Delphi in the clouds for free

DelphiCloudsWell, to be sincere, I wanted to stop posting for few days till the publication of the results of our Award (at which most probably we’ll change the name in order to distinguish from Embarcadero’s award – we’re open for naming ideas, of course… 😉 ).

But the Team’s real desire to have a nice dialogue with us – see Mike’s postings in .non-technical, but not only 😉 – forces us to give them a humble idea, perhaps it would help…

As we all know, the community momentum which we pass now is how to make our tool of choice more accessible and how to grab new users. The main problem isn’t if this must be done or not – the main problem resides in the fact that (as Mike Rozlog wrote) is difficult to choose the right feature matrix in order to please everyone – both the company and the community.

Well, I do think that besides of having a low-priced entry-level edition for hobbyists (etc.) and (near-to) free editions for students, perhaps is better to have a hosted (cloud) solution.

In other words:

‘Someone’ to have one, two… ten (etc.) (virtual) servers with the best Delphi distribution (D2010 – Architect) configured for the best developer experience as far as it goes, in the term of costs: put all the free valuable things inside: the latest JCL+JVCL, the latest CnPack, the latest VirtualTreeView, the latest Firebird, the latest MySQL etc. And if some vendor wants to give some components there so far so good. Also give space. 4-5 GB is more than sufficient for a single programmer. Perhaps you can install also a small LAN between, let’s say, 4-5 such (virtual) servers. Also, don’t forget the backup. Be merciful – give joy to developer.

All this will be set up on a eg. Windows 2003 Server (or similar) with Terminal Services (or similar) installed. Then ‘The Someone’ 😉 will have a ‘freemium‘ model for the user accounts (eg. one month – 250 hours – free. More than one month 250 hours – payed – but a small amount guys!!!) aso. The users can log in using any Remote Desktop Connection tool accepted by the ‘Someone’, for example, the classical Remote Desktop Connection which is shipped by default in WinXP (mstsc.exe) and work remotely on the ‘Someone”s servers.

If we’ll have everything for free what will ‘Someone’ gain? The biggest limitation will be that the user will not be able for free to take his files out from that hosted (virtual) server. But, of course, if someone wants to do something which is an one-go – a ‘situational application‘ as Mike Rozlog & IBM guys define it – (for example one wants to find the result for a complex formula) – and after this he wants to just throw away the program or just keep it there on the VM – so far so good. We aren’t executioners, isn’t it?

Of course, for an respectable amount, the user will can actually download from there his work (sources, compiled exe, dll etc.). (Sons, watch out at the Internet access – one can use eMail and/or FTP/HTTP to upload his files outside)

I do think that such a freemium compiling service, properly set up (no Snail Servers please) and advertised (“We open this service for Learning, Playing” etc.), will boost the Delphi’s popularity significantly due of many many factors ranging from a true before-buy model till the ‘coolness factor du jour’ which (unfortunately) sometimes is badly needed. And of course, if ‘Someone’ thinks that, after a while, the service isn’t profitable anymore (from any point of view: financial, goodwill, advertising etc.) the ‘Someone’ can shut it down, announcing of course the users that in ‘x’ days we’ll close. No problem. Isn’t something which is the end of the world.

I’m even thinking to set up myself such a service but I’m afraid that the license doesn’t allow it. But ‘Someone’ else 😉 surely can.

What do you think?

29 thoughts on “Delphi in the clouds for free

  1. A la Microsoft Way…

    The idea is good, but this way you will not fell the experience you get locally.

    In the other hand I can’t understand why Embarcadero continues with the Borland’s 30 days free trial. For complex products Microsoft uses a 120 days trial and for simple products they uses a 60 days trial.

    • “you will not fell the experience you get locally”.
      Sure, – that’s why I wrote “besides”.

      ” I can’t understand why Embarcadero continues with the Borland’s 30 days free trial.”
      If anyone understands please explain. No, I’m not ironic.

  2. It is difficult to fully express how utterly pointless this idea is. Why do this? It makes no sense at all. To even entertain such an idea is to miss the point of what Delphi really is, and what purpose it serves as a tool, and what kind of user is going to use it, and that user’s relationship with “the cloud”.

  3. The huge part of Delphi community is in Russia. Unfortunately, there we don’t have a nice internet access (except few major cities). Heck, unlimited internet access appears only year ago in my home town. And it is only 64 Kb/sec. Hosted solution? RDP? Forget about it!

  4. Nice idea, but I’m afraid that we all look at this from wrong perspective. It’s not about features, price, short trial, quality … RAD Studio lacks “cool” factor. Main problem is that learning Pascal looks like complete waste of time for 90% of the potential new users. Most wouldn’t use Delphi even if Embarcadero gives away Architect version for free.

  5. This, of course, implies you need a fast internet connection, does it not?

    I go to an internet cafe to download Delphi updates (and I pay by the hour), but at home I only have access to a 56k modem.

  6. I think licensing would definately be an issue if you are using the Windows platform. For example Client Access Licences would be required if you want people to log onto a windows.

    However you have got me thinking about this and I’m sure it would be possible with Linux and Eclipse IDE or NetBeans. Although this wouldn’t be as beneficial to the Delphi community.

  7. hmm… This idea is a nice idea for real world testing before buying the RAD Studio. But the problem still is for me. I do want to buy it, but i cannot afford it. 😐 It’s still to expensive for me and my hobby development. And i would like to use it really. There is also a security reason for me not to use such a solution, since some one else can get my sources…

    My 2 cents, murphy

  8. Being from the really *really* old school, up in the clouds to me, is where the suits are to be found. If I was starting off from scratch again, and had to use Delphi this way … I’d likely pass on it – again, I’m old school and although being “off in the clouds” is all the rage today … bah!

    Finally, I would strongly recommend that the community stop using “Delphi” and “Hobbyist” in the same sentence. The emphasis here is not hobbyists at any rate, it’s new and young fledgling developers. Delphi had an arch enemy that wandered down this path and what did you all think of it? Don’t go there, but please do keep us in mind 🙂

    It’s great that there is this kind of community involvement in trying to find a solution to getting the product into as many young hands as it can
    ::applause::

    • Very well said, TDelphi! There seems to be this artificial divide that Delphi users have created – either you’re in a cubicle making corporate apps, or you’re at home programming simply as a hobby. Thats a completely false set of characterizations. Programmers run the gamut from hobbyists, young developers right out of school, ISVs, non-programming professionals writing software to support their profession/research (a major category that gets ignored), corporate developers, game developers, etc. So the ‘powers that be’ need to keep that in mind – its not just hobbyists vs corporate developers.

      • “…either you’re in a cubicle making corporate apps, or you’re at home programming simply as a hobby. Thats a completely false set of characterizations.”

        Not at all! Look around you. We Delphians really are divided into those fortunate enough still to be using it commercially, or those from companies that dropped Delphi for Microsoft and who are now using Delphi at home out of love/nostalgia/…and HOBBY.

        We are the ones that can use it with the Help in the state that it’s in. We are the front-line that can get Delphi re-accepted. We can convince our bosses that, for this particular project, we can take a risk and use Delphi for the following reasons (and we have that experience to bring a credible argument.)

        Look, let’s face it. Delphi is niche product. We can only hope to grow that niche, we can never seriously shift MSVStudio from it’s place.

        Schools will only come on board if they can be sure it’s not a wasted intellectual investment. And for that Delphi needs to be recognized by industry again. And that’s OUR job.

      • “Thats a completely false set of characterizations”
        Yep. Where did you find this assumption? – Perhaps because this post (and nowadays community preoccupation) is how to attract more users and to cover the entry level / hobbyists area. This doesn’t mean that the others are ignored or inexistent.

    • No, Dave, it isn’t meant to be used in this way. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. It is meant to be showcased in this way. You go there, log in (for free), play as much as you wish and if you like buy, if no, no. Having the possibility to save your work from there and/or work ‘endlessly’ on the cloud should be seen as a 2ndary effect imho.

      And no, you’re not old school. 🙂

  9. The Free/Standard edition feature matrix is not a problem at all.

    Simply remove all the padding that is used to inflate the feature list to justify the high price. Stuff that can be obtained elsewhere – or an alternative – if the user wishes.

    Things to get rid of in a Free edition (not a complete list):

    – Refactoring tools
    – Modelling tools
    – BlackFish SQL
    – Indy
    – Rave Reports

    Things to re-instate in a “Standard Edition”:

    – limited refactorings
    – model visualisation (but not two-way modelling)

    Embarcadero create the “problem” by imposing the wrong perception on what they think the FREE/Standard editions should be. The same mistake that was made with the Turbo’s last time.

    They look on them as a way of selling more Professional licenses by upgrades. So they try to find ways of allowing the “Turbo” users to sample every feature that the Pro edition has, but limit them in other stupid ways like not being able to install components into the IDE.

    They need to understand that the Free/Standard editions need to exist in their own right to service a different user market. Certainly some of those users may over time outgrow their Free/Standard editions, but you shouldn’t expect ALL of them to.

    Sow the seeds then sit back and wait.

    Force feeding is a short term strategy that isn’t sustainable in the longer term.

  10. I will not discuss about the feature matrix, but I would like to point out that Embarcadero should give Delphi for free to be used in schools and universities labs. At last in Brazil, most of the universities dropped Delphi and adopted VS(C#)/Java in their courses. So, now we are facing lack of Delphi professionals in the market, since the students leaves the university with no Delphi experience, searching for jobs related to the tools/languages they are used to. Recently, I was contacted by a software house owner who claimed that it is being really difficult (to not say “almost impossible”) to find Delphi professionals. This is totally different situation from about 10 years ago.

    • “…I would like to point out that Embarcadero should give Delphi for free to be used in schools and universities labs…”
      Oh, yes. This was discussed here. That’s why I mentioned in my post above besides” (in Bold Italic).
      But tell me (or any other one who knows the situation in Brasil). If you have now, let’s say, 1000 licenses and go to schools, you will be accepted?

      • “But tell me (or any other one who knows the situation in Brasil). If you have now, let’s say, 1000 licenses and go to schools, you will be accepted?”

        Maybe not, but we will never know the answer unless that we try.
        What really pisses me off is: Where are the local resellers now? I know that they keep a HUGE amout of what I pay to buy Delphi, but what they do really? THEY should be responsible for answering that question, but in fact if you call some of them in Brazil right now and ask for Delphi Prism, I’m deeply sure that you will listen something like “Prism? What is Prism?”.

        Best regards and keep the nice blog!

        • “Where are the local resellers now?”
          …I think that here everything is reduced to men. I don’t know who is/are the reseller(s) there but, from your comments (and I mean all of you – you, Carlos’s, Cesar’s etc.) I do think that, for example, if in Brazil would be someone which will actually cares about the product, the things would be much better. You don’t need necessarily a good programmer but rather a shepherd… The problem of men is much more serious. I should make a post on this. But fear not – Delphi is on a very good path now. And I don’t say it only for consolation. Stay tuned.

  11. Web computing is an interesting model, but it has a short/risky life-time :

    You are now 100% exposed to someone’s commercial decisions & whims, so why put the effort into creating Class-Teaching code, when you have no idea those notes and materials, will work in the next lesson ?. (be it next week, or next semester)

    The model I prefer, is the Portable Computing one, where it has to work on
    a Flash drive, and be largely host PC agnostic.

    Flash drives are now very cheap, and more globally widely/reliably available than Internet connections! Every student can take a Flash drive home, and work on almost any age PC.

    The created applications are also very portable, as an important student lesson is creating some useful software for someone else – such as a sports team.

    Lazarus/FPC meets these portability/lifetime needs, but it is not quite novice-student friendly enough yet.

    • “Web computing is an interesting model, but it has a short/risky life-time”

      That’s why I didn’t purposed this like a final solution for you an me to work with, but for the ones who want to learn, evaluate, see what is Delphi.

      The model I prefer, is the Portable Computing…
      Sure, but there how do you see a hobbyist / free version?

  12. Most of such propositions come from someone who never tried something like this in reality.
    To be short – this is stupid idea.
    And I completely agree with Brazil related suggestions.
    In Russia I just see the same. Delphi is dropped now.
    I tried to talk with Nick and local guys but all they see is money. Yeah, only about $150 or $300 (do not remember) per computer, big deal.
    Compared to 0.0 dollars for Visual Studio with many guys coming to universities and talking and giving free MSDN and sample DVDs.
    All I got from Embaracdero was if you are using old Borland pascal and Delphi you shouldn’t do this, or we are going to prosecute this.
    And localization, ouch this is stupid, every good programmer must know English.
    Nick, you are munchking in the land of idiots.

  13. Universities do not have Delphi classes any more, because there are free Java/Eclipse and Visual Studio C# Express. They both let anyone produce commercial applications, which is very, very important. It will not be better until similar Delphi exists (which will not be killed after few versions as Delphi Personal was). Once it exists, Magazines can spread it on their monthly DVDs. Even little Joe that has a daily job doing Java or C# can make useful applications in his free Delphi (which besides classic components should have just TCP/IP and heavily stripped down database access without any fancy stuff). After impressing his boss it is not far from ordering ‘big’ Delphi from Embarcadero.

    Btw. Disabling feature to install components in this stripped version of Delphi is not a good way to do this, as Turbo Explorer series showed.

    • “Universities do not have Delphi classes any more, because there are free Java/Eclipse and Visual Studio C# Express.”

      No, that is not the reason universities do not have Delphi classes anymore.

  14. Yes why not? By the way, i would like to see delphi more solution/application proned then deep-language based – something Jade has done over the years. I need delphi to connect EASILY to internet databases hold on Unix servers (interbase/firebird are pretty useless whitin the internet), i need packaged solutions easily connect to the web but hold locally on computers (old TWebbrowser is a bad solution). I need delphi components / api do Rest, Twitter, Flex framework, Flickr etc.

    Jade Software Corporation: http://www.jadeworld.com/home.htm
    I very like this corporation and the ideas they have.

    • “I need delphi to connect EASILY to internet databases hold on Unix servers”
      Where is the problem? Delphi can easily (imho) connect to Oracle, DB2, Sybase, Informix, MySQL, Firebird & Interbase. You just set up the connection parameters and you’re ready. What do you mean by ‘easily’?

      “I need delphi components / api do Rest…”
      D2010 knows Rest, SOAP 1.2 & JSON. Also in the wild are enough components for Twitter API.

      About JADE:
      Can you be more specific?

      • I know we can manage to connect to internet databases but there is no easy, already packaged solutions. Few examples/demos shown by Embar. are timids as the most. I woul like Delphi to be solution minded, not just a language that want to compete with another langage. I think JADE has done this. Jade is very similar to delphi as a language, but since the last 12 years they have become solution minded, custom solutions and more targetted ones, such as JADE Master Terminal (a really nice package i use). With this solution only, driven by Jade, i can earn money and be competitive on the market (VS, Eclipse etc. are no rivals). Jade Star is another solution based on Jade language. Jade Investigator is another nice one. So according to me, Delphi should now focus on targeted solutions – so we can read : « DELPHI is a high-performance, open software platform for delivering targeted solutions to complex business problems.»

        • Delphi is a different kind of tool. You would use Delphi to create something like Jade.

          With Delphi, you create the moulds, not the pre-cast walls.

          There have always been tools like Jade. They come and go over the years (thinking back to DOS days even!)

    • “(after all Delphi is only a kind of pascal interpreter, not a pure language per se).”

      Oh, you’re a little bit out of focus here – Delphi was always a full blown compiler since Turbo Pascal 1.0 written at the beginning in hand-crafted assembly and now in C. They furiously working now at a new compiler which is a major overhaul of the old one – in fact (AFAIK) is a conversion to C++ and simultaneously a cross-platform back-end as well as a 64 bit back-end which they’re implementing in parallel.

      I humbly think that Ken is somewhat right here. As he says (modified a bit) “You would use a Delphi tool to create something like Jade.” …but yes, it would be nice to have something like that in Delphi OOTB. (iow. a framework and a modeling tool (Together enhanced) – there are some questions in survey)

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