Look how far we’ve got to go

Today is exactly one year since we announced the release of Ultibo core and while there is still a bit of work to do we’ve actually come a long way in a short time. Rather than recap our achievements over the past 12 months we started to think about all the people we’ve met along the way, a few of them have come and gone but many have stuck around.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise that Ultibo has attracted interest from a very broad range of people, some old(er), some young(ish) and quite a few in between. There’s been some who are just starting out and others who have seen it all before, one or two who tell us they’ve been waiting years for something like this to come along and even a couple who may have been expecting something rather different from the reality.

We’ve seen a few entrepreneurs, hardware vendors and component suppliers appear in a flurry of excitement at the potential for what they could do with Ultibo, and then slip away quietly when faced with the reality that even open source costs money to develop.

There’s also an interesting, and somewhat surprising, group of people who apparently could either recreate what we’ve done in little more than a weekend or did exactly that 20 years ago but have decided not to contribute anything right now because we need the experience of doing it ourselves.

So far we’ve heard very little from the Raspberry Pi foundation, but they haven’t heard much from us either. Maybe the recent announcement of a new Linux distribution for the PC signals a change of direction, hopefully it doesn’t become a loss of focus.

A project like Ultibo is all about people and as well as a collection of colorful characters we’ve also found a great bunch of passionate people who believe in what we’re doing. We’re pretty sure the second year will be as eventful as the first and we really don’t have far to go, just around the corner and down the road a bit.

We hope you’ll stick around and enjoy the journey with us.

An unexpected new installer release

Those of you with a sharp eye will have noticed that it is only about 6 weeks since we released the last installer update so it is a little surprising to have another one out so soon.

We’ve been working on getting C library support added to Ultibo core for a little while now and as we reached the end of that process it became clear that some fundamental changes were needed to the setup of Free Pascal and the way it compiles Ultibo applications so there was no choice but to build a new installer to include those changes.

Because of the unexpected timing of this release there aren’t as many new features as sometimes but the support for libraries compiled in other languages such as C is not only a very important feature but paves the way for a whole lot more to come. To show off the new support we’ve included an Ultibo specific build of the SQLite database library so you can include SQL DB support in your bare metal applications and we’ve also provided a version of the highly popular Freetype2 library which allows rendering of a variety of font formats including True Type.

Now you might have read the previous paragraph and thought what’s the big deal, doesn’t everything support SQL and True Type fonts these days? If you did, you might have missed the fact that Ultibo doesn’t use any operating system, no Windows, no Mac and absolutely definitely no Linux, just pure pascal code from top to bottom. Now if you don’t think that’s pretty cool then maybe you’re in the wrong place.

As always the latest installer is available from the download page, get your copy now and try it out. For those who might prefer to build their own version for Windows or even for Linux the wiki instructions have also been updated to include the changes made to support libraries.

A time for reflection

By now many of you will be aware that Ultibo originates from Australia, a vast island continent that at this time of year often bakes in the scorching summer sun. What you might not realize is that those following and participating in the Ultibo project come from almost every corner of the globe including Europe, Asia, North and South America, India, Africa and many other places in between.

The end of one year and the start of the next is almost universally a time for some sort of festive celebration, for spending time with family and friends, reflecting on the year past and making plans for the new year to come. So as we head into a time when some will be taking advantage of a break from work to tinker with hobby projects while others will be enjoying some relaxation and time away from technology, we’d like to take a moment to thank you for being a part of the Ultibo project and sharing in the vision of a new way to create things.

Wherever you might be, from the summer sun to the depths of the winter snow, and whatever form your celebrations take we hope you enjoy this time of year and come back and join us in 2017 when we plan to make Ultibo bigger and better than ever.

Have a safe and happy time.

The Ultibo Team.

Latest Windows installer ready for download

While you all know by now that you can keep your copy of Ultibo up to date by downloading the latest source and rebuilding it using some easy to follow steps, sometimes it is nice to have all the latest features and fixes available in a single download. To keep things simple we’ve just released the latest version of the Windows installer which comes complete with everything that’s been released up till now.

Of course with any new release there’s also the excitement of a few new features to try out and this one is no different, we’re making available the first working version of Ultibo support for the QEMU machine emulator so now you can begin to experiment with writing code and running it directly on your Windows computer without even needing a Raspberry Pi. A great way to test out ideas, learn about the Ultibo API or just tinker with your projects while you’re on the go.

The support for QEMU still needs some more improvement but we’ll continue adding to it as we go, there’s some great examples to show how to use some of the things we’ve added to Ultibo like virtual framebuffers for graphics animation plus the usual collection of enhancements, fixes and updates.

As always the latest installer is available from the download page, grab a copy now and start exploring.

An art or a science?

I don’t know about where you are but in Australia there’s been a lot of talk lately about encouraging students to participate in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) subjects in order to prepare them for the careers of the future. Programming, in any language, officially falls into the technology category and if you’ve programmed for any length of time you’ll also know that it involves a lot of maths and quite a bit of science as well.

There is another perspective on programming that might not be as well accepted, that is the idea that programming is also (and equally) an art form in much the same way as any other creative art. That’s not to say that taking a well described algorithm and translating it into code is anything more than pure science, what I mean is all the other aspects of coding that are not about algorithms or formulas. Things like the look and feel of an application, the way information is presented to the user and even the colors chosen for the display.

In a large application there might be specialists handling each of these items but more often than not it is one person who has to make all of these choices and more, many of these have nothing to do with code and are purely artistic or at least aesthetic.

But there is another even more intangible aspect to coding, that is the art of writing the code itself, the act of creating something from nothing more than an idea. This is the real art of code and the reason I think there should be an emphasis not just on STEM but on the artistic expression that code can be.

The world needs more good coders, perhaps encouraging those with an artistic flair would help to realise the next generation of great code.