Systems 2005

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General information

"Systems" is a yearly fair for IT professionals in Munich, Germany. In 2005 it was held from October 24th to 28h, and it featured an Open Source booth, sponsored by Munich Trade Fair Centre and organized by FreeX magazine. Free Pascal and Lazarus have been one of 14 Open Source projects present (both have been presented as one project, for practical reasons), alongside with projects such as KDE, Gnome, *BSD or Wikipedia.

For Free Pascal, the following developers have been present:

  • Florian Klämpfl (FPC) October 27th and 28th
  • Marco van de Voort (mainly FPC) October 24th to 28th
  • Sebastian Günther (mainly FPC) October 24th to 28th
  • Mattias Gärtner (Lazarus) October 24th to 27th

The team faced an astonishing resonance. According to external observers, in average the run on the Free Pascal / Lazarus sub-booth was the strongest of all Open Source booth members. Probably this is mainly due to the fact that FPC and Lazarus are cross platform and not specialised in any way.

There exists some photos of the event. On the left hand we have Mattias and on the right hand we have Marco. More photos can be found here. The sub-booths have been triangular, with having one project per side. On the right side the Gnome desktop environment project presented the recent progress and the guys promoted Ubuntu Linux quite strong, on the left side PostGreqSQL presented their open-source database engine.

Photo

Observations

The present team members tried to notice the visitors' reactions as close as possible.

  1. Remark No. 1: "Isn't Pascal quite dead by now?" / "Oh does Pascal still exist?".
  2. Remark No. 2: "I've been taught Pascal 10/15/20 years ago in school, and it's interesting that it's still alive..."
  3. "I'm a teacher and searching for a good compiler and development environment we can use for educational purposes. I don't want to teach Java or C#, and I've personally been taught Pascal several years ago. So this looks very interesting... Especially as Delphi is quite expensive for academic usage."
  4. "Yes there are still many people developing commercial applications with Delphi. But Borland indeed is killing itself when it tries to compete with Microsoft's Visual Studio and C#"
  5. "Does it support .NET as well?". Standard answer: "No, we don't need that. We are alread cross-platform and have almost everything .NET ever could offer." ;)
  6. Support for Oracle databases seems to be a quite important topic

Conclusions

  • We have two major groups of interested people: Teachers, and professionals in small to medium businesses who have used Delphi so far. So for marketing purposes we have three main targets: Teachers, Delphi users and IT professionals who we have to convince of the advantages of FPC and Lazarus. In the latter case, the main argument is 'reducing of costs'.
  • The websites are a serious problem. They are quite ugly and not very intuitive, and this is the case for years. The members present had quite some difficulties to explain how to get the latest full installer for Lazarus, for example. Not everybody knows Freshmeat, and the main address www.freepascal.org won't help those people really much to get to the right download location. sg will handle this issue as soon as possible.
  • FPC and Lazarus need much more professional PR. There is a real chance now to take the legacy of Delphi.

Future events

  • There is a good chance that FPC and Lazarus will be present at LinuxTag in Mai 2006 in Wiesbaden, Germany.
  • About Systems 2006: So far there is no concrete planning. If Systems 2006 will feature an Open Source booth again, there is a good chance that FPC and Lazarus will be present again.

Discussed topics

The present team members talked about different topics, regarding further development.

  • Dynamic linking (an old outstanding problem on Linux and probably more platforms)
  • Template support, mainly to get cleaner code, especially for larger projects
  • A new, unified website for FPC and Lazarus. The current structure is quite suboptimal, new users get lost too quickly. Especially the different download sites for FPC and Lazarus may disorient potential new users. Additionally: The new website should support different languages.
  • Lazarus: Quality assurance for translations
  • Lazarus: Extending the existing RTTI components to really universally usable data-aware components to link properties to almost everything, not only components with RTTI data.
  • Lazarus: Creating a set of useful components for encapsulating as most as possible low-level stuff, such as serial ports for example
  • Lazarus: Converting the old fpGUI and fpGFX code to a backend target for Lazarus/LCL, so that Lazarus itself and applications developed using Lazarus can run on low-level targets such as DOS/go32 or Linux with only having a frame buffer device (fbdev) but no X11 server.