Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Multithreading is (still) hard!

Multithreading is hard!

No matter how long you deal with it and how good you (think) you are, you will make a mistake. Usually, it will be a problem that will only exhibit itself in a rare circumstances, most probably on a hard-to-reach customer machine. With some (bad) luck it will only appear on Friday afternoons or during your vacation.

That is why I'm always introducing multithreading with the "Don't do it yourself!" motto. Use a standard library! (And by that I mean OmniThreadLibrary, of course. ;) ) As your code, it too will have bugs. Unlike your code, it has 1000+ users running it in very different environments which means that at least it is tested as much as possible.

There are, nevertheless, bugs that escape detection for a long time. In 2011, for example, I fixed a well-hidden problem in TOmniBlockingCollection ("Multithreading is Hard!"). As nasty as that was, it was nothing compared to the bug I found recently!

As it turned out, the implementation of a bounded (fixed-size) multiple-producer multiple-consumer lock-free queue TOmniBoundedQueue (try saying that in one breath!) was buggy since its inception! As this queue is basis to all OmniThreadLibrary communication channels it is really surprising that the bug hid from everybody for 9 (yes, nine!) long years.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Delphi High Performance

My second book was also released these days. I wrote it for Packt Publishing, a publishing house which has recently started printing Delphi titles. The first was Delphi Cookbook by Daniele Teti, a very successful title that was followed by Delphi Cookbook - Second Edition by the same author.
Last year they published Expert Delphi by Paweł Głowacki, followed this year by my book and (as I have it on a good authority) at least one more. All books are available in electronic and printed formats. They also offer Delphi video lectures.

Delphi High Performance Book CoverDelphi High Performance is, as the name says, a book about writing Delphi applications that perform well. That does not mean writing multithreaded applications - and I say this many times in the book. To write high performance applications you need to known much more. The book therefore starts with the basics - with the algorithms, how we can classify them, how they behave and how can we pull the most from the built-in Delphi data structures. Then it moves to profilers because you should never guess what the slowest part of the code is. Always measure!

Writing a book that tells you "this is how you make your algorithm faster" is, sadly, impossible. That's why we consultants are for ;) In the book I only gave few advises (with lots of examples) about working with the GUI and about caching results from calculations.

Only then do I go deep into Delphi. Writing fast applications means knowing how built-in data types behave. I look into data life-cycle, what happens when a data of some type is modified and how it is passed in function calls. The life-cycle part cannot be explained without talking about memory which brings in a discussion of memory managers in general and FastMM in specifics.

Only then does the book introduce multithreading. Whole three chapters are dedicated to it and one of them is specifically written to show you why multithreading is hard, what you should never do when writing multithreaded code and why you shouldn't approach this topic with a preconception that it will automatically speed up your code. Only then do I introduce TThread and modern concepts such as tasks, futures, parallel for and so on. Most of the time I stay with the Delphi RTL and show how modern multithreading concepts can be neatly implemented on that basis. Only at the end I introduce OmniThreadLibrary's concept of a pipeline.

At the end the book admits that sometimes you have to look around and find a prepackaged solution elsewhere. As this solution will be typically compiled for C or C++, the book shows how to link in C object files, how to write a proxy DLL which allows you to use a C++ library and at least tries to introduce you to the world of pain related to all that. Reading this book will definitely not give you enough information on the topic of linking, but at least it will give you a good starting point so that you can research further.

I really hope that you'll like this book. It was a great joy to write, but also lots of very hard work. At the end, all the hard work was immediately forgotten when Stefan Glienke (who very kindly reviewed the whole book and pointed out some glaring errors - Stefan, thanks!) said:
"This is the best Delphi book (for me personally) I've read since 'Delphi in a Nutshell'. It is 'must buy' for our department and mandatory that everyone reads it."

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Parallel Programming with OmniThreadLibrary - the book is here!

My first book Parallel Programming with OmniThreadLibrary is finally out!

The book covers OmniThreadLibrary version 3.07.5 which was also released today.

As this book was always meant to be documentation for the OmniThreadLibrary, my job doesn't end here. I will update and enhance the e-book whenever OmniThreadLibrary is updated and modified. All owners of the e-book will get these updates for the lifetime of the book.

The printed book will also be updated, but most probably only with major updates to OmniThreadLibrary. There will not be an update for release 3.07.6 (if there will be such release), but most probably there will be a new version of printed book when OmniThreadLibrary 3.08 is released and there most definitely will be one when version 4.0 comes out.

Here are your options at the moment.

1. If you would like to own the ebook, go to LeanPub. You can buy an ebook for $29.99 and package containing ebook + three webinars about the OmniThreadLibrary for $34.99. You can also buy an organizational license which allows you to give as many copies as you want to members of your organization.

2. To buy the hardcover printed book go to Lulu. For the next month the price is reduced from $49.99 to $45.99 as an introductory offer! I'm still deciding the possibility of also releasing a paperback version but I'm not entirely sure about that as paperback binding on Lulu is reportedly not of high quality. A price of the paperback would be about $10 lower than the price of the hardcover (that is the difference in print costs) and if you think that would make a difference for you, leave me a note.

3. To buy both versions (ebook and printed), go to Lulu and buy the printed book first! You will get an email with a link for ebook at reduced price $9.99 (and combo with webinars for $14.99).

All existing owners of the electronic book should have already received an email with notification about the new release. This email also contains a link to a specially reduced printed book for mere $29.99! If you previously bought the ebook but didn't receive the email, let me know!

Before I sign out for today, let me tell you that writing this book was lots of hard work but also a great joy and I could never do it without all the great people who bought the ebook before it was even completed. Thank you!

OmniThreadLibrary 3.07.5

OmniThreadLibrary 3.07.5 has been released. You can get it at GitHub or download the ZIP.

There are only small number of changes in this release.

General improvements

  • Reduced number of times NameThreadForDebugging is called when threadpool is used.

Bug fixes

  • [VyPu] fixed race condition in TOmniCriticalSection.Release which affected code that was using TOmniCriticalSection.LockCount.
  • OtlThreadPool did not respect OTL_DontSetThreadName define.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Data-driven Multithreading

About a week ago, Craig Chapman posted a vlog Lockless Multi-Threading in Delphi where he programmed a lockless communication channel which transfers messages between the main thread and a worker thread (or, actually, between any two threads).

I do like Craig's implementation of a lockless queue. It is small, neat, and working. I also like that he approached multithreading from a communication viewpoint. I do, however, have several issues with how it is integrated into the application. While I whole understand the need for simple demo that viewers can understand, I feel that the Delphi world is full of such examples. That makes it hard for a newcomer to the multithreaded world to find appropriate patterns to copy.

Hence I decided to rewrite Craig's code with different objectives in mind. Instead of speed I focused on flexibility, ease of use and good multithreaded programming patterns. Before I jump into my solution, however, I must articulate the bad programming practices in the Lockless demo. (That is strictly subjective reasoning. Your mileage may vary. It is, alas, a reasoning supported by many many years of writing bad multithreaded code - and not yet enough years of writing good code.)

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Books, wonderful books!

I love reading. I loved it since the (very) young days. As far as I remember, books were my friends.

I also love - as I somewhat surprisingly discovered in my twenties - teaching and writing. I always kept to the short form - blog posts, magazine articles, and so on. Always - until few years ago I somehow decided that documenting OmniThreadLibrary would be best done in a form of a book.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Spring4D presentation slides and more

Slides and code for my Spring4D presentation are now online on the Presentations page.

And to the participants of the workshop, here's the answer I promised.

If you want to catch all calls to some function while mocking, you can pass in Arg.IsAny (or call some other function of the TArg type, defined in Spring.Mocking.Matching).

I have added an example to the Mocking project.

  function(const callInfo: TCallInfo): TValue
    lbLog.Items.Add('Don''t know how to handle ' + callInfo.Method.Name +
'(' + IntToStr(callInfo.Args[0].AsInteger) + ')');


Or you can pass Args.Any to the When function. In that case, the argument passed to AddTwo is ignored.


Monday, December 04, 2017

Advent of Code

Last few days I'm having great fun solving problems from Advent of Code 2017 page and so does my daughter (with a bit of help from her dad). I'm using Delphi and she Python so that's also a good practice to brush my multilanguage skills ;)

Go ahead, take a look at the problems. Some are simple, some not so much, but they are all quite interesting.

All my solutions are posted to my GpDelphiCode repository so you can look at and criticise my code. Most of the solutions depend on units from my GpDelphiUnits repo so you'll need that one too.

Friday, December 01, 2017

In the middle of winter, Spring comes to Ljubljana

Indeed, it is snowing for the last three days. Not much, but winter is definitely here.

To add some green to the white surroundings we'll spend the next Friday talking about spring. Or, actually Spring. For Delphi. Also known as Spring4D - definitely the best Delphi collection of programming goodies that you can find around.

If you speak Slovenian language (sorry, almost all of the world population), you're welcome to my workshop about that ingenious library. If not, you'll have to find that information somewhere else, sorry. Or you can learn Slovenian and come to Ljubljana. Where else can you listen about Delphi in a session targeted to only 2 millions of humans?

Programerji smo včasih malo leni in iščemo bližnjice. Odlične programe bi radi napisali s kar najmanj kode. Pri tem nam pomaga tudi fleksibilnost jezika Delphi in odlične programerske knjižnice.

Tokrat si bomo ogledali knjižnico Spring4D, ki prinaša množico malih pripomočkov in bljižnic za pametne programerje - od objektov, ki jih ni treba sproščati, do razredov, ki jih ni treba inicializirati in seznamov, po katerih se lahko sprehajamo, jih filtriramo, povezujemo in še in še.

Za nameček bomo podrobneje obdelali še tehniko Dependency Injection in si - bolj za zabavo, kot zares - ogledali še, kako lahko v Delphiju s tehniko odzivnega programiranja ReactiveX dogodke obravnavamo čisto drugače kakor smo navajeni.

Izkoristite priložnost in spoznajte kako lahko hitreje napišete odlične programe. Vabljeni v petek, 8. decembra, ob 9.00 uri, v predavalnico Obrtne zbornice Vič. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [7. AST Compiler]

This article provides a description of an AST compiler used for my toy language project. If you are new to this series, I would recommend to start reading with this post. At least you should read the previous post, Intermezzo, as it explains some parts of the compiler that I won't touch here.

Please note that this article describes an initial implementation of the compiler. If you want to browse the code while reading the article, make sure that you have switched to branch dsl_v1.

In my toy compiler framework, a compiler (or codegen as it is called internally), is a piece of code that implements the ISimpleDSLCodegen interface. This interface exposes only one function, Generate, which takes an abstract syntax tree and converts it into an object implementing an ISimpleDSLProgram interface which allows you to call any function in a compiled program by name.

  TParameters = TArray;
  TFunctionCall = reference to function (const parameters: TParameters): integer;
  ISimpleDSLProgram = interface ['{2B93BEE7-EF20-41F4-B599-4C28131D6655}']
    function  Call(const functionName: string; const params: TParameters;       var return: integer): boolean;

  ISimpleDSLCodegen = interface ['{C359C174-E324-4709-86EF-EE61AFE3B1FD}']
    function Generate(const ast: ISimpleDSLAST;      
runnable: ISimpleDSLProgram): boolean;

Thursday, October 19, 2017

OmniThreadLibrary 3.07.4 has been released

Bug fixes:

  • TOmniEnumeratorProvider and TOmniValueEnumeratorProvider support dmoPreserveOrder option. Now you can use PreserveOrder modifier on Parallel.ForEach when input is IEnumerable, IEnumerator, TEnumerator, or TEnumerable.
  • Fixed 64-bit issues in DSiWin32, GpLists, GpStringHash, and GpStuff.

New features:
  • Locked.Value is now both readable and writable property.  
  • Moved 'inline' functions around so that they will be inlined more often.
As usual, you can get OmniThreadLibrary from GitHub (3.07.4HEAD), download the zip, install it with GetIt or with Delphinus.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [Intermezzo]

When I was preparing an article about the compiler part of my toy language project, I found out that the concept of wrapping a whole program into a bunch of anonymous functions (what the compiler does) is exceedingly hard to explain. I had therefore prepare a simplified version of the compiler, written for a very simplified language ... and then I couldn't stop and I added an AST, parser, tokenizer, interpreter and all shebang.

The result of all that is a program introduction.dpr, a self-contained console program which contains a complete (almost trivial) language together with the full documentation, written in a Literate Programming style. Simply put - you can read it from top to bottom like a story.

As an intermezzo and to simplify my explanation of the compiler, I'm posting the whole program here, reformatted as a blog post.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [6. AST Dumper]

This article provides a description of a testing tool used for my toy language project. If you are new to this series, I would recommend to start reading with this post

Please note that this article describes an initial implementation of the parser. If you want to browse the code while reading the article, make sure that you have switched to branch dsl_v1.

Now that we have a working tokenizer and parser outputting an AST, we can start working on the compiler. Still, it would be great if we can verify whether the parser output (the AST) makes any sense. In other words, we need unit tests.

Writing unit tests for a tree structure is, however, a very tedious operation. In the next post I'll show a test for a tree with only five nodes and it will already be a process one would rather skip. Luckily, we can do something more fun - we can write a code that recreate the original program from an AST.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [5. Framework]

This article provides a description of a compiler framework used in my toy language project. If you are new to this series, I would recommend to start reading with this post.

We have now a working parser that converts a string of code into an abstract syntax tree - AST. It is, however, not yet time to write about the most interesting piece - the compiler - as we should first do some integration and testing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [4. Parser]

This article provides a description of a parser used in my toy language project. If you are new to this series, I would recommend to start reading with this post.

Please note that this article describes an initial implementation of the parser. If you want to browse the code while reading the article, make sure that you have switched to branch dsl_v1.

After a short break I'm returning to my "toy compiler" series. This time I'll describe the working of the parser - the part of the code which reads the input (usually in a tokenized form) and generates internal representation of the program (in my case an abstract syntax tree - AST).

The goal of my project was to study the compilation step and parser was just a necessary evil that I had to deal with. That's why it is written in a pretty primitive manner, without using any improvements like a Pratt parser.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Delphi and Linux

I'd just like to remind my Slovenian readers that on 28th this month I'll be having a presentation about RAD Studio and Linux in Ljubljana.

As the presentation will be given in Slovenian language, the rest of my post containing the description of the presentation is written in that language, too.

Vljudno vabljeni na delavnico "RAD Studio in Linux", na kateri si bomo ogledali:

  • Kako namestiti Ubuntu v virtualni računalnik.
  • Kaj storiti, ko namestitev nagaja.
  • Kako pripraviti virtualni računalnik in RAD Studio za delo.
  • Kako napisati konzolno aplikacijo za Windows in Linux, ki streže podatke z uporabo tehnologij FireDAC in DataSnap.
  • Kako napisati grafično aplikacijo za Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, ki prikazuje in spreminja podatke na aplikacijskem strežniku iz prejšnjega koraka.
  • Z nekaj sreče pa še: 
    • Kako to grafično aplikacijo pognati na Linuxu in
    • Kako konzolno aplikacijo spremeniti v pravi Linux "service".
Vstop prost, prosimo vas le, da se vnaprej registrirate, da bomo znali pripraviti zadostno količino kave in prigrizkov ;)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Autumn is coming ...

... and with it, a whole bunch of events.

First, I'll be going to IBC 2017 in Amsterdam where we are presenting our products in Hall 2. I'll be there from 15th to 18th, so if anybody wants to meet, contact me.

Immediately after that I'm going to Zegrze (just north of Warsaw) to speak at Zlot Programistów Delphi (Delphi programmers convention) on 21st and 22nd. Never been there before, should be great fun.

A week later (28th) I'll be leading a workshop on Delphi and Linux in Ljubljana. (Slovenian readers - you can sign on now.)

To finish it up, I'll present two all-new topics in ITDevCon in Rome on October 11th and 12th.

All that in four weeks. Should be quite an interesting time ;)

Monday, September 04, 2017

Introducing OmniThreadLibrary Core

Yesterday I wanted to use OmniThreadLibrary as a git submodule in a top secret ;) open source project I'm working on and I was a bit shocked when it turned out that newly cloned OmniThreadLibrary folder is a 83 megs in size. Given that I only need it to support my other project and that I won't do any OTL fixing/development in this submodule, that looked a bit excessive.

So I went ahead and created a core branch which contains only the barebones - the OmniThreadLibrary root folder without any subfolders. If you want to compile such submodule, you'll also need the GpDelphiUnits repo. Together they weight measly 3,5 MB, which is a big improvement over the original 80+ megs.

I'll be keeping core in sync with the latest OTL release, not with the HEAD, so it will also provide a stable platform for all depending repositories.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [3. Tokenizer]

This article provides a description of a tokenizer used in my toy language project. If you are new to this series, I would recommend to start reading with this post.

Please note that this article describes an initial implementation of the tokenizer. If you want to browse the code while reading the article, make sure that you have switched to branch dsl_v1.

With this article I'm moving into the gritty part of the project - the code which reads the source code and turns it into a beautiful abstract syntax tree. In other words, I'll be talking about the parser.

I must admit that I spent as little time on the parser as I could. After all, my main goal was to convert AST into an executable code, not to parse input. Still, one cannot write a compiler without writing a parser, so ... here I am.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [2. Abstract Syntax Tree]

This article provides a description of an abstract syntax tree used to represent "The Language". If you are new to this series, I would recommend to start reading with this post. 

Please note that this article describes an initial implementation of the AST. If you want to browse the code while reading the article, make sure that you have switched to branch dsl_v1.

An abstract syntax tree (AST) is, simply put, a symbolic representation of the program in a form of a tree.

While the textual representation of a program is great for us, humans, computers have hard time dealing with it. Because of that, a special part of any interpreter/compiler, called parser, reads the input and converts it into a computer-readable format - AST. This tree can then be used for multiple purposes. We can, for example, feed to into an interpreter which will then run the program for us, or we can feed it into a compiler to generate an executable program or cross-compiler to generate an equivalent program in a different programming language.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [1. The Language]

Part 1: The Language

This article provides an informal definition of a simple language (a.k.a. "The Language") I am writing a compiler for. If you are new to this series, I would recommend to start reading with this post.

Let's start with a simple example which calculates an i-th Fibonacci number.

 fib(i) {
   if i < 3 {
     return 1
   } else {
     return fib(i-2) + fib(i-1)

The code is quite simple. First two numbers in a Fibonacci sequence are 1 and every other Fibonacci number is a sum of previous two in the sequence.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Writing a Simple DSL Compiler with Delphi [0. Introduction]

Part 0: Introduction

Some time ago I was listening to the Hanselminutes podcast where a guy described how he wrote a simple interpreter in Go language (YOU should write an interpreter with Thorsten Ball). I was not really interested in writing an interpreter - I did that a long time ago - but a thought crossed my mind. I asked myself whether I can do something better - write a compiler. (Or, rather, a kinda-compiler. You'll see.)

What I wanted to do is to take a small language, parse it, generate an abstract syntax tree, and then convert this into one large anonymous function calling other anonymous functions calling other anonymous functions and so on and so on. It is hard to explain, so let me try using a very simple example.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

OmniThreadLibrary 3.07.3

TL;DR: Update OmniThreadLibrary now!

A nasty bug was found in the DSiWin32 library. It causes the DSiTimeGetTime64 function to work incorrectly when called from multiple threads at the same time. As this function is central to time measurement in the OmniThreadLibrary, it was essential to release new, fixed version.

This version also contains two small enhancements.

  • SetTimer method now accepts TProc and TProc timer methods.
  • IOmniTask implements method InvokeOnSelf which can be used to schedule anonymous function execution from a task back to self.  

As usual, you can get OmniThreadLibrary from GitHub (3.07.3HEAD), download the zip, install it with GetIt or with Delphinus.

Damn, multithreading is hard!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

OmniThreadLibrary 3.07.2

This is just a small update which adds few helpful methods. Although the change log mentions a potentially breaking change I don't think this will affect anybody. (And if you are not sure, you can enabled backward-compatible behaviour by adding one line to the code.)

I have also (finally) found some time to work on The book. It is now fully up to date (all OmniThreadLibrary features are documented on its whooping 293 pages) and is only missing one or two introductory chapters.

As usual, you can get OmniThreadLibrary from GitHub (3.07.2, HEAD), download the zip, install it with GetIt or with Delphinus.

Change log follows after the break.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

RAD Studio 10.2 links

This post contains just a bunch of links to online resources that I mentioned on the today’s presentation.

Monday, May 22, 2017

10.2 Tokyo comes to Slovenia

In two days I’ll present RAD Studio 10.2 Tokyo in Ljubljana.

Click here for more information and to register.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

OmniThreadLibrary 3.07.1

This update brings only few small changes. The biggest of them is support for the Delphi 10.2 Tokyo.

You can get it as a zipped download, git checkout, via Delphinus, and via GetIt.

For more information on OmniThreadLibrary, go to

Monday, March 20, 2017

Forward record declaration

Forward declaration is not really a new concept. It was already present in the original Wirth Pascal where it allowed the programmer to do one thing and one thing only – call procedure A from procedure B and procedure B from procedure A. Remember – in ye olde times of good old Pascal we had no interfaces, no classes, no units … just procedures and functions.

Because the code tells more than thousand words, here’s an example (still perfectly valid in modern Object Pascal).

procedure ProcA; forward;

procedure ProcB;

procedure ProcA;

Friday, February 17, 2017

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

OmniThreadLibrary 3.07 beta + plans for OmniThreadLibrary 4.0

It is almost time for a new release! If you’d like to see what 3.07 will contain – or if you just want to test it before it is out – click here.

[If you are a serious OTL user - and especially if you are using pre-Seattle Delphi - please test your program(s) with the beta release. Thanks!]

I have started work on OTL 4.0 which will (fingers crossed) fully support cross-platorm work. Yup, it will work on all platforms that Delphi can compile for! Multiplatform support was implemented by Sean B. Durkin so if OTL/Mobile is something you were waiting for a long time, go to OmniThreadLibrary-For-Mobile Google+ community and express your gratitude.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

RAD Studio and Version Control + Git – links

This post contains just a bunch of links that I refered to in my two-part (live) presentation on version control management with RAD Studio and Git.

Slides for the presentation: pps, pdf

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Embarcadero Akademija: RAD Studio and Version Control

This is an announcement for the next Slovenian “Embarcadero Academy” session. As it is intended for Slovenian Delphi programmers, the rest of this post is in the Slovenian language.