998, many people have worked on EDN over the years, and many systems have come and gone.

In roughly chronological order, here are most of the people who have contributed to the design and development of the systems that have been part of EDN: David Intersimone, Charlie Calvert, Chris Malatesta, Ann Lynnworth, Michael Ax, Marc Ross, Rosemary Abell, Elwood Bredell, Tom Lam, Cindy Furry, Tom Gardner, Jeff Overcash, Rob Schieck, Dan Miser, Chad Hower, John Ray Thomas, Robert Love, Corbin Dunn, Anders Ohlsson, Yorai Aminov, Nick Hodges, Gillmer Derge, Leonel Togniolli, Holger Flick, Brian Layman, Lori Olson, Chris Jackson, Jonathan Benedicto, and David Clegg.

There have been many changes, and people coming and going in the last 13 years, so I am convinced I’m missing a few people. Please don’t be offended if I haven’t listed you or someone you know – just post a comment and I’ll update the list.

Wow, I can’t believe I forgot to put Leonel Togniolli in the initial list! Sorry about that, Leonel. You were a huge contributor to EDN, and I’ve listed you now.

Written by John Kaster

December 10, 2010 at 4:43 am

Posted in DataSnap, EDN

Use forums.embarcadero.com instead of forums.codegear.com

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Some people have been contacting me about the expiration of our codegear.com SSL certificate on our discussion forums server. Thanks for letting me know – we’re aware of the expiration of the certificate.

This is a great reminder and opportunity for those people still referring to forums.codegear.com to update their references to forums.embarcadero.com. In most cases, nothing will happen to your forum client – just change the URL for the server and you’ll be back up and running.

Eventually, forums.codegear.com will be going away, so I strongly recommend updating to forums.embarcadero.com now. Thanks!

Written by John Kaster

November 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Posted in EDN

QC Login performance problems resolved

with 3 comments

QualityCentral has recently been having very slow logins. Fortunately, we just discovered the culprit and have resolved the performance problems through the use of an internally-developed test framework we’ve implemented for EDN systems to track stability and performance.

It was an embarrassingly simple mistake – we were missing an index on the USER_ID column in one of our tables. Adding the missing index brought the query time down from over 27 seconds (on average) to 31ms on average. Now, the QC windows and browser clients are finally logging in again like they used to.

As the users in the database grew, the server was performing a natural scan on the table, and naturally this was taking longer and longer to complete. Now that the index is in place, the query should now provide reasonably consistent performance even as the dataset grows.

My apologies for missing this performance improvement for so long. I’d like to thank Sriram Balasubramanian for noticing the performance problem when he was reviewing our EDN performance test suite for InterBase.

I’m just glad to finally put that annoying performance issue behind us!

Written by John Kaster

November 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Upgrading InterBase 2009 to InterBase XE 64-bit

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Starting at 7pm Friday, October 29th, 2010 we will be upgrading InterBase servers from 2009 to the XE 64-bit release. In addition to the obvious benefits of full 64-bit memory addressing, better CPU usage, stronger passwords, and other security improvements, there are some other things we get by upgrading to XE.

By simply doing a backup and restore of the databases with InterBase XE, the On-Disk Structure (ODS) version will be 15. With OSD 15, we gain:

  • index key sizes can now be 2K rather than 252 bytes
  • faster, incremental sweeps (the InterBase garbage collector)
  • much faster blob handling: if you have a query for a table that contains blobs, but the query doesn’t request any of the blobs in its result set, the blobs are basically ignored, resulting in much faster queries

Here’s the 10 step process we’re going to take for our upgrade:

  1. Put our web servers into maintenance mode
  2. Uninstall our InterBase 2009 instances
  3. Install InterBase XE instances
  4. Register the XE instances
  5. Copy our preferred ibconfig to each instance
  6. Backup our admin.ib from our XE 64-bit test instance and restore it for each production XE instance (for strong password support)
  7. Backup and restore every InterBase database so it gets the latest version of ODS. (We have a batch file for this.)
  8. Before or during the InterBase XE process, update all our InterBase clients on the various servers that talk to our InterBase servers with the XE client, so they support the new stronger password feature. This client can be updated directly over the existing client. We may have to stop some IIS instances to replace the client, other the InterBase client may still be in use when we try to replace it.
  9. Take our web servers out of maintenance mode
  10. Enjoy the increased performance and stability of InterBase XE!

P.S. We have one custom UDF that’s not yet available for 64-bit InterBase, so one server instance will be 32-bit rather than 64-bit.

Written by John Kaster

October 28, 2010 at 1:58 pm

EDN Tip #4: Getting help with the head scratchers

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Do you have a really tough coding problem to solve, and you’ve gone beyond head scratching into downright pulling your hair out? Assistance is already available for your algorithmic agony!

For years, members of our community had requested a general purpose algorithms discussion forum for just this purpose. One supporter (John Herbster) even went so far as to send me a care package in support of the group. Since that group has been created, I have been impressed and humbled by the great problem-solving talent that contributes to it.

If you’ve got a tough coding problem to solve, I strongly encourage you to share the challenge with the denizens of that discussion forum, and you’ll soon have some great answers to your question.

Enjoy!

P.S. The nntp/newsgroup link to the forum is news://forums.embarcadero.com/embarcadero.public.algorithms.

Written by John Kaster

August 9, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Posted in EDN