Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Driven to Distraction...

Yeah, yeah, yeah... It's been a while since there has been any activity on this blog. Now that school has started, the summer is officially over and, hopefully, I'll be able to get back into a regular schedule. I had a very full schedule, both here at CodeGear and personally throughout the summer. I was able to take more time off throughout the summer than I've been able to in the past. Spent a week in Las Vegas at our vacation property, and a week in Hawaii (Kona) where my 16 year-old son, who is on the Scotts Valley High School Varisty Football (American) Team, played the Kealakehe Waveriders Varsity Team.

Earlier in the summer I broke down and bought my own XBox 360. I rationalized the purchase by telling myself that I'll work with some of the other Delphi team members and get Delphi for .NET working with the managed XNA framework... yeah.. yeah.. that's the ticket. The truth of the matter is that Forza Motorsports 2 was my real motivation. I bought the system and the MS Force Feedback Wheel. After playing for about a week... I determined that you can't just use the wheel just by sitting it on your lap.... I needed a racing chair! I researched online all the various different chairs and they all were either too expensive (nevermind the fact that my wife was already rolling her eyes at me...) or just cheap looking. So I decided to build my own. I went to Summit Racing and purchased a cheap racing seat and adjustable sliding tracks. Then headed down to the closest Home Depot and purchased some 2x3, 2x2s and some 5/8” (16mm) plywood. Here's what I built over a weekend:

This is after the first day I had the base completed and the seat mounted. The base consists of a plywood sheet with 2x2s framing underneath that provide rigidity and raise the bolt heads that attach the seat rails off the floor.

It took a bit of planning and thinking to get the wheel and pedal mounts the way I wanted. I knew I wanted the height of the wheel mount to be adjustable and to be able to swing out of the way to easily entering and exiting the seat. So I created a simple moveable parallelogram mounting table. I mounted the pedals onto an angled platform between the “legs” of the wheel mount table. Here's the final result:

To limit the movement of the table and to allow for adjustment, I just simply placed extra blocks of wood on the bottom. The uprights will wedge against them and rest there with with its own weight to hold it in place. Since these photos were taken, I've revised the mounting of the wheel by eliminating the need for the provided clamp (which is somewhat weak) and screwing two blocks of wood to the top of the mounting table that overlap the “wings” that stick out on the sides of the wheel housing.

Now, I've never really been what one would call a “hard-core” gamer as I've always preferred to take the game apart and figure out how it works rather than actually playing the game :-). However, with this setup, and the big screen TV I must say that the racing game experience is on a whole different level. So when we went to Las Vegas earlier this past summer we went to the NASCAR Cafe that has an excellent linear accelerated roller coaster called Speed-The Ride and the Cyber Speedway. The problem is that when we first started visiting Las Vegas regularly about 7 years ago, I remember being totally blown away at the level of “realism” that the motion controlled cars provided... that was late '90s technology. I must now say that short of having a true motion-controlled experience, the graphics and detail of the racing in Forza 2 makes the Cyber Speedway feel like playing the old Pong video game.

So if you've got an XBox 360, my gamertag is “kylix rd” I've yet to sign-up for a full Xbox Live “gold” membership, so once I do maybe we can race :-).

Ok, so it hasn't been all vacations, and fun and games... there actually has been some things going on here at CodeGear. If you haven't noticed there's been a lot of information regarding Highlander, the full release of what is was once the Borland Developer Studio now called RAD Studio 2007. The betablogging program is in full swing and there is a lot of excellent information flowing about this new release. I suppose for the folks that view the language as a critical piece of the product, you'll be pleased to know that we'll finally be releasing full support for generics on the Delphi for .NET side. The next RAD Studio release, codenamed Tiburón will include support for generics on Win32 as well as full support for Unicode throughout VCL, the RTL top to bottom, left to right. Nick has an excellent post with links to the various betabloggers out there. If you know of others that Nick hasn't mentioned, make sure you contact him with a link and he'll update his blog entry.

While not specifcally Delphi related, it is CodeGear related. We've just announced the availability of JGear. JGear allows you to purchase some of the excellent JBuilder specific “mojo” and integrate it into an existing Eclipse or Eclipse-derived 3.2 installation! You no longer have be a JBuilder customer to get access to the features that make JBuilder the most powerful IDE in the Java space. Of course if you want the best experience, you should consider moving to the new Eclipse derived JBuilder.

Over the coming months, I'll try and get back into the swing of more regular blogging by helping to chronicle our move to Unicode with VCL and the IDE itself. I plan on beginning to highlight some of the little gotchas and things to watch for now so you can be best prepared for the switch when Tiburón is released next year. As we encounter these things and solve them, there will be things you can do today to your code to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. Details will follow throughout the coming months.

Another item of note is that supposedly we're due to move to some new mo-betta blogging software sometime soon... I'm hoping that it will go smoothly, but just in case there are a few burps, I hope you will be understanding while the dust settles.