Alister Christie And Serge Pilko Talk Delphi, Part 2 of 3: Farms And Books

On 12 January Serge Pilko, Embarcadero MVP and founder of Softacom, a world leading Delphi software development services and software solutions provider, published a video of his interview with Alister Christie, author of the legendary “Code Faster in Delphi” and the creator of hundreds of videos that have shown many of today’s Delphi developers around the world how to program and accomplish things with Delphi.

Download Code Faster in Delphi for free here


Alister also has an upcoming book, “Code Better in Delphi”, scheduled to hit bookstores soon.

We have chosen to publish the transcript of their conversation in a three-part series of blog posts, of which this is the second. Read the first part here

Alister Christie And Serge Pilko Talk Delphi, Part 2 of 3

For me, because I am also creating some content for me, it’s interesting. Where are you getting your ideas for your videos nowadays? Because…

Alister Sometimes it’s just, you know, I’ll stumble across something that’s interesting. So now we might make a video on it. Other times, you know.. sometimes YouTube comments, a source of video content.

Serge Okay.

Alister Or maybe someone else’s blog, post an idea for something.

Serge Do you have any personal messages from people? For example, you posted some video, then they are trying to reach you somehow. I don’t know.

Alister Yeah. I get, you know, a fair number of comments, Youtube comments, and occasionally I’ll get messaged. Quite often, LinkedIn is often the best way to get in touch with me. I’m Allister Christy on that.

Serge Are you answering their questions? Because for example, sometimes we are posting something about Delphi and FireMonkey, and we have a lot of haters for Delphi, saying “stop, you’re providing wrong ideas, it’s dead, stop, you’re a liar. I’m just ignoring such kinds of comments.

Alister I tend to get much negative. I often get comments that I talk too fast, which I definitely do, and I can’t help it. This is just my normal talking speed. I try to slow down a little bit for recording videos, but it can be hard to concentrate on so many different things when recording. Yeah, that one gets lost, I just end up talking fast, but yeah. ideas. 

Yeah. Like the Deepstack one that was just, you know, I saw that Blue Iris, which is a security software I used was using it for doing object detection for providing alerts. And I thought “that obviously has an API. I wonder if you can access it in Delphi”, and of course, you know, has a  REST…, so it was pretty trivial to work it out.

Serge Your format, like short videos, you think this is the best way for getting information or it’s more convenient for you? For example, for me, it’s not easy to find and prepare a huge video to deeply explain some subject. What about you? Because for you it’s easy, or you think it’s useful for the people, because they want long videos, because…?

Alister Yeah, I, most, most of my videos are short. I mean, I’ve had to do DelphiCon, Coderage and that kind of stuff, and they took about an hour, 45 minutes to an hour, maybe half an hour. And usually, to produce an hour of video usually requires about eight hours of work to get that sorted. So, you know, just imagine, I mean I tend to watch through and edit it. So you’re watching, watching that in real time. And then I might do that a couple or three times, editing, and then also watch the finished product, but I’ll watch that double speed just to make sure there’s nothing majorly wrong with it. So yeah. So producing long videos is quite hard work. I’ve got some commercial content on which you can access on I think. But 36 hours or something of video, there’s quite a lot on the VCL and client datasets and some of the generics, and I’ve got one on zip compression in Delphi, which I’ve never gotten round to finishing, but I added a bit to it recently, but in Delphi we’ve now got 64 bit support, so you can do files bigger than four gigabytes, which is nice. 

I still don’t have support for encryption, which would be good. But I think that would be my last, the last thing I really need in terms of support in Delphi, but yeah… So in terms of long content, if you want to, you know, they can get it back at Embarcadero Academy and get my mega pack, which is, you know, all my commercial videos, which I think is about 36 hours of content, which is, you know, a complete work week of watching, effectively. So it’s a lot of…

Serge How does, let’s say, how long does it take for, for you from ideation to publication? How much time, for example, for the whole process for one video, like one day, one week or…

Alister In terms of uploading to YouTube, I can sometimes just, you know, record a video for the first time, and then do a little bit of editing and upload it. So the whole thing might need to take, you know, two hours just to get the video out.

Serge You have the inside motivation just to quickly… because you have everything ready. You have the, I don’t know, what do you need? Like a computer.

Alister Yeah. Everything’s set up with cam and I’ve got a bright light up on the side and another white up here, which is off at the moment. And so just, you know, turn it on and start recording. So it’s usually…

Serge Are you working from home? Am I correct? 

Alister Yes, yes. 

Serge That’s why you need silence.

Alister Yeah. So I use a product called RTX Voice because it’s free actually, if you’ve got the video GTX card, it will filter out anything that’s not voice. So any other, you know, the dogs barking and even noises in the distance, chainsaws and kind of stuff gets filled out pretty effectively, and keyboard typing and all that kind of thing. So yeah, even clapping, you probably can’t hear that at all. So that gives me some, you know, a bit more of a studio sound feel without actually having to be in a studio. And you know we have lifestyle blocks. There’s a rooster and you know, you should hear crowing, dog barking and cows mooing and that kind of thing. So the country’s not a quiet place. They’re actually the cows are not at home d at the moment. We ran out of grass. So they’re living on another farm for now.

Serge But you, you know, is this like a dream of any developer, like work at home and just go outside and you’re in nature, mountains, fields, cows…

Alister Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty cool, but it does take up a lot of time as well. So there’s… if you’re wanting to spend lots of time programming, you know, if you’ve got cows they need attention. They need feeding. And…

Serge But I think you are not the only one guy who is managing all these cows I guess…

Alister So yeah, there’s pluses and minuses. There’s a lot of responsibility living in the country.

Serge But you know, it’s not like we haven’t heard about New Zealand, like huge green fields, mountains far away and rabbits, of course the rabbits.

Alister We’ve got a problem with rabbits at the moment. We’ve got an air rifle, but the  range on it is not sufficient. And I need to get my firearms license so I can get a proper .22 to deal with the rabbits, get the population down a little bit, have some rabbit stew.

Serge Great. If you’re talking about the videos, do you like a plan for the future? Like putting some ideas to some list and you have the winners?

Alister I do have a list and currently I am just finishing off my next book. So that’s, you know, whenever I’m working…

Serge Later we will discuss this.

Alister We’ll discuss that later. So the videos have taken a bit of a backseat. I’m still using one or two occasionally…

Serge For the next year, 2022 assignments, do you feel some trend and have videos about this trend? I don’t know, about AI, it was blockchain before if you remember. Do you have such a plan?

Alister I have no plans in that regard for the YouTube content. Anyway, I do need to convert my first book into videos. And that’s…

Serge It’s like chapter by chapter?

Alister I’ll do it. I’ll probably be a lot less formal about the content and get a little bit more, more on tangents and things like that, because I think that’s far easier to do on video. And I won’t necessarily be strictly going by the book, so to speak. I’ll try to include everything in the book and a whole lot more.

You know, one line of text in the book might be a couple of minutes of video. So, there might be large sections of the book that I might skip over, you know, condense down into shorter content.

Serge Alister, honestly, is it a commercial story?

Alister Sorry, yeah, it’ll be a commercial video, it’ll be one for sale, Code Faster in Delfi,

Serge It’s not a secret, and I know it’s not, we are not talking about the money, but if you’re talking about…, you have development and you have like this educational part right now. What is more important? Where, where did you get your… Where is your business? Education or development?

Alister [inaudible] … and also some investment properties. So that’s kind of where most of my income comes from that aspect. So at the moment, I’m not really working as a programmer, but I’m still tinkering. And of course, my book’s finished, second book’s finished. What I’m going to be focused on this year is getting my next book published. I will probably make a bunch of videos and then get the video content for Delphi completed.

Serge You have a farm, it’s like right now I guess development is plan B because the farm is plan A, correct?

Alister The farm is not profitable, it’s just a hobby farm. A big hole to plow our money into, but it does allow us to do some things like grow our meat and some vegetables and fruit. Because it’s the middle of summer here in New Zealand at the moment. So I’ve made a sort of first batch of plum wine from plums down from our driveway with trees down there. And there’ll be some other plums ripening up shortly. So I’ll be doing that. And then I’ve got lots of fruit, raspberries and blackcurrants and that kind of thing, straight off the trees.

Serge Ah, okay. Because you mentioned the books a couple of times, I think we have to expand on this subject. Of course your first book was Code Faster in Delphi, correct? How popular was it, how many copies did you sell?

Alister Sold? I think about 500.

Serge Was it the paperback version, or was it…?

Alister It’s available in electronic and paper. So I’ve sold about 300 eBooks through Lean Pub and around 200 through Amazon. I’m holding it up in front of me… It took… I was writing it part time, so I’m not quite sure how much effort went into it. I think I’ve earned more than minimum wage in terms of book sales. And I think it’s done reasonably well, as far as the Delphi book is concerned and I’m still selling copies.

Serge Code Faster in Delphi. What’s the target version in this book?

Alister It was mostly developed with I think 13.3 and 10.4. Most of it I updated so that it was 10.4 and cause we had Delphi 11 since. And so it does have mostly up to date stuff in it. And of course there’s a bunch of exciting new things in Delphi 11, managed records and what not, that are quite cool. It’s all focused on being faster, being a faster programmer. So there’s a lot of discussion about how to use the IDE in a more efficient manner and taking advantage of keyboard shortcuts, and even touch typing. You know, if you’re doing the hunt-and-peck, you’re not a developer, you’re a chicken, So you really need to be using all your fingers and looking at the screen, not the keyboard when you’re typing. You’re very limited as to how fast you can type, and I’m not a particularly fast touch typist, you know, I’m at around 70 words a minute, which is respectable. I mean, I think the average is about 30, 35 or something like that for the average typist. There are people who can do a hundred or 150 even. And I think the world record is around the 220 words a minute mark.

Serge Let’s compare the new book with the previous one. What is the main difference? I think it’s not just more information based on the previous one, or maybe it’s another subject or… What’s the difference? Can you provide such information…?

Alister The new book?

Serge Yes, the new book.

Alister The new book is Code Better in Delphi. And Code Faster is all about productivity, what tools you can use, plugins to the IDE and libraries you should be using, take advantage of generics and anonymous methods and anonymous threads and all that kind of stuff. Code Better in Delphi is all about writing better code. So, you want writing code that is cleaner, more easily maintained. So if you look at the life cycle of code…

Serge Will it be a little bit about OOP, because clean code…

Alister A little bit about that. I mean, certainly there are a couple of solid principles and that kind of thing. But it’s not, not an introduction to object oriented programming. You have to start from somewhere that’s probably a bit too basic, but do cover some stuff on interfaces and that kind of thing. And so dependency in version and that kind of thing. These are things that if you want to write really large applications, you really need code that is highly decoupled. Otherwise you make a change, you create three more in unrelated areas because the codes are missed and there’s no proper separation.

So yeah, if you want to write code that’s scalable. So if you want to write, you know, working on a project, that’s millions of lines of code, you can’t do that just with writing code and forms. That’s just a recipe for disaster.

Serge How to share developments between the team, like one part, some developer is responsible for one part, another one for… yes, that’s the problem. 

Alister You need to divide up your applications so you can have different people responsible for different areas of the application. If you’ve got, you know, teams working on the project, you basically require vision control at that point. And even if you’re one person you should be using version control. And various back management and all these kinds of things, a little bit about agile and …

I’ve written about 180 pages, I think so far, 160 pages… I haven’t haven’t got page numbers or anything like that. There’s no footers and all that kind of stuff in there yet. So I don’t know how big it actually is. It is bigger. There’s more words than Code Faster in Delphi already, and I haven’t finished yet. So it’s going to be a bigger book. It’s a harder book to write because there’s more.

Serge But do you already have a publisher who is responsible for the publishing?

Alister I’ll probably self publish, again. I’ve got a big enough audience to be able to make two. And if I’m doing DelohiCon and stuff like that, you know, I did that. My last DelphiCon presentation was on the book.

So that’s, I think if you were at DelphiCon and went to a certain number of presentations, you should actually get a free copy of it. Embarcadero, they’ve done a book deal with a number of authors to provide books. Which is really good. Certainly. I think books are a kind of… a physical book is a dead tree, you know, that’s kind of an integrated format, but it’s still in many ways the best way of getting the sort of high quality information that’s better than a series of blog posts or something. The quality is better, generally speaking. It’s just kind of well written and I think eight people did editing on my book, eight or nine people on the first book.

Read the first part of Serge Pilko’s interview with Alister Christie here

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