simon

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!

Simon 3.4 released

Shortest beta ever!

I must admit, I set the version number in 3.4b3 to just 3.4, for the Mac App Store release, and forgot to set it back. So the version I released this morning as 3.4b3 was actually a general release build. Since the previous version had been in beta several weeks, and there was just one change in this new build, I decided to let it remain as such.

So, here it is, officially as a general release!

This version includes a much more reliable Automatic Email transport, along with some other improvements:

  • New tests now use the Change filter by default, to avoid confusion over new tests not detecting changes. (You can of course alter that to a more specific filter, or disable it.)
  • Replaced the Email notifier's Automatic transport with a new one, now called Apple Mail, that sends the message via Apple's Mail app. (Standard edition only)
  • The From field is now replaced by a pop-up menu of mail accounts for the new Apple Mail transport. (Standard edition only)
  • The Reply-To and X-Header fields are now disabled in the Apple Mail transport, since those are not supported by the new mechanism. (Standard edition only)
  • Added a hidden preference to switch back to the old Automatic transport, just in case (it will be removed in a future version). It can be enabled via defaults write com.dejal.simon EmailUseLegacyTransport YES in Terminal. (Standard edition only)
  • Also updated the SMS notifer plug-in to send email via Apple Mail, and use a pop-up menu for the From address. (Standard edition only)
  • The license button in the Simon Monitor window now shows the Licenses window instead of going to the Dejal Store web page. (Standard edition only)
  • Fixed issue where an offline test wouldn't check again until checked manually.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the second check of a new test from detecting a change. (Note that new or edited tests don't register a change for the first check after editing, in case the configuration was altered.)
  • Fixed an incompatibility with Mac OS X 10.7.3.

Download Simon 3.4 now!

Simon 3.4b3 released

A quick update of Simon, to 3.4b3.

This release fixes an issue that prevented the second check of a new test from detecting a change. Subsequent checks worked fine, but the second check not detecting a change can cause confusion.

Note that new or edited tests don't register a change for the first check after editing, in case the configuration was altered.

This will probably be the last beta before the general release. So please let me know if you find any issues.

Download Simon 3.4b3 now!

Simon 3.4b2 released

Simon 3.4b2 is all about the Email and SMS notifier plug-ins.

Ever since the Email notifier was introduced, several years ago, it has been problematic — configuring email settings can be quite difficult.

This release replaces the Automatic email mode with a new Apple Mail one, which (as the name implies) uses Apple's Mail app to send the email. It has a convenient list of accounts, just like in Mail (if you have that option enabled there), and when it notifies it launches Mail in the background (if it is not already running) and quietly sends the email.

So this makes configuring the Email notifier easier, and it should be much more reliable than the old "Automatic" mechanism. As a bonus, you'll have a record of the sent emails in your Sent mailbox in Mail (you can always use a rule to delete them if you wish).

If you don't want to use Mail, or want more control, you can still use the custom SMTP and sendmail transports.

Finally, the SMS notifier plug-in also uses the new Apple Mail mechanism, as an alternative to the Clickatell service.

Here are the release notes with more information:

  • Replaced the Email notifier's Automatic transport with a new one, now called Apple Mail, that sends the message via Apple's Mail app. (Standard edition only)
  • The From field is now replaced by a pop-up menu of mail accounts for the new Apple Mail transport. (Standard edition only)
  • The Reply-To and X-Header fields are now disabled in the Apple Mail transport, since those are not supported by the new mechanism. (Standard edition only)
  • Added a hidden preference to switch back to the old Automatic transport, just in case (it will be removed in a future version). It can be enabled via defaults write com.dejal.simon EmailUseLegacyTransport YES in Terminal. (Standard edition only)
  • Also updated the SMS notifer plug-in to send email via Apple Mail, and use a pop-up menu for the From address. (Standard edition only)

Download Simon 3.4b2 now!

Simon 3.4b1 released

I've just done a small beta release of Simon, to version 3.4b1.

This has a useful change, and a couple of important fixes:

  • New tests now use the Change filter by default, to avoid confusion over new tests not detecting changes. (You can of course alter that to a more specific filter, or disable it.)
  • Fixed issue where an offline test wouldn't check again until checked manually.
  • Fixed an incompatibility with Mac OS X 10.7.3.

I am spending most of my time on a couple of new projects (one of them for a client, the other as a prototype for Time Out 2 technology). But I plan to do small incremental beta releases of Simon 3.4 over the next few weeks, basically releasing changes as soon as I've done them, since work on it will be sporadic. It'll be an interesting experiment in release styles.

As always, if you find any issues or have any suggestions for improvements, let me know in the Simon Forum. While I'm working on a release is a great time to send in suggestions, as they're much more likely to get implemented straight away, instead of added to the feature suggestions list. (But no promises; as I said, my time on Simon is limited currently.)

Download Simon 3.4b1 now!

Simon 3.3.1 released

A quick bug-fix update to Simon:

  • Fixed the Input pop-up menu on the Filters page of the New/Edit Test window, to avoid including duplicate items.
  • Updated the French localization. (Standard edition only)

Download Simon 3.3.1 now!

EDIT: Note that you can get a Simon Bronze license as part of the Web Development Toolkit bundle, for just $39.99 — that's less than the normal Bronze price, so you effectively get a discount on Simon and 9 other great apps for free!

Simon 3.3 released

Simon version 3.3 is now in general release. It's a recommended update for all customers.

The changes include some much-requested enhancements and fixes:

  • Enhanced the Ping service plug-in to enable specifying the number of bytes to send.
  • Updated the Growl notifier plug-in to support the latest version of Growl. It no longer offers to install Growl, as that is not supported by Growl anymore.
  • Where available, the Username and Password field values are now used in New/Edit Test when using the in-window Show Source and Preview buttons.
  • Fixed issues where the minimum size of editor windows could keep growing, and some incorrect display behavior.
  • Improved the handling of the "(Success)" value in the custom results table for the Script plug-in. (Standard edition only)
  • Added helpful text to the Licenses window to assist with a common support query, adding an Upgrade license without the original one. (Standard edition only)
  • Updated the Ping and Growl pages in the help book.
  • Updated the localizations. (Standard edition only)

Download Simon 3.3 now!

Simon 3.3b2 released

Just a couple of changes in this beta:

  • Updated the Ping and Growl pages in the help book.
  • Updated the localizations.

Download Simon 3.3b2 now!

Simon 3.3b1 released

Here's the first beta release of Simon version 3.3:

  • Enhanced the Ping service plug-in to enable specifying the number of bytes to send.
  • Updated the Growl notifier plug-in to support the latest version of Growl. It no longer offers to install Growl, as that is not supported by Growl anymore.
  • Where available, the Username and Password field values are now used in New/Edit Test when using the in-window Show Source and Preview buttons.
  • Fixed issues where the minimum size of editor windows could keep growing, and some incorrect display behavior.
  • Improved the handling of the "(Success)" value in the custom results table for the Script plug-in.
  • Added helpful text to the Licenses window to assist with a common support query, adding an Upgrade license without the original one. Standard edition only

Download Simon 3.3b1 now!

Simon 3.2.1 released

A quick update for Simon, to version 3.2.1:

  • Fixes for improved Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.
  • Fixed test limit in the Express edition.

Download Simon 3.2.1 now!

(Note also that Time Out Free 1.6.2 is now available in the Mac App Store.)

Simon Express and Simon Free 3.2 available on Mac App Store

The Mac App Store editions of Simon 3.2 are now available!

Simon Express and Simon Free are streamlined editions of the flagship Simon application. They only have a few of the plug-ins that provide the services, filters and notifiers. They also don't include editor windows for services, filters and notifiers, and don't include the reports feature.

Simon Express has no limitation on the number of test configurations. So it is ideal for webmasters and others who want to monitor hundreds of websites.

Simon Free is the same as Simon Express, except that it is limited to 5 active test configurations. It is ideal for people who just want to monitor their own site and a few others.

Changes in version 3.2 include:

  • Added full screen support on Lion.
  • Fixes for improved Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.
  • By popular request, added the Growl notifier to the Express and Free editions.
  • Altered the Web plug-in to eliminate the shared cache of loaded HTML, since it hasn't really been used for several years, and could cause issues.
  • Now saves the legacy-format frequency values, so if you run Simon 2 it will have the correct values, instead of zeroes (and thus will remain correct when going back to Simon 3).
  • Fixed the logic for using a filter based on Any/Success/Unchanged/Changed/Failure status.
  • Significantly increased the maximum width of the log Details columns, and doubled the length of text logged there, so they aren't unnecessarily truncated on modern large displays.
  • After deleting one or more tests, services, etc, the table selection is removed, rather than just selecting whatever happened to be after the deleted item(s).
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the Escape key from closing some editor windows in some situations.
  • Dates in the tests table and logs now use your preferred date and time format (as set in System Preferences).
  • Fixed log dates appearing as GMT/UTC instead of local time on Lion.

Buy Simon Express from the Mac App Store.

Get Simon Free at no cost from the Mac App Store.

Simon 3.2 released

I'm pleased to announce the general release of Simon 3.2, my app to monitor websites and servers for changes or failures.

This update includes Lion compatibility and many other fixes and improvements:

  • Added full screen support on Lion.
  • Fixes for improved Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.
  • Altered the Web plug-in to eliminate the shared cache of loaded HTML, since it hasn't really been used for several years, and could cause issues.
  • Now saves the legacy-format frequency values, so if you run Simon 2 it will have the correct values, instead of zeroes (and thus will remain correct when going back to Simon 3).
  • Fixed a bug with the Number filter plug-in that caused it to always look for changes, instead of supporting resulting in a failure.
  • Fixed some filter variables, which were incorrectly output with a doubled "Filter" prefix.
  • Added FilterForUnchanged, FilterForChanged and FilterForSuccess variables.
  • Fixed the logic for using a filter based on Any/Success/Unchanged/Changed/Failure status.
  • Fixed Kind labels on the Summary pages of the Edit Notifier and Edit Report windows, plus made them go to the correct pages when clicked.
  • When creating a new service, filter, notifier or report, the editor window now opens to the Summary page, like New Test does. (Standard edition only)
  • Significantly increased the maximum width of the log Details columns, and doubled the length of text logged there, so they aren't unnecessarily truncated on modern large displays.
  • After deleting one or more tests, services, etc, the table selection is removed, rather than just selecting whatever happened to be after the deleted item(s).
  • Removed the "Remote File Attributes" service from the default ones, since it was an experimental one that wasn't supposed to be there (and didn't work). (Standard edition only)
  • Altered the "FTP Directory Listing" and "Samba SMB" service scripts to use Username and Password custom variables instead of the TestUsername and TestPassword ones, which aren't available to scripts now. If you use either of these services, you may need to edit your tests accordingly.
  • Implemented a data upgrade mechanism so existing data will get the above service script changes.
  • The Script plug-in now omits the TestUsername and TestPassword standard variables from its Insert variable drop-down menu, since it doesn't use them.
  • Renamed the UserName variable (that outputs the name of the user logged in to the computer) to UserFullName, to avoid a clash with the Username variable (since variables are not case-sensitive).
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the Escape key from closing some editor windows in some situations.
  • Dates in the tests table and logs now use your preferred date and time format (as set in System Preferences).
  • Fixed log dates appearing as GMT/UTC instead of local time on Lion.
  • Updated the localizations.

Download Simon 3.2 now!

Simon 3.2b5 released

Almost ready for the Simon 3.2 general release!

Here's probably the last beta release before that, with just a couple of quick changes:

  • Restored the help book, which was omitted from previous beta releases.
  • Updated the localizations.

Download Simon 3.2b5 now!

Simon 3.2b4 released

Here's another beta release of Simon 3.2.

This release has just a couple of date-related changes. Thanks to beta tester Bruce for reporting the Lion bug:

  • Dates in the tests table and logs now use your preferred date and time format (as set in System Preferences).
  • Fixed log dates appearing as GMT/UTC instead of local time on Lion.

Download Simon 3.2b4 now!

Visiting big cats

Lion, leopard & tigerMac OS X 10.7, more commonly known as Lion, was released last week, and has been very popular. Dejal customers have been very quick to upgrade.

So, I thought I'd report on the current OS usage stats, and the status of each of my apps.

Tiger

Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" was released over six years ago on April 29, 2005.

Simon: Version 2.5.7 was the last to support Tiger; with the major 3.0 upgrade I made Leopard the minimum OS version. Despite that, there are less people using Simon 2 on Tiger than those who are eligible to upgrade to Simon 3 but haven't gotten around to it yet. About 4% of the user base are on Simon 2 on Tiger.

Time Out: The current release of this app still supports Tiger, but only about 2% of users are still on Tiger.

Caboodle: Version 1.3.7, the current release version as I write this, still supports Tiger, but the next release, 1.4, which is currently in beta, raises the minimum to Leopard. But only 3% of users will have to stick with 1.3.7.

BlogAssist: The current release, 2.2.6, still supports Tiger. Only 2% still need that, though.

Leopard

Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" was released almost four years ago, on October 26, 2007.

Simon: Current releases of Simon require this OS as a minimum. 15% of Simon users are on Leopard.

Time Out: If I do another version 1 release, it'll require Leopard as minimum. 16% are on the spotty cat.

Caboodle: As mentioned, the 1.4 release requires a minimum of Mac OS X 10.5. 13% are on Leopard.

BlogAssist: The next version of BlogAssist will require Leopard. 7% are still on this OS release.

Snow Leopard

Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" was released almost two years ago, on August 28, 2009.

Simon: Most Simon users are on Snow Leopard currently, at 61%... though people are quickly moving on to Lion.

Time Out: Again, a majority of customers: 66%.

Caboodle: Interestingly, more people have moved to Lion than are still on Snowy for Caboodle: 16%. Version 1.5 will require Snowy.

BlogAssist: But back to the majority here: 65%.

PowerPC

Another implication of Snow Leopard was that the PowerPC (PPC) processor started to get phased out; Snowy no longer supports it. How many people are still using PPC machines?

Simon: Still supports PPC, and will for at least the rest of this year, perhaps longer. Currently 11% of Simon users need it, so I want to maintain PPC support for a while yet.

Time Out: Still supports PPC, but version 2 will no longer support it. Only 2% would be affected by that.

Caboodle: Still supports PPC, for just 3% of customers, but version 1.5 will no longer support it.

BlogAssist: Still supports PPC for now, for just 2%.

Lion

Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" was released about a week ago, on July 20, 2011.

Simon: In just a week, 24% of Simon users have moved on up to the latest big cat. The current general release (3.1.1) mostly works fine on Lion, but version 3.2, currently in beta, adds full screen support and has some fixes for Lion compatibility. Please help test version 3.2!

Time Out: This app appeals to a wide range of people, including those typically not early adopters, so it's not too surprising that Lion adoption is lagging behind the other apps, at only 16%. Still, that's not bad for a week. Time Out does have a known issue with Lion: breaks don't currently appear over full screen apps. I'm not sure why that is yet, but will see if I can fix it. I am working on Time Out 2 (with lots of interruptions for other work), but if I can solve the full screen issue for version 1, I'll release version 1.6 with that fix and some other enhancements. If I do that, version 1.6 will require a minimum of Leopard or maybe Snow Leopard.

Caboodle: This has the fastest Lion adoption of all my apps, at 32% in just one week. The current release version, 1.3.7, works fine on Lion, but version 1.4 is in beta testing, and includes full screen support on Lion and some other improvements.

BlogAssist: I haven't noticed any problems with Lion for BlogAssist. Currently 25% of users are on Lion, which is a pretty decent adoption rate. I'll probably do a 2.3 release in a month or two with some minor tweaks for Lion, but otherwise it's all good.

Concerns or Questions?

If you find any issues with any of my apps on Lion, please let me know. Or if you have any questions or concerns about dropping support for older OS versions or PPC, I'd certainly like to hear from you. You can reply to this blog post, post in the forums, or contact me privately (via web form or email).

Of course, it should go without saying, but the current versions of all apps will continue to run on your current OS versions and Macs, and you will not be forced to upgrade to newer versions.

Simon 3.2b3 released

Similar to the recent Caboodle 1.4b3 release, here's another beta release of Simon, to add full screen support when running on Lion, and improve some other aspects of Lion compatibility.

I don't plan on any further changes to Simon 3.2, so you can expect a general release in a week or so, once my trusty localizers have worked their magic.

In the meantime, I'd appreciate it if you'd give this beta a try, and let me know if you experience any issues, either with Lion or usage in general. Thanks!

Download Simon 3.2b3 now!

Simon 3.2b1 released

Here is Simon version 3.2b1, the first beta release of the next Simon update.

This release includes the following changes:

  • Altered the Web plug-in to eliminate the shared cache of loaded HTML, since it hasn't really been used for several years, and could cause issues.
  • Now saves the legacy-format frequency values, so if you run Simon 2 it will have the correct values, instead of zeroes (and thus will remain correct when going back to Simon 3).
  • Fixed a bug with the Number filter plug-in that caused it to always look for changes, instead of supporting resulting in a failure.
  • Fixed some filter variables, which were incorrectly output with a doubled "Filter" prefix.
  • Added FilterForUnchanged, FilterForChanged and FilterForSuccess variables.
  • Fixed the logic for using a filter based on Any/Success/Unchanged/Changed/Failure status.
  • Fixed Kind labels on the Summary pages of the Edit Notifier and Edit Report windows, plus made them go to the correct pages when clicked.
  • When creating a new service, filter, notifier or report, the editor window now opens to the Summary page, like New Test does. (Standard edition only)
  • Significantly increased the maximum width of the log Details columns, and doubled the length of text logged there, so they aren't unnecessarily truncated on modern large displays.
  • After deleting one or more tests, services, etc, the table selection is removed, rather than just selecting whatever happened to be after the deleted item(s).
  • Removed the "Remote File Attributes" service from the default ones, since it was an experimental one that wasn't supposed to be there (and didn't work). (Standard edition only)
  • Altered the "FTP Directory Listing" and "Samba SMB" service scripts to use Username and Password custom variables instead of the TestUsername and TestPassword ones, which aren't available to scripts now. If you use either of these services, you may need to edit your tests accordingly.
  • Implemented a data upgrade mechanism so existing data will get the above service script changes.
  • The Script plug-in now omits the TestUsername and TestPassword standard variables from its Insert variable drop-down menu, since it doesn't use them.
  • Renamed the UserName variable (that outputs the name of the user logged in to the computer) to UserFullName, to avoid a clash with the Username variable (since variables are not case-sensitive).
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the Escape key from closing some editor windows in some situations.

As always, please give this beta a try and let me know if you find any issues, or if there are any issues that are not fixed and should be.

Download Simon 3.2b1 now!

Simon Free 3.1.1 released

After a lengthy delay, Simon Free version 3.1.1 is now available in the Mac App Store.

What is Simon Free?

It's a simplified and streamlined edition of the full Simon application. Instead of having several different kinds of customizable services, filters, notifiers and reports, Simon Express and Simon Free have just a few of the most popular ones. Simon Express is a paid app that enables an unlimited number of tests, so is great for people who want to check lots of websites. Simon Free is restricted to 5 tests, which is enough for people who only want to check their own site... and is completely free.

So what happened?

Although both Simon Express and Simon Free were submitted and approved when the Mac App Store first opened, when I came to do the 3.1 update, the Free edition was rejected. The reviewer felt that it was just a demo. I tried arguing that it was a fully functional app for people with modest needs (and it is), but they weren't convinced. So I submitted an appeal to Apple's App Review Board. In due course, they called me (with some phone tag), and we discussed the issue.

They said that they didn't like that it'd alert you if you exceeded the 5-test limit, and said to disable the New Test button when the limit is reached.

So that's what I did. I also removed the Setup Assistant from Simon Free, since it isn't all that useful for that app. With those changes, they quickly re-reviewed and approved it.

Although having an app rejected is never a pleasant experience, and it's very frustrating for me and the thousands of customers who have downloaded the app, the reviewers were polite and helpful throughout the process... and all's well that ends well.

Download Simon Free from the Mac App Store!

Simon 3.1.1 released

Uh oh! I received a couple of reports from confused people yesterday, which confused me too: they said that the Web (HTTP) plug-in controls weren't showing up, and other wacky behaviors. I couldn't figure it out until one helpful person sent me screenshots and log information today.

It turns out that when I stripped out the PPC code for the Mac App Store editions, I accidentally stripped it out of some of the plug-ins for the standard edition, too. Oops! So I've fixed that. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused.

I also removed the license agreement window. I decided that it doesn't really serve any useful purpose, and is just annoying to have to click through on each update. The license agreement can be viewed online.

Finally, I updated the Simon Help to reflect the above change, and to match the online edition. It now also clarifies that if you add an Upgrade license, you need the base license from the previous major release, too.

If you're using an Intel machine (as the vast majority of Simon users are), there's no need to update to this release, though no harm in doing so. If you're using a PPC machine, this is an essential update.

Download Simon 3.1.1 now!

Simon 3.1 released

Simon version 3.1 is now in general release. A rather short beta period, but all seems well with it.

The standard edition of Simon version 3.1 is available for download here. Updates for Simon Express and Simon Free for the Mac App Store have been submitted to Apple, and will be available as soon as they've done their review.

Changes in this release include:

  • Enhanced the Web (HTTP) plug-in to fetch cookies in the background, to improve performance and avoid a risk of hanging if the OS's shared cookie storage deadlocks.
  • Added a limit on the number of simultaneous checks, to avoid overloading. By default the limit is 5. If there are already that many tests being checked, subsequent ones are queued until one finishes. The limit can be changed via a hidden preference, e.g. "defaults write com.dejal.simon MaximumActiveChecks 1".
  • Improved the logic for calculating the next check time, especially for tests that were due while Simon wasn't running.
  • Also reduced the minimum interval between checks from 15 to 5 seconds.
  • Fixed a bug with scheduling of tests that could cause performance issues with lots of tests.
  • Marking tests as viewed or unviewed now updates the log tables immediately (that action was only listed in the Activity log when the next item was listed).
  • The license button now updates correctly when Simon is running for multiple days. (Standard edition only.)
  • The editor windows now open to the Summary page for New and Duplicate, or to the last-used page for Edit, since setting the name is usually the first thing to do for a new test etc.
  • Removed all PPC code from the Express and Free editions on the Mac App Store (the standard edition still works on PPC machines, for now).

Download Simon 3.1 now!

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