Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Developers, DevCon, Cubans and Cognac...

Nick and Craig (of Borland newsgroup and TeamB fame) have both weighed in on the seemingly odd direction of this year's Borland Conference, now referred to as DevCon.  Frankly, I have to sympathize with them both.  Being on the inside of Borland, I have a clearly different perspective on things.  However, looking from the outside, I can see why they're a little concerned.  Let me try and shed some light on what the thinking on this may be.  I doubt I'll be able to even come close, and I may even offend a few developers or CxO's...  But, hey, sometimes you just gotta... ;-)..

Inprise? Did he say, “Inprise?“

For many years, I've heard over and over, in the newsgroups, at BorCon “Meet the team” sessions, and directly from customers, this ongoing rant about how Borland needs to “sell” to their bosses, the managers, CIO, and CTOs.  For a long time, Borland has been very good at capturing the hearts and minds of you the front-line developers.  However, we've seemed to always fall short on the messaging to those that actually make the purchasing descisions.  With a previous management team (who shall remain nameless), this rant was totally misunderstood.  This led to the, now infamous, “Inprise” name change.  It was a radical move, and one that certainly did very little to endear our core constituency, those front-line developers.  But it was and attempt at winning the hearts and minds of your bosses, CIOs and CTOs.  It was just executed poorly.

“This ain't no steenking Inprise“

Now, I've read and heard all the latest scuttle from the peanut-gallery.  They're likening the current marketing surrounding ALM, SDO, Core::SDP, etc.. as a return to “Inprise.”  I do not think that is the case.  Unlike that time, in which it was clear, both externally and internally that the developers were just a cog on the software development machine's gears (or were they the grease in between the gears ;-), developers are a critical piece of the overall story.  In fact they are the centerpiece.  Developers are a perceptive, pragmatic, and sensitive bunch.  What I find interesting is that many times they latch more onto what was not said than what was actually said.  Why is that?  I think it is about trust.  Many developers seem to have a built-in “Bogo-meter” through which all “marketing messages” are passed.  Too many vague sounding buzz words, and the meter is pegging at the extremes.  But those are the sort of messages that do seem to resonate with the dev. managers, CIOs and CTOs of many companies.


Now this is where I'll probably offend a few folks.. but I am going to state this as hyperbole in order to, hopefully, get my point across.  The reason for the split between having a single, all encompassing, Borland Conference and now having a smaller more focused Developer Conference and a separate Enterprise Essentials Conference is to face the realities of how we should be marketing the whole Borland SDO story.  Craig pointed out, quite rightly I might add, that many small companies through nessesity have to blend the roles of managers, CIOs and CTOs with that of the front-line developers.  However, I also think that in order to become big, you have to think and act big.  This is what we're doing.  By keeping a conference that we can tailor to the needs of the developers, we can maintain focus and add more value to that conference.  Contrary to what the feeling is between Craig and Nick, I think there will be a fairly large amount of bleed-over from the ALM and SDO side of the overall message.  Remember how I said that the developers are a critical piece of the whole story?  Who do you think puts the information into the ALM and SDO pipelines?  ALM and SDO are about management, predictability, and maintenance.  Without the base level information obtained from the developers, there is no information in pipeline for the managers, CIOs and CTOs to even see.


What's this have to do with Cognac?  Well, I liken the difference between the DevCon and EECon like this;  DevCon is about raw technology.  Its about learning how to get your job done as quickly and easily as possible.  It's about getting on board with the latest industry trends.  So I see this conferences as one where there the whole day is spent in different rooms listening to guy totally geek-out about how the latest cool piece of tech can improve their work.  Then, in the evening its about some special event at nearest “Sci-fi-” or tech- museum, amusement-park, or some similar geek attraction just to give everyone a chance to loosen up and have some fun.

On the other hand, a conference dedicated to the education of your manager, CIO or CTO is a little different.  These kinds of conferences would take place at a venue like Pebble Beach, or Hilton-Head.  Afternoon sessions would be suspended for one day of the conference for a round of golf.  Evening festivities would take place in huge parlor/library style room with dark mohogony panelling, leather upolstered wing-back chairs, a piano player in the corner adding a light ambiance to the room.  All the “suits” would be milling around with a fine Cuban in one hand and a glass of 100 year old Cognac in the other.  Dale, all the execs, board members, and the Borland marketing and sales managers would also be milling around asking “CIO Hank” how he likes his new summer home;  All the while gently leading the conversations back how Borland is there to help make them successful and make sure they get their yearly bonus.  This conference would be no less chock full of information and “marketing” than the DevCon, however, it is at a totally different level, delivered in a different fashion, and wined-and-dined with style. (to me?  Boooorrrrinngg!) 

If you have attended some of the Borland Conferences in the past few years, you may have noticed that Dale and the many execs that were milling around were surrounded by a flotilla of other suits.  These suits are those CTOs and CIOs.  They go to a conference for a different reason.  They are there to somehow make the right descision for their company, be able to defend it, and  to feel good about it.  This isn't accomplished by technology alone.  It is many times done by them feeling like their vendor's top management is also their buddy.  They've got their back, so to speak.

I realize this is total hyperbole and very stereotypical, but I wanted to make the point that front-line developers care about different things than CTOs and CIOs when it comes to dealing with a vendor.  So Nick, Craig, I'm sure this splitting of conferences isn't going to be perfect the first time around.  It will take fine tuning and everyone's feed back is essential.  However, I'd recommend reserving judgment until all the facts are fully disclosed.  In fact, I don't even know all the facts at this time since the sessions and tracks haven't even been fully decided on.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

.NET 2.0 and slippery slopes..

Here are a couple of postings regarding the latest flurry of news surrounding the delay of .NET 2.0, VS2005, and Yukon:,10801,100552,00.html?source=x54

What does this mean for Borland and the next release of Delphi?  Well... nothing official at this point.

Monday, March 21, 2005

VCL.NET on CF? We control the horizontal...

Danny is making some waves in this post he made over the weekend.  One thing to note is that Borland has never set out to do things only half-hearted.  Unless there is some reasonable chance of success, we will rarely go off and speculatively head down a path.  VCL.NET on CF is one such item that is still being considered and reasoned out (read: Researched... IOW, the “R” in R&D).  Nearly four years ago I brought up the prospect of moving VCL onto the Windows CE platform using the .NET framework on those devices. This was before CF was released.  At the time, there was much poo-poo'ing of the idea because we had visions (delusions ;-) on being able to license the CF designers.  After all it was just a version of the desktop WinForm designer... right?  Fast forward to now and it is quite well known that CF WinForm designer support in the Delphi IDE is currently in a coma...  There has been much moaning and gnashing of teeth over this whole issue.

After following the ensuing discussion both in the comments on Danny's post and the spillover into the Borland newsgroups, I must say that there is more misunderstanding about this whole issue than I thought.  I mean there are several folks who simply out of hand blast the notion of VCL on CF and simply say, “just give us WinForm CF support.”  So we try and clarify by asking if they'd be willing to accept a solution that came with no visual designer support whatsoever?  Then, with a wide-eyed look of surprise, they say,  “Well, of course you need the designer support.”  We're talking in circles here folks.  For Borland to release a product that advertises and touts mobile device support, the expectation will of course be full design-time support.  Then there are those that immediately backpedal and and say that compiler only support is fine.  Read my opening statement about half-hearted implementations.  I'm confused...

Let's recap;  CF/WinForm designer support requires licensing technology from MS, however it is more than just a licensing issue.  It is also a technical one.  Read my comments here and Danny's here, about the issues with CF designers.  Now with VCL, it is a fully Borland designed and built framework.  The VCL designer is also fully Borland designed and built as well.  We have the source code.  We intimately know how it works.  We know where to make the proper incisions in order to repurpose it for another framework.  Do not attempt to adjust your monitor... we control the horizontal... we control the vertical...  Yes, it would be a lot of work, no-one is denying that.  So recall my opening statements about doing something with a reasonable chance of success.  Now the issue comes to whether or not it is something that would be accepted by the customers.  Basically, Danny, the Delphi team and myself are just thinking out loud... which is good because at least you know we are thinking about it. ;-)

Friday, March 18, 2005

"Really new guy" appears

In this blog post I referred to a new Delphi marketing manager.  Well, he's now surfaced and has his own blog.  Please welcome Michael Slinn to the Borland blogging community!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Delphi on the Daily WTF...

I don't know if I should laugh or cry... but it was bound to happen.  A Delphi reference finally showed up on the Daily WTF..  The Meteorological Station In Hell.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

BorCon 2005 dates and location finally announced...

Christine Ellis, posted the following to the borland.public.conference newsgroup:

So, here it is.....

*2005 Borland Conference*
*November 6-10, 2005*
*San Francisco, California*

For 15 years the annual Borland Conference has been the premier event
for technical education and has built a solid reputation as one of the
most informative technical conferences in the industry. This year marks
a new era for BorCon as we transform the Conference to focus on the
challenges that "*developers" *face in our ever changing market.

The Call for Papers will likely be published by the end of this week.
 Stay tuned at (this URL will change in
the next couple of weeks, too).

Thanks to everyone for being so patient and waiting for this
information.  Some had it right on the nose.  We've been waiting to
complete contract negotiations before we could officially announce
anything.  Our apologies for the unexpected delays.


Trivia:  The 1st Borland Developers Conference (BDC back then) was held
in San Francisco in 1991.  Now as we transform this conference back into
a "developers" conference again, we'll return to San Francisco.  I can't
wait to see you all there!

Start making your plans now...

Borland Marketing seen in the wild...

I was reading an article on eWeek about the whole VB.NET and MS MVP bruhaha... and I just happen to notice that the article was surrounded by an some ads from Borland about CaliberRM!  Oh and the irony of its positioning was not lost on me as well ;-)..  Here's a screen-shot because it probably will cycle to a different ad for many of you.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Help Desk...

I just had a Dilbert moment...  You see my IBM notebook has been acting strange so I figured I'd submit a case to the Borland Helpdesk.  Well we've outsourced our IT operations to an external vendor (why?  I won't go into that...), so I go to the help desk website which promptly redirects me to an external site. 

So I try and log in using my normal user name and password.. unknown user.  I try my email address.. unknown user..  Different email address... unknown user... “Forgot my password” selected, enter email address... unknown user..  rats..  so now I am forced to call the help desk.

If you read my post about a call to MS support, then this tops that one.

Support (with Indian accent):  Hello. Borland Helpdesk.  Last name please.
< normal identification handshaking sequence now takes place >
Support: So, how can I help you today.
Me: I can't seem to log into the helpdesk site to submit a case.
Support: Have you logged in to the site before?
Me: No.
Support: Hold on, please.
< long pause >
Support: I need you to submit a case to the server team to get your password reset.
< Did I just hear that right?  I am suppose to submit a case to be able to submit a case??!! >
Me: Uh... excuse me.  Who is going to submit a case?  You are submitting a case for me or am I suppose to submit the case?
Support: To the server team, yes.
< Panic beginning to set in... Infinite loop ahead, please divert now! >
Me: OK, I need to clarify this because it is just sounding way too Dilbert for me!  I can't submit a case because I can't login.  Or are you submitting the case for me?
Support: No sir, I've submitted the case and the server team should contact you shortly.
< Whew!  I was about to have coniption.. >
Me: Oh. OK.  That sounds fine.  Thanks.
Support: Thank you for calling the Borland Helpdesk.

Now I don't know if the help desk dude caught the Dilber reference or not... or even if Dilbert is even widely known over in India (I'll have to ask Ramesh..).  But as soon as I heard “ need to submit a case to the server team..” all those “no company can be that stupid” Dilbert comics came flooding back into my head... I mean, I even have one such Dilbert comic just like that taped to my door with the smug indication of that “never will that happen here” intent.  Clearly, there was a communication gap here since English was not this supporty guy's native language.  What I think he meant was that the “proxy” me needed to submit a case, not the actual me since it was clear that I could not.  Nevertheless, it was a jarring experience..

Next up... the server support team calls.  Tells me to use my email address as the user name... I thought I did that... Oh.. use my new “official“ email address, not the one I'd been using for over 10 years!  Arghh!!

Fine, I entered that email address and it sends me this funky mess of a password.  I enter it and am now greeted with a “your password has expired“ message. So I need to change it.  Fine, I enter my normal email password.  Wrong!  It doesn't meet their requirements.  Grrr..  Ok... hmmm... must be eight characters, at least one digit, and no character can occur more that twice... ok.  My normal password fits that... no wait... it violates one of those rules.  Great!  Now I have to enter a new password that is some strange variation of what I normally use, but it will be one that I'll never remember.. so what do I do now? I commit the cardinal sin of password rules.  I write it down! How secure does this stupid thing need to be?  We're about to find out...

Next screen.  Please select six (count them, six!) challege/response questions!  Huh?  Holy cow!  This system is turning into Fort Knox!  Fine.. so I start.  Hmm.. Mother's maiden name... check.. Brand of my first car... check... High school I attended... check... Favorite color... check... Favorite author... check... Favorite holiday... check.  Submit... grind.. grind.. grind... wham!  Same screen comes back with an error.  “Responses to the challenge questions must contain a minumum of five characters“  But my favorite color is “blue!!!“  Who decided on these rules?!?!

I'm not kidding!  This is going on right now as I write this post!  So, now I need to change my favorite color... How about “grey“!  You stupid site!  Try red! @#$^%!!!!! Arrrrghhhh!!!  How about...  Azure! That's blue, right?  Right.. and I'll remember that... yeah, sure...  Pardon me while I go do something more fun and productive... like go slam my hand in a car door!!  Geez...  Oh, yes.. its Monday...

Oh.. BTW, I went ahead and syndicated the entire content of this post based on some reasonable feedback from folks regarding only syndicating excerpts.  I still would request that you at least hit the actual site often as well.


Friday, March 11, 2005


OK.. So I'm a little behind the times... but I just discovered this really cool shopping site called Woot. (yea, yea.. I'm a little sheltered, OK?  Get over yourself ;-)  They are rather unique in how they do things.  But it is a great hook.  Hey, it hooked me ;-).. I won't bore you with the details of how they operate since you can read for yourself here. (go ahead, I'll wait :-)  They even have an RSS feed so you can keep track of the Woot stuff in your favorite aggregator tool.

As a bit of a gadget freak, I really like reading the Gizmodo blog, and last week they highlighted a really cool product that was that days “Woot” item.  They were unloading a really cool Omnifi/Rockford-Fosgate digital media player bundle for an unbelievable price of USD $199 + $5 shipping!  Usually, if something looks to good to be true, it usually is. However, I quickly looked around the web and found that this place is on the level.  So I figured, what the hey... so I ordered it.  Now I'm shopping around for for an Aux input adapter for my car's factory radio head unit.  It makes no sense for me to replace this head unit since it is already a 6Disc CD changer, has really cool DSP functions, and a good subwoofer and power amp.  It's no $5000 thumpin' lane shifter (you know, those cars that drive by and all you can hear is the “thump, thump” of the bass that is so powerful you think that any minute that tiny Honda Civic is going to suddenly jump into your lane), but it sounds good.  I've found some that may work over at LogJam Electronics that aren't too expensive.

So, anyway, I finally get the FedEx tracking number and I wasn't expecting it to arrive until next week sometime.. until today I noticed that it had already arrived at the local FedEx sorting facility and said it was on the truck for delivery.  Sweet!  3 days early!  I get home and look around and there's no package.  Hmm.. Went back to track the package and I see that at 4:38pm it was taken off the truck with a status of :”package not due for delivery.”  Huh?  It was on the silly truck.. at least that is what the tracking data said.  So, off to Google again and I soon discovered that this is now a very common thing with the FedEx Express Saver option.  So basically the gist of this is that they ship everything the same fast way, but they artificially delay the delivery since “I didn't pay for them to deliver.”  No problem... There are those that paid much more for the timely overnight and two-day service so they should get priority space on the trucks.  I just find it odd that they were willing for my package to take space and add weight to the delivery vehicle and drive around town with it, then pay a worker to unload it and toss it aside.  Now the package has to be touched again to be reloaded on the truck and then finally delivered.  Not particulary efficient if you ask me.  Sure the shipper is saving money, but is FedEx?


Tuesday, March 8, 2005

More flying fur...

Here's another little tidbit of discontent.  Apparently the VB crowd is still totally irritated at what MS did to their favorite tool in the move over to .NET.  You can read about how the MS MVPs are revolting...  Robert Scoble also has a few words to say about it as well.   I suppose I could gloat here... nah... I'll let the Delphi crowd do that for me ;-)

Monday, March 7, 2005

Watching the fur fly...

Sometimes it's fun to just sit back and watch the fur fly... However I find myself a little biased in the latest furball.  Richard Grimes posted some scathing criticism about .NET.  Then Dan Fernandez posted this response.  I have to say that Dan's response was quite fair and balanced and didn't really come across as a childish “did not! did too!” kind of article.  What is cool is that he mentioned Delphi along side C/C++ and VB!


Friday, March 4, 2005

People you meet...

Today we had a little internal party around lunch time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of Delphi.  Several of the execs showed up to lend their support.  In fact, the VP of development pitched in some real coin to buy some cool raffle prizes.  I think we gave away about four iPod minis and four 20GB iPods.  Thanks Boz!  We had a pretty decent lunch and some folks got to talk about all the early days of Delphi.  It was a lot of fun.  I was roped into helping draw names for the raffle prizes along with some really new guy.

Well it turns out that this “really new guy” is a new hire on the marketing team dedicated to Delphi!  I could hardly contain my surprise when the words “marketing” and “Delphi” were mixed in the same sentence!  So please, please, don't scare this guy off ;-)..  He's very energetic and excited about working on Delphi marketing.  In the short period of time we were able to talk he was already floating some pretty crazy ideas.  Crazy is good.  These kinds of ideas are the catalysts needed to actually begin mining the real ideas.  To preserve his identitiy right now, I'll refrain from mentioning him by name... hopefully you'll get to find out soon since he's already asked about where the blog servers are and who he can contact about getting an account.  So anyway... welcome to Borland, “really new guy!”


Thursday, March 3, 2005

Intel session at IDF...

Danny and I were invited to a session given by Intel in San Francisco during the Intel Developers Forum happening this week at the Moscone Center.  While I cannot currently comment on the exact nature of that session as some of it was under NDA, I did make a couple of observations that were interesting.  I'm sure the roadmap stuff is off-limits here, but some other things are probably OK (he said while glancing over his shoulder)... however if asked, I'll deny ever saying this ;-)...

The talks were rather dry, but I've come to expect that from Intel.  Multi-core was the hot button topic.  They kept re-iterating that Moore's Law was still a long way from finally hitting the wall.  So how are they doubling the transistor count?  Simple, double the number of CPU cores on the die.  This tells me that CPUs themselves have probably reached the top as far as their complexity.  Part of this is because of power consumption.  As the oxide layers get thinner and thinner, the amount of current leakage increases.  Strained insulator technology has helped mitigate this somewhat, but it is still getting worse.  So by doubling the number of CPUs on the die, they can now better manage power because whole CPU cores can be shutdown to save power.

Other things of note were the 64bit items. They had an independent industry analyst get up and do a spiel that basically threw a whole bucket of cold water on the 64bit stuff and concentrated on the fact that multi-core is the hot item of the year.  He touted the fact that with multi-core, the cost of mult-core systems can now become a common reality for the consumer market.  Unlike 64bit that requires a complete rebuild of the applications (sans the whole 64bit .NET issue, in which .NET was only given a cursory glance), multi-core can benefit existing applications that already take advantage of multi-threading and multi-cpu.  They kept touting video transcoding, gaming, collaboration, VOIP as applications that can immediately see the benefits of multi-core systems being ubiquitous.

As for the 64bit stuff, the Intel folks actually said that they have seen many cases where 64bit applications were actually slower than their 32bit counterparts!  They attributed this to overburdened caches and overall code-bloat, especially in pointer intensive applications.  They also stated that the advantages of 64bit was mainly increased memory addressability and not some mythical boost in performance.  Sure, for memory intensive applications (read SQL database servers, video transcoding servers, etc..), the increased memory address space can lead to better overall performance, but that is not where the vast majority of applications spent their time.  In fact they are pushing multi-core along with better multi-threaded applications as being the path to performance, irrespective of “bitness.”

Opteron, the chip from AMD, was mentioned several times, but AMD, the company, was only mentioned once, by the analyst dude.  The Athlon 64 and Athlon 64FX chips were never mentioned, I suppose because they are the mainstream competitor to the new EM64T stuff from Intel.  Actually, Danny and I were quite surprised that they even acknowledged that AMD even existed.  They did this mainly to head off those obvious questions that are bound to come up.  In fact they said that is why they mentioned it.

What does this mean for Delphi and Borland?  Well, first of all, it certainly gives us more ammunition with which to go to management with proposals to schedule time for a alternative memory managers that better take advantage of these newer architectures.  As for 64bit, we are still looking at the market as for when the best time to jump in would be.  Clearly it is coming.. how fast and how soon... well... even Intel can't predict that.  The talk from the analyst dude was quite interesting from a market trend point of view.  It was what he didn't say that was most interesting.  He didn't tell folks to jump right now on the 64bit bandwagon, but rather jump on the multi-core, multi-threaded bandwagon!  In fact he played the whole “rebuild your application for 64bit” as a negative.