history

Anniversary of the iPhone launch

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the iPhone, I thought I'd repost this from a year ago. Happy birthday, iPhone!



I just listened to episode 18 of the Upgrade podcast, where Jason Snell reminisced about first seeing and touching the iPhone. (Yes, I'm about a week behind on my podcast listening.)

That sent me down a memory lane of my experience at that event. I haven't attended many conferences over the years, but Macworld Expo in 2007 was one of them. In fact, that was the only Macworld I ever attended. But yes, I was also in the audience for the historic occasion of Steve Jobs introducing the first iPhone.

My seat was rather far back, but I was there (that's a repeater screen on top, and the live stage at the bottom):

Unlike Jason, I didn't get to touch one, but I did get to see it up close, behind well-guarded glass:

After the show, I wrote a followup blog post with my initial impressions of the iPhone and other news at the event (introduction of the Apple TV, and Apple changing its name). Reading over that post now is somewhat amusing, with concerns over the keyboard and developer access.

I had a bunch of other photos from the show, showing various events and presentations, the show floor, iPhone demos, etc. Ah, memories.

Time Out 2.1 released & Dejal 25th anniversary discount

Announcing the general release of Time Out version 2.1, an update to my popular break reminder tool.

Version 2.1 includes macOS Sierra compatibility, scheduling enhancements, status item improvements, new actions, and much more. Read below for details and screenshots.

Special discounts to celebrate Dejal 25th anniversary!

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of founding Dejal. Yes, I started the company way back on September 20, 1991, writing apps for classic Mac OS on my Mac Plus. (I've written a number of blog posts about the history if you want more details.)

To celebrate a quarter century of Mac development, and the release of Time Out 2.1 and macOS Sierra, I'm offering a special discount coupon code on all Mac apps sold directly from this site, or the supporter options within the direct edition of Time Out. Simply enter the coupon DEJAL25 at checkout to get half off! (Good until the end of this month.)

Already a supporter of Time Out? No problem; you can still use this coupon to extend your support by an additional 3, 6 or 12 months.

Here's my original Mac; if you look closely you can see some Dejal floppy disks to the left of the keyboard:

Better Schedule options

Time Out 2.1 includes many new features and enhancements, including:

  • Changed the way the scheduler handles the first break of the day, so the work time is now equal between each break. For example, a 10 minute break every hour will now start the break after 50 minutes of work time, and so on throughout the day.
  • Now displays the work time next to the frequency control.
  • Replaced the Reset After Duration natural break option with a checkbox to reset after a specified interval of idle, screensaver or sleep time, where you can choose the threshold interval. Off by default, and is a supporter reward, like the old option.
  • Added an option to reset the break after finishing a higher priority break. This is useful to keep lower priority breaks (e.g. Micro) aligned with higher priority ones (e.g. Normal). Off by default, and is also a supporter reward.

The Status item can now omit Micro breaks

  • Added an option on the General preferences page to only include long breaks in the status menu bar item. Off by default, so all breaks are included, but if you only want a countdown to the next lengthy break (of a minute or more), you can turn this on.

New menu commands to improve discoverability

  • Added an Edit Break command in the break Options menu, to make editing breaks more intuitive. This is equivalent to simply selecting the break in the sidebar, and will show an alert mentioning this.
  • Added a Start Next Break command in the File and action (cog) menus to manually begin the break that is next due. Especially useful as it can have a global keyboard shortcut assigned to it via the Shortcuts preferences.
  • Added a Reveal Data Folder command in those menus, to quickly and easily show the Time Out data folder in the Finder, as an easier way to add or edit sounds and themes, or send the data to Dejal for diagnostics.

Improved Play Sound action

  • Added a Reveal Sounds command to the sound pop-up menu in the Play Sound action, to show the Sounds folder in the Finder.
  • Added headings in the Play Sound menu, to indicate where each of the groups of sounds are located on disk.
  • Added some new built-in sounds: two different bells and a ticking clock. If you find any short public domain sound that others might like, let us know!

Added a Post Tweet action

  • Added a new Post Tweet action to post an update to Twitter. It is only available from macOS Sierra (10.12), due to a bug in previous OS versions that prevents authorizing accounts.
  • It includes an account popup to choose from which account to post. This could be fun for social peer pressure -- tweet when completing a break.

More actions

  • Added the Sleep Mac action (available via the Time Out Extras page) to the default set. This AppleScript simply puts the Mac to sleep. Useful if you want it to be asleep during a break or at the end of day.
  • Added the Start Screensaver action (also available there) to the default set. This AppleScript simply activates the screensaver. Useful if you want the screensaver on during a break.
  • Also added a new Stop Screensaver action. This AppleScript deactivates the screensaver if it's active. Useful as an action at the end of a break.

Setup Assistant assistance

  • Added a comment on the first page of the Setup Assistant to explain how to change the duration and frequency controls: "tab/arrow between components; arrow up/down or type to change values; click or spacebar to show a menu of options."
  • Updated the tooltips of those controls to give the same tips.
  • When returning to the Setup Assistant later in the app session, it now opens to the first page again, instead of whichever one was displayed when last closed.

Supporter improvements

  • After trying supporter rewards, the Support Time Out page is selected, to hopefully help clarify that the features reverting is not a bug.
  • For the Mac App Store edition, if a purchase hasn't been registered with the Dejal server, it will now ask you to do so when you next show the Support Time Out page, to avoid an issue that affects some people.

Other improvements

  • When launching the direct edition for the first time, if the Mac App Store edition has previously been used, the direct edtion will use the same data, to make migration easier.
  • Global shortcuts are now correctly removed after trying supporter rewards.
  • If not using the Event Monitor idle detector (as set on the Advanced preferences), no longer unnecessarily sets up the event monitors on launch.
  • Possible workaround for an Apple bug that causes the clipboard to stop working.
  • Fixed a crasher on macOS Sierra (10.12) when displaying the support info popovers.
  • Fixed a crasher when changing preference pages.
  • Updated the help book.

Get it now!

If you are using the Mac App Store edition, you can update via the App Store app.

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download Time Out 2.1 now.

And remember the coupon code DEJAL25 to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Dejal!

Simon: unlimited tests for everyone

Simon 4 has been out for a while now, but I'm still getting a regular trickle of upgrades, so obviously not everyone has moved to the latest (or recent) versions yet.

One huge benefit of Simon 4 hasn't gotten much attention, so I thought I'd call it out: unlimited tests for everyone!

What does this mean?

In versions 1 and 2, Simon had three license levels available for purchase: "Basic", "Standard" and "Enterprise". In version 1, Basic permitted a maximum of 3 active test configurations for $29.95, Standard allowed up to 10 for $59.95, and Enterprise removed the limit for the relatively large sum of $195. In version 2, the first two were doubled to 7 and 20 respectively, while Enterprise remained unlimited (with unchanged prices).

In version 3, I added a fourth level, and renamed them to "Bronze", "Silver", "Gold", and "Platinum", with the limits doubled again to 15, 40, 100, and still unlimited at the top. The prices were increased, to $49, $99, $199 and the princely sum of $499, respectively.

So what was I going to do for version 4? Keep them the same, double them again, or something else?

I decided to simplify.

For this upgrade, I eliminated the concept of license levels. Unsurprisingly, relatively few customers had opted for the Platinum level, though more than you might think. The cheapest level, Bronze, wasn't the most popular, though: the majority of people wanted more tests.

I thought that eliminating the levels would make it easier to people to understand the purchase. One price, unlimited tests. Deciding on the price was tricky. Over the years, the expected price of apps have gone down significantly, due to the "race to the bottom" of the iOS App Store, where most apps are free or $0.99 nowadays. Fortunately, things aren't as untenable on the Mac, with average prices more like $20 to $40, and pro apps going for around $100 (which is still less than they used to be, but not as bad). So I decided to go for the price of the most popular license level, but with the features of the top-of-the-line one: $99 to get unlimited tests.

Of course, some people would have preferred a cheaper option. And I was leaving money on the table from people willing to pay prices like $499. But I think time has supported this decision as a happy medium for everyone.

I think most people understand the realities of software development, but I feel I should mention it anyway. Software takes time to write and support. For a powerful and flexible app like Simon, a lot of time. It's also a relatively niche app, so doesn't have as huge a market as other apps. So the only way it can survive and have continued development (even if sometimes slow, as I work on other projects) is to have a sustainable price. It's always tricky to find the right price for an app, but for Simon, this feels right.

Still using Simon 3? Check out the huge number of improvements in the version 4 release notes, and when you're ready, buy an upgrade for just $49!

And if you've bought Simon 4, thank you! Especially to the long-term customers who have used it and upgraded it over the years. I've still got an ever-expanding list of feature ideas, with work on version 4.3 starting soon!

Finally, if you are using Simon, one thing that would really help is to tell others about it. Tell your co-workers, friends, post on Twitter or Facebook, etc. Helping to spread the word is much appreciated, and goes a long way to supporting the app and its ongoing development.

My first Mac

Last week I saw a video on the evolution of the desk, or more specifically how many physical desk objects have migrated into apps on the computer (and one could argue that they're continuing to move into an iPad).

Then Serenity Caldwell (@settern) tweeted a picture of her desk 10 years ago:

Which got me thinking about how my desk contents has evolved over time. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81, but my first Mac was a Mac Plus, which I bought around 1988. Here it is on my desk at the time (click to see larger):

To the left of the Mac is my previous computer, a Spectravideo MSX SVI-728. The Mac Plus (platinum color) had an internal 3.5-inch floppy drive, plus an external one, and 4 MB of RAM. I later added a hard drive, and still later a magneto-optical drive:

Other interesting bits in this photo are my Inside Macintosh reference manuals, early Dejal floppy disks (I used to publish my Classic apps on floppy), my modem, and other antiques like cassette tapes and LP records. You may be able to make out a circuit board on the wall above my Mac; that isn't a picture, but the motherboard of my ZX81.

I don't have most of that stuff anymore... but I do still have the ZX81 circuitboard, and that solar-powered calculator... still going strong.

My current desk is a lot tidier than that one, too.

20th wedding anniversary

Today marks the 20th anniversary of marrying my wife, Jennifer. My how time flies... it seems only yesterday when I posted about our 15th wedding anniversary — read that post from five years ago for the story of how we met, got married, and more.

I wanted to do something special to mark this milestone, so a couple of weeks ago I did something I've been meaning to do for decades: I edited the videotape footage of our wedding into a short movie (about 5 minutes).

It begins with part of a TV news report that aired shortly after our wedding. As that previous blog post described, we met via the internet in an age when that was new and rare, so we were interviewed by local TV and newspaper reporters.

The movie then has clips from the ceremony and reception, which were both held near the beach at one of our favorite spots, Long Bay Beach in Auckland, New Zealand. It concludes with some scenes from our honeymoon in the credits.

Take a look:

20 happy years, full of love and adventures. Happy anniversary Jenn; I love you!

20 years of contract work, looking forward to the next 20 years

Today marks a milestone in my career. 20 years ago today, I started working for the company that would eventually become Intrahealth. Technically, the start date was February 7, 1995, but it was in New Zealand, which is a day ahead of the US, so it counts as today.

I actually started Dejal as a company back in September 20, 1991; see my previous 20 years of Dejal shareware blog post for a retrospective on that.

But 20 years ago today I started working for Mark Matthews, now CEO of Intrahealth, taking over development of his MMAS application: the Macintosh Medical Administration System. It was a pair of server/client apps written in MPW Pascal for classic Mac OS, used by hundreds of medical clinics around New Zealand to manage their practices: everything from appointments, billing, patient medical records, and more. My first assignment was rewriting the prescriptions windows.

An early memory was that Mark actually printed the wedding invites for Jenn and me on his LaserWriter.

A few years later, around April 1997, I converted the project to CodeWarrior Pascal, and 10 years later it moved to Free Pascal (FPC). Being such an ancient product, it has gone through many iterations, but still exists today.

When I started, I was working out of my home office, in a tiny 2-bedroom flat (or apartment as we'd call it in the US). And I mean really tiny — our bed touched three walls of the bedroom.

Later, about a year after the company established the Intrahealth name in 1997, I started working in their office. By that time it had several more employees, but I remained the lead developer of their Mac apps, with part-time coding by another company founder, Andrew Hall, and for about a year another developer. A few years later, in 1999, MMAS was renamed as Profile for Mac, to bring it in line with their new product for the Windows operating system, Profile for Windows.

Big changes

Big changes in 2001: on April 1 my wife and I moved to the US. So at that time I became a contractor again (an international employee would be tricky), and continued working on Profile for Mac, mostly part-time — about half of my time on that, half on Dejal apps, including my first Mac OS X apps, Narrator (since sold to Mariner Software), Simon (which was recently updated to version 4), and others.

I also spent some time on other contract projects, including iData and MindFortress, both snippet utilities similar to Caboodle. But Intrahealth was a big part of my career.

Intrahealth changed countries too: in 2005 they moved their head office to Vancouver, BC, Canada.

After the iPhone was introduced, I created some Dejal apps for it. Naturally, when Intrahealth wanted a mobile edition of Profile, they turned to me. In January 2011 I started work on Profile for iOS, an app designed to sync with the Profile for Windows server, fetch patient information, appointments, tasks, etc from the server, and work offline until the device has a connection again, when it would sync changes back to the server and get updates.

I worked on Profile for iOS mostly full-time since then, as its sole developer, which did mean Dejal suffered a bit — astute readers of my traditional year-end summary blog posts for 2012, 2013 and 2014 will have noticed that I didn't have many releases, and mentioned that I spent most of my time on Profile.

All good things....

This period of my life drifted to an end late last year. Intrahealth has continued to expand, from one employee (me) in 1995 to around 100 staff in four countries today. A few months ago they decided to bring Profile for iOS development in-house, and as I had no interest in moving to Canada, they took on another iOS developer to take over the project. After providing guidance and mentoring to get him up-to-speed for a few months, my Intrahealth hours decreased to practically nothing. Since then, I have just provided occasional advice on issues with the Mac and iOS products. That may continue for quite some time, but it's effectively a negligible amount of time now.

So, ignoring the past few months, I count my time with Intrahealth as about 19 years. I'm a little sad that it didn't make it to 20 years, but even 19 years is an amazingly long length of time to work with one company, even if it was in various employment/contracting capacities, and sometimes part-time. So I thought it was worth taking some time to mark this milestone.

So, what's next?

What's the plan for the next 20 years? Sometimes I wish I could see into the future, so I knew what was ahead.

I know what I want: to continue doing what I've been doing for the past few months — working on Dejal full-time.

After stopping Intrahealth work, I started work on Simon version 4.0. That took a few months, and was released in December as its biggest upgrade ever. Sales of Simon jumped up, thanks in large part to upgrades, which has certainly helped cover the lack of Intrahealth income, though not quite enough to be sustainable; I really need to double my income to be able to afford to do this full-time.

I am currently back working on Time Out version 2.0, which has been in the works for years, but kept getting sidelined by Intrahealth work. It has progressed significantly, and I'm looking forward to releasing it sometime in the coming months. And hoping that I can survive until then, and that it'll do well enough to let me continue.

I've also released a new iPhone app, Pack, to help with packing lists, released several open source projects for other developers, and published many blog posts, including a series of Simon tips.

I am also open to working on contract projects for others, to help refill the coffers. If you know anyone who needs an experienced iOS or Mac developer, please send them to my Consulting page for more information.

And recently I produced a custom build of Simon for a customer who wanted to install it on their clients' machines under their own name. I'm certainly open to doing that for others too, or adding custom features to Simon as paid work.

The upshot of all this is that after about 20 years, I am keen to take Dejal from a part-time, hobby-like business to full-time operation. The Dejal apps are mature, high quality, and useful, and I'm sure could fully support me and enable me to accelerate the rate of improvements, and maybe even release more new apps. I just need to get better at getting the word out about them.

Please help!

If you've read this far, congratulations! You must be sufficiently interested in me and my apps, so can I ask you for a favor? Please tell everyone you know about them! Tweet about the apps, post on Facebook, tell your friends, email bloggers, etc etc. Anything you can do to help others learn about the apps will help me grow Dejal to a full-time, sustainable software business. Which will benefit everybody. Thank you.

Anniversary of the iPhone launch

I just listened to episode 18 of the Upgrade podcast, where Jason Snell reminisced about first seeing and touching the iPhone. (Yes, I'm about a week behind on my podcast listening.)

That sent me down a memory lane of my experience at that event. I haven't attended many conferences over the years, but Macworld Expo in 2007 was one of them. In fact, that was the only Macworld I ever attended. But yes, I was also in the audience for the historic occasion of Steve Jobs introducing the first iPhone.

My seat was rather far back, but I was there (that's a repeater screen on top, and the live stage at the bottom):

Unlike Jason, I didn't get to touch one, but I did get to see it up close, behind well-guarded glass:

After the show, I wrote a followup blog post with my initial impressions of the iPhone and other news at the event (introduction of the Apple TV, and Apple changing its name). Reading over that post now is somewhat amusing, with concerns over the keyboard and developer access.

I had a bunch of other photos from the show, showing various events and presentations, the show floor, iPhone demos, etc. Ah, memories.

Happy 30th Anniversary, Mac!

[This is an updated repost from the 25th anniversary.]

It's the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the first Macintosh.

I first used a Mac back in high school in New Zealand, where I volunteered as head student librarian. The school had mostly Apple IIe computers, but bought one of the newfangled Macintosh computers in 1984. It was an original 128K Mac, with a single internal floppy drive. Back then, the OS, an application, and data fit on a single 400K disk. We used MacWrite for letters and other documents, MacPaint for occasional graphics, and the OverVUE database for some records... though not a full book catalog.

I bought my first Mac four years later while at university, in 1988. It was a Macintosh Plus, one of the new platinum-colored models. And I even had a second 800K floppy drive and a dot-matrix printer! Later, I added an external hard drive (I think it was 10 MB, though I could be wrong).

Those were the days... working on a 9-inch 512 x 342 pixel monochrome display... which is actually not much more than the original iPhone screen resolution, to give some perspective.

Later I bought a Macintosh II, which I subsequently upgraded internally to be a Macintosh IIx. Then I used a number of other models provided by a Dejal client.

When my wife and I got married, Apple gave us a PowerBook 150 as a wedding present, since we had met while using Macs with the fledgling internet. Our wedding was covered on local TV news and newspapers. Yep, meeting over the internet was a novel concept back then.

Just before we moved to the US, we bought a clamshell iBook G3, which we still have, though it is retired now. Then an iMac G4 that died of old age, a PowerMac G5 that I still very occasionally use for Mac OS X 10.4 testing, a 17" MacBook Pro that died due to graphics system failure, and my current machine, a 27" iMac.

(We've also had a few other Macs: a Mac mini we used to use with our TV, a MacBook I bought to take to WWDC before I got my MacBook Pro, then subsequently gave to my wife's mom, and my wife has had a couple of 15" MacBook Pros and now has a 27" iMac like mine.)

All in all, it's been a great 30 years. I've enjoyed using and owning the various Macs over this time, and look forward to many more years. Happy birthday, Mac!

Simon turns 10

My flagship Mac app, Dejal Simon, turned 10 years old earlier this month. Simon 1.0 was released on 2002-12-06. I actually missed the anniversary, but Jean MacDonald mentioned other 10-year anniversaries on Twitter, and I realized Simon's was also recent. I do like to blog about Dejal history, so I thought I'd mark this milestone too.

Like most software, Simon has undergone many changes since its inception all those years ago. An immediately obvious difference is the icon: version 1.0 had a monochrome icon, as shown to the right. The modern icon is similar, but more colorful and attractive, I think.

As for the user interface, version 1.0 looked somewhat different, though you'll recognize a number of elements that have persisted to this day:

Check out those pinstripes! Simon 1.0 worked with Mac OS X 10.1, where the window chrome was much more in-your-face than nowadays.

Back in the initial versions, Simon's editors were displayed in sheets over the top of the list windows, instead of as separate windows as now. Here's the Alter Test editor over the (cropped) main window:

Back in 1.0, all Simon did was check websites (or FTP sites), so there's no service selection. And everything's crowded into this one sheet, which only got more busy in 2.0. It was finally split over multiple pages in 3.0, which I think is much nicer and clearer.

Similarly, here's the Alter Notifier editor, also as a sheet. The only notifiers supported initially were Sound and Speech; it's much more versatile nowadays:

Finally, here's what the Simon website looked like back then; notice the old Dejal logo, and the rather dated design:

I hope you enjoyed this brief romp down memory lane. Take a look at the modern Simon 3!

20 years of Dejal shareware

Today marks a milestone that is perhaps only significant to me, but I feel worth noting anyway. Twenty years ago today, I started work on my first shareware product, SndPlayer. Yes, you read that right, 20 years... makes me feel old. :)

Dejal as a company was actually founded on September 20, 1991 — but I was away on vacation without internet access when that anniversary rolled around this year, so I'm celebrating my first paid product instead.

SndPlayer was first created on October 24, 1991, though wasn't in beta release until November 25, and general release on February 24, 1992. It had many updates over the years, with the last release on January 29, 2001. It was officially discontinued a couple of years later, since it could no longer be updated.

Check out the classy icon design, above... a construction crane seems a weird choice for a batch sound player, but the idea was that it could lift sounds out of any kind of file. And check out the About window: the icon was even animated (crudely)! Also of note in that window, other than hideous color choices, are the original Dejal logo, the "accelerated for Power Macintosh" (it was a "fat" app, running on 68K and PPC machines), and for the old-timers in the audience, ancient mentions like "Sound Mover", SoundEdit" and "HyperCard stack" may bring back memories.

Because SndPlayer was written for Mac OS 7 to 9, before Mac OS X was introduced, it doesn't run on modern machines and OS versions. If you have an old machine that supports those OS versions, or can run the Classic compatibility environment on Mac OS X 10.4 or earlier, you can run SndPlayer. It is still available on the Dejal site, and along with all other discontinued classic software, is completely free.

Dejal anniversary

As a celebration of this event, I'm offering discounts on all of my Mac apps from today till the end of the month November 14. No special codes or coupons required, but you need to use the online store, not the in-app purchasing tool or Mac App Store, to take advantage of these low prices.

Buy now with the anniversary discounts!

Be quick — these specials expire at the end ofOctoberUPDATE: extended till November 14!

Note also that Simon Bronze is not discounted via the above link (Simon Silver and above are, though), but is available discounted as a weekly special from TheMacBundlesUPDATE: it's still available as part of their "Build Your Own Bundle".

10 years in the US

This Friday is a milestone: 10 years ago my wife (Jennifer) and I moved from New Zealand to the United States.

I was born in NZ and she was born in the US. We met via the ancient command-line internet, she moved to NZ in 1994, and we got married on April 2, 1995. So yes, this weekend is our 16th wedding anniversary.

We enjoyed living in NZ, but eventually the call of Jenn's friends and family in the US became too much, and we decided to move to the US. It was quite a process, since I needed to go through the residency visa application routine, and of course shipping our household goods over in a container (and our three cats via plane) wasn't the easiest. But it was the right choice at the time, and still is.

We flew into Los Angeles on April 1, 2001. Of course, we visited Disneyland. Then we drove a rental car up the US west coast, staying in San Francisco for a couple of nights, then a stopover in Coos Bay, then up to Seattle to stay with Jenn's Mom for a week. Then we went back down to Portland (with a car borrowed from Jenn's grandmother) to stay in a friend's basement while we got established.

Jenn found a local job, we found an apartment, our furniture arrived, and we began to feel settled.

We've since bought a house and car (which we recently replaced), and I am now a dual citizen: I got my US citizenship back in 2004.

Naturally, my company came along for the ride. Dejal was basically a hobby in NZ, but one of my goals once in the US was to turn it into a real business. It has certainly flourished over the years, with revenues steadily growing.

Changing countries is quite a big deal, but it was worth it.

Will we ever move back to NZ? Who knows. We've learnt not to try to predict the future; plans can change. But we do have a dream of retiring in NZ eventually. We'll see!

Octagonal dream house

I've always enjoyed looking at house plans. Many years ago, back around 1995, I had fun imagining an ideal house plan with an octagonal shape. It just seemed an intriguing shape for a house. I particularly liked the idea of having a large courtyard in the center of the house, with a private patio and swimming pool.

I sketched out a house plan based on my ideas, drawing it in the now-obsolete ClarisWorks application. Recently I came across the old file and converted it to PNG so I'd be able to continue viewing it and reminiscing:

(The above notes are part of the original image.)

The plan still has some good ideas, including some things that have become popular in modern luxury houses, like a media room... and some things are are no longer all that relevant, like a photography dark room (though my wife is still keen to have one for B&W photography). I'm sure I would do lots of things differently now, though I still like the general layout.

Now that I live in the US, it's interesting to be reminded of some of the NZ terminology. For example, we'd say "master bath" instead of "master ensuite", "living room" or "great room" instead of "lounge", and "sliding glass door" instead of "ranchslider". The 4-car garage is definitely an American touch, though. :)

Oh, and for those who don't think in meters, 16m is about 52.5'. So the house is about 105' across, all on one level, apart from the basements. Which makes it somewhere in the range of 5,000 square feet, if my rough math is right. Quite big!

Nowadays, I'm more enamored by Queen Anne Victorian house styles. For example, this plan is pretty much ideal in my book. I just love the pointy bits. :)

15th wedding anniversary

Fifteen years ago today, Jennifer and I got married. Actually, technically it was yesterday, since it was in New Zealand, but we ignore the time zone differences. It was April 2, 1995.

Ours was a rather unusual story at the time, though not so much anymore. You see, we met via the internet, before most people had even heard of the internet. Before there was a web browser (or at least before we had heard of one: Mosaic technically was released a couple of months earlier).

Back in 1993, I was attending the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and Jenn was at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, USA. I was using the FirstClass BBS client software on my Mac, while she was using a text-based terminal at her part-time job at the college.

We were both fans of Star Trek, so were reading the rec.arts.startrek.current newsgroup via Usenet, and met via a posting there on June 18, 1993. We switched to email, and quickly became friends, and developed deeper feelings as we got to know each other better. This was all via text communication, so we discussed all sorts of things, and got to know each other really well. We still have a foot-high stack of printouts of our early discussions.

It doesn't seem so strange to have e-friends nowadays, that you've never met in person, but back then it was definitely not the norm.

In due course, it was evident that we were in love. So we talked about getting together in person — remember, we were separated by nearly 7,000 miles of ocean, and just had emails and a few photos and other airmail correspondence. So on February 3, 1994 I flew to Sea-Tac and we met in person. So the first time we saw each other in person was at the gate in Sea-Tac (this was before the increased security, when non-travellers could go right to the gates). I stayed with Jenn in Portland for 5.5 weeks, getting to know each other even better, and exploring the area. Then I headed back to Auckland.

Yes, I had hair back then, or some anyway. :)

Our odd long-distance relationship continued, though that time apart was quite difficult for both of us. On August 17, 1994, Jenn moved to New Zealand, and on October 15, 1994 on Long Bay beach near the water edge, I proposed, and she said yes.

We set the wedding date for halfway between our birthdays, on April 2, 1995. (For some reason, we didn't want to get married on April 1. Go figure!)

We've always been ones to do our own thing, and our names were another example. My surname was originally "Lambert", but rather than Jenn taking my name, or using a hyphen or other convention, we decided to both adopt a new name of our choosing. We decided on "Sinclair", and I legally changed my name, then she took it when we married (seems much easier for women to change their names when getting married).

Our wedding was in our own style, too. We didn't want a big fancy traditional wedding, so we opted for a small informal affair on our favorite beach, Long Bay. We rented a shelter for the reception, and had the ceremony on the adjacent grass overlooking the beach. The ceremony was conducted by my late grandfather, who was a minister and came out of retirement for us. That was very special. And since we were (and still are!) unashamed geeks, our wedding cake had bride & groom Macs on top (see the photo).

Since meeting via the internet was so remarkable back then, we were interviewed by a local newspaper and TV station, who filmed our wedding. Some of the best footage of our wedding is from their pro cameras. Apple even gave us a PowerBook 150 laptop as a wedding present.

That was 15 years ago. 15 wonderful, happy years, and we love each other all the more deeply now.

What's the secret of our success? The "four C's":

  1. Communication: talk through concerns, don't use the "silent treatment"; always be honest.
  2. Commitment: those vows really mean something.
  3. Compassion: be supportive and considerate of feelings.
  4. Compromise: be flexible, come to agreements that you can both live with.

That's worked for us. That, and starting out as e-friends, where all we had were our words, so we really got to know each other very well. We both work from home most of the time, so spend a lot of time together, without getting on each others nerves too much. :) So we must be doing something right.

Happy anniversary, Jennifer. I love you!

Happy birthday, Mac!

Saturday is the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the first Macintosh.

I first used a Mac back in high school in New Zealand, where I volunteered as head student librarian. The school had mostly Apple IIe computers, but bought one of the newfangled Macintosh computers in 1984. It was an original 128K Mac, with a single internal floppy drive. Back then, the OS, an application, and data fit on a single 400K disk. We used MacWrite for letters and other documents, MacPaint for occasional graphics, and the OverVUE database for some records... though not a full book catalog.

I bought my first Mac four years later while at university, in 1988. It was a Macintosh Plus, one of the new platinum-colored models. And I even had a second 800K floppy drive and a dot-matrix printer! Later, I added an external hard drive (I think it was 10 MB, though I could be wrong).

Those were the days... working on a 9-inch 512 x 342 pixel monochrome display... which is actually not much more than the iPhone screen resolution, to give some perspective.

Later I bought a Macintosh II, which I subsequently upgraded internally to be a Macintosh IIx. Then I used a number of other models provided by a Dejal client.

When my wife and I got married, Apple gave us a PowerBook 150 as a wedding present, since we had met while using Macs with the fledgling internet. Our wedding was covered on local TV news and newspapers. Yep, meeting over the internet was a novel concept back then.

Just before we moved to the US, we bought a clamshell iBook G3, which we still have, though I only use it for Mac OS X 10.3.9 compatibility testing. Then an iMac G4, which sadly seems to have passed away, a PowerMac G5 that I still use for Mac OS X 10.4 testing and as a music server, and lastly my current machine, a 17" MacBook Pro.

(We've also had a few other Macs: a Mac mini we use with our TV, a MacBook I bought to take to WWDC before I got my MacBook Pro, then subsequently gave to my wife's mom, and my wife has had a couple of 15" MacBook Pros.)

All in all, it's been a great 25 years. I've enjoyed using and owning the various Macs over this time, and look forward to many more years. Happy birthday, Mac!

MacTech Spotlight: David Sinclair

Last year I was featured in MacTech magazine as their developer spotlight for the month. They asked me some questions about my background; here are my responses:

What do you do?

Dejal is a small ISV, so I do pretty much everything, including Cocoa development, customer support, accounting, PHP web development, graphic design, etc. I do have a developer that helps with Dejal Simon plugins etc, and I've used graphic designers for some app icons and the new Dejal logo. In addition to my own products, I do contracting work part-time.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I learned BASIC in 1982 as my first programming language, and knew that's what I wanted to do with my life. In 1988 I switched to Pascal on Mac Pluses at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and started playing around with apps, but didn't sell anything until I created Dejal (originally called Dejal Userware, for user-friendly software) in 1991. Back then it was just a hobby, selling utilities for System 5 through Mac OS 9 (they're still available as freeware: http://www.dejal.com/classic/). There wasn't a web back then, though; I distributed my software via Compuserve, AOL, floppy disks, and later CDs, and provided licenses via airmail (from New Zealand), hand-written on photocopied certificates.

When my wife and I moved to the US in 2001, I learned Cocoa, developed my first Mac OS X apps, and registered my company as Dejal Systems, LLC in 2002.

Your first computer:

I got my first computer in 1983: a Sinclair ZX81, with 3.25 MHz Z80 processor, 1K of RAM, a cassette tape drive, tiny membrane keyboard, and hooked to a B&W TV. I first used a Mac at school: an original 128K Mac in 1984... but I didn't own one until I got a Mac Plus in 1988.

Are you Mac-only, or a multi-platform person?

Definitely Mac-only. I have a Windows box I got a few years ago for a project, but it just gathers dust.

Do the products you develop scratch a personal itch, or are they for others?

A bit of both. Obviously I need to keep marketability in mind when working on products. Most started out as fulfilling a need I didn't see being adequately serviced with existing products in the marketplace. Narrator started as a fun way to learn Cocoa. Simon began as a way for me to watch for website updates, and became more sophisticated as it became popular. I created Time Out to improve my health, since I can suffer from eyestrain when staring at a computer for hours on end. Caboodle was written to compete with others in the snippet-keeper market, as I didn't really like the approach existing ones took. Macfilink was created in partnership with an affiliate marketer to serve that community. BlogAssist was written specifically for my wife, who was really into LiveJournal blogging at the time. All of the products have grown and evolved over the years based on customer feedback -- it's really important to listen to what people say about products and incorporate their ideas into the design, as makes sense. I keep track of all suggestions, and tally votes for them to determine the most requested enhancements, to which I give priority when deciding on features for an update.

What's the coolest tech thing you've done using OS X?

One thing I'm quite pleased with is the Script plugin in Dejal Simon. Simon is a server monitoring tool that uses a plugin model for services, notifiers, and reports. The Script plugin allows running AppleScripts, shell scripts, Perl, Python, Ruby, or other scripts to perform checks and notifications for local or remote servers and processes. I like it as it leverages Mac OS X's unix underpinnings to significantly enhance the reach of the product. That would've been much harder under Mac OS 9 or Windows.

Ever?

I wrote an integrated environment for an old SpectraVideo MSX computer (loaded off 5.25" floppies) around 1986, complete with a basic word processor, spreadsheet, and more. It was never released, though.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

Try my products: free trials are available at http://www.dejal.com.

See my code: open source Cocoa at http://www.dejal.com/developer/.

Read my thoughts: subscribe to my blog at http://www.dejal.com/blog/.

The next way I'm going to impact IT/OS X/the Mac universe is:

I'm excited about the upgrades of the Dejal apps for Leopard. Simon 3 and Time Out 2 will be major upgrades, with much-improved UI and features.

Happy anniversary, Dejal

Dejal anniversary

Today is the 16th anniversary of founding my company. 16 years ago today, on September 20, 1991, I started Dejal, with an aim to produce high quality Mac software. Actually, the exact date could be argued: I had used the Dejal name informally for years before that, as a kind of nickname for myself, and the company grew organically over time, with things like getting a commercial bank account and registering the name at different times during the growth. But September 20th was when historic evidence points to me having started treating my programming hobby as a business.

I had produced a bunch of freeware products beforehand, but my first shareware product was called SndPlayer, a Classic Mac app to play a bunch of sounds easily. It was started on October 24, 1991, and first released on February 24, 1992. It's still available on my site (now freeware), too.

Thanks to everyone who's purchased products or offered congratulations this week. You've still got a couple of days to take advantage of the anniversary specials:

Buy now with the anniversary discounts!

Be quick — these specials expire on Sunday, September 23, 2007.

Dejal's sweet 16!

Dejal anniversary

I first started selling Mac software under the Dejal name in September 1991... which makes this Thursday the 16th anniversary of the founding of the company. Wow... it's certainly been a while!

As a celebration of this event, I'm offering discounts on all of my products from today till the end of the week. No special codes or coupons required, but you need to use the online store, not the in-app purchasing tool, to take advantage of these low prices.

Buy now with the anniversary discounts!

Be quick — these specials expire on Sunday, September 23, 2007.

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