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Louis Kessler's Behold Blog

Blog and Forum Was Down For A Bit - Thu, 23 Jul 2015

I noticed a problem in the Behold Forum last night where a post was not always showing up. Last night I attempted to fix it with somewhat disastrous results.

Unbeknownst to me, I crashed both the Forum and Blog last night at 11:45 p.m. and it took me a few hours today to bring them back up today.

I still don’t know exactly what happened, but I’m going to do some investigation and will attempt to ensure everything is working.

So, hopefully not, but there may be a few short periods of disruption with the blog and forum over the next couple of days.


Update 8 hours later:  I’ve cleaned everything up and the Blog and Forum should both be running nicely now.

Bonus: I found and fixed a problem where searches for exact strings with double quotes will now paginate properly. This had been bugging me for years and I finally found what it was and fixed it. PHP evaluates the string within double quotes, and when the search term is a double quoted string, PHP eats it up. The fix was to enclose the query string with an htmlspecialchars function to prevent the evaluation. GenSoftReviews searches had the same problem, and I’ve fixed it there as well.

PHP “evaluates” doubly quoted strings. It doesn’t evaluate single quoted strings. Another unexpected inconsistent feature. This is yet another example of why PHP is the world’s worst programming language.

PHP is a tool like this one - from Jeff Atwood's article

Always Learning New Programming Concepts and Methods - Mon, 20 Jul 2015

Most of the new concepts and tools for programming didn’t exist when I graduated from University with a Masters of Computer Science in 1980. The programming languages I worked with were FORTRAN, APL, PL/I and even Assembler. I picked up Pascal on the job and that led me to Turbo Pascal for personal use and then to Delphi with its object-oriented version of Pascal.

Delphi’s object-orientation introduced in 1995 was to me a totally new concept I had to pick up. I never really needed to learn it in detail since I never wrote low level objects other programmers would consume, but I had to learn enough about it to consumer other programmer’s objects from the packages they wrote.

Also during the 1990’s was the development of Unicode, which finally made every language available in one character set. Windows started supporting it around 2000 in Windows NT and XP. I have several books on it in my library (e.g. Unicode: A Primer) attesting to the time I spent learning about it. Unicode was a necessity for genealogy software and I had to buy 3rd party packages to support it in Behold until Delphi 2009 came out which finally included it.

Now with Delphi XE8, Generics have really taken hold. One of my specialties has always been in data structures and algorithms. Sometimes I just can’t help myself as I really enjoy getting down and dirty with a good algorithm, just as I did a couple of years ago for Ancestral Loops. But now with Generics, many of these methods have become much easier and with them, I will be able to replace my custom-developed b-tree and the 3rd party hash tables that I had been using in Behold.

As far as databases go, they were in their infancy when I was at University. I do recall taking a course on normalizing relational databases, which is to analyze data and to organize it into its primary records based on the common keys that define specific fields. Years later, I refreshed that knowledge when having to do that normalization for work-related projects.

I had the opportunity to work and gain expertise with a hierarchical database system called FOCUS by Information Builders. FOCUS was around before Oracle and Microsoft Access became the big fish. I worked a bit with Access, but had samplings of Oracle and even a bit of the SAP Data Warehouse.

My personal website requirements led me to WordPress, the PHP language, its MySQL database and the six months of my life I spent customizing my blog and forum. If you lived within a few blocks of me during that time, you may have heard me often spouting expletive deleteds due to my continued frustrations with PHP (which I agree is the second worst programming language in the world – the worst one is obvious if you remember Job Control Language (JCL). Do watch this great talk on The Worst Programming Language Ever by Mark Rendle)

But now I’ve got two technologies to take on that are new for me:

1: The SQLite database was first designed in 2000. Since then, it has become the most widely deployed and used database engine in the world. Billions of copies exist because it is in just about everything you use. One major genealogy software package uses it, that being RootsMagic. And it is my choice for Behold’s database, primarily due to its speed, size and universality.


2: Delphi’s new FireDAC framework. This allows high-level and universal access to SQLite or any database. It is like the middleware that gets Delphi to play nice with SQLite.


I’m learning these as we speak. A couple of months intensive work of implementation and I should gain a fairly extensive knowledge in both.

After that, I’ll have more learning coming, including JSON, API’s, Windows 10,…

So don’t ever think any programmer knows everything about programming. Knowledge grows old fast. And new technologies rise faster than Spring flowers.

This continual learning is what makes programming so much of a challenge … and so much fun.

I Know Where I’m Going, But … - Fri, 17 Jul 2015

… But I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I get there.

My adventure towards editing in Version 2 of Behold is a bit like the New Horizon’s mission to Pluto. They set off 9 years ago and knew where they were going. They knew how they’d get there. They even knew what they were going to do when they got there. But they didn’t know what they’d find when they got there.


So Behold is well on its way to getting its own database so that it will have a place to save the edits you add to it. I know that this editing is going to be something special. I just don’t know exactly what it will look like yet. My picture of it is about the same as the image of Pluto above, which was the best picture we had of it until last week.

As I get closer to the goal, ideas will expand and the picture will get clearer.


Even my last blog post, just 62 hours ago, talked about setting up a main database table that would generalize all the tables. Well, two days of working on the tables led to realizations that a generalized table will not work out, and the standard method of normalizing tables for INDI, FAM, SOUR, OBJ, etc., will do after all.

Also the realization that I must change just one thing at a time, ensure it can work, and then get it working before going on to the next is essential. Behold must always be a working system. At this point, wholesale changes will not work. The mission is set. Pluto is in our sites. Let’s get there.

NASA's Three-Billion-Mile Journey to Pluto Reaches Historic Encounter

Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. (Photo: NASA/APL/SwRI)