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Cut Any Code Lately? 21 August 2002 Edition
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While I was trawling the Net last night looking for various software options for the Personal Digital Entertainment Centre (PDEC) aka PC-based Tivo-like box that I'm about to start documenting for readers, I realised that things have changed a lot in the last ten years or so.

A decade or so ago, a fairly significant percentage of PC owners wrote at least a few bits of code -- either for fun or to perform some task for which an off-the-shelf application simply wasn't available.

Go back a little further and you really had to be a programmer to make any real use of your flash new PC-XT or PC-AT.

These days however, it seems that the closest most people come to cutting code is writing the occasional spreadsheet macro.

Of course it's true that today there simply isn't the need for PC users to cut code. Most personal computers are used for tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, accounts and the like -- for which there are dozens of commercial packages available.

But what about other applications?

What if Microsoft Office just doesn't cut it or you're not interested in balancing your chequebook or general ledger?

Is it still practical for brave (or stupid?) people to knock up their own applications from scratch?

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • Amateur Coding... - Peter
  • TV tuner software... - Sean
  • Wireless Broadband... - Scott
  • Writing programs... - Robbie
  • Tivo box... - Grant
  • Programming... - Allister
  • linux programming apps... - spiro
  • Have Your Say

    Are there any people out there, apart from professional programmers, who are using tools such as Delphi, Java, Visual Basic or whatever to knock up little (or large) programs?

    Perhaps the cost of getting kitted out to develop full-blown Windows applications has put many people off. Perhaps the complexity of the modern development environment has left others scratching their heads.

    Whatever the reasons, it seems that the kitchen-table programmer is a far rarer beast than (s)he used to be.

    Which raises the issue of Linux...

    The Linux platform, for all the hype and positive vibes that surround it, still suffers from a dearth of decent, slick, easy-to-install and run applications. Hey, that sounds like the Windows marketplace 10 years ago doesn't it?

    Windows users a decade or so ago survived by cutting their own little apps using Visual Basic, FoxBase, Delphi or other easy-to-use development tools.

    Are there Linux equivalents to these products that allow non-programmers to knock up a small program so as to accomplish a relatively simple task -- or must they navigate the bowels of MySQL, C/C++ and other vastly more complex development tools?

    Maybe this type of very simple "do it yourself" programming environment is what Linux needs to help increase its popularity and make it a practical tool for a much larger number of users.

    What do you think?

    That Tivo-like Box
    The hardware has arrived and I've begun work on the PC-based Personal Digital Entertainment Centre which, to avoid trademark problems, I need to come up with a name for.

    My first impression is that this isn't just a case of throwing together the offerings of a few manufacturers. I'm using the Pinnacle PCTVPro card which is a fine piece of hardware -- but the manufacturer's software isn't everything it claims to be.

    There is a wealth of other freeware, shareware and open source software out there however and I'll be steadily wading through the options and evaluating each on its merits.

    In a day or so I'll have a section of the site set up specifically to document this project so you'll be able to read all about my successes and failures there.

    I'll also take a moment to once again thank Advantage Computers who have kindly supplied the hardware on which this system is based.

    Have your say.

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