Interview with Michael Beck by Clay Shannon

By: Clay Shannon

Abstract: Michael Beck goes into great detail about JEDI, and also talks about scuba diving, skiing, sky-diving, Taekwondo, Renaissance Italy, champagne, caviar and lobster.

Michael, you are listed as the author of the JEDI JVCL. For those not familiar, what is JEDI, and what is the JVCL?

Project JEDI stands for "Joint Endeavor of Delphi Innovators" and is an international community of Delphi/Kylix developers with a mission to exploit our pooled efforts, experiences and resources to make Delphi and Kylix -- the greatest RAD development tools for Windows and Linux -- even greater.

JVCL is "JEDI VCL" (
http://jvcl.sf.net) and is a library of OpenSource (http://www.opensource.org) VCL components. It builds on another JEDI Success story: JCL (JEDI Code Library) (http://sourceforge.net/projects/jcl/). Both are released under MPL (Mozilla Public License) (http://www.mozilla.org/MPL/)

But let me clarify first that I am not the author of JVCL but only the originator of it. JVCL is a library of components that have been donated by various authors. While JEDI has been created to fill the void of API conversions for Delphi developers, from the beginning I wanted to see it also as the place for OpenSource Delphi components. With 60,000 downloads of JVCL 2.0 we can say that we've succeeded with this task.

The current JVCL Coordinator is Peter Tornquist, who is doing a terrific job, with help from such great developers as Marcel Bestebroer, Robert Marquardt, Petr Vones, and countless many others:
http://jvcl.sourceforge.net/teamjvcl.htm

How long has JEDI been in existence?

JEDI was started in 1997, with the goal to provide native access to Windows API by translating various C/C++ headers to Delphi. You can read more here about the beginnings:
http://delphi-jedi.org/Jedi:NEWSBEGINNINGS

How did you get involved with JEDI?

When I heard about this new initiative in 1997, I got very excited and signed up right away. It was something what I was craving for a very long time - a group of developers writing together free (nowadays OpenSource) code and helping Delphi to become more successful.

How much time does your work with JEDI take?

As with every OpenSource project, that depends on current task, and on your free time. In times when we were getting ready for a new release, it would take all evenings and weekends.

What do you see in the future for JEDI?

With current addition of "Advisory Board" with such well-known Delphi personalities as Charlie Calvert, Marco Cantu, Glenn Crouch, John Kaster, Bob Swart, and Lino Tadros, JEDI is heading toward more mainstream within the Delphi community.

Are there plans for a JVCL for .NET?

As Borland is getting ready to release Delphi for .NET, there is definitely a possibility for having JVCL for .NET. If I recall correctly, somebody started recently to work on a project to have one common code for Windows/Linux/.NET. This, of course, would be each Delphi programmer's dream, but it could be also a maintenance nightmare, so we have to be careful here.

I am sure, there will be more discussion on this topic. But as with every OpenSource project - it will depend on the involvement of the Delphi community. I truly hope that people will see the benefits of JEDI and will start actively contributing to it.

Since you're giving away many components free, does this throw a spanner in the works (as the British say) for commercial component vendors?

Some component vendors who sell general purpose components might feel that JVCL competes with them. But please note that there are already hundreds if not thousands of free components with source on Torry's, DSP, or other Delphi related Websites, so JVCL is nothing new. What we provide is coordination of efforts, so we don't have 100 similar TLabels, but one TLabel that is pretty much feature-complete.

And there will always be an opportunity for vendors offering unique and outstanding components/solutions for Delphi. For example, I am sure that we won't ever deliver anything like QuantumGrid, or Automated QA.

How many components are included in the JVCL?

Currently we are close to 400, but there is a major initiative on the way (JVCL 3.0) to consolidate several of the components, since some of our new users were overwhelmed by the number of components included in JVCL.

What are the licensing restrictions when using the JVCL?

Since we are using MPL you can use JVCL in any freeware, shareware, or commercial application. The only restrictions are:

- you should credit JVCL
- provide the JVCL source or a link to the source code on JVCL Web
- provide all changes you've made to the JVCL code to your users

You can read more on our Licensing FAQ (
http://jvcl.sourceforge.net/licensing.htm)

How many members of Team JEDI are there?

We have currently over 1,000 developers subscribed to our main mailing list
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Delphi-JEDI, but since we have also newsgroups, then the number would be much higher. Of course, the number of people who are actively involved in development is much smaller.

How many users does the JVCL have?

JVCL 2.0 has been downloaded 60,000 times, which is really incredible. JVCL remains consistently as one of the top projects on SourceForge, which considering that we compete against projects written in more popular languages like Java or C++, is truly remarkable.

Has TeamJEDI ever had a picnic, a la Borland's TeamB picnics (where, rumor has it, expensive champagne is quaffed in diamond-studded gilded goblets)?

No, so far we had only "Bird of Feathers" sessions on BorCon, but maybe this year we'll have something bigger. I am sure, champagne and additionally caviar and lobster would be very appealing :)

What applications use JVCL components?

Since JVCL contains a variety of components, they are being used in many totally different applications. On our Website we have a list of some of the applications that have been reported to us:
http://jvcl.sourceforge.net/jvclusers.htm

Where do you live? If not native to that area, where are you from, and in what other places have you lived?

I live currently in Cincinnati, OH, but I grew up in old good Europe <g> (I
lived in Poland, Austria, Germany, and France).

How did you get started in programming?

At my university in Vienna where I studying Int'l Business I had to take COBOL classes so that was the first time I was exposed to actual programming. But it was Turbo Pascal that really got me, and I guess I became quite OK at that because during my MBA studies in USA I was actually teaching "Introduction to Computers" which was a lot of fun.

How many years have you been programming?

With breaks in between - for almost 10 years.

What programming languages do you know? Which ones do you currently utilize?

"Knowing" is so relative <g>

I learned COBOL at the university, but would never attempt to do anything with it <g>

The main languages I used were Turbo Pascal, dBase/FoxPro, and now Delphi. I played with C++ and Java, but didn't do anything serious with it. Currently I am looking into C#.

Would you recommend a career in programming to young people today?

One should always try to do what he like, so if they like programming they should go for it! And there will be always place and jobs for good programmers.

If so, what courses would you recommend they take? What languages/technologies should they key on?

Java and C# (incl. .NET) would be probably on top of my list. But I certainly hope that they would give a chance to Delphi as well, especially when Delphi for .NET becomes available.

Which software project/product that you have participated in are you most proud of?

Project JEDI, and JVCL in particular, will always remain on top of my list!

What software project[s] are you currently working on?

I am helping a couple of friends to start a company, and I am working on the Web portal part.

What do you do when you're not involved with work, directly or tangentially? (Hobbies? Sports?)

I have a Black Belt in Taekwondo (
http://www.deestkd.com/bio-mBeck.asp) and this took a lot of time, especially before competitions. Otherwise I spend a lot of time dancing Salsa and participating in various Latin events - I guess, in previous life I was a Latino, otherwise it's hard to explain the fascination with Latin American culture and music <g>

Scuba diving and skiing are also on my list of favorite sport activities. And last week I did my first Skydiving jump - it was a lot of fun and adrenaline!

What was the most interesting experience you've ever had related to programming?

Absolutely JEDI - the opportunity to work with so many different people from
all over the world, from different time zones and with different languages -
all with the same goal: to make Delphi the best programming tool ever - it's
an awesome feeling!!! It makes world look so small!

What was the most frustrating experience you've ever had related to programming?

Trying to convince some of the IT managers at the company where I used to work to give Delphi a chance. Unfortunately, the "not invented here" syndrome was stronger (i.e. using same old tools) than getting more productive tools and make the company more competitive.

What 3rd party tools do you find essential?

Of course JVCL! <g> Then CompBar, GExperts, Automated QA and CodeSite for testing/debugging, CodeRush.

What do you hope to see from Borland in the future?

More support for OpenSource, and providing Modeling Driven Applications for the masses.

How many hours per day do you spend programming/at the computer?

Recently less programming due to other endeavors I am currently involved in, but still 40-60 hours/week on the computer.

How much time do you spend on the newsgroups/surfing the web each day?

Probably around 2 hours a day. The Web is a terrific source of information, so a lot of that is searching for info.

Which programming web sites do you have bookmarked?

Borland, various JEDI projects, Torry, DSP.

How do you keep current with your programming skills?

Working on Open Source projects like JEDI is definitely keeping me on the edge, because of the opportunity to exchange ideas and being exposed to different approaches. If you believe in "eXtreme Programming", OpenSource projects give you the perfect opportunity to have a virtual pair programming.

Which Borland Conferences have you attended?

Unfortunately, none yet. Maybe this year...

Who do you consider to be the best programmer you know personally, or know of?

In my biased view <g> - Anders Hejlsberg and Chuck Jazdzewski for creating Delphi and VCL.

What is your "claim to fame" outside the realm of programming?

Two US Taekwondo Championships (
http://www.deestkd.com/bio-mBeck.asp) is definitely something that I always will be very proud of.

If you could live anywhere on earth at any time, when and where would it be, and why?

Probably in the Renaissance Italy, because of the beauty of art and logic of science merged into one cultural experience.

If you were given 30 seconds of free television air time, to be broadcast all throughout the earth, and could say anything you wanted, what would it be?

To take better care of our environment - because that's what our children/grandchildren will be living in, and if we really love them then we should feel responsible for what legacy we'll be leaving to them. Interestingly, the same logic applies here as in programming - cost of clean-up is much higher than cost of prevention.

What is your favorite programming book?

"Design Patters" by Gamma, and his "Gang of Four".

What is your favorite non-programming book?

"Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo

What is your favorite food?

Asian (Thai and Chinese)

What is your favorite beverage?

Lasse (Indian yogurt drink)

What is your favorite color?

Red, Blue, Plum

What is your favorite movie?

There are two - "English Patient" by Anthony Minghella and "Red" by Krzysztof Kieslowski.

What is you favorite song?

Hmmm, there are so many! But one of them that I can listen to any time is "Romantic Warrior" by Chick Corea.

What is you favorite musician or musical group?

This changes over time <g>

I've been through a Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Yes, and Pink Floyd phase, Jazz Fusion phase (with Chick Corea and Miles Davis), then through Soul and R&B phase, and now I am back to Jazz (incl. Smooth and Brazilian Jazz) - John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Stan Getz/Jobim, Sade, Diana Krall, Chris Botti, Anna Maria Jopek. In July I went to Montreal Jazz Festival and discovered Bia from Brazil and Gotan Project from France - definitely two best concerts there.

Finally, the question I always like to ask: What would you rather eat: the fat from behind a caribou's eyeball, or a frosted poptart?

In this case I'll be a vegetarian and go for the poptart <g>

Clay Shannon is a Borland and PDA-certified Delphi developer and the author of "Tomes of Delphi: Developer's Guide to Troubleshooting" (Wordware, 2001) as well as the novel he claims is the strangest one ever written, "the Wacky Misadventures of Warble McGorkle" (see Wacky Warble, etc. for more information on the 4 Novels application, which contains this and three other novels he has penned).

You can find out more about Clay at: Clay's personal page
You can look into Clay's shareware and determine his current availability at:
Clay's business page
You can contact him at:
BClayShannon@aol.com


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