Tag: C

GUI’s, wxPack, and wxWidgets

The official wxPython logo
The official wxPython logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

wxWidgets and GUI’s

In our post “Where’s the Graphics? Learning from our Roots (Tcl / Tk)” we focused on Tcl/Tk as a primary GUI development language.  We also mentioned QT as a viable alternative.  QT provides a more powerful GUI development API when compared to Tcl/Tk, however, the licensing schema for QT is also more complex.

To paraphrase the description from the wxWidgets website, wxWidgets is a C++ library that includes bindings for C++, Python and other languages to create cross-platform applications for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and more.

wxWidgets is available free of charge and offers a comprehensive collection of widgets that make it ideally suited for advanced GUI intensive applications. By using the native platform API, wxWidgets provides a native look and feel to your applications.

The latest version of wxWidgets is 3.0.2 as announced in the latest news release dated October 6, 2014.

wxPack

Thanks to wxPack, we’ve expanded our list of cross-platform GUI’s to include wxWidgets.  wxPack greatly simplifies the task of installing and setting up wxWidgets on your machine.  wxPack is a full wxWidgets Development Kit, complete with wxWidgets source and binaries, wxFormBuilder (RAD Tool), and more.  Without wxPack, installing wxWidgets is a task best left to more seasoned developers.

wxFormBuilder

From a development perspective, wxFormBuilder is the tool that ultimately caught our attention.  More specifically, wxFormBuilder offers the following features that are ideally suited to our language base and development environments:

  • Visual design of wxWidgets dialogs, frames, panels, toolbars and menubars
  • Source code generation for C++, Python, PHP, Lua and XRC
  • Support for wxWidgets 3.0 widgets (wxRibbonBar, wxPropertyGrid, wxDataViewCtrl, …)
Python and Qt
Python and Qt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Selecting Your GUI Tool Kit

The wealth of information available to learn and implement Qt suggests it is one of the better supported GUI tool kits in general. TKinter (Tcl/Tk) is also well supported due to it’s inclusion with the standard Python distribution.  Regardless of the tool kit chosen, the initial learning curve can be rather steep for more complex applications.  The number of widgets and options available with each package only add to the challenge of which package to choose.

Keeping it Lean

Too many options can make for more complicated interfaces than are necessary to meet the needs of the application and it’s end users.  For Python, TKinter provides a minimal widget set that serves the majority of our requirements.  That it’s already included with the standard Python distribution makes TKinter an even more convenient and attractive option.

There are times where a higher level of complexity and sophistication is necessary.  Of course, to learn every GUI kit available isn’t an option available to everyone.  The wealth of information and code samples available for QT make it a highly regarded option.

wxWidgets may just be the Goldilocks solution, falling somewhere between simplicity and sophistication where the tools available make it “just right” to get the job done.  A quick review of the wxWidgets Class List suggests there are more than enough features to develop a robust GUI for your application.

Ultimately, the right choice is the tool kit that is both effective and efficient for the given application.  Simplicity serves the purpose best especially during rapid development cycles and iterations.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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ActiveState Tcl 8.6.2.0

Tkinter demo: many widgets
Tkinter demo: many widgets (Photo Leancredit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard to believe that one day after we published “Where’s the Graphics?” ActiveState released Tcl 8.6.2.0.  Though the link to the download page remains the same, we updated the context of our post to reflect the latest version number.

Visit the ActiveState Tcl 8.6 page for more detailed information.  ActiveState’s ActiveTcl Community Edition is a free, ready-to-install distribution for Windows, Linux, and Max OSx.

Though other GUI options exist, Tcl/Tk is a proven technology that has persisted for more than 25 years.  The latest release offers features that continue to keep Tcl/Tk relevant and at the top of our GUI toolkit.

In addition to the numerous resources listed in our “Where’s the Graphics” post, a wealth of information can also be found at wiki.tcl.tk.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Where’s the Graphics? Learning from our Roots (Tcl / Tk)

Tkinter demo: many widgets
Tkinter demo: many widgets (Photo Leancredit: Wikipedia)

One of our “side bar” challenges is developing software solutions (applications) for our clients.  Simple or complex, they all have one element in common, a Graphical User Interface or GUI.

Imagine the surprise and disappointment on the faces of many beginning programmers and developers when they discover that powerful languages like Assembler, C, C++, and even Python start by teaching you how to write software from the command prompt!

We’ve been there too!  When we decided to learn Python – a powerful, high-level, dynamic interpreted scripting language that is quickly becoming the language of choice for new developers – we were just as surprised to be writing and running programs from the command line (C:\).  Even Python’s Interactive Development Environment (IDLE) uses a “prompt” driven interface.

Basic Fundamentals

Our journey with Python originated with our interest in learning C++.  When we discovered that Python is written in C++, we were curious to see how C++ could be used to create an even more powerful dynamic language.

Learning a language and creating a GUI are related but they are not necessarily the same.  Developing an application requires a solid understanding of the core language itself including its capabilities and constraints.  A GUI “simply” serves as a means of interacting with the core application without concern for how the program actually functions or performs internally.

By way of analogy, driving a car does not require us to understand the intricate functions of the engine and powertrain.  As drivers, we use a key to turn the engine on or off, a gear selector, the accelerator and brake pedals, and the  instrument panel – all of which are the equivalent of a GUI in terms of function – to control and monitor the vehicle.  As developers, however, we are more concerned with ensuring that the engine and powertrain function as expected.  In other words, the GUI can wait but it should still be a consideration during the development process.

Where’s the Graphics?

The result
The result (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is writing applications with a nice, clean, graphical interface a mystery that only professional programmers can master?  This answer may surprise you.  Anyone can create a GUI and there is yet another language for doing just that:  Tcl/Tkinter. Tcl is a general purpose scripting language developed by John Ousterhout in 1988 and was designed to enable communication between applications.   Tkinter is a cross platform toolkit that provides a variety of widgets for building GUI’s in many languages.

Most introductory books on Python are concerned with teaching the core fundamentals of the Python language itself, though some may provide a brief introduction to Tkinter.  It is significant that Tkinter is included as part of the Python distributions that are freely available for download from the Python.org website.  Including Tkinter in the Python distribution enables the development of simple to complex GUI’s for your application.

Back to the Beginning

Although other packages such as wxWidgets and PyQt are available, that Tkinter is included in the standard Python distribution makes it much easier to integrate and explore.

To fully understand the Tcl/Tk programming language, we decided to search for more information.  We discovered an excellent Tcl/Tk Tutorial at TutorialsPoint.com where we are served with a wealth of information for both Tcl and Tk.  This is certainly enough to whet your appetite for more.

The TutorialsPoint Tcl/Tk  Tutorial describes several features of Tcl and this is one that caught our attention:

 “You can easily extend existing applications with Tcl. Also, it is possible to include Tcl in C, C++ or Java to Tcl or vice versa.”

What seems like an overly extended tangent from our original pursuit of C++ has become a worthwhile journey.  One of our greatest frustrations while learning C (and C++) was the lack of information for developing a graphical interface for our applications.  It looks like we may have discovered something that will help us along the way for a variety of languages.

Tcl/Tkinter Resources:

If you are using an Apple computer, Tk and Python are already installed on your system as part of the OSx.  The versions installed depend on the version of OSx you are running on your computer.

We recommend visiting SourceForge.net and searching for the term “Tcl/Tk”, without the quotes, using the site’s search box.  You will be presented with the latest version of Tcl (8.6.2) and variety of other related tools including several Tcl extension packages and IDE’s.

To get the latest copy of ActiveState‘s version (8.6.2.0) of Tcl/Tk for your system (Windows, Linux, Mac OSx) visit the ActiveState.com download page.  The community version is free and will be more than sufficient to get you started.  Click here to see some interesting code snippets or “recipes” on the ActiveState site that demonstrate some of the key features of Tcl/Tk.

We already suggested that TutorialsPoint offers an excellent introduction to Tcl/Tk Programming, however, we have also discovered several books that are worth mentioning to get you started:

Python and Tkinter GUI:

Python and Other GUI’s:

C++ and Qt:

English: Screenshot Qt Designer Русский: Скрин...
English: Screenshot Qt Designer Русский: Скриншот Qt Designer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While some are comfortable to accept the tools at face value, we found it helpful to delve into the core of Tkinter and Tcl to fully appreciate and understand the underlying language and tools that are available to us.

Finally

As Operating Systems continue to compete for market share, it is good to know that we have cross platform GUI options that will allow us to write applications that will work on all of them.  To this end, we’re less concerned about “who wins” and more concerned about writing efficient and effective applications for our clients.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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On Target Tangents

Time Tangents

Our world is full of distractions and we often find ourselves on a path that seems so distant from our original plan. We wonder where the time went and ask ourselves …

“How Did We Get There From Here?”

Are tangents disruptive impulses that take our eyes off of the goal, causing us to lose focus, and drain away our valuable time? Or, do we embrace them as an extension of “how we think” and seize the opportunity to expand the scope of our original thought processes.  Our desire to learn fuels our passion to …

Explore New Options

Some time ago we expressed our interest in learning the C++ programming language.  C++ is an amazing language and we have gained a real appreciation for object oriented programming.  While learning C++, we discovered that another very powerful language, Python, was written in C++.

Naturally, we decided to check out Python to see the power of C++ in action.  To our surprise, we learned that Python is readily available at no charge from https://python.org, is very powerful, and is an extremely versatile Object Oriented Programming language.  Python is also relatively easy to learn and is now our language of choice for rapid prototyping and development of complex solutions.

Today we discovered yet another language:  “Go”.  Coincidentally, we stumbled upon a post at TechCrunch.com titled, “Google’s Go:  A New Programming Language That’s Python Meets C++”.  We downloaded “Go” from GoLang.org to explore what this language brings to the table.

We’re committed to continue learning C++, however, we would be remiss if we decided to simply stick to the straight and narrow path of one language alone.  Where speed of execution is a factor, C++ prevails.  Where speed of execution, small size, and a “close to the metal” solution is required, Assembler takes precedent. However, where speed is less of a concern, a solution in Python is heavily favoured.  As we’ve stated many times before:

“There’s always a better way and more than one solution.” ~ Redge

When Opportunity Knocks … Answer

It would be easy to ignore the distractions that seem to stall our progress and keep us from reaching our destination, however, sometimes the journey is best enjoyed when we stop and take in the sights along the way.  In this case, the ride has been an eye opening experience.

Although we started our learning process with Python 2.7.6, we’re currently using Python 3.4.1.  Python is available and runs across the three platforms that concern us most:  Windows, OSX, and LINUX.  Soon after, we also downloaded Anaconda Python from Continuum Analytics.  The reasons for downloading Anaconda Python will become clear once you’ve had a chance to delve into the world of Python and all it has to offer.

Though we may have strayed from our C++ learning process for a short while, the Python experience has been and continues to be a tremendous journey.  Python has presented a realm of significant possibilities in Object Oriented Programming that would otherwise have remained a mystery.

Learning Python

A simple Google search for “Python Programming” will yield a host of web sites that offer tutorials, books, and so much more.  We started with a few simple books and added a few more that we purchased from our local book store to gain a sense of what Python had to offer:

The number of books available on the store shelves pales in comparison to the offerings available on Amazon.  We have since purchased a number of e-books that are easily and readily accessible using Kindle across multiple devices including my iPad and Surface Pro.  If you haven’t had a chance to work with Kindle, we highly recommend it.  It is an excellent app that makes reading e-books a breeze.

Unlocking Potential

Certainly this recent tangent has opened more doors than we could ever have imagined and we’re grateful for the experience.  While this may seem to have little to do with Lean or OEE, we would suggest otherwise.  Each program or script is comprised of multiple processes or series of processes and the environments in which they run are as diverse as the machines we find in manufacturing operations.  From our perspective, programming serves as an excellent surrogate to demonstrate lean practices and the effectiveness of our operations.

Just when you think you have all the answers, consider that one of them may hold more questions than you ever imagined.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Versalytics Associates

Teaching with Analogies

Over the past few weeks we’ve been taking on the challenge of learning C++. We’ve made our way through the first of 7 books in the C++ All-In-One For Dummies 2nd Edition, by John Paul Mueller and Jeff Cogswell, and we’re working our way through chapter 6 of Sams Teach Yourself C++ in One Hour a Day Seventh Edition by Siddhartha Rao.

Analogies

We’re going through both books at the same time and it’s fair to say that the approach for creating a foundation of knowledge on which to build is unique to each of them. Both books make heavy use of analogies to explain and build on the concepts as a means to create a form of intuitive instruction.

Remember Goldilocks

Both books assume little or no prior programming experience so establishing a base line from scratch is clearly a challenge, especially when there is no way for printed copy to determine our level of comprehension. C++ All-In-One For Dummies tends to offer too much explanation for even the simplest of concepts – almost to the point of creating confusion.

C++, like C, allows comments to be inserted throughout the code to help the developer and others understand the code in real English. I question why the authors of C++ All-In-One For Dummies chose to formally introduce comments in Chapter 8: Using Advanced C++ Features. Introducing comments earlier in the book would’ve allowed the authors to use comments to explain the code as part of the program listings rather than resorting to a drawn out line by line explanation in the text.

The presentation of material in Sams Teach Yourself C++ in One Hour a Day tends to be more thorough and the progression of topics from one chapter to the next is not as aggressive. Though analogies are used, the introduction of concepts is seemingly more structured – concepts are followed by relevant program listings and analysis. Each chapter concludes with a Summary, Q&A, and a Workshop comprised of a quiz and exercises to reinforce the concepts presented.

Goldilocks reminds us that we should present content that is “just right” – not too much, not too little – and in the right context. Suffice it to say that analogies are an effective tool for teaching abstract concepts, especially when it comes to learning a new language.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Versalytics Analytics

Back to Class with C++

What does C++ have to do with lean?

The language itself may not do much for lean as we know it, however, learning a new language affords us the opportunity to become students once again.

When we share and teach lean principles, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be on the receiving end of all that information.  In other words, we often lose sight of what it means to be the student.

  • We ask questions:  Who, what, where, when, why, and how?
  • We overcome resistance to change when we recognize and value our vested interests in the current state.
  • We have a threshold for learning – small units at a time improve absorption and keeps us from getting overwhelmed.
  • We imprint – we learn by doing to improve retention and enhance our learning experience.
  • We understand and work on the premise that there’s always a better way and there’s more than one solution.
  • We celebrate our successes.

Computers are a part of our everyday life both at work and at home. Learning another language provides the opportunity to create and develop software applications that enhance our experience and the experience of others in the future.

Why C++?

Computers have evolved over the years from desktops, laptops, and netbooks to tablets, mobile phones, and even watches! This rapidly changing ecosystem has enabled new technologies that require more evolved object-oriented languages like C++. A growing number of platforms and devices makes choosing a language to support them that much more difficult. Our decision to choose one language over another is dependent on the Operating System and / or hardware that will run our applications – Apple, Microsoft Windows, Unix, Linux, or Android.

There was a time when we used Basic, Fortran, Assembly (x86), and C to develop applications. As Microsoft’s Office suite became more popular, we even extended our expertise to include visual basic for applications (VBA). Assembly language is a low-level language that requires a thorough knowledge of both the hardware and the operating system for a given machine. A medium to high level language such as C/C++ allows us to concern ourselves with the functional aspects of the application rather than the details of the hardware itself.

C++ is fast, fully compiled, object-oriented, portable, and standardized (ANSI and ISO). Standardization assures a higher level of stability and support for a minimum set of language features across multiple platforms. While other object-oriented programming languages exist, like Java and C#, we selected C++ for now. Texts for Java and C# are also part of our language library for consideration on future projects.

Getting Started with C++

The first book you read on a given language will become the lens through which all others are viewed.  In other words, your first book will establish or heavily influence your baseline thinking going forward.

Before selecting any book on programming, read the inside and outside covers as well as the introduction to determine if the book meets with your level of experience and requirements. You should also note that authors typically choose a development system that forms the basis for the lessons that follow.

Though a standard exists for the C++ language, use of the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and compiler options depends on the product you choose.

The books:

Each book discusses the resources, including software, required to successfully set up C++ and the applicable Integrated Development Environment on your computer. Using a well designed Integrated Development Environment (IDE) simplifies the process of programming, compiling, and linking your programs.

We successfully installed CodeBlocks with the MinGW compiler as well as Microsoft’s Visual C++ Express. Use the internet to see what resources are available – you’ll be surprised at the amount of information that’s available and much of it is free. It’s worth your time to Google “C++” to see what’s out there.

Our Goal

Our goal is to review each book’s ability to teach us the C++ language. As we are learning the language, we cannot attest to the “correctness” or integrity of the content being taught in these books. We’ll share our experiences and thoughts as we dig deeper into the world of C++.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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