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                 OpenTemplot - where next?
     
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1st message | this message only posted: 4 Sep 2018 06:04
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Martin Wynne
West Of The Severn, United Kingdom



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It is now 3 months since I released Templot as open source. I spent a lot of time preparing the code to make it suitable for publication, and capable of being compiled in a readily available compiler.

Then when there was some disagreement about the actual form of publication I spent more time splitting it into two options -- a conventional collaborative open source project (OpenTemplot), and a "home" version for users to tinker with for their own use (TemplotMEC).

For a long time I had been reluctant to publish the code for Templot, fearing that it would create a flood of questions about the workings of the code, and requests for help in modifying and compiling it. Which on top of the usual help requests from users would be just too much to cope with.

In the event I was completely wrong, and the actual result has been almost total silence. I know of no-one working on or with the code, or at least if they are doing so they are keeping very quiet about it.

Which leaves me wondering where we go from here? There is still a lot missing from the open source version, including the PDF exports and the entire sketchboard function. Should I be spending time on solving these issues? They are no 5-minute tasks. Or just leave the existing open source where it is for anyone who wants it and otherwise forget it?

There is also the question of open sourcing my more recent work on Templot2. I am in the middle of a big update to the DXF exports for the 3D rendering and possible 3D printing of bullhead chairing. The code for that will need a lot of explanation and commenting to make it sensible for others to read, and I have not yet done a user interface for all the many settings or any user help notes.

It seems that open sourcing everything creates a lot of extra work, and from the level of interest so far I'm not sure that it's really worth it.

cheers,

Martin.

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2nd message | this message only posted: 4 Sep 2018 13:19
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Rob Manchester
Manchester



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Hi Martin,

Sorry you feel a little frustrated with the lack of interest in OpenTemplot :( Despite my programming experience in an earlier life there is virtually no hope of me delving into the code and making changes ( for me or for others )... there is too much else to do with modelling related subjects. It is anyway highly unlikely I could produce anything that improved on your monumental efforts with the code :)

My thoughts over the past years has been that damn bus that charges round the country looking for innocent targets. Now we have a ( non internet checking ) downloadable version of Templot all we have to worry about is that the Windows platform doesn't change. We would all like you to take care near the roads though.....

Others may have different views of course.

Rob


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3rd message | this message only posted: 4 Sep 2018 19:39
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Trevor Walling
United Kingdom

 

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Hello Martin,
                  I think you releasing an open version of Templot that does not require an internet connection has provided a fallback for everyone should you find that bus that people keep mentioning.
We will all continue to use your Templot2 till such times as it is no longer available. The reason for that is because Templot2 is one of a kind and if we want to do track planning their are no alternatives.
Also I believe anyone doing anything with OpenTemplot would not care to burden you with their efforts as you made clear that users would be on their own. People will always use the best option available to do something and at the moment that is you and Templot2. It is maybe a good thing you are left in peace to do as you like when you like with Templot2 without being burdened by OpenTemplot as well. I think you answered your own question as below.
Best regards
Trevor.:)
Or just leave the existing open source where it is for anyone who wants it and otherwise forget it?

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4th message | this message only posted: 4 Sep 2018 22:12
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Paul Boyd
Loughborough, United Kingdom

 

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Hi Martin
For me, the main interest was in having the possibility of running Templot without having the internet check.  In the event that for whatever reason that gets switched off, all our work is made useless at a stroke.  Whatever the software, I feel nervous about relying on something outside of my control to be able to continue using it.  Even with my reluctant switch to the subscription model of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop I can still fall back on an older standalone copy if necessary, and I have an XP box squirelled away as a last resort for when Microsoft do something stupid to stop my ALPS printer working, or parallel printer ports on PCs disappear completely.

The idea of being able to tweak things to make my own version does appeal, although it’s been a long time since I’ve done any programming.  Regarding the work you’ve done to split it into two versions, I do feel you were bullied into that to some extent, but obviously you could have said “no”!

To be honest, in your shoes I wouldn’t spend any further time on it, having released it so it’s available if necessary.  You may like to do the occasional big update now and then though!  I would hate you to think you’ve wasted your time though - as a way of being able to continue using Templot in the event of the proverbial bus changing its timetable, or nuclear Armageddon wiping out the servers, it would be reassuring to know that we can still access all our work!

Cheers,

Paul

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5th message | this message only posted: 5 Sep 2018 00:24
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Martin Wynne
West Of The Severn, United Kingdom



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Hi Rob, Trevor, Paul,

Thanks for your thoughts. I did say at the start that I would open-source Templot and then leave it to others, while I get on with Templot2 in my own way. So in theory I have no reason to be frustrated by any lack of feedback.

But the point I'm making here is that I haven't yet finished the first part of that. There are still significant chunks of Templot2 not yet included in OpenTemplot. The fact that none of you picked up on that, and that there has been total silence about it, makes me wonder if it is worth spending my time on the significant amount of work still needed.

The biggest task is in open-sourcing the sketchboard. Apart from licensing issues, the sketchboard is based almost entirely on Windows metafiles -- which are not supported in Lazarus. So open-sourcing the sketchboard means either completely rewriting it to use other mechanisms, or creating TMetafile support in Lazarus. Either way is a massive amount of work, at least it would be for me. I'm assuming that those already working on Linux or other platforms may have solutions, but no-one has popped up to say so.

Likewise the PDF export. To find an open-source replacement ought to be easy. But I haven't found one. Writing one from scratch would be another major task. There is the option of using a virtual printer application instead of the dedicated export, but they are all focused on standard paper sizes and can't produce the large single page PDFs which Templot's dedicated PDF export can create for wide-format long-roll printing.

The alternative approach to both these issues would be a half-way house in which OpenTemplot makes use of a pre-compiled Windows helper executable. I have already adopted that approach for the screenshot maps, there apparently being no other easy-to-use embeddable browser other than the Windows I.E. control. In that case I have open-sourced the (Delphi) code for the helper exe, but that wouldn't be possible for the PDF or sketchboard. The big disadvantage with this method is that it will always be Windows/Wine only, and it might stop working in future versions of Windows and/or Wine.

So I have to decide whether to try to get the full Templot2 functionality into OpenTemplot, or whether to leave it as it is now? The total silence about any of this, or offers to assist with it, leaves me assuming that no-one is much bothered?

cheers,

Martin.   

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6th message | this message only posted: 5 Sep 2018 16:50
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Trevor Walling
United Kingdom

 

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Hello Martin,
                  I think as long as it is possible to print the actual Templot track images for building track with OpenTemplot all the other stuff in Templot2 is not really needed. The extra work you would make for yourself if you felt obliged to do so would end up taking all your time. We all appreciate what you have provided for already without adding to more work for yourself. I think your enjoyment developing Templot would become an unwelcome ordeal if you ventured down that path.
Best regards.
Trevor.:)

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7th message | this message only posted: 6 Sep 2018 10:01
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madscientist
 

 

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Publish it all on GitHub. Then leave it into the wild , no support After all you can’t take it with you !

Dave
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8th message | this message only posted: 6 Sep 2018 11:00
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Martin Wynne
West Of The Severn, United Kingdom



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madscientist wrote: Publish it all on GitHub. Then leave it into the wild , no support After all you can’t take it with you !Hi Dave,

It is already on Sourceforge:

 https://sourceforge.net/projects/opentemplot/

However, the latest release is not on there, it's here, please use this zip file instead:
 
 http://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=3292&forum_id=26

(waiting for Adrian to update the Sourceforge repository with this).

For instructions on what to do with it, see:

 http://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=3283&forum_id=26

Martin.

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9th message | this message only posted: 27 Mar 2019 16:11
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rynd2it
Stalham, United Kingdom



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Hi Martin,
I think you need to consider the number of modellers out there who use Templot2, then what % of those have programming skills, what % of those have the time and what % of those who want the responsibility and I think you'll get a very small number indeed. Sort of like a reverse of the Drake equation :)
You've put it out there, let it be and carry on supporting us on Templot2 as long as you are willing and able.

Thanks for all you do

David
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10th message | this message only posted: 11 Jul 2019 08:16
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from:
Martin Wynne
West Of The Severn, United Kingdom



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See: http://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=3454&forum_id=1

Martin.

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11th message | this message only posted: 12 Sep 2019 06:00
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John Clutterbuck
 

 

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Hi Martin,

I welcome the move to open sourcing Templot, however I am confused by what seems to be two separate OS versions which are different from the main Templot which you continue to develop as a closed-source project. My understanding of OS is that the whole product is open-sourced including all the build methods etc. In such a model everyone is able to contribute and you in effect would become one of those contributors. In my opinion having two separate versions that are not part of the main product roadmap gives little incentive to participate.

This link may provide further info on the open source philosophy - especially the section Understanding Community Expectations:
https://opensource.com/article/17/6/what-know-you-open-source-your-project

John

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12th message | this message only posted: 12 Sep 2019 08:23
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Martin Wynne
West Of The Severn, United Kingdom



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Hi John,

Thanks for your thoughts.

The original motivation for open-sourcing Templot was to ensure that it remains available if the grim reaper comes looking for me on a bus.

The whole of Templot cannot be open-sourced because it contains some non-OS licenced components, and some Windows-only functions (metafiles) which are not supported on other platforms. A full OS version of Templot therefore requires that these components be replaced with new code. Which means that the existing closed-source version (Templot2) needs to remain available until someone comes forward to do that (you?).

My original intention was that a cut-down version of Templot would be open-sourced as a conventional collaborative project on SourceForge (OpenTemplot). However, many users said that they were not interested/skilled enough for that, and simply wanted a version of Templot which they could dabble in to understand how it works and learn about coding.

I therefore released a separate source version called TemplotMEC as a zip attachment here on the Templot Club forum, and provided some instructions on how to get started with it on a free compiler, see:

 http://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=3283&forum_id=26

The actual interest turned out to be near-zero. After 12 months not a single contribution had been made to the SourceForge project, and very few references to TemplotMEC here, with no actual new code posted.

I therefore deleted the collaborative stuff on SourceForge and left it as a simple zip download of TemplotMEC for anyone who wants it. I have also decided not to spend any more time on it, and to concentrate on further developments of Templot2 only.

having two separate versions that are not part of the main product roadmap gives little incentive to participate. This link may provide further info on the open source philosophy - especially the section Understanding Community ExpectationsTemplot2 is not a product and it doesn't have a roadmap -- I ceased trading 8 years ago. It is now simply a hobby project of mine which I'm happy to share with anyone who wants it. After 20 years of public Templot I think I have a good understanding of users' expectations.

cheers,

Martin.

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13th message | this message only posted: 12 Sep 2019 09:00
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John Clutterbuck
 

 

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Hi Martin,
Thanks for your reply. Yes I can appreciate that licensed components do mean that Templot2 can't be opensourced in its current form. I was speculating if the lack of any collaboration is because it is not the main project, however it could equally be that there aren't enough people with the time, skills or inclination to participate.

Templot is a wonderful piece of software, unequalled in its functionality and I would hate to see it disappear, however I know I am not alone in finding a struggle to use at times. When I do finally retire in a year or so I would be interested in contributing to development especially with regard to usability, but only if it were the main project - as you may recall I did build a UI wrapper for Templot a while back. I have over 40 years experience in delivering highly usable commercial software solutions some of which have been in use by 1000s for their daily work for over 20years. 

John

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14th message | this message only posted: 12 Sep 2019 10:06
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from:
Martin Wynne
West Of The Severn, United Kingdom



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John Clutterbuck wrote: ...I know I am not alone in finding a struggle to use at times. When I do finally retire in a year or so I would be interested in contributing to development especially with regard to usability, but only if it were the main project...Hi John,

I don't understand what you mean by the "main project". Clearly you can develop a project based on the OS Templot code, but I'm puzzled how you could require anyone else to regard it as the main or only project?

Open-source programs often fork into several different versions. Some Templot users may be looking for different usability, but others may be happy with the existing usability and more interested in adding functionality -- such as say a "make outside-slip" tool, or including the UK vertical 1432mm double-curved flat-bottom switches in the available switch presets.

If you are struggling, you may find these pages helpful:

 http://templot.com/companion/origins_intent.php

 http://templot.com/companion/basic_working_methods.php

cheers,

Martin.

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15th message | this message only posted: 13 Sep 2019 05:28
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from:
John Clutterbuck
 

 

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Hi Martin,
What I meant  was that I wouldn't want to contribute to an OS project whilst there was a separate main project (currently closed-source Templot2) being extended with new functionality. 

John

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16th message | this message only posted: 13 Sep 2019 10:22
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Martin Wynne
West Of The Severn, United Kingdom



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John Clutterbuck wrote: Hi Martin,
What I meant  was that I wouldn't want to contribute to an OS project whilst there was a separate main project (currently closed-source Templot2) being extended with new functionality.
Hi John,

My original intention was that any developments in Templot2 would also be posted to SourceForge as part of the OpenTemplot project.

But it is not a 5-minute task to convert them from Delphi code to compile in Lazarus, and remove any references to the non-OS components. If there was an active OpenTemplot project I would be happy to do that. But while active interest in OpenTemplot appears to be zero, my time would seem to be better spent elsewhere.

You seem to be suggesting that I should stop developing Templot2 and work only on OpenTemplot? I'm not going to do that while it would mean abandoning significant chunks of functionality. If you can find a means to support the missing functionality in Lazarus I would be happy to consider it. I have looked long and hard without finding anything usable.

Also at present .BOX files from Templot2 are not compatible with .OTBOX files from OpenTemplot. That's because they are binary files (in a format unchanged for over 20 years) and Lazarus does not support the 80-bit Extended floating-point data type which is used throughout Templot2. I have tried to create a conversion utility, but it's messy and needs modifying for every program update, so it is currently commented out. What is needed is an entirely new file format based on XML or similar. That's very definitely not a 5-minute task, although there are XML components available which might help, and one such is already used for the .SK9 files from the sketchboard. If someone wanted to contribute to OpenTemplot, creating a new file export/import format in XML would be a massive step forward.

cheers,

Martin.

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17th message | this message only posted: 14 Sep 2019 06:13
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John Clutterbuck
 

 

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Hi Martin,

I am certainly not suggesting you stop work on Templot2. I was simply trying to find a way that others (including me) could contribute and help improve and ensure the continuation of the wonderful program you have created.

Am I correct you are now developing Templot2 using Delphi? If so surely anyone could download the Embarcadero Community Edition and would have the means to contribute to Templot2 itself. All that would then be needed is to host the Templot2 code on SourceForge, GitHub, etc. and use commits and pulls to get/submit changes, with branches for new features such as the import/export facilities. There would be no need for alternative OS versions, conversions, Lazarus, etc.

John

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18th message | this message only posted: 14 Sep 2019 07:35
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Martin Wynne
West Of The Severn, United Kingdom



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John Clutterbuck wrote: Hi Martin,

I am certainly not suggesting you stop work on Templot2. I was simply trying to find a way that others (including me) could contribute and help improve and ensure the continuation of the wonderful program you have created.

Am I correct you are now developing Templot2 using Delphi? If so surely anyone could download the Embarcadero Community Edition and would have the means to contribute to Templot2 itself. All that would then be needed is to host the Templot2 code on SourceForge, GitHub, etc. and use commits and pulls to get/submit changes, with branches for new features such as the import/export facilities. There would be no need for alternative OS versions, conversions, Lazarus, etc.
Hi John,

If only it was that simple! Templot is now an old, old, program and it shows.

Thanks for drawing my attention to the Delphi Community Edition. It seems to have been introduced only 12 months ago in July 2018:

 http://blog.marcocantu.com/blog/2018-july-delphi-ce.html

i.e. unfortunately that was after I made the decision to make a version of Templot available as open source in May 2018. Hence my decision to go with Lazarus:

 http://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=3189&forum_id=1&page=2#p24831

 http://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=3288&forum_id=25

However, the actual version of Delphi which I'm using is Delphi5 from 1998. It will likely need a lot of work to compile in modern Delphi, not least because that now uses 16-bit unicode for the basic string type, whereas earlier versions of Delphi use 8-bit ascii strings (as does Lazarus with 8-bit unicode). In Pascal strings can be treated as character arrays, and Templot uses that for byte arrays, including in the binary .box files. So that's going to mean a lot of conversion and testing work.

I will look to see if there is any advantage in switching from Lazarus to the Delphi Community Edition, but that doesn't change the fact that so far no-one has been actively interested in contributing to the project:

 http://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=3454&forum_id=1

:(

It also doesn't change the fact that Templot2 can't be open-sourced as it stands, because in includes paid-for non-OS licenced components.

There is slightly more interest in the TemplotMEC idea of a version for home dabblers in coding, who are unlikely to want to commit their efforts to a full Open Source Project.

I will also look at switching Templot2 from Delphi5 to the Delphi Community Edition. Although after using Delphi5 for over 20 years I'm very comfortable with it and not really looking for change, especially if it doesn't advance the actual program functionality one iota. I would rather go for a walk:

 http://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=3228&forum_id=5&page=11#p27708

:)

cheers,

Martin.   

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19th message | this message only posted: 14 Sep 2019 12:55
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John Clutterbuck
 

 

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Hi Martin,

Helping move Templot2 to the latest supported Delphi platform would certainly be something I would like to help with, but it will have to wait for my retirement in a year or so. I fully understand your issues with data types and storage having had to back in the 70s write everything (databases, screen drivers and plotter drivers, etc.) for 2 & 3d seismic mapping software. This was used by most major oil companies around the world as well as the UK Dept. of Energy and BGS.

Today I would recommend moving to JSON for file based storage, settings, etc.

John

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Martin Wynne
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John Clutterbuck wrote: Hi Martin,

Helping move Templot2 to the latest supported Delphi platform would certainly be something I would like to help with, but it will have to wait for my retirement in a year or so. I fully understand your issues with data types and storage having had to back in the 70s write everything (databases, screen drivers and plotter drivers, etc.) for 2 & 3d seismic mapping software. This was used by most major oil companies around the world as well as the UK Dept. of Energy and BGS.

Today I would recommend moving to JSON for file based storage, settings, etc.
Hi John,

I have now installed the Delphi Community Edition and tried opening Templot2 in it. Needless to say there is a pageful of errors and warnings to work through. That will have to wait for now.

It's the full complex Delphi Studio interface -- I can't see TemplotMEC users preferring that to Lazarus. Also the licence is free now but has to be renewed annually -- there is no guarantee that it will always be free, Embarcadero are clearly using it as a loss-leader with nags about upgrading to the full versions.

I was also a bit surprised that I had to override the dpi-aware setting manually to get a crisp display.   

I prefer XML to JSON. I can't cope with untyped languages -- javascript drives me nuts trying to second-guess whether I'm dealing with a string, an integer, floating-point or whatever, and getting the quoting right. Also being case-sensitive is a real pain.

cheers,

Martin.

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