[fpc-devel]Systems 2000 report

Sebastian G√ľnther sguenther at gmx.de
Fri Nov 10 14:44:52 CET 2000

Hello *,

what follows is a short report about these year's Systems, a major
annual trade show here in Munich, Germany. But be warned that most of it
is Linux specific stuff.

I will cover the following topics:

- General remarks
- Kylix
- KDevelop
- Apache
- XFree86

General remarks
Two years ago the 'LinuxPark' has been introduced at the Systems. As you
might guess, this is an area dedicated to Linux projects and companies
which do active development for Linux. Besides from the OS itself, Open
Source is an important topic there, too, of course. So this is the right
place to go for FPC members as well...
BTW, one the one hand I'm really impressed how many people have heard of
Free Pascal. But OTOH most of them don't really believe in its success;
but this isn't very surprising when you talk with C/C++ developers... ;)

Borland presented the current version of Kylix a.k.a. Delphi for Linux,
which is far ahead of the last Field Test, it seemed. They installed
Kylix on two Linux boxes, and I was able to talk with someone from
Borland for about 1 hour or so... Some facts: (perhaps not all are new,
but nevertheless)

- Kylix 1.0 should be available in Q1/2001. They hope to get everything
finished in January, but February should be more realistic.

- The Kylix 1.0 IDE _will definitely_ use Wine to run. While they have
managed to fix all cosmetic problems by now (i.e. the IDE they presented
looked quite good, including the fonts, and even worked quite stable -
only the focus handling was a major problem...), this will result in
high memory requirements, I think. The speed should be okay on a modern
machine, but I expect that it will feel quite slow on lower-end machines
which still would run Delphi fine.

- The online help is done via a WinHelp viewer for Unix from Bristol
Technologies. The integration with the IDE wasn't implemented yet in the
version they presented.

- While the IDE itself uses Wine, the form designer uses the Qt based
components. (of course)

- shared objects: The initialization and finalization sections of units
are supported

- WideString: A WideString is stored as reference-counted UTF-8 string,
because someone at Borland is said to have found out that UTF-8 is the
most usual encoding for Unicode strings. Technically, a WideString in
Kylix seems to be identical to an AnsiString, plus some automatic
conversions etc. added.

- Kylix will not feature anything XML based... (but Delphi 6 will get
its own XML parser, independent from MSXML or similar libraries - this
is different to the latest beta, btw)

- the database support looks quite good; perhaps a little bit
complicated for beginners, but it is quite powerful. I don't know how DB
support works in current versions of Delphi, but in Kylix you can buffer
all modifications and commit them at once - mainly to reduce network
traffic. Support for transactions can be added easily.

- The Exception Handling might be quite strange: It works exactly the
way it works for Win32, and I was told they had to write a special
library (an additional .so file) for exception handling. Unfortunately I
got no further technical details...

- Resources are not fully supported: While you can access a resource via
its name, you cannot enumerate them. Sounds strange, but nobody knew
further details...

The usual KDE people were present; I tried to find out how far it is
possible for future FPC projects (fpGUI etc.), to integrate with KDE
(optionally of course!).
While the KDE libraries have a C++ interface and cannot be used directly
with FPC, KDE2 makes use of DCOP in many places. Strangely enough nobody
was able to explain what DCOP exactly does, but it's something similar
to COM/DCOM or CORBA, but quite lightweight and based on libice (ICE =
X11 interprocess communication). As there is a C wrapper for the DCOP
library, it should be easy for us to support DCOP. What's nice about
DCOP is its dynamic structure, i.e. there is no persistent registry - an
aplication or applet registeres itself at runtime, and can be discovered
by other applications.

We'll see in which way future GUI libraries will be able to offer
support for more advanced things such as tray applets in a platform
independent way... But at least for KDE it looks quite good; for Gnome I
don't expect any problems as well as it's C based.

I talked quite long with Ralf Nolden from the KDevelop team - starting
with general KDE topics, then about KDevelop itself. The essence: In a
few months, KDevelop 2 should be available. While KDevelop 1.x is an IDE
solely for C/C++ applications, they want to be totally open with
KDevelop 2. It will have a modular architecture, which allows different
languages to be supported; you will be even possible to specify the
editor (Emacs, vi(m)...) to use (this is done by special embedding
wrappers). Now they try to convince as many people as possible to write
KDevelop support for their applications (icon editors, translation tools
and so on); and of course he tried to convince me that adding Free
Pascal support to KDevelop wouldn't be very hard. BUT it seems as such
the plugins must be written in C++.
Hmm... I don't know. It is really possible that it's better for us in
the short term to use KDevelop, until we have our own graphical IDE. A
major problem is that KDevelop will only run on Unices, but not on
Windows. (It's not a problem for me personally, but I'm tired from the
OS flamewars... so I recognise the demand for a graphical IDE for Win32)

As it will be possible to write Apache modules with Kylix, I just asked
two Apache guys how complicated it is to translate the headers for FPC.
This doesn't seem to be a big task: An Apache module just has to export
a public symbol, which is a simple data structure containing some
pointers. But it will be a little bit of work to translate the hundrets
of API functions of Apache. BTW, as usual the Linux version uses 'cdecl'
and the Win32 version 'stdcall'... but everything is plain C, so adding
support for Apache modules to FPC is possible.

At the XFree86 booth, they showed the usual stuff... X running on a
Matrox 4-port graphics adapter (i.e. it controls 4 screens at once), and
X running on different screens with different orientation at the same
What's more interesting is XRender: Besides other things, this extension
will enable applications to use anti aliased text. Everybody who knows X
knows that the font rendering is a major annoyance. XRender will use
FreeType2 to display antialiased TrueType fonts. Existing applications
won't benefit from XRender, which one might see as a major problem; but,
the XFree86 people had a convincing argument: Only the existing graphics
libraries has to be adapted - i.e. modifications to Motif/Lesstif, Qt
and GDK are necessary, and over 90% of all X applications will profit
from XRender. For FPC it's clear that I have to extend fpGFX a little

this should be enough for now... :)

- Sebastian

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