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Jun 98 Factory Floor

Volume Number: 14 (1998)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: From The Factory Floor

Ron Liechty, Metrowerks Ombudsman

Dave Mark and Ron Liechty, ©1998 by Metrowerks, Inc., all rights reserved.

This month's interview is with Ron Liechty, Metrowerks' official online voice of reason. I've long had this suspicion that Ron does not sleep. Ever. If I'm up on line at 3am and post something to Ron, I get an instant reply. 9am, same thing. 10pm, same thing. I have yet to catch him napping. Ron, what is your secret?

Ron Liechty is the ombudsman and the award winning online representative for Metrowerks. His e-mail box is always open at MWRon@metrowerks.com. Although a grandfather with two grandsons Jaymz and Jaysn and a granddaughter Odessa, Ron finds time to ride his motorcycle when the weather is nice. His latest bike is a 97 Harley-Davidson Dyna Convertible that has been lowered and sports a wide glide tank and other custom additions.

Dave: Ron, how did you first hook up with Metrowerks?

Ron: I was an early member of the CodeWarrior team and quite proud that my employee ID is a single digit. In March of 1994, I was a forum leader on America Online and also teaching the online C++ course for Brian Novack who had worked with Greg Galanos before. CodeWarrior DR/2 was about to ship and the first Apple PowerPC computers would be hitting the shelves. Greg wanted someone to monitor the AOL, CompuServe and Internet groups to help fledgling Warriors. When Brian heard that Greg was looking he recommended me for the job. After some discussion with Greg online about what my duties would be Greg Galanos and Jean Belanger decided to take a chance on me and I joined Metrowerks.

Dave: What exactly is an Ombudsman?

Ron: An ombudsman is an agent of the company appointed by the company to represent its customers. Greg Galanos and Jean Belanger have always stressed the philosophy that Metrowerks does what is right for our users and this fundamental principle has been passed along to all Metrowerks employees. I am just lucky enough to be the public figure that our users see.

CodeWarrior was to have two development releases and then the 3rd version of CodeWarrior was to be a full release. CodeWarrior 3 was not up to the standard of a release product so an extra Fourth of July CD was burnt and sent to all registered CodeWarriors. This is the care and concern for our customers that dominates Metrowerks today.

Greg Galanos has had an open door policy and as Metrowerks grew made it clear that also extended to the research and development and operations departments as well. It is the open door to everyone in the company that allows me to be an effective agent for all our users.

Dave: You must live on the nets! Can you list the newsgroups and online services you monitor for Metrowerks?

Ron: Most people are familiar with my work on comp.sys.mac.programmer.codewarrior, that I will generally read five times a day. I read enough of every message posted there, (both questions and all replies) to determine if this is a technical or a programming question. I also read the messages on comp.sys.mac.oop.powerplant several times a day.

I browse all of the comp.sys.mac.programming and comp.os.ms-windows.programmer.tools.misc several times a day. In addition to these newsgroups I browse about 12 other newsgroups looking for subjects that may affect Metrowerks or our customers. Besides the normal newsgroups I monitor the Metrowerks forum on CompuServe. I used to monitor America Online and GEnie but they no longer have appropriate forums.

Dave: Can you categorize the types of traffic your look out for?

Ron: I not only read the messages in order to help our users, I also try to get a feel of what our users want and how they feel about Metrowerks. When users are upset or the same problems crop up repeatedly I report this to management so changes can be made. When users praise CodeWarrior I pass this on so credit is given to those responsible.

In the newsgroups that are not specific to Metrowerks I look for people that may have a common problem associated with Metrowerks or any messages with CodeWarrior or a short hand for CodeWarrior in the title. I look for angry postings to be sure they aren't directed at CodeWarrior. On the generic Java or C/C++ newsgroups I will look for any messages concerning Macs. I will also read random messages that catch my eye. For example Pascal messages that deal with ThinkPascal. Questions and the responses to them are useful for directing the future of our Pascal development.

Dave: Outside of newsgroups and e-mail, with what net events have you been involved?

Ron: Metrowerks has hosted several live meetings on America Online with Greg Galanos and other top engineers answering questions. This live interaction is great to get a pulse of our users and see how they feel about CodeWarrior, its products, and the direction in which we are moving.

I also worked in the background to arrange for Greg Galanos' live appearance on the Internet Radio show "Hackerz".

As a public figure for Metrowerks I am often contacted by authors and 3rd party vendors and can initiate their interaction with Metrowerks.

Dave: What else do you do at Metrowerks?

Ron: I also do technical writing in my spare time. I write and maintain the MSL C and MSL C++ References.

Dave: There have been some exciting changes in the Standards lately. Can you comment on this? And tell us where you go for your standards info.

Ron: Yes Dave, most people are aware of the changes made to C++ now that we have a Working Standard. However, there is also the new JTC1/SC22/WG14 N794 C Standards as well. There is a lot of work to be done and I try to take a week off the newsgroups every so often to devote to just writing.

The new C standards commonly known as C9X standards are the biggest expansion of C since it was first standardized. The new standards add a lot of new math routines and wide character functionality among other library additions. Some of the more popular C++ language components such as // style comments are also added to the standard language.

Adding the new wide character (wchar_t type) support in C requires two new headers wctype.h and wchar.h. While the wctype.h is pretty much a replica of the familiar ctype.h header except for the wide character type. Wchar.h is much more complex and is the largest header in the C standard library. Wchar.h covers much of the string.h, stdio.h and stdlib.h functionality for wchar_t wint_t types and the null terminated multibyte wide-character sequences. Typically the functions for wchar_t are named with a w in their name such as wscanf() or wprintf() that are the wide character equivalents of scanf() or printf(). The wide character string functions replace str with wcs in their names. For example, wcscpy is the wide character string equivalent of strcpy.

#include <wchar.h>

main()
{
  wchar_t name[81] = L"";
  wcscpy(name, L"Ron Liechty");
  wprintf(L"My name is %s", name);
  
  return 0;
}

Wide character string literals are designated with a L"... " declaration but much of the rest of it is similar to the standard ANSI Character set. One significant difference is that the end of file character is WEOF.

The official Committee Document (CD) for C9X is (at the time of this interview) available to the public. This document, known as N2620, is available electronically from http://www.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC22/open/n2620/ in PostScript, Adobe Acrobat and Unix formatted text version. A press release is also available at http://www.ncits.org/press/1997/pr97157.htm and this lists a place where you can purchase the standards.

It has been a hard task trying to document the C++ Libraries, since they have expanded so much beyond the old AT&T CFront standards that most older books deal with. I felt it was essential to annotate the stream libraries because this is what the CFront libraries primarily dealt with. In the future I will document the new STL facilities of the libraries and then annotate them..

I recently was fortunate to work as the facilitator with Stephen Prata so that his latest edition of the C++ Primer Plus includes a version of CodeWarrior Lite. This book is the first popular book to deal with the Final Draft International Standard C++. The entire Metrowerks team did yeoman duties adjusting the compiler and Metrowerks Standard Libraries to enable namespace std and other STL functionality. The information on this book is...

Mitchell Waite Signature Series: C++ Primer Plus Third Edition,
Stephen Prata.
Waite Group Press (subsidiary of Macmillian Computer Publishing),
ISBN# 1-57169-131-6.

I'm very impressed with this book. It is over 1000 pages and covers new and old C++ features like RTTI, Exceptions, STL container classes, etc. in a way that interesting and often amusing.

Another book for those interested in the C++ standard is Bjarne Stoustrup's The C++ Programming Language, Third Edition:

The C++ Programming Language Third Edition
Bjarne Stroustrup
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company
ISBN# 0-201-88954-4

There is no legitimate source for the FDIS version of the C++ Standard but you can find the last December 96 Working Paper version of The C++ Standard at ftp://research.att.com/dist/c++std/WP/CD1/

You can also purchase a copy of the standard from

CBEMA
1250 Eye Street, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 202-737-8888

They have not set a purchase price yet, as the international standard has not yet been finalized. but by the time this interview hits the streets, the standard should be finalized and the price should be set.

Dave: I understand that you like to teach online as well. Where would you point a beginner to get their programming questions answered?

Ron: Yes I still teach a class on America Online on Sunday nights. It helps to keep me in touch with novice programmers. I've had all ranges of students from those that never took a programming course to several NASA engineers trying to get a grasp on C++. It's a non-accredited course so you pretty much get out of it what you put into it.

My philosophy is that learning occurs in three stages. The first stage you know nothing and know you know nothing. The second stage you know a lot and think you know it all. The final stage you know a lot but realize that you really know nothing. I feel if I can help my students over the second stage that is all I can do.

Mac OS programmers are lucky in that the eagerness to help each other seems almost boundless. Besides the newsgroups such as comp.sys.mac.programmer.help and comp.sys.mac.programmer.codewarrior there are several organizations that are eager to help Mac OS programmers.

One excellent tutorial site online is Macintosh C by K. J. Bricknell and Macintosh Pascal by Koryn Grant and K. J. Bricknell http://cafe.AmbrosiaSW.com/alt.sources.mac/macintosh-c/. This is an excellent tutorial site for both Macintosh C and Macintosh Pascal beginners.

The AIMED organization has a Study Course / Mentor program at http://www.themost.org/. This site qualifies students for an Academic version of CodeWarrior if they meet the MOST Standards.

For programming resources http://www.program.com/mac/ is an useful web site with links to Mac OS programming resources. Of course MacTech Magazine www.mactech.com/ is helpful for programmers both new and experienced. Metrowerks also provides an excellent site for additional links http://www.metrowerks.com/tools/

I regret that I am leaving out many areas such as Warrior World for PowerPlant programming ww-general@codewarrior.org and many list servers, too numerous to mention.

Dave: Any closing thoughts?

Ron: Working for Metrowerks has been and extremely rewarding job. I especially like helping novice programmers. Having been self taught in C++ and I understand the confusion and problems that one can get into simply because they don't understand the jargon.

Metrowerks engineers have been very patient with me when I pester them with questions and often follow up with more questions to clarify a statement. I don't want to just answer a question, I want to answer a question in a manner that the questioner will understand.

While the cost of Metrowerks CodeWarrior Professional is a small factor in the corporate world (It costs less for a 50 seat site license than the seats the engineers are sitting on), for a person programming as a hobby or self education the cost is real. I am glad that the online exposure that Metrowerks provides to these budget minded warriors is part of the value of CodeWarrior.

 
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